I'm from Missouri

This site is named for the famous statement of US Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver from Missouri : "I`m from Missouri -- you'll have to show me." This site is dedicated to skepticism of official dogma in all subjects. Just-so stories are not accepted here. This is a site where controversial subjects such as evolution theory and the Holocaust may be freely debated.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

My biggest motivation for creating my own blogs was to avoid the arbitrary censorship practiced by other blogs and various other Internet forums. Censorship will be avoided in my blogs -- there will be no deletion of comments, no closing of comment threads, no holding up of comments for moderation, and no commenter registration hassles. Comments containing nothing but insults and/or ad hominem attacks are discouraged. My non-response to a particular comment should not be interpreted as agreement, approval, or inability to answer.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Learning about ID without learning about ID

The National Council for the Social Studies' position statement on Intelligent Design says,
.
Teaching Recommendations

Prior to teaching about intelligent design, social studies teachers should check their district's policies related to teaching controversial issues and teaching about religion. There are a number of ways in which social studies teachers might introduce the issues surrounding intelligent design in their curriculum. The following recommendations examine the issues from a social studies, rather than a religious, perspective.

Constitutional perspective: A teacher using this approach would focus on court cases that consider policies requiring the teaching of intelligent design in public schools and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Historical perspective: A teacher adopting this perspective would focus on the historical conflict between science and religion since the Middle Ages, with particular attention to public debates over the teaching of evolution in the United States in the past century.


Sociological perspective: A teacher using this lens would focus on competing organizations and social forces involved in the attempts to teach about intelligent design in the schools.


Anthropological perspective: A teacher choosing this perspective would have students analyze creation stories and beliefs of many cultures as well as scientific theories dealing with the origin and development of human life.


Public issues perspectives: A teacher using this approach would encourage students to research intelligent design and debate whether intelligent design should be taught in the public schools.

The big question is: how are students going to understand any of the above "perspectives" without understanding what ID is? Also, ID is not a religious concept -- ID makes no references to religious sources and there is nothing in the bible about bacterial flagella, blood-clotting cascades, DNA, etc..

As for the statement, "The following recommendations examine the issues from a social studies, rather than a religious, perspective," ID and some other criticisms of Darwinism can examine the issues from a scientific perspective.

Also, the NCSS position paper makes the common mistake of ignoring non-ID scientific (or pseudoscientific, to some) criticisms of evolution, e.g., criticisms concerning the co-evolution of co-dependent organisms such as bees and flowering plants. Co-evolution is completely different from adaptation to widespread physical features of the environment, e.g., water, land, air, and climate, because in co-evolution there may be nothing to adapt to because the corresponding co-dependent feature in the other organism may be initially absent.
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31 Comments:

Anonymous Voice in the Urbanness said...

> ID is not a religious concept <

Of course it is. Only the cretin Larry Fafarman believes in design without a designer.

Saturday, October 06, 2007 5:55:00 AM  
Blogger Moulton said...

The closest thing in the Old Testament to bacteria is the description of the Plagues in Exodus.

In particular, Boils and Cattle Disease appear to be Cutaneous Anthrax and Intestinal Anthrax, respectively.

The name, Anthrax is related to the name of a kind of coal, Anthracite.

That's because an Anthrax Boil on the skin looks very much like a sooty smudge, such as one would get from brushing up against a sooty fireplace grate.

In Exodus (9:8-9), Moses is inspired to take handful of soot from a furnace, and toss it up in the air in front of Ramses. In a remarkable bit of stagecraft, this soot becomes fine dust settling over the Egyptian countryside, as man and beast break out with boils and sores corresponding to Cutaneous Anthrax.

Was it real Anthrax, or just frightening stagecraft? When it comes to instilling fear in ignorant authority figures, reality and shreklisch illusion are sometimes hard to distinguish.

Saturday, October 06, 2007 6:12:00 AM  
Anonymous sp said...

schrecklich

Saturday, October 06, 2007 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger Jim Sherwood said...

Moulton is surely right that fears, desires, and illusion are always present: although I haven't plumbed the depths of the abstract depth-psychology to which he evidently adheres.

And although I "meditate," I don't have any particulary well-defined "religious convictions," and thus have no experience of any "ectstacy" that might result from them. There are a few practical problems, especially on the Internet:

If an Online beauty's so sweet
She feels, "I'm too honest to cheat
By getting my friends
To vote twice: that bends
The rules;" she's easy to beat.

But a moderate blogger, Moulton,
Proposed to impose a bolt on
Belittling spite:
"Come on! Let's fight
A more sensitive war! So no Colt on!"

Yet a disputant cried, "On that score,
All's moral in fighting a war!
Or enemy cheating
Will win by defeating
All virtue! I'll slash as before!"

Fred Hoyle, a pretty good scientist and a non-Darwinist, had this opinion of hypercompetitive attitudes:

"The protective instinct in man took a long step backwards from 1860 onwards. Whether Darwinism with it's philosophy that opportunism is all, was the cause of the Realpolitik that overwhelmed the world from 1860 onwards, or whether it was Realpolitik that spawned Darwinism, is hard to say, for the two went hand-in-hand, leading with mounting inevitability to two World Wars in the present century..."
(from Hoyle's book The Intelligent Universe, 1984, p.251.)

Saturday, October 06, 2007 2:47:00 PM  
Blogger Moulton said...

One of the practical measures of Intelligence is the ability to reduce Entropy.

Of course there are mechanisms that fight against Entropy without being intentionally designed or engineered. These naturally occurring mechanisms are an emergent feature of recursion laws that provide a contraction mapping in the sense of Fixed Point Theory.

Fractal textures can be produced by mathematically engineered recursion laws, but there are also plenty of fractal textures that arise naturally. Most of of know that "Jack Frost" is just a whimsical character who purports to paint ice crystals on our windows. Once a child is old enough to appreciate the mathematics of fractals, we no longer need to invoke a talented artist of the caliber of "Jack Frost" to explain the phenomenon of ice crystals.

To my mind, the mathematics of Chaos Theory and Fixed Point Theory is far more awe-inspiring than a storybook agent who makes rainbows, ice crystals, and clouds.

Saturday, October 06, 2007 3:17:00 PM  
Blogger Jim Sherwood said...

I agree with Larry's statement that ID itself is not a religious concept. It rests upon an analysis of established facts in biology, and sometimes in cosmology. How valid that analysis is may, of course, be open to dispute. And of course non-ID critiques of Darwinism are in no sense religious per se. They might lead to the conclusion that scientifically we simply don't know what agencies caused evolution. Sometimes I find that appealing.

Moulton may be suprised to learn that I don't believe in a supernatural Creator-God, or in anything else that might be regarded as a fanciful story-book
agent.

Saturday, October 06, 2007 4:13:00 PM  
Blogger Moulton said...

One of the interesting issues in these discussions is what is meant by a 'religion' or a 'religious belief and practice'.

I like to define a 'religion' as a set of beliefs and derivative practices adopted on faith.

Under that (liberal) definition, the belief in science and the scientific method is a kind of religion. I adopt the scientific method on faith.

Under that same definition, the belief in, and practice of the Rule of Law is also a kind of religion, since most people also adopt it on faith.

Among the promises of the Rule of Law are social order, stability, and predictability.

If one were to examine that belief the way a mathematician examines a theorem, what do you expect would be the result?

Can the Rule of Law be shown, mathematically, to yield order and stability? Or can it be shown to yield mathematical chaos, instability, and liminal social drama?

If the latter is the case, is there an alternative regulatory mechanism that is superior to the Rule of Law?

Saturday, October 06, 2007 5:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regardless of whether the concept of ID is religious or not, by looking at its main proponents, it's obvious that motivation behind introducing ID into the education system is to promote and indoctrinate students on the Christian religion. If it was offered as an elective course on philosophy or religion, it wouldn't be a much of a problem, but instead, it is being forced into the biological science curriculum with the intent of attacking the validity evolutionary theory, which JUST COINCIDENTALLY contradicts most of what the ID proponents believe regarding the origins and progression of life on earth. As of right now, the motives behind the proponents of ID are dishonest at best.

By itself in its non-religious form, ID is still bad science, and should have no place within a science curriculum. The scientific method itself requires observation and experimentation before coming to explanatory conclusions regarding the cause of a particular phenomenon. ID throws out the experimentation and replaces it with a cookie cutter "some sort of metaphysical force or entity is responsible for the phenomenon being observed" explanation. Now imagine if all scientific progress relied on this concept. Back in the days before the discovery of microorganisms, humanity was largely ignorant on the cause of diseases, food spoilage, and the harmful effects of poor sanitation. Now imagine if the method of determining the causes of these phenomenon relied on ID. We would have still be thinking "some metaphysical force or entity" is responsible for these ailments on humanity, instead of developing drugs, food handling techniques, and waste management procedures to remove the harmful microorganisms responsible from our living environment. Even as a non-religious concept, ID is bad for scientific progress and should have no place within a science curriculum.

Sunday, October 07, 2007 2:24:00 AM  
Blogger Moulton said...

For reasons unbeknownst to me, many people who are presumably familiar with the biological sciences hold the view that Darwin's Theory explains the origin of life on this planet.

It does not.

Darwin's theory does not even address the origin of life.

Darwin's theory is about how new species arise from existing species.

Darwin's theory makes no guess about how life itself ever got started in the first place, and Darwin himself noted this point.

Biologists have long been trying to develop a model to explain how DNA-based life could have gotten started in the first place, before there were any species at all.

The origin of life is still an open question.

Sunday, October 07, 2007 2:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Sorcerer's Apprentice said...

The origin of life is still an open question.

I demand equal time for studying the Origin of Klutziness (better known as "Apprentice Design").

Sunday, October 07, 2007 1:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

> I agree with Larry's statement that ID itself is not a religious concept. <

As "Jim Sherwood" is one of the pseudonyms that Larry has used, I would expect that you should agree. Of course Larry is not above arguing with himself.

Sunday, October 07, 2007 1:09:00 PM  
Blogger Moulton said...

Mebbe we can also take a few more millennia to study the Origin of Unoriginality.

Sunday, October 07, 2007 1:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Tar Baby said...

(Quoting "Jim Sherwood" ...)

Moulton is surely right that fears, desires, and illusion are always present: although I haven't plumbed the depths of the abstract depth-psychology to which he evidently adheres.

Next time try epoxy.

Sunday, October 07, 2007 2:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Plumber's Crack said...

Or solder.

Sunday, October 07, 2007 2:51:00 PM  
Blogger Moulton said...

What this site needs is a functional Social Contract.

Sunday, October 07, 2007 6:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>>The origin of life is still an open question.<<<

At least with real science, attempts are still being made to answer this question. We've even gotten as far as generating the necessary amino acids for DNA through simulation of primordial earth environments.

With ID, we'd still be stuck with "a metaphysical force or entity is responsible for this phenomenon" as an answer. Granted Darwin's theories don't directly address the origins of life on earth, but his teachings have given us a good direction on where to look through the environmental factors that affect a species' evolution.

Sunday, October 07, 2007 10:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Dave Fafarman said...

< The origin of life is still an open question. >

Are prions a life form? That too is an "open question". They exist and multiply apparently without benefit of nucleic acids.

Moulton, it tickles me that you are putting the deus ex machina at the formation of DNA, since it's likely that DNA had an extra-terrestrial origin. Specifically, a Martian origin.

DNA would have eventually been invented on Earth, since natural selection does work at the molecular level and DNA is the best carbon-based substance for the purpose. However, the early period of Intense Bombardment was an awful environment on Earth. The worst of it came toward the end, when a giant impact formed the Moon (and left the Earth's surface a cauldron of lava). At that time the climate of Mars would have been quite pleasant.

It is hard for rocks blown off the Earth's surface by meteorites to make it to Mars, because Earth's gravity is strong and the air slows them down on the way out. But ejecta from Mars arrive here often.

Antarctica has the best meteorite hunting in the world. They stick out like a sore thumb on the ice sheet, and can be recognized at a glance from fifty feet away. The meteorite ALH84001 appears to have possible microfossils in it. A similar meteorite could have -- and probably did -- deliver the first DNA to Earth four billion or so years ago. Saved us a hundred million years?

It'll be very interesting, if and when evidence of life is found on Mars, to see if its chirality matches ours.

Monday, October 08, 2007 1:47:00 AM  
Blogger Moulton said...

A lot of biologists wonder if DNA-based archaeobacteria didn't arrive here on cosmic dust, having been originally formed elsewhere in the cosmos.

If we ever get around to digging into the soil of Mars, Europa, and Titan, we might find the evidence to support the Panspermia Theory.

Even if DNA-based archaeobacteria arrived here after making a rest stop on Mars, that still begs the question of where and how DNA-based life originated in the first place.

It's an open question whether or not PNA (polynucleic acids) could have arisen through natural processes of molecular chemistry and then evolved into DNA with its remarkable coding system for reliably sequencing amino acids into long protein chains. It was hard enough for Watson and Crick to even discover the structure of DNA. Imagine some brilliant molecular engineer trying to invent it, along with the all the rest of the machinery of the cell needed to sustain a survivable self-replicating system.

Prions are misfolded proteins. With the exception of fairly short amino acid sequences, protein chains that are long enough to admit of multiple foldings are produced by the machinery of living cells, transcribing DNA into proteins. The mimetic folding pathology associated with prions is similar to replicated geometries in crystal growth.

An even better metaphor is crossing one's legs in a theater. If the seats are close together, everyone is obliged to cross their legs in the same direction as the first person to adopt that posture. And it's similar to all fish in a school orienting in the same direction. There simply isn't enough room to orient at odds to one's neighbors.

Monday, October 08, 2007 5:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Dave Fafarman said...

Even if DNA-based archaeobacteria arrived here after making a rest stop on Mars, that still begs the question of where and how DNA-based life originated in the first place.

Not really. Extremophiles are mighty tough, but they do have some requirements. Nothing living has been found on the Moon. Quite a few meteorites have complex organic compounds, but it's only this Martian one that has aroused suspicion of containing fossil bacteria. Life did have to start somewhere, and Mars is the best candidate IMO just because of its location and the timing -- it had the head start of favorable conditions.

It was hard enough for Watson and Crick to even discover the structure of DNA. Imagine some brilliant molecular engineer trying to invent it ...

And thereby you show one of the big illusions of "intelligent design". DNA is about the simplest scheme that could have been used, a "4-bit" information code. Pretty obvious with 20-20 hindsight, which intelligent beings are especially good at. An "intelligent designer" likely would have gone for at least an 8-bit scheme, but that would be much less serendipitous.

KISS. Keep it simple, stupid (not "smarty").

Monday, October 08, 2007 9:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Bill Carter said...

Dave,

Excellent posts, especially considering that according to Larry, neither of us exist!

Monday, October 08, 2007 9:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Dave Fafarman said...

< Prions are misfolded proteins. >

Misfolded from our perspective. Not from theirs.

Monday, October 08, 2007 9:49:00 AM  
Blogger Moulton said...

DNA has 2 bits per base-pair and 3 base-pairs per codon, giving 64 different possible codon triplets. These 64-codon triplets map onto twenty-some amino acids, plus some "punctuation marks."

So it's a 6-bit code, not a 4-bit code.

The whole transcription system is remarkably ingenious, and its origin remains to be explained.

Monday, October 08, 2007 12:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The whole transcription system is remarkably ingenious, and its origin remains to be explained."

Neither teleological suppositions nor arguments from ignorance are very compelling.

You may disagree and continue to think the origin of genetic coding has yet to be divined, but the vast majority of the relevant portion of scientific community on that topic does not agree with your view and finds it a settled matter.

Still want to claim you're not an ID proponent?

Monday, October 08, 2007 1:57:00 PM  
Blogger Moulton said...

I'm not aware of any settled scientific theory explaining how, when or where the DNA coding system arose.

Monday, October 08, 2007 2:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Dave Fafarman said...

Moulton,

2, 3, 64, 6, 4

I should have said "4 states" rather than "4 bits". They're encoded into one bit, much as our computers encode two states into one bit. Your quibble is like saying that, because computers store a language character with 5, 6, 7, 8, 16, or more bits, an integer (nowadays) with 16 or 32 bits, and a real number (nowadays) with 32, 64, or 80 bits, that somehow the basic on/off semiconductor state is irrelevant.

its origin remains to be explained

It was explained, but you have a preconceived illusion that was not satisfied.

... scientific theory explaining how, when or where the DNA coding system arose.

Where: Some millions of Earthlike planets in our galaxy alone. (Likely Mars in our case.)

When: In our case, approx. four billion years ago.

How: Suitable conditions for long enough.

Monday, October 08, 2007 9:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Dave Fafarman said...

This is a bit of a digression, but a current event sheds additional light on the cognitive harm that results from a misplaced focus on the supernatural. (That's besides Moulton's difficulty conceiving the implications of his ideas, such as we saw with his attempt to "solve" the creation dilemma by simply deferring it to "panspermia" -- as if that helped -- "begs the question" indeed.)

By all accounts, George W. Bush is a sincere evangelical Christian. I say that not to be critical (for the record, I am not a "Bush-basher"). He is also (and this is a compliment) dedicated to civility and tolerance. But he does not recognize when these values are in conflict, and tries to sweep the conflict under the rug.

In an interview, Bush has repeated his belief that all religions, "whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, pray to the same God". Clearly, that cannot be true. Each religion has its Holy Book, and they contradict each other. Either the Holy Books' pronouncements must be taken with a grain of salt (in which case they're not exactly "Gods"), or the "Gods" are not the same. You can't have it both ways.

Bush's pronouncement must therefore be seen as a wishful thinking entreaty to the Muslims to also practice tolerance. He thinks maybe if he says it often enough it'll become true. Good luck!

What Bush perhaps means to say is that members of all religions have a wish for some sort of God, and they might recognize similarities in the attributes sought. But that's a very different concept, and there's not much comfort in it.

Monday, October 08, 2007 10:02:00 PM  
Blogger Moulton said...

The four symbols, A, G, T, C, are encoded into 2 bits. It takes 2 bits to distinguish among four symbols. There are 64 possible codon triplets, corresponding to 2x3 = 6 bits.

While the operational characteristics of the DNA code, and its transcription into proteins is now well understood, scientists do not yet have a good model of how such a system ever came into existence in the first place.

Scientists do not yet have a good model for abiogenesis, assuming that it took place here on Earth, some 4.5 billion years ago. And if instead of local abiogenesis, archaeobacteria arrived here aboard cosmic dust, then we have even less to go on.

Take, for example, the article by Albrecht Moritz, which summarizes what we know about possible mechanisms of abiogenesis. Moritz says, "Compared to science of evolution, the science of abiogenesis (origin of life) is still seriously underdeveloped in its explanatory power, despite the recent progress."

After reviewing various competing hypotheses for abiogenesis, Moritz concludes, "Although much of the above scenario of origin of life is still highly speculative, it is not entirely implausible."

What the "recent progress" is about has to do with whether the DNA code is a "frozen accident" as suggested by Watson and Crick, or an optimal code among many possible variants of the genetic code. Recent research suggests that the specific code found in most life on Earth emerged from among the possible variants because it is marginally more stable and robust than the other codes.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007 2:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Dave Fafarman said...

Good post, and an interesting article at the link. (BTW, the article's explanation of the origin of chirality is much more satisfactory IMO than its attribution to the "weak force" by the article that I had linked to earlier.)

What the "recent progress" is about has to do with whether the DNA code is a "frozen accident" as suggested by Watson and Crick, or an optimal code among many possible variants of the genetic code.

It's not an "either-or". There is a constant tension between "good enough" and "better", and the end result reflects the historical outcome of many such bifurcation points.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger Moulton said...

Given 64 codon triplets and some 20 amino acids, there is only a finite number of possible non-overlapping mappings.

Given the stereochemistry requirements of the tRNA adaptors, most of the mappings admit of no (known) functional implementations.

Of the several alternate mappings that are known to exist, micro-evolution would suggest that those which are most reliable and robust would emerge and become established.

Because these alternate mappings are finite in number, they cannot improve indefinitely.

The residual imperfections in the reproductive fidelity provide one of the modes for the occasional mutation that potentially gives rise to a new species.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007 11:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Bill Carter said...

> In an interview, Bush has repeated his belief that all religions, "whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, pray to the same God". Clearly, that cannot be true. <

Clearly, it could. (I am not claiming that it is true, just that your logic fails.)

> Each religion has its Holy Book, and they contradict each other. <

While each religion claims that its Holy Book is the work of God, they are all quite obviously the works of various men.

> Either the Holy Books' pronouncements must be taken with a grain of salt (in which case they're not exactly "Gods") <

This is a different argument. It would hold water only if we claim that these books are really God's work. Your wording would seem to say that the books themselves are gods. Let's leave out the Sikh belief that a particular book is the eleventh guru.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007 4:47:00 PM  
Blogger Moulton said...

Is God a Taoist?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 6:54:00 AM  

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