Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Orac responds to my post on teaching the controvery

Orac didn't like part of my post On teaching alternative medicine at the University of Toronto. Here's what I said a few days ago ...
From an academic pedagogical perspective, there’s nothing wrong with a course that has a reading list emphasizing quack medicine. This is the view that people outside of the university don’t understand. They appear to want to prevent students from ever learning about, or discussing, the anti-vax movement and how to deal with it.

They are wrong.
Orac took this personally and responded in a post of his own [On teaching pseudoscientific controversies in universities…].
Those of you who read the articles and have seen talks by supporters of science-based medicine like Steve Novella and myself will recognize this for the straw man that it is. We never say anything like this, that we want to prevent students from learning about or discussing the antivaccine movement. That is an assertion that is unsupported and, quite frankly, downright risible. So you should understand that I was more than a little pissed off when I read this part of Moran’s post. We never say that we don’t want alternative medicine to be taught or antivaccine views taught. (Indeed, I really wish that pediatrics residency programs, for instance, would do a better job of teaching antivaccine views, so that they don’t catch pediatricians by surprise when parents start expressing them.) What we complain about is the uncritical teaching of these topics, the teaching, for example, of alternative medicine modalities as though they had scientific merit. This is a massive problem in medical academia. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve reiterated this very point going back at least a decade.
We agree. I wasn't referring to people like Orac who understand how universities should work. I was referring to those people outside of the university community who really do want to ban any mention of alternative medicine at universities. I guess I didn't make that clear.

I'm pretty sure that Orac knows about this crowd. They are totally opposed to the idea of teaching the controversy. They have some very strong views on what's right and what's wrong and they firmly believe that the only views that should ever be expressed in university classes are the ones they agree with.
In the end, my little fit of pique over Prof. Moran’s condescending and dismissive attitude towards those of us who were so outraged by this course being offered by U. of T. aside, we actually (mostly agree). Moran supports “teaching the controversy” with respect to evolution and with respect to alternative medicine. So do I. Where we disagree is over what “teaching the controversy” actually entails. Can Prof. Moran can honestly say that he wouldn’t be the least bit upset if his own department were to offer an entire course on “controversies in evolution” taught by Ken Ham, Casey Luskin, and a Discovery Institute fellow to be named later? That he would approve of such a class as a great way to “teach the controversy”? If he can, I’d say there’s a problem. If he can’t say that, I congratulate him. That’s the correct reaction. In that case, I also point out that he has no business being so contemptuous of our anger over a homeopath teaching a course in alternative medicine as a way of “teaching the controversy.”
As I said in my earlier post, the problem wasn't that an anti-vaccine point of view was being discussed in a university course. The problem was that the course was being taught by someone who wasn't qualified to offer a university course that encouraged critical thinking. That situation has been rectified.

I would love to invite Casey Luskin to come and give a few lectures on Intelligent Design Creationism to my students. It would be far better for them to hear the other side directly from the horse's mouth than filtered through me.


71 comments :

  1. "I wasn't referring to people like Orac who understand how universities should work. I was referring to those people outside of the university community who really do want to ban any mention of alternative medicine at universities."

    Can you give *any* real examples of such people? There certainly are people who are naturally suspicious of phrases like "teach the controversy" as they have been used by Creationists, medical quacks, and Holocaust deniers to suggest that there is a real debate going on when there isn't, but where are the people who are against teaching these things in order to explain why they are crazy?

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    1. http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/jen-gunter-at-uoft-andrew-wakefield-is-a-credible-source-about-vaccinations-now

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    2. Right. But this wasn't a case of people teaching nonsense in order to show that it is nonsense -- she was teaching nonsense as supposed fact. Obviously teaching nonsense uncritically has no place in a legitimate university. I'm talking about the supposed people who "really do want to ban any mention of alternative medicine at universities". Like Orac, I don't think such people exist. Stopping homeopaths from spewing their nonsense in the guise of a real university is not the same as saying that real medical researchers should be banned from mentioning the word.

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  2. but where are the people who are against teaching these things in order to explain why they are crazy?

    There are many folks in the US who incorrectly believe any discussion of topics connected to religion, even, for example, to discuss the views of Christian Scientists regarding medical treatment, or Creationists regarding evolution, is prohibited by law.

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  3. Larry,

    "I would love to invite Casey Luskin to come and give a few lectures on Intelligent Design Creationism to my students. It would be far better for them to hear the other side directly from the horse's mouth than filtered through me."

    And what would you say to your students if Luskin did a presentation on the evolution of the fist cell and the evolution of prokaryotic cells into eukaryotic?

    I don't know??????

    I'm not sure any of your students would buy that unless they would be in fear of flunking the course.

    Your confidence might be admirable by many creationists, but I don't think it is shared with many supporters of your side of the story.

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    1. And do you endorse the notion of having a 'sister blog' at the DI in which for every pro-IDC post (comments blocked, of course) is responded to by a fact-based statement (no comments there either, of course)?
      Or is IDC too afraid to let their sycophantic hangers-on see that what they are being force-fed is mostly fluff and gibberish?

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    2. If you are mumbling about UD, I just got banned there.

      You are free to start your own blog and I will express my views there. You will ban me in 3 days or less. I guarantee it.

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    3. "If you are mumbling about UD, I just got banned there"

      Welcome to the club. Sean Amis or Carpathian?

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  4. Who is this orac? Who does he think the universities belong too? wjo pays for them and says they are OURS. THE PEOPLE.
    Yes creationists must have equal access to teach our ideas. In reality origin things are only a small percentage of the courses in universities . So its not really practical.
    However it should be a class or two. Yes Ham and others would great.
    This Orac must understand who is the boss of truth and education.
    Not you! its everybody in a democracy, although right now a court dictatorship, and not a elite.
    your saying your truth is the truth. Them's fighting words if know history.
    We should have creationist equal time classes. A few and ORAC should attend.
    By the way who says there are not good ideas in some alternative medicine. Are the people being healed? Not enough.
    By the way again i would not have a flu vaccination myself because I was convinced by Dad getting one led to a terroble flu.
    I don't know the science but why chance it.
    I do think however older people should get it as it would be a rare case of a bad reaction. Perhaps a coincidence but maybe not and for sure it didn't work.

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    1. Sorry Robert, what gets taught in a science class is not up for popular vote by people who know nothing about science. As for creationists teaching their ideas, there are always religion classes at universities, and almost always theology departments or programs. Then there are those things called churches which, incidently, are heavily subsidized by public tax money.

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    2. byers babbled:

      "Yes creationists must have equal access to teach our ideas."

      Should that include all ideas of all creationists of all religions, or just your ideas?

      You say that universities belong to "THE PEOPLE". Do you actually believe that all of "THE PEOPLE" agree with your creationist "ideas"?

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    3. Who is this orac?

      An oncologist, and a professor of surgery, working at the Karmanos Cancer Institute (affiliated with Wayne State University School of Medicine). He divulges his real name on his blog, so it's no classified information. There is also another blog where writes under his own name (David Gorski).

      By the way again i would not have a flu vaccination myself because I was convinced by Dad getting one led to a terroble flu.

      The stuff you took instead must have done something to your brain functions.

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    4. I guess Robert's dad is a renowned virologist, immunologist, infectious disease specialist, or something of that sort. Otherwise, why would Robert listen to his advice?

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    5. My tax money funds the military, yet last I knew, we left military decisions up to those actually in the military (and the chickenhawks that like to play soldier and get elected).
      This whole 'I paid for public/higher education, thus I should be able to dictate what gets taught' is not only naive, but rather narcissistic. Is it really so hard for some people to admit that there are actually OTHER people that know more about them in certain subjects?

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    6. TheOtherJim,

      Here is the abstract of your link:

      "Mealybug beta-proteobacterial endosymbionts contain gamma-proteobacterial symbionts. von Dohlen CD1, Kohler S, Alsop ST, McManus WR. Author information
      Abstract

      Some insects have cultivated intimate relationships with mutualistic bacteria since their early evolutionary history. Most ancient 'primary' endosymbionts live within the cytoplasm of large, polyploid host cells of a specialized organ (bacteriome). Within their large, ovoid bacteriomes, mealybugs (Pseudococcidae) package the intracellular endosymbionts into 'mucus-filled' spheres, which surround the host cell nucleus and occupy most of the cytoplasm. The genesis of symbiotic spheres has not been determined, and they are structurally unlike eukaryotic cell vesicles. Recent molecular phylogenetic and fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) studies suggested that two unrelated bacterial species may share individual host cells, and that bacteria within spheres comprise these two species. Here we show that mealybug host cells do indeed harbour both beta- and gamma-subdivision Proteobacteria, but they are not co-inhabitants of the spheres. Rather, we show that the symbiotic spheres themselves are beta-proteobacterial cells. Thus, gamma-Proteobacteria live symbiotically inside beta-Proteobacteria. This is the first report, to our knowledge, of an intracellular symbiosis involving two species of bacteria."

      Can you tell me where your linked article explains what I was talking about?

      Can you read with comprehension?

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    7. Liesforthedevil wrote: “Endosymbiosis of prokaryotes happened once upon the time in the evolutionary past without the intervention of intelligence but it can’t happen now even with the intervention of intelligence.”

      TheOtherJim responded: “Actually, it happened at least three-times upon a time...” and provided the citation.

      As I comprehend what I read, TheOtherJim was pointing out in a somewhat witty way that endosymbiosis of prokaryotes has happened not just once, but (at least) three times. He wasn’t attempting to explain what Liesforthedevil was writing about. Just poking fun at the premise and providing some very interesting information about an example of endosymbiosis that I had not heard about before. (Thanks!)

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    8. Theories can be supported (even provisionally proven) without being able to reproduce past events. For example, I remember when the theory that mitrochondria and chloroplasts were endosymbiotic bacteria was new. We undergrads read the supporting evidence and said, “Wow! This explains so much! It has to be true! But how could it be proven?” At the time, there didn’t seem to be a good answer to that. However, when people developed methods of sequencing DNA and comparing the results, they could test the obvious prediction that if mitrochondria and chloroplasts are endosymbiotic bacteria, their DNA should resemble that of their bacterial “cousins.” It does. People continuing using and testing this theory and it is abundantly supported, even (provisionally) proven.

      If some day humans do produce new bacterial endosymbionts, it really won’t increase our understanding of the fact that these organelles are endosymbionts, though we may learn a lot about how the necessary adjustments can be made by the bacteria involved.

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    9. Who sent you?

      Do you think I'm a moron like you? That's fine but evidence is required just in case you forgot it.

      What are trying to accomplish? Make me feel bad or science inadequate?

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    10. Liesforthedevil, in my reply just above your 7:36:00 post, you'll find both some of the evidence for the endosymbiosis theory and some information about why I think you are on the wrong track with your exclamations about our not being able to create endosymbiotic relationships now.

      No, I think think you're a moron like me. :-) You do seem at least equally stubborn, though. What am I trying to accomplish? Avoid some work I don't want to do, mostly.

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    11. to everyone. The universities do belong to the people. not some special people.In a contention that has proved worthy of good numbers of the public then the whole people should decide. We are the master and its our stuff.
      Anything else is tyranny.. If here why not in everything.?
      Its very strange to see some self appointed bosses demanding getting their way as if we don't matter . Its time for new people.
      If I can't argue the moral and intellectual merits of democracy and freedom well what can we say.

      Why is a American telling a Canadian university what is right and wrong but the Canuck citizens are to be quiet??
      Anyways creationism is based on historic christian beliefs and couldn't be more right to be taught in our Christian civilization.
      Any censorship is to come from the people and not bosses.
      Indeed its absurd to see those folks embracing censorship after all the bad press it got in the last centuries.
      Its about who gets the gain after all.
      I think a creationist CLASS/course, by a creationist teacher would get lots of kids. It would reflect reality in the nations and what are you afraid of.
      A election issue eh.

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    12. "Tyranny" IS in everything Bryers. You're apparently too blind to notice though that people don't vote thousands of times a day on how they want the police or any other social establishment to conduct its business.

      I do not understand why you don't just fuck off already, honestly. It's so tiresome.
      That goes for all the creationist idjits around here. I read the comments for further insight on the topic, but 90% of it always turns into some fucking elementary bullshit that one of the same 3 moronic IDiots continues to harper about without ever learning.

      Basically the comment sections on this blog are predominantly garbage because they are always hijacked into asinine scuffles on the same goddamn crap.

      Aaaaand rant over now.

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    13. You seem uncivilized eh. These forums should nurture loads of posters. Why not? Unless people feel confident they won't get involved. There are too few creationists but the ones who post are confident.
      Why afraid to rumble??

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  5. And what would you say to your students if Luskin did a presentation on the evolution of the fist cell and the evolution of prokaryotic cells into eukaryotic?

    The fist cell is connected to the hand cell, and the hand cell is connected to the arm cell, and the....

    But seriously, Luskin might have little of substance to say about the origins of the eukaryotic cell except that it couldn't happen without intelligent intervention, and then Larry could spend the next three lectures describing the scientific evidence for endosymbiotic events in the evolutionary past, and many examples of it occurring right now, in modern life forms.

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  6. Seriously? How could we talk seriously about endosymbiosis when Larry removed the inconvenient truth about it? Seriously? I don't think so.

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    1. What "truth" is that? Some made-up nonsense from Meyer? Seriously? What could ANY Discovery Institute creationist possibly lecture anyone at the college level about in terms of modern biology and IDCism? What would they say?
      "Evolutionists cannot tell us the exact steps that it took to evolve X, therefore, um, the Intelligent *Je*cough*sus did it'?

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    2. What could ANY Discovery Institute creationist possibly lecture anyone at the college level about in terms of modern biology and IDCism? What would they say?

      I would say:
      The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, whereby the behavior of matter powers a coexisting trinity of systematically self-similar (in each other's image, likeness) intelligent systems at the molecular, cellular and multicellular level as follows:

      (1) Molecular Level Intelligence: Behavior of matter causes self-assembly of molecular systems that in time become molecular level intelligence, where biological RNA and DNA memory systems learn over time by replication of their accumulated genetic knowledge through a lineage of successive offspring. This intelligence level controls basic growth and division of our cells, is a primary source of our instinctual behaviors, and causes molecular level social differentiation (i.e. speciation).

      (2) Cellular Level Intelligence: Molecular level intelligence is the intelligent cause of cellular level intelligence. This intelligence level controls moment to moment cellular responses such as locomotion/migration and cellular level social differentiation (i.e. neural plasticity). At our conception we were only at the cellular intelligence level. Two molecular intelligence systems (egg and sperm) which are on their own unable to self-replicate combined into a single self-replicating cell, a zygote. The zygote then divided to become a colony of cells, an embryo. Later during fetal development we made it to the multicellular intelligence level which requires a self-learning neural brain to control motor muscle movements1 (also sweat gland motor muscles).

      (3) Multicellular Level Intelligence: Cellular level intelligence is the intelligent cause of multicellular level intelligence. In this case a multicellular body is controlled by an intelligent neural brain expressing all three intelligence levels at once, resulting in our complex and powerful paternal (fatherly), maternal (motherly) and other behaviors. This intelligence level controls our moment to moment multicellular responses, locomotion/migration and multicellular level social differentiation (i.e. occupation). Successful designs remain in the biosphere’s interconnected collective (RNA/DNA) memory to help keep going the billions year old cycle of life where in our case not all individuals must reproduce for the human lineage to benefit from all in society.

      Reciprocal cause/causation goes in both the forward and reverse direction. These behavioral pathways cause all of our complex intelligence related behaviors to connect back to the behavior of matter, which does not necessarily need to be intelligent to be the fundamental source of consciousness.

      A behavior from any system qualifies as intelligent behavior by meeting all four circuit requirements for this ability, which are: [1] something to control (body or modeling platform) with motor muscles (proteins, electric speaker, electronic write to a screen), [2] Random Access Memory (RAM) addressed by sensory sensors where each motor action and its associated confidence value are separate data elements, [3] confidence (central hedonic, homeostasis) system that increments (stored in memory) confidence value of a successful motor action else decrements the confidence value, [4] guess mechanism for a new memory action when associated confidence level sufficiently decreases. For flagella powered cells a random guess response (to a new heading) is designed into the motor system by the action of reversing motor direction causing it to “tumble”.


      More Theory Of Intelligent Design - By me.

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    3. You would lose your audience in the middle of the first sentence, more or less after the words

      whereby the behavior of matter powers a coexisting trinity...

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    4. Then you need to go back to school too Piotr, before getting yourself even further behind by following the vigilante nitwits who talk more about religion than those they are protesting against:

      Definition of TRINITY

      2 not capitalized : a group of three closely related persons or things


      http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trinity

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    5. What on earth makes you think that I'm allergic to the word "trinity"? It isn't any particular word that would lull the audience to sleep; it's your sesquipedalian pomposity.

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    6. Piotr, considering your situation you're one of the last people on this planet who should be blaming others of pomposity.

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    7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    8. N. Manning,

      "What "truth" is that? Some made-up nonsense from Meyer? Seriously? What could ANY Discovery Institute creationist possibly lecture anyone at the college level about in terms of modern biology and IDCism? What would they say?
      "Evolutionists cannot tell us the exact steps that it took to evolve X, therefore, um, the Intelligent *Je*cough*sus did it'?"


      What are you talking about? Are you insane? I'm talking about scientific evidence here for the fundamentals of evolution. Without any evidence for it, there is no evolution past prokaryotes. Do you get it moron? I know you don't.

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    9. Well, I for one don't get it. What are you trying to say? Are you saying there's no evidence for the evolution of eukaryotes? That there's no evidence for the endosymbiotic origin of organelles with genomes? Or what?

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    10. John,

      "liarsfor" doesn't know what he/she's talking about. He/she is repeating half-sentences from others, but he/she doesn't know what those sentences mean. Thus the meaninglessness.

      I suspect that this "liarsfor" idiot is Quest (because of the incompetent gibberish).

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    11. John Harshman,

      Why don't we play Jeopardy? You provide the EVIDENCE and I ask questions starting with endosymbiosis of prokaryotes?

      Let's play the game of life! What do you say?

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    12. Photosynthesis: How do you know he's Quest? Most creationists spout incompetent gibberish.

      Lies: Let's start with the fact that mitochondria have rickettsial genomes, and chloroplasts have cyanobacterial genomes, not to mention other cellular structures.

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    13. Lies: Let's start with the fact that mitochondria have rickettsial genomes, and chloroplasts have cyanobacterial genomes, not to mention other cellular structures.

      And after a lot of other details, we will end with the fact that endosymbiosis is incredibly common even in modern organisms... especially by the alpha-proteobacteria, of which the Rickettsia is a member.

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    14. Photosynthesis: How do you know he's Quest? Most creationists spout incompetent gibberish.

      Yes, but in contrast to, say, Byers, who is honest and sincere in his beliefs, Quest is just a buffoon who treats contrarian blog commentary as his vocation (I presume he doesn't work for a living). If nonsense is your job, it will be necessary to change names often. Byers, for example, will never change his name and understands he has no need to do so, to his credit.

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    15. SRM: Again, there are lots of creationists who treat contrarian blog commentary as their vocations. You need to make a stronger connection than that; might as well say that he has 10 fingers, and so did Quest.

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    16. Sure, no doubt. And I don't actually care whether Quest is Lies or Johnny ..or many of the names I can't right now recall. I'm sure you don't care either. Although, recently Lies did accuse of Piotr and Diogenes of putting up many sock-puppets, which is not only ridiculous, but is typical of Quest: accusing others of his own activities. But this is also routine creationist activity - mimicking the criticisms they hear levelled against themselves. So who knows and, in the end, who cares. I'm sure all of us can agree that is it just nonsense that can be both vexing and entertaining from time to time.

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    17. I'd say far more vexing than entertaining.

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  7. "liesforthedevil Wednesday, August 05, 2015 9:32:00 AM

    Endosymbiosis of prokaryotes happened once upon the time in the evolutionary past without the intervention of intelligence but it can’t happen now even with the intervention of intelligence.

    That's some story!

    I guess endosymbiosis theory doesn’t even meet the criteria of a scientific theory and one of the main problem besides science not being able of replicating the event is that some of the genes found in eukaryotes are not found in prokaryotes. But it doesn’t seem to be a problem for the followers of lies for the devil because they believe in scientific miracles..."

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    1. Actually, it happened at least three-times upon a time...
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11473316

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    2. Don't confuse the IDC tall tale teller with evidence.... It just means that they have to spin and dodge more than usual.
      After all, it is OBVIOUS that the Je-designer wanted mitochondria and chloroplasts to have their own DNA that just happens to be more like prokaryotic DNA than their "host" DNA...

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    3. Endosybiosis facts:

      1. Prokaryotic cells (bacteria) are much simpler than the eukaryotic cells; they lack many complex structures. Dead end for evolution to eukaryotic cells and the rest of the evolutionary theory without an intervention of intelligent designer.

      2. In order for the theory of evolution to be maintained on a respirator past prokaryotes, an endosymbiosis hypothesis has been invented. But this hypothesis is only an object of evolutionary imagination.

      3. Endosybiosis supposedly happened when 1 prokaryote swallowed another and “decided” not to digest it against its nature of its digestive enzymes. Then the insider decided to evolve by an unknown mechanism and after some more additional swallowing and evolution, the eukaryotic cell somehow emerged.

      4. Never has the prokaryotic swallowing ever been observed in real life or lab even if some claim that they did, one bacteria cell preserved inside another bacteria cell has never been documented.

      5. All the above means nothing when one considers this fact:

      “Many eukaryote genes are totally unlike those seen in the prokaryotes and archaea. They seem to come from nowhere”. So even if one has a great imagination and faith to believe in endosymbiosis without any scientific evidence, he needs to face the fact that for endosymbiosis to take place, some genes have to be imported from somewhere, possibly from space.

      Evolutionists have to believe in this fairytale or a similar so-story or the entire theory of evolution is dead without this fundamental process. The alternative to their current beliefs makes them terrified and nervous. So, they have no choice.



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    4. Dead end for evolution to eukaryotic cells and the rest of the evolutionary theory without an intervention of intelligent designer.

      So if I'm understanding correctly, it's impossible for the Universe to create so much as a fungus, but an intelligent being capable of designing all life on Earth, no problem!

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    5. Keep calm Lies. One day, like everyone else, you will die and your life sentence in this terrible world of scientific facts and rationality will be over.

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    6. There are numerous examples of symbionts living inside the cells of the host (intracellular endosymbionts). These include prokaryotes inside prokaryotes, prokaryotes inside eukaryotes, eukaryotes inside eukaryotes, and even prokaryotes inside prokaryotes inside eukaryotes (see above).

      The ciliate Mesodinium chamaeleon (derived from heterotrophic ancestors) ingests photoautotrophic algae (cryptomonads) and stores their cells almost intact inside its food vacuoles, using them as photosynthetic units. Another related ciliate, Myrionecta rubra, keeps the nuclei and the plastids of the cryptomonads it has eaten. They nuclei remain "alive" (genetically active) inside its cell for about a month, so that they can produce the enzymes needed for the functioning of the plastids. But that's not the end of the story. The plastids themselves originated from an old endosymbiont of the cryptomonad -- a red alga, whose vestigial nucleus (nucleomorph), with its own tiny genome, can still be found between the membranes of the plastids. So here we have an eukaryote inside an eukaryote inside an eukaryote. And of course the plastid itself ultimately derives from an endosymbiotic cyanobacterium.

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    7. The clear relationship between evidence and theory was what impressed me when I learned about the endosymbiosis theory for the origin of eukaryotes, as it first became well known in the early 1970's. The hypothesis was based on observations that I knew about as an undergraduate. Wow! It must be true! (Even I understood it!)

      As undergrads, we already knew that mitochondria and chloroplasts were unusual organelles because they had their own DNA and they had double membranes. What did they look like? Prokaryotes! Prokaryotes engulfed by another cell and surrounded by a bit of that's cell's membrane! I even felt a bit of "I should have thought of that" although I didn't and never would have. (It was so obvious, in fact, that the idea was first proposed in the 1880's, even before the double membranes were detected.)

      Since the 1970's, abundant evidence has been found to support the endosymbiotic origin of eukaryotes, including DNA comparisons that have found the prokaryote "cousins" of both mitochondria and chloroplasts.

      These studies lead to new studies and new questions. Some bacteria penetrate other prokaryotic cells and digest them from the inside; did the ancestor of eukaryotes arise from a desperate attempt by the host to control an invader, rather than the host's attempt to eat the cell that was ancestral to the mitochondrion? Was the original "host" perhaps a third type of prokaryote, neither Archean nor Bacterial, that lacked a cell wall?

      Liesforthedevil has no interest in evidence about the evolution of endosymbiosis or even about how the theory grew, but to me that interaction of evidence and ideas is the fascinating, fun part of this theory.

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    8. Actually, the double membranes of mitochondria are all bacterial; none of the host's membrane is present. This is one reason why the phagocytosis hypothesis is unlikely while the intracellular parasite hypothesis makes more sense. But Lies isn't interested in any of that. He invited me to reply to him, which I did, and that whole thing has been ignored in favor of him posting that little pointless screed above. He really doesn't want to think about it.

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    9. liesforthedevilThursday, August 06, 2015 12:34:00 PM

      4. Never has the prokaryotic swallowing ever been observed in real life or lab even if some claim that they did, one bacteria cell preserved inside another bacteria cell has never been documented.

      Interesting... yet on August 05, 2015 6:15:00 PM you re-posted an abstract to a link that I provided, stating;
      Here we show that mealybug host cells do indeed harbour both beta- and gamma-subdivision Proteobacteria, but they are not co-inhabitants of the spheres. Rather, we show that the symbiotic spheres themselves are beta-proteobacterial cells. Thus, gamma-Proteobacteria live symbiotically inside beta-Proteobacteria.

      Are you lying or just very bad at reading comprehension?

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    10. These possibilities are not mutually exclusive.

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    11. Can you ALL abandon strawman and actually answer my points especially 3-5?

      I'm going to emphasize again that I'm talking about the evolution of prokaryotic cells to eukaryotic (endosymbiosis) and not some nonsense symbiosis examples not related to the theme. Strawman will not do it.

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    12. liesforthedevil,

      They've been answering your "points" all this time. It's obvious that you can't read for comprehension and that you are too incompetent to understand the answers.

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    13. Isn't that funny. liesforthedevil strawmanned himself.

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    14. Assuming you mean 3-5 from you post from August 06, 2015 12:34:00 PM;

      3) Answered by John Harshman (Thursday, August 06, 2015 4:28:00 PM)
      "...This is one reason why the phagocytosis hypothesis is unlikely while the intracellular parasite hypothesis makes more sense...."

      4) You are wrong. Bacteria-in-bacteria has been observed in the gut of an extant mealybug (The Other Jim Thursday, August 06, 2015 5:47:00 PM and TheOtherJim Wednesday, August 05, 2015 2:14:00 PM).

      5) refers to 3 and 4 which are incorrect assertions, so 5) is meaningless. If you mean the "new genes" part, read http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/04/02/1421379112.long

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    15. Suggestion. Every time liesforthedevil "adds" to the discussion, just paste his 5 point screed. We can quickly refer to the nonsense, laugh and point fingers at liesforthedevil, and quickly move on to more interesting topics. As Larry said, "Best from the horse's mouth."

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    16. liesforthedevil said:

      "Prokaryotic cells (bacteria) are much simpler than the eukaryotic cells; they lack many complex structures. Dead end for evolution to eukaryotic cells and the rest of the evolutionary theory without an intervention of intelligent designer."

      Why don't you religious zealots stop playing your childish, dishonest games and refer to your imaginary sky daddy by the name(s) that you believe is/are correct? Instead of "intelligent designer", call it god or yhwh-yeshua-holy-ghost or allah or whatever name is applied to your imaginary Dom. You don't want to piss off your Dom, do you, or are you hoping to be punished for being a disrespectful, disobedient Sub?

      "In order for the theory of evolution to be maintained on a respirator past prokaryotes, an endosymbiosis hypothesis has been invented. But this hypothesis is only an object of evolutionary imagination."

      In order for you delusional, narcissistic, authoritarian, reality denying, Dom/Sub loons to impose and maintain your autocratic/theocratic agenda you invent and perpetuate an imaginary god and associated, despicable fairy tales.

      "Endosybiosis supposedly happened when 1 prokaryote swallowed another and “decided” not to digest it against its nature of its digestive enzymes. Then the insider decided to evolve by an unknown mechanism and after some more additional swallowing and evolution, the eukaryotic cell somehow emerged."

      Your imaginary god allegedly just is, always has been, and always will be. How, when, where, and why did your god 'emerge', and by what mechanism? And with what mechanism did/does it design-create-assemble-guide everything that it allegedly designs-creates-assembles-guides?

      "Never has the prokaryotic swallowing ever been observed in real life or lab even if some claim that they did, one bacteria cell preserved inside another bacteria cell has never been documented."

      Never has your imaginary god ever been observed in real life (including a lab).

      "All the above means nothing when one considers this fact:

      “Many eukaryote genes are totally unlike those seen in the prokaryotes and archaea. They seem to come from nowhere”. So even if one has a great imagination and faith to believe in endosymbiosis without any scientific evidence, he needs to face the fact that for endosymbiosis to take place, some genes have to be imported from somewhere, possibly from space."

      You need to face the fact that many thousands of so-called gods have been invented and seem to come from nowhere. Where did the so-called god that you believe in come from? Nowhere, or somewhere? Space? And what scientific evidence can you provide to support your great imagination and faith?

      "Evolutionists have to believe in this fairytale or a similar so-story or the entire theory of evolution is dead without this fundamental process. The alternative to their current beliefs makes them terrified and nervous. So, they have no choice."

      God pushers like you believe in and preach fearful, threatening, murderous, impossible, Dom/Sub fairy tales because any realistic alternative to your beliefs makes you feel terrified and nervous. Religion is your crutch and your weapon. You use it as a crutch to assuage your fears/insecurities and/or as a threatening weapon to dominate whoever will submit.

      Do you have a choice?

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  8. People who are majoring in a subject in order to qualify for employment, and who intend to try for a PhD are probably not interested in "the controversy." At least not juvenile controversies like creationism and quack medicine.

    People who are taking intro courses as part of a liberal arts curriculum, and who are mostly interested in being able to judge the ordinary claims of product vendors, doctors and politicians, would probably benefit from learning about controversies, and about critical thinking.

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    1. Being able to judge claims like those is something that should start to be taught in elementary school at the latest as far as I see it (and continued into high school), not as part of liberal arts curriculum intro courses.
      I think it's a travesty that it's not.

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    2. Exactly. I read Martin Gardner's Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science when I was about 14 years old, and it immunised me against pesudocience for the rest of my life. I couldn't read English at the time, and so had to do with a Polish translation, with the chapter on Lysenko scissored out by communist censorship, but it was effective anyway.

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    3. I didn't intend that courses should explicitly teach how to judge ordinary life claims. But they could teach critical thinking within their particular fields.I think at least some of my teachers taught thinking skills, and some others led by bad example.

      It would be a hoot if science fairs encouraged Consumer Reports style testing of various claims.

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  9. All agreed, then, that the instructor should never have been hired, and that it is sometimes appropriate to include discussion of pseudoscientific material like anti-vaccine arguments in a university course. But I think you are still clearly missing the chief point of disagreement between you and Orac (and me). For your comments, and your (qualified) endorsement of Vivek Goel’s response, imply that you think it would have been OK for that course, with that very syllabus, to have been taught by a more qualified individual. And this is surely wrong.
    Suppose we were to put a qualified instructor in to teach that course, with no changes to the syllabus or reading materials allowed. I can guarantee you that a significant proportion of the students would emerge from the course convinced that Andrew Wakefield was a martyr, and that their biased professor was part of the establishment conspiracy against anti-vaxxers and alternative medicine. Why? Because, whatever amount of prior discussion of the scientific basis of vaccination and medicine they had received in prior courses, they simply wouldn’t have been given the materials to address the very specific claims and arguments they would encounter in the extremely skewed reading list.
    Quacks of all stripes can be very persuasive, and have a strong track-record of converting highly-educated people. And not many instructors have the knowledge and experience to teach students how to not be taken in by these arguments – just as most biologists will lose miserably if they ever agree to debate a creationist. But even a skilled instructor will fail in a course that is structured so as to not include any of the material needed to mount an effective response, and which has no materials or lectures devoted to teaching the critical thinking tools needed to see through the fallacies in the quack’s arguments.
    As Orac put it, the big problem with this course, other than the unqualified instructor, was that it was a course in quackery, not a course about quackery. It was a course that, on its face, presented pseudoscientific positions as if they were worthy scientific contenders needing to be given serious consideration. Even if the material were ‘balanced’ by having less quackish articles on the reading list, the course would still have amounted to “there’s evidence on both sides; it’s a scholarly debate to settle it”. (A philosopher I know compared teaching this material to scholarly debate about the merits of the ontological argument for God.) And this is precisely the kind of false balance that skeptics spend their lives railing against.
    Compare this to a course about quackery (such as, presumably, the one you have taught). I once taught a course (at UTM) entitled ‘Science and Pseudoscience’. In this course, we started with several weeks on the philosophical debate on the so-called demarcation problem (Popper, Lakatos, Thagard, etc.), followed by detailed application of the philosophical tools and ideas learned to various pseudoscientific views – ending with a sustained discussion of creationism. (If I taught the course now, it would be very different, and far better: I would have much more material on the psychology of false belief; and I would include alternative medicine in my case studies.) In a course like this, quackery such as was included on the syllabus for the UTSC course would be included, but as a subject for analysis using the scholarly materials that ground the course. The UTSC course was not, and could not have been, this kind of course.
    The difference is as great as that between a course teaching Monty Python and the Holy Grail as art and one teaching it as historical scholarship. Even if the latter were taught ‘critically’, by say, comparing it with other accounts of British history, it would still be inappropriate as primary material for a university course. (I’d actually say that the quantum flapdoodle marshalled in defence of homeopathy – also included in the UTSC course - is far more absurd than anything in Monty Python....)

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    1. You don't know anything about the course other than the reading list that you saw online. Vivek Goel, whose opinion I value, investigated and found that the course wasn't as bad as you imagine and the students were not duped.

      He says that, even though he doesn't approve of the instructor or the way she was chosen.

      You object to the fact that students might ever be exposed to the idea that there is a legitimate controversy ("scholarly debate") or that there might be "evidence on both sides," That's wrong. There is a controversy whether we like it or not and we need to arm our students with the tools to think critically for themselves. You don't do that by presenting only one side of the argument and treating the other side as illegitimate and unworthy of being defended in a university classroom. That's just telling students what they should think based on your opinion of the truth.

      Don't you see why this is a dangerous position to defend? Universities are under attack from within and without because they are not teaching the "correct" version of the truth. It's relatively easy to defend critical thinking when you agree with what's being taught and disagree with those who would ban it (e.g. evolution, socialism, atheism). It's much harder, but just as important, to defend expression of those views you disagree with.

      Many people think I go too far in defending the rights of people I disagree with but I'd rather err on the side of freedom of expression than on the side of censorship. I'm not afraid that students will be easily swayed if they debate and discuss controversial ideas among themselves in a university course as long as they have been given the tools to think critically and they have been encouraged to do so from the day they enter university.

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    2. The course syllabus (link dead, but still on the internet archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20150324215841/https://ahautsc.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/hltd04-alternative-health-practice-and-theory.pdf) is a lot more detailed than a reading list, and makes clear that this course was exactly as bad as I imagine. Vivek Goel focussed only on the section on vaccination, but the quantum mechanics part is clearest in showing that we are dealing with sheer quackery. Anybody who actually knows anything about QM can see that the claims made here are rank bullshit, and that there is no intent to assess them critically.
      The key here is what counts as critical assessment. Goel accepts reassurances from the instructor that these topics would be addressed critically, but "critical" means something very different to the Alt Med community than to academics - in this case, it means there will be plenty of criticism of conventional medicine, but very little actual critical analysis of the readings on offer.
      I agree that academic freedom is vitally important - indeed, I was on the bargaining team that negotiated strong academic freedom language for sessional lecturers like Landau-Halpern. But even when negotiating that collective agreement, we acknowledged that academic freedom had its limits. There is a difference between standing up for someone using scholarly sources to defend Marxism in an economics classroom, or to uphold Catholic ethics in a philosophy class, and someone using third-rate materials to one-sidedly defend demonstrably incoherent nonsense. If none of the readings in your course would ever be considered for publication by even a half-way decent journal, that's a pretty good sign that your course is not up to the academic standards expected of a major university - whatever it is that you are defending.
      One last point about Vivek Goel's response: I'm pretty unimpressed by the suggestion that everything must have been OK because the students seemed happy. This is a course advertised as defending alternative medicine, offered to students in a 'health-ish' major (from my recollection, most students in that program were not good enough to get into med school, and were looking for careers in healthcare that didn't require a medical degree). The student pool is therefore quite self-selecting for students who would be amenable to the message on offer. Add to that a hugely biased presentation of course material, and I would be surprised if the majority of students weren't at least partial converts to the cause by the end. The syllabus suggests very touchy-feely assignments, likely marked very easily, which is an almost universal way of guaranteeing good course evaluations. So unless Goel actually interviewed or tested the students, to determine how critically they really did assess the material, I wouldn't put any trust in positive student feedback. (The student/customer is not definitely not always right - as I know you would agree!)

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    3. There is a difference between standing up for someone using scholarly sources to defend Marxism in an economics classroom, or to uphold Catholic ethics in a philosophy class, and someone using third-rate materials to one-sidedly defend demonstrably incoherent nonsense.

      And what is that difference? Is there stronger evidence supporting Catholicism than homeopathy?

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    4. The difference is clear by applying the usual standards of evaluation for academic quality. These do not depend on whether the views defended are considered correct or not, or even on how strong the evidence is for them, but on such things as grasp of the subject matter, engagement with the full breadth of scholarship on a topic, publication in reputable sources and citation of such publications, logical coherence, and so on. Papers defending homeopathy are almost universally abysmally shoddy, showing poor understanding of research methods, basic science, and simple reasoning skills. Students are poorly treated by being taught, essentially, to treat random YouTube videos as of equal evidential worth to scholarly research papers by qualified academics.

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    5. @ Iain

      I understand where you are coming from. You are quite confident that you know what happened in the course from reading the online syllabus. Vivek Goel looked at the entire program and the preparation of the students. He interviewed the lecturer and members of the department. He concludes that the course wasn't as bad as you imagine. He judges from the student responses (and other sources) that students mostly got the appropriate benefit from the course in spite of the fact that the lecturer was unqualified.

      You don't trust Vivek Goel's analysis.

      I know Vivek Goel and I trust his judgement in this matter. I don't think you have enough information to pass judgement.

      Students are poorly treated by being taught, essentially, to treat random YouTube videos as of equal evidential worth to scholarly research papers by qualified academics.

      Nobody in that course was taught any such thing, according to Vivek Goel.

      We need to teach students how to deal with all kinds of information other than that which comes from scientific papers. That other kind of information (e.g. books, Facebook, newspapers, YouTube, Ted Talks) is what needs to be effectively refuted or challenged in the real world outside of the university. As an aside, we also need to teach students to be very skeptical of stuff that's published in the scientific literature—especially in the medical literature.

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    6. Iain says,

      I agree that academic freedom is vitally important - indeed, I was on the bargaining team that negotiated strong academic freedom language for sessional lecturers like Landau-Halpern. But even when negotiating that collective agreement, we acknowledged that academic freedom had its limits.

      Really! That's news to me since I'm very familiar with the defense of academic freedom at the university of Toronto having served on UTFA's grievance committee for 13 years. Tell me more about those limits to academic freedom that you negotiated.

      Here's the Mission Statement of the University of Toronto.

      "Within the unique university context, the most crucial of all human rights are the rights of freedom of speech, academic freedom, and freedom of research. And we affirm that these rights are meaningless unless they entail the right to raise deeply disturbing questions and provocative challenges to the cherished beliefs of society at large and of the university itself.

      It is this human right to radical, critical teaching and research with which the University has a duty above all to be concerned; for there is no one else, no other institution and no other office, in our modern liberal democracy, which is the custodian of this most precious and vulnerable right of the liberated human spirit.
      "

      Tell me about the limits that need to be incorporated into this statement.

      Perhaps you are confusing academic freedom with the right to teach whatever you want in an undergraduate course? That second "right" doesn't exist and it's not covered by academic freedom.

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    7. Larry, you are right that I don't trust Vivek Goel's analysis. I've had too many interactions with University of Toronto administration to trust much of anything that emerges from it, no matter how noble the individuals concerned may be. (Ironically, I always found Rick Halpern to be one of the better of the bunch.) My personal suspicion is that the university found itself in an embarrassing position and chose the easy way out. As a sessional teaching a special topics course, Landau-Halpern had little job security and could be let go by the simple expedient of not posting the course to the sessional unit again. Goel's analysis then lets everyone off the hook, and by finding nothing wrong with the course content, avoids any question of an academic freedom complaint. Matter buried, never to be discussed again - until some pesky busybody found and publicized the whitewash. I understand why you might be unwilling to go along with this line of speculation, for which I admittedly lack any direct evidence.

      Re: academic freedom. The limits I note on academic freedom are probably just those you cover by your last remark. Academic freedom allow you to question cherished beliefs, and defend controversial views. But it does not give license to do so without regard for basic standards of academic scholarship and integrity, and without regard for curricular needs. An instructor who fails to abide by established scholarly standards, in their teaching as much as in their research, cannot expect to be reappointed. And a course that does not meet these academic standards has no place in the university.

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