Is homoplasy hidden from non-specialists?

| 45 Comments

This started as a comment on my earlier post responding to a comment by John Harshman, but it outgrew comment length so I’ll do it as a post. It may appear to be beating a long-dead horse that’s suffered enough, but there’s an aspect of Gauger’s commentary that is again part of the Disco ‘Tute’s efforts to undermine common descent and impugn the credibility and honesty of evolutionary scientists in general that deserves attention.

John Harshman wrote

I don’t deny that the green screen is a valid target for ridicule. And it is indeed a fine metaphor for the whole DI exercise (though I really like “cargo cult science”). I had two points:

1. There’s been too much attention to the green screen in proportion to its importance. This may be because it’s a subject for which those who don’t know much about the biology feel free to contribute. It might be that the green screen is equally understandable and meaningful for the ignorant public, and so should be emphasized, but I don’t think that argument is a strong one.

Nor do I think it’s particularly strong except as a manifestation of the ‘business as usual’ approach to rhetoric of the Disco ‘Tute. And having earned a degree in anthropology many decades ago, I too like the “cargo cult science” characterization.

John went on

2. Many of the posters on the subject have made untrue conjectures, particularly the notion that they didn’t pay for the photo or that they don’t have an actual lab they could have used. That’s where the Jesuit triumphantly produces the live dog.

Yup, and that’s a valid criticism of some of the comments on these posts. John continued

It isn’t just in SINEs that there’s very little homoplasy in hominid evolution. The proportion of homoplasy in simple SNPs is low enough that ignoring it entirely still gets you the correct tree. And this is true even if you use fast-evolving sequences like mtDNA. Lineage sorting is a bigger problem, though only for the African ape trichotomy, and you can ignore that too if you concatenate as few as 5 or 6 genes.

Apropos of the scientific issue, here’s a discussion, aimed at non-specialists, of an approach to deriving a phylogeny (in a paper by John Harshman, no less) that uses multiple loci to mitigate the homoplasy issue:

Instead of relying on just one or a few regions of nuclear or mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), this analysis relied upon using a phylogenomic approach, which analyzes data from many regions within the avian genome. In this case, the research team analyzed 20 loci that are widely dispersed throughout the genome, comprising sequences from both protein-coding (30 percent) and non-coding (70 percent) regions.

And wouldn’t you know it, that discussion is on a widely read blog aimed at lay people. From the Abstract of the paper:

Phenomena that can mislead phylogenetic analyses, including long branch attraction, base compositional bias, discordance between gene trees and species trees, and sequence alignment errors, have been eliminated as explanations for this result.

No, Ann, real professionals don’t ignore potential problems with phylogenetic reconstructions. They directly address them.

In her Facebook response to various criticisms of her video, Gauger wrote

3. About homoplasy being a hidden secret: it’s hidden from non-specialists. The technical literature is aware and trying to deal with it. Just see the post Confusing similarity for a discussion of two mainstream articles 12 years apart. But you would not know this from listening to Dawkins or any other evolutionary evangelist.

Hm. Convergent evolution is very nearly a synonym for homoplasy. In her Facebook response Gauger defines homoplasy as “2. About homoplasy: it means similarity of a trait or genetic sequence not due to common descent.” That’s convergent evolution, and Dawkins has a whole chapter on convergent evolution in The Ancestor’s Tale. The book description on Amazon.com says

Dawkins’s brilliant, inventive approach allows us to view the connections between ourselves and all other life in a bracingly novel way. It also lets him shed bright new light on the most compelling aspects of evolutionary history and theory: sexual selection, speciation, convergent evolution, extinction, genetics, plate tectonics, geographical dispersal, and more. The Ancestor’s Tale is at once a far-reaching survey of the latest, best thinking on biology and a fascinating history of life on Earth. (Emphasis added)

I won’t mention, say, Simon Conway Morris, who is fixated on convergent evolution as support for his claim that the evolution of critters with human-like intelligence is nigh unto inevitable. Conway Morris doesn’t reject common ancestry on that account.

So Gauger’s claim about the issue being hidden from non-specialists is just flatly false. It’s right out there in plain site in books by professional scientists that are specifically aimed at non-specialists. Gauger not only misrepresents the science, she misrepresents the information directed at and readily available to non-specialists. But then, what else would we expect?

45 Comments

The additional point that needs making about convergent evolution is that it applies to some characters, but not to even a large fraction of the characters in the organism. A moth may mimic a wasp in external appearance – but that won’t mean it converges in the fine details of external appearance (placement of individual bristles, for example). And when details of internal anatomy are examined they will be mothlike, as will the DNA and protein sequences. So once many characters, or many sites of molecules, are examined, the convergence does not mislead the reconstruction of the phylogeny.

Creationists typically fudge this, and try to persuade their audiences that the cases of convergence apply to all characters and would therefore mislead us when we make evolutionary trees.

That’s exactly what Gauger did in the video with respect to the vertebrate and cephalopod camera eyes, to the extent that some creationists are now claiming that the DNA sequences of genes involved in the two sorts of eyes are identical.

Speaking of lineage sorting, Dennis Venema has nice post on it on the BioLogos forum site. In particular, Venema discusses the implications for reconstructing ancestral lineages, and hammers some misrepresentations Casey Luskin made about discordant phylogenetic trees. He also discusses some implications for estimates of ancestral population sizes, rebutting the Gauger/Axe/Luskin notion that there could have been an ancestral human population of just two individuals.

Convergent evolution was extensively covered in my most basic university biology courses, and I was already aware, as a not even very well informed lay person (at that age), that cetaceans are mammals that superficially resemble fish, that some marsupials have similar adaptations to some placental mammals, that bats and birds aren’t very closely related even though both groups are flying vertebrates, that not terribly closely related plant and fungal species evolved use of similar toxic/psychoactive chemical defenses, etc.

Homoplasy/convergent evolution is well known and is strong evidence FOR evolution.

The argument that “whales look kind of like fish but aren’t fish, so therefore humans and chimpanzees might not be closely related” is really silly.

Gauger wrote:

3. About homoplasy being a hidden secret: it’s hidden from non-specialists.

“Homoplasy” is only a secret hidden from those who don’t want to learn about it.

harold said:

The argument that “whales look kind of like fish but aren’t fish, so therefore humans and chimpanzees might not be closely related” is really silly.

Especially since this argument ignores all of the evidence that demonstrate how humans and chimpanzees are, in fact, closely related, i.e., anatomy, sharing of diseases, biochemistry, and genome comparisons.

I should clarify one point. “Homoplasy” refers to all sorts of noise that can complicate reconstruction of evolutionary trees. It does not just have to mean convergence. For example if, at site number 283 in a gene, a G changes to a C. and then later, in one of the descendant lineages, the C changes back to a G, that too is homoplasy. So homoplasy does not necessarily imply convergence.

To John’s comment, even if it were true (as as far as I know it isn’t) that the DNA sequences involved in making vertebrate and cephalopod camera eyes were absolutely identical, that would still leave all the rest of the genes (and intergenic sequences), overwhelmingly not involved in that convergence.

As for lineage sorting, Dennis’s posts at Biologos are great – I hope he collects them together someday, perhaps in a book entitled Mistakes People Make Talking About Evolution. I am also partial to my own post on coalescents and lineage sorting which needed a correction of the numbers here.

I posted this in the previous thread, but it seems more appropriate for this one:

I am a master’s student in evolutionary biology and teach a VERY introductory biodiversity and evolution lab class for non-biology majors. We talk about homoplasy in the first lecture of the semester and bring it up again many times thereafter. It was also discussed rather extensively in my undergrad courses as well.

I will be charitable and assume that Gauger simply has no idea what’s she is talking about…

IANABiologist, but it seems like she’s playing with the unfamiliarity of the TERM ‘homoplasy’. True, most laypeople would not have known it (I didn’t)–which, in a very strained sense, perhaps makes it a ‘secret’.

But a large proportion of lay people who know even a little about evolution would have heard of ‘convergent evolution’, and most–even some IDCs–would recognize that evolution can produce such apparently amazing similarities.

The DEFINITION of’homoplasy’ is a “hidden secret” from NON-SPECIALISTS. Well, duhh. Then I wonder if she’s concerned that the “hidden secret” of the overrunning sprag clutch is being kept from the public. What secrets are plumbers covering up with the innocent-seeming letters ‘ASHRAE’?

Just Bob said:The DEFINITION of’homoplasy’ is a “hidden secret” from NON-SPECIALISTS. Well, duhh. Then I wonder if she’s concerned that the “hidden secret” of the overrunning sprag clutch is being kept from the public. What secrets are plumbers covering up with the innocent-seeming letters ‘ASHRAE’?

Nice! I intended to include a couple of similar examples in the OP, but it slipped my mind.

I suspect what Gauger means is that real biologists are somehow hiding her notion that homoplasy is a fatal defect in reconstructing phylogenies. No wonder: It ain’t a fatal defect.

Joe Felsenstein said:

I should clarify one point. “Homoplasy” refers to all sorts of noise that can complicate reconstruction of evolutionary trees. It does not just have to mean convergence. For example if, at site number 283 in a gene, a G changes to a C. and then later, in one of the descendant lineages, the C changes back to a G, that too is homoplasy. So homoplasy does not necessarily imply convergence.

So I went and looked for the Wikipedia article on homoplasy. OK, that redirects to convergent evolution.

Then there’s this:

In some cases, it is difficult to tell whether a trait has been lost then re-evolved convergently, or whether a gene has simply been ‘switched off’ and then re-enabled later.

This sounds to me as if Wikipedia thinks what you describe is convergent evolution. (Or just switching off and on again, depending on what the changed sequence does.)

I have a PhD in genetics and have been doing research and teaching genetics and molecular biology for over 30 years, and I don’t recall ever having read the jargon “homoplasy.” Of course, I’m quite familiar with the idea of convergent evolution. Just sayin’.

Joel: I have to admit I’m surprised. It’s a term commonly used in systematics. It’s just the companion term to “homology”. And I can see how you might not use it, but doesn’t anyone in your department do any phylogenetics?

Thanks for the nods, Richard and Joe. Funny you should mention a book, Joe - I’ve just found out that I won a grant to assist with writing one. The intended audience will be evangelical laypersons and pastors. It will be co-authored with a colleague who has theological expertise.

kai.extern said:

So I went and looked for the Wikipedia article on homoplasy. OK, that redirects to convergent evolution.

Then there’s this:

In some cases, it is difficult to tell whether a trait has been lost then re-evolved convergently, or whether a gene has simply been ‘switched off’ and then re-enabled later.

This sounds to me as if Wikipedia thinks what you describe is convergent evolution. (Or just switching off and on again, depending on what the changed sequence does.)

Wikipedia is often pretty good, but it is not perfect. The case I described is gain and then loss (not re-gain). If you count the number of changes needed and it’s greater than one less than the number of states present, then there is homoplasy. So with two states (G and C) if you have more than one change of state, you’ve got homoplasy.

What I just said is correct, in this case not Wikipedia.

Joel Eissenberg said:

I have a PhD in genetics and have been doing research and teaching genetics and molecular biology for over 30 years, and I don’t recall ever having read the jargon “homoplasy.” Of course, I’m quite familiar with the idea of convergent evolution. Just sayin’.

I looked your University up. I see you are in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department in the Medical School. The Biology Department has a number of people who list their interests as “molecular phylogenetics” and will certainly know about homoplasy and tell you that they do talk about it in their courses. In addition your University has a formal connection with the Missouri Botanical Garden which has many people who know all about homoplasy. Peter Raven, a quite distinguished systematist, is there and he will know a lot about homoplasy.

So Gauger’s claim about the issue being hidden from non-specialists is just flatly false. It’s right out there in plain site in books by professional scientists that are specifically aimed at non-specialists.

Damn evilutionists! They constantly hide stuff in places like books and libraries where no red blooded American can find it!

John Harshman said:

Joel: I have to admit I’m surprised. It’s a term commonly used in systematics. It’s just the companion term to “homology”. And I can see how you might not use it, but doesn’t anyone in your department do any phylogenetics?

Nope. There are people who do chromatin structure, structural biology, physical biochemistry, mass spectrometry, but nobody doing phylogenetics. Turns out you can be a well-educated and fully functional biochemist, molecular biologist or geneticist and not know all the jargon of phylogenetics.

Joe Felsenstein said:

Joel Eissenberg said:

I have a PhD in genetics and have been doing research and teaching genetics and molecular biology for over 30 years, and I don’t recall ever having read the jargon “homoplasy.” Of course, I’m quite familiar with the idea of convergent evolution. Just sayin’.

I looked your University up. I see you are in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department in the Medical School. The Biology Department has a number of people who list their interests as “molecular phylogenetics” and will certainly know about homoplasy and tell you that they do talk about it in their courses. In addition your University has a formal connection with the Missouri Botanical Garden which has many people who know all about homoplasy. Peter Raven, a quite distinguished systematist, is there and he will know a lot about homoplasy.

Yes, I’m familiar with the faculty in our department. I know several personally (though not Peter Raven).

We also have a theology department, and I’m afraid I lack a working knowledge of most of the jargon of Islam. And we have an engineering school, but I still can’t give you a good working definition of “Young’s modulus.”

Has anyone else on this thread besides me considered the possibility that fettishizing jargon only makes you look foolish?

Joel Eissenberg said:

Has anyone else on this thread besides me considered the possibility that fettishizing jargon only makes you look foolish?

If it makes anyone feel any better, I have been watching the mangling of entropy and the second law of thermodynamics for over 50 years now . Even though the best textbooks and courses in physics have always been consistent and have used these concepts correctly, by the time these concepts get to other disciplines and to the general public, they are so badly mangled in so many different ways that it makes one’s head spin.

I don’t know if it can get any worse than that.

Joel Eissenberg said:

Yes, I’m familiar with the faculty in our department. I know several personally (though not Peter Raven).

We also have a theology department, and I’m afraid I lack a working knowledge of most of the jargon of Islam. And we have an engineering school, but I still can’t give you a good working definition of “Young’s modulus.”

Has anyone else on this thread besides me considered the possibility that fettishizing jargon only makes you look foolish?

Fetishizing jargon? I don’t complain when your department uses terms like “N-terminus’ or “alpha helix” or “membrane protein”. You’re not “fetishizing” when you use phrases like that, and I think we all respect that. “Homoplasy” is another useful descriptive phrase. It is better than saying “you know, the case where there are at least one more change in the site (or character) on the phylogeny than the minimum number you would need to have on a tree to get that number of states”. Having a single word does shorten the dialog.

Joe Felsenstein said: Fetishizing jargon? I don’t complain when your department uses terms like “N-terminus’ or “alpha helix” or “membrane protein”. You’re not “fetishizing” when you use phrases like that, and I think we all respect that. “Homoplasy” is another useful descriptive phrase. It is better than saying “you know, the case where there are at least one more change in the site (or character) on the phylogeny than the minimum number you would need to have on a tree to get that number of states”. Having a single word does shorten the dialog.

Not to mention the fact that “site”, “character”, “phylogeny”, “tree” and “state” as used in the last sentence are also examples of specialist usage or scientific jargon. If anyone has fetishised “homoplasy” so far, it was Dr. Gauger, who used it in order to mystify her non-specialist audience, while real practicioners of the field use terminological shorthand for easier communication.

Joe Felsenstein said:

Joel Eissenberg said:

Yes, I’m familiar with the faculty in our department. I know several personally (though not Peter Raven).

We also have a theology department, and I’m afraid I lack a working knowledge of most of the jargon of Islam. And we have an engineering school, but I still can’t give you a good working definition of “Young’s modulus.”

Has anyone else on this thread besides me considered the possibility that fettishizing jargon only makes you look foolish?

Fetishizing jargon? I don’t complain when your department uses terms like “N-terminus’ or “alpha helix” or “membrane protein”. You’re not “fetishizing” when you use phrases like that, and I think we all respect that. “Homoplasy” is another useful descriptive phrase. It is better than saying “you know, the case where there are at least one more change in the site (or character) on the phylogeny than the minimum number you would need to have on a tree to get that number of states”. Having a single word does shorten the dialog.

Uh, Joe, neither I nor anyone in my department has made an entire blog post that rests on the use/misunderstanding of “N-terminus’ or “alpha helix” or “membrane protein.” Your analogy is a false one.

The words “convergent” and “evolution” are parts of the lexicon of most modestly educated English-speaking people. Thus, the phrase “convergent evolution” at least conjures something like its actual definition in the mind of an educated English-speaking person. I heard it for the first time without a definition and I got it.

Homoplasy doesn’t immediately suggest its meaning to someone unfamiliar with Greek etymology. Thus, I regard it as jargon, and I regard its use for the purposes of diminishing others or their arguments as a type of fettishizing. YMMV.

I will not reply to further discussion on this point. I was making a personal observation from the POV of a highly trained life scientist and teacher who is sympathetic to the goals of teaching evolution. Take it or leave it. I’m not interested in making this thread about me.

Joel Eissenberg said:

Joe Felsenstein said:

Joel Eissenberg said:

Yes, I’m familiar with the faculty in our department. I know several personally (though not Peter Raven).

We also have a theology department, and I’m afraid I lack a working knowledge of most of the jargon of Islam. And we have an engineering school, but I still can’t give you a good working definition of “Young’s modulus.”

Has anyone else on this thread besides me considered the possibility that fettishizing jargon only makes you look foolish?

Fetishizing jargon? I don’t complain when your department uses terms like “N-terminus’ or “alpha helix” or “membrane protein”. You’re not “fetishizing” when you use phrases like that, and I think we all respect that. “Homoplasy” is another useful descriptive phrase. It is better than saying “you know, the case where there are at least one more change in the site (or character) on the phylogeny than the minimum number you would need to have on a tree to get that number of states”. Having a single word does shorten the dialog.

Uh, Joe, neither I nor anyone in my department has made an entire blog post that rests on the use/misunderstanding of “N-terminus’ or “alpha helix” or “membrane protein.” Your analogy is a false one.

The words “convergent” and “evolution” are parts of the lexicon of most modestly educated English-speaking people. Thus, the phrase “convergent evolution” at least conjures something like its actual definition in the mind of an educated English-speaking person. I heard it for the first time without a definition and I got it.

Homoplasy doesn’t immediately suggest its meaning to someone unfamiliar with Greek etymology. Thus, I regard it as jargon, and I regard its use for the purposes of diminishing others or their arguments as a type of fettishizing. YMMV.

I will not reply to further discussion on this point. I was making a personal observation from the POV of a highly trained life scientist and teacher who is sympathetic to the goals of teaching evolution. Take it or leave it. I’m not interested in making this thread about me.

I think you may have have misinterpreted. I don’t perceive you has having been belittled.

The only people being belittled here are, quite appropriately, professional science denialists who misuse terms in an effort to promote teaching of sectarian dogma as “science” in public schools, and to confuse the public.

I am a pathologist, not an evolutionary biologist. I virtually never use the term “homoplasy”, but I do interact my colleagues in cytogenetics and molecular diagnostics all the time.

I use “jargon”, in a non-negative sense - technical language that facilitates communication between experts - constantly all day long. I use a huge amount of jargon that I would never use here, as it is too specialized and detailed and would derail discussions of general scientific principles.

It isn’t very confusing what “homoplasy” means, though. It includes classical convergent evolution of adapted macroscopic traits, but it refers to any superficial commonality that can confuse the true phylogenetic relationship between lineages. Wikipedia isn’t particularly wrong; it’s all convergence of relatively unrelated lineages to some point of commonality that could superficially make them seem more related than they really are.

The only person who is using the term in a confusing way intended to belittle others is Ann Gauger, who is unethically misrepresenting what it means to lay people, because she is handsomely paid to generate modest amounts of science denial propaganda.

By the way, I forgot this on another thread - if the person who is using my list of questions around the web is reading - THANK YOU.

Here they are for anyone. These are 100% “open source”. Some of them I invented, but others, plausibly most, were good questions I saw asked individually in threads.

1) Could any evidence convince you of the theory of evolution, and if so, what type of evidence is now lacking, that would convince you if present?

2) The Supreme Court ruled against the direct teaching of Biblical Young Earth Creationism as science in public schools; however, if that ruling were overturned, which would you support more, teaching of ID, or direct teaching of Bible-based YEC?

3) Do you think it is important for opponents of the theory of evolution to fully understand the theory of evolution? If so, can you explain it, and if not, can you explain why not?

4) Who is the designer? How can we test your answer?

5) What did that designer do? How can we test your answer?

6) How did the designer do it? How can we test your answer?

7) When did the designer do it? How can we test your answer?

8) What is an example of something that was not designed by the designer?

9) Some parts of the Bible suggest that pi equals exactly three, and that the earth is flat and has four corners. Do you accept these as facts of physical reality, and if not, why do you deny the theory of evolution on the grounds of Biblical literacy, if it can be symbolic about other scientific issues?

Not to throw more gasoline on the fire, but it does seem to speak to the unfortunate compartmentalization of science that a professional biologist can have avoided hearing the term “homoplasy” for his entire career. After all, nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution, and homplasy is an important concept in evolution, right up there with homology, fitness, etc. I’m less concerned that the general public doesn’t know the word. They probably don’t know “homology” either.

John Harshman said:

After all, nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution, and homplasy is an important concept in evolution, right up there with homology, fitness, etc. I’m less concerned that the general public doesn’t know the word. They probably don’t know “homology” either.

Well, “homology” is used in at least two different senses, so we might want to get reasonable agreement on one of them before bothering the public.

OK, OK, I am not proposing we discuss that here …

It is worth noting that the basics of evolution are critical to all of biomedical science, and, although somehow counter-intuitive to many people, fairly easy to understand. (By counter-intuitve I do not mean that people intuitively come up with ID/creationism nonsense, they don’t, but that people often tend to be “Lamarckist” and project conscious intent onto molecular processes.)

There are also a variety of sub-specialized fields which deal with phylogenetic relationships and/or detailed mechanisms of evolution at a very granular layer. These fields have their own terminology, like any other fields.

As I noted before, some members of the community that pays attention to evolution denial are from such specialized fields.

However, others are from other fields of biomedical science, and others still are interested people from the physical sciences or mathematics/computing, and many are merely well-informed people who have no formal scientific credentials, basic or applied, whatsoever.

The reason “homoplasy” has come up is not because Joe Felsenstein or anyone else is belittling biomedical scientists who don’t work directly in a field like population genetics, it is because professional ID/creationist Ann Gauger misused the term to try to create public confusion and advance the sectarian/authoritarian agenda of those who fund the DI.

If anyone who defends sound science wasn’t aware of the term ‘homoplasy’ before - I was aware of it but thought of it as pretty much synonymous with convergent evolution, which in one sense, it is - then they should take this opportunity to learn what it really means and why Gauger’s comments are misleading.

Well, I don’t know that Gauger actually misused the term. Her definition, which if I recall was something like “similarity not due to common ancestry”, is a pretty good one. She’s just taking that correct definition and concluding that if there is any such similarity, we can’t believe there is any true homology, i.e. similarity that *is* due to common ancestry. And therefore Jesus.

John Harshman said:

Well, I don’t know that Gauger actually misused the term. Her definition, which if I recall was something like “similarity not due to common ancestry”, is a pretty good one. She’s just taking that correct definition and concluding that if there is any such similarity, we can’t believe there is any true homology, i.e. similarity that *is* due to common ancestry. And therefore Jesus.

I guess this might be semantic, but to me that amounts to misuse of the term, and a (deliberate) misunderstanding of the concept.

While I concede the novelty of an ID/creationist even providing an initial correct definition of a term, something I am not sure I have seen before, to correctly define a concept, but to then make completely wrong statements about that concept, statements that are at odds with the very definition initially given, is still misuse, in my subjective opinion.

However, since we agree on the overall intent of her message, it doesn’t really matter.

John Harshman said:

Well, I don’t know that Gauger actually misused the term. Her definition, which if I recall was something like “similarity not due to common ancestry”, is a pretty good one. She’s just taking that correct definition and concluding that if there is any such similarity, we can’t believe there is any true homology, i.e. similarity that *is* due to common ancestry. And therefore Jesus.

So she’s doing “green-screen science”. Just as she’s pretending to be standing in a laboratory, she’s cooked up an unsound train of argument based only on her prejudices and has sought to legitimise it by green-screening it in front of valid science.

That’s pretty much how ID works, you know. I prefer the recently coined term (by whom?) “carge cult science”, because it fits so well. IDiots adopt the surface trappings of science: lab coat, lab background, fancy technical terms, even the occasional research paper, in hopes that much cargo will come their way.

Interesting: the term “cargo cult science” was apparently coined by none other than Richard Feynman, and not so recently: 1974. Or so says Wikipedia.

John Harshman said:

Interesting: the term “cargo cult science” was apparently coined by none other than Richard Feynman, and not so recently: 1974. Or so says Wikipedia.

According to the infamous Wedge Document,

“Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies. Bringing together leading scholars from the natural sciences and those from the humanities and social sciences, the Center explores how new developments in biology, physics and cognitive science raise serious doubts about scientific materialism and have re-opened the case for a broadly theistic understanding of nature.”

Another alternative for “cargo cult science” would be a Potempkin village of science.

There is little question about what these ID/creationists are trying to do. They intend to spam and scramble the public consciousness with so much junk science that everybody’s time will have to be spent sorting through huge garbage dumps of crap in order to locate the real science. They want to redefine all scientific terms and concepts. Increasingly large amounts of time will have to be spent trying to determine who speaks truth and who lies.

Then society gets divided into sectarians and their pseudoscience declaring their sanctimonious war on the rest of secular society, and the rest of us wasting our time cleaning up these sectarian messes so that there is no time left to address real issues that require a firm knowledge of science.

Yet the problems with ID/creationists are relatively easy to uncover. There are very few of them, if any, who can pass muster with even basic high school level science; and that includes the ID/creationist “PhDs.” Every attempt at fakery on their part should provide an opportunity for members of the science community and the educated public to grind the ID/creationist’s faces in their own crap and failures at basic high school and middle school science.

This game they play of hijacking the research papers of the science community and pretending to be a part of real, ongoing research needs to be exposed for what its; pure fakery by people who don’t know enough science – despite the letters after their names – to pass basic concept tests in elementary science.

Mike Elzinga said:

Another alternative for “cargo cult science” would be a Potempkin village of science.

I guess it depends on how cynical you think they are. If they honestly believe that their science-like activities are real research that will shed a genuinely scientific light on “design,” then Cargo Cult would be appropriate.

If they secretly know that ID isn’t amenable to scientific investigation and are just going through the motions to make it look like they have a viable research program, it’s a Potemkin Village.

I prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they’re being as honest and sincere as possible. That’s damning with faint praise, though, because it takes a lot of denial and “being dishonest with yourself” to keep living under the delusions that they do. It’s some powerful Dunning-Kreuger juju when Gauger spouts off about population genetics having all these flaws, without apparently knowing what population genetics is or how it works. It’s hard to imagine what it’s like inside that kind of mind, but genuinely believing the BS one spouts even when the speaker has no reason to put confidence in their own expertise is far from uncommon.

Robert Parks separates junk science into four categories of Voodoo Science. Where the Biologic Institute falls along the spectrum is a judgment call. Can they be pursuing “pseudoscience proper” (i.e. work that claims to be scientific but depends on the supernatural to work) while also falling victim to “pathological science” because they’re fooling themselves first and foremost?

Their letter to New Scientist (13 Jan 2007). Emphasis mine.

Good science will come

Your editorial asks a reasonable question: can the theory of intelligent design (ID) lead to good science (16 December 2006, p 5)? Researchers at the Biologic Institute are convinced it can. ID sceptics, of course, want proof.

We take that challenge seriously, which is why we insist on completing our research projects before talking about them. What you have interpreted as conspiratorial “caginess” is just scientific caution.

Your description of ID as doing nothing more than questioning Darwinism is incomplete. Cells process digital information. Humans have also developed this technology. Cells make molecular machines and complex materials by nano-fabrication. So do humans. Cells do complex chemistry, signal transduction and process control. So do humans. But Darwinism prevents what we have learned as engineers from illuminating biology, by insisting that the two modes of invention are fundamentally different.

What humans accomplish only by intellectual effort, nature puts to shame by mindless accident, we are told. If that is wrong – and we think it is – whole new fields open up, waiting to be explored. Perhaps neurobiologists would learn something from computer designers and network whizzes. Maybe systems biologists would start hanging out with systems engineers. We don’t know where all this would lead, but we are confident that good science will come out of it.

~~~~~~~~

By Douglas Axe; Brendan Dixon and Ann Gauger

Redmond, Washington, US

Words, words, words. It was six years ago. Where’s the bloody science?

I guess it depends on how cynical you think they are. If they honestly believe that their science-like activities are real research that will shed a genuinely scientific light on “design,” then Cargo Cult would be appropriate.

If they secretly know that ID isn’t amenable to scientific investigation and are just going through the motions to make it look like they have a viable research program, it’s a Potemkin Village.

I can’t read minds, and I have no doubt that most ID/creationists “feel” as sincere as it is possible for them to feel, but operationally, ID is 100% Potemkin Village, and anyone who refuses to understand that will combat it ineffectively.

Cargo cults arose spontaneously and have nothing to do with promoting a hidden agenda.

“ID” was created as a response to Edwards v. Aguillard. “Creation Science” was found to be sectarian dogma and suddenly there were cdesign proponentists instead of creation scientists. If anyone is unfamiliar with any of this, google it.

I am going to stick my neck out right now and suggest that virtually no-one has ever sincerely learned the actual science about the bacterial flagellum, decided that it must be too complicated to have evolved, from that inferred that there must be a supernatural designing entity, and inferred from that, that it must be the god of the post-modern US religious right. That doesn’t happen.

This did happen…

Authoritarians wanted to teach their interpretation of the Bible (which is essentially that they should be the leaders of a sex-obsessed authoritarian society). They felt that science cast doubt on their claims, and that made them uncomfortable, so they wanted to teach in public school science class that science is false and that their interpretation of the Bible is supported by “true science”. They can teach that all day in Sunday School or their own private schools, but that didn’t satisfy them, because most Americans go to public school. In order to get their dogma into public schools, they invented Creation Science and began pushing it in public schools.

However, although Justices Scalia and Rehnquist supported it, Creation Science was found to be blatantly unconstitutional.

Their unethical response to this was to dress up dog whistle evolution denial in more science-y, less overtly religious language. ‘If we can’t teach “true science proves that the earth is 6000 years old and there was a global flood” in public schools, we’ll teach “true science disproves evolution so something else must have happened, what could it have been, hint, hint” in public schools’.

A secondary problem with ID is that it’s a load of incoherent, patently illogical crap that shouldn’t be taught as science, to put it mildly, even if it weren’t evolution denial in the service of a sectarian agenda. But the primary problem is that it is just evolution denial in the service of a sectarian agenda, and thus is illegal to teach.

I just looked at the Wikipedia article on “Convergent evolution” (to which one is directed from “Homoplasy”). There is this interesting sentence: “Convergence has been associated with Darwinian evolution in the popular imagination since at least the 1940s.”

Piotr Gąsiorowski said:

Their letter to New Scientist (13 Jan 2007). Emphasis mine.

Good science will come

What humans accomplish only by intellectual effort, nature puts to shame by mindless accident, we are told. ~~~~~~~~

By Douglas Axe; Brendan Dixon and Ann Gauger

Redmond, Washington, US

Words, words, words. It was six years ago. Where’s the bloody science?

Humans are doing it in a few weeks/months/years whereas nature did it in billions of years. And we’re not told how this happened, we’re given the evidence for it.

Healthy: Are you a native English speaker? If not, you will need to improve your English before you can become comprehensible. If so, I don’t see any hope for you. Still, you might try to explain what the heck you were talking about.

He appears to be a spammer pretending to be interested in the discussions going on here.

The incoherent patter is just an excuse to get us to look at some “non-profit” organization called Aging Portfolio. Presumably he wants us to Google it.

Mike Elzinga said:

He appears to be a spammer pretending to be interested in the discussions going on here.

The incoherent patter is just an excuse to get us to look at some “non-profit” organization called Aging Portfolio. Presumably he wants us to Google it.

“Healthy” has left the same message on at least three recent PT threads. The Wikipedia article on “Aging Portfolio” seems identical to their propaganda website.

when I get near a computer I’ll do something about Healthy.

It occurs to me (and this probably isn’t that revolutionary) that one could develop a curriculum that uses Intelligent Design/OEC/YEC and by doing nothing but have students expose the flaws, have a pretty comprehensive biology program… and get some good training in critical thinking.

ogremk5: It occurs to me (and this probably isn’t that revolutionary) that one could develop a curriculum that uses Intelligent Design/OEC/YEC and by doing nothing but have students expose the flaws, have a pretty comprehensive biology program… and get some good training in critical thinking.

You do realize that the proposed approach would produce lots of very noisy objections from certain groups!

Henry

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on December 24, 2012 11:20 AM.

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