Monthly Archives: September 2007

An Unnatural Selection

You see the darndest stuff on Craigslist, and not all of it weird personals or household detritus. Over at Panda’s Thumb, “GvlGeologist” notes a humorous entry on Craigslist concerning M&M candies and one man’s tournament to find the strongest candy shell.

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Pork-Barrel Antievolution

The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts as are only injurious to others, but it does no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods or no god. It neither picks my pockets nor breaks my legs. — Thomas Jefferson

Antievolutionists have long sought to subvert and infiltrate the public school science classrooms, looking to turn all those lecterns into pulpits to deliver their narrow sectarian doctrines. We’ve seen takeovers of classrooms, of school boards, and the promulgation of legislation to set things up the way they’d like it. Now, we have another untoward development: not content with turning science class into Sectarian Sunday School, they want taxpayers to chip in money to serve the cause. That’s right, instead of passing a collection plate where one gets a choice of contributing or not, they do want to pick your pockets.

The Times-Picayune has the story.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., earmarked $100,000 in a spending bill for a Louisiana Christian group that has challenged the teaching of Darwinian evolution in the public school system and to which he has political ties.

The money is included in the labor, health and education financing bill for fiscal 2008 and specifies payment to the Louisiana Family Forum “to develop a plan to promote better science education.”

This is the same group that successfully got the Ouachita School Board to adopt a policy, apparently ghost-written by the Discovery Institute. It is full of “teach the controversy” language:

Ouachita Parish Science Curriculum Policy Proposal 5.30 – Teacher Academic Freedom in Science Education when covering controversial scientific subjects

The Ouachita School District understands that the purpose of science education is to inform students about the scientific evidence and to help them develop critical thinking skills they need in order to become scientifically minded citizens. The District also understands that the teaching of some scientific subjects, such as biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy, and that some teachers may be unsure of the District’s expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects. The District shall endeavor to create an environment within the schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately to differences of opinion about controversial issues. The District shall also endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies. Toward this end, teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.

Some people thought the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case put paid to antievolution. What it did, and did well, was to blunt the “intelligent design” label, such that it could no longer be the leading edge of the “wedge”. But antievolution goes on, seeking to stuff as many of its old, tired, bogus antievolution arguments as possible into science classrooms. And now, to pick your pocket to pay for it.

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AFM, Under Pressure


At the University of South Florida, Professor Jay Dean has equipment that synthesizes two exotic technologies in order to examine something very basic indeed: how oxygen interacts with tissues. The two technological bits are a hyperbaric chamber and an atomic force microscope (AFM). This allows Dean and his colleagues to examine, at an exceedingly small scale, what happens when tissue is exposed to oxygen at a variety of partial pressures. The Office of Naval Research is interested; according to the article, the occasionally fatal seizures that divers using rebreathers experience is a major cause of concern.

Hat tip to Sam Blackwood for the link.

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Recycled Content: Gould Quote of Darwin Considered Harmful

The following is a post I made to the newsgroup back in 1997. In some email discussions, there has been renewed interest among some of my correspondents concerning possible instances where high-profile pro-science people have made statements that were, well, ripe for quote-mining. I nominated the following Stephen Jay Gould quote as an example. The post I made back in 1997 shows that not only was the quote in question ripe for quote-mining, it had already been picked and put on display by a trenchant antievolutionist.


The more I look into Gould’s handling of Darwin in the matter of distinguishing phyletic gradualism and punctuated equilibria, the less impressed I get. Gould is fond of saying that Darwin’s meaning cannot be gotten from isolated text-bytes, but rather from overall tone or some such.

Due to Laurie Appleton’s quote of Gould quoting Darwin, I was induced to have a look at the original. Well, the original Darwin quote, as well as Gould’s. Gould has a text-byte of Darwin, and I had always assumed before that Gould had gotten the gist of Darwin’s context more-or-less correct. I was a bit stunned to find that this was *not* the case. Given Gould’s rather abrupt treatment of others who have performed historical revisionism, I find this more than a little unsettling.

I have previously stated my opinion that Eldredge and Gould failed to properly credit Darwin with key concepts underlying PE. Scholars may read the same sources and come to different conclusions. However, there is a line to be drawn between a variance of interpretation and what can only stand as either shoddy scholarship or deliberate misrepresentation.

In a msg on aug 08 10:47, Laurie Appleton of 3:640/238@Fidonet writes:

[Laurie replying to George Rudzinski]


LA> However, your comment, once again shows that you don’t
LA> know much about what Darwin actually said anyway!

Apparently, neither does Gould.


LA> “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the
LA> fossil record persist as the trade secret of paleontology.
LA> The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data
LA> only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest
LA> is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of
LA> fossils. Yet Darwin was so wedded to gradualism that he
LA> wagered his entire theory on a denial of this literal
LA> record:”

LA> “The geological record is extremely imperfect and this
LA> fact will to a large extent explain why we do not find
LA> interminable varieties, connecting together all the
LA> extinct and existing forms of life by the finest
LA> graduated steps. He who rejects these views on the
LA> nature of the geological record, will rightly reject my
LA> whole theory.

LA> “Darwin’s argument still persists as the favored escape of
LA> most paleontologists from the embarrassment of a record
LA> that seems to show so little of evolution [DIRECTLY]. In exposing
LA> its cultural and methodological roots, I wish in no way to
LA> impugn the potential validity of gradualism (for all
LA> general views have similar roots). I wish only to point
LA> out that it was never “seen” in the rocks.”

LA> “Paleontologists have paid an exorbitant price for Darwin’s
LA> argument. We fancy ourselves as the only true students of
LA> life’s history, yet to preserve our favored account of
LA> evolution by natural selection we view our data as so bad
LA> that we never see the very process we profess to study.”

LA> (Stephen Jay Gould (Professor of Geology and Paleontology,
LA> Harvard University), “Evolution’s erratic pace”.
LA> Natural History, vol.LXXXVI(5), May 1977, p.14.)

Naughty Laurie omitted one word from Gould, which I have restored in square brackets.

So what passage, precisely, did Gould identify as indicating Darwin’s intimate stance with gradualism? Here it is… [Please note that the part Gould quotes comes at the end of the passage; when Darwin says "these views, he is referring to the various items preceding that I provide here. -- WRE]

Note particularly the bits I’ve highlighted by splitting out and marking with [!!!].

Summary of the preceding and present Chapters . I have attempted to show that the geological record is extremely imperfect;

[!!!] that only a small portion of the globe has been geologically explored with care;

that only certain classes of organic beings have been largely preserved in a fossil state; that the number both of specimens and of species, preserved in our museums, is absolutely as nothing compared with the incalculable number of generations which must have passed away even during a single formation; that, owing to subsidence being necessary for the accumulation of fossiliferous deposits thick enough to resist future degradation, enormous intervals of time have elapsed between the successive formations; that there has probably been more extinction during the periods of subsidence, and more variation during the periods of elevation, and during the latter the record will have been least perfectly kept; that each single formation has not been continuously deposited; that the duration of each formation is, perhaps, short compared with the average duration of specific forms;

[!!!] that migration has played an important part in the first appearance of new forms in any one area and formation;

that widely ranging species are those which have varied most, and have oftenest given rise to new species; and

[!!!] that varieties have at first often been local.

All these causes taken conjointly, must have tended to make the geological record extremely imperfect, and will to a large extent explain why we do not find interminable varieties, connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps.

He who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record, will rightly reject my whole theory. [...]

[End quote -- C.R. Darwin, Origin of Species, pp. 340-341]

Within the above quote are key components of *punctuated equilibria*. The notion that geographical distribution matters, and that species are at first localized, and then migrate out are all *critical* features of Eldredge and Gould’s PE. Gould’s assertion that the passage shows *only* consideration of the features of phyletic gradualism is just so much poppycock. Just so that everyone stays on the same page, here is Eldredge and Gould’s statement of the tenets of phyletic gradualism:

In this Darwinian perspective, paleontology formulated its picture for the origin of new taxa. This picture, though rarely articulated, is familiar to all of us. We refer to it here as “phyletic gradualism” and identify the following as its tenets:

(1) New species arise by the transformation of an ancestral population into its modified descendants.

(2) The transformation is even and slow.

(3) The transformation involves large numbers, usually the entire ancestral population.

(4) The transformation occurs over all or a large part of the ancestral species’ geographic range.

Note that the passage that Gould extracts his quote from explicitly violates (3) and (4). (1) and (2) are neither asserted nor denied by the passage from Darwin. Darwin’s “wedding” to phyletic gradualism appears to have been unconsummated. At least, the quote which Gould identifies as showing that relationship clearly instead shows glimpses of Darwin flirting around with PE. And that is even without interpreting Darwin’s remark about relative durations of formations and species as indicating an appreciation of the prevalence of stasis.

Rejection of Darwin’s argument amounts to rejection of both PE and PG. What Eldredge and Gould have done with PE is assert that certain aspects of Darwin’s argument are more important than other aspects of Darwin’s argument. Well, duh. What takes chutzpah is to then claim that the good bits weren’t part of Darwin’s argument all along.

I guess Laurie isn’t the only person who can quote out of context.

Oh, and Laurie should be able to tell us why, if phyletic gradualism was never seen in the rocks, Gould and Eldredge 1977 specifically validates Ozawa’s 1975 paper on forams as showing a clear example of phyletic gradualism?

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Farewell to Alex

An acquaintance of mine died last week, and I just found out about it. Alex, Irene Pepperberg’s African grey parrot, is dead at the age of 31. There’s no particular cause that has been identified for his death, and he was pretty much just approaching middle age for an African grey. Alex is best known for being the primary subject in Pepperberg’s research on animal cognition, and especially non-human cognitive psychology, explored through Alex’s ability to communicate through spoken English.

Diane and I met Alex on a visit to Pepperberg’s lab at the University of Arizona in Tucson back in the spring of 1993. We were applying to various programs for grad school, and Pepperberg was one of the people we were talking with concerning her research. We got to spend several hours in the lab over a few days we spent on campus, and we got to meet Alex.

As the first article linked says, Alex had a predisposition to like tall males. Irene, Diane, and I were sitting around a table that Alex was on, and Alex walked over to where I was sitting and solicited head-rubbing. We had had two cockatiels for several years, and the same sort of behavioral cues were evident in Alex. Alex, though, was not allowed non-verbal solicitation; if he wanted head-rubbing, he was supposed to ask. So several times as we talked, Irene would tell Alex that he needed to ask, and several times she told me not to do the head-rubbing that Alex was obviously asking for non-verbally. I was just used to being bossed around by parrots, so it was an effort to just keep my hands under the table.

We also got to see regular research sessions go on, and to see Pepperberg do some interrogation of Alex, as well as Alex serving as a rival in the training of a new parrot in the lab.

We’ve seen Irene Pepperberg at a variety of conferences since then, but we didn’t have the chance to interact with Alex after our interviews in 1993. Alex, though, left not just a personal impression on us and others that he met over the years, but has raised awareness of the extent of non-human cognition. He has a commendable legacy in the scientific literature, a record that will be an enduring memorial to a remarkable life. Diane and I send Irene our condolences; this has to hurt a lot.

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The New Nikon Hotness

Nikon has announced two new digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras. One of the things promised in their press materials is that their new top-of-the-line camera, the D3, will feature a CMOS imager approximately the same size as a 35mm film negative. Nikon has resisted, to this point, the call to provide a “full-frame” imager. They have instead produced a series of high-end cameras using the so-called “DX” format, which is about 23 by 15mm instead of 36 by 24mm. Since the same lenses that were used for 35mm film photography get used on the Nikon DSLRs, this led to the “crop factor” of 1.5x: if you use, say, a 50mm lens on a DX DSLR, the view you get is the same as a 75mm lens on a film SLR. This has been a boon for those shooting long; suddenly, telephotos seem to have more reach. However, wide-angle photography with a DX DSLR requires some exotic glass to deliver those wide-open views. Even kit zoom lenses for entry-level DX DSLRs now feature wide ends of 17 or 18mm, something that was in the exotic ultrawide glass range just a few years ago when film ruled. Of course, the trade-off is that the entry-level kit lenses are specially designed for the DX format, and will not “cover” a full 35mm film negative at the wide end of the range.

The Nikon D3 promises something for everyone, though. Continuing the notion of “crop modes” used on the Nikon D2X and D2Xs, the D3 offers a “full-frame” mode, or what Nikon calls “FX” format, of 12 megapixels; a crop mode delivering a 5×4 ratio, or “ideal format”, which I think gives somewhere around 10 megapixels in the image; and a “DX” mode, with about 5.7 megapixels in the image. The camera automatically recognizes the specialized DX lenses and puts itself into DX crop mode.

The Nikon D2Xs, like the one I use, has a 12 megapixel imager. What are some of the differences? 12 megapixels spread over a lot more imager real estate has allowed Nikon to do some cool things. First, the photosites are larger. There are two results that come from this: higher sensitivity and lower noise. The D3 specs say the low ISO available will be ISO 200. OK, so what about the high end? It goes up to ISO 6400 in normal mode, and then from there it uses “boost” modes to go up to ISO 25,000. There are some sample images available. One of those is an ISO 6400 shot. If the production model maintains at least the quality of the sample camera, I think that we are entering a new era in imaging. I was disappointed that Nikon did not include a boosted sample at the extreme end of the ISO range, but I can hope that that lack will soon be remedied.

Another change they’ve made is that the imager can be set to use 14-bit digitization instead of 12-bit. There’s all sorts of caveats that go with that, but the potential is there to have seriously extended dynamic range if that feature is used. Fuji’s approach to extending dynamic range was to add photosites to collect highlight tonality. Nikon’s was to change the analog-to-digital conversion range. It will be interesting to see how that works in practice.

The other DSLR Nikon announced is the D300, a DX format camera offering a 12 megapixel imager, with ISO up to 6400 with boosting. It also features the new 51-point autofocus module and a bunch of options that even last year’s D200 doesn’t have.

But it looks like the D3 has the potential to be something other than a simple step in imaging technology. It could be a leap, something that will change the way photography gets done.

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Score: Roseville 1, Caldwell 0

In the Caldwell v. Roseville Joint Union High School District case, where plaintiff Larry Caldwell sued Roseville claiming viewpoint discrimination, Roseville has obtained a summary judgment in their favor. [I had something here about summary judgment that several readers took issue with, so I'll try again later. -- WRE]

Caldwell operates a website called Quality Science Education for Everyone that used to have a small amount of material on it about how he was going to improve science education via the legal process. Looking there just now, the site no longer even provides that; it just says something about the site being revamped.

Caldwell filed a lawsuit in 2005 against Eugenie C. Scott over an article she wrote for “California Wild”, and withdrew it without serving it — or bothering to notify Scott that it had been withdrawn. Caldwell served as attorney for a complaint made by his wife (hey, want to buy a bridge cheap?) against the University of California system over the “Understanding Evolution” website. That case was dismissed on a technical issue concerning standing.

Update: Get the decision here.

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Weird Situation at Baylor Gets Weirder

Some time ago, William Dembski came to the end of his contracted time at Baylor University. Baylor made no public move to extend that contract, so Dembski found a job at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary over in Kentucky. Dembski commuted from his homestead in Riesel, Texas, which put a strain on things. So then he got a job at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. It’s a longish drive, but doable. What Dembski apparently has not given up on is having a presence within his former employer’s institution, Baylor University.

Like Lord Voldemort working through the insider, Professor Quirrell, Dembski has apparently tagged Professor Robert Marks as the guy to open up access in the bastion just down the road from the Dembski ranch and BBQ joint. For a brief time, Dembski was listed as having an office and a position via Marks’s department. That went away. Then Marks posted an “Evolutionary Informatics Laboratory” web page on the Baylor University servers, the two people associated with that being Marks and Dembski. It had a variety of IDC agitprop on it. Baylor faculty apparently noticed that and took issue with it. There have been reports of ongoing discussions (complete with lawyers on both sides) between Baylor and Marks concerning what he can — and cannot — represent as his official effort at Baylor University. Not long ago, there appeared to be an agreement that Marks could host his “Evolutionary Informatics Laboratory” web pages again on the Baylor system, if it were clearly marked with a disclaimer of the university’s choosing.

Now, a post at Dembski’s “Uncommon Descent” weblog is claiming Robert Marks as the newest IDC martyr for the cause. Poster “Botnik” put up what is purported to be a quoted email he received from Baylor University President John Lilley. And what was weird before gets even weirder. At first, there was no notice given with the quote; now the article says that it is all a parody. Whatever the motivation, posting the following as being from Lilley is definitely strange:

Dear Mr. Botnik,

The removal of Prof. Robert Marks’ so-called “lab” on the Baylor server is entirely consistent with Baylor’s stance on academic freedom. Prof. Marks was hired to do research and obtain grants for work in engineering, not to devote the bulk of his time to work in religion. I am not moved by Prof. Marks’ protestations that he is working in the field of intelligent design and that this work falls under his job description. Judge John E. Jones III ruled decisively in Kitzmiller v. Dover that intelligent design is religion, and that’s good enough for me. We have a religious studies program here at Baylor as well as a seminary. Unfortunately, Prof. Marks is not qualified to serve in either of these programs otherwise I would recommend his transfer.

In any case, academic freedom does not warrant the toleration of labs and groups willy-nilly. Surely you would not object if I took measures similar to those I took with Prof. Marks’ lab if a Baylor history professor proposed to start a “holocaust reexamination group” or a physics professor here proposed to found a “zodiac and astrology lab.” Academic freedom comes to an end where reason and common sense give way to ignorance and nonsense. I plan to issue an official statement concerning Baylor’s stance on intelligent design in coming months. The short of it is that ID is not welcome here in Waco and professors who want to work in this area can do so on their own time.

Thank you for your concerns. I hope that we can put this matter to rest quickly and that Prof. Marks can get back to being a productive member of the Baylor community.

Very truly yours,

Certainly the UD commenters took it as accurate commentary based upon their indignant responses, which explains the appearance of the explicit notice that it was “P-A-R-O-D-Y”. We already knew the UD crowd was nothing if not highly strung.

But one wonders exactly what the point of the “P-A-R-O-D-Y” was supposed to be. Certainly they cannot have expected it to have gone unnoticed. So Pres. Lilley will certainly enter the next phase of his relationship with Marks and the Shadow Dembski with this piece of buffoonery in mind. (If not before, then certainly after my email asking him to confirm or deny the quote.) Could they have been hoping for a batch of indignant correspondence to descend upon Baylor to establish that the IDC base thinks that Marks should get to do whatever he wants to at Baylor? Usually in these situations, the administration doesn’t really appreciate grandstanding.

It is all reminiscent of Dembski’s famous “Waterloo” email, snatching defeat from the very jaws of victory. We’ll have to see how many Baylor U. administrators got a nice chuckle out of the “P-A-R-O-D-Y” and the comments it elicited from the UD crowd.

Update 2007/09/02: What a surprise! No, wait; that would be parody. William “Once on the web, always on the web” Dembski has deleted the post concerning the pseudo-Lilley letter from UD. First, there was the “P-A-R-O-D-Y” label. Then came the discussions over the appropriateness of the parody. Then came the deletion of the oh-so-credulous comments (well, when one relentlessly bans, selecting for that left-hand tail of the distribution that can’t tell shinola from the other stuff, what does one expect?). And, in the fullness of time (tick-tock!), the deletion of the post itself.

There’s a new post up from Dembski, “Parody at UD”. “Street theater” is not mentioned, but there is this:

In retrospect, it’s clear that this piece of tomfoolery went too far. I’m therefore removing the thread. I hope Baylor and President Lilley take its removal as a gesture of goodwill on the part of UD as they reconsider what to do about Robert Marks and his Evolutionary Informatics Lab.

Check me on this: it is “goodwill” to remove an insulting parody of someone that you posted yourself the day before, although nothing that you say implies the minutest trace of respect for the person parodied, nor is there anything that approaches an apology?

As for the claim that credulity is expressed by checking with the supposed source, here is the content of a PM I sent just after sending my email to Lilley:

Posted: Sep. 01 2007,20:52

The more I look at it, the less genuine it seems.

I’ve written to Lilley for confirmation or rejection and quoted what they claimed he wrote. I’m waiting for the response… if “Botnik” can get a quick response, I’d imagine I could, too. Yeah, right from “Mr. Botnik” it sounds phony.

Both sides in the Baylor/Marks dispute have been all lawyered up for weeks now. That Lilley would let loose anything that close to actionable statements about a faculty member *who he knows has lawyers working for him right now* is incredible.


Update 2007/09/04: Yesterday, I got a direct answer from Baylor that the UD post was a fake, which at least says that Dr. Lilley is aware of the prank.

Also, William Dembski wrote up a “backgrounder” on things happening at Baylor that was posted, for who knows what reason, by Denyse O’Leary. It recounts a research position on soft money being offered to Dembski through Robert “Quirrell” Marks starting in November, 2006, and ending on December 8th, 2006, when Baylor said that the type of position was not approved for people with full-time work elsewhere. What’s interesting about that is that it shows up a post made by Dembski on 2006/12/03 as being simply obfuscatory and exceedingly misleading.

William A. Dembski, 2006/12/03:

Some internet gossip is going around suggesting that I am about to start a ?new job.? My job, and one I intend to keep for a long time, is as Research Professor in Philosophy at Southwestern Seminary. This is where I teach and this is where I derive my salary and benefits. I very much enjoy my students and colleagues. I recently spoke in chapel there, and, for the good of your soul, you do well to look at the text of my message:….ss.pdf.

In addition to this ‘day job,’ I have formal and informal affiliations with many groups and organizations. Because of some health issues in my family, we continue to live in the Waco area (Ft. Worth is about 90 miles north, requiring of me a long commute to Southwestern Seminary). Because Baylor is in Waco and because I was on the faculty of Baylor for over five years, I continue to stay in touch with Baylor colleagues, some of whom I collaborate with in research.

William A. Dembski (via D. O’Leary), 2007/09/03:

(4) My appointment as Senior Research Scientist in Baylor’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering began November 2006. The dean and department head were aware of my presence in the department and for one month raised no objection. I was given a small windowless office in the engineering building (Rogers 305A), which I planned to use once or twice a week. I had no teaching duties ^W this was strictly a research position. Also, I had access to the Baylor library and online journals.


(9) On Friday (12.08.06) Baylor claimed finally to have found a good reason to remove me, namely, a policy that forbids postdocs from having full outside employment (which I do with my job at Southwestern Seminary). [...]

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Running for Office; Running Away from IDC: The John Angus Campbell Makeover

Ian Ramjohn brought my attention to the fact that Discovery Insitute Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture Senior Fellow John Angus Campbell is running for a school board post. He is not, however, running as John Angus Campbell. For the election, he is “John Campbell” (See his website, Campbell 4 Kids).

Nor is the former expert-advocating-teaching-intelligent-design-in-public-school-classrooms (former, because he dropped out of the Kitzmiller v. DASD case just prior to being deposed) even bringing up his history as an advocate of “teaching the controversy”. Or that he is associated with the Discovery Institute.

Does this mean that Campbell’s school district is safe from tired old bogus and narrowly sectarian antievolution arguments being advocated by Campbell? Of course not.

He also says that, despite his advocacy for bringing intelligent design into the classroom, he himself is a “Darwinist.” He says he sees debating Darwin as a way of engaging students’ interest and sharpening their critical thinking skills. “Rather than demonizing people that believe in ID, I think there are ways people could use their ideas to study Darwinism more closely,” he explains.

So, while Campbell says that he isn’t going to touch curricula, and that IDC isn’t part of his motivation to run, nonetheless those IDC “ideas” are still something he thinks would be useful to “study Darwinism” with. The thing is that IDC “ideas” are “creation science” ideas are “scientific creationism” ideas; they just keep recycling the same religious content while applying progressively shiftier and more innocuous labels to it. This is despite the clear warning from the Supreme Court in the Edwards v. Aguillard case that such shams should not be mistaken for anything but religious establishment. The DI has finally gotten down to simply saying that they are criticizing evolutionary science; see their new “textbook”, Explore Evolution, to see this done up in print. Sure, science engages in self-criticism, but that isn’t the sort of thing the DI has a history of encouraging. Instead, what they want to do for biology is like having a chemistry curriculum that spends much of its time telling students that “theories” of heat transfer are just theories and that many credentialed scientists believe that the concept of phlogiston may be a better explanation, such that students either don’t learn thermodynamics at all, just the bogus objections, or end up having an unwarranted lack of confidence in the validity of the field of study.

Science isn’t about being perpetually perplexed on matters that can be tested. Phlogiston is dead as a doornail as a scientific theory, and no amount of flummery will resuscitate it. The same goes for the narrow religious viewpoint whose rotten arguments have been peddled as “scientific creationism”, “creation science”, “intelligent design”, “teaching the controversy”, “critical analysis”, “strengths and weaknesses”, and “weaknesses”. Students will not be getting a good education by spending time getting to know those arguments, any more than they will become more adept at thermodynamics by spending their time learning about the challenges phlogiston poses for the theory.

Theologically, one finds that the IDC “ideas” that Campbell still finds so interesting are, in fact, exclusionary. Design theorists are no friends of theistic evolution, as William Dembski has stated, and as many IDC interactions have made clear. Students whose pastors have told them that their faith and science’s findings are not in conflict will figure out shortly that all the histrionics about arguments against evolution really means that, no, science does conflict with faith, at least, it conflicts with the faith assumed by those bogus antievolution arguments. This has been a feature of case after case in the courts where the issue has been disputed, and the courts have been clear that religious preaching, in whatever guise, is not permitted under the aegis of public education.

The one good thing about the article is that it appears that IDC is seen as a liability when it comes to dealing with the public. It should be. Advocacy of intolerant religous doctrines being foisted off on teachers and students should be cause for people to look askance at those advocates. The pretense of scholarly legitimacy for IDC stances was always thin, but what slim hope some held out for it was absolutely dispelled by the evidentiary record of the Kitzmiller case. There, it was shown clearly that the ID label came about as subterfuge for the purpose of accomplishing an unconstitutional aim. The history of the IDC movement has not shown any tendency toward rehabilitation since then.

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