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.

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.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

National Center for Science Education really getting hell now

Richard Hoppe, who originally wrote a Panda's Thumb article completely defending the National Center for Science Education against the charges of Jerry Coyne, has now backed off and now only partially defends NCSE against those charges. Hoppe now says,

Coyne is right in one respect, and I withdraw my wholesale rejection of his argument. I think (writing now as a Life Member) that NCSE has recently made a mistake in going beyond simply pointing to individuals and organizations who have somehow reconciled their science and religious beliefs to counter the creationist equation of evolution with atheism. In the essays by Peter M. J. Hess that apparently are the basis of the NCSE Faith Project, there is an endorsement of a particular view of the relationship, an adaptation of Gould’s Nonoverlapping magisteria with a dose of complementarian thinking . . . .
Hess has here argued for a complementarian view of the relation between religious belief and evolution that is very similar to Gould’s NOMA, which is also a view that is clearly visible in the writings of people like Denis Lamoureax, a self-identified evangelical Christian and “evolutionary creationist.” . . .

In its Faith Project, then, I think that NCSE has gone beyond its remit and past where it can be effective. I now think – in agreement with Coyne, PZ, and others – that it should back off from describing particular ways of reconciling science and religion. Pointing to religious people and organizations who have made their peace with science and evolution is appropriate, but going past that to describing particular ways of making that peace is a mistake. NCSE ought not wade into theological swamps.

So yeah, I was wrong to overstate my case. Sorry, folks.

Hoppe previously said in the same article,

The creationist assault on public education has two main prongs. One is to attack, misrepresent, and distort the science, and NCSE has a wealth of resources for blunting that attack. . . . .

The second main prong of the creationist assault is to equate evolution with atheism. That is a ubiquitous theme from the whole range of creationists, from Kent Hovind’s ravings to the Disco ‘Tute’s anti-naturalism Wedge document. I hear it, every one of us working with local and state boards of education hears it. It’s in the creationist mailers, it’s in their pamphlets, and it’s in their public statements to school boards.

"A ubiquitous theme from the whole range of creationists"? I don't always hear creationists equating evolution with atheism. Certainly creationists have other arguments against evolution -- including scientific (pseudoscientific to some) arguments -- and hence do not necessarily need to equate evolution and atheism. The website of Answers-in-Genesis, for example, has many articles that do not equate evolution with atheism. Hoppe himself said that the first main prong of the creationist assault on public education is to attack the science. And saying that there is a conflict between evolution and religion is not necessarily the same as equating evolution with atheism.

Hoppe says,

And NCSE completely appropriately provides information to “parents and concerned citizens” about that issue. It completely appropriately points out that there are believers – self identified Christians – who accept that evolution has occurred (it’s a fact) and that the modern theory of evolution is the best available naturalistic explanation of that fact. Moreover, NCSE completely appropriately points to religious organizations that have stated that they accept that.

One cannot argue that pointing to the existence of people and organizations that contradict a main prong of the creationist attack on public school education constitutes an “endorsement.” It’s merely pointing to a fact.

What does constitute an "endorsement" is NCSE's pretending that people who see a conflict between evolution and religion — whether they are bible-pounding holy-rolling fundies or godless blasphemous sacrilegious atheists, or something in-between — don’t even exist. For example, as I pointed out before, NCSE has a collection of religious organizations' statements regarding the compatibility of evolution and religion, and all of those statements see no conflict between evolution and religion. [link] NCSE is not the place to go for a broad overview of the various views on the compatibility of evolution and religion.

Panda's Thumb now has several articles about the controversy over the National Center for Science Education. [link] [link] [link] [link] Jerry Coyne's articles are here, here, and here.



Sleazy PZ Myers' arbitrary censorship goes off the deep end

I still get a lot of trolls' comments accusing me of arbitrarily censoring visitors' comments. I also get trolls' comments complaining that my following commenting policy is too harsh: (1) no scoffing-only comments, (2) no gossip about my private affairs, and (3) no lying about objective facts. I don't publish a lot of these comments because they violate the comment rules themselves. Of course, these lousy trolls don't complain about the really bad arbitrary censorship that happens on Darwinist blogs.

The Darwinists are finally getting a taste of the really bad arbitrary censorship that I have experienced on Darwinist blogs. Here is a comment exchange on Panda's Thumb where Sleazy PZ bans a commenter for not financially contributing to the National Center for Science Education [link]:
PZ Myers | April 28, 2009 9:40 PM | Reply | Edit
Raging Bee, stuff it.

You’re done commenting in this thread. I’ll let you back after you’ve sent in your check to the NCSE. Until then…your hypocrisy is intolerable.

jfx replied to comment from PZ Myers | April 28, 2009 9:53 PM | Reply | Edit
What the hell? In order to defend the NCSE on a blog, you have to contribute money to them?

PZ Myers, your authoritarian jackassedness is intolerable. I don’t need to tell you to stuff it. You already stuffed it. Reason, logic, civility…you’ve stuffed them all, right up your own arse. Who made you Culture Czar? Who made you God of the Blogosphere? Come down off your high embryo, and grow a pair of civilized balls.

Sheesh. Jerk.

PZ Myers | April 28, 2009 10:01 PM | Reply | Edit
Raging Bee’s persistent shrieking over this issue implies that he or she thinks the NCSE is very important. That he or she won’t even plunk down a few dollars in support of the organization is a rather stark contrast – no, you don’t have to be a member of the organization to post here. But throwing hissy fits on behalf of an organization that obviously means so little is hypocritical and offensive. Raging Bee is out of this discussion for being a dishonest fraud.

And what about you, O Hysterical Defender of the NCSE? Are you a member, too?

Dale Husband | April 28, 2009 10:02 PM | Reply | Edit
This discussion has spiraled out of control. I’m done with it.

I am proud to head Sleazy PZ's "killfile dungeon" list of commenters who are banned from his Pharyngula blog.

I am also delighted to see the Darwinists quarreling among themselves over that lousy outfit, the NCSE.

I also found this gem on the same comment thread:

Registered User | April 28, 2009 9:07 PM | Reply | Edit

. . . . .Every time that the creatards are kicked in the shins, they need to be kicked in the stomach, too, and thrown in the dumpster before they regain consciousness. Rhetorically speaking, of course. The idiocy, the sick lying idiocy, the warped bigoted ignorance-embracing agenda, it must be brought up and put out into the open at every opportunity. It will take time but constant ridicule and scorn will ensure that eventually more and more people will “get it.”

But the lame pandering and the condescending “Try science – it goes great with religion!” has got to stop. It’s puke-worthy and transparent and makes us look as shallow and craven as the creotards who tell kids to “get high on Jesus.”

These are the Darwinists that the signers of the Clergy Letter are trying to appease. As Winston Churchill said, "an appeaser is someone who feeds a crocodile in the hope that it will eat him last."



Monday, April 27, 2009

National Center for Science Education hypes pro-Darwinist religious beliefs

The controversy over the National Science for Selling Evolution -- a controversy sparked by an article on Jerry Coyne's blog -- is really heating up on Panda's Thumb. [link] [link] It is now the Darwinists who are attacking the NCSE. Darwinist apologists for the NCSE are saying that all the NCSE is doing is pointing out that a lot of religious people see no conflict between evolution and religion (but is there a well-informed person in America who does not already know that?). But the NCSE is doing much more than that -- visiting the NCSE website and clicking on "Religion" in the left sidebar shows that the NCSE has got more religion than a revival meeting. An NCSE list of links says,

Here are some resources for getting started:
God and Evolution
Reading the Bible
The Clergy Letter Project
"Do Scientists Really Reject God?"
Resources especially for clergy

The webpage with "resources especially for clergy" has the following list of links:

The Creation/Evolution Continuum

Why Teach Evolution?

God and Evolution

Religious Perspectives

Commentary on Science and Relgion (sic)

Scientific Perspectives

What is Paleontology?

How Do I Read the Bible? Let Me Count the Ways

Definitions of Fact, Theory, and Law in Scientific Work

How Old is the Earth?

Companion Guide to PBS "Evolution" Series

The Clergy Letter Project seeks rabbis

The webpage on reading the Bible begins,
Opponents of evolution often claim that their opposition is based upon a lack of supporting scientific evidence. In reality, their objection stems from a more basic issue: how to read the bible and interpret the view of nature it projects.

Sick, sick, sick!

Here is the NCSE webpage that was linked by the "Understanding Evolution" webpage that was the cause of action in Caldwell v. Caldwell:

Statements from Religious Organizations

For more information about religious perspectives on evolution, please see the Science and Religion section of our website.

188 Wisconsin Clergy
African-Americans for Humanism
American Humanist Association
American Jewish Committee
American Jewish Congress
American Scientific Affiliation
Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism
Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta, Pastoral Letter
Episcopal Church, General Convention (1982)
Episcopal Church, General Convention (2006)
General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
Humanist Association of Canada
Lexington Alliance of Religious Leaders
Lutheran World Federation
National Council of Jewish Women
Rabbinical Council of America
Roman Catholic Church (1981)
Roman Catholic Church (1996)
Unitarian Universalist Association (1977)
Unitarian Universalist Association (1982)
United Church Board for Homeland Ministries
United Methodist Church
United Presbyterian Church in the USA (1982)
United Presbyterian Church in the USA (1983)

None of the statements listed above see a conflict between evolution and religion.

Wikipedia says,

in the U.S., many Protestant denominations promote creationism, preach against evolution from the pulpits, and sponsor lectures and debates on the subject. A list of denominations that explicitly advocate creationism instead of Darwinism or evolution include the Assemblies of God, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Free Methodist Church, the Jehovah's Witnesses, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, Pentecostal Churches, Seventh-day Adventist Churches, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, Christian Reformed Church, and the Pentecostal Oneness churches.

Also, in a recent poll, only 8 percent of Jehovah's Witnesses agreed that "evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth." Also, individual religious leaders -- e.g., Cardinal Schönborn and the Archbishop of Canterbury -- have criticized evolution theory.

In an article titled, "Dealing with Anti-evolutionism," NCSE Director Eugenie Scott said,

Teachers have told me they have had good results when they begin the year by asking students to brainstorm what they think the words "evolution" and "creationism" mean . . . .

After one such initial brainstorming session, one teacher presented students with a short quiz wherein they were asked, "Which statement was made by the Pope?" or "which statement was made by an Episcopal Bishop?" and given an "a, b, c" multiple choice selection. All the statements from theologians, of course, stressed the compatibility of theology with the science of evolution. This generated discussion about what evolution was versus what students thought it was. By making the students aware of the diversity of opinion towards evolution extant in Christian theology, the teacher helped them understand that they didn't have to make a choice between evolution and religious faith.

A teacher in Minnesota told me that he had good luck sending his students out at the beginning of the semester to interview their pastors and priests about evolution. They came back somewhat astonished, "Hey! Evolution is OK!" Even when there was diversity in opinion, with some religious leaders accepting evolution as compatible with their theology and others rejecting it, it was educational for the students to find out for themselves that there was no single Christian perspective on evolution. The survey-of-ministers approach may not work if the community is religiously homogeneous, especially if that homogeneity is conservative Christian, but it is something that some teachers might consider as a way of getting students' fingers out of their ears.

Unbelievable, coming from the director of an organization that claims that it doesn't take sides in the evolution v. religion controversy.

NCSE even has a staff position called "Faith Project Director," filled by Peter M.J. Hess.

Also, if the NCSE really wanted to show that it is even-handed, then instead of saying something like, "a lot of people see no conflict between evolution and religion," NCSE would say something like, "a lot of people see no conflict between evolution and religion and a lot of other people see a conflict."



Sunday, April 26, 2009

Kitzmiller failed to follow Daubert standard of review for scientific questions

Every time I think that I have discovered everything that is bad about the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision, I discover something new. A decision that the Darwinists regard as a masterpiece is in reality a piece of junk.

The Supreme Court's decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993), is considered to be the de facto federal standard of judicial review for scientific questions. Daubert is based on the Federal Rules of Evidence. Daubert has been adopted as a standard of review by many states as well. However, I have been aware for a long time that although the Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion has a ~6000 word section that rules on the scientific merits of evolution and intelligent design, KItzmiller does not cite Daubert, the pertinent rules in the Federal Rules of Evidence, or any other standard of review for scientific questions. I thought that this very serious omission of the Daubert standard might have just been an oversight on Judge "Jackass" Jones' part, but recently I discovered what might be the real reason for the omission. In the Q&A session in Jones' recent talk at Case Western Reserve University, a questioner asked about the Daubert standard. Judge Jones' response showed that he mistakenly believed that Daubert applies only to jury trials, and that belief could be the reason for his failure to cite Daubert in his Kitzmiller opinion. The Daubert opinion discusses jury trials but does not indicate in any way that the decision is restricted to jury trials. Daubert's syllabus does not even mention jury trials at all. The rules of the Federal Rules of Evidence that the Daubert decision is based on are not restricted to jury trials. There is no reason whatsover to believe that Daubert is restricted to jury trials. And I assert that Daubert and the Federal Rules of Evidence are applicable not only to the admissibility and excludability of evidence but also to the analysis and evaluation of evidence.

I assert that Judge Jones' rulings on the scientific merits of evolution and intelligent design are not consistent with the Daubert standard. The Kitzmiller opinion says (pages 88-89),
After this searching and careful review of ID as espoused by its proponents, as elaborated upon in submissions to the Court, and as scrutinized over a six week trial, we find that ID is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community.

Prior to Daubert and the adoption of the Federal Rules of Evidence, the standard of review for scientific questions was the Frye test (from Frye v. United States), which was general acceptance in the scientific community. Daubert ruled that this general acceptance would no longer be the sole criterion. Daubert also ruled that scientific arguments could not be rejected solely on the basis of lack of publication in peer-reviewed journals (incidentally, such publication is evidence -- but not proof -- of general acceptance). However, Daubert also ruled that general acceptance in the scientific community and publication in peer-reviewed journals could be factors in the judicial review of scientific questions -- they could just not be controlling factors.

The opinion of the court says in Daubert,

The District Court granted respondent's motion for summary judgment. The court stated that scientific evidence is admissible only if the principle upon which it is based is " `sufficiently established to have general acceptance in the field to which it belongs.' " . . . .

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed. 951 F.2d 1128 (1991). Citing Frye v. United States, 54 App. D.C. 46, 47, 293 F. 1013, 1014 (1923), the court stated that expert opinion based on a scientific technique is inadmissible unless the technique is "generally accepted" as reliable in the relevant scientific community . . . . .

The court emphasized that other Courts of Appeals considering the risks of Bendectin had refused to admit reanalyses of epidemiological studies that had been neither published nor subjected to peer review. 951 F. 2d, at 1130-1131. Those courts had found unpublished reanalyses "particularly problematic in light of the massive weight of the original published studies supporting [respondent's] position, all of which had undergone full scrutiny from the scientific community."

The merits of the Frye test have been much debated, and scholarship on its proper scope and application is legion. Petitioners' primary attack, however, is not on the content but on the continuing authority of the rule. They contend that the Frye test was superseded by the adoption of the Federal Rules of Evidence. We agree. (emphasis added) . . . .

Here there is a specific Rule that speaks to the contested issue. Rule 702, governing expert testimony,provides:

"If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise." (note: Rule 702 has since been amended)

Nothing in the text of this Rule establishes "general acceptance" as an absolute prerequisite to admissibility. Nor does respondent present any clear indication that Rule 702 or the Rules as a whole were intended to incorporate a "general acceptance" standard . . . .

Another pertinent consideration is whether the theory or technique has been subjected to peer review and publication. Publication (which is but one element of peer review) is not a sine qua non of admissibility; it does not necessarily correlate with reliability, see S. Jasanoff, The Fifth Branch: Science Advisors as Policymakers 61-76 (1990), and in some instances well grounded but innovative theories will not have been published, see Horrobin, The Philosophical Basis of Peer Review and the Suppression of Innovation, 263 J. Am. Med. Assn. 1438 (1990). Some propositions, moreover, are too particular, too new, or of too limited interest to be published. But submission to the scrutiny of the scientific community is a component of "good science," in part because it increases the likelihood that substantive flaws in methodology will be detected. See J. Ziman, Reliable Knowledge: An Exploration of the Grounds for Belief in Science 130-133 (1978); Relman and Angell, How Good Is Peer Review?, 321 New Eng. J. Med. 827 (1989). The fact of publication (or lack thereof) in a peer reviewed journal thus will be a relevant, though not dispositive, consideration in assessing the scientific validity of a particular technique or methodology on which an opinion is premised . . .

Finally, "general acceptance" can yet have a bearing on the inquiry. A "reliability assessment does not require, although it does permit, explicit identification of a relevant scientific community and an express determination of a particular degree of acceptance within that community." United States v. Downing, 753 F. 2d, at 1238 . . . . .

Respondent expresses apprehension that abandonment of "general acceptance" as the exclusive requirement for admission will result in a "free for all" in which befuddled juries are confounded by absurd and irrational pseudoscientific assertions (note: this is one of the places where juries are mentioned, but there is no indication that the decision was intended to apply only to jury trials) . . . . . .

Petitioners and, to a greater extent, their amici exhibit a different concern. They suggest that recognition of a screening role for the judge that allows for the exclusion of "invalid" evidence will sanction a stifling and repressive scientific orthodoxy and will be inimical to the search for truth.

Excellent point! The message that Judge Jones is giving to scientists and the publishers of peer-reviewed scientific journals is this: "If you want intelligent design to be rejected by the courts, don't show any support for it -- even when deserved -- and don't publish it in peer-reviewed scientific journals."

Unfortunately, Daubert does not mention that censorship and pressure to conform could prevent a good scientific idea from getting peer-reviewed publication or general acceptance.

The Daubert opinion of the court concludes,

The inquiries of the District Court and the Court of Appeals focused almost exclusively on "general acceptance," as gauged by publication and the decisions of other courts. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is vacated and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I assert that the Kitzmiller opinion gave more weight to general acceptance and peer-reviewed publication than is warranted by the Daubert standard. In any event, the Kitzmiller opinion's failure to cite Daubert and the pertinent rules of the Federal Rules of Evidence is a very serious omission.

Anyway, my main position is -- as I have frequently stated -- that scientific questions in the evolution controversy should be declared by the courts to be non-justiciable. These questions are like the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Questions are non-justiciable when there is “a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving the question.” Vieth v. Jubelirer, 541 U.S. 267 (2004). Even if a court could reach fair decisions on scientific questions about evolution after several weeks of scientific testimony, appellate courts would not want to rubber-stamp a district court's decisions about those questions, nor would appellate courts want to hear or review several weeks of scientific testimony. In Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court treated the global warming question as non-justiciable.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Discovery Institute Action Alert

FYI (as Chris Comer would say) --

I just received the following broadcast email from the Discovery Institute:

Academic Freedom Action Alert: Your Help Needed!

Darwinists Are Trying to Expel
Texas Board of Education Chairman

Chairman Targeted in Retaliation for Promoting Critical Thinking on Evolution

When elected officials take a stand for academic freedom, they become targets for the Darwin lobby. Because of his leadership and support for critical thinking on evolution, Texas State Board of Education Chair Don McLeroy has been targeted by Darwin's defenders in the Texas Senate who want to remove him from his position. Less than a month ago, the Texas Board adopted landmark science standards that will protect teachers who want to let students evaluate and critique the evidence for Darwinian evolution. Now Darwinists are trying to convince the state Senate to block McLeroy's reappointment as Board Chair.

"Supporting those, like Don McLeroy, who take a stand for academic freedom to question evolution at personal cost is one of the most important and effective things citizens can do," said CSC Associate Director John West. "It sends a message to elected officials that expelling leaders like Dr. McLeroy because of their stance on Darwin's theory is simply not acceptable."

Here's one thing you can do to help:
E-mail the chairman of the Senate Nominating Committee, Mike Jackson, at MIKE.JACKSON@SENATE.STATE.TX.US and tell him you support Dr. McLeroy as Chair of the State Board of Education. Be sure to e-mail the other committee members as well at these addresses: KEVIN.ELTIFE@SENATE.STATE.TX.US, GLENN.HEGAR@SENATE.STATE.TX.US, JANE.NELSON@SENATE.STATE.TX.US, ROBERT.NICHOLS@SENATE.STATE.TX.US, ELIOT.SHAPLEIGH@SENATE.STATE.TX.US, KIRK.WATSON@SENATE.STATE.TX.US

We've included a sample letter below:

Dear [Committee Member],

I support Don McLeroy as Chair of the State Board of Education, and I urge you to confirm the governor's nomination and bring it before the Senate for a vote.

Don McLeroy is a proven leader in education for Texas students. It is reprehensible that he has been targeted for removal because he has dared to question evolution and encouraged young minds to remain open to critical examination of Darwin's theory. It is for this reason that Darwin's defenders are trying to expel Dr. McLeroy from his role as SBOE Chair, and I hope that you will hear those of us who stand by Dr. McLeroy and support him against this political bullying by Darwinist groups.


[Your Name]

Please stand with Don McLeroy and support academic freedom in Texas. Forward this email to your friends and family, and let's show the Darwin-lobby that they cannot expel critical thinking from the science classroom.




Friday, April 24, 2009

Nazis mistreated GI's who looked like Jews or sounded like Jews

An AOL news article says,

Berga an der Elster was a slave labor camp where 350 U.S. soldiers were beaten, starved, and forced to work in tunnels for the German government. The soldiers were singled out for "looking like Jews" or "sounding like Jews," or dubbed as undesirables, according to survivors. More than 100 soldiers perished at the camp or on a forced death march.

Even Americans can't identify Americans who "sound" like Jews -- how could the Germans?

Anyway, this story is consistent with what I have been saying for a long time: A "systematic" Jewish holocaust was impossible because the Nazis had no objective and reliable ways of identifying Jews and non-Jews.



Jerry Coyne slams the hypocritical National Center for Science Education

In an article on his blog, Jerry Coyne shows why the NCSE is sometimes called the "National Center for Selling Evolution":

Among professional organizations that defend the teaching of evolution, perhaps the biggest offender in endorsing the harmony of science and faith is The National Center for Science Education. Although one of their officers told me that their official position on faith was only that “we will not criticize religions,” a perusal of their website shows that this is untrue. Not only does the NCSE not criticize religion, but it cuddles up to it, kisses it, and tells it that everything will be all right . . . .

I feel that in its battle against creationism, the NCSE should represent all evolutionary biologists. But they are not representing a lot of us when they nuzzle up to theologians and vigorously push the harmony of science and religion. In effect, they’re pretending that the many people who disagree with their philosophical message don’t exist. . . . . .

The NCSE also ignores theologians and religions groups that are critical of evolution theory -- e.g., Cardinal Schönborn, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Jerry Coyne says,
The pro-religion stance of the NCSE is offensive and unnecessary — a form of misguided pragmatism. First, it dilutes their mission of spreading Darwinism, by giving credibility to the views of scientists and theologians who are de facto creationists, whether they admit it or not. Second, it departs from their avowed mission to be philosophically neutral. Third, it disingenuously pretends that evolution poses absolutely no threat to faith, or conflicts with faith in any way . . . .

But despite their avowed commitment to not mixing philosophy with science, an important part of the NCSE’s activities is its “Faith Project,” whose director is the theologically trained Peter M. J. Hess. This project appears to be devoted entirely to the philosophical position that evolution need not conflict with “proper” faith.

Those who interpret the gospel literally but do not interpret the biblical creation story literally are a kind of "cafeteria Christian." But the only basis for believing the gospel is a belief in the inerrancy of the bible, and if the bible is inerrant, then the bible's creation story must be true. And the creation story is consistent with the idea of an all-powerful god whereas the gospel is not -- the god of the gospel is a weak, limited god who must battle Satan for control of the world.

Holier-than-thou theistic evolutionists consider Christian Darwin-doubters to be heretics and apostates. Theistic evolutionists not only view Darwin-doubters as ignorant and stupid but view them as sinners and blasphemers who mock god by questioning god's wisdom of using evolution as a method of creating. Theistic evolutionists have been enlisting the clergy in efforts to marginalize and ostracize Darwin-doubters (an example -- the Clergy Letter Project). Theistic evolutionists regard Darwin-doubters as agents of the devil. The theistic evolutionists are as bigoted and hate-filled as any bible-pounding holy-rolling fundy crackpot. William Dembski calls theistic evolutionism the "most implacable foe" of intelligent design:

Howard Van Till's review of my book No Free Lunch exemplifies perfectly why theistic evolution remains intelligent design's most implacable foe. Not only does theistic evolution sign off on the naturalism that pervades so much of contemporary science, but it justifies that naturalism theologically -- as though it were unworthy of God to create by any means other than an evolutionary process that carefully conceals God's tracks.

The theistic evolutionists have even enlisted the help of Judge "Jackass" Jones, who said in the Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion,

Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs' scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.




Thursday, April 23, 2009

Double standard: Judge Jones and the Texas board of education

There are now efforts in the Texas state legislature to do the following:

(1) -- remove the Texas board of education's powers to approve textbooks and state standards for education, and give those powers to appointed officials, e.g., the Texas Commissioner of Education.

(2) -- deny Don McLeroy the state senate's confirmation of his current position of board chairman.

The best source of information on these efforts is the blog of the Texas Freedom Network. I have posted a lot of comments on that blog.

The Darwinists just wanted the Texas board of education to rubber stamp the standards-drafting committees' proposed new state science standards without making any changes. If Judge John E. Jones III, who has no scientific background (he has a bachelor's degree in political science and a law degree), could rule on the scientific merits of intelligent design after hearing testimony from experts, then why can’t the Texas BOE — which has some members with science degrees and/or science teaching experience — also make decisions about questions requiring scientific knowledge? And the Darwinists don't even consider the Texas board of education qualified to make decisions on issues that do not require any expertise, e.g., the issue of whether to retain the "strengths and weaknesses" language in the state science standards.



Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ahmadinejad blames holocaust "myth" for Israeli-Palestinian conflict

From the National Post (Canada) Feb. 16, 2007


A news article says,
Geneva – A major UN anti-racism conference already wounded by the boycott of nine Western countries, opened Monday with the buzz of anticipation for a speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – the only head of state who accepted an invitation to attend.

Mr. Ahmadinejad, who has referred to the Holocaust as a "myth" and called for Israel to be "wiped off the map," assailed the West for supporting the creation of the Jewish state after the atrocities of World War II.

"Under the pretext of Jewish suffering, they have helped bring to power the most oppressive, racist regime in Palestine," he said, to loud applause from Iranian activists in the gallery and pockets of headscarved Muslim women on the floor. "They have always been silent about their crimes."

With that, the 23 European Union countries who had not yet boycotted the conference abandoned their seats and streamed out of the hall, which was met by a smattering of more applause.

Pres. Ahmadinejad is a rather unsavory character and it is unfortunate that he is one of the world's best-known holocaust revisionists -- it gives holocaust revisionism a bad name.

My position is that a "systematic" Jewish holocaust was impossible because the Nazis had no objective and reliable ways of identifying Jews and non-Jews.



Monday, April 20, 2009

Darwinist incivility

Brandon "Haughty" Haught, Communications Director of Florida Citizens for Science, used the terms "idiots," "smelly crap," "maliciously lying," and "wilfully ignorant" to describe critics and criticisms of evolution [link]:

Last year when the big fight over evolution in the state science standards was raging — both in the board of education and the legislature — I had mentioned a few times that these decision makers need to visit this museum [Florida Museum of Natural History] that’s right here in our own state. Now that I’ve finally had the opportunity to visit for myself, I will definitely be harping on this even more the next time idiots try to claim that evolution needs “critical analysis” or other such smelly crap. Spend a solid hour or more truly studying all that the fossil hall has to offer and there is no way a person can leave there thinking evolution is on shaky ground. To still think so would either mean the person is maliciously lying or willfully ignorant. Period.

As I previously noted, Haught is a recent recipient of the National Center for Science Education's "Friend of Darwin" award. [link] Also, he banned my coevolution ideas from the FCS blog. [link] He says my ideas about coevolution must be pre-approved by "experts" before they can be posted on the FCS blog! Who ever heard of such a thing? More people need to be aware of what the Darwinists are doing.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Judge Jones' Case Western Reserve speech


For a long time, I did not bother to listen to the video of Judge John E. "Jackass" Jones III's September 25 Case Western Reserve University speech because with my slow dial-up connection the video's loading time is about ten times as long as the video itself. However, there was really no good reason not to listen to the video -- unlike some other videos, I didn't even need to leave the computer idle while loading the video but could do other things on the computer while the video loaded in the background.

Here is my review of the video:
(1) The introducer gushingly praised Judge Jones and the Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion.

(2) Judge Jones repeated his claim that the work of judges is "workmanlike."[link] He says this to give the false impression that any other judge would have made the same decision and written the same opinion in the Kitzmiller v Dover case as he did. Of course, we know that judges are always disagreeing with each other, often sharply.

(3) None of the decision's critics that he mentioned by name are experts in the law and/or science -- he mentioned Bill O'Reilly, Pat Robertson, Phyllis Schlafly, and Ann Coulter. There has been a lot of criticism of his decision by scientific and legal experts -- some of these criticisms are discussed in this blog's two post-label groups titled "Expert opinions about Kitzmiller" [link] [link] (post-label groups are listed in the sidebar of the homepage). Several law journal articles criticized -- sometimes severely criticized -- the decision. Critics included anti-ID legal scholar Jay Wexler, who felt that Jones should not have ruled on the scientific merits of ID.[link]

(4) He repeated his charges that all of the critics of the Kitzmiller decision lack respect for "the rule of law" and "judicial independence" and he repeated his claim that this lack of respect is due to poor "civics education." [link] Those charges are easy to make when he cites only criticisms that do not use legal or scientific arguments.

(5) He praised the US Constitution. IMO it is OK for a judge to say that he believes in upholding the Constitution, but praising the Constitution suggests extreme prejudice against anything perceived as a possible violation of it. Many foreign countries do not have an establishment clause in their constitutions, but that does not mean that people in those countries are less free than we are. I may sound a little paranoid here, but Judge Jones has given good reason for paranoia.

(6) He did not repeat his Dickinson College commencement speech's statement that his Dover decision was based on his notion that the Founders based the establishment clause upon a belief that organized religions are not "true" religions. So far as I know, he never repeated that statement, and I suspect the reason for that is that he got a lot of hell for it. Here is what he said at Dickinson College [link]:

. . . this much is very clear. The Founders believed that true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible, but was to be found through free, rational inquiry. At bottom then, this core set of beliefs led the Founders, who constantly engaged and questioned things, to secure their idea of religious freedom by barring any alliance between church and state.

In the speech, Judge Jones claimed that he got this notion from his undergraduate days at Dickinson College, but in fact the above statement is a plagiarized quote mine from a book that was published long after he graduated. [link] And even some ardent supporters of the Kitzmiller decision -- e.g., Fatheaded Ed Brayton -- have found fault with the statement. [link]

There once was a jurist named Jones,
who was known as a real lazybones,
he could not disguise
that he did plagiarize,
and his statements were just full of clones.

(7) The speech at Case Western Reserve was followed by a Q&A period that was as long as or longer than the speech itself. In the Q&A period, Judge Jones complained that the Discovery Institute made ad hominem attacks against him and did not stick to the facts.



Friday, April 17, 2009

Pettifogging Darwinist attorney Timothy Sandefur

Timothy Sandefur is a pettifogging Darwinist attorney who frequently posts articles on the Panda's Thumb blog. He is now in a blog war with the Discovery Institute's Michael Egnor over the constitutionality of teaching criticisms of evolution in the public schools. Sandefur writes on his hypocritically named "Freespace" blog,

The Big Lie of Intelligent Design is that it’s science. It’s not, of course: it’s a religious viewpoint.

Wrong. ID has religious implications, but it is not necessarily a religious viewpoint. Evolution theory also has religious implications. Evolution theory has been called "the creation story of atheism," and the 7th circuit court of appeals said in Kaufman v. McCaughtry(2005), "The Supreme Court has recognized atheism as equivalent to a "religion" for purposes of the First Amendment on numerous occasions . . ." (page 4)

Sandefur continues,
It’s an effort to say that there are such-and-such problems with the scientific explanation of the origin of species and therefore, God The Designer must have put these things together. (This is called “strengths and weaknesses”.) It’s an effort to say that critters are just too complicated to have evolved, therefore God The Designer must have intentionally devised them. (This is called “irreducible complexity.”)

It is unconstitutional to teach in public schools that "goddidit." However, it is not unconstitutional to teach that intelligent design and irreducible complexity are weaknesses or criticisms of evolution theory.

Sandefur says in a comment thread under his own article on Panda's Thumb,

The Establishment Clause is not an exception to the right of free speech, because government has no constitutional right of free speech; only persons –- not governments –- have that right.

I disagree -- governments also have a freedom-of-expression right, but that right of governments -- just like individuals' freedom-of-expression right -- has limitations. The limitations are different for governments and individuals. The establishment clause is a limitation on governments' right of freedom of expression. Also, the establishment clause does not prohibit government officials from expressing their own religious views just so long as it is clear that those views are not official views of the government.

I think it’s best to avoid using terminology that suggests that governments have rights. Governments have prerogatives, or discretion to act, or sovereignty. But rights are something only individuals can have. Although sometimes terms like “states rights” or “the rights of the government” are sometimes used as a shorthand to mean “states have the authority to do such and such and cannot be stopped by another government when they try to do such and such,” that terminology is misleading.

This is sophistry and pettifoggery. Governments have rights, just as individuals have rights. For example, the US Constitution and its amendments define the rights of governments as well as the rights of individuals.

No legitimate government has rights valid against the people.

Wrong. One of the most obvious rights that a legitimate government can have against the people is the right to tax.

And Sandefur is a real hypocrite. While he pretends to believe in a strict interpretation of the establishment clause, he opposed the Caldwell v. Caldwell lawsuit against the UC Berkeley "Understanding Evolution" website, a publicly-funded website which uses religion to promote evolution theory.



Burn those brainwashing books with the evolution crap!

Fatheaded Ed's blog has the video. Towards the end of the video, a speaker says that kids should be pulled out of college because the professors are brainwashing them. Then a woman blurts out, "burn the books!" The following exchange takes place:

Burn the books!

I don't think you were serious about that, were you? Burn all the books?

I am too.

Burn all the books?

The ones in college -- those brainwashing books.

The brainwashing books. Which ones are those?

Like the evolution crap.

Right. I'm with you there.

All right. Rock on.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Florida Citizens for Science censors get "Friend of Darwin" award

An article in the Florida Citizens for Science blog says,

It is my honor on behalf of the National Center for Science Education to formally announce that Joe Wolf, President of the Florida Citizens for Science and Brandon Haught, Communications Director of the Florida Citizens for Science have both been awarded the NCSE’s 2008 “Friend of Darwin” award for their services to evolution education.

I wonder if they are going to get extra credit for censoring my ideas about coevolution.



Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Texas Death Match between school board, legislature

Trivia: According to this article, the Texas Death Match really did originate in Texas. I thought that the match got its name from the Alamo.

A Wall Street Journal article says,

Texas state legislators are considering reining in the Board of Education amid frustration with the board's politically charged debate over how to teach evolution.

The board last month approved a science curriculum that opens the door for teachers and textbooks to introduce creationist objections to evolution's explanation of the origin and progression of life forms.

Not all objections to evolution theory are creationist.

Other parts of the curriculum were carefully worded to raise doubts about global warming and the big-bang theory of how the universe began.

While the science standards have drawn the most attention, the 15-member elected board has been embroiled in other controversies as well. Last year, it rejected a reading curriculum that teachers had spent nearly three years drafting. In its place, the board approved a document that a few members hastily assembled just hours before the vote.

Yeah, that last-minute change in the reading curriculum was really bad -- much worse than anything the board did with the science standards.

Some lawmakers -- mostly Democrats -- say they have had enough.

The most far-reaching proposals would strip the Texas board of its authority to set curricula and approve textbooks. Depending on the bill, that power would be transferred to the state education agency, a legislative board or the commissioner of education. Other bills would transform the board to an appointed rather than elected body, require Webcasting of meetings, and take away the board's control of a vast pot of school funding. Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, hasn't taken a position on specific bills, a spokeswoman said.

Transferring the board's powers to non-elected officials is stupid -- it would eliminate direct accountability to the voters.

As for the webcasting of meetings, that is already done by audio -- it is now proposed that video webcasting be added. IMO video is not going to make much difference in most cases.

Board members, who aren't paid, object to most legislative meddling.

"As crazy as the Texas Board of Education is, there are just as many crazies, percentage-wise, in the state Legislature," said board member Pat Hardy.

Good point.

Demagogic Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius got hell from the Kansas board of education chairman for trying a similar power grab. [1] She scapegoated the state board of education for the state's economic problems and compared the board to Fred Phelps' "god hates fags" hate group.

Another member, Cynthia Dunbar, said the board's fierce debates should be seen as a sign that all views are well represented.

While the Legislature debates the board's future, candidates on the left and right are gearing up for 2010, when eight seats will be on the ballot. Results of that election could affect how the new science standards are interpreted -- and which biology texts the board approves in 2011. Texas is one of about 20 states that require local districts to buy only textbooks approved by the state board.

Local Texas school districts can use Texas-unapproved textbooks if the districts pay the full cost. A biology textbook that costs, say, $100 and is used for five years costs an average of only about $20 per year per student.

Over the years, the Texas board has been aggressive about editing submitted textbooks before granting approval. Publishers have been asked to delete -- among other things -- favorable references to Islam, discussions of global warming, and illustrations of breast and testicular self-exams, according to the Texas Freedom Network, a nonprofit that calls itself a counterweight to the religious right. . . . .

. . . .Kenneth R. Miller, co-author of several popular biology textbooks, said he inserted a header about the "strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory" before bringing his latest book before the board several years ago.

But Mr. Miller, a professor at Brown University, said the text below the header was unchanged from previous editions. It explored "unsolved puzzles of evolution," such as why sexual reproduction is ubiquitous or how the first life arose. None of the questions, he said, cast doubt on the basic premise of evolution.

I left comments here and here on the blog of the Texas Freedom Network.



Monday, April 13, 2009

Are stasis and evolution compatible?

If humans evolved from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys?


The question "if humans evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?" is often presented as a sort of parody of Darwin doubters' questioning of evolution theory, but the question is really not as frivolous as it appears at first sight. To create humans while leaving monkeys unchanged for millions of years, genes must possess two mutually contradictory characteristics: the great stability that would result in stasis and the great volatility that would result in evolution. As one blogger said,
Wonderful thing, evolution -- if you want change, you get change, if you want stasis, you get stasis, and evolution wins every time either way! It’s called unfalsifiability, and it applies to all aspects of evolutionism.

The issue of stasis was emphasized in a speech by chairman Don McLeroy at a meeting of the Texas board of education. He said, "stasis is data."

A group of quotes about stasis includes the following:

[S]tasis, or nonchange, of most fossil species during their lengthy geological lifespans was tacitly acknowledged by all paleontologists, but almost never studied explicitly because prevailing theory treated stasis as uninteresting nonevidence for nonevolution. [T]he overwhelming prevalence of stasis became an embarrassing feature of the fossil record, best left ignored as a manifestation of nothing (that is, nonevolution).

Gould, S.J. (1993)
"Cordelia's Dilemma"
Natural History, February, p. 15

"The gaps in the fossil record are real, however. The absence of a record of any important branching is quite phenomenal. Species are usually static, or nearly so, for long periods; species seldom and genera never show evolution into new species or genera but replacement of one by another, and change is more or less abrupt."

Wesson, R.
Beyond Natural Selection
MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1991) P.45

Paleontologists just were not seeing the expected changes in their fossils as they pursued them up through the rock record. ... That individual kinds of fossils remain recognizably the same throughout the length of their occurrence in the fossil record had been known to paleontologists long before Darwin published his Origin. Darwin himself, ... prophesied that future generations of paleontologists would fill in these gaps by diligent search ... One hundred and twenty years of paleontological research later, it has become abundantly clear that the fossil record will not confirm this part of Darwin's predictions. Nor is the problem a miserly fossil record. The fossil record simply shows that this prediction is wrong.

Eldredge, N. and Tattersall, I. (1982)
The Myths of Human Evolution
Columbia University Press, p. 45-46

Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould, who are quoted above, came up with the theory of punctuated equilibrium to try to reconcile evolution with stasis and sudden appearance, but PE seems grossly inadequate as an explanation.



Saturday, April 11, 2009

Can't make this stuff up

I found some extremely abusive comments that were posted on Panda's Thumb in response to a video of Texas board of education chairman Don McLeroy. Here is one:

This guy is a stupid and very ignorant man because he is completely ignoring the fact that creationists like him are fighting a losing battle, and it greatly confuses him that the cambrian explosion can even happen. What did he evolve from the world’s stupidest lfeform? Someone please shut this damned theist up and do it now.[1]

Some comments by the "Bicycling Guitarist" were so offensive that they were moved to Panda's Thumb's "Bathroom Wall":

I am inspired by the famous commercials for Pace picante sauce when I humbly suggest “Get a rope!” Seriously, McLeroy at the very least should be FIRED. I personally believe he should be tried for treason and for child abuse.[2]

Dang, I’ve done some further research and the specifics of what McLeroy has done don’t seem to be treason as defined in the U.S. Constitution. Still, he IS responsible for contributing to the dumbing down of American schoolchildren thus harming America’s competitiveness in the global market, and he did so while serving as an elected government official using the influence of his office to do these bad things. Why can’t McLeroy be hanged or shot for this offense? Seems to me a government trial with massive publicity, followed by a public execution would do a lot to clear the air about this controversy.[3]


Re: the suggestion that McLeroy be tried for treason and shot

I guess we can’t be executing people for being stupid…otherwise most if not all of the human race would be executed. I do so hope for the lawsuits to take place in Texas now as they did in Pennsylvania, Kansas and elsewhere. When will those who mislead the creationists be held accountable for their lies, i.e. legally and financially responsible for the costs of these lawsuits? I refer to organizations such as the Discovery Institute and Answers in Genesis.[4]

Maybe McLeroy should stick to coevolution, an airtight argument against evolution.

This stuff is just so bad that I think it might have been planted by McLeroy supporters to discredit his critics.

Also, it was reported that the Discovery Institute received a nasty email message:

"You've been warned asshole. Shut the fuck up or die."

The lack of civility is getting out of hand.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Eugenie Scott in radio & webcast talk today about new Texas science standards

UPDATE: The talk was a disappointment -- it lasted only 15-20 minutes. The usual Darwinist dogma, of course.


Darwinist Eugenie "Evil Genie" Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, will talk today -- April 10 -- on NPR about the new Texas Science standards. The talk will air from 2-3 PM Eastern time on NPR's Science Friday program.

Here is a list of local radio stations that will broadcast the talk. Here is how to listen to a live webcast.

The number for call-ins is:

The description of Eugenie Scott's talk says,
Critics of the school board say that phrases such as 'all sides' and 'examine the strengths and weaknesses' (a phrase rejected by the board after debate) are code words that would allow the teaching of creationism in the science classroom.

Darwinists also think that "analyze and evaluate" are code words for teaching creationism. To Darwinists, any words that call for requiring students to think are code words for teaching creationism.

The talk's description also says,

The large state of Texas is considered a crucial battleground in the fight over teaching evolution, as its purchasing power gives the state's curriculum standards a good deal of influence over the content of textbooks sold around the country.

As I have pointed out many times, it is a myth that Texas's "purchasing power gives the state's curriculum standards a good deal of influence over the content of textbooks sold around the country."[1] For example, a popular biology textbook, "Biology" by Ken Miller and Joe Levine, already comes in regular, Texas, California, Florida, and North Carolina editions. Even in Texas, if a local school district really finds the state-approved textbooks to be intolerable, the district can use state-unapproved textbooks if the district pays the full cost, which would be only about $20 per year per student for a $100 biology textbook used for five years.

Also, I am wondering why there does not seem to be any concern about the future effect of the new science standards on the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) tests.


Eastern Chipmunk photo is courtesy of The Chipmunk Place, eNature.com, and Carl E. Sams, Dembinsky Photo Associates.

Wikipedia says that Eastern Chipmunks use cheek pouches to transport food (like other chipmunks) and also dirt that they have excavated from their burrows. The Chipmunk Place says,

This species is single-minded in its food gathering, making trips from tree to storage burrow almost continuously. It was estimated that over three days one chipmunk stored a bushel of chestnuts, hickory nuts, and corn kernels.




Monday, April 06, 2009

Creatures that defy coevolution are shortchanged by DVD series

The first DVD of a three-DVD series


The American Family Association is selling a series of three DVD's titled "Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution". These DVD's neglect some of the best examples of "incredible creatures that defy evolution": creatures that defy coevolution.

Coevolution is generally defined as adaptation to other kinds of organisms, as opposed to adaptation to widespread fixed physical features of the environment (e.g., air, water, and land in its various forms). Because of the prefix "co," which means mutual or together, coevolution is sometimes more narrowly and more properly defined as the evolution of obligate mutualism, e.g., the relationship between bees and flowers, but the definition is often extended to include interspecies relationships where the adaptation might be on only one side, e.g., some predator-prey and parasite-host relationships. Sometimes organic features of an environment -- e.g., the trees of forests -- may for the purpose of evolutionary analysis be treated the same as purely physical fixed features of the environment, e.g., air and water.

As I have pointed out many times, the problems of coevolution present some of the biggest barriers to Darwinian evolution. However, none of the following examples given on the homepage of these DVD's website concerns coevolution -- with the exception of the bird that can kill a lion with a single kick (not an example of obligate mutualism):
- Are there really creatures that produce fire to defend themselves?

- How does a giraffe get a drink without causing lethal blood pressure to his brain?

- How can Geckos walk upside down, even on glass and not fall?

- How can birds navigate over thousands of miles of ocean and never get lost?

- How do fireflies and glowworms create light that generates no heat?

- How do great whales dive to the bottom of the ocean without the pressure causing them to implode?

- What creature was the inspiration for the helicopter?

- How can some creatures be cut in half and still regenerate themselves? Some can even grow a new head!

- What kind of bird can kill a lion with a single kick?

- How can some dogs know that a storm is coming before it appears, or can sense when their masters are about to experience a seizure?

- Which creature perlexes scientists because of its amazing ability to heal itself, even when it sustains horrendous injuries?

- How do Emperor Penguins go two and a half months without eating or drinking?

Animals featured in each of the three DVD's are listed below. Of these animals, I recognize only the hummingbird and the melipona (misspelled "milopina") bee as having an interspecies relationship (both are pollinators), though there may be other such animals in the lists.

The first DVD features,

Bombardier Beetle
Australian Incubator Bird
The Chicken Egg
Black & Yellow Garden Spider
Gecko & Chuckwalla Lizards
Human Eye & Ear Drum

The second DVD features,
The Pacific Golden Plover
Glowworms and Fireflies
Education Dishonesty section

The third DVD features,

Lampsylis Mussel
Vestigial Organs
A section on designs and designers
Cuttle Fish
Milopina Bee and vanilla (correct spelling is "melipona")

Coevolution defies evolution in the following ways:

(1) Obligate mutualism: In the coevolution of corresponding co-dependent traits in obligate mutualism, unlike in evolutionary adaptation to widespread fixed physical features of the environment, there might be nothing to adapt to because the corresponding co-dependent trait in the other kind of organism is likely to be locally absent.

(2) Complex specific adaptations to other organisms: Examples of such adaptations are: orchids' mimicry of female wasps' sex pheromones, some very complex parasitisms

(3) Multi-host parasitisms: These parasitisms may require the simultaneous evolution of two or more parasitic adaptations and it may be difficult to imagine a pathway for such evolution.

Buzz pollination[1] , orchids' mimicry of female wasps' sex pheromones [2], and extremely complex and/or multi-host parasitic relationships [3] [4] would all make good additions to these DVD's.

Here is an example of an extremely complex parasitism, from "The Loom" blog of Carl Zimmer --

As an adult, Ampulex compressa seems like your normal wasp, buzzing about and mating. But things get weird when it's time for a female to lay an egg. She finds a cockroach to make her egg's host, and proceeds to deliver two precise stings. The first she delivers to the roach's mid-section, causing its front legs buckle. The brief paralysis caused by the first sting gives the wasp the luxury of time to deliver a more precise sting to the head.

The wasp slips her stinger through the roach's exoskeleton and directly into its brain. She apparently uses sensors along the sides of the stinger to guide it through the brain, a bit like a surgeon snaking his way to an appendix with a laparoscope. She continues to probe the roach's brain until she reaches one particular spot that appears to control the escape reflex. She injects a second venom that influences these neurons in such a way that the escape reflex disappears.

From the outside, the effect is surreal. The wasp does not paralyze the cockroach. In fact, the roach is able to lift up its front legs again and walk. But now it cannot move of its own accord. The wasp takes hold of one of the roach's antennae and leads it -- in the words of Israeli scientists who study Ampulex -- like a dog on a leash.

The zombie roach crawls where its master leads, which turns out to be the wasp's burrow. The roach creeps obediently into the burrow and sits there quietly, while the wasp plugs up the burrow with pebbles. Now the wasp turns to the roach once more and lays an egg on its underside. The roach does not resist. The egg hatches, and the larva chews a hole in the side of the roach. In it goes.

The larva grows inside the roach, devouring the organs of its host, for about eight days. It is then ready to weave itself a cocoon -- which it makes within the roach as well. After four more weeks, the wasp grows to an adult. It breaks out of its cocoon, and out of the roach as well . . . .

. . . . [the adult wasp] is too small to drag a big paralyzed roach into its burrow. So instead it just delicately retools the roach's neural network to take away its motivation. Its venom does more than make roaches zombies. It also alters their metabolism, so that their intake of oxygen drops by a third. The Israeli researchers found that they could also drop oxygen consumption in cockroaches by injecting paralyzing drugs or by removing the neurons that the wasps disable with their sting. But they can manage only a crude imitation; the manipulated cockroaches quickly dehydrated and were dead within six days. The wasp venom somehow puts the roaches into suspended animation while keeping them in good health, even as a wasp larva is devouring it from the inside . . .

Scientists don't yet understand how Ampulex manages either of these feats. Part of the reason for their ignorance is the fact that scientists have much left to learn about nervous systems and metabolism. But millions of years of natural selection has allowed Ampulex to reverse engineer its host. We would do well to follow its lead, and gain the wisdom of parasites . . .

Yet Carl Zimmer dismisses this "reverse engineering" as merely "an evolutionary transition":

I find this wasp fascinating for a lot of reasons. For one thing, it represents an evolutionary transition.

A summary of my thoughts about coevolution is here.



Sunday, April 05, 2009

McGill Symposium on Islam and Evolution

On March 30-31, the McGill University Evolution Education Research Centre held a symposium on Islam and evolution. Recordings of the symposium are here. A list of the symposium panelists is here and the panelists' pre-symposium abstracts are here. A few names are familiar or I have seen them before: Josh Rosenau, Brian Alters, Salman Hameed. I am disturbed that of the scientific specialists on the panel, none appear to be evolution skeptics.

It has been my general impression that Islam is much less evolution-friendly than mainstream Christianity and Judaism. According to Darwinist standards, Moslem countries should be the laughingstock of the world, but I don't see Darwinists doing a lot of laughing at Moslem countries. Maybe the Darwinists, aware that "fatwa" and "jihad" are terms of the Islamic religion, are afraid to laugh at Moslem countries.

Some important points seem to have been ignored by the panelists' abstracts:
(1) Predominantly Moslem countries have low rates of acceptance of evolution. An article says,

. . . .only 25 percent of adults in Turkey agree that human beings developed from earlier species of animals, whereas 40 percent of people in the United States agree with this scientific fact, Hameed writes. And Turkey is one of the most secular and educated of Muslim countries.

Hameed cites data from a 2007 sociological study by Riaz Hassan which revealed that only a minority in five Muslim countries agree that Darwin’s theory of evolution is probably or most certainly true: 16 percent of Indonesians, 14 percent of Pakistanis, 8 percent of Egyptians, 11 percent of Malaysians and 22 percent of Turks.

Also, in a survey of 34 nations, mostly Christian European nations but also including the USA, Japan, and predominantly Moslem Turkey, Turkey had the lowest acceptance rate for evolution.

(2) Moslem countries do not have so-called "separation of church and state" (or separation of mosque and state). On the contrary, in some Moslem countries, Islamic law -- sharia -- is the basis for civil law. In the USA, a lot of the controversy over evolution is centered around the idea of separation of church and state.

(3) Islamic clergy appear to be less organized and less hierarchical than Christian clergy -- for example, Islam has no counterpart of the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury. Hence, Islam has no single person or small group of people who are perceived as speaking for the religion's official position on evolution. Some titles of Islamic clergy are ayatollah, caliph, mufti, and imam.

(4) It doesn't seem that Moslems do a lot of hand-wringing about how disbelief in evolution is affecting the technological competitiveness of predominantly Moslem countries. If belief in evolution affects technological competitiveness at all, and I assert that it does not, only a small area of technological competitiveness is affected.

(5) Though the foundations of modern science are imports in Moslem countries, Moslems made important contributions to science and mathematics during the Middle Ages. The legacies of these contributions are still with us -- for example, our numbers consist of Arabic numerals, "algebra" is an Arabic word, and many stars have Arabic names.


Not surprisingly, one of the most biased abstracts is from Josh Rosenau of the ardently pro-Darwinist National Center for Science Education (the abstract also represents Peter Hess, who is not listed as a symposium panelist). The abstract says, "American Christian creationist movements have three major pillars that have persisted for over a century." The first alleged "pillar" is:

Evolution is a failed science, soon to be replaced by creationism

IMO many creationists think that evolution is too strongly entrenched to be completely replaced soon.

The second "pillar" is,
evolution cannot be reconciled with religious belief, and people must choose between the two

Yet hardly anyone believes that people must choose between heliocentrism and religious belief (the bible implies geocentrism because in the bible, the earth was created before the heavenly bodies were created). The difference here between evolution and heliocentrism is that the evidence for heliocentrism is much stronger.

The third so-called "pillar" is,

. .. .and voters or students in the classroom are entitled to pick and choose between the two.

This is not a pillar of creationism -- people can't be told what to believe.

Another biased abstract was written by Ehab Abouheif:

We may now be witnessing the beginning of what could become a large-scale clash between Islam and the science of evolution. I will argue that this conflict is largely based on political ideology rather than a proper understanding of the “theory of evolution” and what it represents for Islam. Most of the current discussions on evolution taking place within Islamic societies proceed in complete absence of insight from professionally trained evolutionary biologists who are also knowledgeable about Islam, or who are at least able to communicate with the Muslim world.

Darwinists have this fallacy that no Darwin doubters know or understand evolution theory.

A number of articles about the evolution controversy in the Islamic world have recently appeared [1] [2] [3] [4].

This blog has a number of articles about Islamic views on evolution. These articles are in the two post-groups titled "Evolution controversy abroad."

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Saturday, April 04, 2009

Rehire Comer as a madogiwa zoku ("window-seat tribe") worker

There has been little interest in the dismissal of Chris Comer's lawsuit against the Texas Education Agency. It looks like I may not have her to kick around anymore, so I want to take one last parting shot at her.

I finally thought of a way to get rid of her without making a martyr out of her -- the TEA should offer to rehire her as a "madogiwa zoku" worker. That is a Japanese term meaning "window-seat tribe":

Traditional Japanese offices use open-floor designs with most important folks sitting in the center, where all the important activity happens. Rather than getting the ax, poorly performing workers were given ‘window seats’ with little or nothing to do; they sit idle, staring out the window, forced to reflect on their superfluousness. Some quit in shame, others ride the desk until retirement. [1]

One can only imagine the embarrassment that other TEA staffers must have felt as a result of Comer's irresponsible action -- here they were trying very hard to give the appearance of neutrality and then she sent out an email like that. Here are some statements from internal emails:
I am cc: Noell because this is something that the State Board, the Governor's Office and members of the Legislature would be extremely upset to see because it assumes this is a subject that the agency supports.

Team, I don't know what previous actions have been taken with respect to her conduct as a state employee but it is my understanding that this is a frequent issue.

- - - - -- - - -

Good grief . . . I agree. I'll take care of this.
[2, page 6]




Friday, April 03, 2009

Cafeteria Christians v. fundies

There are "cafeteria Christians" who interpret the gospel story literally but do not interpret the bible's creation story literally, and then there are fundies who interpret both literally. The signers of the Christian Clergy Letter typify this type of cafeteria Christian. These cafeteria Christians often look down upon the fundies as irrational and superstitious. Actually, though, these cafeteria Christians have it backwards: If god is assumed to be all-powerful, then the creation story makes sense while the gospel story does not. The god of the creation story is all-powerful whereas the god of the gospel story is weak and limited -- the god of the gospel story must battle Satan for control of the world and it is Satan who sets the rules of battle.

Also, there should be a separate Clergy Letter for clergy who see no conflict between evolution and religion but who are skeptical of evolution.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Comer lawsuit thrown out

No, folks, this is not an April Fools Day joke -- Chris Comer's lawsuit against the Texas Education Agency has been dismissed. [1] [2]. The judge's opinion is here. Chris Comer has her own post label group on this blog (post labels are listed in the sidebar of the homepage).

I am not the least bit surprised that the suit was thrown out -- the TEA had the right to have a policy of neutrality regarding the upcoming hearings on the new science standards, and Comer clearly violated that policy. What if the shoe were on the other foot -- e.g, suppose Comer had sent out an official TEA announcement of a Richard Weikart "From Darwin to Hitler" lecture?

Silence about the subject of teaching creationism should not be interpreted as approval of teaching creationism. In the play "A Man for All Seasons," the following exchange took place in Thomas More's trial for refusing to take an oath recognizing the king as the head of the church:
Master Secretary: . . . is there a man in this court.... Is there a man in this country... who does not know Sir Thomas More's opinion of this title? Yet, how can this be? Because this silence betokened.....nay, this silence was not silence at all, but most eloquent denial!

Thomas More: Not so. Not so, Master Secretary. The maxim of the law is, "Silence gives consent." If, therefore, you wish to construe what my silence betokened... you must construe that I consented, not that I denied.

MS: Is that in fact what the world construes from it? Do you pretend that is what you wish the world to construe from it?

TM: The world must construe according to its wits. This court must construe according to the law.

The TEA's neutrality policy did not single out matters related to creationism -- the TEA's neutrality policy applied to all matters before the Texas state board of education. Comer was asking that an exception from the neutrality policy be made for matters related to creationism.

My previous positions were that firing Comer was a mistake because it has turned her into a Darwinist heroine and martyr, and that the TEA should have continued to employ her but kept her on a short leash with a choke-chain collar. However, considering that Darwinists are very unhappy with the newly adopted Texas state science standards, it is highly questionable that she would administer those new standards fairly, so I think that it is just as well that she left the TEA.

The Darwinists are learning that the courts are not always going to side with them. Yoko Ono's lawsuit against the producers of "Expelled" was also thrown out.



"Somebody's got to stand up to experts!" -- Texas BoE chairman Don McLeroy

A video of Texas state board of education chairman Don McLeroy's full speech is here.

David Klinghoffer wrote in an article in Evolution News & Views,

To follow the experts unthinkingly is simply the prestige path for most people. Such docility also explains the resistance of certain constituencies, from whom you’d expert better, to thinking fresh thoughts about Darwinian evolution.

Sometimes, the temptation to surrender to expert opinion arises from nothing more complicated than laziness. I’m positive that’s the case with many in the politically conservative community of journalists and other intellectuals. Science bores or intimidates these folks, and they haven’t yet perceived the relevance of Darwinism to their other political and cultural concerns. Therefore expert opinion provides a welcome excuse, at least on this issue, to turn their brains off.

IMO that's true -- I virtually never see a mainstream-media editorial that supports the anti-Darwinist side or that is even neutral.

The article said,
In other communities, there’s a tendency to be overly impressed by credentials, titles, honors, and offices. This is surely a big part of what keeps more Jews from “getting” the Darwin debate. You could call it a case of My Son the Doctor Syndrome. Just as the stereotypical coffee klatch of Jewish mothers will speak in absurdly hushed, reverential tones about the fact that one of them has a son in the medical profession — the technical Yiddish term here is kvelling — so too there’s something in recent Jewish culture that inclines us to revere “experts” to excess, no matter what the context. This is ironic given that Jews spent the previous 2,000 years refusing to defer to the dominant expert views of the culture around them.

Among the main reasons for Jewish Darwinism and opposition to "teaching the controversy" are that many Jews (1) view questioning of Darwinism as a Christian fundamentalist thing, (2) see "teaching the controversy" as a violation of the so-called "separation of church and state," and (3) see the Darwin-to-Hitler idea as an attempt to deny the Christian religion's responsibility for the holocaust. The Anti-Defamation League is representative of these Jews. There are noteworthy exceptions: for example, the ultra-orthodox Jews of Israel are probably staunch young-earth creationists -- many of these Jews have not studied science since elementary school. And Jews Ben Stein and David Berlinski (Berlinski considers himself to be a secular Jew) believe that Darwin influenced the Nazis.

Also, whether expert opinions deserve to receive deference or extra weight strongly depends on the question being asked. For example, such deference or extra weight may be warranted if the question is whether a particular criticism of evolution is a real weakness. However, such deference or extra weight is not warranted if the question is whether to include the "strengths and weaknesses" language in science education standards.