Category Archives: Intelligent Design

Casey Does the Micro-Macro Mambo

We once described the Discovery Institute as the Vesuvius of Vomit. In retrospect, we think we were being too gentle. You’ll soon see what we mean.

There’s been a lot of press coverage in recent days about something PhysOrg reported recently: Florida lizards evolve rapidly, within 15 years and 20 generations. A few brief excerpts will bring you up to date:

Scientists working on islands in Florida have documented the rapid evolution of a native lizard species — in as little as 15 years — as a result of pressure from an invading lizard species, introduced from Cuba. After contact with the invasive species, the native lizards began perching higher in trees, and, generation after generation, their feet evolved to become better at gripping the thinner, smoother branches found higher up. The change occurred at an astonishing pace: Within a few months, native lizards had begun shifting to higher perches, and over the course of 15 years and 20 generations, their toe pads had become larger, with more sticky scales on their feet.

[...]

This latest study is one of only a few well-documented examples of what evolutionary biologists call “character displacement,” in which similar species competing with each other evolve differences to take advantage of different ecological niches. A classic example comes from the finches studied by Charles Darwin. Two species of finch in the Galápagos Islands diverged in beak shape as they adapted to different food sources.

You’re wondering: What can a creationist do with that? Look what we found at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog: Since When Is This News? Rapid Microevolution in Lizard Feet Reveals Little About the Origin of Species. As with the article we discussed in our “Vesuvius” post, this one is by Casey Luskin, our favorite creationist. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis.

In his introduction, Casey says that the evidence often cited by scientists amounts “only to micro- not macroevolution.” That ancient creationist clunker is the first item we discussed four years ago in Common Creationist Claims Confuted. Then Casey directs his powerful intellect to an analysis of the lizards in Florida:

Now, a new paper in Science, “Rapid evolution of a native species following invasion by a congener,” reports more small-scale changes in Anolis lizards as if they show something significant about the power of natural selection.

This is the paper he’s talking about: Rapid evolution of a native species following invasion by a congener. It’s the same research that PhysOrg wrote about. Let’s see what Casey makes of it:

[T]hese scientists found that when a new species of lizards invaded another’s territory (in fact the new species was placed there intentionally by the researchers, meaning they weren’t quite studying “natural” selection), the old one sought higher ground. That seems like a smart thing to do. To go along with the new territory, they subsequently evolved larger toepads [link to a picture].

Oooooooh! It wasn’t “natural” selection because the invasive species was placed there intentionally! How could those idiot scientists overlook such a vital point? It’s a good thing we have Casey to make everything clear. He continues:

What have we shown? Not much. We’ve seen that the size of lizard feet can change in response to invaders’ driving a species to perch at higher levels in the trees. No new traits arose. Only the size of a pre-existing trait changed.

It was nothing. Nothing at all! Here’s more:

Again, that’s interesting but such changes in the size of lizard feet do very little to explain the origin of lizards in the first place, even if these changes happen in just a few generations.

Yeah, where’s the first lizard, the one that only the intelligent designer — blessed be he! — could have created? Caution: Casey’s final paragraph contains a quote in which there are a few ellipses. They were placed there by Casey:

If we take seriously the statement from the authors that the modest results from this study can help test “evolutionary hypotheses about phenomena … on time scales too long for direct observation,” then that implies that over long periods you might be able to change the size of an organism or some of its body parts. Since when is that news?

So there you are. It’s only micro-evolution! Nothing to see here, folks. Move along now.

Oh, wait — when we began this post we said that our earlier description of the Discovery Institute as the “Vesuvius of Vomit” was too gentle. So how shall we describe them? Here we may offend a few of our more sensitive readers. If you are one of those delicate souls, we suggest that you stop reading now. Okay, you’ve been warned. Assuming that only the heartiest of you remain, this is your humble Curmudgeon’s revised opinion:

Imagine that you are hiking in a parched, sun-baked desert and you come across the remains of a vulture which has been decomposing in the sun for several days, having died of food poisoning after gorging on contaminated carrion. Then imagine that the vulture’s bloated intestines suddenly erupt, bursting through its carcass, releasing a fountain of putrefied material that had been its fatal meal. That foul fountain is the output of the Discoveroids.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Creationist Wisdom #488: It’s Irrefutable

Today’s letter-to-the-editor comes to us from Northern Ireland. It appears in the News Letter, located in Belfast, the oldest English-language newspaper in the world still in publication. The letter is titled God’s power and goodness. There is a comments section at the end.

Because today’s writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t use his full name. But we can’t use his first name because all he uses is an initial, which is J, so we don’t know what to call him (or her). Excerpts from J’s letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

Richard Dawkins believes, like many misguided people before him, that God does not exist. He uses the same old pitiful, limited arguments refusing to accept that evolution as an explanation for the ascent of man is a discredited, outdated theory with no valid scientific basis.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Richard Dawkins it too dumb to know that his theory is discredited, outdated, and has no valid scientific basis. Skipping some bible stuff, the letter-writer says:

[T]wo thousand years ago we were offered a supernatural explanation which is beyond the capacity of modern scientific knowledge to refute. God is outside nature – outside time and space. He is supernatural.

Yes, the supernatural explanation is irrefutable. Let’s read on:

Man can only imagine things which are within his own natural experience and yet many people have a concept of God built into their mind and an emptiness in their soul that only He can fill. He has written His laws in our hearts and given us the instinct that we ought to do right.

None can deny it. The letter continues:

There is good and evil; day and night; love and hate; light and darkness; wrong and right; order and chaos. We cannot understand one without knowing the other. If all the world was chaotic, how would we know if a sense of order was not built into our hearts and minds? That sense of order speaks of a created universe and intelligent supernatural design.

Wow — this is non-stop Oogity Boogity! Here’s more:

Science deals only with the physical universe. The Bible offers explanations of the supernatural.

Yes, the bible very clearly explains the supernatural. Moving along:

It amazes me that there are educated professors who can observe the wonder of the created world and imagine that it came about by a series of unconnected accidental processes over billions of years.

Verily, they’re all fools! Another excerpt:

The natural world speaks to us of God’s power and goodness. There is no other valid explanation for our presence on Earth.

This is a very persuasive letter! And now we come to the end:

He created us just as He created the universe. Our purpose in life is to love Him as He loves us and to seek to do His will.

This letter is one of the best justifications for creationism we’ve ever seen. A great addition to our collection.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Creationist Revival at Michigan State University

You’re all familiar with the endless round of creationist revival meetings the Discovery Institute conducts around the country. Such events are usually at churches and bible colleges, where the Discoveroids’ message is welcome, but whenever possible, they love to rent publicly available facilities at universities and science museums for their events. The prestige of such locations is desirable, and the Discoveroids never hesitate to take advantage of it when they can, by referring to those events as “The X University Conference.”

Such institutions are usually careful to prevent the misuse of their names and reputations, and place restrictions against misleading publicity in their rental agreements. The Discoveroids have challenged that, claiming it to be “viewpoint discrimination,” or VD. You may recall the Discoveroids’ epic litigation against the California Science Center — see “Darwin’s Dilemma” Case: Who Really Won?

Now another creationist outfit is using the same tactic. At the website of Science, maintained by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, we read Creationism conference at large U.S. research university stirs unease. There’s a comments section at the end. Here are some excerpts from the article, with bold font added by us:

A creationist conference set for a major research campus — Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing — is creating unease among some of the school’s students and faculty, which includes several prominent evolutionary biologists. The 1 November event, called the Origins Summit, is sponsored by Creation Summit, an Oklahoma-based nonprofit Christian group that believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible and was founded to “challenge evolution and all such theories predicated on chance.”

Yet another creationist group! Here’s their website: Creation Summit. They appear to be very hard-core. This is their Statement of Faith (a sure sign that they’re anything but a science outfit), and this is their distinguished board of directors — hey, Rev. David Rives is among them.

The Science article tells us what’s happening at the MSU revival meeting:

The one-day conference will include eight workshops, according the event’s website, including discussion of how evolutionary theory influenced Adolf Hitler’s worldview, why “the Big Bang is fake,” and why “natural selection is NOT evolution.” Another talk targets the work of MSU biologist Richard Lenski, who has conducted an influential, decades-long study of evolution in bacterial populations.

They’re going to “target” Richard Lenski? BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Let’s read on:

News of the event caught MSU’s scientific community largely by surprise. Creation Summit secured a room at the university’s business school through a student religious group, but the student group did not learn about the details of the program — or the sometimes provocative talk titles — until later, says MSU zoologist Fred Dyer. … Creation Summit sought to hold the event at MSU because “four of our Board members live there in Michigan,” wrote Mike Smith, the group’s executive director, in an email to Science Insider. “We hope to have conferences on campuses throughout the country, but ya gotta start somewhere.”

Yeah, ya gotta start somewhere. How lucky for MSU. The article continues:

Creation Summit is “not overtly evangelistic,” Lee wrote. But “we hope to pave the way for evangelism (for the other campus ministries) by presenting the scientific evidence for intelligent design. Once students realize they’re created beings, and not the product of natural selection, they’re much more open to the Gospel, to the message of God’s love & forgiveness.”

Here’s the MSU reaction:

Some leaders of MSU’s evolutionary biology community are urging their colleagues to simply ignore the event, predicting that any engagement and debate will be fruitless. “In my opinion, this event will be just another forgettable blip in the long history of anti-science, anti-evolution screeds,” says Lenski. “I suppose the speakers chose to target our research… because their event is being held here, and maybe because they find it confusing to their world view that evolution isn’t supposed to happen.” (Creation Summit invited both Lenski and Pennock [a witness for the winning side in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District] to participate in a debate at the event, “but, as of yet, there has been no reply,” according to Lee.)

[...]

University officials say they have no plans to interfere with the event. “Free speech is at the heart of academic freedom and is something we take very seriously,” said Kent Cassella, MSU’s associate vice president for communications, in a statement.

There’s more in the article, but we’ve excerpted enough. We conclude, as we always do in our posts about such events, by advising you that if you’re in the mood for some of that ol’ fashioned, down-home, foot-stompin’, hand-clappin’, psalm-singin’, floor-rollin’, rafter-shakin’, old-time creationism, now you know where to find it.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Creationist Wisdom #487: Evidence of God

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Asbury Park Press of Asbury Park, New Jersey. It’s titled There is empirical evidence for God, and there is no comments section at the end.

We don’t use the full names of letter-writers unless they’re politicians, preachers, or other public figures. We’ve got a preacher this time. He’s identified at the end of the letter as The Rev. Dr. Richard L. Shaw, and this is the website of his church: Calvary Chapel of Monmouth County. Excerpts from the rev’s letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

The Oct. 19 article in the @issue section of the Press, “Separation of church and fate,” by the public relations director for American Atheists Inc. is a paradigm of special pleading. In flaunting the use of evidence versus Christianity, his examples ignore the heavy weight of empirical evidence for the existence of a supernatural architect called God.

We can’t locate the article the good rev is complaining about, but we’re familiar enough with what it probably says — that it’s difficult, indeed it’s impossible, to provide proof — or even evidence — for things which are said to be miraculous and supernatural. As for the rev’s accusation of “special pleading,” that’s usually said of various theological claims, such as the familiar one that the First Cause (usually Yahweh) is a unique exception to the rule that everything needs a cause. We’ve never seen a charge of special pleading hurled at the other side, so this should be an interesting letter. The rev says:

His quote from the acerbic writings of Sam Harris regarding the Christian who demands proof for a cheating wife but not for the Bible effectively turns the tables on the atheist claim. It is the atheist who is arbitrary and dismissive of the evidence.

Huh? Our usual experience is that it’s the creationist who who dismisses evidence. But the rev is claiming here that the atheist is dismissive of the evidence. Well then, we assume that the rev is going to give us some evidence, as the title of his letter promises. We very much want to see it, so let’s read on:

To use the evidence of one who believes without evidence is special pleading and does not address the substance of the Christian claims of evidence or the many millions of Christians who have come to believe after careful weighing of the evidence.

Okay. We’re eagerly waiting for the rev to tell us about the substance of the claims of all those millions who believe after carefully weighing the evidence. He continues:

Lee Strobel is a brilliant contemporary Christian who as a journalist and atheist interviewed many, Sam Harris among them, on both sides. After much careful consideration of all the evidence, Strobel became a Christian.

What? We’ve all seen Lee Strobel praised and cited at various creationist websites. Wikipedia says that his book, The Case for a Creator (Amazon listing), “consists of interviews with intelligent design advocates and Christian apologists who argue for the existence of a creator.” In your Curmudgeon’s humble opinion, interviews with contemporary believers (whether they believe in deities, UFO abductions and probes, or an afterlife) isn’t what we would consider evidence of anything — other than the existence of believers. Here’s more:

Frank Morison started writing a book in rebuttal of the resurrection of Christ. After examining the evidence, he became so convinced that Jesus indeed rose from the dead that he became a Christian and wrote, “Who moved the stone?”

Here’s the Amazon listing for that book: Who Moved the Stone? It’s about the Resurrection, and it has a forward by Lee Strobel. We haven’t read it, but we doubt that it presents verifiable evidence for the 2,000 year-old events it discusses.

And now we come to the end of the rev’s letter:

Science, reason and empirical evidence, so far from opposing Christianity, bear witness to their common Author.

Well! So let us review the rev’s evidence, which consists of several levels of data: (1) Strobel read the bible, talked to a bunch creationists — including Discoveroids — and became a believer. (2) Strobel then wrote a book about his beliefs. (3) Morison read the bible, thought about it, and became a believer. (4) Morison then wrote a book about his beliefs. (5) The rev read their books — or at least knows of their existence. (6) The rev considers those books to be evidence of the things their authors believe. (7) The rev wrote a letter claiming that the foregoing is evidence for the existence of God.

What do we conclude from this? Your Curmudgeon expresses no opinion about God’s existence, but he firmly believes that the rev doesn’t have a clue what the word “evidence” means.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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