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February 16, 2007

[Adam Cuerden] Baraminology, Part I: Defining Terms, For Fun and Profit

Among the many criticisms in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District was that ID was not science, that it offers no testable hypotheses, and is not subject to change as new evidence comes to light. Indeed, during the trial clear evidence of this was shown:

Although in Darwin's Black Box, Professor Behe wrote that not only were there no natural explanations or the immune system at the time, but that natural explanations were impossible regarding its origin. (P-647 at 139; 2:26-27 (Miller)). However, Dr. Miller presented peer-reviewed studies refuting Professor Behe's claim that the immune system was irreducibly complex. Between 1996 and 2002, various studies confirmed each element of the evolutionary hypothesis explaining the origin of the immune system. (2:31 (Miller)). In fact, on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty-eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not "good enough." (23:19 (Behe)).

Clearly, the problem is that they don't sound sciency enough! What can a noble, upstanding group of liars do to try and retrieve their shattered reputation?

Why, what they always do: Make stuff up. Come with me, then, into the wilds of Baraminology, where the elephant in the corner must never, ever be spoken of.

Continue reading "[Adam Cuerden] Baraminology, Part I: Defining Terms, For Fun and Profit" »

February 20, 2007

[Adam Cuerden] Baraminology, Part II: It sounds better in words of four syllables or more

Part I

I'm afraid I may have been a bit misleading with my quotes in Part I: It's actually very unusual for them to use relatively simple language, even in introductory pages. For instance, take today's article, which opens with:

We believe that phylogenetic discontinuity is obvious for most groups approximating the family level and higher categories. Therefore, baraminology sees multidimensional biological character space crisscrossed with a network of discontinuities that circumscribe islands of biological diversity. Within these character space islands, the basic morpho-molecular forms are continuous or potentially continuous. Discontinuity in this sense does not refer to either the minor breaks in quantitative ranges that are used to delimit species or the modifications on a basic theme that demarcate genera. It is the unbridged chasms between body plans - forms for which there is no empirical evidence that the character-state transformations ever occurred. The mere assumption that the transformation had to occur because cladistic analysis places it at a hypothetical ancestral node does not constitute empirical evidence.

This is meant to be a basic description of the field.

Now, I could - and will - criticise the writing style, but first, let's try and figure out what the hell this means...

Continue reading "[Adam Cuerden] Baraminology, Part II: It sounds better in words of four syllables or more" »

July 30, 2007

David Attenborough and the Botherers of God

I was going to write about this, but I was too lazy to look for an English-language source. Luckily, Martin Wisse has been more dilligent:

Dutch broadcaster censors DavidRichard David Attenborough on evolution:

The Dutch public broadcaster EO (Evangelische Omroep/Evangelical Broadcaster) has a reputation to uphold when it comes to broadcasting quality wildlife documentaries, both their own as well as series they've bought from other broadcasters like the BBC. One series they recently broadcasted was David Attenborough's excellent (as per usual) Life of Mammals. However, something strange has happened with that series when it crossed the Channel: for some reason the Dutch version only has nine episodes, while the original has ten --and that's not the only difference.

It turns out that the EO has deliberately removed all references to evolution from the series, as demonstrated by the three videos below. Which is not too surprising, considering the EO is after all a fundamentalist Christian broadcaster and adhers to the doctrine of the literal truth of the bible. What exactly the EO has censored in Attenborough's series is now documented in several youtube movies, uploaded by somebody called Odurodon...

If the EO had problems with the views expressed in Life of Mammals, they should either have declined to broadcast it or put in disclaimers at the start of the programme, not censor it. That they have done so shows a lack of intellectual integrity worrisome in a public broadcaster. Especially since they are using public funds to do this.

I'm actually a bit disappointed by this. In the past decade, journalistic standards at the EO have actually improved considerably (i.e. they now have people working for them who are journalists as well as foreign correspondents who understand the languages of the places they're posted to), and while they continue to lie on hot-button issues such as abortion, they have come a long way since the days when they classed dinosaurs with fairytale animals in their quiz shows. This may sound like I'm damning them with faint praise but ten years ago I'd have been damning them with profanity on a regular basis. And now this.

I wonder how much of a culture war is going on internally within the EO. I can imagine that the actual journalists and the people who did the Vincent Bijlo interview (several years ago, Christian comedian Bijlo was interviewed about his anti-evolution song, clearly in the hope that they would get a quotable statement out of him about evolution being wrong. What he actually said was that evolution was silly and absurd, just like gravity, and that he didn't see the point in either. The interview was kept) aren't too pleased about cutting up documentaries from such a respected director as Attenborough.

What disappoints me most, though, is that according to the news reports, the BBC allowed this butchering of their work. For shame, BBC!

More on this (in Dutch), on Evolutie which gives a full transcript of the changes in the first two episodes of the series, and brings home just how disgraceful the BBC's collusion is: by selling exclusive rights to the series to a broadcaster that cuts out references to evolution, they have effectively prevented the uncut series being shown by another broadcaster. That way, the EO can effectively censor the series for the general public.

Update: It was David after all. Not Richard. I had it right to start with, then corrected it wrong. It should be correct now. I'm just glad the Dimbleby family didn't spawn a famous nature documentary maker.

October 12, 2007

I hadn't seen some of those before

Still working a lot, exercising a lot and trying to get comics done. Battling computer problems in two places at the same time (again), though in the case of the studio PC, I've asked Calvin to do the battling in my place. Still not a lot of energy left to write in this here blog, though I could think of a few things to write about.

Quickly then: Have some cartoons attacking creationism, some of which I hadn't seen before. (Via)

The Stupidfilter. Mith says this won't work as you can't apply Bayesian probability to non-stochastic variables, and anyway, it doesn't even work all that well for spam because spammers defeat filters like this using precisely the sort of thing that this filter is going to check for (i.e. egregious violations of grammar, spelling and punctuation rules). (Via)

This is a load of bloggocks. You're not going to save journalism by buying an iPod or letting the comments on YouTube turn your brain to pea soup. Fuck off. (Via)

When I have a bit more time, I'd like to do a longish post about the state of exercise writing - er, that is, writing about exercise. It seems to be that there are a number of common tropes and linguistic markers (including the I Hit A Plateau And This Proves That Conventional Thinking About Exercise Is Wrong Trope, the The Fact That I had Painful Illnesses At An Early Age Proves That Conventional Thinking About Exercise Is Wrong Trope and the Caveman Ancestor Trope With Added Biology) that readers could use to easily identify quackitude (see The Case Against Cardio which contains all three tropes mentioned). But I'd need to study on it, and long-time readers know what happens to those ideas I have for posts to write in the indeterminate future, so don't wait up for that post. In the mean time, I'm tossing this out just to get the notion into public view. Maybe someone else will pick up this ball and run with it. (Via)


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