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

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"Intelligent Design" creationist 'logic'

On occasion, I peruse the Discovery Institute's ARN discussion forums. I say on occasion because I can rarely stomach the gibberish there for any length of time or frequency. However, on occasion, the claims made by the Intelligent Design creationists (IDCs, for short) can be both illuminating and entertaining and provide some interesting insights into the inner workings of the IDC mind.

Of late, "JoeG" (Joe Gallien) has been fairly prolific on the ARN board. He was very taken by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richard's book and video "Privileged Planet", and has made many, many internet discussion board, comments, and blog posts "challenging" non-IDCs to see the video and dare to stay a non-IDC.

Anyway, he has recently started a thread at ARN laying out the claims made by Gonzalez and Richards indicating that the earth is "privileged" and therefore, somehow, evolution did not occur, or something. I have pasted a few of the 'facts' that indicate the privileged status of earth below, in lovely lavender, for entertainment value, interspersed with my smarmy comments:

d. Just so happens that our Moon is 400x smaller than the Sun, which is 400x farther away
e. Both with a very circular shape
f. Allows for perfect solar eclipses

Sure, because I guess an imperfect solar eclipse would just be so un-privileged.
And after all, if it were not for total solar eclipses, solar telescopes would never have been thought of, and would never have been able to allow us to discover the things that you can during an eclipse. Because, apparently, if there were no solar eclipses, no human would have ever thought about studying the sun...

g. Confirmed Einstein’s prediction with the 1919 solar eclipse (gravity bends light) when scientists photographed the Stars behind it. We could have only made that discovery during a total solar eclipse.

Yes because, again, if it were not for these perfect eclipses, we would NEVER have been able to observe light being bent by gravity...

i. Observing & studying the Sun’s chromosphere is made possible

Yes, because, again, if it were not for the eclipse, we would never have thought of a way to check out that cool stuff.

b. Clear- allows for good viewing
c. Ours is <1%>
d. Allows in the right kind of light for viewing

These refer to the atmosphere. I guess the "right kind" of viewing is viewing only in the visible spectrum and through an atmosphere known for producing distortions.

b. Great for observing & scientific discovery
9. Location in the galaxy
a. We are between spiral arms
b. Perfect for viewing

Perfect for viewing what? Why, the things we can see!
If we were on the other side of the galaxy, THE EXACT SAME ARGUMENT COULD BE MADE!

What amazes me the most is that these 'arguments' - child-like in their simple-mindedness as they are - were actually considered groundbreaking and irrefutable by two doctorate-degree wielding professionals - one an astronomer (Gonzalez) and a philosopher (Richards), and that so many people - folks like Joe Gallien - are so convinced of the validity of these claims.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

First time for everything - A Republican Congressman from Texas with some sense and integrity

I have not been following 2008 presidential politics at all thus far, but I recently came across this clip from a speech on the floor of the House by Ron Paul, a Republican from Texas, who is apparently running for president. The last 30 seconds or so are right on the money.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Notice a trend?

I do.

These maps are from the May 2007 National Geographic. They indicate High School (top) and College (bottom) graduation rates in the United States, comparing the rates in 1950 (on the left in each map) and 2000 (on the right in each map).

The lighter the color, the lower the rate of graduation.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Troy D. Hailey - aka 'Ilion' - EVERYONE'S favorite misunderstood genius

I have written briefly about Troy D. Hailey before - a computer consultant who fancies himself an expert on, well, everything, but especially evolution (claims, as they all do, to have "disptoved" it).

Well, it seems that even his fellow computer programmer-type folks are not very keen on the condescending, arrogant egomaniac.

Seems old Troy didn't dig it that all did not bow down to his superior intellect, and began a flame war of sorts, with the admins and participants at the board trying to decide how best to deal with him:

Chris Maunder wrote:
I'm ready to just close it [the 'soapbox' forum] up

That's what Ilion wants. It seems that most - if not all - of the SoapBoxers are united in their opinion of the Ilion person. What you probably should do is find out who this guy's ISP is and report him for abuse,
and then block the ISP's IP subnet from being allowed to post on CP.

In response to thje above:

John Simmons / outlaw programmer wrote:
That's what Ilion wants

Actually it isn't. What he wants is to be able to post his opinions and have them stay in view and not be voted as abusive. Whether or not his posts are abusive, spam, or even vaguely appropriate is another thing.

My understanding was that people were ignoring him, so he repeatedly started
posting the same thing and THEN they were marked as spam/abuse.

And to see that arrogant 'charm' from old Troy the self-identified 'nobody' (he is so humble...):

Chris Maunder wrote:
Of course you do, as long as you do not abuse the forums or the site.

Mr Maunder, you've giving mixed signals here.

On the one hand, I should "probably just move on" if I want to try to discuss thing rationally/logically, because it's "abusive" (as per community consensus) to identify the illogical arguments/assertions others make.

On the other hand, if I'm not "abusive" (i.e. if I insult other persons right and left, as per community practice), then there is no difficulty.

I gotta tell ya' that's dizzy-making. To me, at any rate.

Wait - there is more (emphasis mine):

Look, most of the really active regulars here go out of their way to express contempt for Christianity and for Christians. And that's ok, I'm not complaining; Christianity can take it. And I can take it, so long as I'm allowed to demolish the so-called arguments.

However, because I am trying to get at the illogic and/or absurdity of so many of the claims and/or arguments put forward on the anti-Christianity side of the ledger, I am apparently "abusive," as per community consensus. It isn't true in fact, and I do not appreciate it.

Now, if 'atheism' and/or 'atheistic' assertions have a privileged or protected status here at CP, I can live with that. As I told you, I came to CP for the programming, not for the Soapbox. However, it would have been nice to know about that special status beforehand.

Because after all, a computer cunsultant expert on everything cannot do anything BUT "demolish" all arguments of those that dare oppose his ideologies...

But, it goes on.. and on...

He's [Ilion] taking you for a ride Chris. If you trace back through the threads, you'll
find he was given ample opportunity to expound his arguments and he declined to
take them. People, myself included, attempted to dispute points with him (despite his sillyness), but it was to no avail. When everyone began to ignore him (and rightly so) that's when he started bombing the forums. Despite his claims and protestations, he was treated no differently than anyone else. The difference was in him refusing to cease his obnoxious behaviour and his blatant disrespect for ALL PATRONS of this forum. On numerous occasions did several others and I ask him to stop yet he continued. I suggest you continue to monitor this forum for the next few days as I don't believe he is being genuine.

And on...

I am not sure what is worse, the constant posts by Ilion, or our response to it.
Some of his messages have been deleted under 10 minutes. They are literally
being removed before I can read them, although they seem to be the same 1 or 2
posts over and over. I don't get what his point is, and I don't get why we don't
ignore him. I don't remember Ilion posting before a week or so ago. He has four
articles (I have not read any) and all of a sudden of deluge of incomprehensible
posts. I think we have all agreed that something is wrong mentally (some kind of
psychotic break?), but do we need to poke the badger with a spoon?

And on...

A thread for Ilion to demonstrate....
his much touted great intellect.
Apparently you believe yourself to be beyond the intellectual capabilities of everyone on this message board. Well, I'm giving you the opportunity to prove it. Answer our questions, the ones that (so far) you refuse to answer. There are many of them, but you seem to believe it acceptable to make flippant statements without having to provide any form of cogent argument. Well, I'm putting you on the spot. Either prove you have something to contribute or finalize that once and for all that you're just here trolling these boards to irritate people and you are not to be taken seriously. Show us you're not a cheap pathetic hack...

It is interesting to note that Ilion did not reply once in that thread...


And then:

He [Ilion] was annoying me because he was intentionally twisting my words.
Having an argument with somebody is one thing. When somebody twists your words
to deliberately misrepresent what you said is another. I have a problem with
liars and hypocrites. I call them out. Ilion knows he's lying and deceitful
because he doesn't respond to my posts. He thinks he's a Christian - but it's
completely obvious he's a hypocrite and a liar. He's less of a Christian than I
am and I'm an athiest.

Oh - you noticed all that, too?

Poor Troy Hailey - he can't even seem to get his fellow computer geeks to be on his side and bow down to his ubermensch status!

Because people like Ilion will just never let things rest. They HAVE to have it "known" that they "won", that they are "right". Even when they are not.

It is interesting to note that on that site, even the conservatives (well, one of them at least) thinks Ilion is a nitwit:

IlĂ­on wrote:Man, that's jest terrible! Political appointees being treated as political appointees.

You know, I read that and thought something odd. The "e" key is nowhere near the "u" key on a keyboard, so how could you mistype "just" (as a typo) unless you're so hopped up on acid that you have no control of your fingers.

He is, of course, welcomed with open arms on the ARN 'Intelligent Design' forum - that is the sort of person that makes up the anti-evolution crowd - arrogant, overconfident, bombastic, and above all, underinformed. So, how can these folks deal with the arrogant blowhard?

I have an idea:

Nah - I have a sneaking suspicion that Troy Hailey would enjoy it...



Wow... Perusing that forum, we see Ilion acting like... well, Ilion... For those with the patience and stomach for it, you can see one of God's own - and a super genius at that - in action... and NOBODY there seems to dig it:

Stop talking out of your ass. Everyone on this message board is sick to death of
your idiocy. Do everyone a favour for once and shut up.It's painfully evident
that you don't know a thing about science, you just like to run your mouth and
stick quotes around everything. Take your medication. It'll help to make you
more lucid.You can't even address the questions I put to you, because when
confronted head on you balk and hide. You're pathetic, ignorant and an idiot.
That's quite the amazing combination, you should be proud. Not just anyone can
achieve such infamy. Of course, you can always respond to the thread I directed
at you and prove me wrong, but I know you won't because you can't. You're a sad
little man with an inferiority complex. I pity you. If only you had the sense to
realize just how idiotic you are, it would be a blessing for you AND this
message board.

Boy - these folks figured Ilion out, alright!

And Ilion is God's one true messenger... Wow....

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Salvador Cordova cites me when being dishonest...

... and the sycophantic simpletons at 'Uncommon Descent' just don't care...

Salvador Cordova is an Intelligent Design Creationist activist with a bachelor's degree in engineering (minor in music) who, like most underprepared creationist activists, fancies himself an expert on nearly everything*. He has argued with professional geologists about mantle plumes, he has argued with anatomists about the impossibility of ribs fusing to the sternum, he has argued with physicists about speed of light decay - you name it, he has argued the creationist position on it. And, of course, never once allowed the possibility that he might, you know, be wrong on anything. Because he is a creationist, and creationists cannot be wrong. Even when they are. But I digress...

Cordova has earned a reputation as a person who plays fast and loose with the facts, and even more so when he is quoting articles of people to try to prove a point. Which is why I linked to his article on Uncommon Descent as just the latest example of his dishonesty. And what is worse, he actually cites me (yes, 'FTK', it irks me, and if you think DS is 'looking good', I think I can conclude that you have pretty low standards), which compounds his dishonesty. I will get to why that is later, but first things first.

His article from May 2nd is titled Darwin dissed by doctors, and a design revolution continues at MIT. It begins with a half-assed attempt to prop up new Discovery Institute blathering creationist nutcake Michael Egnor, whom Cordova adoringly and embellishingly refers to as "One of New York’s foremost brain surgeons", and for whom a new term has been coined - Egnorance.

One of Egnor's big claims is that "Darwinism" is irrelevant to medicine. Cordova wants to support this claim - to prop up his new hero - by referring to [url=]this article[/url] from which he quotes:

Charles Darwin, perhaps medicine’s most famous dropout, provided the impetus for a subject that figures so rarely in medical education. Indeed, even the iconic textbook example of evolution—antibiotic resistance—is rarely described as “evolution” in relevant papers published in medical journals. Despite potentially valid reasons for this oversight (e.g., that authors of papers in medical journals would regard the term as too general), it propagates into the popular press when those papers are reported on, feeding the wider perception of evolution’s irrelevance in general, and to medicine in particular

Cordova editorializes in mid-quote, note what I have bolded:

Darwinists claim how important Darwinism is to science, but MacCallum’s editorial makes an embarrassing admission of Darwinism’s irrelevance to medicine. She also reports on the protests from medical students who find themselves forced to study Darwinism for no good reason. In reading the excerpt below, ask yourself, “why is it that a campaign has to be waged to teach Darwinism in science classes.” Do we need campaigns to teach the theory of gravitation or the periodic table?:

Randolph Nesse (University of Michigan) and colleagues think otherwise [2], and have been campaigning for evolution to be recognized and taught as a basic science to all medical students (see also the Evolution and Medicine Network, It has been more than 10 years since he and George Williams published their classic book Why We Get Sic: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine [3]. Other landmark texts linking evolution to health have been written since then, with new editions on the way [4–6], and the research field is blossoming. Still, as Nesse mentioned at the start of the York meeting, there are only a handful of medical schools in the United States and in the United Kingdom with an evolutionary biologist listed as such on the faculty.…the hardest task in adding evolutionary/Darwinian medicine to medical curricula may well be soliciting support from medical students. Although Paul O’Higgins thought a comparison of the brachial plexus to the pentadactyl limb was helpful, not all his students agreed—complaints were lodged that he was forcing evolution on them

But Cordova opted to stop quoting where he did for good (creationist) reasons, for the paragraph goes on:

But evolutionary medicine isn't and shouldn't be controversial, and the best way to challenge prejudice is through education. As the oft-quoted Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote in 1973, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” [15]. The time has clearly come for medicine to explicitly integrate evolutionary biolog into its theoretical and practical underpinnings The medical students of Charles Darwin's day did not have the advantage of such a powerful framework to inform their thinking; we shouldn't deprive today's budding medical talent of the potential insights to be gained at the intersection of these two great disciplines.

But the shenanigans get worse - the first quote provided above? Well, Cordova decided to stop quoting that paragraph when he got to the last sentence. Why? Here's why:

Yet an understanding of how natural selection shapes vulnerability to disease can provide fundamental insights into medicine and health and is no less relevant than an understanding of physiology or biochemistry.

Yes, quite an "embarrassing admission", eh Cordova?

'Nuff said on that.

The section of Cordova's hack propaganda regarding a 'design revolution' at MIT starts thusly:

In contrast, the design paradigm moves forward at one of America’s most prestigious universities. In Wanted: Biologists who can speak ‘math,’ engineers fluent in genetics [1] we learn:
One-third of the engineers at MIT now work on biological problems, according to Graham C. Walker, MIT biology professor.

He goes on with sickening, self-serving platitudes about how 'important' engineers and computer science is or will be to biology. And that [1] up in Cordova's quote? Well that is this endnote:

[1] (HT: [Doppelganger] at KCFS for the MIT Article)

And why would I have cited an article like that?

Well first, read it yourself:

Wanted: Biologists who can speak 'math,' engineers fluent in genetics

Here is the main reason that I referred to the article in the first place:

Teaching introductory biology to MIT undergraduates, Walker experiences the disciplinary disconnect firsthand. "It's a constant challenge," he says, "to find ways to make biology comprehensible and relevant to students who think like engineers."

Ironically, I was first made aware of the article by a creationist mechanical engineer who, like Cordova, actually seemed to think that the article in some way gave credence to the creationist notion that engineers have some special insight into biology. Had they actually read the article for something other than snippets that, devoid of context, can be employed as ego-boosting material for creationist engineers, they would have seen things like this, from the opening paragraph of the article:

Biologists, computer scientists and engineers speak different languages: Mention "vector" to a molecular biologist and a plasmid (a circular piece of bacterial DNA used in gene cloning) comes to mind. Say "vector" to an engineer, and she thinks of a mathematical concept. Similarly with "expression": To a biologist, it means protein production from a gene; to an engineer, it's an equation.

Try explaining that to a creationist engineer, and you get a load of arrogant gibberish about how their "engineering principles" give them unique ways of looking at genetics and biology in ways that the poor geneticists and biologists just can't comprehend...
Going on, they might have read the following, including this - the sentence that directly follows what Cordova decided to quote:

Yet it can be challenging for biology and engineering students to understand each other.

Or they might have seen one of these:

She told a room packed with MIT students and faculty that "engineering students tend to view biology as magic because they don't see us using differential equations. And often they don't even necessarily want to understand the 'what' of biology--they just want to use it.

So we actually teach biology to engineers using a function-based approach, with the idea of nature as the designer and evolution as the design tool," Lidstrom says. "That's real engineering. And that's the way we feel biology should be taught."

To help her engineering students feel comfortable in this strange new territory...

Hmmmm... biology a 'strange new territry' for engineers... a constant challenge to make biology comprehensible to engineering students... Nature used as the 'designer' with evolution the 'tools'...

Yup... Sure sounds like ID is alive and well at MIT and that engineers are the true authorities in matters biological...

OK Cordova - say, you let me know when that newspaper taxi drops you off under marmalade skies....

*Which fits in nicely with this saying:

When you earn a Bachelor's degree you think you know everything
When you earn a Master's degree you realize how little you knew
When you earn a Doctorate, you realize how little everyone knows about everything

and it is also yet another example of the Dunning-Kruger effect