Commentary on the so-called Creation/Evolution/Intelligent Design Debate and Right-Wing nuttery in general - and please ignore the typos (I make lots!)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More stupid biology claims by non-biologists

I had forgotten about this essay/article I had written some time ago, dealing with that paragon of ignorance-based arrogance, Warren Bergerson.

If you do not with to read it, at least read this statement:

"Whether you introduce 9 variations per life into a 9 letter message or a 30 million letter message the impact is the same. "

- Warren Bergerson

Bergerson - a retired actuary - cannot see the difference between a 100% change and a 0.00003% change. And he dares lecture others on THEIR lack of mathematical knowledge?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

'Intelligent Design' - the Cult of Personality

The Intelligent Design movement is this:

A religio-political movement spiffied up with the veneer of science.

And a rather thin veneer, at that. When one reads the writings of ID activists and layfolk, one hears primarily hero-worship. One reads how 'great' the folks associated with ID are; how 'heroic' and 'intelligent' the leaders of the movement are, blah blah blah. Their credentials and relative importance in science and culture are routinely embellished to the point of absurdity (referring to Bill Dembski, whose work has been trampled and belittled by mathematicians and sundry scientists alike, as "the Isaac Newton of Information Theory" is a personal favorite).

A few years ago, the 'leaders' of the ID movement seemed unstoppable - testifying before legislative bodies (not to mention state and local school boards), writing numerous well-selling books, presenting numerous well-attended lectures, producing innumerable ID-friendly websites, etc. The movement certainly fired up the grass-roots right-wing religious establishment and gained a lot of support, even planting seeds of doubt into the minds of some in academia and medicine.

Alas, times have changed. Their cards were played a long time ago - all their 'best' arguments - Irreducible Complexity, the 'explanatory filter', the 'impobability' arguments, the 'problems' with evolution - have been used up. They shot their wad, so to speak, early on and have spent the last several years steadfastly, stubbornly, and desperately clinging to these worn out, hackneyed, arguments ever since.

The writing is one the wall. Look at their most active 'official' web sites - ARN and Uncommon Descent. The ARN discussion boards at one time boasted hundreds of active members, including a few actual scientists posting in support of ID, and getting thousands of hits a day.
Lok at it today. There appear to be only about 10 active participants. There are about 5 scientists posting there, all none-too-friendly to ID, and the pro-ID folks posting there are all unabashed young earth creationists (which we are told ID is not about), with 2 possible exceptions - "jon_e" who is a minutiae mongering pain in the neck, and "lifeEngineer" Warren Bergerson, a megalomaniacal retired actuary who has convinced himself that only he and a handful of people in the entire world uinderstand what science is all about, despite the fact that he has never engaged in any scienctific endeavors and cannot actually name a single person that agrees with anythign he writes.

Uncommon Descent, Bill Dembski's blog, has become a laughingstock, with "moderators" that ban anyone that dares question the 'authority' of Saint Bill or disagree with the 'expert' moderators themselves.
A classic example of the apparent fact that ID is little more than a cult of personality can be seen in this post, "Why I’m paying $100 to hear Paul Nelson, November 16, 2006", by Salvador Cordova, founder of the IDEA club movement, who appears to have no job but to post at discussion boards sleazly and creepy accolades of his ID movement heros and, of course, silly pseudoscientific mumbo jumbo purportedly supportive of ID in some way.
Note how Cordova refers to his ID heros, and note how several posters join in the infatuitive 'crush' on these folks:

"Paul Nelson is such a cool and brilliant guy"

That reminds me of that Seinfeld episode where George has a "nonsexual crush" on Elaine's new boyfriend, Tony, wherein Jerry comments to George, after George claims that Tony is such a 'cool guy', "Cool guy? What are you in 8th grade?"

Later in Cordova's adulation piece, after he lists the event attendees (and after explaining that it is an apologetics event - wait, I thought ID was not religious?), he engages in the usual embellishment of his heros:

"The conference has invited speakers who received PhD’s from respectable secular institutions ( 2 from Oxford, 1 for U Penn, 1 from U of Chicago, etc.). They are 22 highly regarded scholars in their field."

GilDodgen, a creationist engineer, comments:

"Paul Nelson is a cool and brilliant guy."

Of several of the other event speakers, he writes:

"He is a first-rate intellect and apologist...
He is brilliant and and insightful...
This is an all-star cast...."

And Cordova's post was only made yesterday - I am sure as the days go on, the adoration and hero-worhsip will only get worse.

The ID movement is stagnant. It has evolved from a reliopolitical movement into a parody of itself. Is has had to resort to hiring a public relations firm (the same one that handled the whole "Swiftboat Veterans..." propaganda campaign - what a coincidence, eh?) to help get its 'message' out, it has resorted to churning out 'attack' books published by right-wing propaganda outlet Regnery with titles such as "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwin and Intelligent Design" by failed scientist-wannabe Jon Wells, filled with errors and disinformation, and similarly titled books by the likes of right-wing 'journalist' Tom Bethell.

Where is the science? Where is their evidence? The fact they have to resort to public relations campaigns and disinformation, propaganda books should inform most rational people that they are floundering, and most folks that follow the 'debate' know that this is the case.
The problem lies with the average citizen, who does not understand the scientific issues, who is inclined to accept the pablum spewn by ID movement folks (because it plays to their religious motivations), and who will eagerly take what these folks claim at their word because they are 'good Christian folk.' And this is a big problem - so many of those people do simply trust that what they are told is absolutley true because the person telling them something is a 'Christian.' But he 'Christian' folks associated with the Intelligent Design movement and creationism are no so much wed to teling the truth as they are to spreading their Faith.

I give one classic example of this. It deals specifically with a young earth creationist, but such folks fill the ranks of the ID movement as well.

Steve Austin is a PhD. holding geologist. He also happens to be a young earth creationist who works for the Institute for Creation Research. He gives tours/lectures at their creation 'museum', and among the things he talks about is his "conversion" to YECism. As he tells it, he used to be an old-earth evolutionist (perhaps even an atheist). He then claims that he studied at Mt.St.Helens after the 1980 eruption, and the things he saw there convinced him that the earth could be young, and then he somehow made the great intellwectual leap from old-earth evolutionist to young earth creationist, claiming that it was the 'science' and his research that lead him to YECism. Hallelujah! Not so fast...
As it turns out, he had been writing YEC articles as a college student for as many as 4 years prior to the eruption at Mt.St.Helens under a pseudonym (Stuart Nevins).

When this is pointed out to creationists, they simply dismiss it. Apparently, the 'story' is more important than than the fact that they were lied to (a sad truism for many with a right-wing inclination*).

This is not an entirely uncommon theme in both creationist and ID writings.

We return to our hero, YEC ID cheerleader and hero-worshipper, Salvador Cordova. A few years ago, he was interviewed by a writer from the science journal Nature. The gist of the story was how the ID movement is basically creationism in disguise and its adherents are politically and religiously motived, not scientiifcally so. And the interview made it quite clear that Cordova wazs in it for religious, not scientific reasons.
Nevertheless, Cordova went on a spam-fest, posting a blurb about how ID proponant Salvador Cordova was in the prestigious journal Nature. He did not mention that his motivations were exposed and ID was shown to be a religio-political movement, oh no - those little facts were not mentione din his posts on multiple discussdion boards, newsgroups and blogs. And the hoped-for effect was apparent - pro-ID folks hailed it as a great victory, without bothering to read the actual interview. when the true outome fo the interview was explained, the pro-ID folks called it sour grapes and ignored the facts.

And this is the state of American discourse.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Whatever Happened to R. David Pogge?

Well, nothing.

Pogge (aka 'Do-While Jones') is the main author of the misinformed propaganda at the Science Against Evolution web site.

Pogge is an electrical engineer, and as nearly all electrical engineers that also happen to be creationists, Pogge considers himself an arbiter of the truth of all things scientifc. I have written about some of the more ridiculous things Pogge has written on topics such as gene duplication and the relevance of the % similarity between human and chimp DNA.

Since I began writing articles for this blog last January, I have emailed Pogge 3 or 4 times, informaing him that I had written about some of his articles and included links to them in my messages. I have never received a response of any kind.

Today, I checked out the Pogge propaganda site and (re)discovered the fact that Pogge writes up replies to many emails he receives. I looked through the archives there, and there is no mention of my articles debunking and exposing his silly claims (that I could find, anyway).

Better for him I suppose - it would be detrimental to let his more dimwitted readers know that his claims have been responsded to.

Total eclipses occur, so evolution is false?

Amazingly, this is but one of the incredibly silly arguments put forth (in so many words) by Guillermo Gonzalez, co-author of the anthropic-principle-writ-large "Privileged Planet" (co-written by a philosopher/theologian, no less...), against "Darwinian evolution." What, precisely, eclipses have to do with biological evolution is anyone's guess, but creationists go to extreme and illogical lengths to try to tie nearly anything to their cause.
This article sums up some of Gonzalez's awe-based arguments.