The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design: Chapter 3: Simply incorrect embryology

This article is part of a series of critiques of Jonathan Wells’ The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design that will be appearing at the Panda’s Thumb over the course of the next week or so. Previously, I’d dissected the summary of chapter 3. This is a longer criticism of the whole of the chapter, which is purportedly a critique of evo-devo.

Jonathan Wells is a titular developmental biologist, so you’d expect he’d at least get something right in his chapter on development and evolution in The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, but no: he instead uses his nominal knowledge of a complex field to muddle up the issues and misuse the data to generate a spurious impression of a science that is unaware of basic issues. He ping-pongs back and forth in a remarkably incoherent fashion, but that incoherence is central to his argument: he wants to leave the reader so baffled about the facts of embryology that they’ll throw up their hands and decide development is all wrong.

Do not be misled. The state of Jonathan Wells’ brain is in no way the state of the modern fields of molecular genetics, developmental biology, and evo-devo.

[Read more…]

It’s a bloody-minded and barbarous practice, that’s why

Shelley asks what we think of the death penalty…that’s an easy one to answer. I am absolutely against it; I think it brutalizes the culture, puts untoward power in the hands of government, and since I have little trust in the reliability of the court system, allows irreversible and tragic errors. I don’t have to go on about it, though: just read Wilkins. I’ve decided to let him think for me this month.

One other thing I’d add, though: the death penalty isn’t even an effective deterrent. For it to work, you have to assume that death penalty offenses are committed in a rational state of mind, and further, that there are no rational grounds for assuming one will be able to get away with it. Neither condition is true.

I guess you can be innumerate and still become a professor of public affairs

In a surprising discovery, reading the Wall Street Journal opinion pages will make you 57% dumber, will kill 8,945,562,241 neurons, and will force you to invent ridiculous statistics. Don’t follow that link! The article will make you cry as you go through a Flowers for Algernon experience.

[Read more…]

Queensland goes Bush league

If you’ve been following the Australian lungfish saga, there’s a new development, and it’s an ugly one. As the Noosa Journal reports (they don’t seem to have a web accessible archive, so this issue may vanish soon; here’s a screenshot), the Queensland government is actively suppressing scientific information that highlights the environmental costs of building the damaging dams.

The Beattie Government has ordered the shredding of a vital report used to list the unique Queensland lungfish under Federal environmental laws, according to a world authority on the species, Macquarie University’s Professor Jean Joss. The shredding order follows suppression of the report shortly after it was published, she said.

If the order is carried out, a vital piece of evidence will have been destroyed to support a challenge to the Mary River Dam under Federal Environmental laws.

The suppressed study analyzed the effects of a small weir that was put on the Burnett River, showing that it had a drastic effect on lungfish breeding and recruitment, and predicted that the greater effect of a dam would “reduce recruitment to a Critically Endangered level, at which extinction is assured.”

You know the other side is completely in the wrong when they’re reduced to hiding reality. The Queensland government seems to have adopted the American Republican style of policy making.

You do want some letters after your name, don’t you?

The Friends of Charles Darwin website update I mentioned yesterday is complete (I toasted it with a latte instead of a whiskey, I’m afraid). You do know that if you join, you are then entitled to put an official “FCD” after your name, which looks very distinguished and high-falutin’ (I just refrain because I’m shy about bragging about my honors.) The FCD requires just about as much work and more intelligence than the Ph.D. that Kent Hovind has after his name, so it’s worth going for.

More info for my developmental biology students

The syllabus for Biol 4181, Developmental Biology is now online. Start reading! It looks like I’ll have you reading 50-100 pages of Wolpert and Carroll or Zimmer a week.

I want you all to know this is something of a miracle—I usually finish my syllabus the night before the class starts, so I’m very proud of myself for getting it done a whole four days ahead of time. Of course, the reason it’s early is that I’ve got a stack of extra-curricular writing that needs to be done in the next couple of days…