Casey Luskin – Game show audiences and national intellect: a study

I am always amused by this statement at the bottom of the Evolution News and Views website. It says:

The misreporting of the evolution issue is one key reason for this site. Unfortunately, much of the news coverage has been sloppy, inaccurate, and in some cases, overtly biased. Evolution News & Views presents analysis of that coverage, as well as original reporting that accurately delivers information about the current state of the debate over Darwinian evolution. Click here to read more.

That being said, Casey Luskin shows just how accurate and unbiased his little news service can be, as he castigates the French for being scientifically illiterate. His evidence? A game show audience flubbed on heliocentrism.

Earlier this summer, Mike Gene posted on Telic Thoughts a YouTube video where a contestant on a French version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” was asked a question where he had to decide whether it was the Sun, or the Moon that revolved around the Earth. The contestant (see below) wasn’t sure, so he polled the audience for the right answer. After the poll, 56% of the French audience thought the Geocentric model of the Solar System was correct, i.e. they thought the sun revolved around the earth, rather than visa versa. After much deliberation, this French contestant went with the majority vote and decided that the Sun revolves around the earth. What does this say about scientific literacy in France? Bear in mind that Eugenie Scott’s survey in Science found that in France, “80% or more of adults accepted the concept of evolution.” Her supplementary data also boasted that French adults were among “the least likely to believe in divine control and to pray frequently.” If those numbers are true, this video suggests that accepting evolution and rejecting religion does not necessarily mean you are scientifically literate. The funny YouTube video is below:

I shudder to think how much worse we Americans would look if we were evaluated based on the intelligence of our game show audiences. But there you have it. Luskin bases his analysis of scientific literacy of foreign populations not from specific studies testing scientific knowledge, literacy and competence across populations but from French “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”

Heckuva job there Casey. Keep it up, you’re making my job easy.
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A big day for cranks

Today is a big day for cranks in two separate areas, but the interesting thing is the similarity of the responses.

First we have Casey Luskin of the “top think tank” the Discovery Institute (wow, they must be right up there with Cato and CEI!) blathering about paleontologists don’t know anything because of the self-correcting nature of science.

After this latest find, one researcher realized its implications and was quick to quash any doubts this may spark regarding human evolution, stating: “All the changes to human evolutionary thought should not be considered a weakness in the theory of evolution, Kimbel said. Rather, those are the predictable results of getting more evidence, asking smarter questions and forming better theories, he said.”

I’m all for “asking smarter questions and forming better theories,” and it logically follows that I therefore must also favor abandoning theories that aren’t working. The aforementioned Harvard biological anthropologist, Daniel Lieberman, apparently did not get the memo about refraining from making statements that might lead to doubts about evolution: he stated in the New York Times that these latest fossil finds regarding habilis:

“show ‘just how interesting and complex the human genus was and how poorly we understand the transition from being something much more apelike to something more humanlike.'” (emphasis added)

Indeed, as explained here, the first true members of Homo were “significantly and dramatically different” from our alleged ape-like ancestors, the australopithecines. So far, the data isn’t doing a very good job of explaining precisely from what, if anything, did our genus Homo evolve.

Well soooorrrry for actually looking for answers rather than stopping at, “a magic man done it.” Or rather, “I see design, therefore a magic man done it!” It’s really tiresome when denialist cranks like Luskin attack science and scientists because we’re self-correcting and willing to revise theories based on new evidence. That’s science people. I would hardly say looking for “smarter questions” involves dropping evolutionary theory, which is unaffected by this result as PZ has noted, to search for a magic man.

Anyway, that leads me to the second group of cranks dancing around a new result today. In this case it is global warming denialists like Steven Milloy, Tim Blair, Joseph D’Aleo at Icecap, NewsBusters (It’s a scandal!), etc. jumping up and down because of an error found in a dataset of US temperature that revises the records to show that 1934 was actually hotter than 1998. The chart and more below the fold.
Continue reading “A big day for cranks”

Now this is the genetic fallacy

Hey Luskin. This is what a genetic fallacy actually looks like.

The Darwinists devoutly desire to avoid the true history of their creed, and usually the media assist in the cover up–unknowingly, I would like to think. The “Inherit the Wind” trope that is monotonously employed by journalists–not to mention Judge Jones of Dover, PA fame–derives from the play and movie of that name. But this cliché, which is the source of what many journalists think about the subject, was fiction and not even aimed at the evolution issue so much as the danger of McCarthyism in the 1950s. The real Scopes trial in 1925 was rather different. And so was the biology textbook that was at the heart of the Scopes trial.

Hunter’s A Civic Biology was racist. It advocated therapeutic eugenics–and it was widely used in schools around America, not just in Tennessee. John West’s forthcoming book, Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, includes an extensive examination of the subject as it relates to the popularity of eugenics in general.

Congratulations therefore go to Garin Hovanissian, who brings up the topic of the Hunter biology textbook in The Weekly Standard. We are coming up on the 100th anniversary of Darwin’s birth in 2009, so you can be sure that Inherit the Wind will be shown in thousands of high school and college classrooms, where it will be lovingly presented as an approximation of the truth. It might be useful before then to dig up all the speeches of William Hunter, the racist and eugenicist, and of his champion, the great H. L. Mencken. The fullness of the truth will be found there. How hard will the Darwinists fight to keep the students from learning about that?

Just thought he might like to know what one looked like. “Darwinism was once used in a racist textbook and racist people liked it – therefore there is something wrong with the science and you should believe ID”. He’s got some poisoning the well there too, going after H. L. Mencken and Hunter for being bigots. It has nothing to do with the validity of the science of course. And Mencken wasn’t just a racist and eugenicist, he was also sexist, anti-semitic, anti-woman, anti-child, anti-foreigner etc. Mencken pretty much hated on everybody. It’s not exactly a secret you know. It’s also totally irrelevant to the validity of the science.

Crankery is caused by a fundamental defect in reasoning

Casey Luskin doesn’t like that evilutionists equate Intelligent Design Creationism with, well, creationism. I’m sobbing.

But in a perfect example of how cranks like using the tools of logic to make their point, and then fail, he suggests that the assertion that ID = creationism is an example of the genetic fallacy. Well, that’s interesting. What’s his reasoning?

Darwinian logic often contends that because a given proportion of ID proponents are creationists, ID must therefore be creationism. It’s a twist on the genetic fallacy, one I like to call the Darwinist “Genesis Genetic Argument.” As noted, it implies that each and every argument made by a creationist must be equivalent to arguing for full-blooded creationism. This fallacious argument is easy to defeat on logical grounds by pointing out that some ID proponents are not creationists, and in fact have been persuaded to support ID in the absence of religion. Thus something other than creationism or religion must be fundamental to the set of views underlying ID (big hint: it’s the scientific data indicating real design in nature)!

First of all a big belly laugh from the “scientific data” point. But anyway, is this actually a case of the genetic fallacy? And even if it were fallacious, is it really an example of an argument of irrelevance?

Luskin links the wiki as well in his post, but it’s clear he didn’t read it (correctly).

Continue reading “Crankery is caused by a fundamental defect in reasoning”

More prediction of the past – from the future!

Casey Luskin is also celebrating the death of the “junk” DNA hypothesis over at Evolution News and Views. You see, a Wired magazine article has breathlessly reported what we’ve known for decades. And guess what? Just like Sal Cordova, Luskin has a really interesting view of the history of biology and the “junk” DNA timeline.

Except he has even better proof that ID was responsible for our discovery that non-coding DNA had a function. You see, I thought Sal Cordova was a moron for suggesting that Behe’s prediction of function for non-coding DNA in the late 90s was something to brag about, after all, we knew the junk wasn’t junk in the early 80s. But Luskin has evidence that ID was predicting function for non-coding human DNA even earlier!

Proponents of intelligent design have long maintained that Neo-Darwinism’s widely held assumption that our cells contain much genetic “junk” is both dangerous to the progress of science and wrong. As I explain here, design theorists recognize that “Intelligent agents typically create functional things,” and thus Jonathan Wells has suggested, “From an ID perspective, however, it is extremely unlikely that an organism would expend its resources on preserving and transmitting so much ‘junk’.” [4] Design theorists have thus been predicting the death of the junk-DNA paradigm for many years:

As far back as 1994, pro-ID scientist and Discovery Institute fellow Forrest Mims had warned in a letter to Science[1] against assuming that ‘junk’ DNA was ‘useless.'” Science wouldn’t print Mims’ letter, but soon thereafter, in 1998, leading ID theorist William Dembski repeated this sentiment in First Things:

Wow! In 1994 Forrest Mims wrote a letter that wasn’t even published suggesting that non-coding DNA had function!

How could we have ever doubted the importance of intelligent design for advancing the scientific enterprise. After all, without investing a single cent in actual research, they were able to read about all of our research into DNA structure and function and tell us something we already knew! And they were able to do this mere decades after we already figured it out in a letter that no one even saw! This is fantastic.

I wish I had the ability to predict the past from the future.