Thursday, March 12, 2015

Is it impossible to educate Intelligent Design Creationists on evolutionary theory?

We all know how much creationists like to label their opponents as "Darwinists." What you don't know is that many of us have spent decades trying to teach creationists about modern evolutionary theory and why is is much more than just mutation plus natural selection. Some Intelligent Design Creationists seem to get it but then they quickly revert to the old rhetoric.

So, the question is whether the Intelligent Design Creationists really understand modern evolutionary theory or not. If they do, then they must be lying when they claim that it's just natural selection and "Darwinism." It can't be excused as ignorance in that case. Alternatively, if they don't understand modern evolutionary theory then they must be stupid.

Which is it?

Let's look at two recent posts on Evolution News & Views from Casey Luskin: Information for Students about the Scientific Dissent from Darwinism List and Is Darwinian Evolution "Just a Theory"?.

The main point of these blog posts is the so-called "Dissent from Darwinism" list. These are creationists who have signed the following statement:
We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.
It should be obvious to most of you that all evolutionary biologists are skeptical of the claims that natural selection accounts entirely for the complexity of life. That's because there's much more to evolution that just mutation + selection. "Darwininan theory"—whatever that is—is not equivalent to modern evolutionary theory.

Casey Luskin has pretended to know this in the past and he has certainly been told it many times. Why then, in his first post, does he cover all kinds of objections to "Darwinian Theory" without mentioning random genetic drift or Neutral Theory? He must be lying. There doesn't seem to be any other explanation.

In his second post he says,
However, as the Scientific Dissent from Darwinism List shows, when it comes to what I termed Evolution #3 -- the idea that an unguided process of natural selection and random mutation can account for the complexity of life -- there is major scientific controversy and cause for doubt. It is when we speak about Darwinian evolution in this sense that the scientific evidence turns decidedly weak, as the mainstream technical literature confirms.

How, then, should we speak about "evolution" as a theory? Rather than using imprecise language, and saying things like "Evolution is just a theory," a better way to express legitimate doubts on the subject is simply to say, "The scientific evidence does not support Darwinian evolution."
Casey Luskin knows damn well that the "Darwinian Theory" he talks about is not equivalent to modern evolutionary theory and that's what the "mainstream technical literature" says. He knows damn well that his flock of followers will interpret his statements to mean that legitimate scientists are skeptical about evolution.

It would be kind to just say that Casey Luskin is guilty of a simple logical fallacy like attacking a strawman. It may have been possible to be kind 15 years ago when Intelligent Design Creationists were truly ignorant of evolutionary theory. It is not possible today.

Either they are too stupid to understand the science they criticize or they are lying. Probably both.


84 comments :

  1. Good grief, Larry, ID is an artificial social-political movement created to advance a narrow political agenda: to eliminate "materialism" from science and culture and replace it with a Christian theological alternative. Just imagine JK Rowling trying to do the same thing with her fictional magical world. The debates and arguments would be EXACTLY the same. It's the job of the Disco Tute to push this stuff shamelessly, hypocritically and dishonestly because it's their only source of income: the charity of gullible fools. Education is futile; it's not about science, it's about ideology and money.

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  2. Shouldn't this be the real controversy taught in schools? Half of all scientists think anti-evolutionists are lying. The other half think anti-evolutionists are just ignorant. That's a real controversy.

    Why doesn't the Discovery Institute want this taught in schools? Teach the controversy!

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  3. "Alternatively, if they don't understand modern evolutionary theory then they must be stupid.

    Which is it?"

    I'm sure you know which it is. An overall characterization of stupidity is not supportable.

    That only leaves ... ? Right ...

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  4. Ok, Dr. Moran, I'll take you on on this one.
    I am an IDer (obviously) who has slowly migrated his view from Young Earth through Old Earth (a la Hugh Ross) to accepting Universal Common Descent. I have argued on ID that there is nothing in the modern evolutionary theory that beyond random variation + natural selection -- with the exception of mechanisms ostensibly developed via these two, such as human intelligence and human engineering.)

    I consider your pet variant, "neutral theory". The way you present it, one would think that you see no role for natural selection in the theory. I see neutral theory as just more piece of meat on the bones of random variation + natural selection.

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    1. Let me consider neutral theory more closely. If I understand neutral theory correctly, mutations happen, natural selection likes 'em a lot (rarely), likes 'em some (rarely), likes 'em a wee little bit (a bit more common), doesn't give a dam about 'em ( very common ),. dislikes 'em a wee little bit (less common) dislikes 'em some (far more common than the counterpart) and dislikes 'em a lot (not common, but too common).

      Consistent with neutral theory, the dislikes a lot and dislikes some type mutations get weeded out rather quickly. Consistent with neutral theory, significantly beneficial, and somewhat beneficial mutations are fast-tracked to fixation (which means that by far usually they get wiped out before getting very far at all.)

      According to neutral theory, if I understand correctly, the common mutations, the "I don't care, like it a wee bit or dislike it a wee bit" mutations succeed in getting fixed quite often. In fact, if I understand you correctly, the pace that neutral mutations get fixed can account for all changes in the protein coding regions of DNA that differ between human and chimp.

      Unless my understanding of this theory is incorrect, it is a theory that has natural selection in its core.

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    2. Neutral mutation have at least two consequences for ID.

      One is that the commonness of neutral mutations disproves the "isolated islands of function" meme.
      The second consequence is that neutral mutations allow evolution to "feel" it's wa around the functional landscape. When you look at Behe's Edge argument, he assumes there is only one pathway from the current function to a new function. Whereas in fact, neutral mutations provide multiple pathways. So if a deleterious mutation is required -- say for quinine resistance -- it does not have to be the first. It can be the second.

      And, in fact, Malaria has evolved double drug resistance in my lifetime. that's beyond Behe's Edge.

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    3. Petrushka, you are way off the topic of this post. The topic of this post is whether there is anything to the theory of evolution beyond random variation and natural selection. I contend that there is not (except that these two mechanisms claim to have developed sub-mechanisms such as human intelligence.)

      If y'all can't stay on topic I will conclude that you are unable to debate your position.

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    4. @bFast,

      According to modern evolutionary theory, an allele with a selection coefficient of 0.01 will be lost 98% of the time (approximately) before it is fixed. How do you account for that? What causes it to be lost from the population?

      Nobody is denying that natural selection is important but many of us think that natural selection alone cannot account for the complexity and variety of life that we see around us today. It's also what all the leading textbooks on evolutionary biology say.

      The topic of this post is whether there is anything to the theory of evolution beyond random variation and natural selection. I contend that there is not ...

      You are wrong. Or maybe you are lying.

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    5. bFast Consistent with neutral theory, the dislikes a lot and dislikes some type mutations get weeded out rather quickly. Consistent with neutral theory, significantly beneficial, and somewhat beneficial mutations are fast-tracked to fixation (which means that by far usually they get wiped out before getting very far at all.)

      I'm not sure you've grasped the terminology. You describe a selective scenario as 'consistent with neutral theory'. Mutations lie on a continuum from Lethal through Detrimental, Neutral and Beneficial. These relate to their relative effect on offspring numbers of carriers vs non-carriers in a population. Lethal obviously means no offspring; the rest form a continuum of differentials, and Neutral Theory relates only to the ... er ... neutral part. Selection is absent here.

      Drift is not the same as Neutral Theory. It is strongest when selection is absent, but turning selection up does not turn Drift off. It remains, in inverse proportion to the selective differential, a significant force which inexorably moves a population away from any current position. Given mutation and drift, you can't turn evolution off (except in some very 'unnatural' selective scenarios). This has important consequences.

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    6. Dr. Moran, "According to modern evolutionary theory, an allele with a selection coefficient of 0.01 will be lost 98% of the time (approximately) before it is fixed. How do you account for that? What causes it to be lost from the population?"

      Allan Miller, "Drift is not the same as Neutral Theory. It is strongest when selection is absent, but turning selection up does not turn Drift off. It remains, in inverse proportion to ..."

      Alan Miller has answered Dr. Moran's question. Drift persists even with a beneficial mutation. Drift alone causes many mutations, good, bad or otherwise, to end up with a remaining population of 0. Ie, some lucky mouse gets a beneficial mutation. He and his also end up setting up house in my home. I get mad at him and his, so I hire an exterminator. Though the beneficial mutation got into 20 of his offspring, the mutation's population dropped to zero for reasons that had nothing to do with the mutation. He and his just were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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    7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    8. Diogenes, I don't think you are following the flow of the discussion. Please answer Dr. Moran's question, "According to modern evolutionary theory, an allele with a selection coefficient of 0.01 will be lost 98% of the time (approximately) before it is fixed. How do you account for that? What causes it to be lost from the population?"

      My answer, again, because drift happens to the populations of beneficial mutations as it happens to populations of neutral mutations (albeit a little less so.) Most allele populations reach zero because events happen that have nothing to do with the allele. The allele drifted into oblivion.

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    9. bFast said,

      The topic of this post is whether there is anything to the theory of evolution beyond random variation and natural selection. I contend that there is not

      bFast also said,

      My answer, again, because drift happens to the populations of beneficial mutations as it happens to populations of neutral mutations (albeit a little less so.) Most allele populations reach zero because events happen that have nothing to do with the allele. The allele drifted into oblivion.

      Does anyone still wonder why I call them IDiots?

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    10. Yes, I guess I wasn't following the 'drift' of the conversation so I deleted my comment. Your first answer about the exterminator was not very good, because there's no requirement that the animals die-- even if their life expectancy is the same, the number of offspring they have can just randomly vary about the mean, so in the next generation the fraction of alleles can be less, and if you get a long string of zigs and too few zags, the mutation goes extinct.

      Same idea as on Pitcairn Island, where the mutineers from the Bounty settled and married Polynesian women. After a few generations, the last names got reduced diversity since there was no new mechanism to create new surnames, until eventually all descendants has the same surname. The extinction of surnames is like the extinction of most neutral mutations and many beneficial ones.

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    11. Dr. Moran, "Does anyone still wonder why I call them IDiots?"
      Grow up! Bye.

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    12. Here's how IDiots understand drift: It's random, therefore ineffective, and so can be dismissed out of hand.

      In their mind drift is another word for "something that can never achieve anything because it's random".

      In effect, when you include drift, to an IDiot you've made evolution even less plausible.

      Random and unguided = cannot ever work.
      Therefore it must be non-random and guided. Jesus! QED.

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    13. Most allele populations reach zero

      He's right, you know. IDiotically, but he's right: Most species that have ever lived on Earth are extinct.

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    14. bFast, Prof Moran has done you a service. He's enabled you to concentrate on what's really important - tone - rather than side-issues such as evolutionary theory and its real or imagined shortcomings.

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  5. It's not impossible, but I think it's important to remember when we interact with the people over on UD and we are dealing with a self-selected bunch of the most hardcore believers. ID has existed for over 15 years now, and some of the people over on the pro-ID blogs have been there from the beginning. There's probably been a number of people who slowly fell off the vagon along the way, so what's left over there now are just the most resistant strain.

    There are many more people out there, who consider themselves pro-ID in some fashion, but who are still open to reason and discussion. Its just that we probably don't hear from them, they might dump by a blog like this by accident, not bother posting but just read some few discussions, see that their fellow ID guys are manifestly full of crap and then leave again with food for thought.

    I have on a few rare occasions interacted with a pro-ID person on a forum, who after some discussion left stating he'd been given some very interesting information to consider. It's very rare for people to outright state "yeah I see you're right, I've now changed my position". Unfortunately human beings don't work like this, they leave quietly and go through a process changing their beliefs.

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  6. I also think it's a mistake to start talking about genetic drift and neutral theory, as if the reason they still reject evolution is because they don't understand drift is part of it. If Luskin had included genetic drift in his description of evolution his conclusion would still have been the same.

    It's not that they don't understand it, it's that they don't want to understand it, because of the keyword Luskin used. You will see this word in almost every ID-argument against evolution: 'Unguided'. Evolution is unguided, random.

    It doesn't matter how many processes and mechanisms you include in evolution, what makes them unable to accept (not to be confused with understand) it is that it is unguided. Because this debate is about religion and culture, not about science. And the people over on UD/News and Views believe they're all part of a cosmic plan playing itself out at every level from the interactions of subatomic particles to the mechanisms of clusters of galaxies.

    If it isn't guided it can't be true. The details of the unguided process is irrelevant (so you can include drift, and neutral theory and whatever else you want). I'm actually sure Luskin would be quite happy to amend the Dissent from Darwin list to include genetic drift and neutral modes of evolution. As long as the conclusion stays the same.

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    1. I bet bones I understand the theory of evolution every bit as well as you do. I just don't buy it. Prove me wrong, convince me that there is something that is important about the theory that I don't understand, and you may find that I become a classic theistic evolutionist. (You'll have to also convince me that the big bang is an unguided phenomenon to get me to abandon the "theistic" part.)

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    2. If Luskin had included genetic drift in his description of evolution his conclusion would still have been the same.

      No, it would not have been the same. Luskin argues that because some scientists question whether natural selection can account for all of evolution, it means that the concept of evolution is being challenged. He wants you to believe that those scientists are questioning naturalism.

      If he were to admit that those scientists merely want to include other naturalistic mechanisms, such as random genetic drift, then his whole argument falls apart and the significance of "Dissent from Darwinism" disappears.

      He could invent other arguments, but the one he uses would be refuted.

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    3. So you are saying that "random genetic drift" is not part of the evolution = "random variation + natural selection" claim then?

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    4. Usually the "random variation" part is taken to mean mutations not genetic drift.

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    5. So you are saying that "random genetic drift" is not part of the evolution = "random variation + natural selection" claim then?

      Yes, and you would know that if you understood modern evolutionary theory.

      But you don't.

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    6. "Prove me wrong, convince me that there is something that is important about the theory that I don't understand, and you may find that I become a classic theistic evolutionist."

      To "prove you wrong" we'd have to have an idea about how you understand modern evolutionary theory. As in, are you familiar with what evolutionary biologists think on various subjects, and why? For example you would have to be able to "argue the other side", even if you don't believe it. Let's see if you can.

      Give two arguments based on empirical observations a scientist could use to support the statement that molecular evolution is unguided and simply due to chemistry and physics.

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    7. There is a comment above which begins with, "Let me consider neutral theory more closely" In it I express my understanding of the neutral theory, as far as I am concerned a cousin of genetic drift theory. Please critique that description.

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    8. People are already discussing that with you, now answer my question if you can.

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    9. bFast,

      "You'll have to also convince me that the big bang is an unguided phenomenon to get me to abandon the "theistic" part."

      Why? Should we have no answers for everything and therefore "God"? Mere stubbornness?

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    10. Heh, that statement really just goes to show this is about religion, not science. In a thread about evolution we now have to talk about the big bang and theism. And there's that key-word again. Unguided.

      So will you be answering my question bFast?

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    11. I bet bones I understand the theory of evolution every bit as well as you do.

      Your statement above, the one about which Dr. Moran said "Wonder why I still call them...."? That shows you understand nothing of evolution, but simply have learned enough by rote to parrot a few phrases. Your statement reads, to anyone who knows something about evolution, as if someone had asked you if you understood what makes automobiles work, and you'd said "You stick your feet through the floor and run really fast."

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  7. There are two groups. There are the people like Luskin, Behe, and Meyer who definitely SHOULD know better. Then there are the people who follow them who are abysmally ignorant about science and listening to the likes of the DI just make it worse.

    Meyer's Darwin's Doubt is evidence that Meyer knows the reality of the science and purposefully masks it. There's no way he could actually read the paper he quotes from and so completely miss the mark.

    He also ignores a significant amount of research that shows him to be totally wrong.

    Of course, his livelihood depends on him coming to incorrect conclusions... so there's that to consider. Him and Luskin both. Behe probably would never get a teaching gig anywhere else if he weren't tenured.

    But the rank and file who inhabit the forums and comment threads, in general, really are that illiterate when it comes to science and they are, in general, not interested in learning the truth. They, like their masters, have become experts at semantic arguments, dodging uncomfortable questions, and logical fallacies do severe it's a wonder that they can make decisions while driving.

    I don't think it's impossible to educate ID proponents on evolution. But it's certainly a Sisyphiean effort.

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    1. Jonathan Wells should know better. I'm pretty sure he has to be lying. Michael Behe and Michael Denton don't lie very often.

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    2. Who says that Meyer actually read the papers he quotes from?

      You mistake the nature of quote-mining. It isn't purposely quoting out of context. It's scanning papers, without actually reading them, to find quotes that fit your needs. There's no need to understand the context; in fact it would be a distraction.

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    3. I don't know if I totally agree about Behe, but it's a close thing. Only because he portrays his few papers as discrediting evolution when they really don't.

      From his Kitzmiller testimony, I think Behe is sort of trying to be both a reputable scientist AND an ID proponent AND a good Christian (depending on how one defines it) and is failing at finding the middle ground for all of them. But that's just an impression. I don't know him.

      John, while I tend to agree, it's unreal to me that they would not read those papers. McDonald's "The Great Darwinian Paradox" paper asks a single rhetorical question, which Meyer copies, then spends the next 5 pages, with multiple examples and dozens of references refuting (which Meyer ignores).

      I think that referencing a paper without reading it, is close to lying... at best it's not safe.

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    4. "Michael Behe and Michael Denton don't lie very often."

      It's true that they don't lie as in deliberately tell what they know to be untruthes very often, their dishonesty more lies in them neglecting to mention a whole lot of inconvenient facts that would force them to alter their conclusions. Lying by omission type arguments.

      Do they swear to tell the truth? Yeah probably. The whole truth? No way in hell.

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    5. Ogre,

      I'll go part way with you. I don't think Meyer is much interested in the papers he cites. Though he may have skimmed them, I don't think he was equipped to understand them even if he had tried, both because of the blinding effect of prior bias and because he just doesn't know the subject that well. Some of his citations might even be second-hand, i.e. he never actually saw the full paper, just a quote, which he then recycled.

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    6. I agree with you John. In fact, I remember that there is some evidence to support this. Meyer references the McDonald Paper talking about the "Great Darwinian Paradox". I wrote about it here: http://www.skepticink.com/smilodonsretreat/2013/11/12/mcdonald-the-great-darwinian-paradox/

      The gist of the story is that Meyer quotes himself, apparently quoting Wells, who apparently quoted Behe who actually quoted from the paper itself. It's pretty amusing to see the changes in the quote.

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  8. "Michael Behe and Michael Denton don't lie very often." Wow, Dr. Moran, actual respect for your antagonist.

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    1. I doubt it.

      It's like saying that the claim that "catholic clergy don't rape children as often as they used to" is a sign of respect.

      Or that "your pastor doesn't snort crystal meth with gay prostitutes as often as he used to" is a sign of respect.

      It's merely an indication that these IDiot bottom feeders have come to realize that they are under greater scrutiny and are becoming more adept at covering their tracks.

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    2. Actually, since Behe and Denton have a better understanding of the relevant science than, say, Luskin, O'Leary, Arrington, Egnor and the rest, when Behe or Denton says something that is blatantly contradicted by scientific evidence, I think they are more likely to be lying than the others.

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  9. The more I read this blog the more I agree with Cornelius Hunter, religion does indeed drive science. I wonder if you didn't blog about "IDiots" for a span of 90 days would your blog survive? Of course it would still exist but I think it would be more of a personal journal of sorts.

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    1. Religion does indeed drive science in the same sense that disease drives medicine.

      Although that gives far too much credit to religion.

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    2. Perhaps if you refrained from saying anything cretinously IDiotic for 90 days this might become "more of a personal journal of sorts".

      But I don't think that's possible, is it ?

      Like the Lernaean Hydra of yore, you lop off one (empty) head and 2 more appear.

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    3. If you agree with Cornelius you can't be anything else but incredibly stupid.

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    4. Beau: "The more I read this blog the more I agree with Cornelius Hunter, religion does indeed drive science."

      Oh. You are a great judge of other people's motivations. So you and Dr. Cornelius have no actual evidence against evolution, and you have no actual evidence for Intelligent Design sorcery ooga booga, but you will change the subject to our motivations, at the judging of which you consider yourself quite the genius!

      Yes, change that subject, loser.

      Right wingers have gone bonkers with the Appeal to Motive fallacy. All we hear from the Right, 24 hours a day, is Appeal to Motive fallacy. I got zero tolerance for that switcheroo.

      But tell me: if conservative Christians were such great judges of human character, why do they keep putting child molesters, rapists, sexual harrassers, racists, criminals, grifters and pyramid schemers behind their pulpits and dress them up in mitres and cassocks? It seems that if you were really good judges of people's motivations, your clergy would not be involved in a nationwide crime spree of kid rape, fraud and graft.

      Here's just one of today's such stories: Arkansas Rep. Justin Harris adopted two girls, 3 and 6, believed them to be demon possessed, brought in "specialists" from out of state to perform exorcisms on the girls, never let the older one out of her room and kept a camera on her at all times, and finally he gave the two girls away... to a youth pastor who worked at the Growing God's Kingdom preschool that Harris owned... who then raped the six year old. Source.

      Yeah that's some amazing judgment of people's motives you've got. We really care about your guesses at our motives out there in Christian Rapey-land.

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    5. Diogenes, "Oh. You are a great judge of other people's motivations."
      I have little knowledge of Beau Stoddard's motivations, but you, Dr. Moran, Mikkel Rumraket Rasmussen, the lot of you, are all absolutely lousy judges of my motivations, and my level of knowledge. However, the lot of you are VERY WILLING to declare your expertise on both.

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    6. If you agree with Cornelius you can't be anything else but incredibly stupid.

      They could both be liars.

      Or they could be stupid AND liars.

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    7. are all absolutely lousy judges of my motivations

      That is exactly the point Diogenes was making, Beau Stoddard was moving the goalposts from an argument based on evidence to an argument based on motivations, which are notoriously difficult to divine, as you so perspicaciously pointed out.

      and my level of knowledge

      Not true, I'm afraid,

      Based on the turds you have left lying around this blog your level of knowledge is painfully obvious.

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  10. Building coherent systems by random errors is a stupid theory. If you add to it another random component what does it help not much?

    Professor Moran here's your chance to show us what are your tons of best evidence of what random drift can do. I am confident that you will not show us much.

    Let's here M. Behe again:

    My interest in evolution by neutral mutation, however, is a matter of public record. It is an old idea that if a gene for a protein duplicates (3), then multiple mutations can accumulate in a neutral fashion in the “spare” gene copy, even if those mutations would be severely deleterious if they occurred in a single-copy gene. Four years ago David Snoke and I wrote a paper entitled “Simulating evolution by gene duplication of protein features that require multiple amino acid residues” (4) where we investigated aspects of that scenario. The bottom line is that, although by assumption of the model anything is possible, when evolution must pass through multiple neutral steps the wind goes out of Darwinian sails, and a drifting voyage can take a very, very long time indeed. But don’t just take my word for it — listen to Professor Thornton (1):

    “To restore the ancestral conformation by reversing group X, the restrictive effect of the substitutions in group W must first be reversed, as must group Y. Reversal to w and y in the absence of x, however, does nothing to enhance the ancestral function; in most contexts, reversing these mutations substantially impairs both the ancestral and derived functions. Furthermore, the permissive effect of reversing four of the mutations in group W requires pairs of substitutions at interacting sites. Selection for the ancestral function would therefore not be sufficient to drive AncGR2 back to the ancestral states of w and x, because passage through deleterious and/or neutral intermediates would be required; the probability of each required substitution would be low, and the probability of all in combination would be virtually zero.” (my emphasis)

    Let’s quote that last sentence again, with emphasis: “Selection for the ancestral function would therefore not be sufficient … because passage through deleterious and/or neutral intermediates would be required; the probability of each required substitution would be low, and the probability of all in combination would be virtually zero.” If Thornton himself discounts the power of genetic drift when it suits him, why shouldn’t I?

    Case closed.

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    1. What do you think Thornton would say to that, if you continued reading?

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    2. Oh look, Unknown drops by to mindlessly quote Michael Behe.

      Behe speaks, the matter is settled!

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    3. In any case, Behe is committing the same basic fallacy that underlies all creationist probability arguments. If you specify a set of mutations and calculate their probability out of all possible mutations, you will always get an absurdly low number.

      Yes, those three, or four, or more mutations will be extremely improbable, but so will any particular set of three or more.

      There will be three or more mutations happening in the genome of the organism anyway, and they'll be just as improbable as any other three mutations you calculate the odds of. But they happen anyway.

      Then what is the use of an argument dismissing mutations on probabilistic grounds like this, when sets of mutations with the same posterior probability happen all the time? It seems to serve only one purpose, to baffle the minds of credulous religionists with large numbers.

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    4. Unknown quotes Dr. Behe quoting Prof. Thornton:

      "To restore the ancestral conformation...."

      And of course that's where Thornton and Behe's entire line of reasoning is misdirected, and where you don't know enough to recognize it.

      If the sole object is to arrive at one specific conformation, be it "ancestral" or otherwise, there is no such thing as a "neutral" mutation.

      When we speak of neutral mutations, that means with regard to the probability that the mutation will be passed along to succeeding generations, *not* with regard to whether the mutation is a step along the path to a predetermined goal. Evolution doesn't work that way; no natural process does.

      The Mississippi is excellent at carving out a complex, random path for itself. It would be extremely bad at working toward some path that I set for it as a goal, such as a straight line. Evolution, like the river, moves along random, non-predetermined paths that can attain startling apparent complexity.

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    5. It seems to serve only one purpose, to baffle the minds of credulous religionists with large numbers.

      ...or more to the point, it feeds in perfectly to the common and strong notion that things as they are, must be as they are, and therefore could have only arisen through sudden creation (via some unspecified magic) or by omnipotent direction of a very complicated mutational history.

      The above is very obvious but important because even many people who would not call themselves creationists or even particularly religious are strongly beholden to this view. It is difficult for people to appreciate that what we see today is the net result of untold numbers of contingent events and thus could be very different than it is.

      Rather than misunderstanding evolutionary theory, the main barrier to wider acceptance of evolution is the innate human tendency toward teleological thinking, though understanding evolution theory is one pathway to tampering down or banishing this innate tendency.

      Judmarc: the Mississippi river is so stupid! It didn't construct its own levies where it should have know that human cities, like New Orleans, would eventually be built. ;-)

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  11. So far, we've got 3 possible explanations: stupidity, ignorance, and duplicity. And we've eliminated ignorance. But there's at least one other: delusion.
    Sam Harris has written about the DSM, and how its authors had to put in an exception for religious beliefs because they realized most such beliefs satisfy their own definition of delusion.

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    1. Good point. Most of these people probably have a strong Morton's Demon sitting in their mind filtering incoming information.

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  12. Wait a minute.
    I am a yEC creationist.
    I understand the glory of biological origins is taught as coming from selection on mutations plus time. this is Darwins stuff. Thats why this is called the sandwalk.
    this is what everyone says who reaches the public.
    I understand there are now new additions. Yet i would think it only covers some 10% of EVOLUTIONISM.
    luskin is a great teacher and advocate. he does great interviews and is truly accomplished in debunking evolution.
    The new ideas are not overthrowing the main point.
    UNLES I'M wrong.
    Yes the old idea failed and needed a makeover. AMEN.
    I like percentages.
    Tell creationdom what percentage , today, is evolutionism covered by the old equation of S on M + T.
    I do read on this blog , even aggressive, new ideas about evolution. Many threads have dealt with correcting fellow evolutionists on some points it seems.
    No ID or YEC gets evolution wrong but its a big subject and one cuts to the heart when dealing with the public.

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    1. I don't usually respond to Byers. But I want to acknowledge that he has outdone himself this time. That's all I wanted to say.

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    2. RB: I like percentages.

      The whole thing looks like it was written by someone who is habitually under the influence of ~40% abv.

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    3. Cue gif with Jon Stewart eating popcorn 0.0

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    4. Tell creationdom what percentage , today, is evolutionism covered by the old equation of S on M + T.

      Enough of this evolutionism mumbo-jumbo. If we simply assume that god is 100% in charge, then we can turn our attentions to more important matters like how best to seek his enduring love, and how best to seek mercy from the effects of that love.

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  13. bFast, Beau, and Unknown, you apparently believe that your chosen, so-called 'God' designed/designs, created/creates, and guided/guides some mutations and some of the other things that pertain to evolution and the origin and diversity of biological entities on Earth. A very common assertion from creationists is that natural evolutionary processes/events cannot and do not 'create' or result in 'beneficial' mutations (or pretty much anything else that is 'beneficial').

    Do each of you believe that your chosen, so-called 'God' only designs, creates, and guides 'beneficial' things? Do you believe that 'Satan' or 'demons' design, create, and guide all of the detrimental things? Will you explain why creationists virtually always focus on 'beneficial' mutations (or other 'beneficial' things) when asserting that natural evolutionary processes/events can't and don't do it and that only 'God' can and does do it? Why don't you focus on asserting that detrimental and deadly mutations, diseases, parasites, etc., are not and cannot be due to natural evolutionary processes/events and that only 'God' can and does design, create and guide those things?

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    1. Just because all cars brake doesn't mean they werent intelligently designed. Nobody said benefficial mutations cant happen by chance. The question is can random errors build anything from a single cell? You know you don't have any evidence, you just don't want to accept that your theory cant explain your wish.

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    2. Unknown said:

      "Nobody said benefficial mutations cant happen by chance."

      That is NOT true. Creationists, especially of the IDiot variety, constantly assert that beneficial mutations cannot happen by "chance". Besides, I didn't ask you anything about "chance".

      "The question is can random errors build anything from a single cell?"

      No, the questions are the ones I asked you and Beau and bFast. Why do you creationists NEVER provide straight answers to straight questions?

      Do you really think that you're going to get anywhere with educated, rational, scientific people when you play your stupid games by trying to define all evolutionary processes/events as "random errors" and "chance"?

      And speaking of evidence, let's see your evidence for your imaginary sky daddy.

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    3. The question is can random errors build anything from a single cell?

      Ah, that's an easy one. Yes. What's the problem? You need surface adhesion, which is a binding issue. Proteins on the exterior of cells can be tuned by selection just as readily as proteins on the interior. If 'accidental' adhesion proves beneficial, suddenly it stops looking like an accident.

      Of course, you probably mean people. It certainly takes a bit of genetic control when you start to differentiate somatic cells into specialisms. But again, any 'happy accident' with survival value is preferentially preserved, like those seeds that didn't fall on stony ground.

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    4. But again, any 'happy accident' with survival value is preferentially preserved, like those seeds that didn't fall on stony ground.

      Many accidents that are neither particularly happy nor particularly unhappy are preserved as well. :-)

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    5. Just because all cars brake doesn't mean they werent intelligently designed.

      Sometimes the equivalent of a "car that breaks" will mutate into the equivalent of a "car that brakes" (i.e., does something useful), and so, to paraphrase Allan Miller, that happy accident with survival value will be preserved.

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  14. "Creationists, especially of the IDiot variety, constantly assert that beneficial mutations cannot happen by "chance".

    You are lying. show me one quote from any IDst Meyer, Behe, Welsh, Luskin... saying beneficial mutations cannot happen.

    "No, the questions are the ones I asked you and Beau and bFast. Why do you creationists NEVER provide straight answers to straight questions?"

    I was the one asking questions to professor Moran and instead of providing straight answers you asked a bunch of irrelevant questions.
    Whole truth is lying again

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    1. I got this from Diogenes who has apparently compiled a small list of quotes:

      Pro-ID Philosopher William Dembski: “[T]here is now mounting evidence of biological systems for which any slight modification does not merely destroy the system’s existing function but also destroys the possibility of any function of the system whatsoever.” [Dembski, The Design Revolution, p. 113]

      Pro-ID lawyer Phillip Johnson: “Biologists affiliated with the Intelligent Design movement nail down the distinction by showing that DNA mutations…make birth defects” ["Berkeley's Radical: An Interview with Phillip E. Johnson", November 2000.]

      Pro-ID lawyer Edward Sisson: “[T]he theory of unintelligent evolution, which depends entirely on the supposed occurrence in history of trillions of DNA mutations that beneficially affect body shape, has not identified any such mutations” -- [Edward Sisson, “Darwin or Lose”, Touchstone, v. 17, issue 6, July/Aug. 2004]

      Uncommon Descent: “As far as I know, the current consensus of population geneticists is that mutations do indeed have disastrously bad fitness.” [Eric Holloway. Uncommon Descent. August 28, 2011.]

      The whole premise of ID is that evolution can't happen because beneficial and useful mutations are somewhere around miraculously rare to nonexistant, so a "blind search" cannot ever be expected to find them. Or maybe it can find one or two and then that's about it. There doesn't even seem to be any agreement between various IDiots about it, they're all over the map. Sometimes we hear them say beneficial mutations can happen, it's just they can't ever "build an increase in complexity".

      The ID claim against mutations takes many forms, but common to all is that it can't do much because useful mutations are rare and the search for them is "unguided and random". Insert *baffle* with large numbers = every pro IDcreationist book ever written.

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    2. Unknown, Rumraket's quotes, WHICH YOU ASKED FOR, have not merely exposed you as a sham, but have left his boot print deep in your ass.

      Do you surrender?

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  15. Interesting none of the quotes say beneficial mutations can't happen.
    do you have more? and from known Id scientists not unkown lawyers like Edward Sisson.

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    1. unknown said:

      "Interesting none of the quotes say beneficial mutations can't happen.do you have more? and from known Id scientists not unknown lawyers like Edward Sisson."

      My original statement was:

      "Creationists, especially of the IDiot variety, constantly assert that beneficial mutations cannot happen by "chance"."

      And unknown's response was:

      "You are lying. show me one quote from any IDst Meyer, Behe, Welsh, Luskin... saying beneficial mutations cannot happen."

      Notice that he left out the words "by chance" both times, and that he expects not just "one quote from any IDst" but quotes from "Id scientists", even though I didn't say anything about "Id scientists".

      Now, Mikkel and Diogenes have already responded to unknown with what should be enough to show that what I said is true, but here's some more (all bolding is mine):

      "The eye either functions as a whole or not at all. So how did it come to evolve by slow, steady infinitesimally small Darwinian improvements? Is it really plausible that thousands upon thousands of lucky chance mutations happened coincidentally so that the lens and the retina, which cannot work without each other, evolved in synchrony?" (Michael Behe in Darwin's Black Box)

      Behe obviously believes that eyes are beneficial but that they cannot have come about by what he refers to as "lucky chance mutations" that "happened coincidentally". Notice also his inaccurate exaggeration: "infinitesimally small Darwinian improvements".

      One of Behe's main assertions is that mutations must be beneficial (e.g. "functional" or "useful" or "critical" or "improvements"):

      "I emphasize that natural selection, the engine of Darwinian evolution, only works if there is something to select — something that is useful right now, not in the future." (Michael Behe in Darwin's Black Box)

      In Darwin's Black Box Behe also says:

      "To a person who does not feel obliged to restrict his search to unintelligent causes, the straightforward conclusion is that many biochemical systems were designed. They were designed not by the laws of nature, not by chance and necessity; rather, they were planned. The designer knew what the systems would look like when they were completed, then took steps to bring the systems about. Life on earth at its most fundamental level, in its most critical components, is the product of intelligent activity."

      "I do not purport to understand everything about design or evolution — far from it; I just cannot ignore the evidence for design. If I insert a letter into a photocopier, for instance, and it makes a dozen good copies and one copy that has a couple of large smears on it, I would be wrong to use the smeared copy as evidence that the photocopier arose by chance."

      (regarding cilium): "Yet a serious Darwinian account of such an elegant machine — one that really sought to answer the question of how such a device could have evolved — would have to deal with the myriad critical details that allow the cilium to work, and show how they could each arise with reasonable probability by random mutation and natural selection, with each tiny mutational step improving on the last, without causing more problems than it was worth, and without veering off into temporarily-advantageous-but- dead-end structures.

      See part two.

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    2. Part two.

      Here's a quote from John D. Morris, President of ICR: "Actually, any living thing gives such strong evidence for design by an intelligent designer that only a willful ignorance of the data (II Peter 3:5) could lead one to assign such intricacy to chance."

      Here are some quotes from joey g, poster boy for idiotic IDiots:

      "Unguided evolution has never been observed to produce anything beyond disease and deformities." (In other words, nothing 'beneficial'.)

      "But anyway there still isn’t any evidence that demonstrates random mutations can accumulate in such a way as to give rise to new, useful multi-protein configurations."

      "The neo-darwinian mechanism can’t even be modeled. Just how can one model differential accumulations of genetic accidents, errors and mistakes?"

      "If the [descent with] modification isn’t via differing accumulations of genetic accidents, errors or mistakes, then it isn’t Darwinism nor NDE."

      "IDE doesn’t explain all evolution. It does allow for blind watchmaker evolution to break things. (In this case "IDE" stands for Intelligent Design Evolution.)

      "So when we have swept clear necessity and chance AND we have Behe’s criteria, we infer intelligent design." (And what is "Behe's criteria"?)

      "The designer doesn’t need to intervene, however in “Not By Chance” and “The Evolution Revolution” Spetner discusses evolution by design- that is organisms were designed to evolve."

      "When we say “chance can build” we mean that blind and undirected process- accidents, errors, mistakes, not planned, haphazard- That has been spoon fed to you and you spit it up like a baby." (And of course he's asserting that "chance" can't "build" anything but diseases and deformities. He doesn't want allah-yhwh-jesus-holy-ghost to get credit for the 'bad' stuff.)

      From gil dodgen, the frilly IDiot:

      "Random errors are inherently entropic, and the more complex a functionally-integrated system becomes, the more destructive random errors become."

      From william j murray, another vociferous IDiot:

      "The idea that chance can be expected to produce patently purposeful effects, like dictionaries and battleships and computers, is nonsensical. The idea that one can throw monkey wrenches into highly complex, sophisticated, interdependent functional code and machinery and not expect anything to happen other than it breaking down is not worthy of serious debate." (He's using "dictionaries and battleships and computers" as a stand in for biological entities, and "monkey wrenches" as "chance" or "random" mutations.)

      "Since my side is the only side that claims to be making arguments by something other than chance, it’s the only side worth taking seriously."

      "I guess it’s okay to hypothesize that given enough time, chance can build a biological computer and self-replicating 3D printing machine..." (Yes, he's being snarky.)

      There are many more examples of IDiots asserting that beneficial mutations cannot happen by "chance".

      And there's much more to evolution than "chance", or so-called "random errors", "mistakes", or "accidents".

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    3. I want to amend one of my statements above to:

      There are many more examples of IDiots asserting that beneficial mutations (or anything else that is beneficial, useful, critical, functional, or an improvement) cannot happen by "chance". They love to erroneously and dishonestly portray evolutionary theory as though it posits nothing but chance, mistakes, errors, accidents, and randomness.

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  16. "The Mississippi is excellent at carving out a complex, random path for itself. It would be extremely bad at working toward some path that I set for it as a goal, such as a straight line. Evolution, like the river, moves along random, non-predetermined paths that can attain startling apparent complexity."

    The analogy is bad because you assume there are many pathways accessible to random errors to build coherent complexity. But it is the very thing you have to prove.

    The problem with you evolutionists is that you think your imagination, your stories or excuses make up for evidence.

    But excuses are only admittance of the lack of evidence.

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    1. "The analogy is bad because you assume there are many pathways accessible to random errors to build coherent complexity. But it is the very thing you have to prove."

      This has already been proven. The diversity of life itself is evidence of this (and ancestor reconstructions proves beyond rational doubt that the diversity of life is connected through an evolutionary process).

      Experimental evolution even shows there are many more solutions "out there" not realized in life. It is not uncommon to find functional protein and DNA sequences in experiments that look nothing like anything found in life as we know it.
      And then there's the fact that life is now adapting through evolution to many man-made pollutants that have never before existed on Earth, such as plastics and countless types of waste from the chemical and petrol industry.

      Notice how nothing of this is "imagination" or "stories", they're concrete empirical facts.

      So here's where you do the same for ID: Show us the designer designing a fully functioning organism from scratch. Your imagination, your stories or excuses doesn't make up for a lack of evidence. Enough blind speculation about what your mysterious and undetectable designer working in the ancient geological past did, time to actually give an example demonstration of your designer at work. Not humans, humans weren't around to design life, no your designer. Where are the empirical demonstrations?

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    2. The analogy is bad because you assume there are many pathways accessible to random errors to build coherent complexity. But it is the very thing you have to prove.

      Amongst proteins primary amino acid sequences are inordinately more diverse than are functionally relevant secondary and tertiary structural folds, demonstrating that there are many different pathways to the same structures and enzymatic activities.

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  17. "SCIENTISTS are still in a state of shock after having discovered the basic blueprint of life.

    They call it DNA -- short for the almost unpronounceable word, deoxyribonucleic acid. DNA is a genetic code, like a master computer or file. It is in. the nucleus of every living cell. Its programmed instructions, for example, make a cow reproduce a calf, not some other kind of animal, or make a liver cell reproduce a liver cell and not a heart cell.

    This genetic recipe is so complex that the entire DNA system within a human contains as much information as several encyclopedia sets, or one hundred large dictionaries.

    DNA - with incredible ACCURACY - will direct the reproduction of a call from a horse. II will split any living cell into exact twins. This DNA could be likened to a master stencil grinding out endless copies of itself.

    But -- and here is the phenomenal KEY that allows mind .defying variety within
    a set kind. When a new life is engendered -- two DNA codes or stencils are used -- one each contained in the father's and mother's chromosomes. DNA reproduces a limitless amount of variety, all molded by a similar template. This variety, though extraordinary in scope, is limited by the fact that parents are of a similar kind.

    As a result, variety within a species can reach astronomical proportions. (For example, note the number of varieties among moths and butterflies.) But, because DNA reproduces itself exactly, kind reproduces kind. Evolution cannot occur!"

    http://www.herbert-armstrong.org/Plain%20Truth%201960s/Plain%20Truth%201969%20(Prelim%20No%2005)%20May.pdf

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    1. Any typos in the above are the result of OCR conversion from an image pdf.

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  18. Everybody switch off your irony meters, NOW!

    Alas, Professor Moran, you can't educate the IDiots because it turns out that you misunderstand both the tenets of Intelligent Design and the principles of modern evolutionary biology. Your ignorance has been revealed on UD by a certain John Bartlett, Independent Researcher, who happens to know everything about evolution and seems prepared to educate you.

    ID and Evolutionary Biology

    OK, you can switch 'em on again.

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    1. Oops, Johnny stands for Jonathan in this case. It's Jonathan Bartlett, Creation Research Society.

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