Tag Archives: William Dembski

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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

Top 15 Visitor Complaints Received By The Kentucky Creation Museum

Creation Museum

Creation Museum

15. Intelligent Design video game didn’t count toward college credit as promised

14. Line for Richard Dawkins piñata too long

13. Kirk Cameron wouldn’t stop hugging me, even after my wife complained

12. Social-Darwinism lecture hit too close to home

11. Animatronic Einstein sounded identical to animatronic Fred Flintstone. Or was it the other way round?

10. Snack bar ran out of the Ken Ham & Cheese Sub. Had to order the Duane Gish Knish. It was stale.

9. Ray Comfort’s banana demonstration was inappropriate for children

8. Gift shop charged extra for framing creation science degree. Signed, Chuck Norris, PhD.

7. Price of admission didn’t include ride on “Skippy: The Friendly Dinosaur”

6. Sciency DNA exhibit made my brain hurt

5. Sciency Noah’s Ark exhibit made my brain hurt

4. Kent Hovind was seen standing between Adam & Eve statues

3. My child didn’t receive free “God Hates Evilutionists” t-shirt

2. Charles Darwin look-alike complained when I hit him

1. Jesus-shaped bathroom soap gave me a Jesus-shaped rash





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John McCain, The Creationism Enabler

Remember the Alamo… I mean the 2007 Republican Debate.

McCain states in the video that he believes in evolution, but then adds that the “hand of god” can be seen in the Grand Canyon at sunset. In essence he gives a non-answer; he sits his ass on the fence. It’s almost as if he had rehearsed his response, but for a moment forgot the second half of the answer, the part that appeases the creationists. (Line, line. Where’s the director? Where’s my bottled water? The teleprompter isn’t working and neither is my ear-piece. Someone get me a moist towelette. I’m John McCain, a freaking war hero.)

I’m convinced that McCain actually does “believe” in evolution. But I also think he desperately wants to be president, and will say anything, or do almost anything, to attain and keep that position. If he has to be indirectly responsible for damaging science education, so be it. If he does win the election, he’ll most likely fuel a new creationist fire, for the very reason that he needs the approval of the Christian-right. He’ll be their enabler. Earlier this year, he courted the Intelligent Design vote. And Intelligent Design is just creationism with an easier-to-swallow coating. (But it’s still a hard pill to swallow.)

Don’t forget the 2007 Republican Debate… or the Alamo.

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Filed under Culture Warfare, Intelligent Design, Politics

The Discovery Institute’s Hoopla Machine

Casey Luskin insists the Discovery Institute is a secular think tank. And he says it with a straight face.

What is it about the spreading of pseudo-science that makes reasonable people cringe and gag? One characteristic is surely the introduction of religious / political thinking into discussions of fact. The natural world simply is. If it upsets our human sensibilities, too freaking bad for us. When a bull shark bites a potential food item (a human leg, perhaps), it is being neither good nor evil; it’s simply hungry and inquisitive. It’s nothing personal. Thus, describing the natural world is best accomplished through observations of what is, not through contemplation of how things should be. Blaming Darwinism for the Holocaust, communism, capitalism, rock ‘n roll music, abortion, racism, moral relativism, and the general decay of Western society is irrelevant to the scientific question of whether or not evolution by natural selection is a valid explanation for observed evolutionary change on planet Earth. What is and what ought to be are two distinct questions.

But throw a rock at the Discovery Institute and you’re more likely to hit a lobbyist or a lawyer than an actual scientist. For example, Casey Luskin, an attorney with the DI, blogs to his fellow intelligent designers about the “it’s just a theory” argument.

Darwinists love to bash Darwin-skeptics who call evolution “just a theory, not a fact.” The truth is that I rarely, if ever, hear people who are closely involved with the ID movement using this line to oppose evolution. The “evolution is just a theory, not a fact” phrase tends to come from the vox populi—intelligent people who studied this issue in their biology class or perhaps have read books like Darwin’s Black Box, Icons of Evolution, or Darwin on Trial, but otherwise don’t follow the issue very closely.

But most creationists do use the argument, endlessly. They also use the “intelligent designer” and “irreducible complexity” arguments. The fact is that intelligent design creationists are a small minority. Polls indicate that most American creationists are of the Old Earth variety. And I think the Discovery Institute knows this full well. Isn’t it really all about talking points, ones the DI can easily disseminate, and ones the general public can easily digest and regurgitate, regardless of the scientific facts?

Casey Luskins also lists his scientific qualifications:

Having taken over a dozen courses covering evolutionary biology at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, I’m a scientific skeptic of neo-Darwinism.

Fine, be a skeptic, Luskin. But are you as skeptical about intelligent design? Have you taken a dozen courses covering intelligent design at the undergraduate and graduate level? No, because intelligent design isn’t a science, and it can be pretty well summed up in a single 15 minute lecture. ID is a vague conclusion, not an explanation. The only thing propping it up is a propaganda machine. And all the whining in the world about “morals”, “culture”, and “academic freedom” isn’t going to polish the ID turd. The Discovery Institute calls itself the “Center for Science and Culture”. But it really should choose one or the other, “science” or “culture”, not both. Let “ought” and “is” be distinct; life works so much better when our desires don’t cloud our judgment of reality.

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Filed under Culture Warfare, Intelligent Design, Politics