Discovery Institute is shut out; whines

The Vatican held another meeting trying to squeeze its tiny God into the ever shrinking gaps of reality as brought to us by science. (Apologies for the FOX Noise link, but it is an AP article.) Even though they have most things fully 1/2 wrong, them there Catholics do have some things entirely correct.

The Discovery Institute, the main organization supporting intelligent design research, says it was shut out from presenting its views because the meeting was funded in part by the John Templeton Foundation, a major U.S. nonprofit that has criticized the intelligent design movement.

Good. The Discovery Institute is filled with hacks who are purely motivated by religion, not science. They are, by definition, liars.

Organizers of the five-day conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University said Thursday that they barred intelligent design proponents because they wanted an intellectually rigorous conference on science, theology and philosophy to mark the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species.”

The implication being – though not as eloquently as I am about to put it – is that people who actually think intelligent design is science are fucking mooks who have no idea what science actually is. Honestly. Can any IDist actually give one prediction made by intelligent design ‘theory‘? Does any IDist understand why his failure to do this is one of the major reasons intelligent design is not science?

Muslim creationists also complained about the conference.

Oktar Babuna, a representative of a prominent Turkish creationist, Harun Yahya, was denied the right to speak at the opening session Tuesday.

Notice this says “right to speak”. I assume this is in the same sense that I have a right to swing my fists. That right ends once it impedes someone else’s liberty. At that point, we no longer refer to my fist-swinging as a right: harassing, dangerous, disturbing, etc, perhaps we call it one of these, but certainly not a right. So surely Babuna couldn’t have been figuratively swinging his fists with his gaping mouth of creationist inanity, correct? After all, he was denied a right, not the ability to harass people or spew dumb, disturbing ideas of stupidity.

Participants took the microphone away from Babuna when, during a question-and-answer session, he challenged them to give proof of transitional forms of animals in Darwinian evolution.

Organizers said he hadn’t formulated a question and was just stating his point of view.

Babuna said afterward that the conference was clearly undemocratic. A statement from Yahya said, “Although there are discussion parts, they want this discussion to be one-sided.”

Surprise. It looks like Babuna took his verbal fists and started throwing them around the conference. It’s fortunate there’s no muscle to back them up.

Scientists can keep pointing to these fossils, but creationists just keep asking the same question over and over. They’re like little kids who keep asking their parents “why?” no matter what the answer. They aren’t actually seeking any information, truth, or answers; they just want attention because no one takes their childish ideas seriously.

The Dishonest Firing of an Honest Woman

I try to make it a habit to not use much of anything I find on PZ Myers blog. It’s not because I don’t like his blog – I do, it’s great – but I’d rather not be stealing the man’s ideas or topics (there’s enough science to go around). But he recently made a post about the travesty that’s been happening to Christine Comer. As a few of you may know, she was forced to resign from her position as the Director of Science for the Texas Education Agency (TEA) because she circulated some information about a talk denouncing the bullshit that is intelligent design. It didn’t denounce the religion of intelligent design, but rather the faux science that it is. Because the TEA has a neutrality policy on the issue, Comer was told she’d either be fired or she could resign (and keep her pension). She resigned.

Comer currently has a lawsuit pending which contends what happened to her was illegal because teaching or endorsing creationism is unconstitutional.

So what we have now is a report released from Texans for Better Science Education (TBSE), an organization, despite its name, actually devoted to destroying science in favor of magic. Fortunately, Steven Shafersman has a full account of what’s actually going on.

Now, let’s examine the incidents of “insubordination” and “misconduct” that TBSE’s Mark Ramsey and DI’s John West claim disqualifies Chris Comer’s claim that her employment was terminated illegally. In the TBSE timeline, Ramsey emphatically makes the accusation that, “During her employment at the TEA, Comer received…three disciplinary letters spanning at least eight separate incidents, and seven of these eight incidents had nothing to do with evolution.” But there’s more to this charge than meets the eye. Chris began work at TEA in 1997, and until 2007 there is only one serious charge in all the documents against Chris. This is the June 12, 2003, Letter of Reprimand and Notice of Disciplinary Probation from Ann Smisko, Associate Commissioner. Chris was accused of getting a small amount of money from a TEA Comprehensive Assessment Training in Science (CATS) grant to Alamo Community College District (ACCD) for travel expenses. Chris was told the money was from the San Antonio Education Foundation, not from the ACCD. Also, she could not provide receipts for the reimbursed travel expenses. In fact, she received no funds from either the CATS grant or ACCD as the continued investigation showed.

A second charge was that she took money as a consultant for work on the Texas Atlas Project, another CATS project, which was conducted on her own time. Employees are forbidden to take any money for consulting without submitting a Disclosure Reporting Form, and Chris failed to do this. This is a very minor infraction. For these two charges, the letter was the only disciplinary action Chris received, because, in fact, the charges were so minor. The letter states that “the disciplinary action is based on information available at this time and the preliminary findings of the Internal Auditor.” There were no further findings or charges. She was told later that she was completely cleared of suspicion, but Ramsey and West don’t want to inform you of that. The mistaken Letter of Reprimand and Notice of Disciplinary Probation should have been removed from Chris’s file, and Ramsey and West should apologize to her now.

Now this is important: the charges in this letter were the only misconduct charges Chris received during the first nine years of her employment at TEA. The remaining seven incidents all came during one year after the Perry-McLeroy-Scott-Reynolds anti-science cabal started to take over the TEA. Thus, contrary to several statements by Comer antagonists, Chris did not have (1) “a history of disciplinary issues” as Ramsey wrote, (2) “a long history of disciplinary problems” as West wrote, and was not (3) “an employee who has no legal case against the agency because she abused her position for years” as Lizzette Reynolds wrote (p. 16 of pdf file). Each of these claims increases in malice and untruthfulness. What is their motivation to direct so much animosity at Chris Comer?

So what we have is a set of creationists who have been given authority on subjects over which they have no grasp going around and firing people for teaching the unifying principle of an entire field of science. What’s more, they’re dragging this woman through the mud by claiming that she has all sorts of infractions and insubordinations. In reality (a place these creationists seem to deny as much as possible), Comer had a minor infraction plus 7 made-up infractions which were attributed to her for the sake of destroying science (something which doesn’t jive well with this blogger’s url) only after a set of creationists gained authority.

Let’s hope these patently dishonest creationists are successfully sued. Maybe then Texas will realize it needs to throw these yahoos out.

Hitler was an EVILutionist!

If I throw a baseball at your face, does that change the mathematics of its trajectory? No, of course not. You know that. You aren’t a flaming idiot. It may have been horrible what I did. In fact, I may have precisely calculated what was required to throw the ball at your face, built a machine to carry out those calculations with minimal error, and then pulled a lever to enact said machinery. But that doesn’t change whether or not my calculations were correct. No matter how many teeth you lose or how long you have a black eye, the accuracy of the math does not become a dependent variable.

So why does Richard Weikart think it matters if Hitler used Darwinism as a means to his ends?

Certainly raising the specter of Nazism does nothing to prove that Darwinism is wrong. However, the evil of Nazism should give us pause to reconsider and examine carefully the ideas, including the Darwinian ones, that led to that moral catastrophe.

So if Hitler’s ideologies have no bearing on the truth value of evolution (or baseball trajectories), then why should “the evil of Nazism” give us sufficient pause to examine evolution? Hitler had no idea how evolution worked, even by the standards of his day. He wasn’t an authority in the field. His opinions on evolution should not be the cause of any consideration toward evolution. Honestly. The man was also a big fan of art. Should we reconsider the value of being proficient renderers of people over landscapes, too?

Honestly, Hitler couldn’t have brought ‘Darwinism’ to its “logical outcome” since he clearly did not understand it. Race has no bearing on the quality of a human being. This is a rather subjective matter, not a scientific one. It’s hard to bring the science of evolution to the one possible outcome of a subjective matter. And insofar as science addresses this cultural fabrication of ‘race’, genetics tells us the 30 or so genes contributing to skin color aren’t too important as far as intelligence, personality, work ethic, ability, or anything else goes.

…in the introduction to my book From Darwin to Hitler I clearly state: “Nor am I making the absurd claim that Darwinism of logical necessity leads (directly or indirectly) to Nazism. In philosophical terms, Darwinism was a necessary, but not a sufficient, cause for Nazi ideology.

So ‘Darwinists’ are not necessarily led to Nazism. But Nazis are necessarily ‘Darwinists’ (among other things). Really, Bobby? Really? How well do you think Hitler – or most other Nazis – really understood evolution? Do you honestly think so many people said “I’m going to kill these Jews because life is about the survival of the fittest and I deem myself more fit than these hook-nosed crooks, therefore I am only hurrying up a natural process.” And of those that did say that, do you think they adequately understood ‘Darwinism’?

This is really the kicker. Bobby is here explaining that Nazis understood Darwinism when it’s so abundant they had no clue, much like Bobby himself. He even makes a highlight (unbeknownst to him) of this point.

When responding to a question from Stein about Hitler’s sanity, I replied that I did not think he was insane, but that he was taking ideas to their logical outcome. Here I was referring to Hitler’s ideology in toto, not just the Darwinian elements (though it includes them, too, of course).

Emphasis added. So ‘Darwinism’s’ logical outcome when combined with other Nazi ideology is genocide. Without ‘Darwinism’, Hitler would have never carried out the deeds he did, at least not to the same degree. Bullshit. Evolution has no ‘logical’ outcome, not in the sense intended here. Evolution is differential survival of organisms due to variation in phenotypes and genotypes interacting with a particular environment. The only logical outcome we can say evolution has is that some members of a species will survive long enough to reproduce while others will have some barrier to survival, whether it be infertility, death, or just being downright unattractive to the opposite sex. Genocide, racism, and war are not logical outcomes.

None of what I have said so far proves that Darwinism is implicitly racist, though it does demonstrate that Schloss’s attempts to distance Darwinism historically from Nazi racism fail. It is not as big a leap as Schloss thinks from Darwin’s claim in The Descent of Man that “the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races” to Hitler’s view of history as a racial struggle for existence.14 Schloss would surely argue that Darwin’s racist views were misguided, and that may well be (then he is arguing against Darwin, not against me). But why wouldn’t Darwin’s own views about the racial struggle for existence–embraced by the majority of Darwinists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century–be called Darwinism? And why would it be historically inaccurate to claim that this aspect of Darwinian theory influenced Hitler and the atrocities that he committed?

Emphasis added again. So Bobby’s point has always been that the original versions of Darwin’s theories were a key point in Hitler’s ideology. That would make sense since Hitler obviously couldn’t consider the modern version of the theory. So why is Bobby even discussing anything? If his point is that Hitler embraced the early version of a largely revamped theory, then why should anyone care? Or is it just that Bobby wants us to think that evolution is deeply connected to Nazism? Yes. Yes, it is.

But he wants to know why it is inaccurate to say a particular aspect of ‘Darwinian theory’ influenced Hitler. Aside from the fact that racism pervaded the entire world to the point where it was acceptable to not only defend it but start a war based upon it up until very recently in history (it still is a problem, of course), the author damn well knows what he’s doing. He knows that most people have no idea that Darwin was wrong in much detail. The overarching idea of evolution via natural selection is the most notable piece of the theory which has been retained. Darwin knew nothing of the unit of inheritance or cells. We have a framework which was reasoned out by Darwin, and brilliantly at that. Upon that retainted framework is neo-Darwinism, not ‘Darwinism’.

And the first point of this post bears repeating. What Hitler believed has no bearing on whether or not evolution is true. This Appeal to Emotions is baseless. This ‘historian’ damn well knows (again) he isn’t making an argument against accepted science. That’s why his argument is entirely inapprorpiate. He isn’t interested in educating people about what played into Hitler’s ideology. He is interested in undermining public confidence in the theory of evolution by playing to the base emotions of people. “Hitler believed in evolution? But he’s wrong about everything. Evolution must be wrong!” This is for what Bobby is hoping.

Please, can more people start addressing this blatant dishonesty? The guy is being propped up by this pseduo-scientific Christian Discovery Institute and basically lying. He’s telling us that, hey, whoa now, evolution doesn’t entail Nazism, Nazism just entails evolution. And, hey, come on, let’s just think a little more deeply about what that really means; let’s just reconsider the ideas of evolution because Hitler was a big bad man who was wrong on absolutely everything, but, hey, maybe he was on to something with this whole evolution-to-genocide thing.