It’s Halloween, so it’s time for a roundup of the SCARIEST October stories in the evolution versus creationism wars!
Recently in Intelligent Design Category
Years ago, someone gave me a book on child-rearing, and I noticed afterward that it was on The New York Times bestseller list. I mentioned the fact to my father, an expert on child-rearing, and his only comment was, “That’s not why it is lousy.” My father would no doubt feel vindicated right about now: Stephen Meyer’s book, Darwin’s Doubt, will be on the Times‘s bestseller list this coming Sunday, July 7.
Acknowledgment. Thanks to Alert Reader for pointing out this depressing fact.
Update, July 5: As a commenter has pointed out, Darwin’s Doubt will not appear on the July 14 list. The book is evidently a flash in the pan—unless they moved it to the fiction section. Advance orders were evidently vigorously promoted, but no one is actually reading the book, which we may consider a blessing.
Note: I am extremely busy this summer, finishing grad school and moving to a postdoc. But when I got this book, I realized I wouldn’t be able to focus on my real work without having gotten my 2 cents in. This is a rough-and-ready piece, so typos and missing references, and missing explanations of technical terms are to be expected, although I’m sure they can all be figured out with a wee bit of googling. I am off to Evolution 2013 tomorrow and will be incognito, writing, after that. So I may not comment much. However I expect commenters to be reasonable discussants and polite and will ban people who break the spirit of this expectation. Cheers, Nick
Review of Stephen C. Meyer’s Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design
This week, a new book came out by Stephen Meyer, Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. Having followed the ID movement and specifically its arguments on the Cambrian ‘Explosion’ for a long time, as well being somewhat up on the recent literature, and especially on phylogenetics, I feel that I have a pretty good sense of what to look for in any work purporting to be a capable commentary on the topic. As I read through Meyer’s book, though, in case after case I see misunderstandings, superficial treatment of key issues which are devastating to his thesis once understood, and complete or near-complete omission of information that any non-expert reader would need to have to make an accurate assessment of Meyer’s arguments.
Casey Luskin is such a great gift to the scientific community. The public spokesman for the Discovery Institute has a law degree and a Masters degree (in Science! Earth Science, that is) and thinks he is qualified to analyze papers in genetics and molecular biology, fields in which he hasn't the slightest smattering of background, and he keeps falling flat on his face. It's hilarious! The Discovery Institute is so hard up for competent talent, though, that they keep letting him make a spectacle of his ignorance.
I really, really hope Luskin lives a long time and keeps his job as a frontman for Intelligent Design creationism. He just makes me so happy.
His latest tirade is inspired by the New York Times, which ran an article on highlights from the coelacanth genome. Luskin doesn't think very deeply, so he keeps making these arguments that he thinks are terribly damaging to evolution because he doesn't comprehend the significance of what he's saying. For instance, he sneers at the fact that we keep finding conserved elements in the genome, because as we all know, there are lots of conserved elements.
Scanning past Uncommon Descent this afternoon, I noticed a kairosfocus post pointing to the Internet Archive’s stored version of a (now defunct) website called evolutiondebate.info/ where Eric Anderson provided a “Brief Primer on Intelligent Design.” In the second paragraph we read
Rather, this represents my modest attempt to … outline the fundamental central tenet of intelligent design, which is that some things exhibit characteristics of design that can be objectively and reliably detected.
For some reason that reminded me of something William Dembski proposed years ago, a sort of catalog of designs in biology. More below the fold.
It's a dying holiday, I'm sorry to say -- I completely forgot it last year. But I was reminded this year, so I'll mention it again. I think the proper way to celebrate it is simply to laugh at a creationist today.
The source of the holiday is a remarkable exhibition from Paul Nelson, who like several other creationists, loves to register and present at legitimate science conferences. The barriers are low, and many conferences are intended to give students an opportunity to present, so you'll often find that all you have to do is send in a fee and an abstract and you'll be allowed to put up a poster in an allotted space for a few hours of time. So Nelson showed up at the Developmental Biology meetings in 2004 with a poster titled "Understanding the Cambrian Explosion by Estimating Ontogenetic Depth" in which he and Marcus Ross claimed to have been collecting data measuring some parameter called "ontogenetic depth" in various organisms.
I was at that meeting. I asked him about that in person, and also in blog posts afterwards. How do you measure ontogenetic depth? Share your procedure so I can assess and replicate it, which is what scientists are supposed to do. He hemmed and hawed and hmmphed and in typical Nelsonian fashion babbled and burbled on, and the upshot was that he couldn't tell me just then, but he had something he was writing and he'd polish it up and get it to me the next day, 7 April. He didn't. We've been watching the 7th of April pass by for nine years now.
I think he's felt the sting of mockery. In 2010 he announced that my criticisms were invalid, but he was inventing Ontogenetic Depth 2.0, which still isn't defined and still doesn't have a procedure.
In 2011 he posted some more essays on his fictitious method, in the first of which he announced that ontogenetic depth is A Biological Distance That's Currently Impossible to Measure. Yeah? So why was he presenting a poster at a serious scientific meeting in which he and his colleague claimed to have been measuring it? Sounds like scientific fraud to me.
But then, Intelligent Design creationism has been scientific fraud all along, so I guess he was just following hallowed tradition.
Update, February 4, 2013. NCSE has just reported that the Colorado bill has failed to make it out of committee. First in the nation, for this year at least! Unhappily, the vote was 7-6, which is entirely too close for comfort.
January is barely gone, the groundhog may or may not have seen his shadow, and the National Center for Science Education reports that already 8 anti-science bills have been filed in 6 states: Colorado, Missouri (two bills), Montana, Oklahoma (two bills), Arizona, and Indiana.
As Barbara Forrest notes, “Creationists never give up.” The bills have been carefully sanitized, but all will allow teachers to teach the purported strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories, most commonly “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” According to NCSE, the bills are also generally “protective” in that they forbid state and local authorities to prohibit such teaching. The bills pretend to foster debate, but the language is clearly code words for creationism.
This guest post is written by Paul Braterman and Mark Edon, and appears courtesy of the British Centre for Science Education.
BCSE has long maintained that the Seattle-based Discovery Institute (DI), of which Glasgow’s own Centre for Intelligent Design (C4ID) seems to be a satellite, is a religiously motivated Creationist organisation. Casey Luskin has now demonstrated this with great clarity in his response, in the misleadingly titled Evolution News and Views (“Serving the Intelligent Design Community”), to the recent opinion piece “Anti-Creationists need to think about tactics”, which we recently posted on our site. Thanks Casey.
As our title and opening words make clear, our piece is addressed by us, as individual nonbelievers, to other nonbelievers, giving our reasons for cooperating with believers in defending science against Creationism. It does not even mention DI, or C4ID, or Intelligent Design. Nonetheless, Casey seems to find our piece relevant to his mission. Perhaps his concern with religion is not surprising, since the foundation document of DI’s Centre for Science and Culture gives the restoration of a “theistic understanding” as a core objective. As for Intelligent Design, few people can still believe the pretence that it is anything more than a cover for Creationism (in the strict sense of the term as applied to biological diversity), but it is good to see our thoughts on these matters so authoritatively confirmed.
There are many more reasons why being attacked by Casey has been compared to being savaged by a dead sheep. Here are a few of them (remember here that Casey is a trained lawyer, and has published on law in an internationally recognised journal, so presumably he has read what he refers to and means what he says about it):
While the final decision hasn’t been written, the judge in the Coppedge v. Caltech and JPL case has made an order for a final ruling in JPL’s favor.
In his wrongful termination suit, Coppedge claimed he was demoted in 2009, then let go for engaging his co-workers in conversations about intelligent design and for handing out DVDs on the topic while at work. Intelligent design is the belief that life is too complex to have developed through evolution alone.
Ratio Christi is a new-ish college campus oriented apologetics organization whose Wright State University (Ohio) chapter’s goal “… is to populate heaven by planting seeds of Truth into the minds of atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and spiritual seekers.” If one is so inclined, one can earn a Certificate in Christian Apologetics from Biola University (formerly the Bible Institute of Los Angeles) at a discount through Ratio Christi. In some ways Ratio Christi looks like a sort of successor to Casey Luskin’s now-defunct IDEA center.
Like Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis, Ratio Christi is heavy on anti-evolution. It’s recommended resources include books and papers by Disco ‘Tute stalwarts like Michael Behe, David Berlinski, William Dembski, Stephen Meyer, and Jonathan Wells, along with Fuzzy Rana of Reasons to Believe, young earth creationist Paul Garner, and apologetics philosopher Alvin Plantinga.
Today on the DI Media Complaints Division blog, William Dembski writes,
I recall posting on my blog a gorgeous picture of wildflowers, hinting at the wonders of God’s creation, and seeing comments by atheistic evolutionists who dismissed it as merely “sex” run amuck.
I actually remember this post. It was a post Dembski put up on May 14, 2005 at Uncommon Descent. Quoth Dembski:
Intelligent design news, commentary and discussion from the 20th of February to the 7th of March, 2012.
Semester 1 of my 3rd year of university started last week, so I’ve suddenly found myself with coursework to pore over. Likewise, the Discovery Institute seems to have kicked itself into a high gear, publishing a larger-than-average number of articles about numerous different topics, all of which just so happen to be rather important and weighty. Ah well, someone’s got to cover them, my own studies of evolutionary genetics be damned.
This week I’ll be looking at how the ID movement views the relationships between science, religion and politics, how it operates with respect to criticising evolutionary biology and supporting its own ideas, and how it deals with the “bad design” objection from critics of ID.
As those who have followed the comment thread on the previous post know, the link to the webpage for the forthcoming creationist/ID “Biological Information: New Perspectives” volume on the Springer website went dead yesterday, approximately 24 hours after the PT post went up. This may mean that the volume had already been identified as problematic, and the webpage was put up due to some oversight or failure to update a database.
Surprisingly for the ID movement, which normally cries “oppression” and “freedom of speech” at the first sight of criticism, there has been virtually no reaction so far. The only creationist reaction is from Todd Wood, who is a lone wolf in the creationist movement in several ways. David Klinghoffer at the Discovery Institute (DI) did put a post up at the DI Media Complaints Division soon after my post, but it was taken down before anyone saw it, except apparently for Google blog aggregators.
Intelligent design news, commentary and discussion from the 11th of February to the 19th of February, 2012.
So, it happened again: the Discovery Institute decided to notice something I wrote about them. I’m not sure if it’s because I write for The Panda’s Thumb and they see me as the weakest, undergraduate link in its strong chain of esteemed, proper biologists, or because my criticisms of their ideas are annoying, but they seem to focus on me quite a lot. Ah well, any recognition is good recognition, right?
This week I’ll be focusing mostly in their response to me, but also on the Discovery Institute’s move into the iAge (which must be very exciting for them), as well as a curious post that highlights yet another major problem with the way the intelligent design movement operates.
[Republished from Homologous Legs]
Intelligent design, as a scientific hypothesis, is in trouble if it doesn’t have peer-reviewed papers establishing, analysing and providing evidence for its core ideas - so it’s no surprise that proponents of ID are quite adamant that such papers do in fact exist.
Casey Luskin, intelligent design expert and apparent head writer over at Evolution News & Views, is naturally no exception, and he recently answered an objection to the claim that over 50 peer-reviewed articles support ID: namely, that the majority of the articles cited by the Discovery Institute in this list do not mention ID at all.
Intelligent design news, commentary and discussion from the 17th of December, 2011 to the 10th of February, 2012.
Huh? Intelligent design, what’s that? Oh, oh, yes. Yes, you’re quite right. I’m sorry, I’ve been out of the loop a bit and I’d forgotten this little movement I like to keep an eye on from time to time. Well, it’s actually supposed to be a weekly thing, but… things have been crazy around here. Leave me alone, I’m a university student on holidays, I have no time to do anything.
Anyway, what has the intelligent design community been up to online since we last saw them? Not a huge amount, actually, although certainly more stuff than is feasibly possible to fit into one blog post. So, like normal, I’ll skim off the cream floating at the top of this ID think-tank and have a peer into the beaker I used to do it.
This time we’ll be looking at speciation, the glowing past and future of ID, ID as a default assumption in science, appeals to historical authority, and the Discovery Institute distancing themselves from a creationist bill in Indiana.
As mentioned, I have a couple of pro-ID books that need to be read and reviewed these holidays: Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design by Stephen C. Meyer, and Intelligent Design Uncensored by William Dembski and Jonathan Witt. While I’ve done preliminary readings of both books, in order to grasp their overall structure and scope, I recently started reading the latter in a greater level of detail.
What I’ve found has not been pretty.
Yes, Intelligent Design Uncensored is not a very healthy book to read, if you get angry at slick rhetoric in place of rigorous argumentation, blatant strawman arguments, and an easily digestible style of writing that doesn’t at all match with the supposed gravity of the topic at hand. Unfortunately, those are some of the things that push my buttons, so I’m not a happy little “Darwinist”. No sir.
In fact, it has been so infuriating so far that I’m seriously considering not doing a proper review of it: it may not be worth my time nor my effort. Meyer’s Signature is a much more worthy target - it’s held up by the ID community as some shiny tome of pure knowledge, blessed to humanity from the heavens, whilst Dembski and Witt’s book is a barely-mentioned teaching tool for prospective members.
Intelligent design news, commentary and discussion from the 9th of December to the 16th of December, 2011.
It’s nearing Christmas, and here in Australia the weather is heating up, causing the ground to bake beneath our thong-covered feet - and a kind of cognitive dissonance sets in as the “White Christmas” imagery fed to us by popular culture and jolly old Christmas tunes conflicts with the harsh reality of Summer in December. Such is the Southern Hemisphere.
Of course I could, at this point, easily compare that tale with the cognitive dissonance present in the intelligent design movement as they wiggle around, both in cyberspace and in the real world, evading effective criticism and being ambiguous about many a topic. But I won’t.
That would be a bit forced, wouldn’t it?
No, I just wanted to let you all know about the wonderful Christmas we Australians will be having. Enjoy your Winter Wonderland, Northern Hemispherians: I’ll be cooking sausages, avoiding swarms of flying insects and trying my best not to get terribly sunburnt.
Anyway, this week we have blog posts about biomimetics, the potential predictive powers of Judaism/Christianity when it comes to the origin of humanity, using my words to pump money into the ID movement, and Richard Dawkins brainwashing poor, poor children.
Intelligent design news, commentary and discussion from the 2nd of December to the 8th of December, 2011.
It’s well and truly holidays now, and after getting all the fiddly, tricky things out of the way first - such as doing a domain transfer and dealing with responses from the Discovery Institute - it’s time to get back into TWiID and see what the online presence of the intelligent design movement has been like over the past seven days.
What are the notable posts about this week? Why: multiverses; responding - again - to me; the identity of the Designer; and why design in nature may not be so easy to detect after all.
When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.
~ Cersei Lannister, HBO’s “Game of Thrones”, Season 1, Episode 7
Bit of a dramatic quote, isn’t it? But for some reason it entered my mind when I read what David Klinghoffer wrote about me and my views on the dismissive rhetoric of the scientific community towards the intelligent design movement (which I maintain is understandable, given the history of ID and creationism), in his Evolution News & Views post “A Darwinist Worries about Darwinian Rhetoric”.
You see, I didn’t write the post for a pro-ID audience - it came about because I felt I had some helpful advice to give scientists and science communicators for when they are asked to comment on ID by the media (or in other public outlets). That’s why I didn’t justify or explain, for example, my opinion that the movement is largely motivated by religious sentiment: I was talking to a group of people who already have that point of view.
Obviously I wasn’t thinking very clearly though, because I was writing about why ID proponents love to twist, distort and spin sentiment about themselves into energy for their day-to-day operations, yet forgot to consider how the post being written would appear to those very people. How legitimately foolish of me.
Everything is a rhetorical game to the Discovery Institute! And like the medieval-fantasy political game of thrones referenced in the above quote, when you play the game of rhetoric, you win or you die a (rhetorical) death. Much like gambling, the best way to win is not to play at all, especially when facing down masters like David Klinghoffer. I mean, look at what he wrote - he twisted a post about not giving the ID movement rhetorical nourishment into rhetorical nourishment.
But while I’m undeniably now locked into a PR pact with David - wherein everything I write is now open to dramatisation and being milked for points - I’d still like to focus on the issues that are at least vaguely objectively defensible.