Fearful IDists can’t meet ethics challenge in Dallas

Advocates of intelligent design at the Discovery Institute have been rattled by the strong showing of scientists at Southern Methodist University who called their bluff, and questioned SMU for hosting an ID conference this week. SMU’s officials pointed out they were just renting out facilities, and not hosting the conference at all.

The ID conference, with special religious group activities preceding it, is scheduled for April 13 and 14 at SMU. It is a rerun of a similar revival held in Knoxville, Tennessee, last month. The conference features no new scientific research, no serious science sessions with scientists looking at new research, or new findings from old data.

In return, ID advocates “challenged” scientists to show up at a creationist-stacked function Friday evening. To the best of my knowledge, all working scientists declined the invitation, on the understanding that in science, there is no debate.

This morning’s Dallas Morning News features the expected desperation move by Discovery Institute officials Bruce Chapman and John West. They accuse the scientists of being “would-be censors.”

This is highly ironic coming from the group that spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to convince the Texas State Board of Education to censor and bowdlerize* Texas biology books in 2003.  (*  Thanks, Jim Dixon)

But go read the stuff for yourself. Some of us have real work to do today, and there is not time for the appropriate, godly Fisking this piece deserves right now. (Readers? Friends?)

My dander is up, however, and I offer a counter challenge:

Discovery Institute, what is it you’re afraid of? Let’s meet, and discuss the ethical challenges you’ve experienced in this discussion. Specifically, let’s discuss:

One, your misrepresentation of the science of Darwin, and your repeated attempts to mislead school officials — remember the claim in Ohio that federal law requires discussion of intelligent design? Was that a hoax that fell flat, or an honest misunderstanding? In any case, we still await your disowning of the falsehood, years later.

Two, your support of unethical screeds against science and scientists. I’ll mention one here: You need to disown the dishonest and unethical work of Jonathan Wells. Look at his book, Icons of Evolution, which is promoted at your website. I call your attention to his chapter of misinformation against the work of Bernard Kettlewell on peppered moths. Check out the citations in his chapter. If one believes his footnotes, there are many scientists who support his views on Kettlewell’s pioneering and still valid work. You need to acknowledge that the footnotes are ethically challenged; you need to acknowledge in print that each of the scientists involved, and others, have disowned Wells’ work and said that his claims misrepresent their work and the status of science. In polite, scientific terms, these people have called Wells a prevaricator. You still promote his screed as valid.

Three, your support of name-calling must stop. Especially, you need to pull your support from books, conferences, and editorial pieces that say evolution was a cause of the Holocaust. The attempts to connect Darwin to Hitler are scurrilous, inaccurate, unethical and unholy.

Chapman, West, the Methodist Church does not endorse your views on evolution, and if they understood your tactics I suspect they would disown your tactics as well. You are guests on a campus that does serious science work and also hosts people of faith. You need to bring your organizations ethical standards up to a higher level.

You want a debate? The science journals are open — the federal courts have repeatedly found that claims of bias against you are completely unfounded (untrue, that is . . . well, you understand what I’m trying to say politely, right?). The journals await your research reports.

All of science has been awaiting your research reports for years, for decades. (Here’s one famous case: “Three Years and Counting,” at Pharyngula (a science-related blog run by an evolutionary biologist).

You want to debate? Stop hurling epithets, and bring evidence.

As an attorney, parent, teacher, and reader of Texas biology textbooks, I’d be pleased to debate your need to change your ways. The debate needs to focus on your methods and ethics. Are you up to it?

Earlier posts of interest:

16 Responses to Fearful IDists can’t meet ethics challenge in Dallas

  1. […] Fearful IDists can’t meet ethics challenge in Dallas […]


  2. Ed Darrell says:

    Check out the links in the posts above.


  3. kjkrameryah says:

    wheres your proof all I hear is hot air


  4. Dirk Gently says:

    Some people who were brainwashed with the idea that there is some omnipresent cantankerous old wizard who clicked his fingers to create everything we see will never believe any different, regardless of how you try to explain it.

    I don find it hard to believe that some supposedly intelligent people are hell bent on sticking to doctrine than to observe for themselves. It’s also quite funny to me that this level of idiocy seems to have strong roots in the US, a country who like to think of themselves as enlightened world leaders.

    Luckily in the UK the creationism bullshit is treated for what it is, and laughed at by most. Fine, teach it in church……it’s NOT science…it’s DOCTRINE (otherwise known as a sales pitch). For me, the insidious part of an uncaring religion is the way they try to force their bizarre beliefs on others.

    Getting creationism taught as an alternate explanation of equal weight to evolution, first makes a BIG assumption…….that the student must believe in God. If the student does not; then the idea of someone they don’t believe in clicking his fingers and creating everything else falls apart.

    It’s just another brainwashing project by a misogynistic, uncaring faith who know their message is being lost as more and more people are educated and see through the stories.

    Nobody’s going to convince the other side, so the debate is kinda moot. Those who insist on being sheep have all the mental safety valves in place to prevent logic getting through and weakening their faith (if their religion has done a good enough job while the person is too young to understand),……while those who think in logic will never be convinced by arguments that don’t hold up under a preschoolers level of scrutiny.


  5. Ed Darrell says:

    NOTA BENE: This blog’s comment section will ship off to the “potential spam” file posts that have too many links in them. If you send such a post, and you don’t see it, please alert me by e-mail so I can go rescue it.

    I regularly get two or three hundred pieces of spam a day, and it’s not easy to go after real posts that get mistakenly labeled unless I know they are there.

    Back to the substance: By the way, I think that the findings of fraud and hoax on the part of the Discovery Institute are broad enough that one must always be suspect of any link to a Discovery Institute site. Similarly, any link purporting to discuss evolution that has “bible” in its URL is probably grossly inaccurate, not to be trusted. I can’t get the “Bible.ca” links to work.

    The National Review list is a hack list. Behe’s book has no influence in science. It is occasionally used in science seminar classes, demonstrating hoaxes and crank science. But that is all. National Review is pushing a polemical point. Behe’s book doesn’t have any significant influence outside those who find it nice to cuddle with instead of a Teddy Bear to protect them from evolution, Darwin’s ghost, and things that go “swoosh” over their heads.

    Haeckel’s drawings fall into the ontogeny/phylogeny debate. They do not demonstrate evolution. Haeckel’s drawings have not been broadly used for more than 30 years, and there is dispute about whether they were used in the past 60 years as you claim. Most of the time when Haeckel’s drawings were use in biology survey books, they were used to show Haeckel’s errors, exactly the opposite of what Dr. Wells whines (and is it safe to assume you get your data from Wells?). In any case, all significant national textbooks in the U.S. switched to actual photos in about 2003. Will you now argue that the actual photos do not show their subjects well? No one will support such a claim.

    However, it is true that embryotic critters in many diverse species show remarkable similarities. That is not a proof of evolution, but an interesting chunk of evidence that is explainable rationally in no other way.

    So the bottom line on Haeckel is that his manipulations were discovered by scientists studying evolution, they do not impinge on the fact of evolution in any way, nor does their falsification (were they wholly false) demonstrate any problem with evolution. If you want to get the facts on Haeckel’s stuff, I urge you to do it here: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/wells/haeckel.html.

    My link to Lucy is the key paper. It’s still current, and its findings have only been corroborated by other studies. There is not a single paper in science literature that contests any of the findings about Lucy.

    The omniology site is crank science at best. They purport to show evidence that the research is bad by comparing different photos taken at different times of the bones laid out on different tables. The claim is that the bones differ. The reality is that the only thing that differs is how the bones were put on the table. I’ve seen some of the bones — this fall many of us get a chance to see them again. Lucy is not crank science, but stands as unrefuted, a critical chunk of information about our past.

    The corroborations are particularly striking, too. The footprints at Laetoli appear to have been made by other members of Lucy’s species. It’s almost as if God Himself was directing the creation of the fossil evidence, to make the case so strong.

    No, there was no fraud on the peppered moth. Think hard about what the allegations are, and about what the research was. Dr. Kettlewell released moths into the wild, and used attractors to get them to come back to captivity. The whole thing was based on the moths being in the wild to see what, if anything, would eat them. Kettlewell had motion pictures of the releases and of birds eating the free-roaming moths.

    Jonathan Wells, who is what is known in science as a “teller of tall tales” (well, in polite circles; in the bar he’s called worse), claims that Kettlewell somehow botched the research when Kettlewell was making illustrations for the article, and put dead moths against the trees to photograph the effectiveness of their camouflage.

    Are you serious? How can you make such a bizarre claim, bassethound? How does the taking of the class picture affect the academic achievement of the kids? How could the taking of a photo to illustrate an article possibly affect the research done months before?

    Worse than that, every single moth scientist in the world has said that Jonathan Wells got his facts wrong. The three most prominent moth scientists call Wells a liar.

    Do you have any credible source to make this claim? (The site you cite doesn’t work for me on this one, either.)

    I dare you to name any moth scientist who disputes Kettlewell’s claim — and let’s be specific that the claim we’re talking about is that the case of the changing coloration of peppered moths is a case of natural selection in action. That simply is not in dispute.

    Peter and Rosemary Grant published at least three papers documenting speciation among birds they studied. It’s nice you think variation is important, but respond to those papers. The book I mentioned, The Beak of the Finch, discusses speciation, which is “macro” evolution by any definition. We’re talking new animals. Were that not enough, Weiner mentions other brand-new species — the apple maggot in the U.S., for example — and I offered examples earlier. Shuffling of genes “already there” is evolution. If you’re wishing that evolution could not occur except through the creation of brand new genes, well, that’s been documented, too.

    By the way, there is not a single paper ever published taking issue with the Grants’ research. Not even any creationist has ever bothered to claim their data are in error, nor that their conclusions are. This is not fraud on their part; but rather it is fraud on your part to claim there are problems when there are none at all. I don’t imagine you have any serious familiarity with the research, and you’re just repeating what someone else told you. That person told you a falsehood. Don’t trust them further — go see for yourself. Here’s the PBS site, for us lay folk:

    You’ll also want to see more recent developments:
    and: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/archives/2005/09/20/news/13127.shtml

    And check out these sources:

    Peter and Rosemary Grant
    Grant, P.R., et al. (2005). Hybridization in the recent past. The American Naturalist, 166(1), 56-68.

    Grant, P.R., and Grant, B.R. (2002). Adaptive radiation of Darwin’s finches. American Scientist, 90(2), 130-140.

    *Weiner, J. (1994, May 8). The handy-dandy evolution prover. The New York Times Magazine, 40.

    This link leads to links to full text copies of a few of their papers, including several discussing speciation, or “macro” evolution to creationists.

    Macro evolution is a fact, demonstrated in hundreds of examples. Among more famous cases of speciation are the rise of broccoli and radishes from mustards, the creation of Canola from rape seed (also from mustard, ironically), modern beef from the ancient aurochs species, grapefruit (and especially the sport-mutated grapefruit with red flesh which is most popular today), dozens of documented cases in laboratories with insects, etc., etc., etc. The Grants’ research, careful as it is with documentation in every way known to humans, is simply icing on the cake.

    Ken Miller convincingly takes pieces of mousetraps and shows that they are not “irreducibly complex” at all. The claim of irreducible complexity in biology is even more specious. Behe offered four suggestions for irreducibly complex systems in his book, but each has natural evolutionary paths for the features detailed (some details were available when he made his claim, but he failed to note it in his book). One is almost funny, the blood clotting mechanism. Behe makes a claim that human blood clotting is irreducibly complex, and he specifies one protein that he says, if missing, makes the whole concept null and void. It turns out that dolphins lack that one protein, and their blood clots just fine. Real biologists looking at the real world have put the lie to Behe’s claims. Not even Behe has any plans to pursue irreducible complexity in research any more. You might do well to check out the cross examination of Dr. Behe at the Dover trial; he admits that he’s not got the science goods.

    Eyes are bad examples of irreducible complexity. They aren’t irreducibly complex in any way, and there are at least five different evolutionary paths known for the development of eyes. If anything, eyes demonstrate exactly what Darwin claimed, that there is a clear indication of evolution in eyes (have you read Darwin? His arguments on eye evolution in 1859 stand completely unrebutted; you’d think if this were a problem for evolution, someone would have produced a solid rebuttal to his explanation).

    A fish with half-formed lungs? That’s not how evolution works. What are you talking about?

    Why don’t we find a trail of fossils showing critters in the ocean and then coming out of the water? We have them. What do you say now? How about the chain of fossils showing the rise of mammals from reptilians, from the Karoo Formation — we have them, too. What about the amazing series of fossils showing each and every step of evolution from a land-dwelling creature to whales? We have that sequence, too.

    How many solid chains of evolutionary evidence must be presented before you acknowledge one?

    Crack about church groups? It was no crack, it was a statement of fact. Behe and his friends at the Discovery Institute show up to church groups regularly — but they have studiously avoided meeting with scientists for more than fifteen years. Their stuff sells well at church groups, but is unavailable at science meetings, even those science meetings where there are standing invitations for them to attend, like Evolution 2007 (http://www.evolution2007.com/) (this year in Christ Church, New Zealand, so anyone with any reason at all to attend would be an idiot not to do it when it’s tax deductible professional meeting).

    Interesting how you think a simple presentation of fact is an attempt at ungrounded ridicule. It is a fact that creationist stuff sells to church groups known to be not scientifically literate, but even creationists won’t try to make their case where it would count, were it true.

    It sounds hateful to me that you find the simple recitation of facts hateful.

    I won’t try to belay your faith toward God, but my faith is secure. Incidentally, I resent the claims that creationism is Christian, since it ultimately denies God as the creator, which is rather fundamental in Christian faith. Jesus was a materialist, by the way — He constantly told people to wake up and recognize reality, to trust the physical world to be true. Darwin, faithful to the church to the end of his life, also doesn’t deserve the maligning you give him, especially when you don’t have the facts.


  6. bassethound says:

    First of all, I stand corrected on the claim that Time magazine named Darwin’s Black Box in it’s top 100. The list was compiled by National Review and World magazine:
    http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=3737 .
    Second of all, Haeckal’s drawings were created specifically to promote the very idea that you are denying. There is dispute over whether his trial took place, but either way he committed fraud and deciet. Many, many scientists back this up in a large variety of publications.
    Third, Ed’s link on Lucy is very old and the paper has not stood the test of scrutiny. Lucy is a fraud and you need to do more homework so that you can see the truth.
    Fourth, the peppered moth fraud did occur and this link lists quite a few scientists that dispute its findings:
    Fifth, the papers by Peter and Rosemary Grant are the easiest to respond to. The work done on finches do not in anyway prove macro-evolution, but rather are variations within species (as are the colors in the peppered moths by the way. I mentioned the moths not because I believe they are associated with macro-evolution, but because they are usually used by textbooks as proof of of Darwinian evolution, which is yet another example of fraud and deciet). These variations involve the shuffling of genes that are already there, and no new genes are created in the process. This is yet another dagger thrust into the heart of Darwinian evolutionary. Variation of species does not equal macro-evolution, and in the end, no matter how much change is forced on a species, a bird remains a bird, and a moth remains a moth. No new kind of animal is created.
    Sixth, your comment about irreducible complexity is ridiculous. Do you even know what it is? Simply put, if you take a mouse trap and remove any of its components, what do you have? Nothing but parts. This simple illustration demonstrates what irreducible complexity is. There are many things within an organism that require hundreds, thousands, or even millions of parts in order to function correctly, or in some cases even for the organism to survive. Like the mousetrap, if you take out a part or rearrange parts, it will no longer work. A good example of this is the eyeball. Another good example is the DNA found in one human cell. Each cell contains the information equivalent of three volumes of the encyclopedia Brittanica in order to work. And like the encyclopedia, the information must be arranged correctly. This complexity does not allow for the millions and millions of years that Darwinian theory requires. Another way to put this is: What happens to a fish with half formed lungs when it crawls out of the ocean? It dies. Another question: Why don’t we find all the fish fossils with lungs in various stage of evolutionary development? Answer: We don’t. Darwin is in big trouble at this point.
    Finally, What was the crack for about church groups? That sounds hateful. Maybe this has nothing to do with science, but with hate toward God or certain kinds of religious groups. Or maybe you are like a lot of Darwinists that have a hard-nosed prior commitment to materialism and naturalism. That is philosophy, not science. For me, it takes even more faith to believe in that than it does in God. I do believe in God, but it is observational science and the evidence it provides that ultimately makes me reject Darwinian evolution.


  7. Ed Darrell says:

    I challenge you to produce evidence of your claim. Your claim is wholly without merit. You shall not find any serious paleontologist or archaeologist who is familiar with the bones who will support your claim that Lucy is not valid. Not one.

    You’ve made your claim, let’s see some evidence. You’ve fallen victim to a hoax, I suspect.

    In the interim, you may want to take a look at real science on the issue, this is the paper on Lucy, and here is a link to several other significant papers on human evolution from Nature.

    By the way, is it safe to assume you did not check out the links I provided above?


  8. Okay… I thought Ed might have a chance until he claimed that lucy is valid science… is he kidding? Maybe he’s trying to show us just how ridiculous evolutionist’s really are…

    Ed, not to be rude, but it is quite established fact that Lucy is NOT valid science. Common knowledge, at least for honest people, you might say.


  9. Ed Darrell says:

    Frauds? You claim broccoli doesn’t exist? You’ve never read any of the papers by Peter and Rosemary Grant?

    bassethound, you’ve been led down a garden path, and left in the back 40.

    Some of the things you claim here are not even good replications of the usual creationist claptrap.

    Peppered moth? No, they weren’t glued to trees. The dead ones in some photos were glued there to keep the wind from blowing them away — but those were simply to show the contrast in the bark and the moth. In the experiments, the moths flew free. Jonathan Wells has the closest thing to the confirmable version of the lie you got told, but every moth scientist on Earth says Wells is a liar. You’re talking about the research of Bernard Kettlewell, and it stands up to scrutiny. There remains some controversy over just what preys on the moths — Kettlewell found English titmice doing the predation, and tits don’t usually eat the moths — but that’s the only question. If you have a citation for that “investigation,” I will cite for you how the claims made there are absolutely false.

    Haeckel? I don’t think he was alive when the difficulties were discovered. But his drawings did not purport to show “macro” evolution, so your claim is simply out of its depth. There was no “trial by his colleagues.” What a crock. And textbooks carrying the photos without question? No, that’s been debunked solidly — go over to http://www.pandasthumb.org and search for the terms.

    Yes, the fact that evolution occurs is, indeed a settled question among scientists.

    Behe’s book was not named among the 100 most influential by Time Magazine. Behe’s claims have been thoroughly debunked by scientists. Irreducible complexity is the stuff he was embarrassed about on the witness stand in the Dover, Pennsylvania trial — there’s nothing to back up his claims. In fact, the judge in the trial where Behe was embarrassed was named to the 100 most influential people of the previous year by Time — that’s probably the origin of the whopper somebody told you about Behe’s book. It’s never been held to be influential by any science group, nor any book publishing group (though it sells well to church groups).

    Have you been reading these canards about evolution long? You’d do well to get Jonathan Weiner’s book, The Beak of the Finch, a story of evolution in our time, and once you’ve finished it, spend a day in a good research library checking out his footnotes, citations and bibliography. Weiner’s book will give you a good college education in evolution, and each citation will check out to say what he claims it says, or do better — no creationist book can make that claim to truth.

    Lucy is valid science, and she’ll be on display in the U.S. near the end of this year. You can go see for yourself.

    Other than that, go here to see what real scientists say about evolution. It’s cool, it’ll keep you fascinated for hours, with real photos, real science, and real evolution.


  10. bassethound says:

    “I’m not saying debate is not allowed. I’m saying the evidence has spoken, and the question of whether evolution occurred is settled.”

    “Where have you been? The first reported, observed-in-real-time case of “macro” evolution was the rise of Spartina townsendii in the Thames river — in 1870. There are hundreds of cases since then. It would be impossible to eat at McDonalds without eating some brand new species, from the beef (descended from the now-extinct aurochs, the last one poached in Poland nearly a millennium ago) to the wheat of the bun to the tomato in the catsup, to the russet Burbank potato in the French fries. Are you serious in having missed the past 137 years of this history?”

    These are common myths promoted by a lot of evolutionists. These claims are simply not true. Out of the aledgedy hundreds of cases of macro-evolution, many have been shown to be frauds, such as Haeckel’s Embryos, Lucy, and less than honorable collection methods (the use of pig bones, filing bones, staining bones, assembling bones found miles apart, creating entire ‘missing link’ exhibits out of smashed skulls and just a small number of bones). Remember the peppered moth? An investigation revealed they were glued to trees. Haeckel’s embryos? He admitted to fraudulently depicting them by dramatically altering their appearance. He was put on trial by his colleagues and condemned for his actions. The result? textbooks still carried his drawings over 125 years later. This is “science”? This is ” a settled question?” I could go on and on but I will leave you with just one challenge. That conference you are ridiculing in your post included one of the world’s leading scientists who wrote the book “Darwin’s Black Box”, named as one of the 100 most influential books written in the 20th century by none other than Time magazine. In this book, he describes what is called irreducible complexity. It is what I consider a sharp dagger thrust right into the heart of Darwinism. Seeing as you say the question of Darwinism is a closed question, then surely you have an adequate response to this challenge of Darwinism?


  11. Dirk Gently says:

    “God save us from religion that promotes ignorance.” That’s a brilliant quote……I can’t agree more. It kinda goes neatly with “God, please save me from your followers.”


  12. Ed Darrell says:

    Where have you been? The first reported, observed-in-real-time case of “macro” evolution was the rise of Spartina townsendii in the Thames river — in 1870. There are hundreds of cases since then. It would be impossible to eat at McDonalds without eating some brand new species, from the beef (descended from the now-extinct aurochs, the last one poached in Poland nearly a millennium ago) to the wheat of the bun to the tomato in the catsup, to the russet Burbank potato in the French fries. Are you serious in having missed the past 137 years of this history?

    Check your copy of Gray’s Anatomy for the skeleton (or see MedlinePlus). Look for bones labeled “coccyx.” You have a tail, too, unless it’s been amputated.

    This is the sort of silly argument creationists and intelligent design advocates put forth, arguments that would be answered in a high school biology or health class, if anyone bothered to pay attention — or, if the kids don’t get excused from learning for “religious” reasons. God save us from religion that promotes ignorance.


  13. Settled? Perhaps, except that we’ve still never seen any viable, observational evidence of macro-evolution, and the possibility of a single enzyme forming without complete designer control is one in ten raised to the forty-thousandth power.

    All humans have tails? Where?


  14. Ed Darrell says:

    I’m not saying debate is not allowed. I’m saying the evidence has spoken, and the question of whether evolution occurred is settled.

    Where would we be if the kind of thinking that no debate can ever be settled were pervasive throughout history? We’d still be executing teachers with hemlock.

    And all humans have tails, by the way.


  15. “In science, there is no debate.”

    Where would we be if this kind of thinking was pervasive throughout history. This is the stuff that got Socrates killed and silenced revolutionary new ideas. Look at some scientific history and you’ll easily see that science is, was, and always should be, up for debate. Otherwise we’d still have people touting a flap of skin on a baby’s hind end as a tail and proof of evolution.


  16. kjkrameryah says:

    wheres your proof ? namecalling only goes so far


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