More PIGDID is on the way!

We have a more complete demolition of the odious Mr Wells wretched book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, on the way at the Panda’s Thumb. Different chapters were farmed out to different contributors (as you can see, I got the chapter on idiotic embryology), and others will be appearing periodically in the near future.

Reed Cartwright has put up an introduction to the whole enterprise, and once the whole collection has been placed on the web, he’ll tie it all together and organize them in an orderly fashion.

It really is a ghastly, badly done book, and unfortunately, while it only takes one dishonest fool to spin a lie, it takes a whole team to undo it.

If other bloggers want to help out, one really easy way to do it is a googlebomb: always associate the title of the book with a link back to the Panda’s Thumb, like this: The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design.

A suggestion for the comments

The comment section at Pharyngula is becoming a bit too wild west lately. I am all for vigorous, unhindered language and the expression of strong opinions, and I think dumb ideas need to be dealt with harshly, but we also need to allow opportunities for those ideas to be fully expressed. Too often, the conversations are beginning to go like this:

Stranger: I think…
Old hand: [Pulls out six-gun, shoots stranger down]I do believe I didn’t like your accent, stranger, and you were a bit cross-eyed.

I’m not at all keen on this. It makes the comments a very hostile place to new people (I like seeing new people here, don’t you?) and if it keeps up all we’re going to have left are the twitchiest, most psychopathic contributors. To encourage a little more restraint, I’m going to ask everyone to voluntarily impose a 3 comment rule on themselves. What that means is that if someone comes along and says something, no matter how outrageous, engage them in polite conversation first, give them a chance to clarify and expand on the idea, and then if it’s still utterly insane, you can cut loose.

For example:

Stranger:1I think all women are chattel.
Old hand: Pardon me, friend, but are you using humor, irony, sarcasm, or satire? Are you perhaps about to expand on a deeper philosophical point?
Stranger: 2No, I just think women are meant to serve my needs.
Old hand: This sounds like a most unfortunate and disagreeable belief. Why should you hold such a demeaning attitude?
Stranger: 3Because the Bible, which is the literal word of God, tells me so.
Old hand: [Smashes whiskey bottle over stranger’s head. General brawl commences.]

See? Isn’t that much better? You can still have your fun in the general melee, but let’s just slow the onset down a little, hold fire for a few minutes, and see if we can get a few words through the macho murk first.

I will also add that, aside from a few persistent trolls, most of the regular commenters here share at least some of our goals, although there are of course routine differences of opinion on subsidiary matters, and it isn’t in our best interests to reflexively knife one of your fellow commenters because he is a Christian or opposes abortion or once voted for a Republican city council member. You certainly can argue about that stuff, but treating it as good cause to spit in their eye gets a little tiresome.

Note to metaphor-challenged literalists: there aren’t actually any Colt pistols or broken beer bottles in the comments threads here. It’s a metaphor (look it up.) I do, however, have the power to throw individuals out of the saloon through plate glass windows.

Now Behe puts D. James Kennedy at arms length

Darwin’s Deadly Legacy, the program that Coral Ridge Ministries is airing this weekend that supposedly links Hitler to Darwin, is beginning to look like a public relations catastrophe for the organization. First Francis Collins repudiated the show, then the ADL put the hammer down, and now another of the “featured guests” is distancing himself from the content. Andrew Arensburger wrote to Michael Behe to find out about his contribution, and got this reply:

I’m “associated” with it only in the sense that a clip of my appearance
on a TV show of Dr. Kennedy’s from years ago apparently is used in the
film. I didn’t know this program was in the works, have had no
conversations with anyone from Coral Ridge about it, and had no input
into it.

This looks more and more like a pastiche of generic creationist interviews slapped together to prop up a weak thesis.

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.