Recently in Their Own Words Category


That is the headline of a press release printed unedited in the Sacramento Bee. The movie, by Ray Comfort of banana fame, is an excruciating 35 minutes of quote-mined sound bites, mostly from undergraduate science majors, but also from PZ Myers and a handful of other scientists (Gail Kennedy, Craig Stanford, and Peter Nonacs).

My old friend, the Alert Reader, sent me a cartoon that he claimed had appeared on Ken Ham’s Facebook page. Captioned “Famous sayings of Ken Ham,” the cartoon shows a caricature of Ham and three balloons, including this one:

It’s designed to do what it does do.

What it does do it does do well.

Doesn’t it?

Yes, it does.

I think it does.

Do you? I do.

Hope you do, too. Do you?

I found it hard to believe that the cartoon was not a parody and wondered why it is found on Ham’s own Facebook page. The Alert Reader responded with the following, also reportedly from Ham’s Facebook page:


Jason Rosenhouse moved from the east coast to Kansas for a postdoc. He had studied a bit about creationism while a graduate student at Dartmouth, so it would be an exaggeration to say that he was surprised to learn that not everyone in Kansas was a liberal Democrat (even by today’s standard of liberalism). Nevertheless, for reasons that are not made completely clear, he humored his inner anthropologist and attended a handful of creationist conferences over a period of several years. The result is the splendid book Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line, which both shows creationists as regular people, just like scientists, and also takes them seriously, without condescension or sarcasm.

Not that Rosenhouse cuts them any slack. He gets up to the microphone and asks pointed questions, and he is completely open about who he is and what he believes. He mingles with the conference attendees and is impressed by how very pleasant they are; he is pleasant in return, except for one apparently unfortunate interaction with Ken Ham. Nevertheless, however pleasant the creationists may be, Rosenhouse makes clear that he and his interlocutors are always talking past each other, and his critiques have virtually no effect - except occasionally, when he sees a young student listening intently and thinks he may have planted some seeds of doubt.

Ham on Horses


Now that Shinola is no longer manufactured, I have to wonder what Ken Ham shines his shoes with. Today, Mr. Ham, the alleged proprietor of a putative Ark Park in Kentucky, ran a piece that criticizes the Kentucky Horse Park for promoting “(outdated) evolutionary ideas.”

Of all the fatuous nonsense in that article, this claim may be the, um, best:

One popular belief in regard to the horse evolution series is that as horses supposedly evolved, they got bigger. Eohippus is listed as 14 inches tall, while Mesohippus is listed as 24 inches tall. The next two horses in the display, Miohippus and Merychippus, grow steadily bigger. What’s the problem, though, with the belief that horses somehow evolved into larger and larger animals? If that were true, shouldn’t we see only very large horses today? But we don’t–horses vary in size from the Clydesdale to the much smaller Fallabella (just 17 inches tall).

I will not bother to explain that the domesticated horses we see today are products of artificial selection. Rather, I will note that Mr. Ham’s “deduction” is equivalent to saying, “If we are getting generally taller, then why is my granddaughter shorter than her mother?” Or, if you prefer, “If IQ’s are generally increasing, then why do we still have creationists?”

Acknowledgment. Thanks to Dan Phelps for the link. I am truly impressed that Mr. Phelps has the patience to track this kind of bunk.

Does theodicy devalue human life?


Gert Korthof, on his blog today, takes on either Richard Weikart or God, I am not sure which. Professor Weikart, whom we have met before, thinks that something he calls “Darwinism” undermines the sanctity of human life and led directly to the Holocaust (and no doubt retroactively to such atrocities as the Crusades and the Inquisition as well).

Intelligent design creationists love to talk about information theory, but unfortunately they rarely understand it. Jonathan Wells is the latest ID creationist to demonstrate this.

In a recent post at “Evolution News & Views” describing an event at the University of Oklahoma, Wells said, “I replied that duplicating a gene doesn’t increase information content any more than photocopying a paper increases its information content.”

Wells is wrong. I frequently give this as an exercise in my classes at the University of Waterloo: Prove that if x is a string of symbols, then the Kolmogorov information in xx is greater than that in x for infinitely many strings x. Most of my students can do this one, but it looks like information expert Jonathan Wells can’t.

Like many incompetent people, Wells is blissfully unaware of his incompetence. He closes by saying, “Despite all their taxpayer-funded professors and museum exhibits, despite all their threats to dismantle us and expose us as retards, the Darwinists lost.”

We don’t have to “expose” the intelligent design creationists as buffoons; they do it themselves whenever they open their mouths.

Remember the movie “Expelled” which ‘argued’ how ID Creationists were somehow punished for their beliefs? I wonder what the producers of this movie think of this somewhat disturbing piece by Tom Willis in CSA (Creation Science Association for Mid-America)?

Tom Willis Wrote:

Everywhere the subject of origins is discussed, evolutionists routinely, yea, systematically, denounce creationists as some combination of stupid, ignorant, and… dangerous. If we recall there are two major methods men make momentous decisions: empirical and theoretical. I intend to show in a brief space that belief in evolution requires, at minimum, deep delusion allowing one to believe, or pretend to believe, in a manifestly impossible historical scenario. And it leads, both empirically and theoretically, to grotesquely harmful results in every society in which evolutionists are allowed to have a major influence, including our own.

And “Expelled” believes that ID Creationists face problems?

Flew’s Eugenic Leanings

ID supporters seem to like Antony Flew, the one-time atheist philosopher who has apparently seen the light and become a deist. They have awarded him the Phillip Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth, they have lauded his latest book, and Bill Dembski exclaims "God bless Antony Flew!" But at the risk of raining on the parade, there’s something that Bill needs to realize - the fearless Flew seems to have a very ambivalent attitude (to put it mildly) to eugenics.

Read more at Stranger Fruit where comments can be left.

I’ve been continuing to put some time into criticizing Michael Behe’s expert report on the creationist texts involved in the California Creationism Case. This is a slow process, partly because I’m also working on other projects and partly because it’s difficult to read the Bob Jones “Biology for Christian Schools” text without encountering a range of unpleasant side effects. I’ve been fighting the increased blood pressure and the nausea, and soldiering on. Along the way, I’ve encountered some real gems that I thought I’d share with you.

Today, I’m going to give you two quotes: one on Darwin, and one on sexually transmitted diseases. The two are connected only by the surreal nature of what’s being said. As you read them, please remember that this is material that’s being taught to high school students, and that the folks who are teaching this stuff are suing the University of California, because for some strange reason UC doesn’t think that people who have been taught this stuff have adequately completed an actual college preparatory class in biology. All quotes are taken from the most recent (3rd) edition of the text. I’m transcribing by hand, so unless indicated otherwise, all typos are mine.

Read more (at The Questionable Authority, where comments can be left):

I have just read the latest post of young-earth creationist/Discovery Institute fellow/Biola professor/blogger John Mark Reynolds. I think I am just going to have to occasionally serve the role of his guilty conscience in matters scientific. He has apparently thrown his own scientific conscience down a well somewhere, or he wouldn’t be able to say the wildly hypocritical things he does.

In 1999-2000, the Kansas State Board of Education was running their PR machine full-bore, trying to convince the public that the central organizing theory of modern biology and biotechnology was a dead idea. Creationist speaker after creationist speaker was flown into town to put on a dog and pony show. If you were a Young-Earth Creationist, you might have seen Duane Gish/Fred Whitehead nondebate. If you liked ID creationism, you might have seen Johnson or Wells. Back then, it was a very big tent.

Well, KCFS wasn’t going to take things lying down, so we thought we’d prepare a few flyers to inform the audience to help them be ready for the creationists when they arrived. One of those flyers, “Jonathan Wells: Who is He, What is He Doing, and Why?” turned out to be pretty important.

Fast forward to Spring 2005, after the creationists had taken over the state board of education again and ran roughshod over the accepted processes of curricular review. They rejected the recommendations of the experts who developed very good standards and held a show trial, in which evolution would be dragged before them to answer the tough ID creationists’ questions.

The details of the story are described elsewhere, but one of the “witnesses” was Jonathan Wells, who during his testimony claimed that he was not influenced by religion. Within the span of an hour, KCFS was able to print several copies of our Wells flyer to distribute to interested members of the press. The result was that in the following day’s newspapers, Jonathan Wells testimony and his quotations were seen in juxtaposition to each other, making of his credibility to journalists what those in the know had deemed of it for years.

Find the flyer on the flipside. It’s also available in RTF format. Please note that the DI has since changed their name from the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture to simply the Center for Science and Culture. So clearly it’s no longer religious.

Darwin, Marx and Bad Scholarship

Edward T. Oakes may be a good teacher of theology at St. Mary of the Lake, but he is a lousy historian of Darwinism. Witness the following statement from his review of Richard Weikart's work, From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany:

Spencer might well have been the first to coin the phrase "survival of the fittest." But Darwin enthusiastically adopted it in the 6th edition of his Origin of Species as a substitute term for "natural selection." Nor did he ever demur when other advocates of evolution's social application came pleading their case. Karl Marx asked if he might dedicate Das Kapital to Darwin, which request Darwin declined only because he did not want to offend the religious sensibilities of his deeply Christian wife.

There are a host of problems with this short extract. Find out more at Stranger Fruit, where you can leave comments.

Once again, I am wrong


…but luckily, I’m set straight over at Effect Measure, where Revere completely refutes my silly notion of mutations in H5N1 by citing this excellent guest commentary in the Greely Tribune (where their top story today is about a hot dog from 1952). The commentary is titled “Bird flu a lame claim to evolution theory” and written by one Mike Martin, former editor of Ag Weekly Magazine. He certainly demolishes my silly science-y notation of just what “mutations” (such as those discussed in the Nature article I cited use for analysis) are all about:

(Continued at Aetiology…)

An anniversary, of sorts


Once upon a time, about two years ago, I dissected a claim by Paul Nelson that he had an objective measure of developmental complexity that he called "ontogenetic depth". I thought it was very poor stuff: no repeatable methods, no clear description of exactly what he was measuring, and actually, it looked like he was just plucking numbers out of thin air.

Note that today is 29 March 2006. On 29 March 2004, Nelson left a comment on the post, promising to address the issues I brought up.

Continue reading "An anniversary, of sorts" (on Pharyngula)

Appearing in this morning’s Greenville News (SC) online opinion section:

The theory of evolution does not and cannot explain so much about the universe that we know. For instance, when and how did water evolve? How does it happen that gravity can hold us to the Earth, and at the same time allow us to step up without any trouble? How did it happen that the Earth is spinning at the exact rate that keeps us from feeling that movement?

This is your brain on creationism. Be afraid.

(Hat tip to Rodney Wilson of SCSE.)

Purpose, specification and function


Two threads combine in this posting. First my comments on the Beckwith thread where I show how Dembski and Behe use the term specification or purpose to refer to “function”, and secondly a thread on strings in which the concept of purpose arose again.

First let’s revisit Dembski’s and Behe’s position on function which shows that their use of the term specification or purpose clearly refers to function.

van Till Wrote:

However, when it comes time for Dembski to support his conviction that the bacterial flagellum is specified, the procedure becomes considerably more casual, almost facile. Speaking on the specification of biological systems in general, Dembski simply asserts that, “Biological specification always refers to function. An organism is a functional system comprising many functional subsystems. In virtue of their function, these systems embody patterns that are objectively given and can be identified independently of the systems that embody them. Hence these systems are specified in the sense required by the complexity-specification criterion.”NFL, p. 148.In these four brief sentences the foundation of Dembski’s entire strategy for certifying the specification of biotic systems is laid.

Or in Behe’s terms “a purposeful arrangement of parts” where purpose and function are interchangeable.

Behe Wrote:

Q The whole positive argument for intelligent design as you ve described it, Professor Behe, is look at this system, look at these parts, they appear designed correct?

A Well, I think I filled that out a little bit more. I said that intelligent design is perceived as the purposeful arrangement of parts, yes. So when we not only see different parts, but we also see that they are ordered to perform some function, yes, that is how we perceived design.

Page 44 of Behe’s cross examination on Day 11 of the Kitzmiller trial. See also Analysis of Behe’s Testimony, Part 1: Purpose and Function at “Dispatches from the Culture Wars”

Coopting cooption

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You can’t “Just kill them all”?


Battling unsuccessfully against a case of post-Dover syndrome, I wandered over to see Pat Hayes at Red State Rabble.

Scrolling down through his excellent commentaries, I came upon “William Dembski, fascist?”

Strong language I thought. But reading on, I found it was totally appropriate.

And, do read Dembski’s braying pack of sycophants on their urge to kill immigrants and particularly Muslims. There are many familiar cyper-names there; Dave Scott, jboze, DonaldM, and neurode.

Dave Scott offered a “plan” that is familiar to any student of history, no matter how superficial, “However, since we can’t just kill them all (we can kill the worst offenders though) …” He also added this little charming assessment, “Islam is a disease that has no place in the civilized world.” But in Dave Scott’s twisted mind, if such bigoted hate was expressed by anyone about Christ, or America, they would be an evil sort who should be killed.

Professional Christian apologist William Dembski’s notorious penchant for deleting any post he finds offensive has shown him to be a supporter of hate.

One minor point; the Darwin=fascism is clearly belied by these IDiots slavering over the chance to kill.

One of the interesting segments of the Michael Behe cross examination begins on page 42 of the Day12AM transcript, and it concerns a paper that Behe wrote with David Snoke. That paper, called Simulating Evolution by Gene Duplication of Protein Feature that Requires Multiple Amino Acid Residues, was based upon a computer simulation that attempted to answer the question of how long it would take cumulative point mutations in a single gene to produce a new trait - the interaction of two proteins - requiring a change in multiple amino acid residues if there was no selective advantage to preserve any of the individual mutations until they were all present and the final result was fully functional. For Behe, this is a simple example of irreducible complexity:

Thus in order for a protein that did not have a disulfide bond to evolve one, several changes in the same gene have to occur. Thus in a sense, the disulfide bond is irreducibly complex, although not really to the same degree of complexity as systems made of multiple proteins.

This paper has been lauded by ID advocates as an excellent example of ID-stimulated research. The DI has listed it as an example of genuine peer reviewed research that supports ID. William Dembski has declared that Behe and Snoke’s research “may well be the nail in the coffin [and] the crumbling of the Berlin wall of Darwinian evolution.” Unfortunately for them, this paper didn’t hold up well under questioning during the Dover trial.

Continue reading Behe Disproves Irreducible Complexity at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

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