Wednesday, September 28, 2005

You mean it's NOT the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

Today's York Daily Record reports that Kitzmiller v. Dover witness Robert Pennock shot a hole in the "Intelligent Design is not religion" wink-wink-nudge code. Pennock, philosopher of science at Michigan State University and author of "Intelligent Design Creationism and its Critics" and "Tower of Babel," quoted Pope-of-Intelligent-Design Phillip Johnson:

This means that we affirm that God is objectively real as Creator, and that this reality of God is tangibly recorded in evidence accessible to science, particularly in biology.

This is significant because much of the discussion has been about the religious motivations of members of the Dover school board, which could lose the case for Dover but not necessarily for the ID pushers elsewhere (as long as they keep the locals on the script--no talk about a religious connection). Testimony like this fingers ID as a religious exercise, and it will be difficult for ID proponents to slither around this fact, even if they can manage to keep their local puppets on script.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Kitzmiller v. Dover begins at last

I won't try to provide coverage of Creationism Case version 3.1.0, Kitzmiller v. Dover, since other sites are compiling the events in a timely fashion. Besides, I'm not attending the case and I don't wish to seem like some kind of wingnut, ranting about something I haven't witnessed.

A colleague at work read an item in the Baltimore paper and mentioned it to me. He was a little surprised that such a thing would make it to the out-of-town papers; I replied that it's being reported in papers around the world--it even made it into Al-Jazeera back in March. It's big news, but I'll wager that relatively few people understand the ramifications of the outcome or the philosophies and motivations of the chief proponents of Intelligent Design Creationism.

You're a heckuva whiner, Brownie

Mikey Brown, ex-FEMA boss who was sent home and replaced by someone with experience, was heard on the news today making up excuses when questioned by a congressional panel investigating problems with the Katrina disaster. His whining excuses brought to mind the image of a young boy who, having been accused of breaking a lamp, still thinks he can shift the blame onto his little sister despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt.

I tried and tried, but they wouldn't listen to me!

I didn't have enough resources!

You expect me to be some kind of superhero?

You know, the governor of Louisiana is a democrat!

It's the evil media--They got me in trouble by lying about my resume!

What a snivelling icon of irresponsibility. And he's still picking up a FEMA paycheck. I wonder how he will describe his stint with FEMA on his resume.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A wedge between creationists?

There's an item from the York Dispatch of Monday, 19 September, that provides more evidence of the growing rift between Creationists. In this case, John West, associate director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture has declared “misguided” the Dover school board’s policy of mandatory reading of a statement that singles out evolution for special skeptical treatment and calls attention to Intelligent Design as a valid alternative. There appears to be a bit of a crack as well between the Discovery Institute and the Dover school board’s legal representation, the Thomas More Law Center. TMLC’s lead attorney, Richard Thompson, said that the Discovery Institute “has been a hindrance to the school district’s attempts to find ‘scientific’ witnesses to testify about intelligent design.” Earlier, DI fellows William Dembski, John Campbell, and Stephen Meyer were “fired” as expert witnesses by TMLC because of a dispute over providing their own legal representation.

Also note how the truth gets twisted in a few places, such as Casey Luskin saying the Discovery Institute "wants intelligent design to be debated by the scientificcommunity."
We know, in fact, that they are only interested in sham debates (as they wanted in Kansas) and have never ever published their research in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, where real debates about science take place.Also laughable, Thomas More Law Center's Richard Thompson will have Michael Behetestify that "intelligent design is not a religious movement"--therefore must bedefended in Dover by "The sword and Shield for People of Faith", which "specializesin cases related to the religious freedom of Christians."

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Origins research and crime-solving methods

The Creationism-evolution debates bring to mind the contrast of two types of television crime-solving shows. On the one hand, shows based on forensic science (such as the “CSI” shows) solve cases by relying on scientific evaluation of a vast array of evidence, just as researchers evaluate evidence when investigating aspects of evolution. Other shows (such as “Medium”) have unconventional protagonists solve cases based on supernatural powers. In shows like this, skeptics often come to accept the supernatural after seeing how it solves the cases. Well, the psychic detectives do quite well in the fictional television shows, but what about real life? Despite numerous claims, the supernatural just doesn’t help the real crime solvers...or the real scientists.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Teach the controversy?

I just read about parents wishing to ensure that their children learn about alleged gaps and weaknesses in evolutionary theory in their biology classes. Some parents claim their children have a First Amendment right to hear what they want them to hear, in the classroom.

Codswallop! The children attend school for the purpose of learning things, and in science class, that means learning scientific principles and theories. Unless they’re spending 12 hours a day, seven days a week in class, it cannot be expected that they will be presented with detailed analysis of all ideas concerning the subject matter—the material must, of necessity, be selected. Should the selected material comprise the most important aspects of the subject, or should the limited time be spent discussing the cockeyed views of a tiny minority of workers who have not published any research results in any scientific, peer-reviewed literature?

Are there controversies in evolutionary theory? Absolutely! But they concern details of the mechanisms, not whether evolution has actually occurred. Many of the controversies common in creationist arguments are matters that were solved long ago, misunderstandings of evolution or of science on the part of creationists, or even bald-faced lies. For example, textbooks no longer use Haeckel’s drawings of embryonic development that exaggerate similarities (most use photographs, in which similaries, while not as geat as presented by Haeckel, nevertheless are apparent; “evolution” does not mean the assembly of body parts, totally at random, to produce a complex organism, and “theory” is not just somebody’s hunch; and transitional forms are abundant in the fossil record.

So, some parents are calling for time to be spent teaching their children about long-solved controversies as if they were ongoing, teaching them things about evolution and science that are based on misunderstanding the subjects, and teaching them things that are known to be false. Curiously, these parents are only concerned that such things be taught about evolution, and not about other scientific subjects, like gravity, causes of disease, or atomic theory. Are these parents also concerned that their children be taught “all sides” of sex education and contraception?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

More photo-op

It was bad enough hearing Trent Lott praise President Bush for being the only president to walk around his neighborhood after a hurricane (see previous post), but when I read about the thousand or so firemen brought into Louisiana, I nearly spit the coffee I already had swallowed onto my monitor screen. Joshua Marshall at Talking Points Memo discusses an article in the Salt Lake Tribune which tells how more than one thousand firemen were brought into Louisiana to ... do "community relations" work after first standing behind President Bush while the President toured the wreckage. Meanwhile, people remained in need of rescue and dangerous conditions needed to be stabilized. It seems clear that someone is uncleaer on the concept of efficiently allocating resources.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Praise for a photo-op

I just heard Senator Trent Lott (R-Miss.) on the evening news praising President Bush for the actions he took following the Katrina disaster. Specifically, he was very much impressed that the President came and strutted around his neighborhood. No other president, Lott commented, walked around this town after the last hurricane hit.

So, I guess the pains of this catastophe are assuaged by a photo-op?

I don't know how much walking around in the storm-beaten territory these guys did, but according to a post at Democratic Underground Forums, Bill Clinton declared the areas affected by Hurricane Floyd disaster areas, then flew home from New Zealand (where he was meeting with Chinese President Jiang), the day before Floyd hit made landfall in 1999. In 1992, Bush I returned to Washington from his re-election campaign the day before the storm hit, and sent National Guard, regular military, and necessary gear to begin cleanup within hours after the storm passed. And in 1969, Richard Nixon readied, in advance, National Guard, Coast Guard, and military to move into the areas hit by Hurricane Camille as soon as the storm passed.

But who'd a'thunk a category 4 hurricane could cause so much damage?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Welcome to the initial posting of The DIVINE AFFLATUS

Welcome to yet another blog offering the opinions of one who finds his tolerance of cranks, quacks, and deceivers ebbing away. With any luck, I will manage to present some material you may not have seen before or at least some useful links.