Monthly Archives: April 2012

A Scientific Test for Intelligent Design

We want to help the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

From time to time the Discoveroids post lists of their evidence and tests for intelligent design, and such efforts are always laughable. See Intelligent Designer or Zeus?, and also Tests for Intelligent Design.

Part of the problem is that their “theory” is so nebulous that it’s difficult to deal with. This is our oft-repeated description of their theory:

An unknown intelligence (whether it’s a solitary creature or a vast swarm is never addressed), with utterly unknown characteristics (mortal or immortal, sexual or asexual, plant or animal, physical or spiritual), whose home base is unknown, and whose ultimate origin is a mystery (evolved, created, or eternal), arrived on earth somehow (in a flying saucer, perhaps, or maybe on a comet), at some unspecified time (or several times), and then in some unspecified way (technological or magical), for unspecified reasons (boredom, or maybe cosmic fulfillment), did something (or maybe several things) to influence the genetic characteristics of some (but maybe not all) of the creatures on earth.

But the Discoveroids’ biggest problem is that they seem to know so little about science that they just don’t know how to do it. So we’re here to help.

This is what we propose — a sure-fire way to catch the intelligent designer in the very act! There may be many ways to go about this, and perhaps you, dear reader, can improve upon our method, but here’s our suggestion. Pay attention, because this may be the beginning of a genuine scientific revolution.

First, set up some Petri dishes of bacteria — all the same. The goal is to catch the designer in the act of enhancing one of them in some irreducibly complex way.

Then, on the same table with the Petri dishes, set out a glass of milk and a plate of cookies. That should attract the designer. If it’s not sufficient, then surely he’ll be attracted by prayer, so the Discoveroids should maintain a prayer vigil outside the door of the lab, with constant chanting and incantations. The door of the lab, of course, should be locked to insure the integrity of the results.

The interior of the lab should be equipped with hidden cameras, triggered by both heat and motion detectors. But that’s not all. The lab should also be equipped with an array of ghost detectors. We found an Amazon category for such equipment, and we’re confident that there must be something there to do the job: Ghost detectors at Amazon.

That’s the setup. Milk, cookies, ghost detectors, video cameras, and Petri dishes. Plus a prayer vigil outside. Very scientific, and we guarantee that these the procedures will easily survive peer review. But it may not work the first night. We suggest patience. The experiment should be run for ninety continuous days, which should surely be enough. And then what?

Isn’t it obvious? If the bacteria evolve some irreducibly complex feature, then surely the video tapes or the ghost detectors will reveal the presence of the designer — blessed be he! — on the scene at the time of the otherwise impossible event. And then … the theory of intelligent design will at last have publishable evidence that supports it.

And so, Discoveroids, why do you hesitate? We have shown you the way. The rest is up to you. Fame and glory shall be yours. And most of all, you will at last enjoy the respect of the science community. If you fail to put your theory to the test, then you are without excuse.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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David Coppedge Trial: An Accurate News Story

While we wait for the judge’s decision in the suit filed by David Coppedge, which isn’t expected before June, we’re not surprised that there haven’t been any news stories since the trial ended a couple of weeks ago. See David Coppedge Trial: It’s Over!

As you know, Coppedge is the creationist who claims he was wrongfully demoted (and later fired) by his employer because he was promoting Intelligent Design (ID) on the job. As you recall, he used to work as a computer technician for Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is part of Caltech. He also maintains a creationist website: Creation-Evolution Headlines — which was recently moved here.

Throughout this ordeal, we’ve frequently commented on the poor quality of the news coverage we’ve seen. Typical is an AP story we recently wrote about here: David Coppedge Trial: Week Six Begins. It repeated the standard misinformation that Coppedge worked for NASA (he didn’t), that the trial was about intelligent design (it wasn’t — Coppedge’s DVDs were excluded from the trial), and that Coppedge was some kind of scientist (he wasn’t) involved in exploring Saturn and its moons (he explored nothing — his job was to maintain JPL’s computer networks).

JPL’s attorneys steadfastly remained dedicated to trying their case in court, not in the press, so all such “news” stories were apparently based either on interviews with Coppedge’s lawyers, or the media’s “information” came from press releases, blog articles, and interviews provided by creationist activists, mostly the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

Today, however, we were very much surprised to see an accurate news story about the case. It appears in the Los Angeles Times and it’s titled Computer specialist contends his views cost him his job at JPL. There’s nothing really new there — at least not to readers of our humble blog — but because it’s a fair and accurate story we consider it worth mentioning. The reporter is Ashley Powers, and we congratulate her on doing a fine job.

Instead of selecting excerpts to give you the full scope of the trial and its issues, which you already know, what we’ll do is quote some of the facts in today’s story which have been so often omitted from virtually all other coverage of this controversy. Here we go, with bold font added by us:

A computer specialist rankled some of his JPL co-workers by pressing intelligent design and other issues at work. Now a judge must decide if that is why he was laid off.

Fantastic! The lead sentence describes the true nature of the case. Let’s read some more:

That’s the question a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge presiding over Coppedge’s wrongful termination lawsuit is expected to decide in the coming months. JPL, which Caltech manages for NASA, contends Coppedge was laid off in 2011 as part of massive cutbacks because his skill set was outdated and his attitude obstinate.

We wish this reporter had been covering the trial all along. Where has she been? Let’s read on:

“What happened to David Coppedge — really what David Coppedge did to himself — had nothing to do with intelligent design or religion but with his own stubbornness,” defense attorney Cameron Fox said during closing arguments this month.

To anti-evolution forces, however, Coppedge is a warrior on the front lines of the national evolution debate. They’ve seized on his otherwise humdrum lawsuit, showering it with resources and publicity.

Do you realize, dear reader, how unusual it is to see competent reporting of this trial? In an act of journalistic fairness, however, the reporter gives the perspective from Coppedge’s lawyer:

“There is a worldview war in this country,” Becker said in an interview. “There’s a battle between people who think religious people are trying to disrupt the integrity of the scientific method and those who know we’re not.”

And then she actually gives the other side:

“The creationists keep losing,” said Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland. “They lost the science battle years ago.” He said latching onto the Coppedge case feeds a “narrative of victimization” that paints science and academia as hostile to religion.

And then she gives an objective account of her own:

For all the online buildup, the details of the Coppedge case are somewhat run-of-the-mill. Coppedge is a computer specialist who started as a JPL contractor in 1996. He was eventually brought onto the systems administration staff and given the title of “team lead.” He worked on computer networks for Cassini, the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn and its moons.

A bespectacled, white-bearded man, Coppedge never hid his embrace of intelligent design. He maintained a website dedicated to it and sat on the board of Illustra Media, which produces intelligent design DVDs. He tried to get his co-workers to watch at least two of them: “Unlocking the Mystery of Life” and “The Privileged Planet.”

That’s enough excerpts. It’s a good article, and if — for once — you want to read a balanced account of what this whole thing is all about, click over to the Los Angeles Times and read it all. Oh — we have to give you the final paragraph:

Coppedge had also waved off suggestions to update his computer skills and was saddled with a reputation for being “unwilling to listen and always having to do things his way,” defense attorneys said in court papers. In fact, during closing arguments, Fox asked the judge to recall Coppedge’s demeanor on the witness stand. He repeatedly wandered off topic to discuss intelligent design.

So there you are — finally, a good news story. The Discoveroids won’t like it. In fact, they’ll probably post a bitter blog article about it. That’s okay, we understand. There’s a worldview war going on.

Update: See Coppedge Trial & Klinghoffer’s Alternate Reality.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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WND: Evolution Leads to Eating Babies!

Buffoon Award

Our tranquility was once again shattered by blaring sirens and lights flashing on the wall display of our Retard-o-tron™. The blinking letters on the wall said WorldNetDaily.

WorldNetDaily (WND) is the flamingly creationist, absolutely execrable, moronic, and incurably crazed journalistic organ that believes in and enthusiastically promotes every conspiracy theory that ever existed. WND was an early winner of the Curmudgeon’s Buffoon Award, thus that jolly logo displayed above this post.

We were directed to an article written by Ben Kinchlow, whose work we’ve mentioned a few times before — most recently WorldNetDaily: Theocracy Is Our Only Hope. There’s actually a Wikipedia article about him.

Kinchlow’s latest is Stop and think about it. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us, and the italics — Kinchlow uses them a lot — are his:

A proponent of the theory of evolution says we crawled out of the primordial ooze onto dry ground, and just look at what we have become today! Keep in mind, according to the dictionary, a theory is a “proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural.” It is a speculation, a guess, a conjecture.

When a creationist reaches for the dictionary, you know two things: First, he has no other non-scriptural reference books; and second, he’s going to select the least appropriate definition he can find. We use this online dictionary, and its first definition of “theory” is:

a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena.

Kinchlow didn’t like that one. He chose the next, and he used only part of it. There’s no attempt at subtlety here; this is is raw creationism — intended to appeal to the most primitive minds. That’s why it’s published in WND. Let’s see what else he says:

[C]onsider the eyes you are reading this with: “To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances … could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.” Wonder what preacher said that? Oops, it was Charles Darwin, the father of evolution.

That’s correctly attributed to Darwin, but it’s wildly out of context, and it’s one of the most common and insidious of all creationist misrepresentations. We explained it in this post, Evolution of the Eye, so we won’t repeat ourselves. Let’s read on in Kinchlow’s steaming pile:

Life … feel the word. Roll it on your tongue. L-i-f-e. What is life? No one knows for sure, but it is assuredly much more than the result of a random bolt of lightning striking a pond of primordial stew.

Hey, that’s good! It’s been a long time since we’ve seen anyone advocate the theory of Vitalism. We continue:

How does your blood know exactly how many white cells and red cells it needs to achieve a perfect balance? How does the body know that if you have too many white cells you die, or if you have too few or too many red blood cells you die? Who instituted chemical laws, such as H2O [sic] and O2 [sic] , fertility and gravity, without which, life as we know it cannot exist?

Profound questions! Who — who? — instituted chemical laws such as H2O and O2? Here’s more, and so there’s no confusion, the parenthetical material is Kinchlow’s:

Could there have been an Intelligent Designer of such awe-inspiring magnitude behind all of this that it impels worship? (Say, for example, the first chapter of Genesis? God spoke and BANG! … it happened?) Nah, that’s religious. (One very brief point: The Bible is not a religious book and was never intended to establish religions, Christianity included. There are seven references to religious/religion in the Bible, and only one is overtly positive. My conclusion? God doesn’t like religion, either.)

Stranger and stranger. Moving along:

Consider this comparison: Alaska, a male polar bear (poster child for global warming) that hasn’t eaten for six weeks kills and eats a baby polar bear; New York City; a homeless guy who hasn’t eaten for almost three weeks snatches a baby out of a carriage, runs down an alley into an abandoned building, builds a fire, cooks and eats the kid. “Ben, that is barbaric!” (savagely cruel, exceedingly brutal, uncivilized). The intellectuals (and uninformed) who relentlessly denounce traditional, religious societal mores and argue so passionately for evolution’s natural law wail that such behavior among humans is uncivilized, wrong or even immoral. Why? Who says? Isn’t that just survival of the fittest?

Jeepers, he’s right! If evolution is true, we can eat babies! Another excerpt:

In other words, I can do whatever I please and no one has the right to impose their definition of morality on me. Right? Therefore, if, in my view, atheists, agnostics, homosexuals, mothers having children out of wedlock and guilty racist whites should be eliminated, who is to say I am wrong? And based on what? Your opinion?

According to Kinchlow’s understanding of Darwin, he’s right! Here’s the conclusion:

As I have previously stated, if we are truly the product of evolution, then there are no moral absolutes, as there is no author of moral absolutes. If you believe evolution to be the truth, you can and/or will act in a manner consistent with your view of self – unless, of course, you stop and think about it.

We’re persuaded. From now on, your Curmudgeon is going creationist. It’s the only way. We don’t wanna eat no babies.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Intellectual Free-Fire Zone #14

A total lack of relevant news means we’re on our own today. For your entertainment, the above is a recent three-minute video of Richard Dawkins discussing creationism. He doesn’t bother with atheism, so it’s fine for all audiences.

We continue to watch creationism bills that are still pending in states like Alabama (session ends mid-May), and Missouri (session ends on 05 May), and Oklahoma (session ends 25 May), but there’s nothing new to report.

The two pieces of litigation we’re following, the David Coppedge trial and the John Oller case, have managed to keep out of the news, but while we’re waiting for the judge’s decision in Coppedge, you can view the results of our Coppedge poll here. The John Freshwater case is still on appeal. You can read the latest at Panda’s Thumb here: Freshwater: Appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court.

As with all our free-fire zones, we’re open for the discussion of pretty much anything — science, politics, economics, whatever — as long as it’s tasteful and interesting. Banter, babble, bicker, bluster, blubber, blather, blab, blurt, burble, boast — say what you will. But avoid flame-wars and beware of the profanity filters.

We now throw open the comments to you, dear reader. Have at it.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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