Battle in Beverly Hills: Reflections on the Prothero/Shermer vs. Meyer/Sternberg “debate,” Nov. 30, 2009

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By Don Prothero http://faculty.oxy.edu/prothero/index.htm

Don Prothero is a paleontologist and Professor of Geology at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and Lecturer in Geobiology at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, and author of Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters, in my opinion the very best book on fossils and evolution for the general reader. Last night, Monday, November 30, Prothero debated (along with Michael Shermer) ID advocates Stephen Meyer (longtime head of the Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture) and Richard von Sternberg (the former editor who in 2004 published Meyer’s pro-ID article in the last issue of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (D.C.) which Sternberg was scheduled to edit, despite the article being wildly off-topic for an alpha taxonomy journal, substantially copied from other Meyer publications, badly inaccurate, and just weird in several ways). Sternberg is now, I believe, an employee of the Discovery Institute.

Prothero wrote these remarks directly after the debate and emailed them to me. I have added links where relevant. — Nick Matzke

My mind is a bit fuzzy from the loss of sleep, and the two hours of “debate” went by very quickly, so I cannot recall all the details, let alone recount them. Here are my morning-after thoughts about last night’s “Battle in Beverly Hills.” I don’t know when they’ll release the video recording of the event, but when it does come out, hopefully it will be possible to post it so you can all see for yourself how it went. My subjective summary of it is that our side did very well: I caught them off-guard with new arguments they had no answer for; Shermer pushed them hard repeatedly to state who the “Designer” was (and Meyer finally conceded it was God), while we both pushed them hard on the fact that neither of them ever addressed the topic of the debate, “Origins of Life.” I could tell that they were rattled a number of times, and I definitely shook up Meyer and got under his skin with my answers. Several times Meyer and Sternberg were arguing with each other, leaving the moderator, our side, and the audience wondering who runs their show. The best sign of my effect on them was Meyer trying to challenge MY credentials, or dodging a tough question by playing the sympathy card and calling me “condescending” — and the virulent post on the Discovery Institute site this morning, full of lies and spin. Of course, the event is staged so that no one will really “win”. Their supporters turned out and dominated the audience, but I had a LOT of people come up to me during the book signing (we sold a LOT of books) and congratulate me, or discuss points further with me. And we got just as much applause and sympathetic laughter at our well-turned phrases as they did.

As some of you already know, I didn’t do this debate willingly, but got roped into it by my friend Michael Shermer. I normally won’t waste my time in this format giving them credibility, but once I’d said “yes,” my only choice was to be prepared. After seeing Meyer’s demolition of Peter Ward online and reading Meyer’s stuff, I realized he was a lot slicker than the troglodytic young-earth creationists, who have limited science background and are easy to demolish. So I used a lot of the tips generously provided by the Panda’s Thumb bloggers and other veteran creationism watchers, did a LOT of additional reading, and in the end, I had every angle they could mention completely covered.

The debate was organized by the right-wing “American Freedom Alliance,” so I expected some unfair treatment. Sure enough, they were dishonest. For weeks, I’d known only that the title of the debate was about “origins of life,” and I prepared accordingly. Five days before, the moderator and organizer, Ari Davis, called and discussed the rules, and said he’d send us the final specifications immediately. Instead, he emailed it to us the morning of the debate, and I saw that he had switched the topic to the “adequacy of Neo-Darwinian natural selection and mutation to explain the origin of life,” which puts us in the difficult position of proving the affirmative, and allows the creationists to say: “Not proven — we win”. If someone analyzes the video recording with a timer, I think it will be clear that he gave the ID side a lot more time for rebuttal. The moderator allowed Meyer to interrupt me repeatedly, even though he had forbidden that in his own rules, and after a while I caught on and interrupted Meyer’s lies right back. The lobby before the debate was full of creationists, religious tract pushers, and even some Holocaust deniers (right in the middle of a Jewish theater in the heart of the Jewish district of L.A). Still, it wasn’t as bad as the debate against Gish in 1983, where entire busloads of churchgoers were brought in. [Note: Prothero debated famed creationist debater Duane Gish at Purdue on October 1, 1983, with apparently good results. — NM]

Meyer had debated Shermer many times before, but apparently he did little to prepare for me. Just minutes before the debate, he ran out and bought a copy of my 2007 “Evolution” book (since he had never read it), after he tried to cadge the copy for free from my wife who was guarding the Skeptics Society booth. (She insisted that he pay for it). I know I caught him off-guard, since I have degrees in both biology and geology, and know most of their arguments better than they do. The only time I did not get a solid reply in was during the statements where there was no opportunity for rebuttal, or when we had run out of time.

Our “affirmative side” went first, and Shermer did a quick run-through about why ID is a religious and not a scientific doctrine, methodological naturalism and the scientific method, and “god of the gaps.” I took the remaining 15 minutes with my Powerpoint presentation where I slammed them hard and fast with long list of things: why ID is not testable (including bad designs like the left recurrent laryngeal nerve, the inverted retina, and the whale’s pelvis and femora); then a five slide run-through of the molecular research into origin of life, from Miller-Urey to the stuff published in the past few years, emphasizing over and over how many successes the molecular biologists have had at simulating every step of the process; then a quick run through the Pre-Cambrian fossil record, focusing on why it is not the “Cambrian explosion” but the Cambrian “slow fuse” (and pointing out that I’m a paleontologist, I’ve actually seen and collected these outcrops, and neither of my opponents had). My final segment was pointing out the fallacy of Meyer’s “information” angle, with the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction, and then a real twist for Meyer. I asked the audience if they could think of a system that grows and becomes larger and more complex naturally, has mutations, and replicates itself — and then revealed I was talking about mud. Three quick slides on how clay minerals replicate lattice defects (= mutations) exactly like life but without divine intervention, and I asked Meyer if he needed the “Designer” to make every glop of mud. I concluded with a summary of why ID was not science and how they don’t play by the rules of science, don’t attend real scientific meetings, don’t publish in peer-reviewed journals, and are just PR flacks that masquerade as scientists (complete with the “Wedge document” to prove it). My last slide was quotes from Paul Nelson and Phillip Johnson that ID has no real theory or explanation yet. I finished with time to spare, even though I tried not to rush it. It may have overwhelmed the audience with how much information I crammed into 15 minutes, but it had the salutary effect that I hit them with lots of arguments and data they couldn’t or wouldn’t answer, so most of my assertions stayed unchallenged.

Their side then got the next 25 minutes. Meyer opened with his usual crap about “information” but did not address my critique of the argument. Then Sternberg got up and did some really strange stuff. Instead of talking about the “origins of life”, he put up the entire sequence of transitional whale fossils (from my book), conceded that it was all real and well-documented, and then made this bizarre argument that normal rates of gene substitution are too slow to account for that much change in a few million years! Now we know where Casey Luskin got that bizarre critique of whale evolution that appeared on the National Geographic site on Nov. 24. Meyer got back for the final minutes and just kept hammering on the point that Neo-Darwinian mutation and selection are supposedly insufficient to explain life, and that was their entire case. Not ONE mention of the topic of the debate. Not ONE argument relevant to the topic of the debate, let alone scientifically valid.

The rebuttal period then got going and it was so fast and furious I can barely remember the details. Shermer used his time to keep pushing them hard to actually propose a scientific explanation for life, and to reveal who the “Designer” was. He eventually got Meyer to concede that it was God. We both chastised them on ignoring the debate topic entirely, but to their minds, the debate was about Neo-Darwinian gradual selection. Even though Meyer hogged the time and cut me off, I did get in a good reply to his lies about the Cambrian. He was trapped by his own words for his ignorance all the pre-trilobite faunas, and I’d shown that he had lied on that matter — so he then tried to claim that when the trilobites appeared they had all these complex structures like eyes with no precursors. Of course, what’s really at issue here is the environmental threshold that allowed large skeletons to finally calcify 520 m.y. ago, but that point never got a chance to be mentioned. At another point, I tried to get in a complete rebuttal to Sternberg’s weird whale argument, highlighting his invalid assumptions about population size, reproductive rates, and the constancy of point mutations, and arguing that a lot of people are looking at evo/devo to explain the suite of soft-tissue modifications that whales show. Somewhere in there, Meyer used the “condescending” sympathy line but their rebuttal to evo/devo was so garbled that they ended up arguing with each other about those hypothetical reconstructions of 12-winged dragonflies and completely missed the point of evo/devo. (I never got a chance to set that one straight). I knew they were desperate when they suddenly pulled out their “junk DNA” kit of lies, and I slammed them with endogenous retroviruses, pseudogenes, and the onion argument — and then Sternberg got all tangled up admitting these were real but trying to dismiss their importance. Even though the moderator let them get away with more time and interruptions, I feel like we held our own, and most of their garbage got a least a partial challenge and rebuttal from our side.

We then each took a few questions from the audience and moderator, and most were a piece of cake to answer. Shermer did really well using his question to bring up Margulis’ endosymbiosis model of origin of eukaryotes. Meyer broke the rules here and tried to rebut my answers to questions, even though he had no right to do so. Sternberg ended up conceding that he disagrees with not only young-earth creationism but even most of the ID creationists ideas. Apparently, he’s an old-fashioned “structuralist” who dislikes the ideas of Neo-Darwinian random point mutations to explain macroevolution. (I actually agree with him to a degree, but he clearly doesn’t understand evo/devo enough to see how it provides a solution to this problem). They tried to ridicule the idea that we share 99%of our genome with chimps, but they garbled it, and we had no chance to reply.

Then we did our summations. I used very little time, but stated that they ignored the topic of the debate, had no answers for all of my data in my Powerpoint talk, and that scientists were indeed working hard on the problem [of the origin of the first life — NM] and had successfully solved most of the steps, even if there’s still more to do. Shermer had plenty of time left, so he posed the question again: who is the Intelligent Designer, an alien or some deity? Who designed the designer? Meyer and Sternberg repeated their strange idea of science, and that was it. No mention of the “persecution” at the Smithsonian (even though I was well prepared to ambush them here with what I know). No attempt to brag about their “peer-reviewed” papers (and I was prepared to cut that to pieces, and point out that my more than 200 peer-reviewed articles far outstrip the entire Discovery Institute’s pathetic list). No mention of many of the other things the PT members had anticipated, and I was prepared for. In short, a totally weird experience.

We must have done something right to rattle Meyer as we did, getting under his skin so that he tried to question my qualifications to talk about molecular biology (and then I cut in with “I have a degree in biology”), pull out his “condescension” sympathy line, and now the DI flacks are now busy trying to spin and lie their way out of the debacle. Even though I know I was pretty intense and talked too fast for many in the audience, Shermer and I were a effective “good cop/bad cop” routine. Shermer is brilliant at coming off as charming, affable, relaxed, and managed to convince people who value personality over data, where I played the role of high-energy scientist with tons of data they didn’t answer. (Shermer even kidded me at one point by telling the audience that they just got the equivalent of 15 weeks of lectures in 15 minutes). Of course, we know that most of the audience comes in with their minds made up, but we got lots of applause despite our minority status in the audience, and LOTS of congratulations and praise as we were signing books afterwards. Several of the fence-sitters in the audience said I’d convinced them and beat the creationists soundly. That’s as good as we can hope for in this kind of setting with a hostile audience and unfair moderator, and a hard-to-defend affirmative position sprung on us just hours before the debate.

And they’re NOT going to get me to waste my time at this again unless they pay me a LOT of money!

131 Comments

Nick and Don,

Nick, thanks for posting this and many, many thanks to Don for his great job in exposing Meyer as the intellectual fraud that he is (Unbeknownst to Meyer, Don has had ample experience in dealing with delusional creos like him in the past.). If I wanted someone to debate creos effectively, I wouldn’t hesitate thinking of asking Don to do it, since he is truly as effective a debater as Ken Miller. If anyone had any doubts about Don’s rhetorical skill, then last night’s performance should have put them to rest.

Appreciatively yours,

John

Don,

If you have a chance, could you write this up and submit it to Reports of NCSE? I think this would be most instructive for anyone thinking of debating delusional creos like Sternberg and Meyer.

Again, with ample thanks,

John

Over at Evo Lies and Snooze, Robert Crowther wrote:

This guy is to be taken seriously? I had to remind myself not to laugh every so often during his presentation — it was so pathetic and ill-informed. Basically, Shermer and Prothero blathered on about supernaturalism, and Meyer ceded his time to Sternberg, who made an interesting presentation about whale evolution. Then he proceeded to point out the topic of the debate to Shermer and Prothero: Has Evolutionary Theory Adequately Explained the Origins of Life?, something which they never addressed because they were so busy falling all over themselves to denounce intelligent design.

Was Crowther at the same event?

(Also note that Casey Luskin stated that whale evolution was “mathematically impossible.” Mathematically, mind you. I guess that sums up the DI’s understanding about evolution.”

I look forward to the video. Now excuse me while I go out for some popcorn..

Also note that Casey Luskin stated that whale evolution was “mathematically impossible.” Mathematically, mind you. I guess that sums up the DI’s understanding about evolution.”

I wouldn’t even go that far. I have little doubt that Luskin has never seen a bit of math that supports his “mathematically impossible”. He is lying; they have done no math to even support that statement.

The adequacy of Neo-Darwinian natural selection and mutation to explain the origin of life? They really do want to attack strawmen, don’t they?

I realize that “darwinian” processes kick in well before Meyer acknowledges, but clearly the earliest processes of abiogenesis are not occurring via natural selection.

Then it’s of course ridiculous that we have to show that life could arise by non-magical processes, when they have no evidence of magical processes acting at all–nor any that magic would produce anything like the evidence of evolution that the fossil record and DNA are riddled with.

Anyhow, thanks much for the report. I saw the lies of the IDiots on the DI’s blog, knew that they were not to be believed, but was left wondering how the “debate” actually did proceed.

Glen Davidson

http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

Sounds like the creos were soundly spanked. I’m glad to know that but I still wonder about the wisdom of these debates. Faith is notoriously hard to shake because the believer has endless magic to fall back on. They have made a conscious decision to maintain that something not true really is true. They are very comfortable, even smugly so, in their delusions mostly due to the size of the company that reassures them with smiles and nods and quotes from scripture.

Debating them often seems like fighting the Tar Baby of Uncle Remus.

Thanks to Don and Michael for putting themselves through the mill. Some small good may have been done.

Prothero’s lack of civility and arrogant tone do nothing to ingratiate him or his arguments. Steven Meyer gives no “crap” but arguments; moveover, he never belittles or insults those with whom he disagrees.

Moreover, mud is not a reductio ad absurdum argument against the design inference. Mud is not a living thing that self-replicates according to an informational code.

Excellent summary. I read the Dishonesty Institutes spin, incredible bunch of crap, but what can you expect? My question is, if there actually is a tape, video/audio/etc., would the DI dare to make it available from their site so that people can actually hear the talk, or might they even go in and edit it. Something to be watchful for.

From your summary, sounds like you guys really slammed ‘em hard! Congrats on winning over the fence sitters that were present!

Steven Meyer gives no “crap” but arguments; moveover, he never belittles or insults those with whom he disagrees.

He just lies constantly and extensively about them. What a mensch!

Specifically, he claims “persecution” of other profuse liars and failures at origins science, even making reference to the rank swill of Expelled to do so.

Oh yes, telling vile lies is the height of politeness! Why do you think that lies about people are actionable in many cases (although the DI knows how to keep its lies from being actionable)? It’s because lies are far worse than any kind of name-calling that any of us have engaged in. Yet the liars frequently claim persecution when, for instance, we accurately call people like Meyer liars (possibly not by the most common definition, certainly by those that include faulty statements that a person has a responsibility to know are wrong).

Meyer is extremely impolite by his use of dishonesty against science and scientists, and it was the IDiots who started it. Prothero and others do trouble to call charlatans what they are, but that’s only an obligation to tell the truth about the vile dishonesty with which ID began, and without which it has no weapons at all.

Glen Davidson

http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

I was going to comment that Luskin has gone after the “mud” comment like a mudskipper in heat, but damn if Groothius didn’t go after it, too.

What’s the matter, Groo, Baylor Cafeteria run out of Mac & Cheese?

Hmm. IDist/evangelical apologist Doug Groothius comments on PT for the first time ever to defend Meyer, and Casey Luskin posts assertive snark rather than a substantive critique: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/1[…]ow_inte.html

…both good signs, I’d say…

Doug wrote:

“Steven Meyer gives no “crap” but arguments; moveover, he never belittles or insults those with whom he disagrees.”

Really? I am insulted when someone lies to me. Meyer lies constantly, that is an insult to any intelligent person. By so doing he belittles not ony his own position but reason itself.

Doug Groothuis said:

Prothero’s lack of civility and arrogant tone do nothing to ingratiate him or his arguments. Steven Meyer gives no “crap” but arguments; moveover, he never belittles or insults those with whom he disagrees.

Moreover, mud is not a reductio ad absurdum argument against the design inference. Mud is not a living thing that self-replicates according to an informational code.

ID creationist complains about invalid analogy. News at 11:00. Hardy har har.

Hey there. A PhD friend of mine wrote after reading your piece. “I was there. Prothero did not do nearly as well as he thinks. His slides were a nightmare in confusion, he came off as arrogant and condescending. Anyone listening would also have noticed that he made several frankly ridiculous claims. Afterwards I heard him congratulating himself on how wonderful and scientific he is. If it wasn’t so sad, it would be funny.”

Nick (Matzke) said:

Hmm. IDist/evangelical apologist Doug Groothius comments on PT for the first time ever to defend Meyer, and Casey Luskin posts assertive snark rather than a substantive critique: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/1[…]ow_inte.html

…both good signs, I’d say…

Wow. Here’s Prothero from the OP above:

I asked the audience if they could think of a system that grows and becomes larger and more complex naturally, has mutations, and replicates itself — and then revealed I was talking about mud. Three quick slides on how clay minerals replicate lattice defects (= mutations) exactly like life but without divine intervention, and I asked Meyer if he needed the “Designer” to make every glop of mud.

And Luskin’s “reasoned” response, after reading same. (He must have read this PT post - he links to it!)

Prothero later felt it was appropriate to boast about his following question:

“I asked Meyer if he needed the ‘Designer’ to make every glop of mud.”

Of course anyone with a cursory knowledge of ID would be aware that ID fully allows for the action of natural processes, and design is only invoked when we find tell-tale signs of intelligent action, such as high levels of complex and specified information. Needless to say, the weathering of rocks and minerals into mud is not an example of design.

Perhaps this remarkable example of lack of reading comprehension will go viral on its own.

The professor was doing well until he luskined himself, at which point the class started snickering uncontrollably…

Dave

Doug Groothuis said:

Moreover, mud is not a reductio ad absurdum argument against the design inference. Mud is not a living thing that self-replicates according to an informational code.

Mr. Groothuis seems to be unaware that the design inference can be utilized to infer that the whole freakin universe was designed. Or even that our own humble planet Earth was designed (à la the “privileged planet” hypotheses.) That would include mud too!

Mud is not a living thing that self-replicates according to an informational code.

contemplate the following, which many readers here might already recognize:

To speculate a little further, suppose that a variant of a clay improves its own chances of being deposited, by damming up streams. This is an inadvertent consequence of the peculiar defect structure of the clay. In any stream in which this kind of clay exists, large, stagnant shallow pools form above dams, and the main flow of water is diverted into a new course. In these still pools, more of the same kind of clay is laid down. A succession of such shallow pools proliferates along the length of any stream that happens to be ‘infected’ by seeding crystals of this kind of clay. Now, because the main flow of the stream is diverted, during the dry season the shallow pools tend to dry up. The clay dries and cracks in the sun, and the top layers are blown off as dust. Each dust particle inherits the characteristic defect structure of the parent clay that did the damming, the structure that gave it its damming properties. By analogy with the genetic information raining down on the canal from my willow tree, we could say that the dust carries ‘instructions’ for how to dam streams and eventually make more dust. The dust spreads far and wide in the wind, and there is a good chance that some particles of it will happen to land in another stream, hitherto not ‘infected’ with the seeds of this kind of dam-making clay. Once infected by the right sort of dust, a new stream starts to grow crystals of dam-making clay, and the whole depositing, damming, drying, eroding cycle begins again.

Prothero’s lack of civility and arrogant tone do nothing to ingratiate him or his arguments.

…ever the line spouted forth from the mouths of the inane.

translation:

“They’re right, but I will smear their integrity in my own mind, thus, defeating them!”

sorry, but that just reeks of insanity.

Doug Groothuis said:

Prothero’s lack of civility and arrogant tone do nothing to ingratiate him or his arguments.

Groothuis seems to believe that correctness is established not by facts or data or analysis, but by tone, good grooming, and personal likability.

Mark said:

Hey there. A PhD friend of mine wrote after reading your piece. “I was there. Prothero did not do nearly as well as he thinks. His slides were a nightmare in confusion, he came off as arrogant and condescending. Anyone listening would also have noticed that he made several frankly ridiculous claims. Afterwards I heard him congratulating himself on how wonderful and scientific he is. If it wasn’t so sad, it would be funny.”

It’s strange that your friend couldn’t be bothered to describe any of the “frankly ridiculous claims” that were made by Dr. Prothero.

After all, there were apparently several of them that anyone listening would have noticed.

Huh.

It’s deja vu all over again. I remember hearing the same kind of comments from Campus Crusade for Christ members immediately following Ken Miller’s first debate against a creationist; a slam dunk performance against ICR vice president Henry Morris (That was back in the Spring of 1981 if anyone is interested.):

Ichthyic said:

Prothero’s lack of civility and arrogant tone do nothing to ingratiate him or his arguments.

…ever the line spouted forth from the mouths of the inane.

translation:

“They’re right, but I will smear their integrity in my own mind, thus, defeating them!”

sorry, but that just reeks of insanity.

386sx said:

Mr. Groothuis seems to be unaware that the design inference can be utilized to infer that the whole freakin universe was designed. Or even that our own humble planet Earth was designed (à la the “privileged planet” hypotheses.) That would include mud too!

In fact, if one runs the IDists’ designer through Dembski’s explanatory filter, one must infer that the designer was designed.

Of course anyone with a cursory knowledge of ID would be aware that ID fully allows for the action of natural processes, and design is only invoked when we find tell-tale signs of intelligent action, such as high levels of complex and specified information.

I would simply repeat the clarion call of those previous…

with what device do we measure a “high level of complex and specified information”?

and where can i buy one?

there are several items i would like to try it on!

Doug Groothuis said:

Prothero’s lack of civility and arrogant tone do nothing to ingratiate him or his arguments. Steven Meyer gives no “crap” but arguments; moveover, he never belittles or insults those with whom he disagrees.

I don’t know Prothero, but I like him already.

Moreover, mud is not a reductio ad absurdum argument against the design inference. Mud is not a living thing that self-replicates according to an informational code.

Please define “informational code”. Give an example of what you consider to be an “informational code” besides DNA.

Give an example of a “non-informational code”.

The part that interests me most is this:

Sternberg ended up conceding that he disagrees with not only young-earth creationism but even most of the ID creationists ideas. Apparently, he’s an old-fashioned “structuralist” who dislikes the ideas of Neo-Darwinian random point mutations to explain macroevolution.

What I have seen repeatedly over the years is that, if one keeps hammering DI people about their position, as opposed to what they think is “weak” about “Darwinism,” most of them grudgingly concede most of evolution, and wind up providing no Comfort to YEC or OEC Biblical literalists.

If Prothero’s summary is indicative of the debate, I would say that Shermer devoted too much time to the designer’s identity. I would have preferred more of “what the designer did when and how.” Nevertheless, a good follow-up question that can still be asked is: “If the designer is God, and Behe said (in his Dover testimony) that the designer might be deceased, does that mean that ID accommodates the possibility that God is dead?”

Over at AtBC, it is demonstrated that Meyer’s penchant for copying himself seems to be a generic IDC advocate trait, as various bits of dissing Prothero are shown to come from earlier screeds of theirs.

Doug Groothuis -

The biological theory of evolution deals with living cells. It may deal with mud as an environment for life, but direct analysis of mud is the purview of geology and chemistry.

There are several hypothetical models of abiogenesis - none of them by any means perfectly complete, and no-one I’m aware of ever said they were - but none of them propose that ordinary modern mud spontaneously turned into living cells.

and wind up providing no Comfort to YEC or OEC Biblical literalists.

If they’re providing no Comfort then there’s a Ray of hope!

bobmo said:

Dan was clear all right.

Yes, I was clear.

bobmo said:

And as a result, they [scientists] don’t persuade audiences.

I said so such thing.

bobmo said:

If scientists could persuade audiences without such tricks, Dan would have no problem with these debates.

I didn’t say that, either.

Bobmo: First of all you complement me for being clear, then you simply fabricate two points that I didn’t make but you claimed I made.

If that’s the best you can understand a clear presentation, you have no hope of understanding an intricate, convoluted explanation. And many of the explanations in science are necessarily intricate and convoluted, because nature herself is intricate and convoluted!

I just got the latest missive of mendacious intellectual pornography from the Dishonesty Institute (their NotaBene e-mail newsletter) encouraging people to write positive reviews of Meyer’s latest pathetic example of mendacious intellectual pornography “Signature in the Cell”) and to vote NO on the negative “Darwinist” reviews. The Dishonesty Institute is sending its online goons to go after mine and Don Prothero’s reviews. Please ask your family, friends and acquaintances to vote yea on mine and Don’s reviews and vote no on the latest musings by the Dishonesty Institute and its Dishonesty Institute IDiot Borg Collective.

Dave Luckett said:

Not even a loon who thinks denial is a river in Africa can seriously maintain that the huge numbers of adaptive changes required to produce a whale from a terrestrial animal is (a) not an example of evolution and (b) could take place in a few thousand years. I call Poe.

Not evolution by selection on mutation but yes to sudden adaptation. Only in a few generations by the way. it had to be done within a few centuries after the great flood. We agree the bodies held within them the diversity for change. you just see endless mutation, but still a change is the result, and I see body change as a innate ability that is triggered. this is what the evidence leads me too. In other words the minor changes that breeders take advantage of are just slips or errors that are the tip of the ice berg of creatures abilities to look different from their parents. Dufferent breeds of dogs is from selection but the thing being selected was itself a slip of a greater mechanism for dogs to change in a generation or even that individual for some niche. In fact breeding just reveals whats being held in place. This is my idea on how adaptation can be instant. Artificial selection should not suggest natural selection but rather suggest the innate potential within creatures that can easily be triggered out. Though i don’t know the button. My point is that thinking need not conclude adaptation is slow.

Calilasseia said:

Robert Byers said: YEC here.

Oh dear. Look who’s turned up here. I wondered where he would unload his soiled intellectual nappies next, only he’s been polluting various rationalist forums all over the Internet with semi-literate drivel posted as part of his mission to propagandise for a masturbation fantasy of a doctrine arising from theological pornography. During his sordid tenure over at the Richard Dawkins Forums, I had much fun dealing with his robotically parroted canards, which included such comedy gems as his assertion that large predatory animals are scared of humans, leading to the infamous “polar bears are scared to the point of white hair” comment, that elicited hysterical laughter on three continents (see the original here. Additionally, to give those who are not familiar with him, some idea of his modus operandi, he fabricates apologetic erections on a day to day basis as and when it is discoursively convenient to him, without once bothering to ask whether the fabrications of his florid imagination are internally consistent from one day to the next. The classic examples I dissected at length here among other places - note that in two separate posts, which I link to and date in that post, he claims that dinosaurs were alive alongside his mythical Adam, than then in two other posts, makes the exact opposite claim. Consequently, the only reason for treating this individual’s assorted ideological vomitings seriously lies in the necessity to deal with ignorant canards head-on wherever they may arise. Basically, this individual is beyond education, so the only reason one regards the droolingly encephalitic simulacrum of ideas that he propagates is for the education and entertainment of assorted bystanders. I shall now proceed to engage in this very process. It’s a while since I’ve had the entertainment of dealing with Byers’ unique brand of ideological stormtrooping, and I’m going to savour this instance with special relish. Particularly in light of the fact that this individual openly admitted over at RDF that he was too indolent to bother studying genetics as it was too much hard work (interested observers can read the original post here), yet purported to be in a position to lecture tenured professional scientists that they were all somehow mistaken, and that his beloved book of myths was a more reliable source of substantive information about the real world than direct experimental tests of hypotheses.

Robert Byers said: You once responded to me in letters in “Nature” about whales.

Byers, the idea that your utterly diseased pontifications are worthy of being mentioned in a prestigious scientific journal is a fantasy only you could entertain. But then you’ve entertained a lot of fantasies in your time.

Robert Byers said: I am a creationist who insists whales are a post flood adaptation of a ground creature.

Byers, you cannot even make up your mind whether dinosaurs and humans lived together, as I demonstrated in that RDF post I linked to above. You fabricated whatever inventions of your imagination were apologetically convenient on a day to day basis, without bothering to ask yourself the basic question of whether your fabricated drivel was internally consistent. As for your farcical assertion that whales were a “post flood adaptation”, this is manifest garbage, given that the [1] your fantasy flood never happened, and I can point to numerous consilient reasons from reality why your fantasy flood never happened, and [2] the fossil ancestors of whales pre-date your fantasy flood by about 50 million years.

Robert Byers said: I didn’t see the debate

That won’t stop you posting asinine drivel about it though, will it? Being totally bereft of substantive knowledge about a subject has never stopped you doing this in the past.

Robert Byers said: but thank you for the time and passion for a subject of great interest of thinking people and occasional thinking people.

You left out the creationists from the above list. As you so frequently and compellingly demonstrate, Byers, creationists don’t bother thinking, they simply accept uncritically whatever farcical nonsense is erected to prop up mythological blind assertion by assorted ideological stormtroopers for doctrine, and robotically parrot said nonsense with a masturbatory level of obsession.

Robert Byers said: Yes its a gain for any public attention for any creationist criticism

So you admit you’re more interested in scoring public relations points than being true to reality? Congratulations upon making this explicit here for all to see. But then that arch-charlatan Henry Morris gave the game away in one of his tedious little creationist screeds, where he revealed that the fundamental operating principle driving creationism is that when reality and doctrine differ, reality is wrong and doctrine is right. A principle you’ve demonstrated that you adhere to on repeated occasions on multiple rationalist forums that you have sullied with your disreputable, and at times pathetically semi-literate, apologetics.

Robert Byers said: however we have earned our spurs in public discourse on these matters.

Poppycock. All that you and your fellow ideological warriors for doctrine have demonstrated by your assorted activities, Byers, is the intellectual bankruptcy and morally corrosive nature of your tacky little doctrine. Not least because some of your fellow creationists routinely resort to lying about valid science. I know this for a fact, Byers, because I’ve dealt with their lies head-on and demonstrated that they ARE lies.

Robert Byers said: Some or much of North America is aware of the new aggression in ideas against evolution and company.

So you openly admit here that you and other creationists like you are engaged in polemical assault rather than proper discourse? Congratulations once again for displaying not only a wholly unusual degree of candour from a creationist, but making your position explicit.

Robert Byers said: It is informative of your thinking and I guess others that you don’t see debates or general discussion as the important medium to persuade the public

The critical thinkers don’t regard so-called “debates” that are rigged in favour of ideological warriors for doctrine from the outset as being a valid means of educating the public, except with respect to manifest creationist duplicity. We regard proper science classes teaching valid science as the appropriate forum. Which may explain why creationists strive with such effort to corrupt those classes.

Robert Byers said: but rather school boards and court cases to ban and censor criticism/discussion/alternate ideas on origin subjects.

Oh dear, not this tiresome canard of yours, Byers.

Learn once and for all that science classes exist to teach valid science, and are NOT there to provide ideological stormtroopers for doctrine with a ready-made means of spreading their mythology-based wishful thinking. There are separate classes provided for your drivel, Byers, namely classes in comparative mythology, which is where your doctrinal masturbation fantasies belong.

As for the idea that your nonsense is being “censored”, Byers, this is bullshit plain and simple. You have well funded, politically connected organisations disseminating your drivel enjoying tax-free income, something that scientific researchers wish they could enjoy whilst striving to find effective cures for cancer. You have churches pushing your nonsense onto the public all over the North American continent, you have talk show radio hosts pushing this drivel, but apparently this isn’t enough for you. Because there exists an Establishment Clause in the US Constitution, Byers, which expressly forbids the State from putting its weight behind enforcement of conformity to religious dogma (and how creationists hate that particular piece of legislation), you are not allowed to use government facilities to push your ideology. Learn this lesson once and for all, and live with it.

Robert Byers said: Creationism is confident in ideas and words to contend for the truth

Byers, you and other creationists manifestly wouldn’t know the truth if it backed M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks into your ribcages. Need I remind you Byers, that in his summing up of the Dover Trial, Judge Jones effectively accused the creationist/IDist supporters in the trial of perjury? That’s right, Byers, Judge Jones cited instances in his summing up where creationists LIED ON OATH. These people were happy to swear on the Bible that you and they claim to uphold as the source of your morals (and moreover assert is the only source of morality that exists), yet having sworn on this book, those people lied in court. Indeed, Byers, the public record clearly demonstrates that creationism is routinely supported by duplicity of this sort. Creationists quote mine scientific papers and misrepresent the work of the authors thereof, creationists routinely spread misinformation about the valid science, indeed creationists routinely lie in order to push their doctrine. So kindly spare us your platitudes here, because we know that your doctrine is supported by mendacity on a grand scale. But then this is hardly surprising, Byers, because reality sticks the middle finger to your doctrine and its suppuratingly gangrenous assertions at every turn.

Robert Byers said: and we do well and better as time goes by.

Byers, the only area in which creationism is “doing better as time goes by” is in the field of duplicity. it has ZERO evidence supporting its fatuous blind assertions, and indeed, in important, substantive areas, is flatly contradicted by observational reality.

Robert Byers said: We can also take on power structures that try to stop us.

Drop the tinfoil hat, Byers, because “power structures that try to stop us” is another one of those creationist myths. The people who are really out to engage in censorship of ideas are creationists, indeed, here at The Panda’s Thumb, a nice example of what happened when someone asked awkward questions at a so-called “conference” arranged by IDists is documented in detail, namely here. Allow me to quote the requisite part to you, Byers, so you can see your fellow creationists in action:

Daniel Brooks said: She was then prompted by one of her colleagues to regale us with some new experimental finds. She gave what amounted to a second presentation, during which she discussed “leaky growth,” in microbial colonies at high densities, leading to horizontal transfer of genetic information, and announced that under such conditions she had actually found a novel variant that seemed to lead to enhanced colony growth. Gunther Wagner said, “So, a beneficial mutation happened right in your lab?” at which point the moderator halted questioning. We shuffled off for a coffee break with the admission hanging in the air that natural processes could not only produce new information, they could produce beneficial new information.

There you are, Byers, creationist and IDist duplicity in action. The moment one of the real biologists at that conference asked an awkward question, discussion was shut down. If anyone tried this at a real scientific conference, they’d be booted out of the conference hall. The organisers of a real scientific conference, Byers, would strive to make time for the extended discussions that would arise from interesting new results, not shut down debate.

So spare us the entirely synthetic playing of the martyr card, Byers, because it’s yet another piece of creationist duplicity.

Robert Byers said: A old story of endangered establishments.

Oh, you mean the way that the old endangered establishment of creationism is trying to kill off genuine science and replace it with a bastardised version made subservient to religious dogma? As revealed in the Wedge Strategy document, Byers?

Robert Byers said: In America there is hundreds of years of precedent of freedom

Bollocks. The USA has only been a separate, well-defined sovereign nation for 233 years. Moreover, that nation was erected to provide freedom from religious persecution of the sort that had been rampant in Europe for the best part of 1,500 years. Persecution that included subjecting scientists to the Inquisition when the work of those scientists failed to conform to religious orthodoxy. You see, Byers, that’s one of the benefits arising from some of us living in Europe - we have a history to fall back upon to teach us such things.

Robert Byers said: and teaching origins with God and Genesis included or exclusively.

Once again, Byers, mythology does not belong in science classes. Learn this basic lesson once and for all, and live with it.

Robert Byers said: Creationism believes we do and can persuade great numbers of the public.

Why do the ideological warriors for your doctrine have to lie to push your doctrine, Byers? If reality supported your doctrine, creationists wouldn’t have to lie, would they?

Robert Byers said: People can be persuaded to truth or error.

So why are you expending so much effort trying to sell people a worthless masturbation fantasy of a doctrine that is flatly contradicted by observational reality, Byers? Why are you expending so much effort to sell a doctrine that is based upon nothing more than mythological blind assertions and which is propped up by manifest lies?

Robert Byers said: I can. I believe your side has no hope because your on the wrong side of interpretations of nature regarding origins.

This is bollocks pure and simple, Byers. REALITY says that your assertion above is bollocks, Byers, because REALITY, that entity creationist routinely ignore, provides massive evidential support for evolutionary theory.

Oh, and Byers, drop the specious conflation of evolutionary theory with abiogenesis, because it’s a tiresome creationist canard we’ve all seen before and have destroyed time and time again. But then if you had paid attention in a real science class, Byers, you would know this.

Robert Byers said: So if you say nothing or say a lot its all a attrition of your former position.

This is merely another of your fantasies, Byers. Keep staring glassy-eyed at that doctrinal hologram of yours, whilst reality laughs at you.

Robert Byers said: Yet if your confident your right then you should believe in the intelligence and good will of your fellow citizens to understand the evidence behind conclusions in these areas.

If those citizens are taught honestly and presented with the genuine facts, Byers, we have no problem presenting the evidence-based, reality-based case for evolution. Trouble is, we’re facing, in the guise of you and your fellow ideological stormtroopers for doctrine, people who are willing to lie for that doctrine.

I see you’ve posted yet more drivel after your first post, Byers. I’ll let the professional scientists here render your fantasies even more absurd than they already are. Meanwhile, I urge everyone to follow the links I have provided, and see just how much of a fantasist and a bullshit merchant you are, Byers. it’s not as if you’ve failed to provide evidence to support this charge.

Hey Cali. I remember you at the Dawkins forums. I enjoyed the intellectual struggle there but indeed too much nasty. some of you didn’t like me. Historically my dating life with Canadian chicks had this issue too. Not all. I did have a reply by this man in “Natural history” 020106 regarding whales. As i constantly said on RDF’s the evidence is that creatures could and did instantly change to fill niche in a post flood world. Whether water mammals into the sea or placentals into marsupials. Should i conclude the folks at RDF haven’t come around to this yet?

Robert Byers, you are an arrogant and colossal idiot when it comes to the topic of biology. And you never notice that we consistently notice that you never bother to produce any evidence what so ever to support any of your moronic claims in any topic, from biology to biblical history to archaeology to American law and history.

And you continue to reinforce the fact that you are simultaneously stupid, dishonest, and too arrogant to care that you are stupid and dishonest.

My point is that thinking need not conclude adaptation is slow.

Thinking may conclude whatever the thinker wants, but that doesn’t mean that thoughts take precedence over facts!

the evidence is that creatures could and did instantly change

What do you mean? Can a creature change? Could I or my dog change? Wow, fantastic! Hope the dog doesn’t change into a cat, I don’t want a cat in the house!

Oh, you just think my dog might give birth to a cat? Not much better, I’d have to drown the damn kittens.

You believe that any creature may give birth to an entirely different creature. But we never observe anything like that in nature. Because that is not possible. For a number of reasons.

Here’s the text of the Dishonesty Institute’s appeal to its intellectually-challenged audience to write as many positive Amazon.com reviews of Meyer’s mendacious intellectual porn while dealing with the reviews of Meyer’s “evil Darwinist” opposition. Again, I urge you to vote yea on mine and Donald Prothero’s reviews (and on the other one star reviews) and vote no on the positive reviews that have been posted at a most frantic pace at Amazon.com since the Dishonesty Institute sent its online e-mail appeal yesterday:

Dear John,

Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell is gaining momentum, and now the Darwinists are fighting back. After Dr. Meyer and Dr. Sternberg trounced Darwinists Michael Shermer and Donald Prothero in last week’s debate, desperate Darwinists are lashing out at Dr. Meyer, trashing his book at Amazon.com. They can’t afford for more people to be exposed to the arguments that Meyer is making, so they have resorted to trying to ruin the book’s reputation. If you have read Signature in the Cell, we need your help! Please write a review at Amazon.com (they need not be long, just honest). This is a book that has earned its place in the top 10 list of bestselling science books at Amazon, the book that made the Times Literary Supplement’s Top Books of 2009, and an author who was named “Daniel of the Year” for his work. Please take a moment and defend Dr. Meyer and his groundbreaking book.

Sincerely,

Anika M. Smith

Robert wrote:

“..the evidence is that creatures could and did instantly change to fill niche in a post flood world. Whether water mammals into the sea or placentals into marsupials.”

Right Robert. And your stuffed teddy bear discusses philosophy with you every night when you go to bed. Got it. Look jackass, you’re just plain wrong. In fact, you’re so far wrong you’re not even wrong, your wong wong wong, thats how wong u r.

If you want anyone, anyone at all, even adle-brained creationists to take anything you write seriously ever again, you will have to at least define the following:

1) Exactly what “creature” are you referring to?

2) Exactly what do you mean by “instantly”?

3) Exactly what “niche” are you referring to?

4) Exactly what do you mean by “change”? Was it a genetic change, a physiological change, a morphological change?

5) Exaactly what “water mammals” are you referring to?

6) Exactly why do you think that placental mammals changed into marsupials?

Now, once you have defined exactly what it is you are trying to say, then you can provide scientific evidence for your claims. Here, I’ll make it easy for you, I’ll even accept biblical quotes. Just find somewhere in the bible where it says that placental mammals changed instantly into marsupials and im sure that everyone will be convinced.

Now if you cant or wont explain what you are talkin about and cant or wont provide any evidence, then I guess everyone will once again see that you are a lying sack of excrement who just makes crap up without the slightest knowledge of what you are talking about. I’m sure everyone has already come to that conclusion long ago, but thanks for providing more actual evidence. You should try that some time when it comes to scientific issues.

Oh, by the way, Im still waitin for yore evidence that humans can change skin color instantly. Are you sure you werent thinkin about a cameleon or an octupus or a squid?

John Kwok [quoting a creationist advertisement] said: This is a book that has earned its place in the top 10 list of bestselling science books at Amazon, the book that made the Times Literary Supplement’s Top Books of 2009, and an author who was named “Daniel of the Year” for his work.

Here is the reason why Meyer won “Daniel of The Year:”

WORLD’s 12th annual Daniel of the Year does not save lives abroad, as Britain’s Caroline Cox and Sudan’s Michael Yerko do. Nor does he regularly save lives of the unborn, as Florida’s Wanda Cohn does through her pregnancy center work. No, Stephen C. Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, fights to show that those lives have eternal value because they are the work of a Creator and not the product of chance.

I am shocked, SHOCKED that the good people at World would link ID to some sort of religious “Creator.”

At the very least, this summary provided nice phrases to google to enhance the education of those actually curious (admittedly, quite likely not a phrase describing your live audience); so in that respect I don’t consider it a waste.

However, one statement in the main body struck me as rather brow-quirking: “It may have overwhelmed the audience with how much information I crammed into 15 minutes, but it had the salutary effect that I hit them with lots of arguments and data they couldn’t or wouldn’t answer, so most of my assertions stayed unchallenged.” How is this different from the Gish gallop?

Still, the award for most bone-headed comment easily goes to Robert Byers, for his “Adaption is just a result observed by people.” Wow. Considering the foundation of *science* ultimately rests on evidence – aka results observed by people – you have just dismissed all of scientific progress with a single flippant sentence! That is impressive.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on December 1, 2009 3:37 PM.

Wes on Opderbeck and Dover was the previous entry in this blog.

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