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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Brazilian protests AAAS chief’s misrepresentation of Brazil’s Protestants

Recently, American Association for the Advancement of Science CEO Alan I. Leshner wrote a fairly typical piece of bumph for a Kansas paper, Let fact and faith coexist outside schools , equating doubts about Darwinism with trying to introduce religion into the school system. He warns,
Pressures are mounting to introduce nonscientific, anti-evolution rhetoric into science classrooms, alongside well-supported facts about life's origins.

(Origins? About life’s origins, as opposed to its development over time, there are in fact no well-supported theories. There is a huge variety of poorly supported ones. But let’s let that pass for now.)

Each time one of these boffins bloviates, it becomes clearer that Darwinism is the religion of the school system. That is the fundamental reason why questioning it is so controversial. As I said in By Design or by Chance?, Darwinism—whether true or false scientifically— is the creation story of atheism. It enables you to account for life without design. If it is true, fair enough, but if you are not allowed to question it, you will never know whether it is true.

Anyway, Leshner goes on to say,

The United States is not alone in these struggles. In Brazil, where the country's Protestant evangelical population has undergone a fivefold increase since 1940, creationists have ramped up efforts to combat the teaching of evolution.
Enezio E. de Almeida Filho writes from Brazil to reply,

Can someone correct Leshner's misstatement about Brazil? It is true that evangelical protestants have undergone 'a fivefold increase since 1940', however they have no relevant impact upon Brazilian society -- culturally speaking they are kind of 'second class' citizens [kind of pariahs] and have a hard time to have a say in important cultural issues, and remain mostly 'sociologically unseen' or unwanted by the rest of our society. These creationists haven't 'ramped up efforts to combat the teaching of evolution'.

Leshner should do his homework better: the Brazilian scenario is totally different from the 'cultural warfare' in the United States -- the only church openly promoting creationism in Brazil since its inception is the Seventh Day Adventist Church, a very small Christian denomination in Brazil. But even this very small segment of Protestants hasn't 'ramped up efforts to combat the teaching of evolution' but to 'teach the controversy'.

Give me a break, Leshner, these little creationists are no threat to you nor Darwin!

Thanks Enezio. But remember, Leshner is not interested in Brazil’s second class citizens. he is only using them as a bug-a-boo to frighten his fellow science boffins. Getting it right about the Brazilians would spoil the fun. What is he going to say, after all? That people in Brazil are beginning to doubt Darwinism because it is doubtful?

To find out more about my book on the intelligent design controversy, go to By Design or by Chance?

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ID-friendly journal paper makes testable predictions

If you have been following the intelligent design (ID) controversy, you could paper a wall with announcements by boffins that ID makes no testable or falsifiable predictions. Of course, many of the same people do their best to keep ID-friendly papers out of journals. But now and then they slip up, and a paper gets published.

In his recent paper in Rivista di Biologia, "Do Centrioles Generate a Polar Ejection Force?", Jonathan Wells makes the following testable predictions regarding his hypothesis that the centrioles of cells generate a polar ejection force:

A. It [the hypothesis] predicts that spindle microtubules in animal cells begin to oscillate at the beginning of prometaphase, and that those oscillations rapidly accelerate until metaphase, at which point they decelerate or cease. By metaphase the oscillations may be of such high frequency that they would be difficult to detect, but the lower frequency oscillations early in prometaphase should be detectable by immunofluorescence microscopy and high-speed camera technology.

B. It predicts that the centriole contains a helical pump powered by dynein molecules located in the inner wall of its lumen. Improved imaging techniques may make it possible to elucidatethe complex internal structure of centrioles, characterizing more fully the helical structures in their lumens and determining the precise localization of dynein in their inner walls.

C. It predicts that the polar ejection force is regulated, at least in part, by intracellular calcium concentration. It should be possible to test this by observing chromosome behavior in the spindles of dividing animal cells while artificially raising the concentration of intracellular calcium during prometaphase or blocking its rise at the beginning of anaphase.

He adds,

If the hypothesis presented here withstands these and other experimental tests, then it may contribute to a better understanding not only of cell division, but also of cancer.

Wells makes clear in the paper that his assumptions are based on the thesis that the centriole is a designed object, like a machine, and should be studied as one. Asked whether he considers the centriole irreducibly complex, he told me,

I suspect so, but I don't know. The fact that there seem to be no intermediates (you either have a working centriole, or you don't) strongly suggests irreducible complexity, but people would have to do experiments similar to those done on the bacterial flagellum (i.e., removing parts to find out if they're needed for function) to find out for sure.
About getting his paper published, Wells noted that Rivista di Biologia/Biology Forum is an English-language peer-reviewed journal published in Italy, "whose editor (Giuseppe Sermonti) is a geneticist critical of Darwinism."

Yo, Darwinists. Get hold of that editor’s e-mail address and start showering him with abuse immediately! Why should an American, Richard Sternberg, be the only one who applies to the government to stop the persecution? You shouldn’t let the Americans be first at everything; it looks bad.

To find out more about my book on the intelligent design controversy, go to By Design or by Chance?


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