Gals and show mares

This video has been going around — it’s a group of women talking about the importance of evolution to the biological sciences.

I confess to cringing in a few places — there’s too much ready equation of evolution with natural selection — but I certainly wouldn’t question the competence of these accomplished scientists, even if I might argue with them a bit.

But now the clowns at Uncommon Descent have discovered it and given their assessment.

It shows sixteen female academics or science writers, mostly young, whose enthusiasm for evolution is so overwrought that they turn themselves into propagandists.

Eager to show how well they have been trained, they are like show mares who trot around the paddock jumping over each gate in turn. All the while they give the camera a look that says: “Aren’t I good?”

And then the conclusion:

Here, we’d wondered who would be the next Lynn Margulis. Our scouts can now save time by crossing these gals off.

“Gals”? Really? And since when do creationist hacks get to cross “gals” off the rolls of worthy scientists?

That’s right there in the article. There is worse in the comments; I know the site isn’t entirely responsible for what commenters say, but this is from one widely known freakish creationist who agrees with the sentiment in the article, that these women won’t cut it as real scientists. (There are also others that disagree with this guy; no one seems to have noted the patronizing attitude of the article itself.)

There is however a liberal establishment with a agenda to promote women and this means over more deserving men. Affirmative action , openly/secret, is powerful in nOrth america.
They want women to be as smart as men in these perceived smarter things.
They think it should be at least 50/50.
However it ain’t and it never will.

(Also on FtB)

Lonely broken-hearted creationists

Aww, poor Intelligent Design creationism is feeling unloved. Or perhaps it’s jealousy. David Klinghoffer, that clueless ideologue at the Discovery Institute, is whimpering that blogging scientists aren’t paying enough attention to his brand of creationism.

Darwinian scientists who blog — in other words, those whose comments are most readily accessible to us — may indeed not pay attention to ID arguments, but that’s certainly not because of any lack of “rigorous and persuasive ideas” on ID’s part. The proof is that Darwin defenders are typically very busy indeed picking on other arguments that no thoughtful and critical person would remotely regard as “rigorous and persuasive.” What those other arguments have in common is that, unlike ID, they’re too weak to effectively fight back.

As a convenient example, right over at Panda’s Thumb, Scanlan’s colleage PZ Myers contributes a longish post (1500+ words) attacking some guy’s rather… well, strained attempt to discover the details of all of embryology in two vaguely formulated verses from the Koran. Dr. Myers complains:

I have read the entirety of Hamza Andreas Tzortzis’ paper, “Embryology in the Qur’an: A scientific-linguistic analysis of chapter 23: With responses to historical, scientific & popular contentions,” all 58 pages of it (although, admittedly, it does use very large print). It is quite possibly the most overwrought, absurdly contrived, pretentious expansion of feeble post hoc rationalizations I’ve ever read. As an exercise in agonizing data fitting, it’s a masterpiece.

Who is Hamza Andreas Tzortzis? On his Facebook page, he is identified as “a convert to Islam, …an international lecturer, public speaker & author. He is particularly interested in Islam, philosophy and politics.” How Dr. Myers discovered Mr. Tzortzis and what an easy punching bag he makes, I do not know.

Don’t worry, Davy! I think you’re just an easy a punching bag as Tzortzis, and just as obscure and irrelevant! Also, I think Intelligent Design creationism is just as strained, just as ludicrous, just as fallacious as Tzortzis’s Muslim creationism, or Ken Ham’s fundamentalist creationism, or Hugh Ross’s old earth creationism, or Biologos’s theistic evolution. I despise you all equally.

Big hug, OK?

Now I know these guys are used to cherry-picking all of their data and seeing whatever they want to see, but Klinghoffer has made a ridiculously bogus claim, that we don’t pay attention to Intelligent Design creationism’s arguments. Of course we do! It’s just that right now ID is rather spent — they’ve blown it in all of their attempts to legislate creationism into the schools, they’ve got nothing credible published, and their predictions have all fallen flat — in 2004, Dembski predicted the demise of “molecular darwinism” in 5 years, which, you may notice, has passed. Instead, it looks like ID has lapsed into a twitching coma, with nothing new to say…not that they ever did, since all they were was warmed over William Paley in the first place.

Besides, ID creationism was only a puppet for the religious creationists anyway. Almost everyone in the movement is devout in some way or another (cue Berlinski to swirl in superciliously and declare that no, his only god is Berlinski), and their support was entirely derived from a creationist base that saw ID as a convenient secular facade to plaster over the godly superstition of its underpinnings. Sorry to say, that base was only loyal when they thought ID was a useful mask…as it has failed, they’re all flocking to the Hams and Hovinds and local megachurches instead. You know, the religiously-driven fanatics that Klinghoffer so lightly dismisses as our easy targets.

But it’s silly to claim we haven’t addressed their arguments. Personally, I’ve reviewed Meyer’s Signature in the Cell and

Jonathan Wells’ Icons of Evolution and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. I’ve tackled Casey Luskin and Michael Egnor
and
Paul Nelson
and
Michael Behe
and
William Dembski. I’ve written general critiques of ID creationism. I’ve trashed ID creationism repeatedly, and with bemused enthusiasm.

Let’s not forget all those other science bloggers and writers who’ve also stomped on ID repeatedly: Ian Musgrave,
Wesley Elsberry,
Carl Zimmer,
John Wilkins,
Larry Moran,
Steve Matheson,
Jeff Shallit,
Allen MacNeill,
Jerry Coyne,
Ken Miller and many more. Or the whole danged gang at the Panda’s Thumb. We’ll all continue to take swipes at ID creationism occasionally, but the Discovery Institute just has to learn that as far as creationism goes, we’re polyamorously promiscuous, and we’re happy to screw the whole damned bunch of anti-science goombahs.

ID is just one minor and particularly pretentious form of the pathology. We don’t focus on only ID, and it’s not because we’re afraid that they’ll “effectively fight back”. They won’t. What they’ll do instead is pretend our critiques never existed…just as Klinghoffer does here.

(Also on FtB)

‘Tis a good day to #creozerg

I’m in Springfield, Missouri, and today at noon I’ll be joining a mob of skeptics and atheists at the Gillioz Theater to prepare to hit the Creation Ministries of the Ozarks. We shall descend upon them as a horde and sweep through their “museum”, documenting the foolishness and mocking the silly. You’re all welcome to join, but if you do show up, there are a few rules to follow:

  • Be polite and nondisruptive. This is their property and you are a visitor.

  • Remember: the Christians running this show, and the Christian attendees, are the delusional victims here. Feel some pity for them.

  • Do not, however, forget that this is an institution dedicated to promoting lies and ignorance. Do not pull a Michael Ruse and start admiring what they’ve accomplished.

  • Do not loudly insult the gift shop, if they have one. They hate that — that was the one thing that made the goons at our last #creozerg snap.

  • Do not have gay sex on the exhibits.

  • Document. Take notes and photographs. Your goal is to come away from this with a better understanding of what the promulgators of ignorance are teaching, and to spread the word about their folly afterwards.

  • Converse. One of the cool things about these trips is that you’re in a large group of critical thinkers, many of whom may have expertise on the subjects being mangled by the exhibits. Ask questions. Learn stuff.

  • Just to be on the safe side, you probably shouldn’t have heterosexual sex on the exhibits, either.

  • Be in the right frame of mind: you are not a gang of hooligans planning to vandalize the place, you are skeptical anthropologists there to observe the peculiar and pathological folkways of a backwards, intellectually impoverished people.

  • Have fun.

I’ll try to throw a few comments on twitter, hashtag #creozerg, as we pass through the halls of unlearning. Don’t expect a lot, though; this is a small, rinky-tink local creation “museum”, unlike that monument to idiocy built by the notorious leech, Ken Ham. We’ll probably race through it fairly fast, just because there won’t be a heck of a lot to see.

(Also on FtB)

I get email

Did someone rattle the monkey cage recently? I have been getting a sudden wave of email from defenders of Kent Hovind, which is not good. Of all the creationists, Hovind spawns the most illiterate, incomprehensible mess; I think you have to be of very low intelligence to find anything at all appealing in that guy.

Anyway, here are two examples. I’d kind of like to be game-fully employed — does that mean I just sit around all day playing games? Because I suppose that could be fun.

Your assessment of Kent Hovind

You are an arrogant jackass. Your pompousness is only exceeded by your stupendous idiocracy. The fact that you are game fully employed is proof that we were created and it was obviously not survival of the fittest. If there were any true justice in this country, you would be the one sitting in jail. Hey ape-man, go back and crawl under the rock from witch you came and do the world a favor…

Have a wonderful day

This next one is just weird. He spelled my name right, but misspelled Hovind’s, which is a first. He’s also very confused — I think he has the impression I’m a Hovind supporter.

Kent hovend

as much as I love Kent hovend I have to say he is guilty
any one who has listened to any of his video’s has seen him say don’t pay your tax’s
I don’t if he did not say that in his video’s they would have left him alone
however there is a good part he get’s a captive ears that need to here what he has to say
we have copied his videos & passed them around
any one that watched them loves them
he makes it easy to understand
keeps it light [ funny ]
none of it is boring unlike most all church’s most guys drift off
in to never never land our wife’s have to nudge us
where no one that watch’s Kent never drift’s off ever

if he get’s out some day he will maybe in a few years
tell him not to talk about tax’s for or not just shut up about it
he can do more good out than in jail
on the good side when he gets out he will have a new set of suckers to
debate the old one retire or die off
hes still a young man & he has his son’s to take over
yes I did signed your paper to get him out
about a year ago
remember it is better to use a little honey to get them on your side than to
make them pissed off & wont talk to him any more
yes I know its not as much fun hahahhaha

Those are the strange line breaks in the original. I get the feeling he was trying to write a poem.

(Also on FtB)

A feminist embarrassment

I cringed reading this woman’s lament that evolutionary biology is responsible for the oppression of women, starting with Darwin. It’s one long colossal failure of logic.

The argument has some genuinely true facts embedded in it, which then get spun out into a series of false conclusions. It is true that the Victorian gentlemen who formulated and expanded upon the theory of evolution tended to be 19th century chauvinists who made up stories about the inferiority of the feminine mind, and Darwin was right among them. It is also true that there are contemporary biologists who still make up similar stories and engage in blatant retrofitting of the data to rationalize sexism or racism (Satoshi Kanazawa comes to mind as one of the most egregious examples).

But don’t confuse cause and effect! Sexism predated evolutionary theory, and is a product of the wider culture. And creationism, most obviously, is extremely sexist, with its predefined gender roles and gender-based assignment of blame for the entirety of our wicked nature. To single out a late 19th century scientific theory and accuse it of promoting a deplorable cultural attitude that was both present before the theory was discovered, and present to an even greater degree in the individuals who strongly opposed the theory, is ridiculous in the extreme, and embarrassingly stupid.

But I’m not done. The entirety of the edifice of her logic is built on exactly one essay, one attack on evolution, by one guy. And that guy is the rabid squirrel of creationism, Jerry Bergman.

Bergman is so awful, so incompetent, so dishonest, that citing him in any way in support of your position (let alone allowing his lying slander of Darwin be the sole source) instantly discredits anything you might say. It says you have no discernment or capability of critical evaluation of your sources.

I’m sorry to say that the taint of incompetence has now also spread to Loretta Kemsley.

(Also on FtB)

Hitler was a True Christian™

If you tuned in to that local debate on Christian radio, you know that one of the points the Christian fool trotted out was the tired old claim that the Nazis were no true Christians — no True Christian™ would ever commit such horrible acts. It’s an annoyingly feeble and unsupportable argument, but it has a lot of life in it, unfortunately.

This same argument has come up in Faye Flam’s Evolution column for the Philly Inquirer, and has gone on through several articles thanks to that hack from the Discovery Institute, Richard Weikart. It started with an article titled “Severing the link between Darwin and Nazism“, which cited real scholars like Robert Richards and Daniel Gasman to ably refute Weikart’s ridiculous claim that Nazism was inspired by Darwin. The Nazis banned Darwin’s books and rejected the idea that Aryans could have evolved from the lower orders. Weikart’s reply: But Hitler used the word Entwicklung, which translates as “evolution”. It also translates as “development” — Hitler did not use the language as representative of evolution at all.

So Flam got a contribution from a developmental biologist, the most excellent Scott Gilbert, who pointed out that biology and Darwinism were not factors in Hitler’s rise to power: the Lutheran and Catholic churches were. She also gets Keith Thomson, a biologist and museum director, to explain that Darwin did not and would not have approved in any way the Nazi philosophy. Weikart’s reply: but Darwin was a racist! Of course he was — he was a fairly conventional Victorian gentleman who thought the English were the greatest people on the planet. But these biases were not significant factors in his theory, and he struggled to overcome them.

Nazism was not science-based. It was pseudo-scientific religious dogma, tightly tied to the German culture of the time, which was almost entirely Catholic and Lutheran. All you have to do is look at Hitler’s own words to see that, even if he were personally a closet Satanist (I don’t think he was; he was an idiosyncratic Catholic), he tapped into the faith of the German people to achieve his ends. You cannot blame the horrors of the Third Reich on Darwin, who had negligible influence on the great masses of the German Volk, no political pull, and no appeal to the media. If you wanted a lever to shift public opinion on anything in the 1930s, religion was where you applied your force.

I have to give an early plug for my colleague, Michael Lackey (also on the CFI speakers’ bureau, by the way), who will be coming out with a book this Spring on exactly this topic.

His new book project (Modernist God States: A Literary Study of the Theological Origins of Nazi Totalitarianism) is on Hitler and the Nazis. In this book, he opposes one of the dominant interpretations of intellectual and political history, which holds that the West, since the Enlightenment, has been becoming increasingly more secular. Scholars who have adopted this approach claim that Hitler and the Nazis are the logical product of secularization, atheism, and humanism. By stark contrast, Lackey has been trying to demonstrate that secularization has only taken hold in very elite circles, mainly among academics, scholars, and intellectuals. As for the general population, it has actually become increasingly more religious, but in ways that are significantly different from pre-Enlightenment versions of religion. Based on his findings, Lackey argues that the only way to understand Hitler and the Nazis is to take into account the new conceptions of religious subjectivity that started to flourish and dominate among the general population in the early part of the twentieth century. Understanding these new conceptions sheds new and considerable light on Hitler’s and the Nazis’ religious conception of the political.

The Modernist God State: A Literary Study of the Nazis’ Christian Reich. New York and London: Continuum, (in press: forthcoming, Spring 2012).

Among the things he has done is to examine thoroughly the popular literature of Germany in the 1930s and 40s. Surprise, surprise, it isn’t singing paeans to Darwin and Science — these are eminently Christian Nazis.

The cover of his book says it all. I think it’s going to be a significant source for squelching these bizarre, ahistorical notions coming out of the Discovery Institute that somehow Nazi Germany was the apotheosis of the godless Darwinian state.

i-5e71da05c425856613d378cb5e35e53a-godstate.jpeg

(Also on FtB)

How not to examine the evolution of proteins

The Discovery Institute has me on a mailing list for their newsletter, Nota Bene. That’s probably unwise: usually I just glance at it, see another ignorant bit of fluff from Luskin or Nelson or one of the other usual suspects, and I snigger and hit ‘delete’, but sometimes they brag about how they’re really doing science, and I look a little closer. And then I might feel motivated to take a slap at them.

The latest issue contains an article by Ann Gauger, babbling about her recent publication disproving Darwinism, written with her colleague Douglas Axe, published in their tame ‘science’ journal, Bio-complexity, and edited by Michael Behe. It’s not work that could survive in a real journal, I’m afraid.

The work focuses on a diverse family of enzymes, the PLP-dependent transferases. These are all paralogs, or genes produced by duplication and divergence, as determined by their similar sequences. They picked two members of this family that use different substrates and catalyzed different reactions, and asked how they could possibly have evolved from each other…and they did it all wrong. The mistakes they made were fundamental, obvious, and amazingly stupid.

  • The cousin problem. You should have picked up on the key problem from my short description above: they picked two extant proteins and then asked how they could have evolved from each other. Imagine if I picked one of my many cousins — say, the tall, red-headed Mormon fellow from Oregon, or the slender fan of horses in California — and started enumerating our many differences and declared that I couldn’t possibly have evolved from either of them. You would rightly stop me and suggest that maybe my problem is that I didn’t evolve from my cousins — that maybe the smarter approach would be to look at our respective parents, and the grandparents we have in common, and trace the lines of descent.

    And you’d be right, of course. A more sensible way of looking at this problem is to start with a valid premise, and examine parental and grandparental states. Gauger and Axe don’t do that at all. They speculate about the huge number of possible intermediate states between two cousins, and decide that there are so many possibilities that the path from one to another is so improbable that it couldn’t have happened in the history of the planet. You might be able to say the same thing about me and my very different cousin, if you disregarded the fact that there actually were known intermediates.

  • The bridge hand problem. Creationists pull this one all the time. Here’s the situation: you are dealt 13 cards in a hand of bridge. What’s the probability that you’ll get the hand you’ve got? Obviously, the probability of getting a hand is 1.0, but the probability of getting any one specific arrangement of 13 cards is less than one in 635 billion. The silliness of the creationists is to point at a number like that and announce that the arrangement must have been designed. Gauger pulls this same stunt.

    …we calculate that the waiting time for a bacterial population to acquire seven specific mutations in a duplicated gene, none of which provide any functional benefit until all seven are present, is something like 1027 years. That’s a ten with 27 zeros after it. To put this in perspective, the age of the universe is believed to be on the order of 1010 years.

    If I played bridge very, very fast, dealing out one hand every minute, that means I’d still have to wait 1.1 million years to get any particular hand you might specify ahead of time…and my life expectancy is only on the order of 102 years. Therefore, bridge is impossible. Similarly, if you add up all the nucleotide differences between me and my cousin, the likelihoods of these particular individuals is infinitesimally small…but so what? We’re here.

  • The talentless critic problem. Let’s pretend that the prior problems don’t exist (I know, that’s an awfully big hypothetical leap to make, but try). Let’s pretend therefore that the Gauger and Axe paper actually accomplishes what they claim: that neo-Darwinian mechanisms are inadequate to explain the origin of the family of PLP-dependent transferases. Now what? They’re here, obviously — how did they get here? They don’t say. They don’t even speculate; “intelligent design” is a phrase studiously avoided. Lord knows, their experiments and simulations aren’t even designed to reveal alternative mechanisms. This is their conclusion:

    …answers to the most interesting origins questions will probably remain elusive until the full range of explanatory alternatives is considered.

    Yeah, but…if Ann and Doug aren’t considering them in their papers, let alone putting together experiments to test them, why should I? And given that their protocols are so deeply flawed and built on faulty premises, I don’t think they’ve ruled out natural evolutionary mechanisms at all. I’ll be much more interested when they actually try to explore their unstated “explanatory alternatives” and show me a novel mechanism.

  • The much more attractive friend problem. I was surprised at one thing: usually creationists assiduously avoid the possibility of comparisons by, for instance, shutting off comments and not bothering to cite their critics, but in this case, Gauger actually links to a paper by Carroll*, Ortlund, and Thornton. It’s a terrible tactical mistake. Gauger and Axe are saying, “Ooh, we shit in a pot and we couldn’t even get mushrooms to grow in it,” and then pointing to the flourishing, hugely productive garden that Thornton has cultivated and saying, “…and they’re doing it all wrong.” It’s crazy. It just tells me my time is much better spent reading PLoS than Bio-complexity.

That other paper is so much better than the creationist paper, let’s talk about it.


*Sean Michael Carroll. No, not the physicist Sean M. Carroll who works at CalTech, and not the developmental biologist Sean B. Carroll at Madison, but another Sean Carroll at Harvard. It’s so confusing. If there was a secret research project decades ago to clone a set of hot scientists, you’d think they’d have at least had the decency to append a plate and well number to the ends of their names.

Suffer, Earthlings!

Creationists have this idea that history can be nothing but an unremitting decline — their version of the second law of thermodynamics is a weird thing that has everything ratcheting down into chaos equally, with no possibility of local decreases in entropy at the expense of an overall greater increase. They have almost convinced me. I once would have said no one could be dumber than Kent Hovind, but I have seen the works of his son Eric, and it’s a forthright demonstration of creationist thermodynamics.

Eric Hovind has disproven the K-T meteor theory of dinosaur extinction.

It’s impossible for a couple of reasons for an asteroid to kill them [dinosaurs], because the asteroid, they say, was millions of years ago. The earth isn’t millions of years old. And second, they’ve lived with man, as is very very evident.

I’m so sorry. I’m looking at that quote, and realizing that as soon as I press the “publish” button, it will sweep out in a wave of electrons all around the world, and trillions and trillions of innocent neurons will die in agony as they try to parse it. And I think, I have the power to do that, but do I have the right? Is it ethical to inflict such cognitive pain on so many people?

Eh. Atheist, scientist, slightly mad.

I press the button. Bwahahaha!

(Also on FtB)

Crazier than Ken Ham?

It’s hard to believe, but yes, there are Christians who are even worse than Ken Ham, and even more ignorant. Here’s one: Pastor Don Elmore of Union, Kentucky. He’s written a revealing screed against Answers in Genesis.

It starts gently enough, chatting about their rapid growth and praising AiG for their work against those wicked evolutionists. And then it goes off the rails.

I am aware of the forces supporting “Answers in Genesis”, these being the same powers that are supporting similar multi-cultural anti-Christian organizations such as Alpha, Promise Keepers, The Full Gospel Businessmen’s Association, Billy Graham ministries, producers of many modern Bible versions, and a multitude of other ministries. These forces are the anti-Christian powers seeking One World Government under man, not God. The essence of my criticism is to show that “Answers in Genesis” supports the humanistic and unbiblical “Brotherhood of Man” doctrine (which also is a Hindu/Roman Catholic/Masonic/Jewish/Judeo-Christian and World-Church belief).

Dang. He kinda hates everyone.

But what really has him worked up is miscegenation! These guys are really still around? The rest of this article is all angry rants about race mixing.

For instance, less than 60 years ago, mixed racial unions were illegal in most of the states in the United States and other White nations. But now, they are tolerated as being supposedly within God’s plan. Under the influence and promotion of the Jewish-Masonic-Papal-Communist/Socialist controlled governments and media, Western Christianity has succumbed to the approval of race mixing, and we will be looking at what is behind this. The Bible abounds with evidence of God’s clear will that the races be separate in every way. “Answers in Genesis” mould all its answers around Judeo-Christian doctrines and traditions, and claims a different basis and definition of “race” from that which the Bible gives. Furthermore, there is evidence of Jewish Talmudic sources, or of what the Apostle Paul calls “Jewish fables”.

That’s about as far as I could get without gagging. It wasn’t just the anti-semitism and the racism…it was that I was actually sympathizing with Answers in Genesis.

(Also on FtB)