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Climate and creationism

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The economist Paul Krugman has come to the “somewhat surprising conclusion” that global warming denial is not mainly about vested economic interests but rather asks us to

think about global warming from the point of view of someone who grew up taking Ayn Rand seriously, believing that the untrammeled pursuit of self-interest is always good and that government is always the problem, never the solution. Along come some scientists declaring that unrestricted pursuit of self-interest will destroy the world, and that government intervention is the only answer. It doesn'™t matter how market-friendly you make the proposed intervention; this is a direct challenge to the libertarian worldview.

I do not want to be flip, but almost any reader of PT could have told him that; just substitute “Book of Genesis” in place of “Ayn Rand,” make other substitutions as necessary, and you will see what I mean. If Krugman is right, and I am sure that he is, he brings bad news: People will deny global warming with their last breath, and they will not be convinced even by a mountain of evidence or the testimony of the vast majority of experts.

Indeed, there is far more money behind global-warming denial than behind evolution denial, and denialists will fight even quintessentially conservative solutions like cap and trade until, as the columnist Leonard Pitts put it today, the west Antarctic ice sheet falls into the ocean and our grandchildren vie for beachfront property in St. Louis.

Note added approximately 2:50 MDT: See also an article in the Daily Kos linking David Koch to climate-change denial. Mr. Koch, according to the author,

I occasionally get books for review unsolicited, and many of them are not worth noticing. However, Kostas Kampourakis' Understanding Evolution is a wonderful resource for students of all kinds, including biology students.

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Montana Creationism Bill: dead in committee(?)

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As Matt noted above, one of the creationist so-called “academic freedom” bills was filed in the Montana state legislature. Now the Sensuous Curmudgeon reports that the bill has been tabled in committee, whatever that means. In that post SC also has a video of some of the testimony at the committee hearing on the bill, noting that the proposer, Representative Clayton Fiscus, was the only speaker in support while a couple of dozen professors, teachers, and citizens testified in opposition. It’s worth watching both for the testimony in opposition and for the almost sad ignorance and confusion of Representative Fiscus. I genuinely wonder how he navigates through life given his evident inability to think coherently. if he’s the best the Disco Tute can come up with to sponsor their bills, they’re in deeper trouble than I thought.

That video is edited from the full hearing, and another set of excerpts consisting mostly of speakers’ identifications is on NCSE’s YouTube channel. It does not include Representative Fiscus’ remarks. I wouldn’t be surprised if video of the full hearing including all testimony is somewhere, but I haven’t looked for it.

Wiley’s Non Sequitur cartoon for today, June 18, 2012, “very nicely captures the problem of the creation laws,” as my colleague Kim Johnson very nicely put it

Those following the controversy about the ID/creationist volume that was scheduled for publication by Springer that is being further peer-reviewed by Springer should make sure to check out the piece by reporter Kaustuv Basu at Inside Higher Ed. (See previously: PT post #1, PT post #2.)

Here, we get the first reactions from the creationists involved with the project:

This week’s furor broke along predictable lines, with the editors of the book criticizing the attitude of the supporters of evolution. John Sanford, one of five editors of the book and a courtesy associate professor at Cornell University’s Department of Horticulture, said in an e-mail that he was amazed that anyone could think that the “Darwin Dissidents” were trying to take over academe.

“Obviously we are only trying to exercise academic freedom and freedom of speech, and are challenging a sacred cow,” he wrote. “Where are the academics who profess tolerance and open dialog? Where are the academics who would confront ‘hate speech’ on their own campus?”

There is apparently a lot of confusion about what “free speech” means in the creationist community. Just this week I experienced this with Casey Luskin. I recently emailed him to express my worry that he might have trouble sleeping at night, after he abandoned his oft-stated claims to be environmentalist and pro-science when he wrote this post: “A Friendly Letter to the Heartland Institute and Other Advocates of Free Speech on Global Warming”. The post gave all kinds of love to the global-warming deniers, and didn’t bother to raise a single finger of criticism for the deniers’ numerous shenanigans, even though Luskin agrees with the mainstream that global warming is happening and humans are causing it. Luskin replied that he was just defending freedom of speech, to which I replied:

Ptolemy vs. Copernicus: Teach the Controversy!

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I think I’m in love.

Hat tip to The Friendly Atheist.

Scientific American has posted what you might call a compendium of articles on evolution – some from the archives, some brand new.

The featured articles include a new article by Lauri Lebo, who details the manner in which creationists hide their true intentions by using code words such as “helping students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.” Indeed, in a display that gives chutzpah a bad name, they invoke the name of John Scopes, because he stood up for academic freedom.

Y’all remember how, years ago, Casey Luskin and the boys were calling Judge Jones a plagiarist because the final decision in Kitzmiller drew a lot of language from the briefs? I pointed out at the time that, well, that’s what briefs are for. Now here’s an article in Political Research Quarterly that uses software to find that even the U.S. Supreme Court draws a lot of language from the briefs filed by the parties in any particular case, thus reaching the unremarkable conclusion that “there is a connection between the language of the parties’ briefs and the language of the opinions, which means that parties have the potential to influence the law.” For most of us, it’s nice to know that court opinions show the judges actually read the briefs. But for Luskin & Co., it’s doubtless evidence of just how huge the Darwinist plagiarist conspiracy really is.

The Discovery Institute has long had an interest in promoting itself at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. An early meeting held there featured several of the future DI CRSC Fellows a few years before the 1996 establishment of the CRSC. More recently, the DI tried to browbeat SMU faculty into validating a dog-and-pony show that would put an official imprimatur on DI Fellows appearing there. And in current events, the DI put on an event on September 23rd sponsored by Victory Campus Ministries at the SMU campus, but have been outraged, yes, outraged, by the critical reception they received from various of the SMU faculty.

Lecturer John G. Wise has put up perhaps the most extensive critiques of the DI’s presentation and co-authored a letter to the SMU campus paper, eliciting DI responses from Casey Luskin (1, 2) and a joint response from several of the DI CSC Fellows.

Wise pointed out problems like the claim that stuff published in ‘Bio-complexity’ meets the standard of peer-reviewed literature. Ouch.

Associate Professor Mark Chancey published a letter in the SMU campus paper discussing some of the reasons that the DI doesn’t get a unanimous vote of approval from the SMU faculty despite the religious background of the university. Chancey reviews some of the history of the DI and its enthusiasm for SMU.

Unfortunately, the Discovery Institute has a track record of using SMU’s prestige and academic reputation to bolster its own claims to legitimacy. Consider this quote from Phillip E. Johnson, a chief ID architect: “The movement we now call the Wedge made its public debut at a conference of scientists and philosophers held at Southern Methodist University in March 1992.”

Johnson goes on to characterize that conference as “a respectable academic gathering.” This language implies that SMU sponsored an academic conference in which ID proponents participated as full-fledged scholars. In fact, the 1992 event, too, was sponsored not by any academic unit of the university but by a campus ministry-a detail conspicuously absent from Johnson’s description.

Yes, annoying details like that often go missing in the DI propaganda. Not getting the official recognition they want from SMU and getting unwelcome critical attention of SMU faculty just doesn’t sit well with the DI.

Scientists point out, quite rightly, that the religio-political charade known as “intelligent design” (ID) is not good science. But how do we know this?

One of the hallmarks of science is that it is fruitful. A good scientific paper will usually lead to much work along the same lines, work that confirms and extends the results, and work that produces more new ideas inspired by the paper. Although citation counts are not completely reliable metrics for evaluating scientific papers, they do give some general information about what papers are considered important.

ID advocates like to point to lists of “peer-reviewed publications” advocating their position. Upon closer examination, their lists are misleading, packed with publications that are either not in scientific journals, or that appeared in venues of questionable quality, or papers whose relationship to ID is tangential at best. Today, however, I’d like to look at a different issue: the fruitfulness of intelligent design. Let’s take a particular ID publication, one that was trumpeted by ID advocates as a “breakthrough”, and see how much further scientific work it inspired.

The paper I have in mind is Stephen Meyer’s paper “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories”, which was published, amid some controversy, in the relatively obscure journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington in 2004. Critics pointed out that the paper was not suited to the journal, which is usually devoted to taxonomic issues, and that the paper was riddled with mistakes and misleading claims. In response, the editors of the journal issued a disclaimer repudiating the paper.

Putting these considerations aside, what I want to do here is look at every scientific publication that has cited Meyer’s paper to determine whether his work can fairly said to be “fruitful”. I used the ISI Web of Science Database to do a “cited reference” search on his article. This database, which used to be called Science Citation Index, is generally acknowledged to be one of the most comprehensive available. The search I did included Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Sciences Citation Index, and Arts & Humanities Citation Index. Even such a search will miss some papers, of course, but it will still give a general idea of how much the scientific community has been inspired by Meyer’s work.

I found exactly 9 citations to Meyer’s paper in this database. Of these, counting generously, exactly 1 is a scientific research paper that cites Meyer approvingly.

Read more at Recursivity.

Irving Kristol and Evolution

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With all the hagiography going on for conservative “intellectual” Irving Kristol, who died on September 18, let’s not forget one of his many idiotic statements: that Darwinism is on the way out because it “is really no longer accepted so easily by [many] biologists and scientists.”

As Glenn Morton has exhaustively shown, the trope that “more and more scientists doubt evolution” is one of the oldest falsehoods in creationism. But then, Kristol believed that not all truths were suitable for all people, an echo of Martin Luther’s view that lying for his god was acceptable.

Anti-evolution idiocy seemingly ran in the family. In 1959, Kristol’s wife Gertrude Himmelfarb wrote a terrible book, Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution, demonstrating a lack of understanding of biology and a warped view of Darwin’s influence. One perceptive reviewer penned that Himmelfarb had “an advanced case of Darwinitis, a complaint that afflicts those of a literary bent and strong attachments to pre-scientific culture, who find in the theory of evolution a disturbing and mysterious challenge to their values”. Kristol wrote a favorable review of Himmelfarb’s book for Encounter, without bothering to mention that he was Himmelfarb’s husband. So much for Kristol’s ethics.

Read more at Recursivity

A Paul Nelson Anniversary Missed!

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We missed an important anniversary last week. It was five years ago last Sunday, March 29, that Paul Nelson told us that he’d provide a reply to PZ Myers’ critique of “ontogenetic depth.” Nelson said

Quick note – I’m drafting an omnibus reply (to points raised here and in Shalizi’s commentary), with title and epigraph from a Rolling Stones song. I’ll post it tomorrow.

Yup. And the check’s in the mail, right? I suspect the epigraph should be “(I can’t get no) Satisfaction.”

By tradition the fifth anniversary of an event is the “wood” anniversary. But so far we don’t even have one wooden nickel from Paul, say nothing of an omnibus full of them. We’re still waiting, Paul.

Anti-evolution bill in Iowa

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I am so incredibly tardy with this information that Arizonian John Lynch and the lovely folks at Uncommon Descent have already blogged this, but recently an “academic freedom” bill was introduced in Iowa. For those who may be unfamiliar, in addition to “teach the controversy,” these “academic freedom” bills are one of the new tactics for creationists who want to introduce creationism into science classrooms via the back door by claiming that teachers need the protection to teach “the full range of scientific views” when it comes to evolution (in other words, to teach creationism/ID). The bill states that:

At the Christian Today website we learn how the Creationist in Texas have been defeated, although they did manage to get some amendments approved which undoubtably will be abused by some.

The scientists, apparently familiar with the Discovery Institute’s desperate attempts after the Dover failure, observed that

Over 800 scientists in Texas have signed a statement to “encourage valid critical thinking and scientific reasoning by leaving out all references to ‘strengths and weaknesses’” of evolution - references, they say, that politicians “have used to introduce supernatural explanations into science courses.”

Ebonmuse on ‘Teaching the Controversy’

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Ebonmuse has an excellent short piece on the Disco Dancers’ “teach the controversy” ploy. The money paragraph:

The problem with “teaching all sides” is that it can give fringe ideas a credibility they have not earned. Excessive concern for “balance” leads to presenting the speculations of cranks and crackpots as if they were on equal footing with the positions defended by vast majorities of qualified experts. (The media has a similar problem.) And this is very useful to advocates of pseudoscience, who often do not need to win the rhetorical battle outright; they can triumph merely by muddying the waters and preventing a consensus from forming around the truth. This is the same strategy employed by tobacco companies, as we can see from the second excerpt above, as well as by oil companies seeking to forestall regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

To Ebonmuse’s list of movements employing the same tactic one can add HIV denial (cf. Phillip E. Johnson and Jonathan Wells).

And Ebonmuse adds a nice touch:

But with all that said, the idea of teaching the controversy isn’t an intrinsically bad one. There are plenty of subjects that have legitimate controversies where this commendable call for fairness could be better applied.

For example, how about sex ed? A great many religious conservatives - many of the same ones who call for teaching the controversy on evolution, I don’t doubt - change their tune when it comes to public-school health classes, demanding that students be taught an “abstinence-only” program that omits contraception, or mentions it only to discuss its failure rates. How strange. Whatever happened to fairness? Whatever happened to learning about all sides? Why can students make up their own minds about evolution, but not about how to protect themselves from STDs?

Just so.

In a Comment in the journal Genome Biology Gregory Petsko, Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry Protein Crystallography at Brandeis University discusses the latest shenanigans of the Intelligent Design movement. ( Gregory A Petsko It is alive Genome Biology 2008, 99::106)

They’re at it again. Armed with another new idea from the Discovery Institute, that bastion of ignorance, right-wing political ideology, and pseudo-scientific claptrap, the creationist movement has mounted yet another assault on science. This time it comes in two flavors: propaganda and legislative.

What is Petsko talking about?

Manufactroversy: ExpelledMovieNews.com

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expelled movie exposedWhile searching for “Expelled” on Google I was offered the following ‘sponsored link

News About Expelled Movie
Latest news, articles and updates
on Ben Stein’s new movie - Expelled
http://manufactroversy.newsladder.net

Enjoy

Time Magazine Reviews ‘Expelled’

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expelled movie exposedTime Magazine’s Jeffrey Kluger critically reviews ‘Expelled’

I love the following ‘gap’ argument rebuttal

More dishonestly, Stein employs the common dodge of enumerating all the admittedly unanswered questions in evolutionary theory and using this to refute the whole idea. But all scientific knowledge is built this way. A fishnet is made up of a lot more holes than strings, but you can’t therefore argue that the net doesn’t exist. Just ask the fish.

banner.jpg In Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed–Scientific American’s Take, Scientific American ‘flunks’ the movie.

John Rennie, Michael Shermer and Steve Mirsky all watched Ben Stein’s new antievolution movie. Here’s what they had to say about its design flaws.

Shermer reviews ‘Expelled’

In a new documentary film, actor, game show host and financial columnist Ben Stein falls for the pseudoscience of intelligent design

In Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Integrity Displayed John Rennie reviews the movie

A shameful antievolution film tries to blame Darwin for the Holocaust

However, they provide us with an even more precious resource namely two mp3 files of a Podcast with Mark Mathis, one of the associate producers of the movie.

Download part 1

Download part 2

Why are these Podcast files so important?

banner.jpgYet another scathing review, this time from the Huffington Post’s Valerie Tarico. The meme of a “Manufactroversy” combined with meme of ‘flunked’ seem to be catching on.

How long have creationists been talking about “Darwinism” as if no one but Darwin had noticed the fossil record or the DNA code in the last 100 years? It does get tiresome, responding to their ever evolving anti-evolutionary rhetoric. But we need to expose the bizarre supernaturalist agenda behind all the sudden whining about academic freedom. And somebody needs to gently remind Stein and his creationist cronies that they haven’t been expelled from school, they flunked.

But that is but a mild criticism compared to what else Valerie is telling us.

Read all about how Expelled ‘Flunked’ at ExpelledExposed.com

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