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Archive for the ‘Intelligent Design’ Category

There’s a new article/interview up at the Vancouver Sun about the producer of Expelled (“No Apologies Allowed: Producer defends anti-Darwin movie”), and the second comment on the story jumped out at me:

By the second sentence, I was already smelling a liar. Then he goes into the 46/48 chromosome argument. (As if that hasn’t already been answered. Further, how can I possibly believe that he works in a genetics lab and doesn’t know this?) Then, it occurred to me that this post was a microcosm of the Expelled Movie: (1) Pretending to be an expert, (2) falsely claiming persecution for ideas, (3) drawing comparisons to Nazi Germany, (4) trying to stir-up anger, (5) using bad information to argue that “science can’t explain it”. I also liked the weird contradiction: “Everyone’s on the same bandwagon … half of my lab probably thinks about Intelligent Design”.

At least several people call him on his deceptive game.

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Over the past month, I’ve had the unfortunate experience of discovering what bedbugs are like. These little bugs hide near your mattress and come out at night to suck your blood. They look a little like ticks (but they aren’t closely related to ticks at all). They have a hypodermic-needle like proboscis, and when they suck your blood, they inject their saliva into your body. Their saliva contains both anticoagulants (to keep your blood flowing) and anesthetics (so you don’t realize you’re being bitten). Within a few hours, those bites develop into itchy red welts. You want to scratch at them so badly, but if you do, they become even more itchy. Those bites persist for around a week. To make matters worse, the bedbugs tend to bite, move a few inches, and then repeat. So, you end up with three or four bites in one night from a single bedbug. And, if the bites weren’t bad enough, you have this anxiety about falling asleep, and think that any tiny movement on your skin might be a bedbug. Even on nights where I wasn’t bitten at all, I’d wake up tired because I would wake-up during the night and have trouble falling back to sleep for fear of getting new painful bites. And, because the itchy bites persist for around a week, I sometimes wake myself up at night while I scratch old bites.

Once you have a breeding pair of bedbugs, they multiply like rabbits – essentially, turning your own blood into painful parasites who feed on you. They’ve also been evolving a resistance to pesticides, and can survive (dormant) for 18 months without feeding.

They are evil, vile little creatures.

Fortunately, I might have only a single bedbug. I caught one a few days ago, and the bite patterns seem to indicate that I only had a single bedbug. It’s amazing how much pain and sleeplessness a single bedbug can inflict. I feel really bad for anyone who has a bedbug infestation. I can’t imagine how awful it would be to have a colony of them. (Coincidentally enough, a few weeks ago, This American Life had a segment where they talked to a woman who has an infestation of bedbugs. She’s too poor to move away, and too poor to actually do anything about it. An mp3 is available here.)

There are a lot of things about the world that indicate that earth is not the product of a benevolent, loving creator. And this is one of them. Personally, I think anyone who believes the ‘loving god’ hypothesis is practicing selective vision. And the characteristics of bedbugs (including anticoagulants and anesthetics) would – according to Intelligent Design advocates – require the intentional creation of a ‘designer’ – aka the loving, benevolent God of the Bible. The bug’s method of reproduction – “traumatic insemination” – which involves the male punching a hole in the carapace of the female, causing severe trauma while inseminating her – sound like something a demon would invent. But, hey, what do I know? Behe already admitted that malaria was invented by God, so why not this? If Intelligent Design was the correct explanation for life, then I think the Christians, Jews, and Muslims will have to admit that the God in their holy books isn’t the one who actually exists.

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I’ve attached a picture of the bedbug I caught. It’s about a half a centimeter long, and still alive inside a plastic bag. I’m keeping it for the exterminator, but really hate the vile creature. The picture in the upper right shows a bedbug in approximate ‘real life’ size.

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Caroline Crocker was a professor at a community college a few years ago. She taught Intelligent Design in her biology class. Subsequently, she didn’t have her contract renewed. Not surprisingly, she showed up in the movie Expelled. The IDists have been trying their best to make her look respectable and victimized. Well, recently, some of her powerpoint slides got leaked onto the internet, making her claims to innocence and respectability seem pretty hollow. Here’s a nice little mash-up of the information about Crocker. (The images are from Crocker’s talk.)

IDEA Center Press Release: “Dr. Crocker has top academic credentials, and she received rave reviews as a professor working with students at George Mason University before the university ousted her because she mentioned intelligent design in a class.”

Right – she got ousted because she “mentioned” intelligent design in class. (roll eyes) See slides below.

Former Student: “I ended up having to drop her class just because of her attitude and her teaching methods. She has this pompous I’m-right-you’re-wrong type of personality and she seems to play favorites. I learned later from someone in the class that I had dropped that not one person got an A. Pick another teacher if you can.”

Idea Center Press Release: “Caroline Crocker is the ideal person to come on board as the first Executive Director of the IDEA Center,” said Casey Luskin, co-founder of the IDEA Center.

Former Student: “She doesn’t know the material she teaches. She is unclear and changes her mind often. She doesn’t know how to answer students’ questions. Grading scale is out of wack; watch out for her subtracting points out of nowhere! Most exam questions are not on the material she lectures on. She uses a different textbook and not the assigned book.”

Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture: First there was the monkey. He sat on the left side of the picture, it was a happy chimpanzee, and to the right sat a brooding person. And between the monkey and the person was an arrow with the point aimed at the person, with a question mark over the arrow. This is how Caroline Crocker began her lecture in “Introduction to Biology” course 101 at the George Mason University … By the end of the first hour the nice, secure world of the students was thoroughly messed up, since they had now learned something entirely new: no, wrong, humans did not descend from apes. Most of the students even found that convincing. The university administration quickly sent Caroline Crocker the pink sheet.

She wasn’t “quickly sent … the pink sheet”. She didn’t have her contract renewed. And I highly doubt that “Most of the students even found that convincing.”, rather, I’m sure most students either had their theistic worldviews strengthened or realized they were dealing with a professor on an ideological crusade.

Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture: Without her one could discard the whole controversy as the latest episode of the American freak show: the Americans are nuts, that’s nothing new, there are all kinds of crazy people there … they are all sort of fat, dumb and Bible-believing … With Caroline Crocker the story gets more complicated. She is neither fat nor dumb, she has a PhD in biology, has written books in pharmacology and taught at excellent universities. One cannot simply shrug her off as crazy, one must take her seriously, one must hear her out, one must think things through with her. That is unpleasant, strenuous and confusing.

It is, indeed confusing – obviously, she has no ideological axe to grind. Take this next slide from her lecture as an example. Obviously, it’s the Darwinists who are involved in spin.

Just the facts. For example, it’s important for students to know the “fact” that Darwin was a “rich kid who enjoyed partying, drinking, and gambling.” (What, she left off the part about killing babies and being a pimp?)

Coral Ridge Ministries: I was so careful when I wrote that lecture not to be partial in any way. I was very careful to make sure that I would talk about point by point the evidence that the book would put forward for evolution and then talk about point by point the experiments and say “Well, you know, there’s a problem here.”

Nature: “Caroline Crocker says that she hadn’t meant to start a controversy when she mentioned intelligent design while teaching her second-year cell-biology course at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, last semester…. Crocker tells how she has been barred by her department from teaching both evolution and intelligent design. “It’s an infringement of academic freedom,” she says…. She maintains that the talks help students to think independently about ideas such as evolution. “My goal is to teach students to think for themselves,” she says.”

Right – think for themselves. She presents a lot of bad information, and holds control over their grades. It’s odd that Crocker would even try to present an image of even-handedness. Oh right – that’s the IDist way: lie to the press to make yourself appear more sympathetic.

Here’s a quote from Caroline Crocker’s website (inappropriately named “IntellectualHonesty.info”):

Caroline Crocker’s website, “IntellectualHonesty.info”: “[Caroline Crocker] believes that we must be courageous enough to look the scientific evidence in the face and assess it in as impartial a manner as possible even if it means giving up dearly-held philosophical viewpoints… She promotes logic and right thinking, rather than emotion and knee-jerk reactions, when assessing the information gathered… It is a fact that ad hominem attacks and the banning of certain thoughts stand in the way of the advancement of science.”

Oh, the hypocrisy. She describes Darwin as a “rich kid who enjoyed partying, drinking, and gambling” and “failed at medical school” and then condemns ad hominem attacks.

If it’s all about the evidence, then why does she promote such obvious falsehoods as:

Christianpost: Crocker denies teaching creationism at George Mason University. Rather, she contends that she taught only one lecture on the evidence for and against evolution and did not even mention creationism.

“What I really wanted to do was in an intellectually honest manner give the evidence for evolution, but also the question about evolution – the scientific critiques – that’s all I did,” Crocker said.

See – she did it in an intellectually honest manner. She taught both sides – the “evidence for and against evolution”. By the way, what is this “evidence for” evolution that she teaches?

Washington Post: “There really is not a lot of evidence for evolution,” Crocker said. Besides, she added, she saw her role as trying to balance the “ad nauseum” pro-evolution accounts that students had long been force-fed.

Oh right – she doesn’t teach anything that supports evolution. She merely claims that she does because it makes her look more fair and sympathetic.

I especially like the quote at the end of this slide. It quotes Werner Von Braun, a rocket scientist. And we all know rocket scientists are the smartest people in the world – they know about everything:

Washington Post: “Crocker said, [microevolution is] quite different from macroevolution. No one has ever seen a dog turn into a cat in a laboratory.”

That’s an “intellectually honest” critique, isn’t it? Nevermind the fact that turning a dog into a cat in a laboratory would be indicative of magic or a divine miracle, and would never be predicted by evolution. But, we’re supposed to believe that she just presents “the scientific critiques”?

One has to wonder: as a microbiologist, did Crocker get all of her information about paleontology and larger lifeforms from creationists?

WashingtonPost: The theory of intelligent design holds that while the evolutionary forces of random genetic mutation and natural selection may shape species on a small scale, they cannot account for the kind of large-scale differences between, say, chimpanzees and humans.

In other words, they hold that a few beneficial mutations can occur and spread through the population over a small amount of time, but that many beneficial mutations cannot accumulate over a large amount of time.

Does she even know what the evidence for macroevolution is? Does she attempt to answer the question of why we find identical genetic errors in humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas – assuming we don’t have a common ancestor?

WashingtonPost: [Crocker’s husband, Richard believes] she has become the victim of scientific authoritarianism. It is one thing to believe his wife is wrong, Richard Crocker told me, and quite another to deprive her of her right to speak.

It’s unclear why this amounts to “[depriving] her of her right to speak”. She works for the IDEA center – a pro-IDist group. She gets paid to speak. If anything, she has been “deprived” of her “right” to get paid by a college while teaching students in their classrooms poor criticisms of evolution. I think that’s censorship because everyone should have the right to get paid by colleges to teach kids whatever they want. (It should be added that the college denies not renewing her contract because of ID.) So remember: if you ever sign a contract to teach at a university and you teach ID, then the university will be required to renew your contract forever – or else be accused of attacking free speech.

So yeah, the Darwinists have “[deprived] her of her right to speak”. (Please ignore the fact that she lists speaking fees on her website as $1000, $1,500, or $5000 for four talks.) The evil Darwinists have taken away her constitutionally protected rights! (Fees do not cover travel expenses, which must be covered by the client.)

Caroline Crocker’s website: Caroline Crocker is the Executive Director of the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Center, as well as being self-employed in the Washington DC area as an author, speaker, and private tutor. She is working on her first non-academic book, Science Censored, on her experiences as a full time university lecturer who strove to present Darwinian evolution from an intellectually honest viewpoint.

Caroline Crocker’s website: “[Caroline Crocker] is a popular speaker on issues of science and faith, addressing school, church, and other audiences. Dr. Crocker has also written magazine articles and been extensively interviewed for media, such as books, newspapers, T.V. and movies.”

“Deprived of her of her right to speak” just ain’t what it used to be. But, then neither is honesty, apparently.

IDEA Center Press Release: I am excited about helping students in IDEA Clubs to investigate intelligent design in an intellectually honest manner,” said Dr. Crocker.

Right.

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[Via Pharyngula] I just finished listening to the radio debate between PZ Myers and Geoffrey Simmons (Discovery Institute fellow). Years ago, I saw the Discovery Institute as a collection of people put together specifically to put a respectable face on creationism. They wouldn’t repeat the simplistic creationist arguments, but would bring a higher standard to their (still flawed) creationist ideas. (I’ve seen this with other creationist groups – for example, the even the low-brow AnswersInGenesis complains about some of Hovind’s arguments.)

Despite the fact that Simmons had written books on evolution (Billions of Missing Links: A Rational Look at the Mysteries Evolution Can’t Explain, What Darwin Didn’t Know), and says he’s “studied evolution for 40 years“, he came off as clueless as a novice young earth creationist. Unfortunately, most of the listeners simply wouldn’t recognize when he made completely false statements.

He says that the fossil record has lots of holes. He says that there are no transitionals between deer-like land animals and modern whales. He says there are no transitionals showing the movement of the nostrils from the front of the face to the top of the head. Myers cites several intermediates (Pakicetus, Ambulocetus, Rhodcetus), but Simmons doesn’t even recognize the names. Instead, he goes on the attack – and revealing his uncompromising ignorance – saying that “[Myers] is very wrong about whale fossils”. Simmons complains that Darwin thought whales evolved from bear-like mammals (roll eyes) – as if Darwin was either 100% right on everything or 100% wrong on everything. Will creationists ever understand that Darwin is not a prophet?

whales-graph.jpg

(Basilosaurus, 34-39 million years ago, with well developed hind limbs, though reduced in size.)

I can only guess that Simmons never reads much outside of creationist literature, and doesn’t have much interest in it. That’s the only explanation I can possibly muster for explaining his ignorance on the subject.

Simmons complains that evolution is only a theory. Myers says that calling evolution “a theory” doesn’t mean it’s a flimsy idea (as the common usage of the word would imply). Simmons backs off of that, but later says that “if [evolution] were a fact, they’d call it the fact of evolution”. As if theories somehow graduate and become a fact. (Duh. We still call them the theory of gravity, atomic theory, the theory of relativity.)

Simmons also argues that students should be exposed to other theories and problems of evolution in school. But, Simmons is so clueless about the problems of evolution – citing non-existent problems in whale evolution, and complaining about the word “theory”, you have to wonder what exactly would be taught in schools. Further, evolution is a deep subject. I have very little faith that students are going to come up with the correct ideas when people like Simmons (who have written books) are so clueless about the facts. Would we teach both sides of the theory of relativity? Both sides of atomic theory? No, we would try to figure out the best knowledge in the field and present that to students. Simmons wants to do an end run around scientists and present his “intelligent design” ideas directly to kids without going through the channels that all the other sciences go through.

Simmons even ridiculously claims that there is a kind of reverse inquisition going on against IDists. (Here’s a hint: the real Inquisition tortured and killed people.)

He says that evolution has been disproven by science, but fails to provide anything to back that up, and says Darwin would never get published today (apparently because his ideas were transparently wrong). Yet, Simmons can’t seem to muster a cogent argument against evolution.

Even after all Simmons’ ridiculousness, I still thought Myers should’ve avoided using words like “infantile”. I thought that came off as too harsh, and would turn listeners against him. It also gave Simmons a chance to express indignation (see what those nasty evolutionists are doing to him?)

I think it will be interesting to hear the ID blogs response to the debate. (I already found one that posted about it before the debate happened.)

Update: The Panda’s Thumb says UncommonDescent put up a post about the debate, but then removed it. Fortunately, someone saved the comments before the post disappeared.

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neiltyson.jpg

Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium gave an interesting speech at Beyond Belief 2006. He begins with the belief that the planets were gods or divinely controlled. This stopped people from making real discoveries about the planets. (And, in his book, Finding Darwin’s God, Ken Miller describes the persecution one Greek scientist experienced for suggesting that the planets were not actually gods. Which has some interesting parallels to the ID movement – getting the science wrong, and complaining that removing God from biology/astrophysics is tantamount to promoting atheism and moral decay.) He then talks about Newton and his belief that God intervenes to stabilize the planetary orbits because he couldn’t figure out how they would remain stable through natural forces. Newton missed his opportunity to explain this, and erroneously attributed it to God. A few centuries later, Simon Laplace created some new mathematics showed that the planets could remain stable without the need for an external deity to stabilize them. Tyson goes on with various discoveries, how scientists mistakenly put God in when they initially failed to explain a particular phenomena, and how the theistic explanation prevented them to making important discoveries.

I should say that I think the IDists are different than earlier scientists in that these earlier scientists made the mistake of attributing various phenomena in the universe to God – and thereby, lost their opportunity to discover the science behind it. No doubt, many of them would’ve welcomed scientific explanations. On the other hand, modern IDists are using biology as a platform to argue for the existence of God. Their primary intention is not to explain this or that phenomena, nor to aid scientific literacy, but rather, to promote and protect theistic beliefs (and the Wedge Document makes that very clear). They’re trying to find a job for God, keep Him employed and relevant, and trying to make sure everyone sees God doing stuff. If a glowing Jesus Christ suddenly appeared on earth and started walking around talking to people – and therefore, no one could deny the existence of God, the IDists would quickly forget about their whole ID program – because the only reason it exists is for the promotion of theism. They are, shall we say, working at the Universe’s Unemployment Office, trying to make sure God is visibly employed doing something.

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We are surrounded by evidence of intelligent design. Take but one example: the suckling mechanism of the whale. The whale is a mammal which suckles its young underwater. It does so by means of a watertight cap around the mother’s nipple which fits tightly around the baby’s snout so as not to allow the entrance of sea water. Such a mechanism does not allow of a transitional form which adapts slowly to its environment. It does not allow for a gradual evolutionary process. It must exist perfectly formed for the purpose or the baby whale dies. How else could such a mechanism exist if not brought about by an intelligent and purposeful creative force? (Link)

Even UncommonDescent jumped on the bandwagon.

But then a whale biologist responded. Ouch. How embarrassing. I’m glad I’m not an IDist.

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I have to agree with Phil Plait when he says that science can evaluate the supernatural. He says:

The latest blurting about this comes from a scientist quoted in a book review. In the review, the science journalist says:

As scientists at Iowa State University put it last year, supernatural explanations are “not within the scope or abilities of science.”

This is 100% wrong. Any claim, any explanation of an event, definitely falls within the scope of science. That’s because science is a method of investigation.

For a little more context – the quote that supernatural explanations are “not within the scope or abilities of science” comes from a number of professors at the University of Iowa [oops – I meant Iowa State University] regarding Intelligent Design:

We, the undersigned faculty members at Iowa State University, reject all attempts to represent Intelligent Design as a scientific endeavor.

Advocates of Intelligent Design claim that the position of our planet and the complexity of particular life forms and processes are such that they may only be explained by the existence of a creator or designer of the universe. However, such claims are premised on (1) the arbitrary selection of features claimed to be engineered by a designer; (2) unverifiable conclusions about the wishes and desires of that designer; and (3) an abandonment by science of methodological naturalism.

Methodological naturalism, the view that natural phenomena can be explained without reference to supernatural beings or events, is the foundation of the natural sciences. The history of science contains many instances where complex natural phenomena were eventually understood only by adherence to methodological naturalism.

Whether one believes in a creator or not, views regarding a supernatural creator are, by their very nature, claims of religious faith, and so not within the scope or abilities of science. We, therefore, urge all faculty members to uphold the integrity of our university of “science and technology,” convey to students and the general public the importance of methodological naturalism in science, and reject efforts to portray Intelligent Design as science. (Link)

There’s a couple of things to be said about this. First, I agree with Phil Plait that science can evaluate the supernatural – within limits. The idea that science cannot evaluate the supernatural is one of those ideas that sounds right up until you start thinking about specific cases. I do think there are specific religious claims that cannot be evaluated, but there are plenty that can be. Further, scientists (and other intelligent people) are pretty clever at coming up with ways of testing some things that you wouldn’t normally think could be tested.

Some examples of supernatural/religious/magical things scientists have attempted to evaluate:
* Do people have telepathic abilities? (A number of universities had programs to study this. Nothing significant was found. Psychics claim it doesn’t work under the unemotional, sterile lab environment, although there is at least one book that studied psychics working on actual crimes and they had abysmal results there, too. One of the interesting things mentioned in that book is that “psychics” produced copious amounts of details about crimes, far more than college students used as controls. When anything was right, they pulled that particular detail out of the pile of details and claimed victory.)
* Does prayer work? (No)
* Can meditation reduce crime rates? (They play games with the charts, and I don’t think there’s anything here.)
* Can people communicate with the dead? (A few skeptics, including Harry Houdini, created a secret word or phrase known to only one person that would be used to verify their identity if any medium claimed to be “in contact” with their spirit after death. While many mediums claimed to be speaking to their spirit, they never knew the secret password.)
* Ouija Boards could produce results unknown to all participants (Penn and Teller did an interesting test of Ouija Boards, when they blinded some “Ouija Board” believers, turned the board 180 degrees and then had then ask questions – predictably, they moved the pointer to locations on the board that would be correct if the board hadn’t been turned.)

Further, there are things in religious books that can be tested.
* Was there a global flood 4300 years ago? (no)
* Is the genetic diversity of the human race compatible with the idea that we all descended from one family 4300 years ago? (No)
* Is the Mormon claim that Native Americans are descended from a small group of Jews compatible with the genetic evidence? (No)

That’s not to say that all religious claims can be tested – claims that God will judge you after you die, or whether Mary was divinely impregnated are simply not testable (we have no data). Further, since religious leaders are free to make any and all claims about the world (e.g. the earth is flat), it’s obvious that many religious claims are subject to scientific scrutiny.

In many cases, the full supernatural explanation would not be considered “science” – e.g. if we discovered that all humans descended from a single family 4300 years ago, and they were the only survivors of a global flood – that doesn’t mean the explanation “God told Noah to build a boat” is a scientific claim. Rather, we would have scientifically verified parts (global flood, only a few people survived), and non-verifiable, religious claims (God talked to Noah). I think there is the potential for a lot of situations like this – there is a scientifically verified piece, and a non-verifiable non-scientific piece.

So, I think the Iowa State professors were wrong in the statement that “claims of religious faith [are] not within the scope or abilities of science”. Additionally, in that statement, they talk about “adherence to methodological naturalism” – that only naturalistic explanations are accepted in science. I believe in the possibility of explanations that are on the “edge” of science – we can tell that something is there, but you can’t explain it scientifically/naturalistically. In that case, you have an “edge” that is considered “science” and you can say that supernatural explanations lie across the boundary, but that those explanations (while admitting they exist) are not scientific explanations – anymore than describing, say, the normal flow of electricity requires a “supernatural” explanation.

Of course, I can understand the need to adhere to naturalistic explanations – without it, people may attempt to explain this or that feature of the natural world with supernatural explanations, when a perfectly good (undiscovered) naturalistic one exists. Erring on the side of supernatural explanations can stop science from progressing. (e.g. “Why do the planets move the way they do? It’s like a giant clock created by God to show us that He loves order.”, “Why do people get sick? Demons.”) On the other hand, always erring on the side of “must have a natural explanation” means missing what could potentially be evidence for a supernatural designer.

Regarding “Intelligent Design”, they have attempted to use the “adherence to methodological naturalism” for propaganda purposes. They say scientists have unfairly excluded the possibility of a designer, and that presupposition means that everyone completely ignores the evidence for a designer even when it is right under their noses. (Yes, I’ve actually heard IDists make this argument.) IDists overplay this idea for the purpose of propaganda. I don’t have any philosophical ideas that ID should be excluded from consideration. My problem is with other pieces of the ID movement and their evidence (or lack of).

This would be a good place to transition into what I think is actually wrong with the ID movement and ID claims. In short: they’re an ideological-religious program, downplay or are ignorant of evolutionary mechanisms, have a history of making false statements, appeal to inaccurate analogies, play-up their “victimization” to garner sympathy, and try to sidestep scientific scrutiny by preaching directly to the public – to name a few. Unfortunately, to fully tackle that topic requires a whole new article.

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I stop over at UncommonDescent every once in a while. (I don’t do so very often, though, because I always end up irate over the spin, or feel the need to correct their poor understanding of science.)

One thing that always gives me a laugh is their attempts to distance themselves from the “God” word, but at the same time, their whole impetus is to lead people to God. While looking over their latest posts, I noticed a remarkable number of entries dealing with God and Religion: “[Sam Harris says:] Scientists should unite against threat from religion”, “The Open Society and Its Secular Enemies, “David Klinghoffer, author of the new book Shattered Tablets: Why We Ignore the Ten Commandments at Our Peril (Doubleday)…”, . Hmmm, maybe the ID movement has finally given-up the pretense of being non-religious. Afterall, none of these have anything to do with the “very, very scientific” theory of Intelligent Design (unless that designer is supernatural, of course). But, I was wrong. In one of the threads (ironically, one talking about the new “Expelled” movie), this exchange happened:

JJS P.Eng: Changing PZ and friends minds is not the purpose of [the Expelled] movie. The purpose, IMO, is to expose the venomous rhetoric and tyranny of the materialist establishment and is aimed at those who aren’t in the extremes, but in the middle. They are the ones who need persuading.

Rocket: The use of “venomous rhetoric” and “tyranny” is pretty strong language. It makes you sound angry and desperate, as if you are arguing from a weak position. People who are confident of their position don’t need to be so vehement.

So if ID is not creationism, then exactly who is the designer? Isn’t he the same as the creator? Creator (a person who creates), designer (a person who devises or executes designs, esp. one who creates), they sound the same to me. Can you tell me how they are different?

Is the designer a person, a supernatural being, an energy force, a deity, or what? Help me out here. Persuade me.

William Dembski: Rocket is no longer with us. –WmAD

Aw, Rocket got banned. It’s still forbidden to make the “Intelligent Designer” = “God” connection in writing. (If, on the other hand, you make that connection, get down on your knees and ask for Christ’s salvation, then the ID movement will have accomplished it’s goal.) The ID movement is caught in this whole game of doublespeak.

The word “Intelligent Design” was first coined to sidestep the problems of teaching creationism in the first place. In the 1980s, some creationists (including Dean Kenyon, who is a six-day young-earth creationist) were writing a book named “Creation Biology”, then renamed to “Biology & Creation”, “Biology & Origins”, and finally renamed to “Of Panda’s and People”. While this was going on, there was a major court case: Edwards v. Aguillard, which made it illegal to teach creationism in schools. Dean Kenyon was used as an expert witness (for the Creationist side) in that court case. When the ruling was made in 1987 that teaching Creationism in schools was illegal, the authors suddenly decided to change the wording of “Of Panda’s and People” from “Creationist” to “Intelligent Design”. The chart below shows the number of times “Creationism” versus “Intelligent Design” is used in the Of Panda’s and People book. Obviously, the change was made in response to the ruling, in an attempt to distance the book from “Creationism”.

Of Pandas and People Chart

The entire Intelligent Design movement has attempted to distance itself from the “Creationism” word – both for political reasons (i.e. getting it into schools), and because creationist scholarship has been sub-par (to say the least). This means denying the “Intelligent Designer” = “God” connection in public, even though they explicitly state that Intelligent Design is supposed to be a conduit to lead people to Jesus Christ.

The Wedge Document – which is the premiere and guiding document for the Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture – states in the very first sentence:

“The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built… [The] materialistic conception of reality eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and art… Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies… and [has] re-opened the case for a broadly theistic understanding of nature.”

It’s ridiculous to believe that “Intelligent Design” makes no assertions about the identity of the designer. There is plenty of explicitly theistic language in the document, and if the designer were anything other than a deity (e.g. an alien species), then the Discovery Institute would fail in the “overthrow of materialism” and advancing a “broadly theistic understanding of nature”.

On the first page of Behe’s latest book “The Edge of Evolution”, he says that the physical constants of the universe (including the strength of gravity and the atomic weight of hydrogen, presumably) were designed. This plays right into John Stewart’s observation that: “Basically, Intelligent Design is the idea that life on earth is too complex to have evolved without a guiding hand. We’re not saying it’s God, just someone with the basic skill set to create an entire universe.”

In their own words:

“And if there’s anything that I think has blocked the growth of Christ [and] the free reign of the Spirit and people accepting the Scripture and Jesus Christ, it is the Darwinian naturalistic view…. It’s important that we understand the world. God has created it; Jesus is incarnate in the world.” – William Dembski, ID proponent

“Father’s words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father chose me (along with about a dozen other seminary graduates) to enter a Ph.D. program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle.” – Johnathan Wells, ID proponent

“There’s a difference of opinion about how important this debate [advocating intelligent design] is. What I always say is that it’s not just scientific theory. The question is best understood as: Is God real or imaginary?”
– Phillip Johnson, ID proponent

(Gee, Phil, I thought ID had nothing to do with identifying the designer.)

The Church of the Designer who Shall not be Named, says: Thou shall not make the connection between the Intelligent Designer and “Creator” (*except when you’re being honest). I thought it was particularly ironic that Rocket was banned in a thread about “Expelled”. “Expelled” plays on the victimization theme by saying that scientists should be allowed to follow the evidence wherever it leads, and says that evolutionists are suppressing the truth. Rocket was following the evidence where it leads (“intelligent designer” = “God”), and he was banned by the IDists for saying the “wrong thing”.

It’s pretty ridiculous. It’s like someone saying that they’re not going to talk about the president and then saying: “There is someone in the White House who’s a very bad. This person, who’s name begins with “G”, and has a wife named Laura – is very bad. His dad was president. But, I’m *not, not, not* talking about George W. Bush – that’s just your inference, okay? And this bad man went to Yale, and has two daughters. But, if you say that I’m talking about George W. Bush, I’m going to ban you from my website. But, I really secretly want to you make that connection – just don’t say it out-loud. We are not talking about George Bush.”

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[Via Pharyngula] I would’ve thought Ben Stein would’ve been smarter than to get involved with something like this. (*Although, after looking up Ben Stein’s politics, it’s clear that he’s very right-wing.) He’s narrating a pretend documentary about how “Big Science” is unfair to the theory of Intelligent Design.

Ben Stein - Expelled

According to a Beliefnet blog:

Not set for release until February, the buzz campaign has already started for this unabashedly Michael-Moore-style, in-your-face documentary. Narrated by Ben Stein–best known for giving his money away and slowly repeating the name “Bueller” from the front of a classroom to hilarious effect–“Expelled” aims to expose the stifling of debate in this country about the origins of life and make the case for the validity of Intelligent Design.

Yesterday, I attended a presentation to drum up advance support for the film. It was led by Paul Lauer–a Christian marketing maven best known for helping make “Passion of the Christ” the blockbuster it was–and one of the film’s co-producers, a man identified only as Logan, who bore a striking resemblance to Ned Flanders incarnate, albeit tanner (and, being a huge Flanders fan, I mean that as a compliment). The purpose was to win over Christians influential in their communities, to make this a must-see, a film to which they’ll preach about, gab about, and bring their friends, family, churches, non-Christian friends, etc. etc.

Let the buzz begin. Not that “Expelled’s” intentionally incendiary tone will need much help from the pastors and religious-school teachers in attendance at yesterday’s meeting. From the clips and trailers they showed, the film presents a world of–to use a quote I heard repeatedly yesterday–“the new scientific movement” (Intelligent Design, in case you weren’t sure) vs. the tired, old “theory” of evolution. Relying on news-clip montages, interviews, even cut-away shots of concentration camps, “Expelled” talks of faithful scientists and other believers losing jobs, losing grants, even losing friends in defense of ID. And, relying on footage of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and other atheists du jure, it sets up a worldview of ID vs. atheism, with no gray areas in between.

And, taking it even further, it posits that, without God, there can be no source of morality, no reason not to “stab someone on the subway,” to borrow another phrase I heard a couple of times yesterday (and which explained, according to Lauer and Logan, the concentration camp scenes, since the film will explore the influence of Darwinism on Hitler). So the battle for ID to be taught on par with evolution is no more, no less than a battle for the legitimacy of morality itself.

These truthy documentaries seem to have become quite a trend in modern America. I have yet to see one that was actually honest, despite all the work they did to try to appear that way. (I found Moore’s Bowling for Columbine and Control Room to be full of spin – not that FOX News is one bit better.) I fully expect this movie to play up it’s truthiness while moves towards a predefined message that it wants people to believe.

Not surprisingly, the movie seems to eschew actual scientific discussion of Intelligent Design, preferring to play-up the victimization of ID advocates (a common and exaggerated claim). I’m sure they’ll avoid talking about the victimization of evolutionists by creationists overseas — or the fact that the (creationist) Kansas Board of Education invited Adnan Oktar, who was behind the attacks, to talk to them. Rather than taking about the mechanisms of evolution, they chose, instead, to talk about the “evils of evolution”: show concentration camps and talk about Adolf “God with Us” Hitler – so they can emotionally inflame people, shutting down the thinking portions of their brains, rather than intellectually convert them. No doubt, they’ll avoid mentioning Martin “We are at fault in not slaying [the Jews]” Luther’s influence on Hitler – whom Hitler praised in his book, Mein Kampf. Meanwhile, Origin of the Species was banned in Nazi Germany.

Speaking of which – there’s something about “Social Darwinism” and eugenics that strikes me as an odd criticism of evolution. Many creationists will say that they believe in “microevolution”, but not “macroevolution”. I’ve also heard creationists claim that when humans chose which animals to breed together (for example, to make a new breed of dog), that it’s an example of Intelligent Design, not evolution (which relies on natural selection – not human selection). The ideas of Social Darwinism and eugenics requires only that microevolution is true (something that creationists, themselves, believe in), and eugenics relies on human choice (making it a branch of Intelligent Design, according to their argument). Whether you believe in “macroevolution” or not, makes no difference to either Social Darwinism or eugenics. (Which makes it unsurprising when we find pro-eugenics Creationists.) It would be nice if Creationists would actually acknowledge the fact that Social Darwinism and eugenics isn’t strengthened by a belief in “macroevolution”. But, for political reasons (i.e. mudslinging), they’ll never admit the fact – it’s too important for keeping the sheep in line.

Update: PZ Myers, who is in the movie, talks about the video shoot he did for them. They said he did an interview for a documentary called “Crossroads: The Intersection of Science and Religion”. It’s not uncommon for films to have working titles that get changed – although it certainly opens up the endless possibilities to misrepresent the spin they’re going to put on the movie. In an apparent move to hide the direction of the movie, the blurb at the film studio merely states:

Crossroads – The Intersection of Science and Religion:
It’s been the been the central question of humanity throughout the ages: How in the world did we get here? In 1859 Charles Darwin provided the answer in his landmark book, “The Origin of the Species.” In the century and a half since, biologists, geologists, physicists, astronomers and philosophers have contributed a vast amount of research and data in support of Darwin’s idea. And yet, millions of Christians, Muslims, Jews and other people of faith believe in a literal interpretation that humans were crafted by the hand of God. This conflict between science and religion has unleashed passions in school board meetings, courtrooms and town halls across America and beyond.

That summary certainly doesn’t show an obvious bias. On the other hand, the website for “Expelled” puts a much more obvious spin on things:

All over the world, Big Science is on the march, making sure that Neo-Darwinian Materialist Theory is protected, and that any challenges and challengers are dealt with…properly.

Science is too important to be left in the hands of just any scientists, no matter how “credentialed” they may be!

Which is why the administration at Big Science Academy thought it essential that students be made acutely aware of what happens to “dissenters” who stray into dangerous areas of science after graduation.

Our Science “Field Trip” allowed Science Club students to travel around the world, and to see first-hand what happens to “the expelled” when they attempt to “follow the evidence wherever it leads.” (Link)

Interesting to see how these games get played.

I also noticed that Ben Stein has a blog post up at the movie’s website. Expecting my comment to be moderated, I attached this comment:

Hi Ben. I was just wondering if someone is moderating this blog. And, if so, do you think it is hypocritical to argue for free speech, but prevent critical comments from showing up on this blog?

“Your comment is awaiting moderation.” Yup. Not surprising in the least.

(Update: My comment, along with about 200 others, was approved within 24 hours of my post. Last I checked, there were over 900 comments. On a cursory read over the first hundred or so, none in particular stood out. Yes, you can tell Ben Stein he is wrong, but that’s certainly not going to change his mind. Most of the comments didn’t seem to have much in the way of useful arguments against his position.)

See also:
Church of the Designer Who Shall not be Named
Creationist Censorship – WordPress and Turkey

Update: I have been instructed by the shadowy network of atheist bloggers to provide this link to Expelled.

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I stumbled across a blog the other day by an ID advocate. Not just any ID advocate, but “a student at the Honors College at Baylor University where he is double majoring in philosophy and political science. He works as a research assistant at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition, he is the director of the Intelligent Design Undergraduate Research Center (IDURC), the student branch of the Access Research Network (ARN), and he moderates the new Overwhelming Evidence website.”

Connected to a seminary, ARN, and William Dembski — he’s obviously a die-hard. I happened to read one of his posts: The Irrationality of Richard Dawkins, which begins “It is an excellent assessment of Richard Dawkins and his newest book, The God Delusion…” and goes on to paste an article by Dr. Francis J. Beckwith of Baylor University. So, what is this “excellent assessment” of Richard Dawkins? The article states:

Point #1: Kurt Wise was a promising young scientist:

According to Dawkins, Wise was at one time a promising young scholar who had earned a degree in geology (from the University of Chicago) and advanced degrees in geology and paleontology from Harvard University, where he studied under the highly acclaimed Stephen Jay Gould. Wise is also a young-earth creationist, which means that he accepts a literal interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis and maintains that the earth is less than ten thousand years old.

Point #2: Wise decided that Evolution and Literal Genesis were incompatible, and chose to believe in Genesis:

Wise writes: “Either the Scripture was true and evolution was wrong or evolution was true and I must toss out the Bible. . . . It was there that night that I accepted the Word of God and rejected all that would ever counter it, including evolution. With that, in great sorrow, I tossed into the fire all my dreams and hopes in science.”

Point #3: Dawkins is dismayed by Wise’ choice to ditch science for religion:

Writes Dawkins: “I find that terribly sad . . . the Kurt Wise story is just plain pathetic—pathetic and contemptible. The wound, to his career and his life’s happiness, was self-inflicted, so unnecessary, so easy to escape. . . . I am hostile to religion because of what it did to Kurt Wise. And if it did that to a Harvard educated geologist, just think what it can do to others less gifted and less well armed.”

Now, Beckwith is setting us up for his big punch: the irrationality of Richard Dawkins. Get ready for it.

Dawkins harshly criticizes Wise for embracing a religious belief that results in Wise’s not treating himself and his talents, intelligence, and abilities in a way appropriate for their full flourishing.

But Dawkins, in fact, does not actually believe that living beings, including human beings, have intrinsic purposes or are designed so that one may conclude that violating one’s proper function amounts to a violation of one’s moral duty to oneself.

But this means that his lament for Wise is misguided, for Dawkins is lamenting what only appears to be Wise’s dereliction of his duty to nurture and employ his gifts in ways that result in his happiness and an acquisition of knowledge that contributes to the common good. Yet because there are no designed natures and no intrinsic purposes, and thus no natural duties that we are obligated to obey, the intuitions that inform Dawkins’ judgment of Wise are as illusory as the design he explicitly rejects. But that is precisely one of the grounds by which Dawkins suggests that theists are irrational and ought to abandon their belief in God.

Um, what? His whole argument rests on the notion that the only way Dawkins can lament Wise’ rejection of science is through the notions of “proper function”, “intrinsic purpose”, and “duty to nurture and employ his gifts”. I’m amazed that this sort of argument was written by a professor, and then called an “excellent assessment” by Chen. Clearly, we don’t believe in “intrinsic purpose”, but we can feel sad that someone who was talented has rejected science (something he enjoyed), and that science has lost the contributions he would have made if he was not barred by his religion. The whole argument is ridiculous. The only thing I can guess is that they are so deep in their own worldview, that they can’t imagine how anyone else could function outside of it. I posted a response, but – as I often find with creationists and ID advocates – it’s moderated, and my post still hasn’t appeared after three days. I’ve become quite accustomed to having my responses rejected by creationists and ID advocates – afterall, they can’t have sympathetic visitors seeing their ideas dismantled.

A quick google search reveals that other people have noted Chen’s tendency for censorship and spin as well. It’s always funny to have them complain about censorship by the evil “darwinists”, and then block anti-ID arguments from their websites. Meanwhile, the evolutionist websites are wide open for competing ideas. I’ve seen a few people banned from websites like the Panda’s Thumb and Pharyngula, but even in those cases, the websites tend to be extremely (and probably overly) patient with people.

There are times when Christians and creationists (ranging from YECs to ID advocates) make arguments that are so bad, you have to stand back and think, “it’s hopeless to believe these people can be brought around with logic”. They’ll make one logical error after another – always benefiting their own side, of course. And if you set them straight on one error, you know they’ll just make another one tomorrow. In some cases, these are competent people in many areas of life, but sometimes it seems like they drop a good 30 IQ points when they talk about creationism or God.

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