Creationists covering tracks on Cornell meeting; and Fuller doesn’t get it

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There is still mostly an eerie silence from the creationists/IDists on the Springer/Cornell issue (previous PT posts: 1, 2, 3). Basically all we have in terms of official response are the comments given to Inside Higher Ed. But much of the evidence of the details of the conference that originally existed has been taken down. Here are the examples of which I am aware:

1. David Klinghoffer of the Discovery Institute, after the controversy broke, put up a post, which was quickly taken down.

2. David Coppedge of JPL lawsuit fame (Coppedge is the main author/editor of Creation/Evolution Headlines, one of the most virulent of young-earth creationist websites, and he is currently involved in an employment lawsuit with JPL, and was an invitee and attendee of the Cornell meeting) originally posted about the Cornell meeting right after it happened in June 2011. The posts were on Coppedge’s hard-shell YEC site crev.info, and in Mountain Daily News. According to this comment on PT, the Creation-Evolution Headlines version once had, but no longer has, this text:

Here’s something that should make you mad. One of the organizers had invited Cornell professors, some known to be Darwin skeptics, but they all declined. In addition, he had tried to interest area churches in participating, either by sending people to hear the talks or assist with volunteer help, and they all declined, too. Some of them did not even answer the emails. There is still fear among many scientists toward being associated with a controversy like intelligent design. And, sad to say, many churches these days are more concerned about looking good to the world than dealing with matters of truth.

Because of potential harm to careers of some participants, names of all are being withheld from this review.

Maybe the mention of soliciting help from local churches was thought to be damaging in whatever case the creationists are trying to make to Springer.

3. Sid Galloway, the former zookeeper with the animals-based evangelical ministry – He took down his listing of the talk titles of the meeting, and some other information. Galloway now says:

[…] Over the past few weeks (today’s date is March 1, 2012), some sites on the web have linked to this page as if it somehow represented the BINPS. Those making such an assumption either did not carefully read the page or deliberately chose to misrepresent it. This page has always been a simple and personal review of the BINPS. This webpage from its first draft made it clear that I was merely an attendee of the BINPS (and probably the least qualified to attend since I am simply a college prep high school honors biology teacher seeking to train my students to scientifically challenge all hypotheses, theories, and laws).

The Bio-Info conference was an inspiring example of truly critical, logikos thinking in the scientific community. The symposium was not sponsored by Cornell, though Dr. John Sanford, Cornell geneticist and inventor of the Gene Gun was a principal coordinator. […]

[Italics original; and this guy teaches high schoolers? Ugh, see note 1.]

Unfortunately for those supporting the meeting and the publication, Sanford, apparently a principal coordinator, is a total nut who thinks that fitting a curve to the lifespans of the descendants of Noah in the Bible constitutes science.

4. Jorge Fernandez, another young-earther and an author on various papers at the meeting, started a new thread and put up a post at his hangout, TheologyWeb. But soon after, he demanded that the thread be taken down (see link for original formatting; I’m too busy to reproduce his massive use of bolds, italics, caps, and various smileys):

1. I had promised you that the two papers that I co-authored would soon be published, remember?

Well, publication has occurred and release is supposed to be very soon - within days. However …

2. … we may be witnessing in real time another episode of ‘EXPELLED’.

3. The Proceedings from the symposium, contained in a book titled Biological Information: New Perspectives, is now encountering the usual attempts at censorship practiced by the ‘Thought Police’ – you know, the type of censorship that the Evo-Faithful loudly deny happens at all.

4. This was strictly a scientific symposium – I know, I was there from start to finish. Every paper was scrutinized to be/remain science … pure science.

5. The publisher is Springer-Verlag. I assure you, the papers were heavily peer-reviewed. But guess what? They now want to do additional peer-review because of “complaints”. OMG !

6. The Evo-Faithful complain that intelligent design isn’t science “because it’s not peer-reviewed.” When it is peer-reviewed, they say, “It shouldn’t have been peer-reviewed because it’s not science.”

Now where did I put my shotgun?

7. In passing, do you see why I use the term “dishonest” as often as I do? Do you? Huh? Do you? It fits!

8. Lastly, wanna guess who’s already involved? Yup, you guessed it, the NCSE : the ‘witch’ and her broomstick.

9. More details here : http://the-scientist.com/2012/03/02/…print-id-book/

10. This could turn ugly, very ugly … stay tuned …

Jorge

What to make of all of this, added to the eerie silence at normally shoot-from-the-hip blogs like Uncommon Descent? Possibilities include (1) they are going to try to convince Springer that this is Real Science ™, not religious apologetics; (2) they are going to try to sue Springer, and want to remove evidence that Springer had a good reason to do whatever Springer might do (more peer-review, abandon the project, etc.); (3) they don’t know what will happen, but lawyers are involved, and lawyers always tell you to not make any public statements.

The only other reaction I’ve seen comes from Steve Fuller, who in typical fashion refuses to exercise any critical judgment whatsoever about any of the generations-old crank science arguments of the creationists/IDists, or their attempts to sneak it by engineers and other innocents who know nothing about population genetics or other highly relevant fields.

Why, oh why, have the self-appointed epistemic vigilantes at the National Centre for Science Education (NCSE) decided to subvert the already fragile academic norm of peer review by declaring that one of the top three European publishers of scientific journals and books has mistakenly allowed intelligent design (ID) sympathisers to publish a book in their information science series? That two positive peer reports in the original book proposal was insufficient to discover the allegedly heinous nature of its content must mean, of course, that more peer reviewing is needed - not that perhaps the content is not as heinous as the scent of ID might have suggested.

Oh, please. Steve Fuller is willfully ignoring that this conference isn’t mostly IDists being as vague as possible for legal/school/media purposes, and saying that they’re fine with an old-earth and common ancestry and maybe all they’re saying is God is behind everything in reality in some vague way. This conference is mostly young-earth creationists of the old-fashioned “creation science” type, many of them with direct connections to Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research, and they are arguing that if our species was older than their literalist interpretation of Genesis says, we’d be extinct from mutations by now because [insert tired, long-refuted young-earth creationist arguments about how the Second Law of Thermodynamics, or probability, or Haldane’s Dilemma, or whatever, kills population genetics, never mind the thousands of actual population geneticists who disagree].

Fuller is supposed to have a background in history of science. What would you say if a group came along and said that Johannes Kepler never existed? What if their argument was that the existence of Kepler was forbidden by the Second Law of Thermodynamics? What if, in response to this argument, scientists had repeatedly pointed out that the Second Law of Thermodynamics did no such thing, but the Kepler Deniers had replied with “Just because the Second Law of Thermodynamics doesn’t technically make the existence of Kepler completely impossible, this doesn’t mean the existence of Kepler is probable!”

Then, what if it was announced that these Kepler-denying yahoos were getting talks which were clearly about Kepler denial published in a “peer-reviewed” volume in a Springer series on Engineering? What if, in response to your outraged spluttering, they scolded “Censor! Don’t judge something before you’ve read it!”

The current situation is basically like that. Fuller, as usual, doesn’t get it.

Just in case someone like Fuller wants to see this through the eyes of those of us who actually study the creationists carefully, and know the personalities involved and their hobby horses, I’ll go through the list of talk titles and give a short review of what they tell us, with little more than a google search and a search on previous PT posts on these guys.

The Cornell 2011 Meeting Schedule, Reviewed

Fortunately for us, based on long experience, I remembered to archive Galloway’s original page. Interestingly, by nothing more than googling the talk titles, it is easy to figure out who many of the speakers were. Most of them are young-earth creationists!

Session One May 31: INFORMATION THEORY & BIOLOGY

Presentation 1 - Biological information: what is it?

Werner Gitt (?). YEC, talkorigins.org rebuttal.

Presentation 2 - A second look at the second law of thermodynamics

Granville Sewell. YEC? (Almost always, only YECs are daft enough to go for the Second Law of Thermodynamics argument, an argument so infamous and so bad even Answers in Genesis basically admits it shouldn’t be used (but not quite, because they would leave egg on so many creationist faces; see their link to further discussion).

This is the name of the paper that was published and then withdrawn by Applied Mathematical Letters. See this PT post by Wes Elsberry for a detailed history of Sewell’s antics.

(As aside, Sewell’s favorite journal, the Mathematical Intelligencer, just published a detailed rebuttal to Sewell’s argument by an actual chemist (Sewell is a mathematician). The paper is: Lloyd (2012), “Is There Any Conflict Between Evolution and the Second Law of Thermodynamics?”. Lloyd concludes:

[Sewell’s] proposal that entropy can be partitioned [into separate X-entropies, which according to Sewell cannot be interconverted and thus each have to imported/exported from a system separately] is relied on in a series of papers, from the original MI response to the recent revisiting of this in the AML paper, but the proposal has no validity. The illustrative example given in the MI response is simply wrong, and these papers rely on erroneous interpretations of basic physics and on a failure of logic, which vitiate the conclusions drawn. In particular, these papers provide no reason whatsoever to suppose that the Second Law makes any statement that denies the possibility of Darwinian evolution, or even makes it improbable. The qualitative point associated with the solar input to Earth, which was dismissed so casually in the abstract of the AML paper, and the quantitative formulations of this by Styer and Bunn, stand, and are unchallenged by Sewell’s work.

Sewell responded oh-so-maturely with a youtube video, which the Discovery Institute (old motto, courtesy Stephen C. Meyer: “We’re not ‘some Young-Earth Creationist who just fell off the turnip truck’, we swear!”; new motto: “Actually, we love those turnip-truck YEC arguments, especially the Second-Law argument!.) immediately posted on its blog. (So did Uncommon Descent, when Sewell’s video got 2000 views of youtube, which I’m sure means it will soon catch up with the 131,673,705 hits that sneezing baby panda has). The argument of the video is essentially “tornados don’t work backwards, therefore we’re right about the Second Law of Thermodynamics falsifying evolution.” The tornado-in-a-junkyard argument is such a moldy old creationist chestnut it’s even been given a name and a wikipedia page: Hoyle’s Fallacy.

Here’s Sewell:

Evolutionists have always dismissed this argument by saying that the second law of thermodynamics only dictates that order cannot increase in an isolated (closed) system, and the Earth is not a closed system – in particular, it receives energy from the Sun. The second law allows order to increase locally, provided the local increase is offset by an equal or greater decrease in the rest of the universe. This always seems to be the end of the argument: order can increase (entropy can decrease) in an open system, therefore, ANYTHING can happen in an open system, even the rearrangement of atoms into computers, without violating the second law.

Dude! Your problem isn’t with evolutionary biologists. Here, let me Google that for you. You are fighting with physicists and chemists when you make the Second-Law argument. They all know thermodynamics, they use it every day, they don’t work in evolutionary biology and mostly don’t care about it, and they say you’re hopelessly wrong, and they have for freaking decades.

Presentation 3 - Biological information and thermodynamics

More Second Law of Thermodynamics junk, unless the conclusion was “the creationist thermodynamics argument is junk”, in which case Sewell presumably would have abandoned his silliness by now. But I couldn’t trace this phrase specifically.

Presentation 4 - Multiple overlapping codes profoundly reduce the probability of beneficial mutation

This is a paper by William A. Dembski, Winston Ewert, R.J. Marks II, according to Marks’s CV

Presentation 5 - A General theory of information cost incurred by successful search

This is a paper by William A. Dembski, Winston Ewert, R.J. Marks II, according to Marks’s CV

There are many debunkings of Dembski & Marks on the web. See Wikipedia, or here for a start.

Presentation 6 - Pragmatic information

This is listed on John W. Oller Jr.’s CV. Oller is a young-earth creationist well known in Louisiana for various shenanigans involving attempts to get creationism into the public schools there. He’s also on the Institute for Creation Research’s Technical Advisory Board. See Barbara Forrest Demolishes a Creationist and John Oller fesses up.

Presentation 7 - Limits of chaos and progress in evolutionary dynamics

No hits, but yammering about how evolution is supposed to be uniformly progressive, but things sometimes get simpler is a creationist classic. Over in real evolutionary biology, we official left behind “evolution is progressive” generations ago, and people like, say, Darwin, were always suspicious of the idea.

Presentation 8 - Tierra: the character of adaptation

This is a paper by William A. Dembski, Winston Ewert, R.J. Marks II, according to Marks’s CV

Session Two June 1: BIOLOGICAL INFORMATION& GENETIC THEORY

(Each presentation was followed by a time of Questions and Answers)

Presentation 9 - Not Junk after all: non-protein-coding DNA carries extensive biological information

This sounds like Jonathan Wells, but could be any number of creationists/IDists who have uncritically and unthinkingly picked up the idea that “junk DNA is dead”, ignoring the obvious fact that the amount of DNA in genomes doesn’t correlate with complexity, that ferns and salamanders have dozens of times more DNA (due to repetitive DNA) than humans do, and that nearly identical species can have very different genome sizes. This huge variation proves that a ton of DNA is not strictly necessary.

Anyway, whoever it is who is spouting the same-ol’, dumb-ol’ creationist arguments about junk DNA not being junk, if they don’t address the variability issue (e.g.: Onion Test) and the various other criticisms of the creationist position (Larry Moran has the best compilation), then they’ll have junk science in addition to junk DNA.

Presentation 10 - Can biological information be sustained by purifying natural selection?

Presentation 11 - Selection threshold severely constrains capture of beneficial mutations

Presentation 12 - Computational evolution experiments reveal a net loss of information despite selection

Presentation 13 - Using numerical simulation to test the “mutation-count” hypothesis

Presentation 14 - Can synergistic epistasis halt mutation accumulation? Results from numerical simulation

These papers are all listed in the “Selected Papers” of Wesley Brewer, and are almost certainly coauthored by John Sanford and the other collaborators on their Mendel’s Accountant project. Sanford is a YEC of course, and Brewer’s research on weather simulations is funded by the Institute for Creation Research and published in Answers Research Journal, so Brewer is certainly a YEC as well.

Presentation 15 - Striking architectural similarities between higher genomes and computer executable code

Sounds sort of like Stephen C. Meyer, or Douglas Axe, both of the Discovery Institute. Cue Meyer’s favorite Bill Gates quote, “DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.” Which is repeated 7500 times on Google on creationist/ID websites – except that the top hit is the Talk.Origins Quote Mine Project.

And by the way, Stephen Meyer, I’ll see your Bill Gates quote and raise you a quote by some people who have actually thought carefully about the similarity between DNA and programming: “It’s the worst kind of spaghetti code you could imagine.” (For source, see notes.)

Presentation 16 - Biocybernetics and biosemiosis

This sounds like David Abel, he of the prestigious Origin of Life Science Foundation.

Presentation 17 - Computer-like systems in the cell

Sounds like Dave D’Onofrio, who apparently said his paper was soon-to-be-published back in November 2009, when he presented it (along with spiffy animations of the cell! from Harvard!) at the Warren Astronomical Society (founded February 2009) of Warren, Michigan (population 135,000). Fortunately, “The views expressed in presentations are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the Warren Astronomical Society.”

A paper by Dave D’Onofrio is listed in Ashby Camp’s List of 1156 Articles Supporting Biblical Creation at TrueOrigin.org, an attempted rebuttal website for TalkOrigins.org. The paper is “A comparative approach for the investigation of biological information processing: An examination of the structure and function of computer hard drives and DNA” in Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling, which seems to be the ultimate low-bar journal that creationists have targeted, which has already published three articles by Abel et al.

Session Three June 2: THEORETICAL MOLECULAR BIOLOGY (Each presentation was followed by a time of Questions and Answers)

Presentation 18 - Can genetic information be traced to a last universal common ancestor?

This sounds like Paul Nelson, but presumably we would have heard about it already if he was involved.

Presentation 19 - A new model of intracellular communication based on coherent, high-frequency vibrations in biomolecules

No idea, but a lot of kooks like mystical stuff involving vibrations.

Presentation 20 - A multiplicity of memories: the semiotics of evolutionary adaptation

This one is J. Scott Turner, listed in his annual report. He’s the token “Darwinist” I bet. J. Scott Turner seems to have gotten into the ID issue after the Kitzmiller-related fracas of 2005, likes to ignore the entire sordid history of the creationists and ID movements, and ignore all the technical rebuttals we’ve written, and pretend that scientists are the ones with the problems here. See Shallit’s evaluation of a piece he wrote in 2007.

Presentation 21 - The cost of substitution during concurrent substitutions and the Absent-Optimal Effect

Anything about the “cost of substitution” is probably Walter ReMine, a YEC who has had a decades-long obsession with Haldane’s dilemma, which isn’t.

Presentation 22 - The membrane code: a carrier of essential information that is not specified by DNA and is inherited apart from it

No idea. The idea of membrane heredity is not new, although various creationists/IDists love latching onto anything that sound different than standard DNA inheritance, I guess because they think evolution can’t work on traits which are inherited in a non-DNA fasion, or something. Never mind that Darwin successfully invented evolutionary theory in the first place only knowing about inheritance and nothing about DNA.

Presentation 23 - Measuring and analyzing functional information in proteins

This sounds close to a paper by Kirk Durston, David Abel, etc., again in Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling. See Durston’s devious distortions on PT.

Presentation 24 - Getting there first: an evolutionary rate advantage for adaptive loss-of-function mutations

This sounds a lot like Michael Behe talking about his review in Quarterly Review of Biology. Which unfortunately was shot down by friendly fire right after it came out.

Notes

Note 1: I feel sorry for those students…they’ll be in for quite a shock when they end up in actual college biology and learn that their high-school teacher was teaching them that evolution was controversial when it’s just a basic part of standard biology education. Christians who accept evolution often say that one of the bigger sources of atheism occurs when students are raised fundamentalist then go to college and learn that evolution and geology aren’t conspiratorial fairytales, just obvious inferences from massive datasets. I wonder how Galloway feels about having that on his conscience.

Note 2: Further notes on Galloway’s page: Galloway also put up some links to young-earth creationist books, by Sanford and others, to defend his position – while calling his position “ID.” In some venues, IDists will swear up-and-down that they are a totally different thing from bad-old, nasty-old young-earth creationism and the “creation science” of the 1970s and 1980s, and will vociferously berate anyone who points out the connections. But this distinction was totally ignored at this meeting, and by the attendees and speakers, who appear to be majority young-earthers, with some “classic” ID people added for spice. I swear, will these guys ever even get their own talking points straight?

Galloway has all kinds of glowing endorsements of the meeting and its science-y-ness and sophistication, but then he blows it by giving an example of the “new” scientific information on which he says: “I highly respect the courageous, scientists (many who are world-renowned) based upon the newest and best evidence as they scientifically challenge the prevailing old and potentially out-of-date paradigm regarding the origin of bio-info.”

What’s the “new” information? A quote from Karl Popper from 1974 about the paradox that DNA is needed to produce protein, and protein is needed to produce DNA. 1974!! Never mind that the RNA World hypothesis essentially solved this particular problem in the 1980s. Never mind that anyone mildly capable would know this. Galloway feels comfortable both expounding upon the falsity of mainstream science, and of endorsing the quality of the Cornell meeting, even though he doesn’t know the first thing about the relevant science. This sort of guy is the true audience of these creation science/ID “conferences” – fundamentalists, whether they be scientists or teachers or nonacademics, who already “know” evolution is wrong but feel a deep need to have science on the same side as the Bible. No actual expertise in relevant fields like population genetics or molecular evolution required.

Note 3: Here’s the source for the DNA-spaghetti quote.

National Public Radio (NPR)

April 25, 2003 Friday

Analogies for the way DNA works

ANCHORS: MICHELE NORRIS; MELISSA BLOCK

REPORTERS: DAVID KESTENBAUM

All Things Considered (8:00 PM ET) - NPR

[…]

KESTENBAUM: But why, if things are so well-organized, our genetic code tied up in a neat little bundle–why is it taking so long to understand?

Mr. DAVID HAUSSLER (Computer Scientist, University of California-Santa Cruz): It’s the worst kind of spaghetti code you could imagine.

KESTENBAUM: This is David Haussler, a computer scientist at the University of California-Santa Cruz. Spaghetti code is what you get when a software designer doesn’t really think a project through in advance. The code ends up so tangled that even the person who wrote it can’t understand it. In the human cell, the idea is simple enough. Each gene in the DNA is an instruction for making a particular protein. But from there, things get complicated.

Mr. HAUSSLER: The general type of phenomenon is if you have a protein and we thought it did certain things and then we found that it’s also involved in this other pathway, and then, oh, my goodness, it’s also involved in this process. Every few weeks there’s another function that we have discovered for this protein.

KESTENBAUM: Imagine if a bank were organized this way. One worker would help sort letters in the mail room and sometimes analyze stocks, sometimes cook french fries in the cafeteria and occasionally go to a board meeting.

Mr. HAUSSLER: That kind of code is just the kind of code you don’t want to build in engineering because it’s generally not successful. It’s amazing that life does it that way, and life is, of course, very successful.

KESTENBAUM: Right. It’s exactly what students are told not to do.

Mr. HAUSSLER: Precisely. Nature would not get good grades in my computer science classes, unfortunately.

KESTENBAUM: And this is a major reason why it’s so hard for scientists to fix cells, so hard to design drugs or cure diseases. DNA is spaghetti code because nature has been tinkering with the system for billions of years like a bad programmer. Bruce Alberts is a biochemist and president of the National Academy of Sciences. He says the way proteins carry signals around a cell is about as complicated as the wiring in the brain.

Mr. BRUCE ALBERTS (President, National Academy of Sciences): We could know every connection of those chemical signaling pathways, and that’s what we’ve been working out for years. But still, we may not be, or I would say we’re not likely to be able to understand it without some new way of thinking about it.

KESTENBAUM: Few researchers think a full understanding of this strange chemical computing system will come anytime soon. Len Adelman, the mathematician, gives it hundreds of years. Bruce Alberts wouldn’t even make a prediction. Scientists may always have to tweak things in cells to see what happens. That, after all, is what nature has been doing. David Kestenbaum, NPR News, Washington.

LOAD-DATE: April 26, 2003

(A few edits made on Monday to fix typos etc. HT: Rolf)

111 Comments

Thank you very much for your stunning work! The real surprise: the Discovery Institute is able to keep quite on a topic for a couple of weeks… perhaps we should look for a new wedge document!

Nice testable predictive hypothesis!

Will be interesting to compare with the data when we get them, as surely we will.

Hi Nick, Werner Gitt who did the first presentation is a german creationist (hard-core YEC) associated with the “Studiengemeinschaft Wort und Wissen” (which is basically the german equivalent to AiG). His website is only available in german, but some of his books have been translated to english.

Awesome detailed summary. Thanks for the hard work.

Good summary. I would bet on your #3 being true. #2 strikes me as extremely irrational: trying to remove all evidence that the conference while sueing to get the conference proceedings published?

[Sewell] This always seems to be the end of the argument: order can increase (entropy can decrease) in an open system, therefore, ANYTHING can happen in an open system, even the rearrangement of atoms into computers, without violating the second law.

I don’t know about anything, but yes Granville, building computers doesn’t violate the second law.

I don’t see a single thing in any of the talks that even remotely resembles science. Second law! You’ve got to be kidding me. Genetic “simulations”? We all know how creationists can generate biologically implausible scenarios to demonstrate that evolution could’t be true. All you have to do is keep changing the parameters until you get the result you want. It doesn’t matter if it make any sense or not. That’s evidence of incompetence, nothing else. How about this little gem:

Presentation 10 - Can biological information be sustained by purifying natural selection?

If the answer is no then every species is doomed to extinction and life as we know it cannot exist. Seems to me that life has been doing just fine for the last 3.5 billion years.

Look, you simply cannot be a YEC unless you ignore and deny all of the major findings in every field of science for the last one hundred and fifty years. With that in mind, how can any of these clowns even have the audacity to suggest that what hey are doing is in any way shape or form “science”.

Oh and inviting churches to participate in a “scientific” conference, nice touch. Why to add scientific validity to the “conference”.

Great summary. I hope you’ve sent a copy to Springer.

A most masterful piece of sleuthing, Nick. Since Fuller is supposedly a DI “ally”, how come he hasn’t stayed with the “progam”. I just checked the DI CSC website and noticed that Michael Denton is a Senior Fellow? What? I thought he has said that he rejects Intelligent Design.

https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/[…]vtiF0BBqF10Q said:

Great summary. I hope you’ve sent a copy to Springer.

I strongly second it. And if you don’t send it directly to Springer, be sure to send it to Niles Eldredge. Am sure he’d forward it to Springer.

I would like to put this conference in what I believe is its appropriate context. It has some interesting implications.

The first point is that, as regulars here are aware, the original goal of “ID” was to disguise creationism so that it could be legally taught in public schools. That goal received a severe setback in 2005, with the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision.

Since then, there has been a falling off of the popularity of the “always deny any connection with YEC or religion” meme.

The frustration of pretending not to be YEC is probably considerable for many. At one level, this conference may have represented some mainly YEC and YEC friendly types reasserting themselves. This doesn’t signal any overt “split” between the DI and YEC - they’ll still express love for each other - but there is some possibility that this conference was more easily connected to YEC than some strategists would have liked. There may be some behind the scenes friction.

Another thing…

As we all know, during the 2010 election, a low midterm turnout, a poor economy, and ostensible concern with the national debt created a one time Tea Party event. Certain types of voters may have been especially motivated. One result of this is that, although many have already been eliminated, a crop of creationist bills was introduced in state legislatures.

The timing of this conference could be a coincidence.

Having said that, the conference appears to have been a backhanded attempt to generate an ostensibly peer reviewed publication, and falsely claim that it is associated with a major research university. If such an attempt succeeds, whether the association with an election round that generated creationist bills is intentional or coincidental, it is a near certainty that such a publication would be touted by creationists in political and courtroom settings. Creationists are well aware that the fact that essentially all of their voluminous material is published by creationist, religious, and/or anti-scientific right wing sources, is an issue.

This is why, although I very strongly support creationists’ freedom of expression (and everyone else’s), I hope that Springer Verlag elects not to publish this anti-scientific material.

Do you suppose that what is going on is not that they are thinking about suing Springer, but that they are worried that they will be sued by Springer and/or Cornell for fraud?

“6. The Evo-Faithful complain that intelligent design isn’t science “because it’s not peer-reviewed.” When it is peer-reviewed, they say, “It shouldn’t have been peer-reviewed because it’s not science.”

But isn’t that the point of a peer review, to determine the value of a paper in regards to it’s subject’s domain and application? If the paper is found deficient, then it is rejected, and that’s a primary reason why they engage NON-scientists/biologists/evolutionists in their reviews. Creationists OTOH argue that it should always be published no matter how bad it is because their concept of freedom of the press/speech requires everyone to bow to their demands. This is just a replay of the Sternberg/Meyer paper fiasco with the Smithsonian, and yes, Luskin is likely just itching to sue Springer.

They should have gotten the message when even churches refused to attend. How dense do you have to be not to get that message?

“6. The Evo-Faithful complain that intelligent design isn’t science “because it’s not peer-reviewed.” When it is peer-reviewed, they say, “It shouldn’t have been peer-reviewed because it’s not science.”

This statement is so incorrect that it’s mind-boggling.

1) No-one says it shouldn’t be peer-reviewed; it should be peer-reviewed, and if it doesn’t contain valid evidence and logically drawn inferences, it should be rejected, as DavidK points out.

2) The current complaint of the creationists is that the material is being peer reviewed! “Additional peer review” is the current status. They’re the ones who object to peer review.

DavidK said: But isn’t that the point of a peer review, to determine the value of a paper in regards to it’s subject’s domain and application? If the paper is found deficient, then it is rejected, and that’s a primary reason why they engage NON-scientists/biologists/evolutionists in their reviews. Creationists OTOH argue that it should always be published no matter how bad it is because their concept of freedom of the press/speech requires everyone to bow to their demands. This is just a replay of the Sternberg/Meyer paper fiasco with the Smithsonian, and yes, Luskin is likely just itching to sue Springer.

All IMO, and I welcome comments by other scientists who may differ in opinion…

There’s a slight difference in this case, because we are talking about conference proceedings. Those are typically reviewed for writing quality and coverage of the presentation, rather than originality or impact. The purpose of proceedings is to say what went on at the conference, to let people who weren’t there review the work which was presented. If this were a legitimate scientific conference, IMO the presenters’ work should be included almost regardless of its academic merit. But this is not a legitimate scientific conference, as shown by the way the organizers controlled participation, advertising, etc… (among other reasons). If Springer wants to reject this “correctly,” I think they should point to the non-quality of the conference as a scientific event, rather than the non-quality of any of the presentations.

The point “your work is shoddy” is a legitmate reason to reject a paper under normal circumstances, but less so when its a conference proceeding and the shoddy work was one of the presentations.

Which most scientists know and understand. Publishing your work in conference proceedings might impress laypeople who can’t tell the difference, but it is not likely (on its own) to impress working scientists.

eric said: I don’t know about anything, but yes Granville, building computers doesn’t violate the second law.

Nothing that we build violates the laws of thermodynamics. There’s no reason to think that “intelligent design” can build something that does.

I guess I can design something that violates physical laws. I can even design something that violates the laws of mathematics. I run into problems when I try to build what I’ve designed.

TomS said: I guess I can design something that violates physical laws. I can even design something that violates the laws of mathematics. I run into problems when I try to build what I’ve designed.

One might be able to imagine something general that would violate physical law, for example I can imagine a FTL rocket. But design as in actual building plans? I’m not so sure.

cwjolley said:

TomS said: I guess I can design something that violates physical laws. I can even design something that violates the laws of mathematics. I run into problems when I try to build what I’ve designed.

One might be able to imagine something general that would violate physical law, for example I can imagine a FTL rocket. But design as in actual building plans? I’m not so sure.

I don’t disagree. (At first I was going to mention FTL.) I was thinking of something like one of Escher’s designs or a “Penrose triangle”.

Impressive analysis

TomS said:

eric said: I don’t know about anything, but yes Granville, building computers doesn’t violate the second law.

Nothing that we build violates the laws of thermodynamics. There’s no reason to think that “intelligent design” can build something that does.

My point was just that Sewell is mischaracterizing his critics. Mainstream scientists don’t claim that open systems allow “anything” to happen. If someone claims to have built a refrigerator that can reach 0 K, Sewell’s maintream critics would have no problem saying that that violates the LOTs, regardless of whether its constructed in an open system or not. Perpetual motion machines, 100% efficient energy conversion machines, there are a whole host of things the LOTs prevent open systems from producing.

eric said -

The point “your work is shoddy” is a legitmate reason to reject a paper under normal circumstances, but less so when its a conference proceeding and the shoddy work was one of the presentations.

A problem here is that exactly what you describe is being exploited.

This whole event was a sham to trick a science publisher with a decent reputation into unwittingly publishing creationist nonsense, in my best guess, for legal/political reasons.

Which most scientists know and understand. Publishing your work in conference proceedings might impress laypeople who can’t tell the difference

Unfortunately, that appears to be the goal here.

As it happens, I have no problem with either your suggestion to call the whole conference illegitimate, or with Springer’s tactic of additional peer review.

But this is not a legitimate scientific conference, as shown by the way the organizers controlled participation, advertising, etc… (among other reasons).

Yes, merely reporting conference presentations without additional scrutiny implies that 1) the institution ostensibly organizing the conference is aware of it - whereas here, there has been an effort to falsely imply that Cornell had something to do with it, 2) that the attendees adequately represent the field, whereas here, almost no maintream biologists or information scientists were present - or aware of the “conference”, apparently, at least in many cases - and virtually everyone present was a creationist - even though it is claimed to have been a “biological information” conference; also, 3) if churches were invited, as is claimed by some attendees, that is highly unorthodox for a scientific conference, particularly given that almost any scientific conference will include scientists of many different religious attitudes.

Additional scrutiny is highly warranted.

And, it the conference really was legitimate, why would they be afraid of additional peer review? If the whole thing was science all the way down, they have nothing to fear. If on the other hand, they blatantly misrepresented both the intent and the reality of the conference, then sure, they should be crapping their proverbial pants which are soon to be pulled down, exposing their fundamental dishonesty to the entire world.

Maybe these guys are just tired of losing money publishing books that no one wants read. If they really thought there was a market for this crap, shouldn’t they be trying to publish it themselves and keep all of the profits for the prophets? Only if they expected the book to be flop would they want someone else to publish it.

Unless of course the veneer of scientific respectability is so valuable to them that they just don’t care about the money. What a sad state of affairs.

What would constitute censorship by the scientific publisher? What if they say, “We have rejected your manuscript. Although we are unable to find anything wrong with your paper scientifically, we just don’t like it.” Maybe think of Alfred Wegener trying to publish on continental drift in 1912. Sure, his mechanism was insufficient, but probably some conservative scientists just didn’t like his conclusions.

Perhaps the scientific publisher can reject anything they jolly well feel like rejecting, even for illogical or stupid reasons. But their business and reputation rests on publishing scientific advances, not on publishing The Journal of Stuff We Already Agree With.

Criticism is not censorship, as Douglas Theobald noted. Is there any action that would constitute censorship by the scientific publisher?

eric said: There’s a slight difference in this case, because we are talking about conference proceedings.

This wasn’t a conference - it was a “conference” - in the same way that intelligent design creationism is “science”.

eric said: There’s a slight difference in this case, because we are talking about conference proceedings. Those are typically reviewed for writing quality and coverage of the presentation, rather than originality or impact. The purpose of proceedings is to say what went on at the conference… Publishing your work in conference proceedings might impress laypeople who can’t tell the difference, but it is not likely (on its own) to impress working scientists.

This is what Dembski and Marks got away with (sort of) in 2009 by giving a paper at an IEEE conference - to get their paper published in a “journal” that was actually just the conference proceedings. Looks like they were trying to expand on that concept by having their own stealth “conference”.

Unless I am mistaken, ID’ers have often bragged about the few peer reviews they have been able to collect, implying approval of ID by the scientific community.

Now it seems they don’t care for more peer review. Now if that ain’t progress…

This whole event was a sham to trick a science publisher with a decent reputation into unwittingly publishing creationist nonsense, in my best guess, for legal/political reasons.

The creationists are doing what they always do.

Trying to borrow or steal the prestige and authority of science to…attack science.

Because much as they hate modern science, it is still the basis of our modern 21st century Hi Tech civilization and the most successful human endeavor in all of history.

DS said: And, it the conference really was legitimate, why would they be afraid of additional peer review?

Playing devil’s advocate here, but “afraid” may be the wrong word. I think its a fact of the scientific world that conference presentations often don’t have the quality of journal-worthy research. No malice need be involved: even with the best of intentions, some failure in the lab may mean you can’t present the findings you expected to produce, so you give a paper that would never get formally accepted, such as ‘here’s what we plan on doing.’

By rights, I really don’t think we should expect conference proceedings submissions to live up to the strict peer review regular journal articles should get. If you held real conference proceedings to the standard you are demanding we hold these yoyos to, many legitimate proceedings submissions would fail. Fair’s fair; we need to use the same standard we’d use on other conference proceedings.

But, just to be absolutely clear, I think this particular conference’s proceedings is not worth publishing in a scientific journal because the meeting itself was not a scientific meeting. I would not expect Springer to publish the local book club or poker game results either - no matter how accurate and informative the submission, its not science.

eric said:

DS said: And, it the conference really was legitimate, why would they be afraid of additional peer review?

Playing devil’s advocate here, but “afraid” may be the wrong word. I think its a fact of the scientific world that conference presentations often don’t have the quality of journal-worthy research. No malice need be involved: even with the best of intentions, some failure in the lab may mean you can’t present the findings you expected to produce, so you give a paper that would never get formally accepted, such as ‘here’s what we plan on doing.’

By rights, I really don’t think we should expect conference proceedings submissions to live up to the strict peer review regular journal articles should get. If you held real conference proceedings to the standard you are demanding we hold these yoyos to, many legitimate proceedings submissions would fail. Fair’s fair; we need to use the same standard we’d use on other conference proceedings.

But, just to be absolutely clear, I think this particular conference’s proceedings is not worth publishing in a scientific journal because the meeting itself was not a scientific meeting. I would not expect Springer to publish the local book club or poker game results either - no matter how accurate and informative the submission, its not science.

I imagine that part of what Springer will be doing is to “peer-review” the conference itself. Under most circumstances it would be reasonable to assume that the organising committee of a conference will have set themselves up to make sure that the quality of the papers presented is up to scratch (if only for the committee’s own reputation.) The proceedings editors then have the opportunity to deal with any really duff papers - either by fixing the text, adding an editorial comment or, in extremis, forcibly withdrawing the paper.

Springer have discovered, rather late in the day, that the organisers of Biological Information - New Perspectives have a lot of baggage that militates against the assumption that they are up to scratch.

The PT cre could invite Dr. Smith to report from the meeting.

Another BI:NP talk was from J Scott Turner, Professor at the State University of New York, Syracuse, College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry, Department of Environmental and Forest Biology:

A Multiplicity of Memory. Toward a Coherent Theory of Adaptation. Biological Information—New Perspectives. Cornell University. June 2011

According to his CV it was an invited presentation.

For a start here’s what Jeffrey Shallit had to say about Turner back in 2007.

(cross posted at AtBc)

Oops, I missed that Turner was already mentioned as the author of presentation 20 in the original post. However, a second source will not harm the case.

ksplawn said:

diogeneslamp0 said: You’d be shocked at how many American creationists supported Hitler, Nazism, anti-Semitism and “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in the 1930’s. They whitewashed that the minute the US joined the war.

You’d be shocked how many of them supported eugenics. They whitewashed all that sometime after 1970… Now they blame Darwin for the Nazism and eugenics that their predecessors supported.

I haven’t just read their books, I’ve scanned them into PDF’s and did OCR so I can do digital searches for words! Let’s look up “eugenics” and “negro” and see what we find! [grins]

I definitely wouldn’t mind some names and titles to look up. Incidentally, what OCR software do you use?

I’d be motivated to write detailed posts on my blog on the topics of “creationists 4 Hitler” and “creationists 4 eugenics”, IF people were actually to visit my blog and write comments! On anything. The lack of attention paid to my blog has reduced my desire to write up what I’ve found.

But for a brief bibliography on the topic “creationists 4 eugenics”:

T. T. Martin in “Hell and the High Schools” (1925) (available online) says everyone believes in improving the race. In the historical context, that means human eugenics.

The Institute for Creation Research’s go-to guy for human eugenics was William J. Tinkle. He wrote two books on the topic, 1939 and 1970, below.

Tinkle, 1939, “Fundamentals of Zoology”, pro-racism and pro-eugenics.

Ernest S. Booth, “Biology: The Story of Life”, 1950, 1954. Seventh Day Adventist. Pro-racism and pro-eugenics. In the Acknowledgements section: Read and approved by Frank L. Marsh and Harold W. Clark.

A. E. Wilder-Smith. “Man’s Origin, Man’s Destiny” (1969). AEWS was the founder of ID theory. Chapter 4 “Planned Evolution” is about breeding a master race that can live to be 900 years old like Adam in the Bible–we need to “breed out the recessives.”

Tinkle, “Heredity: A Study in Science and the Bible” (1970), non-racist and pro-eugenics. In the Acknowledgements section: read and approved by Henry Morris and John C. Whitcomb, Walter Lammerts and Frank L. Marsh. Published by Zondervan. Note that John N. Moore was science editor of Zondervan publishers (in 1970’s?); Moore was co-author, with Tinkle, fake physicist Harold Slusher, etc. of third creationist textbook “Biology: A Search for Order in Complexity” (1974).

John Rousas Rushdoony. (Founder of Reconstructionism, brokered the publication of Morris’ “The Genesis Flood.”) “Selective breeding in Christian countries has led to…the progressive elimination of defective persons.” [Rushdoony, “Foundations of Social Order”]

Most of my OCR was done at Scan Stations, those beautiful machines, which were free at my crack den *cough* the Yale Library. Microsoft Office Tools comes with Imaging software for scanning that does OCR; acceptable, but not as good as my crack den’s Scan Stations!

I have more than two dozen old-time creationist books scanned as PDF’s. Panda’s Thumb should have an online library at Google Docs where we compile creationist books so we can peruse and digitally search them. Creationists study history of science; why don’t we study history of pseudoscience? Level the playing field.

The “creationists 4 Nazism” thing is too complex and controversial to be summarized in a comment. If people were to visit my blog and comment a little, I’d be motivated to write that one up.

Thanks for the list! Unsurprisingly my local library system has zero of those books (and only a slim handful of anything by any of the authors). I can find some of the oldest online (public domain isn’t dead yet), or discussions of the authors’ eugenic views, though. For what it’s worth, I’m currently picking up The Creationist Movement in Modern America by Eve and Harrold, a sociological take on the phenomenon which was written in between the fall of Scientific Creationism and the rise of Intelligent Design.

diogeneslamp0 said:

I’d be motivated to write detailed posts on my blog on the topics of “creationists 4 Hitler” and “creationists 4 eugenics”, IF people were actually to visit my blog and write comments! On anything. The lack of attention paid to my blog has reduced my desire to write up what I’ve found.

A link to your blog might help.

I have more than two dozen old-time creationist books scanned as PDF’s. Panda’s Thumb should have an online library at Google Docs where we compile creationist books so we can peruse and digitally search them. Creationists study history of science; why don’t we study history of pseudoscience? Level the playing field.

I would rather suggest the NCSE, just contact them.

The “creationists 4 Nazism” thing is too complex and controversial to be summarized in a comment. If people were to visit my blog and comment a little, I’d be motivated to write that one up.

Unfortuntely, it works the other way round. You will have to first write something before anybody will comment. However, I would appreciate to see more of your analyses of the connections of creationism with racism and eugenics. Maybe the PT moderators could invite you for a guest post or prominently post a link to your pages

I second Masked Panda’s suggestion regarding sending copies of your .pdfs to NCSE. You might also peruse Ronald Numbers’ book “The Creationists” and see whether he cites any of the books in question. If he doesn’t you might want to contact him.

I also recommend posting links to your blog regarding creationist interest in Eugenics (Puts the lie to the absurd lies being touted by Klinghoffer, Weikart and others that Darwin and Darwinian thought was somehow responsible for Hitler and the Shoah (Nazi Holocaust). It would be especially interesting to see your evidence regarding this evidence and maybe to forward them to Jack Scanlan, an Australian biology undergraduate, who has been a frequent PT commentator as of late:

“You’d be shocked at how many American creationists supported Hitler, Nazism, anti-Semitism and ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ in the 1930’s. They whitewashed that the minute the US joined the war.”

Just one correction regarding your citation here:

“A. E. Wilder-Smith. ‘Man’s Origin, Man’s Destiny’ (1969). AEWS was the founder of ID theory. Chapter 4 ‘Planned Evolution’ is about breeding a master race that can live to be 900 years old like Adam in the Bible–we need to ‘breed out the recessives.’”

Wilder-Smith wasn’t the founder of “ID theory”. A better choice would be former Berkeley law professor Philip Johnson, widely seen as the “godfather” of the Intelligent Design movement, who made a suprisingly candid admission back in 2006 that we do not yet have a scientific theory of ID (I think two others who have played important “scientific” roles have been Michael Behe and William Dembski. Another likely candidate could be Michael Denton, who may be the only (current or former) Dishonesty Institute Senior Fellow who rejects Intelligent Design, rejects the Modern Synthesis, but accepts some kind of evolutionar theory as the best explanation for the current composition, structure and history of Planet Earth’s biodiversity.

I have more than two dozen old-time creationist books scanned as PDF’s. Panda’s Thumb should have an online library at Google Docs where we compile creationist books so we can peruse and digitally search them. Creationists study history of science; why don’t we study history of pseudoscience? Level the playing field.

This is cool stuff, and IMHO it’s an argument for a wiki-like resource for us “creationism watchers”. EvoWiki was tried years ago but having completely open access and poor backup ability killed it. We could easily use wikidot or something now – it even has free file upload ability (for books old enough to be out of copyright). Basically all it requires is a small core group of people with a vision and a willingness to regulate who contributes so that it is of high quality.

Who’s interested? Write here or email me at matzkeATberkeley.edu

PS: Guest PT post on creationists and eugenics – easy to do, just email it to me.

Nick Matzke said:

PS: Guest PT post on creationists and eugenics – easy to do, just email it to me.

I’ll do it.

Does anyone know how old a book needs to be to be out of copyright? How long after the author’s death? I think Google Docs should have some “borrow my book” function.

diogeneslamp0 said:

Nick Matzke said:

PS: Guest PT post on creationists and eugenics – easy to do, just email it to me.

I’ll do it.

Does anyone know how old a book needs to be to be out of copyright? How long after the author’s death? I think Google Docs should have some “borrow my book” function.

As soon as the book is out of copyright, it is in the public domain. You have every right then to copy or to post etc. portions of it (or all) as you see fit.

Hope you found my comments useful in my earlier reply to you.

diogeneslamp0 said:

Nick Matzke said:

PS: Guest PT post on creationists and eugenics – easy to do, just email it to me.

I’ll do it.

Does anyone know how old a book needs to be to be out of copyright? How long after the author’s death? I think Google Docs should have some “borrow my book” function.

Cornell has a detailed chart here. Two good places to look for e-texts that are known to be in the public domain are Project Gutenberg and Wikisource (but for the latter you have to read carefully to make sure it’s PD in the relevant countries). In fact you might consider donating some of your scans to these places if they qualify, because neither site is comprehensive yet.

Slightly tangential, but I think terms of copyright are way too damn long as they stand now. Unfortunately copyright reform isn’t really a big issue politically, at least not reform in the direction I favor.

The Marmortism blog reports on Ian Iuby’s reaction to Springer’s actions:

Creationist Stylings of Ian Juby (Part III) Unfortunately, there was a little bit more excrement to squeeze out of Ian Juby’s latest weblog: Genesis Week Season 1, Episode 11. However, it turned out to be good news!

Juby rages on about a book entitled Biological Information: New Perspectives that was “yanked from publication” (as Juby puts it) when the publisher (Springer-Verlag) became aware that one of the editors of the book was young-earth-creationist Dr. Jonathan Sanford. An enraged Juby sputters:

This is nothing less than open, flagrant bigotry!

I say good for Springer! Best to check that what they are publishing is actual science rather than creationist, anti-science tripe.

In the end, I imagine the book will be published anyway - but only if it is scientifically sound. The creationist propaganda machine will laud this as some kind of victory - which it won’t be. And yes, one of their anti-science drones will manage to publish some drivel that creationists will invoke as evidence for ID or some other creationist fantasy - but it will only amount to another weak criticism of evolutionary theory. And I will not be surprised.

But for now, at least I can enjoy Juby’s (and other creationists’) indignant rage. Rage on!

Nice marmot.

You can see Ian Iuby’s take on the issue here.

ksplawn said: Slightly tangential, but I think terms of copyright are way too damn long as they stand now. Unfortunately copyright reform isn’t really a big issue politically, at least not reform in the direction I favor.

Not to derail this thread, I strongly beg to differ. Especially now when there are many online outlets (including sellers of e-books) in which authors are either forced to sell their work for very cheap or aren’t paid, period (Or there are countries, such as the People’s Republic of China which don’t honor copyrights.). This is an issue of key interest to me as someone who is trying to become a published author.

The link resulting from a google search for “biological information: new perspectives” site:amazon.de results in an empty page ON amazon’s German pages. Before it looked like this. Searching directly on Amazon.de doesn’t give any hit for the book either. However, the book is still listed at Amazon.com.

(cross posted at AtBc)

John said:

ksplawn said: Slightly tangential, but I think terms of copyright are way too damn long as they stand now. Unfortunately copyright reform isn’t really a big issue politically, at least not reform in the direction I favor.

Not to derail this thread, I strongly beg to differ. Especially now when there are many online outlets (including sellers of e-books) in which authors are either forced to sell their work for very cheap or aren’t paid, period (Or there are countries, such as the People’s Republic of China which don’t honor copyrights.). This is an issue of key interest to me as someone who is trying to become a published author.

The issue I have is perhaps summarized in this question; Would you, John, decide not to write your book if it could only sustain your family for thirty years after your death, instead of seventy years?

Longer protections than we have now, or had in the recent past, will not affect you as an author, John Kwok. It has never demonstrably prevented anybody from producing any works in recorded history; indeed, the vast majority of culturally important and recognized words were produced under far less protection than we have now, sometimes even none at all. To my knowledge, nobody has ever said that they’ll refuse to publish unless they can be sure a book, film, or concerto will continue to rake in money for their great great grandchildren instead of just their great grandchildren. In America the entire purpose of copyrights is to encourage people to produce new works so that the public will eventually have full access to them and can build upon them. Extending copyrights for lifetime after lifetime seems to me the least effective way to do this, and in fact it prevents the public from making full use of those ideas until many have become socially irrelevant and antiquated, of interest only to historians and sociologists (who usually have Fair Use access to them anyway).

Current copyright terms of protection do nothing to encourage new works and actively discourage useful derivative works. They are antithetical to the intent (and certainly the letter) of original copyright laws and do more harm than good. No previously published in the US will enter the public domain again until 2019 due to our habit of perpetually extending copyright protections at the insistence of publishers, and the people who actually created these works are long dead and cannot benefit from the new terms of protection. It’s an erosion of people’s rights for the enrichment of middlemen only, not for the benefit of anybody else.

Ironically this is happening at a time when a new democratization of media, no less significant than the printing press, is happening and people are capable of assembling vast electronic libraries of films, music, images, speeches, and books that can literally rival the size of national libraries. Their ability to legally do so is being shrunk as copyright terms are retroactively extended and what was once in the public domain and legally redistributable is placed back under creative monopoly. Who benefits from double lifetimes of protection? Not the public, not the authors, not you as a prospective writer. So I really fail to see what you hope to gain with such lengthy terms of protection.

ksplawn said:

John said:

ksplawn said: Slightly tangential, but I think terms of copyright are way too damn long as they stand now. Unfortunately copyright reform isn’t really a big issue politically, at least not reform in the direction I favor.

Not to derail this thread, I strongly beg to differ. Especially now when there are many online outlets (including sellers of e-books) in which authors are either forced to sell their work for very cheap or aren’t paid, period (Or there are countries, such as the People’s Republic of China which don’t honor copyrights.). This is an issue of key interest to me as someone who is trying to become a published author.

The issue I have is perhaps summarized in this question; Would you, John, decide not to write your book if it could only sustain your family for thirty years after your death, instead of seventy years?

Longer protections than we have now, or had in the recent past, will not affect you as an author, John Kwok. It has never demonstrably prevented anybody from producing any works in recorded history; indeed, the vast majority of culturally important and recognized words were produced under far less protection than we have now, sometimes even none at all. To my knowledge, nobody has ever said that they’ll refuse to publish unless they can be sure a book, film, or concerto will continue to rake in money for their great great grandchildren instead of just their great grandchildren. In America the entire purpose of copyrights is to encourage people to produce new works so that the public will eventually have full access to them and can build upon them. Extending copyrights for lifetime after lifetime seems to me the least effective way to do this, and in fact it prevents the public from making full use of those ideas until many have become socially irrelevant and antiquated, of interest only to historians and sociologists (who usually have Fair Use access to them anyway).

Current copyright terms of protection do nothing to encourage new works and actively discourage useful derivative works. They are antithetical to the intent (and certainly the letter) of original copyright laws and do more harm than good. No previously published in the US will enter the public domain again until 2019 due to our habit of perpetually extending copyright protections at the insistence of publishers, and the people who actually created these works are long dead and cannot benefit from the new terms of protection. It’s an erosion of people’s rights for the enrichment of middlemen only, not for the benefit of anybody else.

Ironically this is happening at a time when a new democratization of media, no less significant than the printing press, is happening and people are capable of assembling vast electronic libraries of films, music, images, speeches, and books that can literally rival the size of national libraries. Their ability to legally do so is being shrunk as copyright terms are retroactively extended and what was once in the public domain and legally redistributable is placed back under creative monopoly. Who benefits from double lifetimes of protection? Not the public, not the authors, not you as a prospective writer. So I really fail to see what you hope to gain with such lengthy terms of protection.

Some of your points have validity ksplawn and I won’t have time to address them here. But given the fact that authors are now being given the option of getting a lot less money from sales of e-books than print versions NEED protection. And I have no objections at all if members of the author’s family benefit from copyright with regards to the author’s works.

I think copyright protections can be strong without increasing terms of protection to the point of sabotaging the purpose of copyright in the first place. The point of copyright law (again, in the US at least) was to balance the promotion of new works and creative output while not denying the public their innate ability to use ideas, since ideas are fundamentally different from concrete property. (The analogy used by Jefferson was that you can use one man’s taper to light your own without depriving the other man of anything, unlike physical goods) That balance has been lost as the publishing industries have been the ones with the most money, lobbyists, and public outreach campaigns. You hear quite a lot about the problem of piracy, almost all of it coming from publishers’ organizations, but you never hear a comparably well-funded advocacy (in public or to legislators) for restoring public domain or strengthening Fair Use protections.

Also, it’s worth pointing out that the very publishers who advocate for ever more draconian and lengthy copyrights are the ones who create the situation in which authors have little bargaining power to set prices or negotiate compensation. That situation has nothing to do with copyrights or China.

ksplawn said:

I think copyright protections can be strong without increasing terms of protection to the point of sabotaging the purpose of copyright in the first place. The point of copyright law (again, in the US at least) was to balance the promotion of new works and creative output while not denying the public their innate ability to use ideas, since ideas are fundamentally different from concrete property. (The analogy used by Jefferson was that you can use one man’s taper to light your own without depriving the other man of anything, unlike physical goods) That balance has been lost as the publishing industries have been the ones with the most money, lobbyists, and public outreach campaigns. You hear quite a lot about the problem of piracy, almost all of it coming from publishers’ organizations, but you never hear a comparably well-funded advocacy (in public or to legislators) for restoring public domain or strengthening Fair Use protections.

Also, it’s worth pointing out that the very publishers who advocate for ever more draconian and lengthy copyrights are the ones who create the situation in which authors have little bargaining power to set prices or negotiate compensation. That situation has nothing to do with copyrights or China.

I think we’re going to have to disagree on this one ksplawn. Again, I have no further wish in derailing the thread. Thanks.

More from the Biological Information: New Perspectives “conference” from Bob Marks’ wife’s Christmas 2011 greetings:

Cornell University: Next we drove to Cornell University where Bob was part of a conference called Biological Information – New Perspectives. Bob was a coorganizer along with famous ID people like William Dembski (The Design Inference and No Free Lunch), Michael Behe (Darwin’s Black Box and The Edge of Evolution), John Sanford (Genetic Entropy & the Mystery of the Genome) and Bruce Gordon (The Nature of Nature). The proceedings of the conference will be published in 2012. Bob thought the conference was a grand success. Bob’s Ph.D. advisor, John Walkup, also came. John and his wife Pat are full time with Campus Crusade’s professor ministry in the Bay Area focusing on Stanford, Berkeley and San Jose State. Two of Bob’s graduate students, Winston Ewert and George Montañez, were also there so we got a wonderful three generation picture.

On page 3 of the pdf you will find that picture of Marks, Walkup, Ewert and Montañez at the conference in front of some poster. She also mentions the other not as secret ID conference (Berlinski’s daughter reported on it) held in Italy 2011

Winston Ewert went to Italy with Bob. (I wish I could have gone, but I wanted to see Tristan more that Italy.) In Italy, Bob met Greg Chaitin who is a founder of algorithmic information theory and Chaitin’s number. Bob and Winston were both very excited to meet him. David Berlinski (The Devil’s Delusion) and Steve Myer (Signature in the Cell) were also there. After the conference, Bob was interviewed by Berlinski’s daughter for the Ricochet blog. The interview is on YouTube.

I haven’t seen this summary http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/s[…]n-at-Cornell mentioned anywhere.

Roy

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