Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

William Dembski talking dumbski

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on September 30, 2009

So William Dembski has a problem with Blasphemy Day, the holiest day of the year (that’s me being ironic in case a retarded person stumbles upon this entry. Sorry regular readers I have to make this idiot proof!) ! Wow. Now why an intelligent designer (it’s not creationism or religion remember?) would even get involved in this, in the official ID blog as well, beats me, but that’s not the only problem. The dumbness of the following statement is really mind boggling and, I think, at the very least refutes the argument of intelligent design in Dembski himself.

Since Darwin is their god, it would be interesting to submit to this contest true statements about Darwin’s less than divine attributes.

facepalm

So Dembski thinks that atheists worship Darwin! Oh boy! Either he is purposefully engaging in a straw man or he really is that confused. I honestly can’t tell. Can you?

I wonder what Creationists will make of this?

Posted in Preliator pro Causa by Skepdude on September 14, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT PRELIATOR PRO CAUSA

Get this: a Chinese woman was recently scared halfway to death upon discovering a strange creature hanging from its talons to the wall of her bedroom, in the middle of the night. What was it; a bat? Some lizard?

Close – a snake. With a leg.

Snake with a leg growing out of its body

Sure, this is neat in itself – who’s ever heard of a snake growing a leg? The most common mutation observed in snakes is a second head (twice the creepiness for most, I’m sure). But what this is, is also clear evidence for evolution. Snakes evolved from previously legged species; occasionally, random genetic mutations can activate genetic markers (indicators for where to grow legs, teeth, skin or feathers, tails, etc. – just about anything) that had been switched off along the species’s evolutionary course. That is the case with this particular individual.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT PRELIATOR PRO CAUSA

Is the Discovery Institute giving up it’s “we’re not creationists” BS?

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on May 31, 2009

You and I know that Intelligent Design is in fact nothing but creationism re-branded for the 21st century. The Dover trial showed that unquestionably. But lately it seems that the Discovery Institute has been embracing the God wagon more openly. First they went and opened up their Faith and Evolution website. Now, William Dembski is advertising his new book titled “The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil Worldwhich hits stores soon. Now why would one of the most recognized faces of the Intelligent Design movement, which opposes every claim that they are creationists in disguise, write a book about God? You may think I’m reading too much into this, but I don’t think so. ID is creationism and the actions of the Discovery Institute as of late seem to betray that simple truth. Are IDers moving away from their vehement denial of their creationist nature? Are they finally being honest and accepting that their movement is not about academic freedom, it is not about teaching the controversy, it is not about science, but it is about introducing their specific religion to our school system? Or are they up to new tricks? Is this the natural progression of their Wedge Strategy? Only time will tell.

Christians battle each other over evolution

Posted in News, Skepdude by Skepdude on May 28, 2009

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT “NEW SCIENTIST”

The Discovery Institute – the Seattle-based headquarters of the intelligent design movement – has just launched a new website, Faith and Evolution, which asks, can one be a Christian and accept evolution? The answer, as far as the Discovery Institute is concerned, is a resounding: No.

The new website appears to be a response to the recent launch of the BioLogos Foundation, the brainchild of geneticist Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project and rumoured Obama appointee-to-be for head of the National Institutes of Health. Along with “a team of scientists who believe in God” and some cash from the Templeton Foundation, Collins, an evangelical Christian who is also a staunch proponent of evolution, is on a crusade to convince believers that faith and science need not be at odds. He is promoting “theistic evolution” – the belief that God (the prayer-listening, proactive, personal God of Christianity) chose to create life by way of evolution.

It sounds like a nice idea, but to my mind any time you try to reconcile science and religion by rejecting Stephen Jay Gould’s notion of “non-overlapping magisteria” and instead try shoehorning them into a single worldview, something suffers. My concern is that science will take the hit – and Collins’s speculative arguments about divine intervention via quantum uncertainty seem dangerously poised for the punch. The Discovery Institute’s concern, on the other hand, is that Christianity will take the hit. “For Christians,” they write on their website, “mainstream theistic evolution raises challenges to traditional doctrines about God’s providence, the Fall and the detectability of God’s design in nature.” For them, reconciling evolution and religious faith is simply a hopeless endeavour.

I think it’s interesting that the Discovery Institute – which has long argued that intelligent design qualifies as science – seems to have given up the game and acknowledged that their concerns are religious after all. It’s equally interesting that the catalyst doesn’t seem to be someone like Richard Dawkins pushing atheism, but Francis Collins pushing Christianity. Perhaps the Discovery folks realise that Dawkins’s followers are never going to be swayed by intelligent design; Collins, however, might very well cut into their target audience of scientifically-curious evangelicals.

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT “NEW SCIENTIST”

Skepdude says: I see your true colors, coming through…Discovery Institute you’re a joke. You claim your Intelligent Designer is not the Christian God, that your ID theory is science and yet you go and do this, which proves quite irrecovably to anyone with a couple of firing neurons that you’re a bunch of hypocrites with a religious, anti-scientific agenda!

Melanie Phillips Wrong Again

Posted in Skeptico by Skepdude on April 30, 2009

One of the most consistently stupid “journalists” writing on the subject of science and intelligent design has to be Melanie Phillips. I commented two years ago on another horrendous anti-science piece of hers: Idiot Journalist is the new enemy of reason.  Now she’s back again writing in the Spectator, with a piece entitled Creating An Insult To Intelligence – actually a highly accurate headline considering what she wrote under it.

Listening to the Today programme this morning, I was irritated once again by yet another misrepresentation of Intelligent Design as a form of Creationism. In an item on the growing popularity of Intelligent Design, John Humphrys interviewed Professor Ken Miller of Brown University in the US who spoke on the subject last evening at the Faraday Institute, Cambridge. Humphrys suggested that Intelligent Design might be considered a kind of middle ground between Darwinism and Creationism. Miller agreed but went further, saying that Intelligent Design was

nothing more than an attempt to repackage good old-fashioned Creationism and make it more palatable.

But this is totally untrue. Miller referred to a landmark US court case in 2005, Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District, which did indeed uphold the argument that Intelligent Design was a form of Creationism in its ruling that teaching Intelligent Design violated the constitutional ban against teaching religion in public schools. But the court was simply wrong, doubtless because it had heard muddled testimony from the likes of Prof Miller.

The court was”simply wrong”? What, because you say so? And why was Miller’s testimony “muddled”? Because you didn’t like it? Or because you didn’t understand it? In any case, the court was not “wrong”, simply or otherwise. The court was shown evidence (actually, virtual proof) of the link between creationism and ID. The transitional version – cdesign proponentsists – was discovered.

Put simply, the ID book Of Pandas and People that was discussed at the Dover trial was originally a unashamed creation book called Creation Biology. (You know it’s a creation book because it has the word “Creation” in the title. You’re welcome.) Just after the Supreme Court ruling against creation science in Edwards v. Aguillard, the Disco Tute decided to remake the book as an ID book, rewriting large parts of it to make it all “sciencey” and not creationism at all.  No, really. But unfortunately for them, they were in such a hurry to do so that in changing the wording in one place from “creationists” to (presumably) “intelligent design proponents”, they morphed the two phrases and the book actually included the words “cdesign proponentsists”. Apparently they believe in a designer but not in a spell checker. Hilarious. Click the NCSE’s Missing Link discovered! for a detailed explanation of what they did. Also, The Panda’s Thumb’s Missing link: “cdesign proponentsists”.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “SKEPTICO”

Why is Censorship of Scrutiny so Much a Part of Intelligent Design?

Posted in Freespace by Skepdude on April 17, 2009

While Michael Egnor is accusing the scientific community of censorship, the Institut Discotheque is advertising a summer seminar on Intelligent Design, and there’s something very interesting about the advertisement. Applicants for the seminar are required to provide various information about their grades and their interests, as well as “a letter of recommendation from a professor who knows your work and is friendly toward ID, or a phone interview with Dr. Bruce Gordon, CSC Research Director.” Now that’s interesting—a letter from someone who is “friendly toward ID”? What is this if not a litmus test—a gatekeeper device to prevent critics or doubters from attending their seminar?

Can you imagine if an organization devoted to evolutionary science required applicants to provide such bona fides? If the AAAS required applicants to provide them with a letter from someone “friendly” toward evolution, before you could attend one of their seminars? Real scientific seminars are open to anyone who is respectful and willing to listen to the evidence and weigh ideas, even if they don’t actually believe in those ideas. Anyone can attend U.C. Berkeley’s seminar on evolution tomorrow without providing any evidence about your beliefs; even creationists are welcome. Some years ago, Professor Michael Dini at Texas Tech got in a lot of trouble because he refused to write letters of recommendation for students unless they attested that they believed in evolution. But the DI requires that you fly the right colors before they’ll let you in—while they have the gall to accuse the scientific community of censorship and closed-mindedness!

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “FREESPACE”

Michael Egnor tries again

Posted in Freespace by Skepdude on April 14, 2009

“Listen to the fool’s reproach! It is a kingly title!”—William Blake

Dr. Egnor has posted a response to <=”to<”>my comments about his blog posts. He basically makes three points: first, he accuses me of misrepresenting him by calling him a creationist; second, he claims that it is constitutional for creationists to teach religion in government schools; third, he claims I am part of a conspiracy to preach atheism to schoolkids…or something. Let’s see how much of this holds up.

He begins by ensuring us that although he believes in magic and mysticism, he isn’t exactly a young earth creationist. No, he’s an old earth creationist instead. He “respect[s] young earth creationists” and “strongly support[s] their right to participate fully in public discourse, but [he] do[es] not share some of their scientific viewpoints.” I believe that’s exactly what I said to begin with….  But obviously this is irrelevant. The point is, Egnor believes that government-funded, government-operated schools should teach other people’s children that God created life.

My point was that the phrase “participate fully in public discourse” can mean a lot of different things. It can mean the individual right of creationists like Egnor to state their beliefs in public—a right guaranteed to all individuals by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Or it can mean the purported “right” of elected officials to abuse their authority by using the government to endorse their religious views as true and to put that message into government-run schools, funded with taxpayer dollars—something that is absolutely prohibited by the Constitution of the United States. It is the latter that Dr. Egnor endorsed, and endorses again in his most recent post.

The Constitution (which Dr. Egnor can read here for free) forbids the government from anything like an establishment of religion. What that means is, it is illegal for the government to set forth a religious viewpoint as being true. To say that life was created and designed by a divine Designer is a religious belief. It is therefore unconstitutional to teach it in a government run classroom on the taxpayer’s dime to other people’s children.

The Constitution does not bar the government from making other kinds of statements—that is, it does not bar the government from making statements of fact that are supported by science. (It doesn’t even bar the government from teaching untrue facts; Egnor claims that evolution can “only” be taught “in a constitutional manner” if its “weaknesses” are taught—but in fact, the Constitution places very few limits on what government may teach in schools, and that is not one of them.) If those facts turn out to be inconsistent with Dr. Egnor’s religious views—well, that’s just too bad.

As I explained in my article, Reason And Common Ground, the government is perfectly free to teach children that the seasons are caused by the tilt of the earth’s axis, even though that conflicts with the views of Greek polytheists who think the seasons are caused by Persephone’s annual visits to her husband Hades. What the government may not do is say that the myth of Persephone is true or that it is false. It certainly can say that there is no evidence to support it, or that all the evidence points in the direction of the theory of the earth’s tilt on its axis. In exactly the same way, the state may teach students evolution, even though it conflicts with some people’s religious views.

Think what it would mean if the opposite were true: if every person claiming a mystical revelation or an insight into magical processes could wield a heckler’s veto over every expressive act by government. Government could not set up a fire department, because people would complain that fires are caused by Thor’s lightning. Government could not promote sanitation, because it might offend those who believe diseases are God’s punishment for sin. Government could not try to educate the public about violence against women, because it might offend fundamentalist Muslims. There is good reason that the Constitution allows—indeed, expects—the government to teach non-religious concepts and even concepts that are contrary to some people’s religious views, while forbidding it from making religious statements.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “FREESPACE”

Egnorance and stupidity…

Posted in Journey Through a Burning Mind by Skepdude on March 6, 2009

Mike Egnor is a neurosurgeon, famous for his notoriously fallacious arguments and bad logic when trying to support the fairy tale that is intelligent design. He contributes to a ridiculous blog in which he often comments on news around evolution -a well of fallacies, misunderstandings of even basic evolutionary concepts, and just plain silliness. Actually, it is not even a blog: Egnor doesn’t allow comments on his posts, probably in fear of armies of people ridiculing him for his outrageously stupid way of “thinking”. Steven Novella has exposed Egnor a number of times already but he just doesn’t seem to notice… Everyone else though, has already acknowledged the vacuity in his argumentation… The term “Egnorance” was promptly and rightfully coined and is in wide use today.

Egnor’s latest rant is about the scientists’ response to the Academic Freedom bill that was recently passed in Louisiana. On paper, this law simply allows teachers to bring material and discuss controversies and weaknesses of scientific theories in the classroom without the fear of being “punished” somehow for this. In reality, this bill is of course a weasel’s way of introducing intelligent design and creationism into science classrooms.

To their honour, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) has actively opposed this ridiculous bill, and now that the bill was passed, they (along with many other science societies) have decided to boycott the State of Louisiana and organize their conferences in other states, more open to science and proper education.

Egnor however, thinks the SICB is just promoting censorship in the classrooms (what an irony from a guy that doesn’t allow comments in his blog!). You see, Egnor thinks that academic freedom is about discussing a scientific theory in a science classroom. He believes that science is done in the highschool classrooms:

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “JOURNEY THROUGH A BURNING MIND”

Skepquote of the day

Posted in Skepquote by Skepdude on March 6, 2009

Do they mention that the Discovery Institute has had its ass handed to it repeatedly for lacking the scientific gravitas of a vinegar and baking soda volcano exhibit at the 3rd grade science fair?

When the Vatican calls you unscientific, you should start considering suicide.

Happy Jihad’s House of Pancakes

Michael Egnor pounds his shoe

Posted in Pharyngula by Skepdude on March 4, 2009

E WILL BURY YOU!” seems to be his message in his latest complaint. He is very upset that The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology is boycotting Louisiana, and he informs us all in a long argumentum ad populum that the ignorant outnumber us, addressed to the president and members of SICB.

Most Americans are creationists, in the sense that they believe that God played an important role in creating human beings and they don’t accept a strictly Darwinian explanation for life. And they think that they ought to be able to ask questions about evolution in their own public schools. They don’t share your passion for ideological purity in science classes. They have a quaint notion that science depends on the freedom to ask questions, and their insistence on academic freedom is catching on. They don’t want religion taught in the science classroom, but they know that students are not learning about all of the science surrounding evolution. Seventy-eight percent of Americans support academic freedom in the teaching of evolution in schools, and that number is rising fast — it’s up 9% in the past 3 years. People clearly resent your demand for censorship. After all, it’s their children in their schools, and they aren’t happy with a bunch of supercilious Darwinists telling them that they can’t even question Darwinism in their own classrooms. So if you’re going to boycott all the creationists who despise you, you’ll eventually have to hold all of your conventions in Madison or Ann Arbor. Keep up the arrogance and eventually you won’t have to boycott people at all. People will boycott you.

Whoa. I’m impressed.

Note the open admission that the Discovery Institute’s audience are the god-fearin’ creationists, and that the people they regard as “on their side” are plain-and-simple, unmodified creationists, not just the usual Intelligent Design creationists. That’s useful to see.

There’s also the usual distortions. People ought to be able to ask questions about evolution in the public schools — that’s what science is all about, and I would encourage kids to raise their hands and speak out in class. However, none of this argument is about squelching inquiry: it’s about whether weak and discredited ideas, like ID, ought to be given special privilege and elevated to the standard curriculum. They shouldn’t.

We’re also seeing the usual deprecation of expertise. SICB is an organization of thousands of scientists who have invested years of their life in the study of biology. They are experts. Against that, we have millions of people in Louisiana who, while competent in their own areas of work, have very little knowledge of biology. According to Michael Egnor, the people we should listen to on this relatively rarefied subject are the majority who know nothing about it. Would he be quite so sanguine if we dismissed his specialization, neurosurgery, and suggested that he needed to follow the suggestions of a roofer from Baton Rouge? Is it “censorship” that he doesn’t allow his patients’ families into the operating room to give him a hand?

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “PHARYNGULA”

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