ID advocates never sleep

According to Matthew Taylor in today’s Guardian:

State schools could teach the theory of intelligent design in science lessons, the Church of England’s new head of education has suggested.

Well, where do you start on this?

In my limited understanding of Intelligent Design, it is not “science”. It cannot be considered a science using any definition that I can recognise. “That’s really complex, so someone must have planned it” doesn’t seem wildly scientific to me.

There was brilliant post on Pharyngula that pointed out that astrology is much more scientific than ID. At least you can falsify astrological predictions. (It always gladdens my heart when “real” scientists show knowledge of epistemology.)

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Too stupid to be real

Well, from the department of the ineducable idiocy, I have found a blog which I don’t for one second think is a legit creationist / theist blog. I refuse to accept that anyone can be as stupid as this person, yet still be able to breathe unaided. Seriously. Still, it has given me a chance to rant about a few topics which have been annoying me lately.

The blog in question is called “Atheist Stooges” and, from that name alone, you just know it is going to be full of juicy idiocy. In this instance, the idiocy is so bizare I can only assume (hope?) that this is a wind up. Can people honestly hold to ideas like this and still function in society?

The blog has an article called “Enter the excavation” which really does hit a new nadir of nonsense. The basic crux of what is a long, wordy and badly written, post is that because you can not pin down a point in time which some human invented Atheism it must be sent by demons. What wonderful logic. There are so many fallacies in the post it would take months to unravel them all. This tends to happen when you take a false premise and try to make conclusions based on it though.

The opening paragraph sets the tone:

Do you know that if you make an endeavor to find out when and by whom atheism was authored you will not be able to find such information from any source? Not even the most “educated” atheists – particularly those associated with the most elite universities throughout the world can truthfully inform you when and by whom atheism originated. They can enlighten you as to who were its main perpetuators in different cultures; but they cannot identify its founder and when it actually originated. Continue reading

Dumbski and Dumberski

Biology was pretty well my worst subject when I was at school. (Well, if you don’t count sewing. Clearly, nobody does.)

We had a double lesson that involved almost 2 hours of slicing up dead things that reeked of formaldehyde. I was a child for whom the word “all-consuming” could have been coined. (At 11, I could eat at a tenth grade level, as they almost say in the Simpsons.)

But on those mornings, I would be gagging on the smell through my lunch break and couldn’t face eating anything. The formaldehyde, the dissection and the general air of a necromancer’s den (with jars of pickled foetuses and entrails) that pervaded the biology lab combined to act as aversion therapy. I certainly paid zero attention to the content of the lessons and my diagram of the circulation of the blood was in no way distinguishable from my cross-section of an earthworm’s diigestive tract.

However, deepest apologies to my biology teachers, because I do seem to have grasped one crucial point about evolution. (Or thanks to an illustrated library book about evolution, read when I was 10, which has strangely stuck in my mind across the decades, largely thanks to the fascinating series of artist’s impressions of cats developing in the womb.)

The point about evolution is the survival of the organisms that are best fitted to their environment. My moral compass is obviously set differently to the creationists’ but I’m buggared if I can see where there is a value judgement or any reference to morality here. We can see this happening all around us. Cities get built and expand into farmland and wild countryide and those creatures that can live alongside humans (rats, pigeons, cat fleas, houseflies) all do really well. Any creatures that live in scrub or farmland or mountains die out.

The moral issue here is trying to minimise the impact we have on the world – in our own self interest (FeaturelessVoid help us, if we find ourselves having to live on a diet of rats and fleas and marestail.)

The moral issue is clearly not that “fitter” means better or even more fecund (as in the masterly levels of logical absurdity assumed by the likes of the much-loved Dumbski, very well discussed by TW in his last post) It means suited to the environment.

(Just like us, really. Our bodies evolved to survive pretty well before the invention of agriculture. They’ve adapted well to a few thousand years of agriculture, although that’s just a blink of the planet’s eye. We are not very well adapted physically to the environments we are creating for oursleves in advanced industrialisation. For instance, we are straining our bones and tendons through actions like sitting at desks and in mrechanical forms of transport for most of our days; our mechanisms for storing food on our bodies to survive shortages are biting a lot of us in the non-metaphysical physical arse as we store more and more fat.

However, our most advanced adaptation tool – our monstrous brain, with its capacities for language and reasoning and creating things – lets us keep adjusting our environment, so we are still well ahead. The luckiest of us have medicine and enough food to live a lot longer than people did a couple of centuries ago.)

It would take just one major environmental change – a nuclear war, a global plague or a drastic change in our climate – and no matter how numerous our species is now, we’d no longer be “fit.” Our species would be extinct.

Dumbski’s potato famine topic is a good example. The Irish were indeed more prolific breeders, partly because it seems to have long been a Catholic imperative and partly because the potato could feed large families without using a lot of land. (They generally had tiny farms, as a result of the policies of Cromwell and his successors, who had set up Irish inheritance laws in such a way as to break the power base of Catholic leaders. See, I was a fair bit better at History than Biology.) A couple of years of failure of the potato crop and the Irish were dying in their millions.

If the theory of evolution can be applied to the Irsish potato famine – and this attempt to make a match is pushing the argument to the kerbside of insanity – it shows that fecundity and adapting to one environment doesn’t ensure “fitness” in the biological sense. One potato blight organism and the environment suddenly isn’t the same. Add in a few cholera epidemics. The survivors then become those with the capacity to resist starvation over years as well as to be resistant to cholera. Plus the financial and physical means and knowledge to be able escape to somewhere without a famine. A pretty tall order, but the genetic line of those without all these attributes has gone.

There was certainly a massive social and political component to how this played out. One part of which was the general demonisation of the Irish – to which Darwin may have subscribed, if Dumski is right on the evidence.

Just like today, when blaming the victim is one response to the guilt felt about not actually doing anything to help them.

(As an aside, poster campaigns telling us not to give to beggars is one of my favourite examples. It is basically saying – We’ll give money to our needy friends in the advertising agency instead of these homeless alcoholics that you feckless people persist in giving the money for a “cup of tea”).

So Darwin was just a typical example of his age and class then? Not a saint. Well, if you think he’s God or even a lesser saint, that must be a bit disturbing. But I’m buggered if I can see why being prejudiced against the starving Irish in anyway invalidates the theory of Evolution. Do satellites not work because the first rocket scientists were escaped Nazis?

He certainly wasn’t in anyway responsible for the potato famine, nor the British responses to it. And, even if he had been, the theory of evolution was completely blameless.

Are there really biology teachers so inept, anywhere in the world, that they can’t explain to these people the differences between discussing fitness to survive in a given environment and making value judgements about what living creatures deserve to survive?

I can only assume that some of these people have no more understanding of the basic points of evolutionary theory than I have of the complex prohibitions in Leviticus.

They don’t even believe in their Gods enough to credit them with giving humans the intelligence to draw conclusions about the natural universe.

Which makes it doubly unfortunate that they think they’re made in God’s image. They are clearly all worshippers of the Evil One, after all.

When you have no argument

Resort to an ad hominem or strawman.

It really is that simple. This must be such a universal “rule of thumb” that there must be a section in Genesis which tells people to do it. (This would also nicely explain why so many of the offenders are devout theist cranks)

Anyway, to kill a quiet Sunday afternoon (avoiding my research tasks), I visited UncommonStupidity (not an ad hominem, I am not saying their arguments are false because they are idiots – the two are co-incidental) again. Today I was rewarded with a piece about how Darwin was “anti-Irish” (amusingly titled “Darwin and the Irish … again“). If you are doing a course in logical arguments or similar, then check this out. It is an online example of how many logical inconsistencies and fallacies you can cram into a single blog post. I am sure this is a record – even by UncommonStupidity’s standards. This time it is O’Leary taking up the keyboard and he begins:

Apparently, one of the Thumbsmen has claimed that Bill Dembski overstated/misstated (or whatever) Darwin’s contempt for the feckless* Irish, with their endless stream of brats (combined, of course, with his approval of the thrifty and allegedly cautiously procreative Scot).

Which is hilarious, because contempt for the Irish was part and parcel of Darwin’s Brit toffery – a social code everyone in those days understood. The Potato Famine, when so many thousands starved to death within easy reach of abundant food exported from Ireland, would be incomprehensible apart from it. Indeed, I heard its fell echoes a century later, as a child in a far distant land.

No, Dembski did not misquote Darwin. Darwin meant exactly what he said. The problem is that what Darwin meant is incompatible with the theory he is famed for advancing.

With a start like that, you just know it is going to be good. Obviously O’Leary (good old Irish name, eh?) has a special insight into what Darwin actually thought and, equally, finds it valid to view his opinions from the comfort of 21st century society and our values. Maybe his intelligent designer provides this insight… Anyway, this line of nonsense progresses to:

Either natural selection produces survival of the fittest (Spencer’s term, quoted with approval by Darwin as a suitable description of the main point of his theory) or it does not. But Darwin believed – irrationally – that the Irish were both most likely to breed and succeed and less fit, and therefore a menace.

Wow. I told it was a good start. Now, the actual opinions of Darwin aside, “survival of the fittest” is not the “scientific” way of discussing evolution. It is a buzz word people use to try and explain things to the layperson. It happens in science all the time. For example, e=mc2 is an approximation of the proper theory because the full details are fairly complicated.

Another “failing” of the theistic argument is the combination of Science and Morality. A scientific theory does not have to be “morally” acceptable to an arbritrary social system. The two talk about different spheres of existence. If Darwin was contemptous of the Irish – so what?

O’Leary seems to really miss the point about what natural selection is and how it works, and sadly the potatoe famine acts as an example that artificial circumstances can allow large populations which are not “fit” to grow. (All this is comensurate with the science)

All in all (I can not be bothered addressing the other logical inconsistencies), this is another example of UncommonStupidity trying to show “evolution” is incorrect because Darwin was not a nice person. Sadly, theists are used to an idea hinging on a single individual’s values and remaining unchanged for thousands of years. In science this really is not the case. Will they ever get the idea?

[tags]Darwin, Evolution, Science, Philosophy, Logic, Intelligent Design, ID, History, Creationists, Creationist Fools, Woo, Crackpot[/tags]

Uncommon Stupidity

It has been awhile since I have “braved” the well of stupidity, vitriol, hatred and confusion which is Uncommon Descent but today I had a look.


The stupidity remains. An entertaining highlight was ““No thanks, I’ll take two fivers” — Dumping Darwin from British currency.” Now, this really is full of nonsense. I was planning to post some select highlights but there are too many to choose from!

Basically the post (by Dembski) is that we (the British) should drop Darwin from the £10 note. He starts off going on about how, with the new twenty, the Bank of England is changing the “famous person” on the note and continues:

This is a news-worthy cause for British Darwin-doubters, who should urge that Darwin be dumped from the 10-pound note whenever there is a new security-upgrade version, on grounds that he is the chief prophet of the materialist religion, and his presence on the 10-pound note is an inappropriate endorsement of that materialist religion and its related anti-religious ferment. Now, it’s true that Britain has no 1st Amendment, but still, Britain is trying to be multi-cultural. A part of the effort could include a long list of choice inflammatory quotes from the new anti-religion books currently out in the bookstores (and in Darwin’s own writings — see the previous post here at UD); the effort could point out that the government, by honoring Darwin, implicitly lends its prestige to their venom.

See what I mean? Gibberish at its best. Dumbski Dembski moves on to talking about Darwin being a racist (nonsense but the UDders seem to like it) and decides William Wilberforce would be a better contender (on the apparent advice of the Fabian Society but I can find no confirmation of that with the search engine there…). This leads to a fantastic line of woo:

Thus, this effort would also kick-off a comparison of what good has been brought to the world by these two people — Darwin vs. Wilberforce. Nazi Eugenics vs. the abolition of slavery. Is there really any contest?

Which brings up the reason I keep posting juicy bigotted and racist quotes by Darwin and his disciples here at UD. While the intellectual community may know them, the general public does not. Suppose the public decided that every time it accepted a “Darwin” (a 10-pound note) in payment or in change for a purchase, it was implicitly endorsing those terrible quotes? People would likely say, “No thanks, I’d rather have two fivers. I don’t take money that praises racists and bigots — and neither should you.”

In other words, promote a boycott of the Darwin 10-pound note because it promotes racism. It’s like putting Robert E. Lee on the ten-dollar bill because he was a great general, and ignoring the cause he served. This would work particularly well because the goal of the Fabians and other multiculturalists is to re-define Britain to be racially-inclusive. Thus there is a particular reason to highlight the racism of Darwin and get rid of him.

I really do think this is some one going off the deep end. Proponents of ID still have no science, evidence or data to support their ideas. The best they can aim for a rather pathetic attempt to paint a dead person in a bad light. They constantly fall foul of the fallacious idea that attacking a person (Darwin, Dawkins etc) is the same as attacking their ideas. In really, it wouldn’t matter if Darwin was racist (he wasn’t – at least not by the standards of his time), it wouldn’t even matter if what Darwin thought was the “Theory of Evolution” was wrong. Things have changed. Time has passed. Science has progressed and the theory of evolution has evolved.

Sadly, the IDers are trapped in a world which means not only are they incorrect but they are incapable of properly arguing their side, but can never give in.

You have to pity them, don’t you?

Department of the Stupid

Although online time is limited here today, I took a look a the ever entertaining Pharyngula and found a post about CreationWiki. Now, not being one to pass up something which has farce written all over it in big creationist-style letters, I just had to have a look.


The CreationWiki is almost beyond belief. Reading the posts there is almost vomit inducing and I honestly hope it was put together by school children at best. It strikes me that the contributors have had a brushing acquaintance with science, decided they didn’t like it and have run in the total opposite direction. I am far from the best scientist in the world (if I was, I wouldn’t be blogging here..) but it takes, on average, less than 60 seconds to find critical faults in almost every one of the “wiki” entries on this site. It really is that bad. You have to check it out.

It’s blurb on the front page speaks volumes about what you can hope to expect from such an august website:

The CreationWiki is a free encyclopedia of creation science being assembled by the international creationist community. We encourage all creationists to get involved with the development of this valuable resource.

And yes this wiki does show how thin on the ground Creation Science is. They cite the crank Vox Day as if he is a credible source of knowledge. They jump at every chance to insult or denigrate Darwin – for some reason it is common for creationists to think the theory of evolution is in the exact same form as it was when Darwin first thought of it, that it may have evolved itself is beyond their ability to comprehend.

For some reason I am not fully sure of yet, while this site mangles Physics, Cosmology, Biology, Palaeontology (etc.), it seems to leave Chemistry largely unscathed. That is either because my chemistry is a lot worse than any other subject or maybe Creationists are just chemists in disguise….

Prove or Disprove

Short one as not much to rant about today, however some general web surfing has made me think about a few issues in science related to Evolution / Creationism.

The scientific method is well established and is certainly the “generally accepted” way of defining what is scientific and what isn’t. This method, not some half baked 2000 year old text which has been re-written more times than I can count, provides the yardstick against which all science is measured – be it Evolution, Relativity, Electromagnetism, anything. Without it, well, it’s back to the dark ages.

The crux of the method is the ability to make testable predictions and carry out proper experiments which can falsify the theory. You dont actually have to prove the theory wrong for it to be scientific (although this is a common misconception of the term) but you need to be able to construct an experiment which could prove the theory wrong. This is important so make a note of it.

Now, on to the wonders of creationism. Most, if not all, creationist propaganda carries the sole message that “Evolution is Wrong.” If you do a YouTube, Google or (especially) a MySpace search you come across all manner of idiocy and madness about the topic. People saying “evolution is wrong because … [insert nonsense].” Things range from the “missing link” oddity to crazy arguments like irreducible complexity. The main thing they all have in common is the nonsense and bad science which tends to back them.

The important thing, in the context of this post anyway, is the issue about disproving evolution.

First off, the fact that the lunatics (ID, YEC et al) are capable of coming up with a possible experimental circumstance which could disprove evolution reinforces the fact that evolution is scientific. Scientific does not mean true or correct. Newtonian Gravity was a scientific theory which turned out to be incorrect. This is part of the way science works. A scientific fact has more caveats than the average person would ever think of applying to something “factual.”

Secondly, and possibly more importantly, even if the lunatics did manage to disprove the theory of evolution, that does not mean Creationism takes a default win. That is not how science works. A flaw in general relativity (eg, interactions on the quantum scale) does not mean Newtonian Gravity is correct – or to be a more accurate analogy, a flaw in GR does not mean gravity is caused by bananas. Finding something in a theory which is wrong is the “Holy Grail” (all puns intended) of science. It means people get to advocate new Scientific theories (sorry, creationists, you dont count). People get Nobel prizes. People get huge amounts of funding. (and so on).

Intelligent Design / Creationism / whatever, is not scientific. It really isn’t. Saying “God Did It” is not science – even changing God to something you think will slip under the radar still does not make it science. If anything it is the end of science. It blocks further investigation because if anything is unknown or fails to meet the predictions you can just say “the creator wanted it that way and who are we to second guess the all-mighty one?”

Falsifying evolution would be a good thing, but it certainly would not mean creationism was the correct science. The theory of evolution is scientific. It almost certainly is not the endstate for our understanding of life and it makes no predictions about how life started, but it is a valid, solid, theory. Just like gravity. I am not going to even think of getting worked up about the “it’s just a theory” crap…

. . . then why are there still humans?

...then why are there still humans?
…then why are there still humans?,
originally uploaded by Alun Salt.

Another great Creationist trading card from Alun Salt. At the start of the year I made a post about some of his other trading cards and this seems to be one of the newer ones.

These are funny and really well put together – it would almost be worth printing them out and trying to get WoTC to make a game out of it!

Blag blogs

Phew. I can regain the will to live.

The post on atheist humour about a fake right wing blog, plus a comment by Alun about another absolutely brilliant parody site had me wondering how many more of these other extremist blogs were fake.

I somehow ended up browsing an anti-church forum by following links from landoverbaptist. I noticed that some of the sites that people were griping about really had to be blatant spoofs.

I suddenly had a flash of Road to Damascus insight.

There are no right wing fundamentalist blogs or websites. There are no real creationist blogs. Intelligent design is just a joke that got out of hand. They are all just made by just a load of people with wierd senses of humour. This knowledge will restore your faith in the human race.

No wait! The most obvious intuitive argument against ID was the all-too-evident lack of intelligence in so many human beings – as shown ironically by the way that a completely irrational alternative to evolution was allegedly believed by huge swathes of people.

But, now science – in the shape of my empirical investigation of the existence of fundamentalist blogs – has proved that human stupidity is a false premise. Humans are rational intelligent beings after all.

D’oh, so there COULD be an intelligent design behind the universe….. 🙂

2 forms of ID – this is about the cards

Are the letters ID inherently evil in that specific combination? They form an acronym for two of the main topics that spark up rants here – Intelligent Design (the belief that everything except evolution is so complex that God must have planned it in detail) and Identity Document (the UK’s psychiatrically-certifiable ID card scheme.)

It’s been a while since there was any complaint about the ID card scherme here. However, far from vanishing when it’s not in the news, it’s been creeping towards existence. THe BBC put up a page in December with arguments for and against.  The Fors basically consist of  “there would be less illegal immigration, benefit fraud , ID theft and crime in general.” None of these arguments are convincing. Nor, even if they were all true, would they seem to constitute enough of a public good to justify the full-scale imposition of  such constraints on traditional freedoms. Surely benefit fraud is the responsibility of DWP, Immigration of the Home Office, crime of the police. Aren’t they up to doing their jobs any more? The truly comical argument for ID is this, though.

Enhance sense of community: The government believes that identity cards would create a sense of shared citizenship, belonging and security

(I wondered what that lovely warm feeling I get from my bus pass was.)

If you don’t even need to know what the BBC gives as anti-ID arguments, you have probably decided a long time ago that the whole plan is both silly and dangerous. (See if you want to read the arguments and find out about campaigns.)

You have probably heard people saying “But it’s inevitable.”  You almost certainly feel that it doesn’t matter what you think about what the government does because it never makes any difference anyway, look how mass protests stopped the Iraq war involvement (not)

Well, there is actually one way you can let the Government know that it is a deeply unsavoury plan. Go to and sign the online petition against ID. I normally regard petitions as utterly pointless but there are reasons why this may have some impact. It’s on a site set up by the government itself to get input. If they can be made to see that this is no vote-winner, even a potential “poll tax” issue, they are going to step back sharpish.

The fiasco of the government’s current IT systems is already a scandal. Every IT project seems to cost untold millions; comes in millions over-budget; leads to civil service redundancies so services get worse;  and it doesn’t work properly when it’s finally implemented. The ID card scheme requires a huge outlay on even more new systems. A minister would need to have either some very powerful friends who needed an IT contract or a strong ideological commitment to the idea of ID to want to keep pushing this expensive and unworkable plan in the face of serious evidence of opposition.

The Government had to give way on the medical records plan to the extent of allowing us to refuse to have our medical records open to any NHS employee (or journalist, nosy neighbour, private detective, etc.,  who knows an NHS employee). They may indeed give way on this scheme. Just wait till the cost to individuals sinks in to those people who don’t think ID is a bad thing in itself. We’d be doing the Government a favour by stopping them  pushing the ID plan through.