Suggestion Box

This is my suggestion. Lizzie is happy for any participant to author a thread here. Most regulars already have author status which allows them to publish OPs. Other members have contributor status which allows them to compose posts that will be published on request, although author status is available on request to anyone who’d like to have unrestricted (within the rules) ability to publish OPs.

Whilst I think it is great that we have such wide-ranging (and on the whole rancour-free) discussions, the topics do get mixed and hard-to-follow, especially with the annoying page bug.

I invite anyone to start a new thread on a topic that is getting lost in the cross-talk.

I also invite suggestions from our esteemed clientele. Especially welcome would be a suggestion how to fix the page bug.

Random Genetic Drift: a controversy?

Over my time as a dilettante observer of the science blogging community, I have noticed a certain frisson of controversy over the idea of random genetic drift. Sewall Wright, who with Ronald Fisher and J. B. S. Haldane (Bill Bryson’s observations on Haldane’s research into diving and decompression are entertaining) established the science of population genetics, is credited with coining the phrase in 1929. Thanks to Professor Joe Felsenstein for pointing out his seminal paper. Continue reading

Cabbages and Kings: open thread

Having taken a brief break from commenting and still taking a break from proactive moderating, I still find myself sucked into reading OP’s and comments. Not wanting to stir the hornet’s nest of currently active discussion and not having enough time to get up to speed on all the current issues where commenters are discussing deep issues of the day, I wondered about opening a thread titled something like “Suggestion Box” to get people’s thinking on any improvements Lizzie could consider that might ameliorate concerns over site policy, aims, aspirations etc. Continue reading

Intelligence Test: open thread


Intelligent Design proponents claim to be able to distinguish design from non-design. Here’s an easier task. Look at the inscription in the photograph. Is there any way to tell how old it is? I can tell you the stone turned up in an excavation in 1996 in the Pyrenees. Is there any way to tell if the marks are meaningful or gibberish?

The Reality of Intelligent Design!

I first noticed the phrase “Intelligent Design” about ten years ago. Not long after,William Dembski produced his website, Uncommon Descent, and declared his intentions:

This blog is for me mainly to get out news items about the ID movement and my work in particular. For more sustained writing and development of my ideas, I refer you to my website: I am not a journalist nor do I intend to become one. Thus this is not “The ID Answer Man” or “Ask Your Questions about ID Forum.” If I don’t respond to your comments and questions, even if they are good comments and questions, understand that I have way more commitments than I can fulfill, and that I will only occasionally contribute to a comment thread here.

Finally, there is one cardinal rule at this blog, namely, I make up the rules as I go along. In other words, these policies can change at any time. Moreover, if they change, it will most likely be in the direction of curtailing the time I need to spend with comments.

Continue reading

The Twilight of Intelligent Design (Open thread)


It just dawned on me that ID is dead.

Dembski is off all radar. He doesn’t even show up in the search box at South Carolina bible college or whatever. The last post on the Design Inference is a year old.

Meyer’s book went up like a firework and came down with the stick.

Most of the static websites are moribund. UD has banned virtually all dissenters. The few brave enough to wander over to TSZ bail out after a couple of rounds. The biologic institute inflates its “selected publications” with publications that have nothing to do with the biologic institute and seems to be doing no more than pretending to produce output.

Bio-Complexity is moribund.

Behe doesn’t seem to have much to say.

The big guys won’t come out to debate. The small ones mostly won’t leave heavily censored sites. Even the UD newsdesk peddles 6 year old stories as “news”.

And all the threads are about religion. Or tossing coins.

I don’t know why I hadn’t seen it before.

It’s dead.

Posted at “After the Bar Closes on Jan. 05 2014,16:37 by Febble (Elizabeth Liddle) Continue reading

Angry at God?

Angry baby
A commenter at Uncommon Descent wrote

Keith, I am not convinced that you are an atheist. I believe that you are angry at God and suffer from cognitive dissonance. And to say that the evidence supports your materialist belief system is completely absurd!

I’ve seen versions of this “angry at God” accusation levelled at non-believers quite often and I wonder why those that use it think it makes sense. Continue reading

Uncommon Descent: Back to Banning?

Couldn’t resist the tribute to Denyse?

The new open policy at Uncommon Descent appears to have stalled somewhat. In trying to post a comment this morning I find it disappears. I tried on a couple of threads to no avail. Going on past behaviour, I suspect Barry Arrington has found having an open venue even less appealing than a blog dying from lack of traffic. Of course I could be wrong and will be ready to eat my hat if it turns out to be a glitch. Continue reading

Definitive Demise of “Intelligent Design”?

I don’t know if anyone is still following the Uncommon Descent blog, currently owned by lawyer Barry Arrington. It is supposed to be a blog dedicated to “Intelligent Design” – the idea that evolutionary theories are unable to account for the diversity of life on Earth. However, interest in ID has been on the wane since its peak around December 2005 (the run-up to the decision on whether ID is genuinely scientific).



Hat-tip – Rich Hughes

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Feser’s First Way: an argument proving God’s existence?

This post arises out of an exchange between me and one Matt Sheean at Ed Feser’s blog. I got involved there because there have been some exchanges, at times quite amusing and colourful, between Feser (assisted by some of his regular commenters) and Vincent Torley, well known to UD readers as perhaps the less unacceptable face of ID, in that he comes across as a nice guy on a personal level. Both Feser and Torley are both staunch Catholics, a religion that I find pretty objectionable (above all for it’s interference in private life and thought, the readiness of its leaders to tell others how to behave, oppression of women and minorities.. but I digress). In an earlier post at Uncommon Descent, Vincent Torley kindly transcribed some of Feser’s presentation (admittedly to a young, lay audience) of his version of Aquinus’ “First Way”. I was asked to summarise my impression of the video and agreed. Hence this post. Continue reading

Edward Feser and Vincent Torley

I have been following Vincent’s spat with Edward Feser (A Catholic philosopher with some reactionary views – his blog) over whether Feser’s own “cosmological argument” has the merit Feser seems to think. Here’s Vincent’s latest post on the matter.

Not being able to post at Uncommon Descent, I thought I might catch up with Vincent at Feser’s blog but I seem to have worn out my welcome. In case anyone decides to pop in from Feser’s blog, I thought I’d offer this thread for discussion. And please regard it as an open thread. Nothing will be considered off-topic. Usual rules apply!

Eric Harris Übermensch

Barry Arrington (the current owner of the blog, Uncommon Descent – the former “playground” of William Dembski, advocate of “Intelligent Design”) is a lawyer who seems to regard his finest hour when he acted for some victims families in the wake of the Columbine massacre.

Regular readers of Uncommon Descent (come on, admit it – it’s not just me) may have noted Barry’s singular style of posting “gotcha” questions and using the answers and his ability to control what appears on his blog to bolster his claim of “crickets”. (No complaint from me – ID is a lost cause as a philosophical view so whatever Barry does cannot make any difference in the real world – whether he allows discussion or limits it, the hollowness of ID shines through). The latest post, Eric Harris Was Just Paying Attention, seems to blend Barry’s contribution to Columbine with his predilection for the gotcha. Continue reading

Language: evolution or design?

Humans are both very like and very different from other species we find on Earth. At the sub-cellular and biochemical level, the similarities, the almost universality of the DNA code and its property of self-duplication and storage of genetic information is breathtaking. On the other hand, no other species has succeeded in the scope and breadth of it’s colonization of this planet.  Much of the “success” in growing a population that now exceeds seven billion individuals can be attributed to our being a social species.  Sociability and its evolutionary roots have been well studied. However there does seem to be something missing. The rapid runaway expansion of human culture and the extraordinary flowering of human art, which might be attributed in turn to the literal expansion of the human brain seem to require further explanation. Continue reading

The argument from Upright Biped

I note Barry Arrington, Uncommon Descent’s president, owner and legal defender is promoting a commenter,  the pseudonymous Upright Biped, not unknown to regular participants here. Not one OP but two (so far) glowing posts. Upright Biped has convinced himself, and (let’s be fair) some others, that he has come up with a knock-down argument against origin-of-life theories that take a purely reality-based approach.

The latest OP entitled UB Strikes Again! ends with the rejoinder “AVS, where are you? You’re letting down your side. Come on back and tell UB why he’s wrong!”

This seems somewhat disingenuous. Why should it be left to an anonymous self-described “biochemistry student” to fight against the might of Barry’s moderation and Bipeds weighty argument (that can be summarized as “a miracle happens, therefore design”)?

It’s already been done. Why should AVS need to renvent the wheel? I’d like to remind Barry that there is plenty of material blowing Upright Biped’s argument out of the water but I am unable to comment at Uncommon Descent. Maybe someone who still can would like to draw Barry’s and Biped’s attention to the fact that there are quite a few folks who’d like to tell UB why he’s wrong.