Merry Kitzmas!

December 20th, 2015 is the tenth anniversary of the decision in Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al. 

Judge Jones (a Bush-appointed Republican) wrote a 139-page legal opinion which can be summarized thus: 

Teaching intelligent design in public school biology classes violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (and Article I, Section 3, of the Pennsylvania State Constitution) because intelligent design is not science and “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.”

wikipedia article, side bar 

Despite the precedent set by Kitzmiller/Dover, creationist and Intelligent Design advocates continue to battle to remove teaching of evolution from public schools and to protect teachers who insert biblical creationist or ID speculations into science classes.

I found this interesting essay in response to our current “friend” John West from 2007, when JW applauded passage of Louisiana creationism law.

All sorts of laws advance secular purposes—that’s what laws are supposed to do, and the Constitution assumes as much—but no law may advance a merely religious purpose under the Constitution. Thus those who lobby for law to advance a religious purpose are indeed under a disadvantage, one traceable to the Constitution itself,which purposely erects a roadblock in the path of those who would want to use the government to propagate a religion. It does not erect a similar roadblock to those who would use the government for secular purposes[see essay for footnote], whether it be to set up a fire department, or run the U.S. Army, or the Post Office, or whether it be to teach students about biological science. It is therefore perfectly valid for a secularist to attack the religious motivations of her political opponents, while simultaneously rallying her own political supporters to secularism.

Timothy Sandefur

I think it’s particularly interesting that Sandefur identifies the non-symmetry between trying to advance religious purposes and trying to advance secular ones, which I know many religious people mistake.

Happy anniversary, y’all

The Discovery Institute versus Nick Matzke

Earlier this week, Nick Matzke published an article at Science that uses modern phylogenetics techniques to analyze how creationist (or antievolution, if you prefer) legislation has evolved in the post-Dover era (note: I have not read the paper yet).  This seems to have struck a pretty sensitive nerve over at the Discovery Institute.  On the Evolution News and Views blog, the DI’s John West published an article that all but accuses Matzke of misappropriation of taxpayer funding because he acknowledges funding support from an NSF grant that doesn’t appear to be obviously connected to the content of this particular piece of research.

Needless to say, that accusation is as silly as it is groundless, which Matzke explains here.  Regardless of the merits (or obvious lack thereof) of the allegation, I’m rather curious regarding West’s motivations for making such a claim.  It seems ugly,  intemperate and ill-advised even by the DI’s standards.  Are they upset that creationists are once again getting a black eye in a prominent and respected scientific journal?  Is the fact that the article was written by somebody who was instrumental in the ID movement’s failure during the Dover trial what’s driving this response?  Something else entirely?

Whatever the reason, I view this accusation by West as a particularly egregious example of bad behavior on the part of the DI, and I wanted to bring it up for discussion here.


Absolute Fitness in Theoretical Evolutionary Genetics

Joe Felsenstein, like other population geneticists, holds a special place in the Creation/Evolution controversy because his works are regarded highly by many creationists who are familiar with genetics. This is a thread for all of us (myself included) to try to learn and understand one of the key concepts in his book Theoretical Evolutionary Genetics, namely absolute fitness. He has generously made his book available on his website (a book of this calibre could sell for hundreds of dollars).
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Those Weasely IDCists!

A couple recent comments here at TSZ by Patrick caught my eye.

First was the claim that arguments for the existence of God had been refuted.

I don’t agree that heaping a bunch of poor and refuted arguments together results in a strong argument.


Second was the claim that IDCists do not understand cumulative selection and Dawkins’ Weasel program.

The first time I think I was expecting more confusion on Ewert’s part about the power of cumulative selection (most IDCists still don’t understand Dawkin’s Weasel).


In this OP I’d like to concentrate on the second of these claims.

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Pastor Hates Jesus after Reading Coyne’s Book

Bruce Gerencser was a pastor for 27 years until he started reading books with non-Christian viewpoints. One of the 5 most influential books in his conversion to atheism was Jerry Coyne’s book, Why Evolution is True. Bruce’s kids are no longer evangelicals and left the faith that he once taught them. He openly says he hates Jesus now.

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Intelligent Design is NOT Anti-Evolution

Intelligent Design is NOT Anti-Evolution

In order to have a discussion about whether or not Intelligent Design is anti-evolution or not we must first define “evolution”. Fortunately there are resources available that do just that.

Defining “evolution”:

Finally, during the evolutionary synthesis, a consensus emerged: “Evolution is the change in properties of populations of organisms over time”- Ernst Mayr page 8 of “What Evolution Is”

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On Darwin’s and modern evolutionists challenge to deny small steps created all biology.

Darwin in a well known challenge in his book defied anyone showing that anything in biology could not be explained as to its origin by small steps from start to finish. Modern evolutionists also insist , however complex, that all biological entities at any point can be seen as coming from small changes in populations and from there in lineages from start to finish for anything.

It always bothered me that this line of reasoning was so important to darwins claim.

It was up to creationists to prove why accumulating small changes could not turn fish could not become fishermen or bugs into buffaloes . WHY NOT ? Darwin asked and ever since. however extreme the claim mat seem to so many.

I say lets turn the argument around on them. The line of reasoning works against them as follows.

I will use two improbable, impossible9did I say impossible) lineages of a finale creatures evolutionary origin.

ONE. to start you have a fish, then a fish breathing on land with crab legs, then it has horse legs, then its got a t-rex head, then its a ground bird with flippers, then a primate monkey, then a rabbit type creature with horns and crab legs, then a bird again, then a mouse. All this happening in about 200 million years of evolution.

TWO. you start with a fish, then a duck like creature, then a fish with flippers, then a land breathing reptile creature with a trunk, then a cat like creature with long giraffe legsm then a primate, then a shrew, then a primate again and finally a bird. 200 million years start to finish.

This is impossible by any common sense, intelligence, of any human being. never mind the intermediates. this sequence of these two creatures evolving this way from start to finish is self evident nonsense.

For evolutionists THEN explain why not BY small steps could these lineages not happen?? Why not, if small populations could be selected on to account for our real biology glory, could not my examples  easily, equally, be accounted for bu evolutions mechanism.

if evolution can explain anything we have then why not anything we can imagine??

iF you say no. then the absurdity of bugs becoming buffaloes and fish becoming fishermen makes the creationist point solid and Darwins reply worthless.


Lawyers and Scientists

There’s been a skirmish between Larry Moran and Barry Arrington about whether Barry understands the Theory of Evolution, and the latest salvo is a piece at UD, entitled, Can a Lowly Lawyer Make a Useful Contribution? Maybe.

Well, in a sense, Barry makes a useful contribution in that post, as he gives a very nice illustration of a common misunderstanding about the process of hypothesis testing, in this case, basic model-fitting and null hypothesis testing, the workhorse (with all its faults) of scientific research.  Barry writes:

[Philip]Johnson is saying that attorneys are trained to detect baloney.  And that training is very helpful in the evolution debate, because that debate is chock-full of faulty logic (especially circular reasoning), abuse of language (especially equivocations), assumptions masquerading as facts, unexamined premises, etc. etc.

Consider, to take one example of many, cladistics.  It does not take a genius to know that cladistic techniques do not establish common descent; rather they assume it.  But I bet if one asked, 9 out of 10 materialist evolutionists, even the trained scientists among them, would tell you that cladistics is powerful evidence for common descent.  As Johnson argues, a lawyer’s training may help him understand when faulty arguments are being made, sometimes even better than those with a far superior grasp of the technical aspects of the field.  This is not to say that common descent is necessarily false; only cladistics does not establish the matter one way or the other.

In summary, I am trained to evaluate arguments by stripping them down to examine the meaning of the terms used, exposing the underlying assumptions, and following the logic (or, as is often the case, exposing the lack of logic).  And I think I do a pretty fair job of that, both in my legal practice and here at UD.

Barry has made two common errors here.  First he has confused the assumption of common descent with the conclusion of common descent, and thus detected circular reasoning where there is none.  Secondly he has confused the process of fitting a model with the broader concept of a hypothesised model.

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The Law of Conservation of Information is defunct

About a year ago, Joe Felsenstein critiqued a seminar presentation by William Dembski, “Conservation of Information in Evolutionary Search.” He subsequently discussed Dembski’s primary source with me, and devised a brilliant response, unlike any that I had considered. This led to an article, due mostly to Felsenstein, though I contributed, at The Panda’s Thumb. Nine days after it appeared, Dembski was asked in a radio interview whether anyone was paying attention to his technical work. Surely a recipient of

qualifies as a someone. But Dembski changed the topic. And when the question came around again, he again changed the topic. Mind you, this isn’t how I know that Felsenstein blasted conservation of “information,” which is not information, in evolutionary “search,” which does not search. It’s how I know that Dembski knows.

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