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Dr. Charles Garner’s Editorial

Charles Garner, Professor of Chemistry at Baylor University served along with Steve Meyer as Expert Reviewer on Texas Science Standards.  (Here is an article from the Austin Statesman covering the issue: LINK.)   Dr. Garner recently wrote the following editorial for the Waco Tribune.

Charles Garner, guest column: It’s not religion; it’s sound, skeptical science

As the Texas Education Agency reviews the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, a controversy has developed about language in the current TEKS, which states:

“The student uses critical thinking and scientific problem-solving to make informed decisions. The student is expected to analyze, review and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information.”

This language promotes critical thinking skills. It has been in the TEKS for years. The TEKS guidelines are working fine and Texas students receive some of the best science education in the country.

Nonetheless, some activist groups are protesting the “strengths and weaknesses” language. They assert that teaching “weaknesses” is a “wedge allowing teachers to insert their personal religious views into public science classrooms,” especially pertaining to evolution.

As an appointed reviewer of the TEKS, I investigated this claim. It quickly became apparent that there was no basis for it.

In fact, for several reasons, I doubt if even those who make this claim really believe it.

Whatever problems they have with “strengths and weaknesses,” religious infringement cannot be among them.

The “strengths and weaknesses” language has been in place for a decade. If it had been used to introduce religion or supernatural explanations into the classroom, these groups would have a long list of specific incidents, with names, dates, etc. Read More ›

Help us compose a standard anti-intelligent design disclaimer for research papers!

Friend Malcolm Chisholm writes to say,

Some fascinating research on electron transport chain proteins from Princeton.

These guys say:

“Our new theory extends Darwin’s model, demonstrating how organisms can subtly direct aspects of their own evolution to create order out of randomness.”

Apparently they have self correcting proteins, but they seem to think it goes beyond that to proteins that can find optimal energy levels.

“In this paper, we present what is ostensibly the first quantitative experimental evidence, since Wallace’s original proposal, that nature employs evolutionary control strategies to maximize the fitness of biological networks,”

Oddly, they cite as an inspiration A. R. Wallace, Darwin’s co-founder of the Theory of Evolution through Natural Selection (whose ID views gave Darwin regular heartburn).

They also feel the need to deny the possibility of ID. Apparently no publication in this area is complete without one. Maybe such denials should be turned into a standard disclaimer, like the ones at the bottom of email messages for these guys.

And maybe if William Paley had stubbed his toe on an atomic clock they would still claim it was produced by chance.

That’s an idea! Why not compose a standard disclaimer that all these people can just insert at the bottom of their papers: Something along the lines of “Please rest assured that this intricate machinery is not designed, no matter what it looks like.” But doen up in obfuscated research paper style.

List, can you help?

While we are here, more fun with Chisholm, Read More ›

Atheist philosopher of physics on why ID is a reasonable idea

Below are links to the Discovery Institute’s five podcasts of University of Colorado (Boulder) professor of the philosophy of physics Bradley Monton – who is an atheist – on why the universe might show evidence of design. Monton teamed up with another skeptic of religion, mathematician David Berlinski, against materialist atheist Lawrence Krauss and British theistic evolutionist Denis Alexander, to defend the design of the universe as an intellectually worthy idea (not just some religious schtick).

Here’s more on the debate. And the five pods are linked below.

Well, it’s no secret that the intelligent design debate is more nuanced than legacy media portray it.

I suspect that fewer than 200 journalists in the world actually know what the controversy is about.

How can you tell if they do?

First, they realize that the evidence from science does not support current materialist or naturalist or no-design theory. (Shhhh!)

They are not columnists retailing fatuous lines like “There is no conflict between faith and science!”


“No creationism is the schools! Darwin explained it all without God. (But (optionally) you can holler your guts out for Jesus anyway. Maybe it is good for evolution if you do.”

Often, the same columnist is shouting both slogans, at different times.

Good thing too, because there isn’t a 360 degree swivel joint in the human head!

Second, they have actually read and thought about the books written by ID theorists like Mike Behe, Bill Dembski, and Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards, which advance a testable thesis.

They have looked beyond the smoke and noise generated by fossil science organizations and the “Christian” scientists who meet with them to plan strategy to prevent consideration of design, purpose, or meaning in the universe. (There is a scandal here, awaiting detailed discovery – rats for me, I am mainly a trade news hack, and may not get in on the best cellar.)

Anyway, here’s Monton on design (audio): Read More ›

Popcorn! Dilbert, give a kiss for me to the talking frog in your pocket!

Dilbert, the date-challenged engineer and his life companion Dogbert discuss evolution here:

There is a history here. Dilbert’s creator, animator Scott Adams attracted a variety of trolls in their natural environment when he started to question “ass hat” Darwinian evolution. Here are some posts detailing his funnyman response:

Dilbert cartoonist: Fossils are bullshit!

Fun for once: Dilbert cartoonist fights back against “ass hat”

Internet Darwinist attacks Dilbert’s creator

Dilbert cartoonist: More opinions on the ID controversy, but that’s all – for now. I thought Adams would make Catbert the Darwinist, but he flagged poor old Dilbert for the position, at least for now. (Catbert could have made a grand human resources scheme out of it … )

Despite his current inability to “get” the fact that there might be a problem with his creed on the origin and development of life, Dilbert is still my favourite engineer. Dilbert, give a kiss for me to the talking frog in your pocket!

The tallking frog in Dilbert’s pocket? Well, here is the story as it was told to me: Read More ›

Questioning the Tree of Life: International Workshop Series

One cause (of many) delaying the completion of On Common Descent, my monograph examining the theory of the universal common ancestry of life on Earth — Darwin’s monophyletic Tree of Life, rooted in LUCA (the last universal common ancestor) — has been the explosion of publication on the topic. In 1998, when I submitted my dissertation, only a handful of researchers openly doubted monophyly, and only generally-known-to-be-crazy philosophers of science, like me, cared much about it. Now an international workshop series on the question has been organized, to culminate in a major meeting in London in July 2010. The first workshop in the series was held on November 7th, 2008, at the Philosophy of Science Association biennial conference, in Pittsburgh. Read More ›

Who Was More Important: Lincoln or Darwin?

Here is an interesting article: By Malcolm Jones | NEWSWEEK How’s this for a coincidence? Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born in the same year, on the same day: Feb. 12, 1809. As historical facts go, it amounts to little more than a footnote. Still, while it’s just a coincidence, it’s a coincidence that’s guaranteed to make you do a double take the first time you run across it. Everybody knows Darwin and Lincoln were near-mythic figures in the 19th century. But who ever thinks of them in tandem? Who puts the theory of evolution and the Civil War in the same sentence? Why would you, unless you’re writing your dissertation on epochal events in the 19th century? But Read More ›

First Things editor on Vatican evolution conference shutting out design theorists

In First Things (December 2008), editor Richard John Neuhaus comments on the decision not to invite intelligent design theorists like Michael Behe, author of Edge of Evolution to the Vatican conference next March: So let’s see now: The conference is strictly scientific. In that case, there would seem to be no reason for the Church to be sponsoring it, since there are numerous other institutions that attend to the strictly scientific. But then we are told the conference will also include philosophers and theologians, but only those who are rational – meaning, presumably, those who do not raise critical questions about the strictly scientific. We are told it will exclude scientific ideologues who reject that philosophers and theologians have to Read More ›

Earth to Darwin fans: Building things up is way more trouble than destroying them

In “When Fossil Genes Become Fossilized Rhetoric”11 05 08) Robert Deyes recounts the trouble an evolutionary biologist named Sean Carroll went to in order to demonstrate that evolution occurs without design or purpose – largely demonstrating the opposite:

There are no grounds for assuming that the processes through which genes might degrade are the same processes through which they could be built up (Ref 1). In simple terms, genes are long stretches of DNA that carry the information necessary to code for the production of functional proteins. Intelligent design theorists claim that a piece-meal assembly of information-rich genes using the basic building blocks of DNA exceeds the capacities of Darwinian selection and is better explained by appealing to the activity of an intelligent agent (Refs 3,4). If anything, this very principle should have been Carroll’s first point of contention if he was to say anything against ID. From a philosophical perspective the possibility remains that a designer may have supplied an organism with more genetic information than may have been needed for life- what one may call an “all the options, all the bells and whistles” approach. Such a designer could have been interested in placing non-functional genes in the genome for a future role in his or her design. We all install software into our computers that may not be operational until some later date when we finally choose to use it. Computers can now be accurately scheduled to start a process at a specified instant in the future, similarly to the programming of a recording on a video-recorder.

Deyes follows up with a discussion of the “living fossil”fish, the coelacanth, noting: Read More ›

Methodological naturalism: If that’s the way forward, … let’s go sideways

Having connected the dots of the vast conspiracy run by the Discovery Institute so as to include non-materialist neuroscience, Steven Novella goes on to cheerlead, for methodological naturalism – about which I will say only this:

Methodological naturalism is usually described as meaning that science can consider only natural causes. But by itself that doesn’t mean anything because we don’t know everything that is in nature. For example, if – as Rupert Sheldrake thinks – some animals can demonstrate telepathy, then telepathy is a natural cause. And so?

And so Richard Dawkins goes to a great deal of trouble to attempt to discredit Sheldrake because the hidden assumption is that nature mustn’t include telepathy.

In practice, methodological naturalism frequently becomes a method of defending bad – and often ridiculously bad.- ideas in order to save naturalism. Think of the persistent efforts to “prove” that humans don’t “really” behave altruistically. In fact, we sometimes do. Here’s a recent story, for example, about a Texas woman named Marilyn Mock who went to an auction of foreclosed homes, ran into Tracey Orr – an unemployed woman she had never met – who had come to endure the sale of her home, and … Read More ›

Vast conspiracy files: Connecting the dots to include non-materialist neuroscience

Over at Neurologica blog, Steve Novella speculates about non-materialist neuroscience, about which he seems to have learned from New Scientist and the Discovery Institute’s News and Views blog. (I would have read books myself, but hey.) My favourite lines: I also think the New Scientist is correct in pointing out that the ID movement may be shifting their emphasis to neuroscience. I think it is fair to say that the ID attack on evolution has been largely a failure. They failed in Dover (where a conservative judge ruled that ID was warmed-over creationism and could not be taught in public school science classes), and the movie Expelled turned out to be a huge boondoggle. They are getting some traction with Read More ›

Paley’s Watch found in cyanobacteria

Turns out it’s a bit more complicated than a Swiss watch. Emphasis added.

Science 31 October 2008:
Vol. 322. no. 5902, pp. 697 – 701
DOI: 10.1126/science.1150451

Structural Insights into a Circadian Oscillator
Carl Hirschie Johnson,1* Martin Egli,2 Phoebe L. Stewart3

An endogenous circadian system in cyanobacteria exerts pervasive control over cellular processes, including global gene expression. Indeed, the entire chromosome undergoes daily cycles of topological changes and compaction. The biochemical machinery underlying a circadian oscillator can be reconstituted in vitro with just three cyanobacterial proteins, KaiA, KaiB, and KaiC. These proteins interact to promote conformational changes and phosphorylation events that determine the phase of the in vitro oscillation. The high-resolution structures of these proteins suggest a ratcheting mechanism by which the KaiABC oscillator ticks unidirectionally. This posttranslational oscillator may interact with transcriptional and translational feedback loops to generate the emergent circadian behavior in vivo. The conjunction of structural, biophysical, and biochemical approaches to this system reveals molecular mechanisms of biological timekeeping.

Read More ›

Horrid doubt file: Reasons to think your mind is real

Was Darwin’s horrid doubt just horrid – or a reasonable fear?: … the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind? I’d say that if his theory was true, horrid was a slam dunk (yes, you are an evolved monkey, no, your thoughts do not mean anything). But very little in science turned out to be what Darwin or his contemporaries thought. Non-materialist neuroscientists think that your mind is real and that it helps shape your brain. It is Read More ›

Nature Nurtures Darwin

Nature News Nov. 19, 2008 The 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Robert Darwin falls on 12 February 2009. Darwin was arguably the most influential scientist of modern times. No single researcher has since matched his collective impact on the natural and social sciences; on politics, religions, and philosophy; on art and cultural relations, and in ways that the man himself would never have imagined. This Nature news special will provide continuously updated news, research and analysis on Darwin’s life, his science and his legacy, as well as news from the Darwin200 consortium of organizations celebrating this landmark event. http://www.nature.com/news/specials/darwin/index.html I wonder if they will also celebrate Alfred Russel Wallace and his Sarawak Law.

Tom Wolfe on intellectual freedom

This seems like a good time to quote Tom Wolfe again,  in his interview with Carol Iannone, against barking mad pc rubbish invading scholarly disciplines. If only the sciences were immune – but fat chance, so here goes: People in academia should start insisting on objective scholarship, insisting on it, relentlessly, driving the point home, ramming it down the gullets of the politically correct, making noise! naming names! citing egregious examples! showing contempt to the brink of brutality! The idea that a discipline should be devoted to “social justice” is ludicrous. The fashionable deconstructionist doctrine that there is no such thing as truth, only the self-serving manipulation of language, is worse than ludicrous. It is casuistry, laziness, and childishness in Read More ›

Yet another astounding production by Evolution

I have over a dozen new discoveries like this in my email backlog that I skimmed and saved as likely to be blogworthy here so expect more in the next few days as I work through it. I go into a political blogging frenzy for a few months once every four years and I’ve been derelict in posting science articles here as a result. It won’t happen again until 2012. I joined this blog shortly after the 2004 presidential election was over. This science article is one those where the researchers variously describe themselves as “stunned”, “amazed”, “surprised” or something else that conveys the notion that theory didn’t predict whatever it is they found. I also watch for discoveries that Read More ›