Open Thread

Open Thread

I’m doing some traveling and touristy things with grrlscientist today, on top of somehow coping with the first week of classes (physiology and our freshman seminar in biological principles), and attending Drinking Liberally at the 331 Club tonight. I also have to get tickets to the Prairie Home Companion show that will be taped here at UMM on 11 February…it all adds up to me being a little scattered and distracted and otherwise occupied for much of today. You all are just going to have to fend for yourselves for a bit.

Here is a short list of things I should write about, but won’t get to today.

I do have some Science!!! to write about, but first I have to clear up some time in an overloaded schedule.

Discovery Institute uses immense clout, kills Intelligent Design course

That school in California that tried to teach a creationist “philosophy” course was chewed out by Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute. Luskin’s statement consisted of the usual folderol, but the outright fraud of several statements leapt out at me.

My name is Casey Luskin and I am an attorney representing the Discovery Institute. The Discovery Institute is a think tank based out of Seattle, Washington that represents a large number of scientists who do scientific research into intelligent design.

A “large number of scientists”? How many?

Scientists “who do scientific research into intelligent design”? Name them. Tell us exactly where they are doing their research and what specific questions they are trying to answer.

But if you do not cancel this course, and if you let this lawsuit go forward, you are going to lose and there will be a dangerous legal precedent set which could threaten the teaching of intelligent design on the national level. Such a decision would also threaten the scientific research of many scientists who support intelligent design.

See questions above. What scientists? What research?

I’m really fed up with this phony baloney the DI keeps pushing. There are darned few scientists backing Intelligent Design, and those few don’t do any research, nor can they tell anyone else what research could be done.

Because of the young earth creationist history of this course, this course is not legally defensible and it should be cancelled. Thank you.

Casey Luskin got his wish. The course has been cancelled. Not without a final irony, though:

Sharon Lemburg, a social studies teacher and soccer coach who was teaching “Philosophy of Design,” defended the course in a letter to the weekly Mountain Enterprise.

“I believe this is the class that the Lord wanted me to teach,” she wrote.

Flame war in the Durango Herald!

A while back, a reader mentioned that my name (or some permutation thereof) was being taken in vain in the letters pages of the Durango Herald. Nothing new there, it’s just the usual half-truths of the Discovery Institute being disseminated.

Challenges to evolution met with scorn

I find that some of the brightest people in the world today (as with some of the brightest people throughout history) disbelieve the theory of evolution.

As Paul Bynum correctly noted in his letter (Herald, Nov. 20), it is true that folks who dare to challenge some of evolution’s claims are, indeed, often ridiculed and maligned. Note the remarks of University of Minnesota biology P.Z. Meyers: that opponents of Darwinism need to be subject to “some form of righteous fury, much butt kicking and the firing and humiliation of some teachers, many school board members and vast numbers of sleazy far right politicians.”

Gary Andersen, Durango

There was more in the letter; the usual protestation that “Darwinists” are afraid, that there are “volumes of evidence of design all around us” (backed up by mentioning that birds fly and cats take naps), and that chance is a “dreary thought.” I responded with a short note pointing out that my quote was taken out of context, and that I’m not against challenging evolution, but am against incompetent teaching.

Creationists weaken science teaching

In a letter by Gary Andersen on 1 Jan 2006, I was quoted misleadingly, in a way that the Discovery Institute has consciously propagated. Yes, I have called for the firing of teachers and politicians, but not because they are “opponents of Darwinism”–but for incompetence. If a science teacher cannot grasp basic concepts of biology, he or she has no place teaching our children in the classroom. We are not afraid of Intelligent Design creationists, but we are getting increasingly angry at the disservice they are doing to our kids by weakening the science curricula in our high schools.

Mr Andersen claims there are weaknesses in the theory of evolution. Yes, there are, but the fact of evolution is not in doubt; there is active argument and research on specific details and mechanisms. Intelligent Design creationists are not participants in that work, and are actively promoting discredited ideas that are not supported by any evidence. Science class is not a place for garbled anecdotes and wishful thinking, yet that is all Mr Andersen has to offer—I think we can do better by our children.

Oh, and the name is Myers. One “e”. It’s bad enough to be misrepresented by the likes of the Discovery Institute and their minions, but they could at least spell the name correctly.

I am amused to see that the Durango Herald has published a reply. It shows the same level of incomprehension as the first letter.

Reaction shows evolutionists scared

In his letter (“Creationists weaken science teaching, Herald, Jan. 10) associate professor P.Z. Myers of Morris, Minn., suggested that anyone believing God created the universe “has no place teaching science in our classrooms.”

What an arrogant statement! Statements such as this reinforce the feeling that evolutionists are indeed quivering in fear.

Paul Bynum, Durango

Of course there is more ranting. I’m accused of “indoctrination and propaganda, and told that “All tyrants, Hitler, Stalin, etc., approve of and use this type of ‘education.'”

I think his argument is greatly weakened by the blatant quote mining of his very first sentence. You can rummage through the entire archive of my site, you can chase down every word I’ve ever said, and you can give me a Vulcan mind-meld and probe all of my thoughts, and you will not find me expressing or thinking that ridiculous sentiment anywhere. But of course, readers of the Durango Herald are most unlikely to even open up a week-old copy of their paper to assess the accuracy of the creationist’s claims. The creationists know their lies can spread faster than the truth, and they will continue to spout that kind of dishonesty shamelessly.

At least they learned how to spell my name properly.

Sewage by any other name would smell just as putrid

William Dembski doesn’t think the way you or I do. When we encounter a problem in biological science, we try to think of experiments and observations that would help us resolve the question: Dembski thinks of public relations and commercial opportunities. Thoughts from Kansas catches him admitting that ID has experienced a setback, and what does he think of? Broadcasting infomercials, and a commercial venture to sell ID-themed toys. (Those are Josh’s comments in brackets below.)

For some time now I’ve been wanting to complement Darwinalia, Inc. [apparently to be stupid plush toys or something] with an ID-based success and motivation course (complete with infomercials). I had been thinking about something like “Designed for Success” or “Designed to Flourish.” But the more I thought about it, especially with intelligent design taking the hits it has lately [my emphasis], it’s time simply to co-opt the language of evolution and interpret it in an ID-friendly way (in this vein, recall my post about intelligent evolution on this blog some months back—go here). Yes, ID is itself evolving! I was able to procure (.com and .org were unfortunately taken) and expect to start another corporation once Darwinalia, Inc. is fully up and running.

And of course, one step is rebranding. Creationism got renamed to “Intelligent Design” to smuggle it into the schools, (and we now know how well that worked) so now Dembski is thinking about renaming it again.

I therefore offer the following proposal if ID gets outlawed from our public schools: retitle it Intelligent Evolution (IE). … [H]ey, it would still be evolution, and evolution can be taught in schools. In fact, I think I’ll title my next book Intelligent Evolution: The Mindful Deviation of Evolutionary Pathways. Perhaps this book has already been written.

“Intelligent Evolution”? Dembski really doesn’t get it, does he? The game should be about finding evidence and backing up your claims, not rummaging around to find the catchiest slogan.

I do think we need to keep those words of Dembski’s around for the next trial, though. Whatever label the Discovery Institute comes up with, we now have the admission of one of their foremost proponents that he’s consciously trying to merely retitle creationism. Again.

You wanna see arrogance? Look to a creationist

Ohio State Board of Education has an ID lesson plan on the books. Ohio Citizens for Science has been fighting it, but at a recent meeting, the Board voted to maintain it’s anti-science position.

A friend sent this scan from the Columbus Dispatch. It does show the ignorance, the contempt, and the arrogance of the creationists.

Richard E. Baker, a member of the State Board of Education, displays his apparent lack of interest in arguments for changing the state’s science standards being put forth by fellow board member Martha W. Wise. Baker, who later voted to maintain the current standards, did not speak during yesterday’s afternoon session, choosing instead to read the newspaper throughout.

This Richard E. Baker:

“Richard Baker, an avowed creationist and vice president of the OBE,
disagrees. ….Baker accused the scientific community of wasting time
debating the plan. “We spend all this malarkey and baloney when 99 percent
of all the people who are taught this have nothing to do with the rest of
their lives. These scientists, they don’t care about wasting their own time
or anybody else’s time. In business we don’t waste time. To me, [the lesson]
is not a big deal.” According to Baker, the real reason scientists want to
do away with the lesson plan is, as he said to a group of scientists at a
board meeting concerning the lesson plan, “[They] think [they] know
everything. [They’re] just a bunch of paranoid, egotistical scientists
afraid of people finding out [they] don’t know anything.””

That’s a man who does not belong on the Board of Education.