Intelligent design news from the 31st of June to the 5th of July, 2010.
News from the world of the Discovery Institute was slightly slow this week, so I’m going to take that as a sign that we “Darwinists” were less religious in our thinking, more correct about the science of evolutionary biology, and uncovered fewer ground-shaking pieces of evidence against evolution that we refuse to acknowledge the implications of than the past few weeks. Okay, I can believe that… I suppose.
What really shocked me, beyond the lack of anti-scientific outpouring, was that nobody from the Discovery Institute wrote about this. Come on! Fossils are discovered that push the evolution of multicellularity back at least 200 million years from previous evidence and they have nothing to say? Not even a quick “Haha, more evidence against Darwinism, because you’ve got less time to evolve stuff, nyah nyah nyah”? I’m strangely disappointed.
Anyway, moving onto what was said by the Discovery Institute, Jonathan McLatchie, on Evolution News & Views, responded on behalf of Casey Luskin to Nick Matzke and Matt Young from The Panda’s Thumb over Haeckel’s embryos:
Casey Luskin recently posted two blogs showing that textbooks still misuse Haeckel’s long-discredited embryo drawings when attempting to provide evidence for Darwinian evolution (see here and here). Luskin provided ample documentation to demonstrate that these drawings are still printed in some recent textbooks.
Over at The Panda’s Thumb blog, apologists for Darwinian theory have defended (see here and here) Ernst Haeckel from the charge of fraud and have argued, albeit unconvincingly, that, in principle, the concept of recapitulation is a valid one.
As I mentioned on the miniblog, Jonathan conveniently left out mentioning my refutation of Casey’s arguments and comments. Of course, I never expected him to pay attention to it, because those busy, busy ID proponents never do, but it’s interesting to read Jonathan’s post and then what I wrote – he’s actually missing the entire point about Hackel’s embryos and recapitulation. While I’m sure he’s wrong about some of the facts he pulls out, his interpretation of embryology with regards to evolutionary biology is warped. He finishes with this quote from Jonathan Wells:
If the implications of Darwin’s theory for early vertebrate development were true, we would expect these five classes [bony fish, amphibian, reptile, bird and mammal] to be most similar as fertilized eggs; slight differences would appear during cleavage, and the classes would diverge even more during gastrulation. What we actually observe, however, is that the eggs of the five classes start out noticeably different from each other; the cleavage patterns in four of the five classes show some general similarities, but the pattern in mammals is radically different. In the gastrulation stage, a fish is very different from an amphibian, and both are very different from reptiles, birds, and mammals, which are somewhat similar to each other. Whatever pattern can be discerned here, it is certainly not a pattern in which the earliest stages are the most similar and later stages are more different.
No, Jonathan, we wouldn’t necessarily expect that. Who’s to say that evolutionary forces can’t affect the basic stages of development as well as the later ones? When you assume that a strict “cone shape” relationship (with little or no differences between taxa at early stages of development and large differences at later stages) is predicted by evolutionary theory, you assume wrongly. Early development is fairly malleable, evolutionarily speaking.
The real reason that embryology backs up evolutionary theory is that there is a conserved stage called the pharyngula, where all vertebrate embryos share common features. It’s this stage that shows that there is an evolutionary relationship between all vertebrates. The fact that earlier stages are not conserved or that each pharyngula stage is slightly different is besides the point – any conservation is evidence for evolution.
Of course, this was all explained in my blog post about Haeckel’s embryos…
Casey Luskin, instead of personally responding to the criticisms of his Haeckel posts, instead decided this week to get all indignant on Evolution News & Views about having a comment of his deleted from Chris Mooney’s blog:
In May, I wrote an article on Evolution News & Views commenting on Darwinian Atheists Lecturing Religious People on Proper Belief in God. Chris Mooney then wrote a response, and I then tried to submit a comment in reply. For some reason, perhaps innocent, perhaps not–I don’t really know–Chris Mooney’s Discover Magazine Blog refused to publish the following comment from me:
Chris, you make hay that my blog post is apparently posted on some “BibleProphecyUpdate” website. You then say “Wow.”
For the record, I’ve no idea what “BibleProphecyUpdate” is, nor do I know anything about them. I originally posted my blog at Evolution News & Views (ENV) — just follow the link from my name. From your post here today, I’ve learned that this “BibleProphecyUpdate” site apparently has taken my material and reposted it without my knowledge or permission. Such is the way of the Internet.
I find it difficult to believe you’re a regular reader of “BibleProphecyUpdate.” Given that you’ve read and responded to ENV in the past, you’re capable of finding my material where you’re well aware I’m a regular writer. If you have a “Chris Mooney” Google News alert, then you’re also well aware that my blog originally appeared at ENV. So why didn’t you link to ENV, instead making hay that my post appears on some religious website? Such is the way of the ID= “anti-science” critic. Perhaps “Wow” is right.
I’m with Casey on this one – there’s no reason why that comment should have been deleted, unless it was an error. However, this strikes me as slightly hypocritical when Uncommon Descent, a well-known Discovery Institute blog, regularly deletes comments that it doesn’t like (read: are defending evolutionary biology/criticising intelligent design), even if they’re being civil and kind. I have a personal example, but I know of others who have had the same problem.
Really, Casey, you shouldn’t complain until you fix UD’s commenting policy and the action of its moderators, it’s ridiculous.
Wow, just… wow. You might want to take a minute to prepare yourself before you read what Stephen C. Meyer wrote on Evolution News & Views this week about the US celebration of July 4th, Thomas Jefferson and intelligent design:
Taken to heart, Darwin’s view of man does undermine the vision of the Founders. As evolutionary biologist George Gaylord Simpson explained, Darwinism denies evidence of design and shows instead that man is the product of a “purposeless process that did not have him mind.” Fortunately, discoveries in modern biology have challenged this perspective and vindicated Jefferson’s thinking.
Since 1953, when Watson and Crick elucidated the structure of the DNA molecule, biologists have increasingly come to recognize the importance of information to living cells. The structure of DNA allows it to store information in the form of a four-character digital code, similar to a computer code. As Bill Gates has noted, “DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.”
No theory of undirected chemical evolution has explained the origin of the digital information in DNA needed to build the first living cell on earth. Yet we know from repeated experience—the basis of all scientific reasoning—that information invariably arises from minds rather than from material processes.
Software programs come from programmers. Information—whether inscribed in hieroglyphics, written in a book, or encoded in radio signals—always comes from a designing intelligence. So the discovery of digital code in DNA points decisively back to an intelligent cause as the ultimate source of the information in living cells.
The growing evidence of design in life has stunning and gratifying implications for our understanding of America’s political history—and for our country’s future. On the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the evidence for “Nature’s God,” and thus for the reality of our rights, is stronger than ever.
Excuse me? Evolutionary biology “undermine[s] the vision of the Founders”? What does politics have to do with science? Oh, wait, Thomas Jefferson thought that things were designed and the evidence “vindicates” this, so… Nope, I’m still confused.
Really, is this how low the Discovery Institute has fallen from their already subterranean perch? Appeals to American patriotism? Stephen, a scientific theory doesn’t live or die based on whether or not it supports “the rights of the people”, and I think you know this - that’s why you’ve made sure to outline all the other evidence that you think supports intelligent design. Clearly, you thought “Ooh, if I just appeal to patriotism it’ll look rather weak – I’d better be sure to throw in the standard lines about digital information and intelligence.” sometime during the writing process. You were almost certainly certain that your argument from politics was weak.
Or perhaps I’m giving Stephen too much credit. I never know what to say these days – if I call someone stupid, it’s an ad hominem attack, but if I don’t, I’m not being harsh enough. What’s the best way to go? I have no idea, so I’ll play it safe and not call Stephen a moronic IDiot, like so many do.
However, I will say – poor show, Stephen, poor show. I expected better from the writer of the ludicrously hyped Signature in the Cell. But then again, not everything lives up to the hype.
Last, and probably least, Kevin Wirth from The ID Report gives us a plug of another new pro-ID book – Caroline Crocker’s Free to Think:
Dr. Crocker, who appeared briefly in the 2008 movie Expelled, was an untenured adjunct professor at GMU and had signed a 3-year contract extension, which others also read. In her book, Crocker recounts how her good fortune was short lived, however, as she became the victim of a bait-and-switch scheme in which her original contract was changed to a one-year term shortly after being accused of teaching creationism in her classes – a charge she steadfastly denies. In fact recent evidence has come to light from one of her former students that a student who Dr. Crocker caught cheating retaliated against another student and made allegedly false accusations against Dr. Crocker, which eventually culminated in the loss of her job as a professer at GMU. The appeals process as told by Dr. Crocker was little more than a railroading and a denial of her academic freedom per GMU’s own code – and readers are provided with her first-ever complete retelling of what happened in her own words as well as her response to the findings of her grievance committee (all documented in Appendix IV).
Many of Dr. Crocker’s critics make the point that she SHOULD have been let go for teaching creationism. However, according to Dr. Crocker, all she did was challenge her students to think outside the box a bit and come to their own conclusions based on ALL of the available evidence, not just the usual consensus views of science. Crocker relates in her book exactly how and what she taught her students, including many in-class interactions. Readers will be left to decide whether they believe her approach was reasonable. I submit most readers will concur that she did nothing to warrant the treatment she received.
Okay, it’s clear that Dr. Crocker wasn’t “teaching creationism”, but she was giving information to students in a biased manner. Whenever someone says that they need to give all of the available evidence about evolution to their students, they’re coming at things from a biased perspective. It’s true, that’s a coded phrase from someone who doesn’t think that evolutionary theory is correct.
The only time students need to be given both sides of a controversial issue is when there actually is a genuine controversy. Within evolutionary biology, there isn’t. The evidence is clear and unequivocal. Evolutionary biologists don’t discuss amongst themselves whether or not evolution occurred, whether or not it’s the best explanation for the diversity of life on Earth, or whether or not intelligent design can fill the gaps that have yet to be fully explained. There is no controversy, and therefore students should not be taught that there is one.
Now, I don’t know if Dr. Crocker should have lost her job for what she did, but she should have, at least, lost the respect of her peers. The behavior that she displayed damages science at a fundamental level, and for that there is no excuse except ideological bias. Ideological bias has no place in the science lab or the science classroom.
Of course, I haven’t read Dr. Crocker’s book – she mightn’t have been implicitly defending intelligent design after all. But if that were true… then why would the intelligent design movement be plugging her book?