The Chicago Tribune Fact Check on the debates goes for that false balance thing in the headline:
“FACT CHECK: Romney flubs geography, Obama goofs on rival’s record, in final debate”
Mitt Romney, candidate for Commander-in-Chief, who not long ago identified Iran as a tippy-top threat to the security of the USA, has no clue about Iran’s geography or military disposition, which includes lots of threats to close the Strait of Hormuz to shipping. President Obama, on the other hand, is unlikely to launch a war on Massachusetts over the historical footnote that is Mitt Romney’s single-term governorship. Would it have been better if Obama knew more about the details of Mitt’s gubernatorial history? Sure. Is it anywhere comparable to Mitt’s thorough-going ignorance of current world affairs? I don’t think so.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 83247 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 5465 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Upcoming television series on PBS: Inside Nature’s Giants, begins January 18th at 10 PM.
Professor Joy Reidenberg is an unlikely TV star. She’s a comparative anatomist with the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Physically, she is diminutive, dark-haired and dark-eyed, and not the sort of slender sylph in morphotype that TV producers seem to favor. But Joy has deep anatomical knowledge and a gift for communicating what she knows, and that led the producers of the documentary series, “Inside Nature’s Giants”, to feature Joy in their program.
Diane and I have known Joy for years as a fellow attendee of various biennial conferences hosted by the Society for Marine Mammalogy. At the latest conference, we caught up with her following the conference-end banquet. She spun us a fascinating tale of how she came to star in a television series. Joy said that she received a call from the producers early one Friday afternoon preceding a holiday weekend, asking her if she might be interested in dissecting a stranded fin whale for a television program. Sure, she said, thinking that they were prospecting and planning for a project that would be months, if not years, down the road. So the question following her “yes” response floored her: Could she be on the plane for Ireland at 6 PM? Maybe was the answer, as Joy told us that physically getting to each part of the transportation network she’d need to get her stuff and passport would stretch things. Her husband and daughter decided to join the expedition. To cut things short, Joy and family made it to Ireland, and despite various amusing misadventures, made it to the locality of the whale stranding on time. There, the documentary producers pressed her into service as liaison to the local health authorities, who had to be convinced that permitting a whale necropsy on the spot was the best way forward to safely disposing of the carcass. She also had to try to convince the police to keep people away from the body, and she reported less success on that front. In any event, Joy got to do the dissection there for the cameras, and her innate enthusiasm and ability to draw people into discussion of anatomy impressed the producers so much that she became a regular co-host on the series.
There was also the adventure of traveling back home. Diane and I have attended necropsies of cetaceans, sirenians, pinnipeds, and sea turtles, and one has to take fairly strong measures to deal with the remaining odor that clings to clothes, skin, and hair. Joy had to physically get inside a decaying whale there in Ireland, and that makes for a different scale of olfactory assault. Joy told us of taking a succession of showers with vigorous scrubbing, but in the end even her family opted to stay in a separate room at the hotel. On the plane ride back, Joy was shifted to the very rear of the plane by the flight attendants, who kindly told the other passengers that they were having trouble with the toilets to explain the stench.
The TV series, “Inside Nature’s Giants”, is slated to air six episodes on PBS, starting January 18th, 2012, at 10 PM. The series is all about charismatic megafauna, but concentrates on post-mortem anatomical examination. Check your local PBS affiliate to make sure of the schedule. Another regular on the series who should be familiar to readers is Prof. Richard Dawkins.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 40878 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 3911 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
There’s a “Judge Judy” video clip being circulated where Judge Judy is deciding a case over unpaid rent. A young woman is the plaintiff, and is seeking several months of unpaid rent from a young man who shared an apartment with her. The young man is deeply confused about the concept of government aid for the purpose of rent, and Judge Judy unsuccessfully attempts to educate him about that. He asserts that because he could have paid for a hotel with the money, that he is justified in spending the money for other purposes.
But what struck me was the conclusion to the clip. The young man asks whether the plaintiff paid the rent on the apartment, and Judge Judy tells him that is an excellent question. Judge Judy then determines that the plaintiff only actually paid the rent for one month out of the several months that she is suing the defendant over. Judge Judy abruptly dismisses the case.
I’d appreciate feedback from the legally-oriented folks out there. It seems to me that Judge Judy is only justified in a dismissal like that if she is running (or simulating) a court of equity, not a court of law. So far as I can figure it, a court of law would hold it irrelevant to a claim whether the plaintiff was in violation of a contract with a third party. But in a court of equity, the plaintiff must be filing a case with “clean hands”, and it is that standard which the plaintiff in this case failed to meet.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 116148 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 7303 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Media Wesley R. Elsberry on 26 Aug 2010
I caught a repeat of the “NCIS: Los Angeles” episode, “Found”, earlier this week. There are synopses and reviews various places, like here and here. Neither of those took any notice of the issue of vigilantism in the episode. I think that it is something that should be a bit higher on the radar.
In case you haven’t seen the episode or read the reviews, the plotline is that one of the NCIS LA team had been kidnapped previously, and now terrorists are demanding that a prisoner in the USA be exchanged for the agent, or he will be killed by a particular and short deadline. The rest of the team goes all out in tracing down leads and trying to find out where he is being held in order to mount a rescue mission. One of the terrorists seems to take pity on the agent, and provides him with a key to his handcuffs. Coincidentally, the rest of the team follows the terrorists’ supporter/organizer to the LA hideout where their colleague has made his way to the roof. A gun battle ensues, with casualties of several terrorists and the agent who had been held prisoner.
Along the way, there were various dodgy interrogation techniques. One suspect gets partially strangled, then later threatened with drowning. In one scene, the operations manager, “Hetty”, tells one of the agents that sometimes extreme measures must be taken to get results, and that often critical questions will fail to be asked if the outcome is right.
I have to admit that the “Hetty” speech really put this one over the line for me. The US market seems to enjoy watching tales of semi- to full-blown vigilantism, and we don’t seem to be particular as to whether our vigilantes are outside the legal structure or operate from within it to obtain whatever it is that they consider to be justice. In general, Hollywood follows a rigid formula that where vigilantism is depicted: the vigilante is otherwise of scrupulous moral character, acts in good causes, and the villain is shown to be especially despicable. For every “Taxi Driver” showing another side to vigilantism, there’s a lot of “Death Wish”-like presentations that stick to the proven formula.
The NCIS: LA episode in question is certainly one of the more formulaic presentations, differing only in that the vigilantes eventually come up short, failing to save their colleague’s life. Getting back to the “Hetty” speech, though, what struck me was that the scriptwriter seemed to have to stretch quite a ways to come up with a pretentious, serious-sounding paraphrase of the blunt saying, “The ends justify the means.” For that was the sole content, when one boils it down to its base elements.
While the vigilante formula is widespread in Hollywood and beyond, it is a serial theme in many of the series produced by Donald Bellisario, including the NCIS franchise. Elsewhere, comments about the “Found” episode killing off a credited protagonist showed surprise or disappointment with the outcome. However, for anyone paying attention to previous series, having a fairly major supporting character die or suffer serious injury in a way that may result in some degree of feelings of guilt for the protagonist or protagonists remaining is also a continuing theme in Bellisario series. We saw it in Magnum PI, JAG, and the original NCIS before, so having that come into NCIS: LA is no big shocker.
Cognitive research shows that the vigilante theme plays on some common neural wiring in humans: we really do hate to see wrongdoing go unpunished, and will often do ourselves some harm to prevent that. However, the vigilante impulse in real life tends to be fulfilled not by clear-thinking puritans, but rather by flawed people acting out on their prejudices and fears. We may not know exactly why Michael Enright chose to stab a Muslim cab driver, but we do know he had been drinking heavily before the assault.
As frustrating as “letting” villains have their way with victims is, the alternative of rampant vigilantism doesn’t provide a good way forward. All too often, the vigilante makes mistakes in assigning guilt, and delivers punishment — or death — to the wrong party. Our legal system, with all its quirks and warts and exploitable flaws, is an evolving system aiming to find a balance between holding the guilty accountable for their actions and preserving the rights of the innocent, including those of the innocent wrongly accused. That’s a concern that vigilantes don’t seem to often bear in mind.
For the “Found” episode, the dodgy interrogation stuff wasn’t even essential to the main plotline. They got information on the supporter/organizer villain by casual conversation with an informant, which would have been enough to have them tail the fellow where he went. And where he went eventually was the location of their colleague and the climactic shootout. So essentially the episode’s main message to me wasn’t that this was a team who’d put it all on the line for a colleague, but rather that here are a bunch of people supposedly working on our behalf who are willing to dispense with their principles at the first hint of difficulty. I don’t think that’s what the producers were aiming for.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 1947 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 461 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
I went over to Wikipedia earlier this evening, hoping to find out what major University of Florida football quarterback Tim Tebow was graduating in. I didn’t find that out, but I did run across this sentence there:
One of the reasons he chose Florida was because of Meyer’s spread option offense, an offense for which Tebow was deemed a prototypical quarterback.
Given that the spread option offense has existed since the 1920s, it seems unlikely that Tebow was around then to serve as the prototype of a quarterback to run it. So I changed that to read:
One of the reasons he chose Florida was because of Meyer’s spread option offense, an offense for which Tebow was deemed an archetypal quarterback.
and left this explanation for others editing the page:
prototype=first of kind or preliminary; archetype=instance most indicative of the type
Before committing that change, I did look to see if I could get the Gainesville Sun article that was referenced for that sentence. I had no joy on that, but Google indicates that sports writers seem to have this as a common confusion over the difference in the terms.
Results 1 – 10 of about 156,000 for tebow prototypical
Results 1 – 10 of about 746,000 for football prototypical
I’m sure some of those are legitimate uses of “prototypical”, but my sense from looking over a small sample is that most are not.
Update: I found Tebow’s major; it is “Family, Youth and Community Sciences” in the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The web page says that the program is an applied social science.
Further update: I’ve found at least one source that defines “prototype” as “a standard or typical example”. That would make sense of a lot more of the usage I see in sports writing, but would still leave out those that are trying to communicate a sense of someone being exceptional in performance. It is certainly out of place in trying to use it in description of Tebow.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 43823 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 7469 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Media Wesley R. Elsberry on 14 Oct 2009
The Huffington Post has an article up concerning fact-checking.
Saturday Night Live had a sketch where someone playing the role of President Obama claimed that he couldn’t have been bad for the country as rightwingers claimed, since he had actually done nothing while in office. CNN then did a story about fact-checking the SNL skit.
Jon Stewart at “The Daily Show” then took up the futility of CNN getting all bent out of shape over a certain artistic license in an SNL skit script when they had a number of interviewees who simply delivered false information without CNN bothering to find out whether those people had their facts straight.
It’s pretty sad when one is finding over and over again that a major bastion of journalistic integrity nowadays is itself a comedy show.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 33483 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 6039 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
I just ran across a column from Melanie Phillips in the Spectator. In it, she wrongly accuses Ken Miller of having given “muddled testimony” in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. DASD trial. Further, she lays it out plainly:
Whatever the ramifications of the specific school textbooks under scrutiny in the Kitzmiller/Dover case, the fact is that Intelligent Design not only does not come out of Creationism but stands against it. This is because Creationism comes out of religion while Intelligent Design comes out of science. Creationism, whose proponents are Bible literalists, is a specific doctrine which holds that the earth was literally created in six days. Intelligent Design, whose proponents are mainly scientists, holds that the complexity of science suggests that there must have been a governing intelligence behind the origin of matter, which could not have developed spontaneously from nothing.
The confusion arises partly out of ignorance, with people lazily confusing belief in a Creator with Creationism. But belief in a Creator is common to all people of monotheistic faith – with many scientists amongst them — the vast majority of whom would regard Creationism as totally ludicrous. In coming to the conclusion that a governing intelligence must have been responsible for the ultimate origin of matter, Intelligent Design proponents are essentially saying there must have been a creator. The difference between them and people of religious faith is that ID proponents do not necessarily believe in a personalised Creator, or God.
As a result, both Creationists and many others of religious faith disdain Intelligent Design, just as ID proponents think Creationism is totally off the wall. Yet the two continue to be conflated. And ignorance is only partly responsible for the confusion, since militant evangelical atheists deliberately conflate Intelligent Design with Creationism in order to smear and discredit ID and its adherents.
Sorry, Melanie, but it is you who is demonstrating ignorance here. Of course, understanding the legal situation in a different country can be a large contributing factor, but it would still have paid Melanie dividends to at least have recognized that she didn’t have all the facts in hand before launching into the bogus recriminations against others.
In the United States, the First Amendment to the Constitution provides a guarantee that the government will not entangle itself with religion. This makes the situation in the USA quite different from that in the UK, where there is a state religion, or Canada, whose constitution has no provision for separation of church and state. Prior to 1968, three states had laws on the books that forbid public school teachers to instruct students in evolutionary science. Those laws were rendered invalid in 1968 when the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled that kind of exclusion of a science topic to privilege a particular religious interpretation was unconstitutional. The case there was Epperson v. Arkansas, and it pit a schoolteacher against the state of Arkansas. The take-away message there, that science could be taught in the classroom without hindrance, caused the religious antievolution movement to embark on a multi-decade campaign rooted in deception. Where before antievolutionary creationism was explicitly a religious endeavor, the leaders of the antievolution movement came up with a strategy that was both simple and dishonest: they would simply call the same old arguments made under the banner of antievolutionary creationism “science”, and attempt to argue that the explicitly religious underpinnings were separable from the putatively scientific portion they wanted to go into public school science classrooms.
Originally, this effort settled upon calling the part to be “sanitized” for public school adoption “scientific creationism” (SciCre), and the explicitly religious part as “biblical creationism” (see this page). The ICR published two versions of a textbook titled “Scientific Creationism” before the great re-naming effort. There was the regular SciCre textbook and there was the “Public School Edition”. The “Public School Edition” redacted references to bible verses, biblical history, and God in an attempt to make its message such that public school administrators would adopt it. Not too long after that, yet another shift in labels occurred to serve the cause: call the part for public school science classrooms “creation science” instead of “scientific creationism”. Apparently, it was felt that the “-ism” ending for “scientific creationism” was too evocative of philosophy and not science-y enough. The interchangeability of those terms can be seen in this page from the ICR, where to illustrate “scientific creationism” it recommends a book titled, “What Is Creation Science?”
It was under the label of “creation science” that religious antievolution was dealt its most widespread legal defeats. Two separate cases were tried based on very similar laws passed in Arkansas and Louisiana. The laws derived from text published by antievolutionist Wendell Bird, and mandated that any time evolutionary science was taught in public school classrooms, there would be “equal time” or “balanced treatment” setting forth “creation science”. The case in Arkansas was McLean et al. v. Arkansas. It was tried in a federal district court before Judge William Overton and featured expert witnesses testifying for “creation science” and pro-science experts taking those claims apart. Judge Overton ruled against the state in 1982; the state declined to appeal the ruling. The setback “creation science” received in Arkansas led to a summary judgment in a similar case in Louisiana, so there were no testifying experts in the Louisiana case. The resulting lawsuit, Edwards v. Aguillard, went all the way to the SCOTUS, and they ruled in 1987 that “creation science” promoted a particular supernatural doctrine and therefore was unconstitutional to insert into public school science classes.
A part of the SCOTUS decision in Edwards is that the majority decision refers to the purpose of legislation and how a stated secular purpose has to be sincere and not a sham. In the majority decision, the purpose stated by the Louisiana legislature was found not to be sincere on various grounds. (This was disputed in a dissenting opinion authored by Justice Antonin Scalia.) This element of the need to root out attempted deception in antievolution efforts was recognized in the SCOTUS decision.
The analysis of textbook content so breezily dismissed by Melanie Phillips in her screed is critical to understanding the 2005 Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District case and the relationship of “creation science” and “intelligent design”. In 1982, “creation science” lost in the federal district court-level decision in McLean v. Arkansas. Shortly thereafter, the Texas-based Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE) began a project to produce a textbook advancing “creation science” that would pass scrutiny such as was brought to bear in the McLean trial. By 1983, the FTE had a draft of the textbook, titled then as “Creation Biology”. A total of six different drafts of this textbook project were provided under subpoena of FTE to the plaintiffs in the Kitzmiller case. These ranged in date from the 1983 draft to somewhere prior to the release of the published edition in 1989 under the title, “Of Pandas and People”. Four drafts up until 1987 were explicit in advocating “creation science”. A fifth draft dated to later in 1987, following the SCOTUS decision in the Edwards case saying that “creation science” was unconstitutional to insert into the public school classrooms, suddenly replaced references to “creation science” with “intelligent design”. The import of this is that this draft marks the first widely distributed usage of “intelligent design” to be treated as a field of human inquiry and not, as has since been noted as long-extant usage, simply an adjectival phrase. The textbook and its documented history demonstrates that “intelligent design” had exactly the same content as the previous version of religious antievolution. In fact, a paragraph offering a definition of “creation science” became a paragraph defining “intelligent design” by the simple expedient of replacing the former with the latter in the text. This documented relationship of having identical content between “creation science” and “intelligent design” was not “muddled testimony”; it was hard evidence of the continuing strategy in religious antievolution of trying to find a new label that would pass legal scrutiny for the same old religious antievolution argumentative content.
Melanie Phillips is also ill-informed when it comes to a relevant definition of creationism. Phillip Johnson, lawyer, special advisor to the Discovery Institute, and authoritative source on “intelligent design”, put it this way in his 1991 book, “Darwin On Trial”:
Clearing up confusion requires a careful and consistent use of terms. In this book, “creation science” refers to young-earth, six-day special creation. “Creationism” means belief in creation in a more general sense. Persons who believe that the earth is billions of years old, and the simple forms of life evolved gradually to become more complex forms including humans, are “creationists” if they believe that a supernatural Creator not only initiated this process but in some meaningful sense controls it in furtherance of a purpose.
(Source: Phillip E. Johnson, Darwin on Trial (2nd ed.), Intervarsity Press, p.4 (footnote).)
“Intelligent design” can hardly “stand opposed” to creationism as Melanie Phillips claims, when one has the knowledge imparted by reading the “intelligent design” advocates’ own meaning for the term.
Melanie Phillips wants us to credit that “intelligent design” can be distinguished from religious antievolution. As seen above, her argument as given founders on the fact that she didn’t even get the relevant definitions right.
What Phillips wants is a qualitative distinction between “creationism” and “intelligent design”, but her arguments would, even if valid, not deliver that as a conclusion. Phillips argues that there is “disdain” between “creationists” and “intelligent design” advocates, and thus concludes that identifying “intelligent design” as a form of “creationism” is wrong. There have been some instances of criticism of “intelligent design” from young-earth creationist advocates, but these are far from establishing a qualitative break between “creationism” and “intelligent design”. Note in this example of criticism from Henry M. Morris, a leading young-earth creationist advocate, that even he sees the religious content and intent of “intelligent design” tactics:
We disagree with this approach! We do appreciate the abilities and motives of Bill Dembski, Phil Johnson, and the other key writers in the Intelligent Design Movement. They think that if they can just get a “wedge” into the naturalistic mindset of the Darwinists, then later the Biblical God can be suggested as the “designer” implicit in the concept.
Yes, it is an example of criticism of “intelligent design”, but its import undercuts Melanie Phillips’ claim that any qualitative difference can be supported as existing between “intelligent design” and even young-earth creationism.
Nor is Melanie Phillips correct in the general claim that IDC advocates “think Creationism is totally off the wall”. The Discovery Institute’s list of fellows includes a substantial proportion of young-earth creationists. Those knowledgeable of the antievolution movement know that, contrary to Melanie Phillips, criticism of young-earth creationism is actively discouraged by “intelligent design” advocates. It isn’t hard to discern why this obtains. “Intelligent design” creationism (IDC) is numerically a tiny movement. The real numbers in antievolution advocacy are in young-earth creationism (YEC). IDC advocates know that for their success, they must have a substantial proportion of YEC believers on board with their program.
Melanie Phillips has, in her uninformed arrogance, missed a significant piece of information: the “Wedge” document. This 1999 fund-raising document from the Discovery Institute lays out the strategy that would guide the promotion of “intelligent design” creationism. It serves as a glimpse into what “intelligent design” meant for the people who would aggressively promote it.
The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built. Its influence can be detected in most, if not all, of the West’s greatest achievements, including representative democracy, human rights, free enterprise, and progress in the arts and sciences.
Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies. Bringing together leading scholars from the natural sciences and those from the humanities and social sciences, the Center explores how new developments in biology, physics and cognitive science raise serious doubts about scientific materialism and have re-opened the case for a broadly theistic understanding of nature. The Center awards fellowships for original research, holds conferences, and briefs policymakers about the opportunities for life after materialism.
* To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies.
* To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.
5. Spiritual & cultural renewal:
* Mainline renewal movements begin to appropriate insights from design theory, and to repudiate theologies influenced by materialism
* Major Christian denomination(s) defend(s) traditional doctrine of creation & repudiate(s)
* Darwinism Seminaries increasingly recognize & repudiate naturalistic presuppositions
* Positive uptake in public opinion polls on issues such as sexuality, abortion and belief in God
“Intelligent design” was sold by its primary advocates not as a scientific movement, but as a religious counter-attack on “materialism”.
Given what I’ve covered, let me re-examine Melanie Phillips words.
Whatever the ramifications of the specific school textbooks under scrutiny in the Kitzmiller/Dover case, the fact is that Intelligent Design not only does not come out of Creationism but stands against it.
Wrong. The textbook analysis demonstrated identity between the content of “creation science” and that of “intelligent design”. “Intelligent design” came out of and is comprised of the same ensemble of arguments seen in “creation science”. It presents a subset of the “creation science” arguments, as “creation science” presented a subset of antievolutionary creationism arguments. IDC does not repudiate the arguments it does not carry over from “creation science”; IDC instead provides a “big tent” to hold all the opponents of evolutionary science. This can be seen in various of the answers from the IDC “experts” brought in for unofficial “hearings” in Kansas in 2005, where when asked how old they thought the earth was, several held that it could be either several thousand or several billion years old, and some said simply that it was under 100,000 years old. (Responses are compiled here.) “Intelligent design” only stands against “materialism”, since many of its principal advocates are themselves YECs and protection of YEC dogma from critique is still an organizing principle of the IDC movement.
This is because Creationism comes out of religion while Intelligent Design comes out of science.
Wrong. The “Wedge” document demonstrates quite clearly that the focus of “intelligent design” was on advancing a particular form of theism, not science. IDC advocates must, in order to have some hope of foisting an effective sham, declare that they aren’t religiously motivated. Their self-report is therefore suspect, and they must be judged on other criteria, like what actions they take and the actual argumentative content that they use. For both of those criteria, IDC advocates are indistinguishable from either “creation scientists” or “biblical creationists”.
Creationism, whose proponents are Bible literalists, is a specific doctrine which holds that the earth was literally created in six days.
Wrong. Even Phillip Johnson, the “intelligent design” advocate’s “intelligent design” advocate, defines “creationism” as far broader than young-earth creationist belief. This is the sort of thing that even a cursory examination of the topic should have revealed to a competent journalist or commentator.
Intelligent Design, whose proponents are mainly scientists, holds that the complexity of science suggests that there must have been a governing intelligence behind the origin of matter, which could not have developed spontaneously from nothing.
Unsupported. When one looks at the list of fellows of the Discovery Institute, scientists are not a majority of of folks on the list. By my count, there are eleven fellows with some scientific credentials there, out of forty fellows total. Instead, one finds a bunch of lawyers, philosophers, writers, and other non-science professions taking up the majority of the list. Nor does Melanie Phillips bother to try to somehow turn what is putatively a general career choice among “intelligent design” advocates into an exclusion of having religious motivations for their advocacy.
The confusion arises partly out of ignorance, with people lazily confusing belief in a Creator with Creationism.
Wrong. The correct perception of “intelligent design” as simply another form of creationism comes from knowledge of the religious antievolution movement, its history and its people.
But belief in a Creator is common to all people of monotheistic faith – with many scientists amongst them — the vast majority of whom would regard Creationism as totally ludicrous.
Wrong. Melanie Phillips again runs afoul of not knowing how broadly “intelligent design” advocates define “creationism”.
In coming to the conclusion that a governing intelligence must have been responsible for the ultimate origin of matter, Intelligent Design proponents are essentially saying there must have been a creator.
This may be about the closest that Melanie Phillips came to a true statement in the whole quoted block. However, any implication that “intelligent design” advocates only say things with that minimal content would be utterly misleading, and the notion of IDC advocates “concluding” something is misleading in its implication that there is a valid chain of argument there.
The difference between them and people of religious faith is that ID proponents do not necessarily believe in a personalised Creator, or God.
True, but misleading. There are two or three people routinely offered as agnostic or atheist advocates of “intelligent design”. All of the remainder, including every single high-profile IDC advocate, are theists. The signing-up of a couple of contrarians should not be considered as defining what the preponderant motivation is.
As a result, both Creationists and many others of religious faith disdain Intelligent Design, just as ID proponents think Creationism is totally off the wall.
Wrong. There are some criticisms made of “intelligent design” by YEC sources, but none of those rise to a level that could be called “disdain”. As seen above, many IDC advocates are themselves YEC in belief, and protection of YEC beliefs from criticism in the IDC ranks is a priority for the controlling IDC advocates.
Yet the two continue to be conflated.
Wrong. “Conflated” implies that the demonstration of identical content between “creation science” and “intelligent design” was somehow improper.
And ignorance is only partly responsible for the confusion, since militant evangelical atheists deliberately conflate Intelligent Design with Creationism in order to smear and discredit ID and its adherents.
Wrong. For myself and other theists who object to the deceptive nature of religious antievolution advocacy in the USA, pointing out the actual and demonstrable identity of content between “intelligent design” and precursor forms of creationism is upholding truth and accuracy. The demonstrable fact that the “intelligent design” creationism movement is continuous with, identical in content, and sharing the same deceptive strategy as prior religious antievolution means that Melanie Phillips has ironically defended the wrong-doers by smearing others.
Melanie, just a word of advice: when writing, it helps if you know something about the topic at hand. When you don’t, you end up blithering, as in the quoted passage from your column. Further, basing odious attacks on the integrity of people like Prof. Ken Miller on nothing more than one’s arrogantly held ignorance quite well fits Richard Dawkins’ characterization of the “wicked” component of religious antievolution. Melanie, you owe Prof. Miller an apology, and you owe your readers informed commentary.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 36028 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 8008 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
The Peoria Journal Star’s opinion page has a couple of recent entries. Here’s a disappointing rant from someone who claims to be a middle school science teacher:
The Texas Board of Education allowing evolutionary theory to be questioned is long overdue.
All science theories should be scrutinized. Otherwise, Einstein would not have proven that time is not constant and that gravity is simply acceleration through space/time. Those school boards that add to their biology books that parts of evolution may not be correct don’t go far enough. No concept in any science book should be absolutely accepted.
Parts of the evolutionary theory are confusing. If survival of the fittest is the standard, then why don’t we let diabetics die instead of weakening the gene pool? Where does compassion fit into this theory?
If brain power propelled man to the top of the food chain, why have all other plants and animals been denied this intelligence? The first time I hear a duck ask a hunter, “Could you please aim that shotgun somewhere else?” I will be impressed.
What explains the enormous complexity of the human body with thousands of processes operating simultaneously that, by themselves, have no purpose? What evolutionary advantage did the first bat have that sent out a sonar signal with no receptors to receive the reflection?
“Teaching students to think is more important than what to think” should be more than just a slogan.
Morton Junior High School
Karen Bartelt, who many readers may remember from her thorough demolition of the “dissertation” filed by “Dr.” Kent Hovind, responded to Kutkat. She kindly sent me the complete letter she submitted to the Peoria Journal Star with permission to post it.
The first step in being able to scrutinize a scientific theory like evolution is to understand it. This is true whether one is a high school biology student or a junior high science teacher. Gary Kutkatb’s mind-numbingly ignorant caricature of evolution demonstrates that he neither understands evolution nor realizes where science stops and disciplines like ethics begin. His letter says a lot more about his own scientific background, or lack thereof, than it does about evolution and science.
Parts of evolutionary theory become less confusing when one studies the evidence supporting this scientific paradigm. A recent and very accessible book is Why Evolution is True, by Jerry Coyne.
Scientific theories ARE continuously scrutinized. It is by this process that evolution is now recognized, to paraphrase biologist E.O. Wilson, as one of the two universal principles governing our understanding of life. The other principle includes the laws of physics and chemistry. The vast majority of people who work in science see evolution in this light, because they are aware of the evidence supporting it.
Students should be encouraged to question what they learn, but it’s important that they know what they are talking about first.
Karen E. Bartelt, Ph.D.
Semi-retired science educator
As someone who has actually done research on biosonar, let me take up Kutkat’s swipe there:
What evolutionary advantage did the first bat have that sent out a sonar signal with no receptors to receive the reflection?
This rather precisely makes Bartelt’s point. Kutkat is apparently unaware that the hearing apparatus in vertebrates has been described by a researcher with decades of experience, Art Popper, as showing variations on a theme, the theme being established in various fish lineages, and showing modifications of anatomy in amphibians, reptiles, and humans. The receptors are hearing organs or ears, and nobody with half a clue thinks that the last common ancestor of bats didn’t have ears. Humans don’t have built-in active biosonar, but research has shown that humans can perform target discrimination tasks as well as dolphins when a slowed-down version of a dolphin biosonar click train is provided for the humans. Blind humans have taken up echolocation, and have not had any problem using the receptors they still have the use of.
Kutkat may not be aware of how extensively biosonar is used. The most derived systems are those found in some bats and in odontocetes, the toothed whales, but biosonar has also been observed to be used by shrews, voles, badgers, some birds, and most recently a group of parasitic wasps was noted to use it. Most of these other organisms are using biosonar at a very coarse level of resolution, and these sorts of systems make it clear that one need not have the highly-tuned system of some bats in order to derive benefit from active biosonar.
This isn’t the first time a religious antievolutionist has trotted out a claim that biosonar somehow disproves evolutionary biology, and I doubt it will be the last.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 11196 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 3646 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
I saw the NCIS episode “One Shot, One Kill” and noticed a blooper in the show. Maybe that’s not that cool, but this particular blooper requires knowing something about acoustic localization. This is the technology that is being used to let marine mammal researchers place the position of whales who are vocalizing and also lets police departments know about where gunshots have been fired. The basic idea is that one places a bunch of sound transducers in known positions, and one can — with the aid of a bunch of math and computer power — estimate where a sound originated.
In the case of marine mammal researchers, Whitlow Au and the research group at the University of Hawaii have had a four-hydrophone array, where the hydrophones are arranged in a tetrahedral shaped, and the whole thing is a bit over a meter across, IIRC. With a sufficiently fast simultaneous-sampling data recorder, they can get a reasonably good bearing and range estimate on a whale or dolphin.
For the police, there have been installations of microphones in several cities. First, a microphone detects a gunshot. Second, another program delivers a localization estimate. Some of these are claimed to be accurate to about 80 feet. Given the reverberant qualities of sound propagation in the urban environment that’s either a testament to amazing skill on the part of the engineers, or amazing BS on the part of the marketers.
So if gunshots can be acoustically localized, what was the problem with NCIS showing use of the technology? It came in the form of having the goth forensics guru character, Abby Sciuto (played by Pauley Perrette), showing a graphic on a computer monitor supposedly giving the result of the localization for a gunshot. The graphic showed a linear array of three microphones and three straight lines running through the estimated shooter’s position and each of the microphones. Nice, simple to grasp, and wrong. First, acoustic localization will give you a half of a hyperboloid as a solution for a time-of-arrival difference between any pair of sound transducers. The estimated location is going to be at places where multiple hyperboloids intersect. Even if one simplifies things to being more-or-less restricted to a 2D solution, there isn’t much call for showing a straight line when graphing an acoustic localization. Second, anyone worth a flip doing acoustic localization for a known sniper situation isn’t going to deploy just three microphones relatively close to each other, and certainly not with with them in a linear array. The best situation to have for acoustic localization is to have the sound source within one’s array of microphones. If you have to deploy a small number of microphones, and can’t get a long baseline, staggering them so there is not a straight line through the positions is going to help. With a symmetrical situation like the line of three microphones, one has poorer localization the closer a source is to being on that line. (On the line, there is no localization of a source outside the microphones; time of arrival will tell you on which side of the array the source is, but whether it is eight feet or 800 yards from the outside microphone isn’t going to be determined by time of arrival differences.) Using a triangle when in a 2D situation or a tetrahedron for 3D is going to work out better.
It makes for an interesting question of what the best placement would be if one were planning
to do acoustic localization of a sniper and one only had three mics, but knew where the target was, and that the only distant approach came from one side of the building where the target was. Offhand, I’d put one mic on the line normal to the target’s building, either on the building or 50 to 100 yards to the front of the building. The other two would go out to either side about 300 yards and a total of about 1,200 yards from the building. That would help make it more likely that a sniper spot is within the triangle formed by the three mics.
Media Wesley R. Elsberry on 02 Feb 2009
Jill Biden earned her
Ph.D. Ed.D. in 2007 in education. Robin Abcarian, reporter for the Los Angeles Times, must be having a tough time finding material to write about, given the article attacking Biden for being identified as Dr. Jill Biden. The level of research Abcarian undertook is exemplified by this erratum in the online version:
FOR THE RECORD:
The headline in an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Jill Biden had a doctorate in English. She has a doctorate in education.
Media Matters has an excellent response to Abcarian, taking apart many of the slights that Abcarian had worked into the article. One of the most annoying moments in the Abcarian article was its quoting of a newspaper staffer about policy:
Newspapers, including The Times, generally do not use the honorific “Dr.” unless the person in question has a medical degree.
“My feeling is if you can’t heal the sick, we don’t call you doctor,” said Bill Walsh, copy desk chief for the Washington Post’s A section and the author of two language books.
Bill Walsh is confused. While doctor as a description of what someone does for a living is tied to the medical profession by modern usage, the “Dr.” title of address is accurately applied to any holder of a terminal research or professional degree that is a doctorate. That is inclusive of medical doctors, but not exclusive of doctorates in the arts, sciences, and other professions.
The hypocrisy issue raised by Media Matters was particularly telling: would the LA Times demur from calling LA Lakers owner Jerry Buss as “Dr.”, and go so far as to publish articles attacking him for using his earned title? Certainly the “policy” cited by Walsh is inconsistently applied. The LA Times has published articles that do use “Dr.” to refer to people other than medical doctors. Like this article that includes a reference to “Dr. Jerry Buss”.
Of course, the low point in the Abcarian article as pointed out by Media Matters has to be the implication that someone using “Dr.” as a title might be guilty of a criminal offense, “title fraud”:
German investigations of “title fraud” don’t have anything to do with Jill Biden. Nobody – nobody except the LA Times, that is – is suggesting that Jill Biden is guilty of “fraud.” And Germany doesn’t prohibit non-medical doctors from using the title doctor; it prohibits people who didn’t earn their doctorate in Germany or the EU to call themselves doctor. Again: this has absolutely nothing to do with Jill Biden. It’s just a cheap shot; a clumsy effort to suggest there is something fraudulent about her use of the title “doctor,” even though there is nothing wrong with her doing so – by American standards or German.
It’s probably a safe bet that Robin Abcarian doesn’t hold an earned doctorate. The sort of anti-intellectualism that comes through that article doesn’t usually come from a background in graduate studies.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 9659 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 3124 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Media Wesley R. Elsberry on 28 Jan 2009
Verizon Wireless has acquired Alltel Wireless.
Remember the perky commercials featuring Chad, the personable Alltel Wireless salesman? And the four dorks representing the competing firms of Cingular, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon?
Recent corporate events should, for completeness sake, be reflected in one last commercial with the line-up of actors. In this one, though, Matthew Brent would close his cell phone, and get to tell Chad, “The merger’s done. You work for me now, Chad.”<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 9488 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 3248 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Q. How do you know when a professional antievolution advocate is lying?
A. Their lips are moving.
Sometimes it seems like the derivative above comes close to the truth. Take, for instance, Fuz Rana’s article, “What Darwin Didn’t Know”, appearing in Charisma magazine. Here’s an example of a whopper that Rana passes on with all the confidence that gave us “con man” as a phrase:
Researchers have traditionally maintained that hundreds of millions of years would be necessary for abiogenesis. They also claim that the first life to emerge would be extremely simple, evolving toward complexity.
Darwin embraced the protoplasmic theory-the idea that the cell consisted of only a wall surrounding a nucleus and a homogeneous, jellylike protoplasm. This understanding made early evolutionary explanations of abiogenesis plausible. Biologists and chemists easily envisioned chemical routes that could produce the single ingredient believed to form the cell’s protoplasm.
Fuz Rana joins a plethora of other antievolutionists who push the same lie. Darwin famously propounded an incorrect mechanism of inheritance, pangenesis, that required an enormously complex sub-cellular organization, and Darwin published scientific work showing complex sub-cellular changes induced in living cells when exposed to certain chemicals. The notion that Darwin was a proponent of the idea Rana and other liars assert would be fully worthy of being taken up by the Mythbusters folks, except I don’t see how they’d work a large explosion into such a segment.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 12526 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 4347 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Sharon Begley had a piece in Newsweek magazine about scientists rethinking positions. Begley is not the retiring sort, apparently:
Rare, however, are changes of mind by scientists identified with either side of a contentious issue. No one who rose to fame arguing that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by sticky brain plaques and who has now been convinced by evidence that the plaques are mostly innocent bystanders, not culprits. No one who once pushed hormone replacement therapy to prevent heart attacks in menopausal women who now realizes that the drugs increase the risk of heart attacks (as well as stroke and breast cancer). No one who cast his lot with the theory that a killer asteroid sent the dinosaurs into extinction who now reads the impact-crater evidence as implicating worldwide volcanism instead. But really, we shouldn’t be surprised. Proponents of a particular viewpoint, especially if their reputation is based on the accuracy of that viewpoint, cling to it like a shipwrecked man to flotsam. Studies that undermine that position, they say, are fatally flawed.
All this based upon the results of the 2008 “Edge” question, a remarkable achievement in meta-analysis on Begley’s part.
Was there anyone who “rose to fame” on the basis of advocating a particular mechanism for Alzheimer’s in the respondents to the 2008 Edge question? Not that I can see. Begley does not justify her sweeping conclusion in terms of the expected prior probability of scientists who are confronted with a major change in evidence in their field of study in their lifetime, modulated by average point in career of the correspondent. I guess Begley thinks that happens to everybody every other week, but that would be baseless speculation. A brief look at the respondent list demonstrates that it wasn’t just scientists contributing, as the presence of thespian Alan Alda exemplifies. Beatrice Golomb was a respondent to the Edge question, but she is on record as being skeptical of the benefits of proposed treatments based on the particular mechanism Begley disses. Golomb also is on the side of the angels concerning Begley’s next sentence about hormone replacement therapy, as her response to the Edge question is specifically on that topic and criticizes HRT advocates for sloppy experimental design. Begley’s next target is puzzling, because Scott Sampson’s essay in the collection discusses his change of mind because of the evidence between explanations for the KT boundary event that did in the dinosaurs — but he went the other way, dropping his preference for gradualist volcanism for the catastrophic impact explanation. Why Begley insists that only changes of mind in the other direction should count toward the good remains a mystery. Is Begley in command of facts not yet available to the researchers who are closest to the question? If so, she doesn’t divulge them here.
There certainly exist scientists who have long clung to favored pet theories long past when the weight of the evidence should have caused them to change their mind, with Louis Agassiz perhaps serving as the archetype. But Begley’s argument is not about an existence proof, but rather a hasty generalization supposedly applicable to the vast majority of the scientific profession. And that Begley has no basis for, not even within the limited sample of the Edge question results.
Maybe a question in the journalist profession could be the basis for changes of mind, too, specifically whether anything filling column-inches is better than a far more accurate void.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 10140 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 3217 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
A news item notes that President Bush signed three new national monuments into effect and is being praised by various people for the action. Somewhat less prominent is the information that the area of these monuments, all in the Pacific Ocean, is a fraction of what marine biologists had requested receive protection. 2.2 million square kilometers were designated, and Bush protected about a quarter of that, 505,000 square kilometers.
The move, which has become known as Bush’s Blue Legacy, tops his 2006 designation of 360,000 square kilometers of ocean off the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as a national monument.
“Bush’s Blue Legacy”? Tell me you’re kidding me, Christopher Pala. Who, precisely, told you that anyone besides a Bush flunky is using that phrase?
The article ends with this inane sound bite:
“This move, coupled with the strong team the Obama Administration is putting in place, gives the ocean a fighting chance,” said Vikki Spruill, president of the Ocean Conservancy in Washington, D.C.
I think that better oversight may help improve things, but I don’t see any obvious reason to think that simply designating little-used ocean acreage as a “monument” does much by itself to help with the problems that beset ocean habitat. Is there any indication that any government agency is tasked with actually enforcing the paper protection that area has received? Or is it possible that an already overstretched part of our government has been tasked with that, meaning that their enforcement of regulations where known problems are occurring becomes more spotty and less effective? I certainly feel entitled to a modicum of cynicism where “conservation” and “George W. Bush” are mentioned in proximity to one another.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 13635 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 3712 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Marcia Angell has an article in the New York Review of Books that considers three books touching upon modern medicine and unseemly links to corporate pharmaceutical companies.
Angell takes up various problems, but I was intrigued when she got around to how companies now control research, sometimes shading a negative experimental result in a way that is perceived as a positive outcome for their product. See if the following paragaph from Angell strikes you in the same way it did me:
The suppression of unfavorable research is the subject of Alison Bass’s engrossing book, Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower, and a Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial. This is the story of how the British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline buried evidence that its top-selling antidepressant, Paxil, was ineffective and possibly harmful to children and adolescents. Bass, formerly a reporter for the Boston Globe, describes the involvement of three people—a skeptical academic psychiatrist, a morally outraged assistant administrator in Brown University’s department of psychiatry (whose chairman received in 1998 over $500,000 in consulting fees from drug companies, including GlaxoSmithKline), and an indefatigable New York assistant attorney general. They took on GlaxoSmithKline and part of the psychiatry establishment and eventually prevailed against the odds.
I wonder whether the fact that the last person referred to in the next to last sentence was Eliot Spitzer, subject of a sex scandal, led to the elliptical references all around. It stands out in the article as one place where Angell eschews naming names. Would the fact that someone with an all-too-human failing was involved in standing up to corporate misdeeds really detract that much from the force of the article? [Comments point out that Bass's focus was not on NY AG Spitzer, but to NY AAG Rose Firestein, and thus there is not a specific reason to avoid naming the cited person. My apologies to Marcia Angell.]<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 15057 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 4989 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Sociologist and post-modernist Steve Fuller has joined the posting crew at Uncommon Descent, joining such luminaries as David Scott Springer and Denyse O’Leary. Fuller has a couple of posts up already, and is offering his analysis of what “intelligent design” argumentation ought to be. That is, a sociologist is proposing a prescriptive philosophical take on “intelligent design” on the weblog of “intelligent design”‘s leading philosopher.
Fuller is looking at the challenge posed by the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” (FSM) response to “intelligent design” creationism (IDC) [No, Fuller doesn't properly call IDC as IDC, but here it will be.] Bobby Henderson’s 2005 letter to the Kansas State Board of Education requesting that, so long as non-science was being inserted into classrooms, his own non-science of a “Flying Spaghetti Monster” creator should also go into the curriculum, has attracted nationwide attention. Most IDC advocates and cheerleaders are pleased to call FSM arguments “silly” and there leave it, a reasonable tactic given that they don’t actually have a substantive response to the core issue of why one brand of pseudoscience should be preferred over another. Will Fuller actually address that with anything but forks and hope?
Maybe my fears are ungrounded, but I have been always struck that when the media put out a boilerplate account of a key ID concept like ‘irreducible complexity’, they tend to interpret the ‘irreducibility’ as something like ‘unfathomability’. But in fact, the spirit of the concept is to show how things had to be put together in a certain way to serve a certain function, such that even minor changes would render the thing dysfunctional. This strikes me as the very opposite of ‘unfathomability’. If anything, it speaks to the hyper-rationalism, or at least hyper-mechanism, of ID thinking.
This isn’t looking good. Fuller claims something applies as a blanket or at least common description, yet I don’t recall ever seeing the particular sort of interpretation that Fuller asserts is common in media reports. Let me go look at recent uses… Dan Jones in New Scientist got it right. Dale Husband in Nolan Chart got it right. Ian Galloway didn’t actually go into detail about what IC meant in The Scotsman. Stephen Torrence in the Daily Toreador got it right. John Timmer in Ars Technica got it right. Georgina Ferry got it right in The Guardian. I see no sign yet that the media has any such “tendency” as Fuller asserts is the case. That last sentence of Fuller’s is, so far as it may be parsed, an assertion of facts not in evidence. Please browse the Uncommon Descent site. One need not do much browsing to come to a conclusion that sub-rational thinking is the norm in the defense of IDC there, not “hyper-rationality”. As for “hyper-mechanism”, one wonders whether this verbal hiccup of Fuller’s comes from his post-modern background. Basing arguments on false premises, as Fuller does above, is bad form, or at least it is for the non-post-modern crowd.
Fuller then gets on to criticizing text from, if I am not mistaken, Denyse O’Leary.
With the aid of improved technology, the formerly fuzzy “canals” of biology (Darwin’s blobs of gelatinous combinations of carbon) are not becoming fuzzier and more easily explained by non-ID theses — they are now known to be high-tech information processing systems, with superbly functionally integrated machinery, error-correction-and-repair systems, and much more that surpasses the most sophisticated efforts of the best human mathematicians, mechanical, electrical, chemical, and software engineers.
Well, what does this mean exactly? I hope it doesn’t mean that we have discovered a limit to human bioengineering capabilities. On the contrary, the fact that we can make increasingly more sense of the cell by conceptualising it in information processing, etc. terms shows that our own minds work very much like that of the original intelligent designer, and moreover that fact should provide a spur for us to inquire further – to do more science. In any case, I remain unclear about what ‘surpasses’ is supposed to convey here. After all, how would we have been able to discover the information-processing capacities of the cell, if its design ‘surpasses the most sophisticated…’? Nevertheless, I see a lot of this potentially science-stopping rhetoric in ID. I hope it is ‘mere’ rhetoric and not indicative of some deeper sensibilities that may end up giving Judge Jones the last laugh.
Yes, Dr. Fuller, one does see a lot of science-stopping rhetoric in IDC, and not just in the prose of religious commentators like O’Leary. Props to Fuller for at least getting a glimmer that this could be a problem.
The ‘science of God’ that I shall developing in the next few posts presupposes that we get closer to understanding the ‘intelligence’ behind ID, the more our own mental and physical creations turn out to model what actually happens in nature.
Let’s hope that Fuller does more homework in his future postings than was evident in his initial outing on the topic. I’ll suggest this essay as something he might find useful as background information.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 9305 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 3347 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Casey Luskin shows that, once again, antievolution correlates with moral relativism. In a post criticizing Ed Humes, Luskin slips in some criticism of me as well.
On a personal note, I am familiar with these kinds of attacks. In one single forum at Antievolution.org, created and owned by a former National Center for Science Education staff member, I have been called no less than “Bizarre ignoramus,” “retarded,” “suck-up,” “Pathetic Loser,” “attack mouse, gerbil, rat, or clockwork powered plush toy,” “an orc,” “Annoying,” “a miserable loser with no life,” “an idiot,” “dishonest,” “ignorant cheap poxied floozie,” “fanatic and lunatic,” “A proven liar,” “incompetent,” and many other far more colorful attacks which are probably best left unprinted here on Evolution News and Views.
I don’t list this example to complain — I happily forgive those who have attacked me, and in fact my main response to this behavior is sadness for how it brings the ID-evolution debate down into the gutter. Rather, I mention this example to point out that this example alone finds no counterpart anywhere in the ways that ID proponents have treated Darwinists. The internet Darwinist track record of name-calling against ID proponents speaks for itself, and Humes has portrayed the general nature of personal and ad hominem attacks in this issue exactly backwards from reality.
It is a travesty when anyone — whether a supporter of evolution or ID — is attacked in a mean-spirited fashion in this debate. Humes aims to shock his readers with how evolutionists are treated, while taking no interest in reporting how ID proponents are treated–which is dramatically worse than the treatment of Darwinists. This shows his partisan bias against ID proponents.
Luskin is, as usual, engaging in misdirection. Let’s start with his reference to me as a former NCSE staffer. That’s literally true; I did work for NCSE from late 2003 to early 2007. However, it has nothing at all to do with the event in question, the establishment of a forum on my AntiEvolution.org website. I bought the domain in July, 2001, and have had a forum on it since not too long after that. The current forum software package has comments dating back to May, 2002, about a year and a half prior to my first employment by NCSE. Beyond that, Luskin’s mention of that is a simple guilt-by-association fallacy. Unable to demonstrate use of ad hominem argument on my part, Luskin apparently feels a need to read through the contributions of myriad other commenters and lay their prose at my feet. I provide a lightly moderated forum where people get to speak what is on their minds. That sort of thing is anathema to the religious antievolution movement, whose draconian moderation policies were legend even back so far as the dialup BBS discussion days. Yes, people get dissed from time to time. That’s more likely to happen when one side deals in deception as a strategic tool, as the religious antievolution movement has consistently done since the 1968 SCOTUS decision in Epperson v. Arkansas. Then there’s the issue that Casey Luskin has a curious connotation for “forgiveness”. In a comment supposedly left by Casey in the thread he cited, Casey specifically “forgives” me for the rough treatment he received there. Yet here we are several months later with Casey apparently retracting that forgiveness. Casey, you can either get props for sincerely forgiving someone for a transgression (though it helps if there actually was a transgression by that person), or you can bash them with the alleged transgression ad infinitum. It simply doesn’t work to try to get props for the sincerity of your “forgiveness” and still be using the supposed fault as your favorite rhetorical billy club.
Beyond the issue of Luskin going after me, Casey falls foul of reailty, because “intelligent design” creationism advocates have not been kind in their rhetoric when it comes to “Darwinists”, and this has been extensively documented, making his claim that IDC advocates don’t dish out the sort of stuff they sometimes take a simple falsehood. Now, Casey claims that the sort of personal abuse he has put up with is “dramatically worse” than how “Darwinists” get treated. This just goes to show the morally corrosive effects of religious antievolution, as it appears to have turned Casey into a moral relativist. If Casey were really concerned, he’d be working really hard at getting that log removed from the collective IDC advocate eye before worrying about the mote he’s bithering on about here.
Now we get to how this relates to Casey and his critique of Humes. Humes demonstrates poor treatment of people accepting evolutionary science (“Darwinism” is a shibboleth of the religious antievolution crowd, and certainly the folks showing bad behavior in Humes’ book weren’t distinguishing classes with any sort of nuance). Casey objects that, hey, IDC advocates get dissed too, and worse, even. That’s the well-known tu quoque fallacy, not a valid form of argument in anybody’s universe. Casey is also not into nuance, as he completely fails to note context as a relevant contributor to the discussion. It is a different context to note the poor peer treatment of a student in a public school who was dissed for acceptance of evolutionary science and that of a paid shill for an organization whose modus operandi has consistently been revealed and documented to be deceptive at virtually every level possible. So, Casey, if you are going to indulge in moral relativism, here’s a tip: at least go for analogically sound moral relativism. Dig up examples of (1) students (2) in public schools being (3) tormented and ostracized by (4) other students specifically because they (5) reject evolutionary science and (6) the other students have been urged by their parents and/or pastors to do so.
Will Casey be doing that? I don’t think so. The persecution of “heretics” is well-known to be far more common and more brutal than anything Casey is going to be able to find to fit the properties of a proper class of balancing examples. There’s certainly no hope that Casey will be able to substantiate his relativistic claim that students rejecting evolutionary science in public schools have had to put up with “dramatically worse” peer treatment than those accepting it. Quite the contrary.
As additional information, here’s something Casey Luskin penned a few years back and which should be illuminating concerning how he deigns to treat others versus the treatment he’d like to get himself:
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[Eugenie] Scott definitely speaks “scientese”. She presents herself as a scientist, which she once was, who is trying to do the right thing for science. She is very charismatic, funny, and very good at getting people behind what she’s saying. It’s no wonder she’s the director of the NCSE. In the past I’ve compared Eugenie C. Scott to Darth Vader because she is full of internal contradictions, knows in her heart she’s lying, powerful, persuasive, and most importantly, she travels around representing the dominating power (the Empire) and fighting the good guys. All in the name of …well, I’m not exactly sure what her motivation is yet. It’s certainly not truth.
(On the other hand, there is the rebellion against the Empire. Small, understaffed, often outgunned and outmanned, but not outsmarted. However, the rebellion has the people of the galaxy behind them, and most importantly, the Force. Of course not all of us in the rebellion believe in the “force” (the analogy is God), but what unites the rebellion is the common belief in the problems with the current establishment, and the desire to replace it with something better. When we introduced ourselves in the class, I should have said I was Luke Skywalker, but I suppose I was under the control of her powers at the time so I just said I was Casey, an earth sciences major.)
Glenn Branch, Deputy Director of the National Center for Science Education, has a blog post in the Beacon Broadside, “Zombie Jamboree in Texas“.
When the distinguished philosopher Philip Kitcher recently addressed the creationist movement in his Living With Darwin, he judiciously assessed creationism in its latest incarnation as historically respectable but currently bankrupt, and proposed to describe it as “dead” science. “In light of its shambling tenacity,” I replied, “‘zombie science’ is perhaps a preferable label.” (I was writing in a scholarly journal, so I resisted the temptation to add a reference to “Romero 1968″ or “Wright 2004″.)
I told Glenn that he was missing a trick there by not noting, “And they really do want to eat your brains, or at least your children’s brains.”
Re-arrange the title a little to “Texas Zombie Jamboree” and I think we’d have a concept worthy to pull Roger Corman out of retirement. “Today, the State Board of Education. Tomorrow, Dick and Jane. There’s nowhere to run from the Texas Zombie Jamboree.” Still a bit long for the poster, but I think we can work with that.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 11660 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 3181 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
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One small town school board’s attempt to introduce religion and cast doubt on evolution is the subject of a new book by Lauri Lebo, who joins Chronicle education reporter Nanette Asimov in this podcast interview.
The Waco Tribune published an op-ed piece by SBOE Chair Don McLeroy. I’m too worn out right now for a fisking, but the whole thing is right from the DI evolution denialist playbook.
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COLLEGE STATION — Science education has become a culture-war issue. The battle is over the controversial evolutionary hypothesis that all life is descended from a common ancestor by unguided natural processes.
Texas is adopting new science standards. Scientists representing evolutionists and calling themselves the 21st Century Science Coalition say that creationists on the State Board of Education will inject religion into the science classroom. Should they be concerned? No. This will not happen.
They also say that the board will require supernatural explanations to be placed in the curriculum. This will not happen.
The National Academy of Sciences in its recent booklet Science, Evolution and Creationism, 2008, defines science as “the use of evidence to construct testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomena, as well as the knowledge generated through this process.” This definition should be acceptable to both sides.
But, the coalition also makes claims about evolution that will be challenged by creationists.
The advocates for evolution claim that it “is vital to understanding all of the biological sciences,” that evolution “has been documented beyond any reasonable doubt” in the peer-reviewed literature and that evolution has gained the status of a scientific theory and therefore has no “weaknesses.”
First, is understanding of evolution “vital” to the understanding of biology? No.
Would’ve done it the same
Philip Skell, a National Academy chemist, “recently asked more than 70 eminent researchers if they would have done their work differently if they had thought Darwin’s theory was wrong.
The responses were all the same: No.
Next, has evolution been demonstrated to be true beyond any reasonable doubt? No.
Is evolution’s support from the peer-reviewed literature unassailable? No.
Galileo said, “In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.”
Does evolution have scientific “weaknesses”?
The 21st Century Coalition not only says no but insists that we must strike the weaknesses language from our standards because leaving it in threatens our children’s scientific reasoning.
The coalition says that if students are taught to doubt what it believes to be unquestionably true, then the students will lose their faith in science.
All we must do to maintain science’s credibility and to decide if there are weaknesses in the evolutionary hypothesis is “to use evidence to construct testable explanations” and see where the evidence leads. Let the best scientific explanation win.
Don McLeroy of College Station is chairman of the State Board of Education.