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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne: Stop that Coult!

Apparently, pundette Ann Coulter has continued to say unnice things about Darwinists and Darwinism (gasp! Say it ain't so!):

Interviewer Charlotte Allen: Many arguments in favor of Darwinian evolution strike me as actually being arguments against the existence of God--that is, why would a creator create tapeworms, disease viruses, and other bad things? Why do you think such things exist in a world of intelligent design?

The Coult: Your question is incomprehensible. I assume you are trying to ask me: "Why would God create tapeworms?"

My answer is: God also created mosquitoes, which I hate. But purple martins love mosquitoes and would probably all starve without them. It's kind of a "big picture" thing. Of course that doesn't explain why He created Michael Moore. For that, I have no explanation. My guess is that disease, pestilence, and Michael Moore are all perversions of the good that God created, a result of sin entering the world through Adam and Eve.

The whole interview is hilarious. Interviewer Charlotte Allen, who belongs to the tut-tut school of religious journalism, is way out of her depth. She doesn't understand that the Coult is actually not afraid of the people she herself is afraid of and can live without their good opinion.

And just when you thought the fun might end, evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne has found it necessary to take a swipe at the Coult (and a whole bunch of other people too):
First, one has to ask whether Coulter (who, by the way, attacks me in her book) really understands the Darwinism she rejects. The answer is a resounding No. According to the book's acknowledgments, Coulter was tutored in the "complex ideas" of evolution by David Berlinski, a science writer; Michael Behe, a third-rate biologist at Lehigh University (whose own department's website disowns his bizarre ideas); and William Dembski, a fairly bright theologian who went off the intellectual rails and now peddles creationism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. These are the "giants" of the ID movement, which shows how retarded it really is. Learning biology from this lot is like learning elocution from George W. Bush.

Well, of course. To believe Darwinism, you must learn from a Darwinist, preferably an ascended master. Otherwise, you don't stand a chance.

The remarkable thing about all this is that Jerry Coyne thinks he needs to take on Ann Coulter. There was a time when a guy like Jerry Coyne would not know who Ann Coulter is, and possibly would not know what a pundette is, unless he had married his cook and she insisted on subscribing to some vile rag that ...

Personally, I do not know how the Coult manages to look nearly naked when she is actually, technically at least, wearing clothes. But that is not a suitable subject for a family blog.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

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Kansas: Why "ask your family" about Darwinism or ID won't work

I gather that the state of Kansas is about to switch back to standards that would not permit the questioning of Darwinism. In particular, when a student is wondering about whether fine tuning of the universe or March of the Penguins or some whatever suggest design, "The teacher should explain why the question is outside the domain of natural sciences and encourage the student to discuss the question further with his or her family and other appropriate sources."

A while back, a friend and I wrote a skit about what will likely happen:

STUDENT: Miss! Miss! I got a question. Last night Mom took my extreme games back to the store and made me watch some talking heads on a demo TV while she reamed out the manager for stocking those games. On the show, a guy said that the laws of physics and chemistry don’t really explain how life forms came to exist. But you say they do. So who’s right? Then this astronomer guy comes on and says the universe is so finely tuned that if you changed just one constant by one smidgen, we wouldn’t be here. Wow. What do you think about that?

TEACHER: I can’t answer your question. We are not allowed to talk about design. It is outside the domain of science.

STUDENT: These guys were scientists.

TEACHER: Well, they just don’t know what science is.

STUDENT So how come they have jobs then? Like, that one guy, he heads up some ...

TEACHER: Science is the activity of seeking only natural explanations of what we see. These persons are inferring design from the evidence. Scientists aren’t allowed to do that. You are not allowed to discuss intelligent design.

STUDENT: Isn’t that censorship, Miss?

TEACHER: It is certainly not censorship! I am told that you have to go to “your family or other appropriate source.”

STUDENT: Are you kidding? Mom got lousy marks in science. She dumped it before they got round to dissecting frogs. I wanna talk to someone who knows.

TEACHER: Ask your pastor then!

STUDENT: He doesn’t know this stuff. He mostly counsels people like Mom.

TEACHER: Well, ... perhaps a philosopher, then ...

STUDENT: Miss, in my neighborhood, I’d have better luck finding a space alien. Look, if you don’t know the answer, just admit ...

TEACHER: It’s NOT that I don’t know the answer! I’m not allowed to talk about ...

STUDENT: And you claim that’s not censorship? Give me a break!

TEACHER: If you say one more word, I will send you to the office and they’ll send you home!

STUDENT: You know what? That’s okay with me. I’m goin’. Even my mom isn’t as illogical as you! I bet I can find lots of stuff on the Internet.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

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Thinkquote of the day: Why you can take the Bible seriously but not literally on science issues

Mid-twentieth century scholar Bernard Ramm writes,
The language of the Bible with reference to cosmological matters is in terms of the prevailing culture. Biblical cosmology is in the language of antiquity and not of modern science, nor is it filled with anticipations which the future microscope and telescope will reveal. We do not agree with over-zealous expositors who try to find Einsteinian and modern astro-physical concepts buried in Hebrew words and expressions. We also disagree with the religious liberals who object to Biblical cosmology because it is not scientific. We object to the over zealous because it was not the intention of inspiration to anticipate modern science, and we object to the modernist because he sees too much in what is to us a truism. We concur with Calvin, who taught that Gen. 1 is a record of the creation of the world in the language of the common man and from the viewpoint of common sense. His actual words are: “For to my mind this is a certain principle, that nothing is here treated of but the visible form of the world. He who would learn astronomy and the other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere ... It must be remembered, that Moses does not speak with philosophical acuteness on occult mysteries, but states those things which are everywhere observed, even by the uncultivated, and which are in common use.” (John Calvin, Genesis, I, 79 & 84], quoted and discussed in B.L. Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture , [1955] Paternoster: Exeter, Devon, 1967 reprint, pp.65-66)

Yes, and not just the Bible either. And not just in ancient times. Virtually every speaker of English refers to the sun "rising" and "setting," even though we all know that technically the Earth's rotation causes the appearance. But so? In the same way, we refer to bacteria, sowbugs, and flu virus as "bugs" even though none of them are insects. In the same way, a Biblical writer referred to the "ends of the earth." Did he know for sure whether the Earth had ends? So what if it doesn't? So what if the sowbug is really a crustacean like the lobster? Language choices are usually intended to convey an idea. It's the underlying idea we need to grasp.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism

A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove’s critique of Darwinism.

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

O’Leary’s comments on Francis Beckwith, a Dembski associate, being denied tenure at Baylor.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
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