Hugh Miller was a Scottish stonemason and popularizer of geology who wrote a number of excellent books in the 1800′s that argued against scriptural geologists and sought a truce between science and religion. You can read a little more about him here. There is a modern Hugh Miller who apparently is a “research chemist” (BS in chemistry) in Colombus OH who believes that “[l]ong before Answers in Genesis’s museum and its director Ken Ham were born major museums were aware that dinosaurs and man coexisted“. He’s a Catholic young earther who has produced a paper that used radiocarbon dating on dinosaur remains:
RECENT C-14 DATING OF FOSSILS INCLUDING DINOSAUR BONE COLLAGEN. Are the results a confirmation of rapid formation of the geologic column as modern sedimentology studies have predicted?
The discovery of collagen in a Tyrannosaurus-rex dinosaur femur bone was recently reported in the journal Science. Its geologic location was the Hell Creek Formation in the State of Montana, United States of America. When it was learned in 2005 that Triceratops and Hadrosaur femur bones in excellent condition were discovered by the Glendive (MT) Dinosaur & Fossil Museum, Hugh Miller asked and received permission to saw them in half and collect samples for C-14 testing of any bone collagen that might be extracted. Indeed both bones contained collagen and conventional dates of 30,890 ± 380 radiocarbon years (RC) for the Triceratops and 23,170 ±170 RC years for the Hadrosaur were obtained using the Accelerated Mass Spectrometer (AMS). Total organic carbon and/or dinosaur bone bio-apatite was then extracted and pretreated to remove potential contaminants and concordant radiocarbon dates were obtained, all of which were similar to radiocarbon dates for megafauna.
Miller’s work is to appear in “the proceedings of an international conference on evolution” featuring Catholic scientists from Germany, Italy, US, Poland and France. Other papers in the volume titeld “Evolutionary Theory: A Critical Analysis” include:
- The second law of thermodynamics excludes evolution
- Experiments in stratification do not support evolution
- Is radiometric dating reliable?
- The concept of evolution in biology
- Race formation and mutations do not constitute steps in evolution
- Critical reflections of evolutionism as a scientific or pseudo-scientifc theory and as an atheist ideology
- Philosophic-theological prerequisits of the evolution theory
- The Negative Impact of the evolutionary hypothesis on scientific research.
There’s a summary of the meeting here but suffice it to say that it includes such folks as Guy Berthault and Maciej Giertych.
The real fun is that Behe is talking at another meeting with Miller and other YEC Catholics. I wonder if he will take the time to publicly set the YECs straight? Probably not.
Update (10/14): John Pieret has more details on Miller.
Jonathan Wells claims:
Illustra Media interviewed [Simon] Conway Morris and [James] Valentine for this project in October and November of 2006—less than three years ago. Both Morris and Valentine knew they were being interviewed by Illustra Media, which was well known for having previously produced two pro-intelligent design films, Unlocking the Mystery of Life and The Privileged Planet. They were not deceived in any way.
Jim Valentine says:
I wish to clarify my role in the new film Darwin’s Dilemma. When I was interviewed about a decade ago for the material used in this movie, I was unaware that this interview might appear in a film promoting intelligent design. My appearance should not be misconstrued as support for any creationist agenda.
Now who are you going to believe?
Valentine did an interview in 1993 regarding the origin of phyla for a DVD sold by ARN. I wonder whether that footage is the same one being re-used for Darwin’s Dilemma, the latest Illustra Media piece. (Strangely, the YouTube sample of the older Valentine interview is no longer available.)
Valentine goes on to state:
I disagree with the view that the best explanation for the Cambrian record is the action of an “intelligent designer” instantaneously creating phyla. Had the filmmakers bothered to read my book On the Origin of Phyla, they would have understood that I do not support a creationist interpretation of the Cambrian explosion or the fossil record. Scientific findings in many fields, including my own (paleobiology) as well as geology, geophysics, geochemistry, developmental biology, and systematics, have led to a synthesis of the events surrounding the Cambrian explosion that is in full accord with well-established evolutionary principles.
Yet another case of an expert being misused by denialists.
Jonathan Wells thinks that “duplicating a gene doesn’t increase information content any more than photocopying a paper increases its information content.” Wells is, of course, wrong. Is anyone surprised?
Update: And while on the topic of Wells … he’s apparently telling folks he is a Presbyterian. Father would not be happy.
John Pieret has a nice piece up on the latest DI missive. In it he points out further egregious use of Darwin’s own words in Origins. Witness the DI’s quotation:
Few scientists understood the importance of critical thinking better than Charles Darwin. When he first proposed his theory of evolution in Origin of Species in 1859, Darwin faced intense intellectual opposition from both the scientific community and the culture of his day. To help restore objectivity to the debate over evolution, Darwin wisely counseled, “A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.” [Emphasis in DI original]
And now look at the original:
This Abstract [Origin], which I now publish, must necessarily be imperfect. I cannot here give references and authorities for my several statements; and I must trust to the reader reposing some confidence in my accuracy. No doubt errors will have crept in, though I hope I have always been cautious in trusting to good authorities alone. I can here give only the general conclusions at which I have arrived, with a few facts in illustration, but which, I hope, in most cases will suffice. No one can feel more sensible than I do of the necessity of hereafter publishing in detail all the facts, with references, on which my conclusions have been grounded; and I hope in a future work to do this. For I am well aware that scarcely a single point is discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be adduced, often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which I have arrived. A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question; and this cannot possibly be here done.
As John points out, Darwin is not claiming that all sides are equal – and should thus be given equal time – in the debate regarding evolution. Instead he is noting that he had been unable to include all his relevant “facts and arguments” (because of the rushed nature of Origin) and that a “fair result” (i.e. acceptance of his theory) can only result when all the evidence is examined. The DI intentionally omit both the context of the quote and the complete sentence because, let’s face it, it would make their argument untenable.
Over at Quintessence of Dust, Steve’s got a nice post (and the first of a series) on the “absurdity of the ID fixation on the Weasel program” in which he contextualizes what Dawkins was trying to achieve with an illustration that he himself described as “misleading in important ways.”
- Close comments on post complaining about censorship
- Play Stalin card
Jeff Shallit has more.
My talk yesterday to the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix went well (I think). Apparently the crowd, nearly 120, was the largest they have even had. It was my fourth talk to HSGP (apparently also a record) – no doubt, I will be back in the future. The slides are available here.
It seems I will have to change my LOL Dembski. Teh mathz haz appeared – their relevance to evolutionary biology, however, remains zero. Dembski’s latest (and much bally-hooed) attempt at being taken seriously has finally appeared in print: a joint paper with engineering professor Robert Marks titled “Conservation of Information in Search: Measuring the Cost of Success.” You may remember that Dembski was unwilling to say where the paper was to appear lest the Evil Atheist Conspiracytm cause the paper to be pulled. In wonderful news for for the ID movement, it has appeared in that noted journal of evolutionary biology, IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man & Cybernetics. You will be familiar with the journal because it is where most to the breakthroughs in 20th century biology were published.
The paper is available here and the lovefest over at Uncommon Descent has already gone sour with the master himself closing comments (a mere nine comments – and just over an hour – in) after he was called on errors and misrepresentations. Sayeth Bill, “I’m growing weary of these quibblings and thus shutting the comments off.” This is somewhat ironic for a professor who sends his students onto the internet to drive-by comment on sites that oppose ID. For Dembski, valid criticisms are mere “quibbles” and Darwin’s work on barnacles mere “puttering”. It must be tough being such a great (and unrecognized) philosopher, theologian, mathematician, and historian. He truly is the Isaac Newton of our times. But I’m willing to predict that this paper will do nothing to disprove or problematize the abundant evidence for natural selection and its efficacy.
That aside, other critiques have begun to appear:
I will add more as I find them.
At least 10 posts defending aspects of the Christian worldview totaling at least 3,000 words on “hostile” websites
For another course (AP 410), students have to
provide at least 10 posts defending ID that you’ve made on “hostile” websites, the posts totalling 2,000 words, along with the URLs (i.e., web links) to each post (worth 20% of your grade).
Now what’s problematic here isn’t that Dembski is encouraging students to post on “hostile” sites, it is that the assignment doesn’t force the students to engage with their critics in any way. Instead, all the student has to do is cut and paste some text, save the url, and pass it on to Dembski. Money in the bank.
Those of us who use discussion forums and webboards in our teaching know that if any value is to be gained from the exercise students must engage with each other and respond to claims while defending their own through a series of engagements. It is such long-term engagement that is profitable not “drive-by posting”.
In short, my objection is not that Dembski’s students are posting on “hostile” sites, it’s that he is not doing anything pedagogically useful by encouraging them to do so. Dembski appears to be as good a teacher as he is a mathematician or theologian.
Update (8/11): Joel Borofsky, Dembski’s former TA, tries to defend his master but completely ignores the sort of argument I’m making and instead wikers on about what he sees as argumentative fallacies. Come on Joel, defend Dembski’s pedagogy …
So looks like pili and flagella can appear without a designer’s action. No doubt the ID brigade will either argue that the change doesn’t represent an increase in information or that it represents front-loading by the Designer That Shall Not Be Named.
[Geobacter] sulfurreducens bacteria were cultured on a graphite electrode under a 400 mV applied bias. The goal was to force the bacteria to adapt to conditions inside the MFC [microbial fuel cell] with the hope that they would evolve greater functionality in the process. Several colonies were isolated after five months in the MFC environment and re-cultured under normal conditions. When placed in an MFC cell, the specially cultured bacteria grew much more rapidly—current saturated after 50 hours as opposed to 400 hours—and they provided twice the current density of normally cultured bacteria.
Analysis of the enhanced bacteria showed that there were two primary adaptions. First, pili, fine, thread-like structures that connect neighboring cells, dramatically increased in the new bacteria. These structures are thought to be responsible for electronic conduction in bacterial films. Also, unlike their precursors, the enhanced bacteria all had flagella that allowed both motility and enhanced attachment to anode surfaces. It is unclear which adaptation is primarily responsible for the enhanced performance.
From here with a hat-tip to RBH.
Reference: Biosensors and Bioelectronics DOI:10.1016/j.bios.2009.05.004
Image: G. sulfurreducens biofilm (source)
The Biologic Institute’s march to scientific greatness continues with the addition of three anti-evolutionists (and by all indications, Young Earth Creationists) to their staff:
- Matti Leisola (Dean of Chemistry and Materials Science, Helsinki University of Technology)
- Colin Reeves (Emeritus Professor of Operational Research, School of Mathematical and Information Sciences, Coventry University)
- Stuart Burgess (Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Bristol)
A little light on the Bio part of the Biologic, aren’t they? It’s well know that Leisola and Burgess are creationists of the YEC variety, but I had not encountered Reeves before except as a signatory of the “Dissent from Darwin” list and someone who has said:
Darwinism was an interesting idea in the 19th century, when handwaving explanations gave a plausible, if not properly scientific, framework into which we could fit biological facts. However, what we have learned since the days of Darwin throws doubt on natural selection’s ability to create complex biological systems – and we still have little more than handwaving as an argument in its favour.
A little poking around revealed more about the Emeritus Professor. Reeves has reviewed for the Biblical Creation Society, a British YEC organization, making it highly likely that he’s a YEC. Further evidence is provided by the fact that both Burgess and Reeves have lectured for the “Genesis Agendum” which is a British charity (!) organization dedicated to “demonstrating the accuracy of the Bible through historical and scientific scholarship”. In other words, the latest additions to the BI’s pool of scientific talent are, by all indications, believers in a literal reading of Genesis. It is this hilarious that the DI’s Rob Crowther breathlessly announces their addition:
The anti-ID crowd has an old canard about there being no serious scientists who doubt Darwin, let alone any that support intelligent design. And they like to say that there is no science being done by ID scientists. Both ideas are not just false, but absurdly so. Note this announcement of new scientific arrivals at Biologic Institute …
Serious YEC scientists and biblical literalists.
My last mention of the BI is here and details its lack of relevant research publications in 2008. Despite Doug Axe’s prediction of “bold biology in 2009,” the BI appears to have generated nothing new. My prediction is that the addition of these three amigos isn’t likely to change anything much.
Update: Glenn Branch has made me aware that John Pieret has posted on this very topic probably more-or-less simultaneously with me, though he went with a Three Stooges motif. John notes that Reeves is a trustee of Biblical Creation Ministries. From the BCM site:
All basic types of living things, including human beings, were made by direct creative acts of God. The biological changes that have occurred since Creation have taken place only within the original created basic types…
The Creation was accomplished in six consecutive natural days, each consisting of an evening and a morning. The days of Creation do not correspond to long geological ages…
The Flood of Noah has significant implications for the study of earth history. Geology must always therefore be studied with reference to the Flood.
The Gap Theory, which seeks to explain the fossil record by inserting geological ages between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, has no basis in Holy Scripture.
There can be, I think, little doubt that Reeves is a YEC.
“Gage” over at Uncommon Descent (who I’m guessing is Logan Gage, the DI’s mouthpiece in DC) coughs this up:
Virtually no scientist takes “intelligent design” seriously? There appear to be more than a few in the chemistry/chemical engineering community that do.
This is as ridiculous at the DI’s list of dissenters from “Darwinism”. As I’ve said before, the plain fact is that these individuals – being chemists, engineers and suchlike – have no obvious expertise in evolutionary biology. What they do have, however, is an opinion. As the adage goes, everyone has an opinion.
If I wrote a letter (as a biologist) “questioning major aspects” of quantum theory and “encouraging open discussion of unsupported aspects”, should the community of chemists and/or engineers take me seriously? Of course not! I have little training in chemistry (beyond two years in college – which is more than the vast majority of chemists and chemical engineers have in biology) and what I have to say on the issue is meaningless. Being a scientist does not mean you can intelligently comment on scientific fields outside your own. Sheer humility tells us so. Yet still we here this dumb argument from arrogant ID proponents.
I’ve previously mentioned Michael Flannery and his edition of A.R. Wallace’s World of Life titled Alfred Russel Wallace’s Theory of Intelligent Evolution: How Wallace’s World of Life Challenged Darwin which recently appeared under the imprint of Dembski’s vanity press (see here, here and here). The work consists of a four page foreword by Dembski, a 55 page introduction by Flannery, and a 151 page extract of Wallace’s original work (omitting most of the work, by the way). This, Flannery claims, “will allow for a full and thorough presentation of what in Wallace’s day was called Wallaceism and is referred here as intelligent evolution” (p. 59). (As an aside, the term “Wallaceism” was coined by the novelist Samuel Butler in 1890 but was one rejected by Wallace himself.)
Wallace has long interested me precisely because of his acceptance of the efficacy of natural selection to a degree that outstripped Darwin’s own claims. Yet Wallace felt that selection could not explain the human mind. In that he was very similar to St George Jackson Mivart (the Victorian anatomist whom I have been working on for a while now) whose treatment by the Darwinian inner-circle could not have been more different from how Wallace was treated. Flannery sees Wallace as championing a “unique theistic evolutionary theory” (p. 59). If I was to classify Mivart it would be as a theistic evolutionist whose position is very similar to that maintained by the Catholic church today.
It is doubtful whether I will have enough free time this summer to compare Flannery’s edits with Wallace’s original. What I do, however, want to do is comment both on Dembski’s foreword and Flannery’s introduction. This post will concentrate on Dembski while a subsequent one will deal with Flannery.
Dembski’s piece doesn’t start off well. In fact, it starts with the sort of error that would result in a student hovering in fail territory. As any competent student of Darwin knows, he worked on barnacles for eight years in the 1840′s and 50′s.. He resumed his investigations into natural selection in 1854 and began work on his “big book” (titled Natural Selection) two years later. That work was approximately half-way completed by mid-June 1858 when Darwin received the famous manuscript from Wallace. Dembski shows his ignorance of basic history by claiming:
In fact, it was Darwin’s receipt of Wallace’s so-called “Ternate paper” in 1858, outlining this theory, that prompted him to stop puttering with barnacles and rush his Origin of Species into print the next year.
Dembski, it seems, is as good a historian as he is a mathematician and philosopher. Darwin’s work on barnacles was published in 1851 & 1854. He hadn’t “puttered” with them in over four years. Indeed, Michael Ghiselin has noted that Darwin’s “puttering” with barnacles resulted in four volumes that are still useful to modern systematists and taxonomists. Would that Dembski’s “puttering” in philosophy and math were so productive, or even that he could win a medal from the Royal Society for his work.
Somewhat ironically, Dembski goes on to note that
the history of science is filled with good ideas that were first applied indiscriminately but then later had been applied with discernment to a narrower range of phenomena
Indeed, And one of those ideas is design.
Dembski makes much of the contrast between Wallace’s selectionism (which was even more wide-ranging than Darwin’s) and what he terms “Darwin’s inflated view” omitting to mention that the difference was largely to do with Wallace – for spiritualist reasons – not believing that the human mind could be a product of natural selection.
Dembski accuses Darwin of “calculated duplicity”. He claims,
Darwinism never was science but rather was (and is) an attempt to validate and buttress philosophical naturalism with a series of naturalistic speculations drawn from Darwin’s five-year voyage on the Beagle.
This, by the way, mirrors the argument in Wiker’s latest diatribe, The Darwin Myth. If nothing else, ID proponents sure stay on message, albeit an inaccurate one.
Dembski claims that Wallace would “nowadays be regarded as a proponent of intelligent design”. This raises two issues. Firstly, Flannery sees Wallace as a theistic evolutionist. Given the traditional antipathy of ID proponents to theistic evolutionists (see here for example), Flannery & Dembski cannot have it both ways. Is Dembski willing to admit that theistic evolutionists are actually on the side of the angels? Secondly, and in many ways more importantly, who cares? Of what possible relevance to modern ID is it if Wallace held some teleological views regarding the human mind. It’s about as relevant as Darwin’s theory of gemmules to modern genetics.
For the second year in a row, the Discovery Institute marks the 4th of July with nonsensical claims from John West regarding Thomas Jefferson and ID. The Sensuous Curmudgeon has it covered here and here. Jefferson, you may remember, also came up in the DI’s revisionist history of ID. See here for that.
Update: John Pieret has also riffed on this.