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

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Caroline Crocker: Victim of the Darwinist Establishment?

Or dishonest creationist hack?

Crocker is featured in the upcoming anti-evolution movie Expelled which purports to demonstrate the callous disregard for scientific truth by the 'Darwinian establishment' and how terrbily those who dare to tell the truth get treated. Crocker was an adjunct biology lecturer at George Mason University and her contract was not renewed. She blamed Darwinism. Her reviews* say something else.

She is also writing a book (aren't they all?) about intellectual honesty in science.

Which is very ironic, considering that she has a hisory of engaging in patently intellectually DIShonest hackery in her 'attacks' against 'Darwinism.'

'Tiny Frog' has a very nice write up in which the depths to which 'intellectually honest' Crocker will go to prop up her fantasies. Seems Crocker gives these 'anti-Darwin' lectures, and her slide show was unwittingly made available on the web (now unavailable, I suspect). She makes some, shall we say, interesting claims in her intellectually honest pursuits. Some gems follow...

Darwin was a "rich kid" who enjoyed "partying","gambling", and "drinking."

Not sure what the evidence - or relevance - of that is. But the IDcreationist crowd does seem to favor the cult of personality, and so attacking Darwin to them is the same as attacking evolution which is the same as propagandizing for Jesus, so it is all good.

'Birds' were found in the same 'layer' as the Archaeopteryx fossil was, and that there was only one such fossil. (there are at least eight, and no, modern birds are not found in contemporaneous strata)

Eohippus (fossil primitive horse) is the same as the modern day Hyrax. Not sure where that bizarre nonsense came from. I suspect it came from Eohippus' former name, Hyracotherium, which means 'hyrax-like beast.' Here is a picture of a reconstruction of Eohippus fossil bones:

And here, a hyrax skeleton:

I report, you decide - shouldn't a biologist (even a molecular biologist) be able to tell the difference? Or does Crocker just rely on the fact that her target audience will not and even if they did, they would not care?
On just two slides of her presentation, one can find innuendo, nonsense, incompetence/dishonesty - and she and her followers want America to believe that the reason that she can't seem to keep a job at a college is because The (Darwinian) Man is keeping her down?
AND she is writing a book pontificating on "intellectual honesty"?
Should Crocker have been 'expelled'? You bet. But not because she 'went against orthodoxy' in teaching the garbage she did, but instead, for incompetence and spreading disinformation.

*Reviews from her next teaching gig show much more of the same...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Surprised? Not me....

ANOTHER Republican hypocrite is arrested:

GOP's McKee Resigns After Home Is Searched

This time, it is an anti-child exploitation legislator caught with - yup - child pornography.

Oh sure, he's embarrassedand all, and he is seeking the 'prayer' of his family and firends.

I guess all the praying he surely used to engage in didn't help.

Now mind you, this is not meant to indicate that all non-Republicans are fine people, but it is to remind us of the sheer hypocrisy of many such folk.

We have anti-gay activist Larry Craig caught soliciting sex from a man in an airport.
We have 'Book of Values' crusader Bill Bennet admit to a million-dollar gambling problem.
We have Mr. Family Values - thrice divorced Rush Limbaugh going to the Dominican Republic - a place known for it's underage male prostitutes - with a bottle of mislabeled Viagra.

And so on..

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Software developer PROVES that there is no junkDNA*... and other stuff

Well, the Intelligent Designer is at it again...

In a new post on his blog (see below), he all but declares that there just cannot be any junk DNA in the genome - or well maybe 5%, tops. He further declares that I for some reason 'need' there to be lots of junk DNA, and that when I responded to his silly previous commentary about junk DNA I presented no facts, just insults.

Poor Randy Stimpson, creationist software developer.

He thinks he's got this great analytical mind, but he just didn't get it.
He didn't get that the primary purpose of my post here was not to 'prove' that there is lots of junk DNA, but to prove that a creationist software engineer with minimal understanding of evolution and genetics nonetheless believes that BECAUSE he is a software engineer that he has special insights into what MUST really be in the genome. And, of course, since he KNOWs that there is not much 'junk' in software, there cannot be much junk in DNA. Because after all, DNA is just like software (even though he admitted it isn't).

I also set out to show that you were clueless as to who actually coined the term 'junk DNA' and how % sequence similarities were determined, which I did.

Then, recall, you couldn't actually define "complexity" or how "complex" the human genome should be to 'code' for a human, which was, by the way, one of the linchpins of your argument! But far be it for a creationist with no relevant education, experience, or training (much less understanding of) in the relevant sciences to pontificate on such matters - it is what they do.

Then, Stimpson got all upset because I did not bow down to his software developer supremacy and whined, to which I responded here.
Still no definitions of terms or attempts to justify his claims.
Remember - I had not declared anything specific about junk DNA at all, really, except for the fact that I know that there is some.

So then I commented on his silly blog post about how entropy disproves evolution or some such gunk. He got all in a tizzy about that, too. It was in his entropy post that he declared outright that because he is a software developer, he has some special insights into things having nothing to do with software.

So anyway, Randy went a way after being again unable to support any of his claims and hurling a bunch of false accusations about me using "ad holmiums" and such (the great analytical mind of the creationist software developer diod not bother to try to even learn how to spell "ad hominem", much less find out what it actually means).

And then he tried to write an opus on his own blog, using his amazing engineering insights, to explain how there must be little or no junk DNA in the human genome. So confdent is he that he titles his post Most DNA is not junk. So what else can I do but demolish it?

Here is the relevant portions of it, with my commentary interspersed:

In my blog entry Junk DNA is a Myth I spouted off about how it was ridiculous to think that 97% of our DNA is junk. I could believe 5% junk due to entropy but not 97%. This blog entry came under criticism by Professor Scott P. who seems to have a vested interested in believing in junk DNA. In his criticism, he never provided any proof that the vast majority of DNA is junk, just ridicule. This ridicule may have been a knee-jerk reaction to my blogging alias “Intelligent Designer”.
Actually, my only vested interest is in reality. I do not know the exact amount of truly 'junk' DNA in the genome, but I know it does exist, for I have seen it in my research. As I have indicated - and as my blog posts here pretty clearly indicate - it was not my intent to prove any such thing about junk DNA at all, rather it was to expose the naive manner in which non-biologist, non-geneticist creationists, especially those with engineering/computer backgrounds, attempt to assert their superior authority on all matters (the reader may find it funny that after I had shown Randy how wrong he was on several issues that his recourse was to try to goad me into taking some silly 'IQ' type quiz so that he could 'prove' that he was better at figgerin' stuff out than me because he did pretty well on this quiz).

The ridicule was for your pompous yet error-riddled pontifications and arrogance.

And, of course, you are forgetting the fact that I showed many errors in your claims. Yeah, let's not mention that.

In my defense I am going to make a stab at guesstimating a plausible amount of non-junk DNA in the human genome.
Why re-invent the wheel? Why not look at actual analyses of genomes? Why do you think you 'guesstimates' will be any better than such analyses? Because you are a creationist with a software engineering background? I don't get it.
Here are a few examples of what has been written on the issue:



I can already hear Scott laughing away in his office now.
You must have very good hearing.

So let’s begin. In this estimate I will be using the word “information” to denote DNA that is not junk and “data” to denote DNA which may or may not be junk. I will also be talking about the data in terms of bytes and MBs [megabytes]. A nucleotide can be represented with two bits of data, a string of 4 nucleotides by a byte of data, and 4 million nucleotides by a MB of data. Thus 3.2 billion base pairs of the human genome is equivalent to 800 MB of data. Professor Page believes the human genome has only 24MB of information and that the rest is junk – that make me laugh.
You may laugh, but that is (more or less) what the actual data indicate. Of course, you have never given a good biological reason why that much 'information' is too little, only reasons that are inapt analogies.

A bacterial genome has 4 million base pairs of DNA and according to Professor Larry Morgan [sic], a bacterial genome doesn’t have junk. So I think it is safe to say that there is at least 1MB of information in the human genome.
Now there are 210 know cell types in the human body. I’ll assume that each cell type requires at least 1MB of information. These cell types share a lot of common features so I’ll assume there is a lot of common information. Just how much of the information is shared between these cell types is a guess. I am going to assume that 90% of the information in each cell type is shared and 10% is unique. This means that 210 cell types require 1MB + 209 * .1MB of information. Rounding this implies that there is at least 22MB of information in the human genome.

That assumption is erroneous. ALL of the "information" is 'shared.' It is a matter of which genes are turned off or on and/or for how long. This is yet another reason why arguments from analogy are largely inapplicable. The genomes of a skin cell and a liver cell are identical (excpet for the odd random mutation incorporated during mitosis). No 'unique' informaiton is in either one, rather, the difference between a liver cell and a skin cell - what makes them what they are - is a matter of which genes are activated and which are not. Skin cells, for example, will have very active genes involved in the making of keratin, while liver cells will not. But a liver cell still has the genes required to make keratin.

But this is just the information needed to construct the different cell types. More information is needed for spatial orientation and to coordinate activity among cells to perform complex functions like vision, motor control, digestion and tissue repair.
Spatial coordination? Whaaa?
Its funny - several years ago, there was a chap on a discussion board - who also had a computer science background - who insisted that each cell had to have encoded in it it's own unique 12-digit grid coordinate so it would know 'where to go.' I asked - repeatedly - if this information changed every time you moved. No reply...
Anyway - this is not an issue that needs addressing, rather, it is an issue of ignorance of development.
Cells DON'T 'know' where to go, because most of them don't actually 'go' anywhere**. The cells that make your hand do not start in one place and 'go' to the hand, the cells are merely 'there' - undifferentiated masses of tissue that are induced to activate and deactivate particular genes at particular times and they become the cells of the different tissues of the hand.
Same goes for 'coordinating' activitities in cells - there is no 'coordination' as such, rather, cells react to various stimuli to produce various outcomes.
It is all too easy to look at a 'finished product' and be in awe ofd its 'completeness', but this post hoc analysis neglects the history and processes involved.

Since the most efficient algorithms to just sort n objects have an order of nlog(n) I am tempted to guesstimate by multiplying 22MB by log(210) to get a lower bound. But that would be bad applied math and just plain lazy. But then again I am not exactly getting paid to do this (wink).
And you are assuming that genetic 'algorithms' are just like those you might employ as a software developer. Why?
Had you even considered the mere possibility that genomes might not really operate just like computer software?

I can think of two other approaches that could be taken. For one of them I need some data points. In particular I need size data about genomes of the simplest multicellular life forms that are well studied and believed not to have junk.

Shouldn't you have retrieved such data BEFORE pontificating - laughing - at how much 'information' folks like me supposedly believe are in the genome?
And shouldn't you be able to define "complexity", and be able to produce a viable measurement of the complexity of a human so that you can apply your 'guesstimates' , before any of this other stuff is done? After all, your original claim was that the genome couldn't possibly have enough "information" to encode so "complex" a structure like a human, remember?

*Or, at least he plans to...

**a few cell types do migrate during development, such as the cells of the neural crest and the undifferentiated gametes, but these are the excpetion and do not "know" where to migrate to, either - they are 'compelled' to migrate by following chemical gradients.


Seems PZ Myers didn't dig Stimpson's gibberish, either...

Thursday, February 07, 2008

INtelligent Design Creationists censoring scientists and having secret meetings?

Say it ain't so! That bastion of free speech and open scientific inquiry, the Discovery INstitute, sponsored/organized a conference last year in Boston, and when it was over, I guess they realized that it did not go the way they had planned and are/did try to keep it under wraps.

Read about it here.

Seems such folk often engage in this Big Brother antic of controlling the fututre by controlling the past - recently, DI fellow Geoffrey Simmons debated developmental biologist PZ Myers and was thrashed - even the commenters on Dembski's blog admitted this. Then, suddenly, all the comments disappeared. No more mention of the 'debate'...

Hmmmm..... Aren't these folks supposed to be the crack scientists that will topple 'Darwinism'?

Creation 'scientists' plagiarize, too

Why wouldn't they? Conservative propagandists do it.

Now, somehow, a crappily written creationist 'paper' made it into the journal Proteomics (at least the online version). It is pretty bizarre, and what is more, some, if not much of it, appears to have been plagiarized... Read here for more details.

Poor creationists...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

FINALLY - Intelligent Design Scientists are putting their money where their big mouths are

The Discovery Institute has established and funded an 'institute' for the purpose of doing "biological research." It is about time. They've been doing nothing but nitpicking the work of others and distorting that work at that. So, let's see what this new institute is up to...

It was up and running in late 2005, so they should have something to show in 2+ years. Right?

The Biologic Institute.

Friday, February 01, 2008

bfast - another Salem Hypothesis datum point (or, Why do software engineer creationists think they know more than they do?)

These people are just paragons of arrogance, not to mention Dunning-Kruger poster boys.

bfast, a regular at Bill Dembski's censorship-riddled 'blog' Uncommon Descent, writes the following:

Gil, how much does this guy know about biology? I would suspect that any
“brilliant” electrical engineer would line up with us software developers to
voice his incredulity.

This is in reference to evolution. Because, afterall, software engineers have some sort of special insight into biology, even if they don't know anything about it...

But wait, it gets better - the very next comment:

Well, I am a software engineer and I don’t know much about biology. I always
suspected that Darwinism was bogus but what got me convinced is my interest in
artificial intelligence and the brain. I eventually learned enough about the
human brain to know that it is irreducibly complex. The way the different parts
of the brain work to complement each other’s function could not have evolved
gradually a la Darwin. It was designed, without a doubt.