Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

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”

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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”

Is Canada’s Science Minister a creationist?

Posted in Bad Astronomy by Skepdude on March 17, 2009

The Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail is reporting that Gary Goodyear, the federal Minister of State for Science and Technology in Canada, may not believe in evolution.

The situation is somewhat confusing. The article starts off with this:

Canada’s science minister, the man at the centre of the controversy over federal funding cuts to researchers, won’t say if he believes in evolution.

“I’m not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don’t think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate,” Gary Goodyear, the federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

Wait, what? Religion? The reporter says he was asked about evolution! This makes the issue a little muddy.

If Goodyear was asked specifically about evolution, then it’s not directly a question about religion, and the quotation doesn’t make sense. Either the reporter got it wrong, or the Canadian Minister of Science thinks evolution is religion. Or that being asked about evolution is akin to being asked about religion.

Egads.

Let me get this clear: science is not faith-based. Evolution is science, and science is not religion. Therefore, being asked about evolution is not the same as being asked about religion.

However, if he was asked about his religion, and the context was whether his religious beliefs are in conflict with evolution, then the question is very appropriate. In fact, the situation would demand it. He’s the Minister of Science! If he thinks evolution is not true because he’s a creationist, then every scientist in Canada should be demanding Goodyear be fired.

Goodyear, apparently, disagrees.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “BAD ASTRONOMY”

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”

Oh Dear God, They Found a Real Crocoduck

Posted in Friendly Atheist by Skepdude on March 2, 2009

Ray Comfort doesn’t need to ask for a debate with Richard Dawkins anymore.

The debate is already over. Comfort and banana-pal Kirk Cameron have lost.

The Creationism proponents used to say that if evolution were true, we should expect to see a crocoduck (a crocodile/duck transitional form) in the fossil records:

crocoduck

They said we haven’t seen that hybrid, thus evolution is untrue.

Now comes news of a new fossil that was found…

The unusually intact fossilized skull of a giant, bony-toothed seabird that lived up to 10 million years ago was found on Peru’s arid southern coast, researchers said Friday.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT THE “FRIENDLY ATHEIST”

Skepquote of the day

Posted in Skepquote by Skepdude on February 19, 2009

This one’s a little old, but it’s a gem, in fact the whole entry is just deliciously funny. By the way I do not endorse breaking people’s knees with baseball bats, and neither does the author of the entry I assume, so don’t start complaining about it.

So, you may think you’re going to blow me away with your amazing show of rhetoric, but believe me, I have seen it before, and you’re wrong. The thing that you’re about to write is not only wrong, but transparently, stupidly, embarrassingly wrong, so wrong that it makes me wince inwardly with shame at the fact that you’re a member of the same human race that I am. What you’re about to write is evidence that you haven’t bothered to read the FAQs, or comprehended a single book on evolutionary biology that’s not written by one of your crackpot creationist pseudo-intellectuals. So don’t bother writing what you’re going to write. Just go away.

The Abstract Factory

You should need a permit to be so stupid…

Posted in Happy Jihads House of Pancakes by Skepdude on February 18, 2009

Ray Comfort…whatta guy! I swear, he’s a virtuoso of goof. This came through Howse’s website. It’s called: “The Evolution of the Egg: A Fairy Tale for Grown-Ups.” In this, he…redefines…oh, man it’s just dumb:

So which came first, the chicken or the egg? For those who believe the Bible, it was the chicken, and the first egg came some time later.

No. There is a correct answer here, and it will be right whether one takes the Bible literally, takes the Bible with a grain of salt, or takes the Bible out back to the pond and drowns it. There is an objective reality with which we have to deal. Just saying.

However, it’s not so simple among the Genesis-less generation. Did the first chicken come from the first egg, or was it the chicken that first laid the first egg? Long ago, even Aristotle (384-322 BC) spoke of the egg dilemma. He philosophized: “For there could not have been a first egg to give a beginning to birds, or there should have been a first bird which gave a beginning to eggs; for a bird comes from an egg.”

Aristotle was so stoned.

Let’s get into a little philosophical talk ourselves.

Oh, dear God, no. Hold on. I’m getting my shotgun.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “HAPPY JIHAD’S HOUSE OF PANCAKES”

Intelligent Designers whine about Gallup Poll

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on February 12, 2009

After getting kicked in the sack by The Vatican, IDers seem to have been bitch slapped by Gallup as well. In the latest poll that asked the following question “Do you, personally, believe in the theory of evolution, do you not believe in evolution, or don’t you have an opinion either way?” the results came in like this:

gallup-evo-pollThis has the IDers up in arms and alarmed because the non-believers (or reality deniers as I like to refer to them, personally) are a full 14 percentage points behind those who believe in evolution. Obviously the reason must be that something is wrong with this poll; it’s the only logical explanation really.

Why don’t they ever ask about the specifics of the theory? For example: 1) Do you believe that all living things came from a universal single-celled common ancestor? 2) Do you believe that random mutation or random variation and natural selection explain the origin of all life and its complexity? 3) Do you believe that humans evolved from a primitive ape-like ancestor in the last several million years, and if so, does the Darwinian mechanism in question 2) explain how it happened?

Yeah, why don’t they aske leading question or incorrect questions that have a higher probability of getting the answer the IDers seek? That’s like complaining that a poll which asked the question “Do you believe in God?” does not really measure people’s belief because it does not ask if they also believe Psalm 137:9. “Happy shall he be that takes and dashes the little ones against the stones.”? And why not ask ficticious things as well, because that is what that whole bit about evolution explaining “the origin of all life” is really, for evolution explains how life evolved after it was originated, and claiming otherwise is a straw man argument.

The Gallup poll then goes on to discuss educational level and church attendance, and how this correlates with belief in “evolution.” As expected, those with more “education” are more likely to be true believers, and those who attend church weekly are less likely to be true believers. The conclusion is obviously that educated people can see the truth and wisdom of evolution, and those who attend church regularly are blinded by religion.

Here’s the graph they are talking about:

education-and-evo-belief-gallup-pollClearly there is a correlation between education level and belief in Evolution, but no one seems to be making the same conclusions the IDers are screaming and yelling about! We understand that correlation does not imply causation, and the IDers are seeing causation. A bit paranoid maybe? Here’s all the Gallup Poll says about this graph:

There is a strong relationship between education and belief in Darwin’s theory, as might be expected, ranging from 21% of those with high-school educations or less to 74% of those with postgraduate degrees.

Those with high-school educations or less are much more likely to have no opinion than are those who have more formal education. Still, among those with high-school educations or less who have an opinion on Darwin’s theory, more say they do not believe in evolution than say they believe in it. For all other groups, and in particular those who have at least a college degree, belief is significantly higher than nonbelief.

Now where are they getting that whole “educated people can see the truth and wisdom of evolution, and those who attend church regularly are blinded by religion.” nonsense from? Paranoia? Or anger because they actually think that specific causation is true? I don’t know! But they seem to know exactly what’s happening here:

But perhaps a major factor is that those with more education who never attend church have never been exposed to anything but pro-Darwin indoctrination in public schools and universities, as well as the mainstream media, and have never heard about any of the weaknesses of the theory. That was the case in my situation.

Guilty as charged! Our education system teaches only science and no religious dogma. We must own up to that fact guys; we are heavily biased towards reason and evidence.