Evolving Thoughts

Evolution, culture, philosophy and chocolate! John Wilkins' continuing struggle to come to terms with impermanence... "Humanus sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto" - Terence

Friday, February 03, 2006

Best ID FAQ ever!

Craptaculus.Com have done us all a service by putting up the canonical definition and FAQ of Intelligent Design:

FAQ: Intelligent Design, Designer, Irreducible Complexity and Irreducibly Complex

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Would you like Wedges with that?

The term "wedge" rings with connotations. Darwin, when trying to find an appropriate metaphor for natural selection (before he called it "natural selection"), wrote in his notebooks, and later in the Origin:

In looking at Nature, it is most necessary to keep the foregoing considerations always in mind-never to forget that every single organic being around us may be said to be striving to the utmost to increase in numbers; that each lives by a struggle at some period of its life; that heavy destruction inevitably falls either on the young or old, during each generation or at recurrent intervals. Lighten any check, mitigate the destruction ever so little, and the number of the species will almost instantaneously increase to any amount. The face of Nature may be compared to a yielding surface, with ten thousand sharp wedges packed close together and driven inwards by incessant blows, sometimes one wedge being struck, and then another with greater force.

And any afficionado of The Simpson's knows what a "wedgie" is. It's what bullies do to those who can't defend themselves...

As Pharyngula describes, something more like the latter than the former was released into the world by two whistleblowers from the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, under the title The Wedge in 1997. It detailed a rather pathetic "master plan" for unseating "scientific materialism" in favour of "[t]he proposition that human beings are created in the image of God". It rejected "Darwinism" and proposed what had already been decided on theological grounds: that life is the product of intelligent design. Only they wanted to establish that by "science" - through research, of course, but mostly through public relations, political action and propaganda. These were the wedges by which they would drive the other wedges of materialism and humanism out of society.

No research ensued, of course, but the playbook for PR and spin was followed to the letter. Had we not known of this document and the strategy it described, ID might have become more widely accepted. The two stoolies are to be thanked. Knowing of this, those who like science, and want to protect it from the know-nothings and anti-intellectuals who attack it, have been motivated far more than the gradual feeling of unease that would have otherwise crept up on us.

Pharyngula gives links to the document and the story in the Seattle Weekly.

Late note: The whistleblowers were from the copy shop the DI used, not from the DI itself.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Bike or war, which is worse?

Now this I can sympathise with, apart from the Harley...

Genes, selection and scientific politics

Gene Expression has a very good post on the way in which selection and genetics were treated by the burgeoning science of statistics in the early years of the 20thC. Go read it. It's fascinating.