Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Discovery Institute on Charles Darwin's Birthday

Going back a few weeks, I know but the stupid surgery put me behind. Here is an article by Phillip Skell of the DI on Darwin's birthday. Despite being a member of the National Academy of Sciences, he manages to pack a good deal of ignorance into one column but seems to be becoming commonplace for the DI these days. In the article, which is largely a response to the one by Jerry Coyne, he writes:
Coyne seems to believe the major importance of biological science is its speculations about matters which cannot be observed, tested and verified, such as origin of life, speciation, the essences of our fossilized ancestors, the ultimate causes of their changes, etc.
Come again? Speciation certainly can and has been verified. Even some creationists are coming around to this perspective. As far as the fossils are concerned, while it is true that we always want more fossils, we have more than enough to draw pretty good pictures of how these creatures walked, flew and hunted. At the Lianing fossil beds in China, they are unearthing complete skeletons of dinosaurs, including those with feathers.

He continues:
Contrary to the beliefs of Professor Coyne and some other defenders of Darwin, these advances are not due to studies of an organism's ancestors that are recovered from fossil deposits. Those rare artifacts--which have been preserved as fossils--are impressions in stones which, even when examined with the heroic efforts of paleontologists, cannot reveal the details that made these amazing living organisms function.
Again, nonsense. We have complete fossils, which show tremendous details about how they lived and died—enough that we can draw relationships between them and other creatures that were coeval.

Here is the most blatantly ignorant part though:
Additionally, I have queried biologists working in areas where one might have thought the Darwinian paradigm could guide research, such as the emergence of resistance to antibiotics and pesticides. Here, as elsewhere, I learned that evolutionary theory provides no guidance when it comes to choosing the experimental designs. Rather, after the breakthrough discoveries, it is brought in as a narrative gloss.
The entire work of antibiotics is predicated on mutation and selection and how those work in the natural world. I was told recently by some of my nursing students that the Zithromax antibiotic doesn't work as well against bacteria anymore because, though mutations, they have become resistant to it. Here is a somewhat technical paper on antibiotic resistance and evolution by RE Lenski that helps.

Recently, Stuart Faulk has responded to the nonsense in Skell's paper here. He is not kind. He writes:
Given how easily Skell’s arguments can be dismissed, it is reasonable to ask why he would make them in the first place. He is just as capable of reading Scientific American as I am, and probably more qualified.The short answer is that this is not a debate about factual truth and science, but about public opinion and religion. What Skell neglects to mention (but any Web search will show) is that he has long supported creationist causes. His guest viewpoint is but one of many letters supporting “intelligent design” and opposing the teaching of evolution in public schools, which he equates to “indoctrination of students to a worldview of materialism and atheism.Since the courts have blocked teaching of creationist ideology in public schools (in the case of Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District), creationist strategy has focused on marginalizing evolutionary science: casting doubt on its validity, minimizing its usefulness, and discrediting its proponents. Skell’s assertions simply are repackaged versions of standard creationist arguments along these lines. They are made not because they are true, but because they have proven effective in casting doubt on evolutionary science.
The DI, doing what they do best. It reminds me of that old saying: if you don't have the law, argue the facts. If you don't have the facts, argue the law. If you don't have either, pound the table!

Hat tip to LGF

1 comment:

  1. So Mr. Chapman has scouted out all the nefarious connections, found that the organizers of the conference all consider creation science and Intelligent Design as nothing more than pseudo-science, and is therefore convinced that, since their pockets are lined by the Templeton Foundation, this somehow proves that the views expressed at the conference on ID do not reflect “views of the Vatican” nor the views of the Pope, nor orthodox Catholic teaching.

    I think Mr. Chapman would serve his Church well by studying the teachings of his Church and by listening to her leaders on this matter, rather than exerting great effort to further his own “Discovery Institute” enterprise, even though it wold probably undercut the profits of the Institute. His pocketbook might get thinner, but his soul would be enlarged…