Tag Archives: Discovery Institute

A Little About Paleontologist Per Ahlberg

Anyone interested in paleontology, rational thought, or the scourge of creationism might want to read the transcript of an interview with Per Ahlberg, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Uppsala University in Sweden. His straight talk and wit are refreshing. Here’s a sample:

I think mainstream science has a duty and a responsibility to expose creationism and ID for the pseudoscientific frauds that they are. This is something quite different from engaging them in debate, the way you would do with adherents of an opposing but conceptually sound scientific viewpoint. Scientists must expose them simply because they are frauds, and it won’t do to have large parts of the population bamboozled by the lies and misrepresentations of charlatans… Note that there is an important point here: creationists and ID proponents by necessity attempt to befuddle their audience, not just about the evidence for evolution, but about the nature of scientific enquiry in general. They have to, because it is their only way of concealing the threadbare nature of their own claims. (His emphasis)

From this, it should be clear why I have chosen to take part; though you can add the fact that I enjoy talking to people and presenting my ideas to popular audiences. Money, fame and hot chicks would be welcome but have not been forthcoming so far…

Per Ahlberg is known for his work with fossil tetrapods. His latest contribution is as co-author of a paper about 395-million-year-old tetrapod trackways that were found in Poland. (Here’s a summary of the find by PZ Myers at Pharyngula). And a short video about the find is available on the Journal Nature website. Enjoy!

3 Comments

Filed under Atheism, Culture Warfare, paleontology, Skepticism

The Creationism Movie To End All Creationism Movies

The entertainment world is on fire with the rumor of another creation movie from Kevin Miller, the maker of Expelled. The story is to be based on the life of evangelist creationist Kent Hovind, a.k.a. Dr. Dino, the tax dodger, the prison bitch.

In September 2009, Resurrection Pictures is partnering in the release of The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry—a heartwarming coming-of-age story about three 12-year-old boys who are shown how to apply Scripture to daily struggles—and is a 2009 Silver Sponsor of the 168 Hour Film Project & Festival. Creation, Resurrection Pictures’ first original film project— a humorous and tearful story of a high school biology teacher’s struggle to expose the lie of evolution, based on the life of creation evangelist Dr. Kent Hovind and written by Kevin Miller the writer of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is scheduled for production in 2010.

My reaction to this news can’t be expressed in mere words, so I offer you this video. Just pretend I’m the talk show host, and Kevin Miller and Kent Hovind are the guests. The fact that it’s in Dutch is irrelevant, for laughter is an international language.

1 Comment

Filed under Evolution, Intelligent Design, Trawling For Creationism

Dandelion Sex, Or The Lack Thereof

Dandelion (From Wikipedia)

Dandelion (From Wikipedia)

I’ve just finished reading Frogs, Flies, & Dandelions: the making of species by biologist Menno Schilthuizen –an engaging and informative book on species formation. Here’s a little taste of what I learned; it illustrates that genetics isn’t perfect, and evolution is beautifully adaptive.

Historically, the common dandelion, that ubiquitous and irritating weed found in gardens and fields throughout North America and Europe, has been a puzzle to botanists. For a long time, no one was sure how many species existed. In the 1700’s, Carolus Linnaeus said only one; in the 20th century, Scandinavian botanists claimed more than two-thousands existed. But with DNA testing, came the answer. Many dandelions are, in fact, clones. In place of normal sexual reproduction with two sets of chromosomes being divided into sex cells, the ovules and pollen, some dandelions reproduce by parthenogenesis, or virgin birth, because at one point in their history they mutated into having three sets of chromosomes, a number which is sexually indivisible. The mutant dandelions instead produce unfertilized –but still viable– seeds, each with a triple set of chromosomes –in other words, a clone.

What’s most illuminating is that the same mutation has popped up several times. So there are several strains with triple chromosomes, all sexually isolated from one another because they can only reproduce by cloning themselves. But it gets better; the clones still produce pollen, except it is completely sterile. Only in the light of evolution does this sordid asexual tale make sense. Why waste the time and energy producing “irregular pollen” if it’s never going to be used? Perhaps god takes a sadistic pleasure in irritating people’s allergies. Or he’s invested heavily in big pharmaceuticals. If so, I hope he had Bernie Madoff sitting on his nest egg.

3 Comments

Filed under Biology, Evolution, Science

Top 15 Reasons To Visit The Kentucky Creation Museum

15. The World’s Biggest Bible –Enough Said?

14. Short Line For The Baptismal Water Slide World-Wide-Flood Simulator

13. The On-The -7th-Day-God-Smoked-A-Cigarette Demonstration – Sponsored By The Kentucky Tobacco Council

12. It’s Fun Getting To Interpret The Fossils The Way You Want

11. The Atheist Random-Chance Electric-Chair Challenge With Stuntman PZ Myers

10. Noah’s Ark Diorama Smells So Darn Farm Fresh

9. Ken Ham’s Policy Of Hiring Only Virgin, Tour Guides

8. The Gift Shop’s The Exclusive Seller Of Bobby Jindal Man-O-Action Figures

7. A Dinosaur Rodeo Starring Chuck Norris & His Trophy Wife

6. Every Spin On The Scientific-Quote Roulette Wheel Is A Winner Supporting Creation

5. A Giant Display On The Complexity Of Ben Stein’s Lazy Dry Eyes

4. The Beer Garden Of Eden Serves Flavored Holy Water On Tap

3. Copies Of Adam & Eve’s Birth Certificates Signed By Jesus

2. The Scopes Monkey Trial Reenacted With Real Monkeys In Suits, Narrated By Sarah Palin

1. You’ll Laugh, You’ll Cry, You’ll Kiss Your $21.95 Goodbye

1 Comment

Filed under Top 15 Lists

A Conservative Christian Slacker

After reading a particularly fatuous opinion piece, I’m reminded of the stale joke about the man who climbs into a cab and asks the driver how to get to Carnegie Hall. The driver says, “practice”. In my version, the man asks the driver how to get to the creation museum. And the diver says, “sleep in science class.” Well, a creationist slacker named Victor Medina, who writes a column called When Liberals Attack for the Dallas Republican Examiner, opened his latest scrawl with these words:

It would seem the free marketplace of ideas has entered a new Dark Age. Rather than keeping their [the Darwinist’s] minds open and allow for all viewpoints, the powers that be are squashing all dissent, until theirs is the only voice heard.

Irony might as well be a Klingon word to Medina, for the intellectual stagnation of the Dark Ages was the result of the church’s absolutism and its slavish adherence to scripture. And are we to believe that Medina sees all viewpoints as being equal –that Christianity stands only as tall as the next religion? Having a discriminating –or discerning– eye when it comes to ideas isn’t a bad thing; it’s how science works –by weeding out the good explanations from the bad ones. So, when Medina calls for a “free marketplace”, he’s being blatantly disingenuous. Next, he betrays his ignorance, and lack of research skills:

Darwinists, who believe in a strict following of Darwin’s theory of evolution, aren’t satisfied with blacklisting anyone who disagrees with them. Now, they want to make Darwin more accessible, hip and relevant. To do this, they have declared 2009 “The Year of Darwin.” Really. These same left wing radicals with way too much time on their hands are also promoting “Darwin Day” as an alternative to Christmas. Really. No word on the traditions of Darwin Day, but I would suggest instead of exchanging gifts, Darwinists take after their simian ancestors and throw their feces at each other.

If one were to glance at the scientific literature published since 1859 –the year when Charles Darwin presented his grand theories to the world– one would find that Darwin’s colleagues have consistently dissected his ideas and basted him with heaps of criticism –more than any creationist could ever muster. Darwin’s good ideas, like natural selection, have stood the test of time, while his bad ones have been rejected. And Darwin Day (Feb 12) is presented annually simply as a day of science education and admiration of Charles Darwin, the scientist and explorer. Medina’s hyperbolic attempt to characterize it otherwise is childish, and what I’d expect from a closed mind. And it may also surprise Medina to learn that Michael Behe, the leading proponent of ID, accepts the common ancestry of humans and apes. So, let the feces fly.

They [the Darwinists] insist that intelligent design has no scientific standing whatsoever. Why then, are they so afraid to even discuss such a theory if it is so flimsy?…This blacklisting is seen in full detail in Ben Stein’s hit documentary “Expelled,” in which some highly regarded scientists and academics were blacklisted for even considering intelligent design. Despite the fact that mainstream science has already called into doubt some of Darwin’s theories, including having to rethink the basis for the Big Bang…

Metaphorically speaking, here Medina’s calling rain without ever having watched a game or stepped on the playing field. I dare say there are at least an equal number of books by scientists discussing the intelligent design hypothesis as there are books by creationists promoting it. Academics haven’t been afraid to discuss it in the least, nor have they been “blacklisted for even considering” it. Typically it’s creationist authors who are afraid of evolution, so much so that they conveniently leave out its scientific details from their writings in order to further their ideology. Keeping their audiences ignorant of the scientific facts is their modus operandi. And yes, ID has no scientific standing because it’s not science. What research has the ID community presented other than subjectively declaring organic structures to be complex? At best ID is an untenable conclusion –and a thinly veiled religious one at that, and as such is incompatible with scientific methodology. Spokespeople for the Discovery Institute regularly and loudly promote ID as a secular proposition, but quietly –to friendly audiences– they admit it to be a Christian one. So, if intelligent design is religion, how can it be science? Finally, Medina calls Ben Stein’s movie Expelled a “hit documentary” when in reality its box office receipts were lukewarm to room temperature.

With one factual error after another, Victor Medina shows himself to be an intellectual slacker, who’s loath to do the most basic of research on a subject he clearly knows nothing about. He concludes his sermon with some projection and a Hitler invocation:

In their world, there isn’t even room for debate. There is only one way to think, their way. All other thought is pointless and irrelevant. It’s very Darwinian. It’s also very Adolf. [My emphasis]

No one’s ever said the only path to salvation is through Darwin.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity, Intelligent Design

Canada Export Denyse O’Leary

(At the end of the video she actually claims to be a non-fiction writer. LMAO.)

Denyse O’Leary is an aged Canadian cheerleader for intelligent design. Some may have heard of her. Give me an A. Give me an S. Give me another S. Yes, Denyse, is an ass. Her writings on evolution are unchallenging to say the least. But this one post from 2008 made me laugh. In it she attempts to knock Jeffrey Kluger’s article in Time Magazine on Ben Stein and the ID movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.  Kluger had made a comment about the so-called primordial soup:

Organic chemicals needed eons of stirring and slow cooking before they could produce compounds that could begin to lead to a living thing.

And O’Leary shot back with:

Huh? Stirring and slow cooking? Look, I am not making this up.

Every serious origin of life (OOL) researcher finds OOL an excruciatingly difficult problem. Genome mapper and Nobelist Francis Crick, a staunch atheist, suggested that life must have been brought here by intelligent aliens, and Richard Dawkins is willing to entertain that idea too. But science writer Jeffrey Kluger somehow knows the “answer” that eludes all those guys?

Here we have further proof that creationism is popular among willfully uneducated buffoons. Perhaps, O’Leary really hasn’t heard that some chemical reactions are helped along by mixing and heat, two naturally occurring phenomena. And while organic chemists don’t claim to know exactly how life on Earth started, they do have a good general idea. And it doesn’t involve a magical sky-daddy, which is O’Leary’s non-answer to the question. At the end of her post, she adds:

Anyway, given recent wholesale attempts to suppress discussion of the problems with Darwinism and materialist theories in general, the ID guys are well past concern about the atheist circus. Kluger probably didn’t notice the drive to restore intellectual freedom. Just as well, because you only need that if you have new ideas.

No one has told Denyse that ID predates Darwinian evolution by several centuries. And that ID remains an unchanged and unproductive pursuit. There’s no point in having academic freedom, Denyse, if you aren’t going to use it.

3 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Creationist Of The Month Club, Culture Warfare

Genome Size and Complexity

the groups in this figure are arranged along made-up "scala naturae" to emphasize the lack of relationship between genome size and intuitive notions of organismal complexity -- please do not construe this figure as an endorsement of a progressionist view of evolution!).

(Note: the groups in this figure are arranged along made-up “scala naturae” to emphasize the lack of relationship between genome size and intuitive notions of organismal complexity — please do not construe this figure as an endorsement of a progressionist view of evolution!).

The chart above and note are from genomesize.com

As the note says, the bars in the chart indicate ranges of genome size. The measurements are given as a C-value, which here is a measure of weight in picograms. As we can see, genome size and complexity do not go hand in hand. Salamanders, flatworms, and algae are just a few of the groups which have members with genomes sizes larger than that of the mammals. Et tu, Chondrichthyes? Members of the protozoa have the largest. Isn’t it bad enough that humans have to deal with penis envy, now this? If there is a creator, he has an “inordinate fondness” for amoebae. All that sexy amoebic swaying and oozing is what did it. It’s a damn popularity contest. The swimsuit contest lost us the most points; the amoeba slipped out of its top, showed some membrane, and won the day.

4 Comments

Filed under Biology, Intelligent Design

More Lies Supporting Expelled: The Movie

Pseudo-Science

Pseudo-Science

Ben Stein is putting his smirk and whiny voice to ads for the DVD release of Expelled: The Movie, No Intelligence Allowed. Christmas is just around the corner and a rotten lump of pseudo-scientific coal makes such a great stocking stuffer for the kids. In the ads, Mr. Stein claims Expelled is the #1 documentary of 2008. I think not. Let’s check the stats. Expelled grossed about 7.7 million and opened in 1052 theaters, while Bill Mahr’s documentary Religulous grossed 10.6 million and only opened in 502 theaters. If Mr. Stein is alluding to the reviews of Expelled making it #1, then he is wrong on that point, too. Most reviews were resoundingly negative. For example, The New York TImes said,

Mixing physical apples and metaphysical oranges at every turn “Expelled” is an unprincipled propaganda piece that insults believers and nonbelievers alike. In its fudging, eliding and refusal to define terms, the movie proves that the only expulsion here is of reason itself.

Finally, if you go to the Expelled website you can crash their ironic poll asking, “Do you think Darwin’s theories are outdated?” If Darwin is over-the-hill, then creationism is fossilized. I made a funny.

3 Comments

Filed under Intelligent Design

Obama, A Conservative’s Nightmare

In 2000 I feared a George Bush presidency, but I never seriously thought Bush was the devil’s disciple or that he would bring on the apocalypse. I just thought Bush would bring terrible policies. And he did. He dirtied America with his rotten conservative values, reckless decision making, and heavy handed foreign policy. But his slimy fingerprints on our beautiful country can be wiped away, and Bush can be relegated to the mistakes pile.

Eight years later and conservative pundits are screaming that America as we know it is going to be destroyed by an Obama presidency. For example, Michael Medved, movie critic, radio hack, and cheerleader for intelligent design, is crying that changes brought about by a President Obama would be “permanent and devastating”.

But conservatives need to face the fact that Barack Obama has promised profound systemic changes that will be irreversible—absolutely permanent alterations of our economy and government where there is no chance at all that Republican office-holders of the future could in any way repair the damage.

Medved uses the prospect of higher taxes to spread a little fear amongst conservatives. But he makes a serious mistake in his thinking.

Yes, it’s true that some changes by liberal presidents can be erased by future conservatives – for instance, George W. Bush cut the top marginal tax rate to 35%, after it had risen to 39.6% under Clinton (it’s sure to go back up to the Clinton rate – or higher – under Obama).

Conservatives often cite tax rates the same way twelve-year-old boys recite baseball stats. The problem is that a tax rate, a percentage, does not equal the actual amount of tax collected. Corporations, and the ultra rich, have perfected the art of moving profits and assets offshore. They also know how to reap the benefits of corporate welfare. So, wealthy conservatives exaggerate their tax burden. What do they want, to have a lower tax rate than the middle class?

Medved goes on to list what Obama will bring to America: “Homosexual marriage”, “subsidized health insurance”, “The National Endowment for the Arts”, liberal immigration, etc. Medved ends with:

The conservative movement, and the survival of a viable small-government faction in American politics, depends upon a McCain victory in November. A triumph for Barack Obama, combined with Democratic gains in both House and Senate, could easily usher in a dark new era with decades of corrupt, welfare-state, bureaucratic leftist rule.

This nightmare of Medved’s is purely of his own twisted imagination. A liberal agenda might indeed be enacted, but will it force America into “a dark new era”? The answer is no. I don’t even think Medved believes this. Conservative pundits use fear mongering as a tool to whip the masses into an angry froth. And what’s more effective than screaming “liberal”, “socialist”, “terrorist”, and “anti-American”. Medved isn’t a commentator, he’s a professional propagandist. If Obama does damage America, it will endure. American is not as fragile as the wacko conservatives would like you to think. If Obama scrares you, it’s because you’re too impressionable.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture Warfare, Politics

The Universe, Religion, and Radio Signals

If you haven’t heard Paul Harvey or Paul Harvey Jr. on the radio, then I envy you your ignorant bliss, for they both sound like a drunken Jimmy Stewart from the movie Harvey. The father and son “newsmen” do a short, cornball show covering the gamut, from world politics to folksy stories of small town America. The Harvey’s “reporting” style is reminiscent of old-time radio; imagine a man wearing a fedora, with one hand clasped over an ear, speaking into a enormous, chrome plated microphone. During their syndicated broadcast they shift seamlessly from important news stories to sales pitches for delicious buttery spreads to tales of conservative family values. I think Dude Lebowski might say the Harvey’s are out of their element, by about five decades.

Well, Thursday morning I woke up to Paul Harvey Jr. talking complete gobbledygook about the latest astrophysics and why it reestablishes the earth as unique in the universe. Have a listen, at least to the first 3 minutes.

Science texts for four centuries have insisted that the earth is nothing special in the universe“. No. Copernicus’ heliocentric model was just a technical detail about earth’s position in the solar system. It didn’t say anything about its status or importance in the universe. Although, based on a lack of distinguishing features, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that our solar system isn’t particularly special. After all, there are billions of galaxies each with billions of stars, as Carl Sagan might point out. But that’s not going to stop a theist from grasping at straws.

Inexplicable phenomenon“, “Dark energy“, “Dark matter“, “Dark flow“, and “Confounded. Leave it to a gullible fool like Harvey Jr. to invoke the god-of-the- gaps argument; if scientists don’t understand something then it must be supernatural. i.e. I don’t know how David Copperfield did an illusion, therefore it’s must be real magic.

Those dark forces… the infinitely vast reality that exists beyond it [the universe]“. Harvey Jr. thinks dark energy and dark matter exist beyond the universe. I didn’t know science could see that far.

Accepted without question“. Scientists interrogate each other into submission because science is a method of investigation, which cannot be done without asking questions. Religious faith is loyalty to an idea regardless of the evidence. Don’t theists typically balk at Q&A sessions?

The earth alone exists in a cosmic bubble“. Give a layman a little physics and he’ll twist and turn it into an Easter pretzel. It’s Harvey Jr. who exists in a intellectual bubble.

My advice is not to get your science news from giant invisible white rabbits named Harvey or credulous radio personalities.

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion, Science