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

Friday, February 23, 2007

Brain Surgeon 'challenges' "Darwinism"

Recently, the "Discovery Institute" has announced that it has recently added 100 more "scientists" to their list of folks that 'doubt Darwin' (see this for the requirements for signing).

One of the highlighted signatories is one Dr. Michael Egnor. Egnor is professor of neurosurgery and pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook and a brain surgeon. WOW! Impressive, eh?
What is this brain surgeon's rationale for 'doubting Darwin'? Is it that the brain's complexity has forced him to conclude that 'random chance' couldn't have produced it? It is something about the anatomy of the brain? The functions of the neurons in the brain? The manner in which we perceive our surroundings?

Nope. He is all geeked up about Information.

On TIME magazine's science blog, Egnor's signing the DI list is mentioned, and the good - no, no - one who has reached the epitome of his field, the most eduicated folk in the world, a Who's Who in the world of science *- Doctor shows up to 'defend' his position, interesting bits bolded:

I'm many things, but I'm not a 'fraud'. I believe what I said. I know a bit about science, as you do, and I have come to believe that the IDers have the better argument. For most of my career I had accepted Darwinism (I was a biochem
major), but I have come to believe that the genetic code and the extraordinarily complex 'nanotechnology' in cells pose a problem that is insurmountable for Darwinism.
Can random heritable variation and natural selection generate a code, a language, with letters (nucleotide bases), words (codons), punctation (stop codons), and syntax? There is even new evidence that DNA can encode parallel information, readable in different reading frames.
I ask this question as a scientific question, not a theological or philosophical question.
The only codes or languages we observe in the natural world, aside from biology,
are codes generated by minds. In 150 years, Darwinists have failed to provide
even rudimentary evidence that significant new information, such as a code or
language, can emerge without intelligent agency.
I am asking a simple question: show me the evidence (journal, date, page) that new information, measured in bits or any appropriate units, can emerge from random variation and natural selection, without intelligent agency...

Well, there you have it... A famous award-winning brain surgeon taken in by the bafflegab churned out by the propagandists at the Discovery Institute...
Odd that a biochem major would still rely on the old DNA=language analogy. That is a good analogy for introducing students - high schoolers, freshman college students - to what the genome is and does, but for a renowned Brain Surgeon to use it as a sort of 'evidence' for his awe-based position (what Dawkins calls the 'argument from personal incredulity' - I cannot figure out how this happened naturally, so some Designer must have done it!) is a bit of a disappointment.

Kimura showed in 1961 that adaptive evolution increases information in the genome. Perhaps the good Surgeon should read up on the things he finds so intriguing...

*The writers (propagandists) at WorldNet Daily - referred to, appropriately, as the WorldNUT Daily by rational folks - sure like to embellish to the point of caricature the things that they use to prop up their ideological fantasies, no? Most of these people on the dissent list are NOBODIES in the world of science, and more than half have backgrounds that are totally IRRELEVANT in evaluating evolution... Amazing...

Bill Dembski - Thy Name is Hypocrite

Over at Dembski's Den of Sycophantic Uninformed Acolytes (aka Uncommon Descent), Bill "Ted Haggard of Information Theory" Dembski himslef wrote a brief post on Feb. 9 titled, ironically, 'Dembski's pseudomathematical posturings.'
The post opens with:

"Here’s a critique of the mathematics of the design inference from an assistant professor of religious studies. The combination of ignorance and arrogance on the part of this individual is staggering.:

He then provides a small portion of the actual comments by the 'professor of religious studies' (the totality of which, along with some interesting commentary, by the 'professor of religious studies' can be seen here), and provides a link to one of his own bloviating essays on the subject. And that is all he writes. He does not need to write anything else - his sycophantic hitmen know what to do. A couple typical replies:

"When I came on here at UD, I discovered very quickly that ignorance and arrogance on behalf of many ID critics abounds at levels which I had previously not imagined possible."

" I’m sure you find these critiques humourous by now, but in any case I don’t see what he’s getting at anyway."

And the coup de grace, from a 'Jason Rennie':

Come on Dr Dembski. Of course an assistant professor in religious studies knows
more about mathetics than you do. I mean what have you got nothing more than a
mere phd in the topic. How could you possibly think that that would be able to
stand up to a doctorate in “religious studies” for indepth maths knowledge.

For shame Dr Dembski. He rightly took you down a peg.

Hang on a sec …

In other words, Dembski's bootlickers believe that some religious studies professor has no business daring to critique the meisterwerke of DR.DR. William Dembski, Intelligent Design Hero. Afterall, DR.DR. Dembski has a PhD in mathematics, surely HE is the expert on that material!

I wonder - does Dembski limit his commentary to the things HE has a PhD in (mathematics and one in philosophy, plus a Master's in Divinity)? Would his worshippers care if he strayed?

Well, let's see...

In the linked post, DR.DR. Dembski is commenting - pontificating - on vestigial structures. That is a subject that best fits in biology. Bill has no PhD. in biology. Or anything similar. Or even closely related. SHouldn't he, you know, refrain form criticising things he has no PhD. in, as his worshippers believe all others should do?

Or are they all just a bunch of hypocrites?

Not only are Dembski's cioments silly and uninformed, they are downright stupid.

But hey - he is an Intelligent Design Creationist, an anti-materialsim hero, a Research Professor in Philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, AND a Fellow at the Discovery Institute, a right-wing "think tank" dedicated to injecting religion into all aspects of culture.

HE can say ANYTHING he wants to, AND his utterances will be considered unimpeachable by his acolytes...

And I think that 'religious studies professor (Scott Paeth) said it quite nicely:

"Nevertheless, given the degree to which Dembski himself, without degrees in biology or biochemistry, relies on his own roster of "smart people" to justify many of the premises on which he bases his probability calculations, I fail to see how he, or his supporters, can claim the high ground on expertise and credentials. "

Monday, February 05, 2007

I just could not make this stuff up... (re: Bergerson, still)

It is amazing to see how little a person will pick up despite taking part in these 'debates' for so long. Of course, when the person is Warren Bergerson (aka 'Lifeengineer') - retired actuary and expert on all things, even thiose he knows nothgin about - I guess it makes a little more sense.

Read this thread.
I don't think I need to add any commentary, for Bergerson's sheer stupidity speaks fior itself.

But I did like this claim:

"... A small genetic change may be correlated with a large morphological change, but there is absolutely no evidence the small genetic change can cause the change. If I change an order for Boeing 727 to a Boeing 747, there may be a huge morphological change, but that does not mean the change from a 2 to a 4 causes a massive change in the airplane. Biologists are well aware of extremely complex changes in assembly processes associated with even small morphological changes. The fact that they intentionally ignore the evidence for the complexity of the changes and substitute a completely silly fairytale tells far more about the nature and behavior of academic biology than it does about evolutionary changes. ..."

If you are unfamiliar with Bergerson's schtick - well, he has a couple of schticks, ranging from his claim to have "disproven Darwinism" by using actuarial math (it turns out he never actually did the math, he just "knew" what the outcome would be), to his belief in some 'life force' that actually controls molecular interactions.
But the schtick of the day is his belief - insistence - that any change to an organism, no matter how inconsequential, requires "millions of changes" in order to occur. He claims that because a change, say, in a developmental gene might cause a morphological change via a series of events (which he does not believe can actually occur despite being provided with exmples- of course because he claims that any published science that supports Darwinism is intentionally misleading and fraudulent), that each subsequent change also had to be 'designed', and so the change in, say, a limb requires millions of such chances, rather than the reality-based explanation that a change in a developmental regulatory gene produces a cascade of events that result in the change(s).


Friday, February 02, 2007

The "logic" of the creationist computer technician

I came across this little exchange that I had written about a year or two ago and done nothing with.

It chronicles/summarizes the discussion between a poster at the ARN discussion board, "Nobody" (who also happens to be Moderator 6 on that board - known for his heavy-handed anti-evolutionist censorship - and who may actually be one Bruce Fast.

It is a very revealing exchange for a couple of reasons. One, it shows the extreme inflexibility and dogmatism of the creationist, and two, it demonstrates the shallowness with which non-scientist creationists think.

Cut and pasted from my original write up (NOTE* most of the links no longer work as ARN tends to re-tool its software every year or two and they change all their URLs, in my cynical view, in order to prevent people form searching/linking to the ridiculous claims made there by anti-evolutionists):


Here, following exchange took place:

Nobody, quoting Albert Einstein:
But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration towards truth and understanding.

‘Pixie’ responds:
Very true

Nobody replies:
Does this mean you now see design in life?

A little background:
‘Nobody’, who is also ‘Moderator 6’ at that site, is a computer programmer of some sort whose claims to fame are as follows:

1. Apparently doing keyword searches in Science news outlets for terms like ‘unexpected’, 'surprised’, ‘machine’, ‘amazing’, etc., posting snippets from the articles he gets, bolding the terms, and rarely, if ever, providing any sort of commentary (a few examples). Apparently, Nobody thinks that if a science-related press release has the words ‘unexpected’, etc. in it, it is bad news for evolution. Entertainingly, the articles often explain just the opposite – but he is no biologist, and cannot understand that, and when this uncomfortable fact is explained to him, he ignores it and repeats slogans.

2. Insisting that DNA is just like computer code, and via absurd extrapolation, that DNA therefore is designed [by God]. He is utterly unyielding on this child-like belief, and even employs it ass a mantra/slogan (for which he was once chastised for using by a fellow creationist, see last post).

Anyway, it went on:

No. It means aspire towards truth and understanding.

Ah. That's what I thought. So, to make sure I understand your position, you aspire towards truth and understanding while simultaneously denying the design of life. Right?

Now, it starts to get revealing:

I suspect your position is based on the dogmatic assumption that life is designed, and therefore anyone aspiring to truth and understanding must necessarily also believe life is designed. I guess that because this is an article of faith you do not entertain the possibility that life was not designed. You are perhaps thinking that I am equally dogmatic in my insistence that there is no design. I think not (but feel free to look for posts that suggest otherwise). It always makes he laugh when I read IDists trumpeting about how they are being open-minded. See for example, Teleologcal Blog, with the byline "Detecting Design and Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds". As your post shows, open minds are antithetical to the ID position.

A few of Nobody’s pals then tried to help him out. But Nobody came back to the fray:

Even some evolutionists have admitted there is design. I was just wondering, after your extended stay here, if you had finally reached that first step. I see you still haven't.

Humble, these folks are not…

Pixie is then accused of being “dogmatic.” Nobody’s defender is shot down:

The short exchange between Pixie and Nobody in the first three posts on this thread indicate that Pixie's interpretation is correct, and yours is not. Nobody's quip "this means you now see the design in life?", offered as if it were the necessary conclusion of truth and understanding, indicates that nobody is unwilling to see any non-design position as valid. Hence, his is the more dogmatic position.

After a few more exchanges, Myrmecos writes:

1. I'd be much more open to the designist position if they'd actually make a positive argument,
2. So, why isn't anyone doing it?

To which our hero Nobody replies:

1. Advanced programming only comes from an advanced programmer. Is that positive enough?
2. It's being done every day. The HGP spent billions of dollars trying to understand the programming of life. What they found out is the we have only scratched the surface.

Poor fellow. He tries so hard – and if you read the things he writes, he really really thinks he is right!

But Myrmecos has to spoil the party:
No, it's circular. You assume your conclusion ("life has a programmer") in your premise ("life shows programming").

Do you think Nobody will get it?