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Darwinism and Its Discontents – Book Review Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Posted by h3nry in anti-creationism, anti-fundamentalism, anti-ID, Behe, biology, book review, Charles Darwin, Christianity, consilience, creationism, Darwin, Darwinism, Dawkins, evolution, genetics, geology, God, Gould, Haeckel, human evolution, philosophy, Piltdown Man, punctuated equilibrium, rationality, reason, religion, science, scientific theory.
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I have been thinking about the ideas in this book for about four decades and have decided that the time has come to put them all together.

This is the opening sentence of Professor Michael Ruse’s latest book Darwinism and Its Discontents. Ruse is a well-known evolutionary philosopher and has been a great defender on Darwinism for a number of years. And with an opening statement like that, naturally I was thrilled to read what the discontents are all about, and if they matter at all.

The book is a defender of Darwinism and the fact of evolution from all sides of attacks, and is understandably light on refuting creationism of various flavours, so read this book to cement your understanding of Darwinism and evolution – I certainly learned a good deal from it.

Darwinism is defined as a particular theory in which evolution works. Its heart lies in the concept of natural selection, the chief causal process behind all organisms, and is the widely accepted evolutionary mechanism by the scientific community. However, it has always been under attack from various disciplines in social science, philosophy, religion, and even within science itself, and Ruse writes how these attacks are categorically mistaken.

Darwinism and Its Discontents Cover

The first chapter goes through the historical background of Darwinism. Ruse includes a number of notable historical figures ranging from people who did not have direct contribution to Darwinism such as Lyells and Malthus, to modern day scientists such as Fisher, Haldine and Wright. The conclusion of the chapter is right on spot – why was Darwin important? Because it was after him that a revolution happened – that life is a naturalistic, not a supernatural or God-inspired one.

The next few chapters are, I think, the highlights of the book as they outline what the fact of evolution is, its path, its cause and its limitations. Ruse presented the concept of consilience argument – that is, direct evidence supporting evolution from a myriad of fields of studies: palaeontology, biogeographical distribution, classification, morphology, embryology and so on. These chapters are essential in understanding the science of Darwinian theory of evolution – population genetics, adaptation, physical constraints on the phenotype, drift, and of course, natural selection, as well as a dash of Gould’s famous punctuated equilibrium theory.

The second half of the book then takes a different turn. It examines humans, the mistakes and dishonesty made in the history of evolutionary science (such as the Piltdown Man and Haeckel’s drawings) – and finally, Ruse looks at Darwinism from philosophical and religious point of views.

Overall I thought this book is very well balanced and not too technical for the layman; however it is definitely not an introductory level kind of book. If you are looking for the whole creationism vs. evolution debate then this is not an ideal book; conversely if you are looking for a book that covers a wide areas of Darwinian evolution – from past to present and across various disciplines, then this book is it.

Truly Sad – WordPress Censored in Turkey – Creationist Harun Yahya Involved Monday, August 20, 2007

Posted by h3nry in Adnan Oktar, anti-creationism, anti-evolution, anti-fundamentalism, Atlas of Creation, censorship, Edip Yuksel, education, Europe, European Union, evolution, faith, fundamentalism, Harun Yahya, Islam, rationality, reason, religion, science, Turkey, United States, WordPress.
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Correction:

I was under the impression that Turkey was a member of EU, which is incorrect. Thanks for the reader who kindly pointed out my mistake.

h3nry – 21 August 2007

This is official: my dear blog host WordPress has been blocked in Turkey due to the so-called “defamation blogs” containing alleged “slanders” made to the Turkish Islamic fundamentalist, and the newest and hottest creationist kid in town, Adnan Oktar – or better known by his pen name, Harun Yahya.

Harun Yahya has recently published a fantastically crafted creationist book called Atlas of Creation that has been translated into many language and been shipped, unsolicited, to the schools and universities in various parts of Europe and the United States (which I briefly blogged here). It is not clear how Harun Yahya financed this book and its junk distribution, but the content of it often violates copyright laws.

Now on to the ban of WordPress in Turkey. It seems that the issue is that a person by the name of Edip Yuksel, a self-proclaimed Islamic reformer, has registered various subdomains of WordPress such as:

http://AdnanOktar.wordpress.com

http://HarunYahyaArabic.wordpress.com

and various other domains to, in the words of Harun Yahya’s legal team, “defame” the Islamic fundamentalist. Be sure to check out the site http://AdnanOktar.wordpress.com to see, I think, photos of what seems to be Harun Yahya in prison and being arrested by police.

Here is the extract of a letter sent to WordPress by Harun Yahya’s lawyer (italics mine):

The number of our attempts to inform and warn you regarding these defamation blogs must have been at least twenty, many times through your support page, a couple of times to your legal department and we even sent a regular mail to Mr. Matt Mullenweg (from the WordPress team). Most of our attempts were unanswered.

These defamation blogs contained slanders to some of my client’s friends as well. They also applied WordPress.com support with their official ID cards and a representative directed them to write to the legal department. So they did but again no response from legal.

So it seems this has been an on-going issue. How did WordPress respond to the letters, it is not known. Needless to say this is quite a tricky and complicated issue. The root cause is fundamentalism vs. reformation, there is the policy and responses from WordPress, and there is the unreasonable law of banning the entire blogging service in the entire country. I would have thought that one reasonable approach is to ban those subdomains in dispute get banned – if they are indeed found to be defamatory and that WordPress is judged not have been carried out its legal responsibilities (I cannot say for certain since most of the content are in Turkish and really, I guess it would be somewhat subjective and I am no expert in this fuzzy legal area). It is worth noting the comment made by a reader edezu from Turkey (italics mine):

This person’s (Harun Yahya) current strategy is to block all the sites which attacks him and his ideas. A few months ago, he made a similar move and blocked “eksi sozluk”, an open dictionary which is, in my opinion, a bastion of free speech in turkish online media, with more than 10.000 writers and about 2.000 entries each day.

Adnan Oktar is taking advantage of the gaps in Turkish laws on the internet, which are sadly on their infancy, to silence all the voices against him. Internet poses a real threat to people like him, where ideas are exposed, and people read them!

Yes, one big gap in the Turkish law indeed. My sympathy goes out to the WordPress gang and the Turkish Internet users. I wonder if the European Union will somehow act or put pressure on this Turkish ruling? What’s the lunatic Harun Yahya going to do next – ban Google?

To all of the people out there who feel that this whole entire evolution vs. creationism debate is something of a fringe interest, or an issue that can be safely dismissed – think carefully again. It is an issue that reflects the bigger war between the fundamentalists and the reasonable, the religious fanatics and the rational, lunacy and integrity.

It is good to know though, as one of the readers jimcolella noted, there is already a petition underway:

On that score, I’ve found there is already a Facebook petition to protest the blockage (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=4940847710) and I would strongly recommend all interested parties to write to Al Jazeera’s “Listening Post” programme via their Web site — a great TV prog that covers precisely these types of issues, i.e., freedom of speech… precisely what I’m going to do as soon as I log out of this.

An entire blog publishing service is being censored in an European Union country, the entire freedom to information for the Turkish population is being compromised by a few deranged individuals. This is a truly sad day.

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The Monthly Dembski Watch – July 2007 Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Posted by h3nry in anti-creationism, anti-evolution, anti-fundamentalism, Behe, creationism, Dembski, evolution, fundamentalism, intelligent design, materialism, MIT, rationality, religion, Richard Dawkins, science, Uncommon Descent.
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This is a summary of Bill Dembski’s July posts at Uncommon Descent. I started this last month when I was utterly appalled by Dembski’s classless act of making fun of Coyne’s physical appearance. Since then I have been interested in what Dembski writes, and this post is a result of it. I am particularly curious in what kind of positive contribution Dembski (and ID in general) can provide. Note that it is not the purpose of this post to provide anything substantial; it is merely a summary with some element of sarcasm (with people like him – why not?).

So these are what Bill has written in July 2007 (in reversing chronological order):

27th of July – SCIENCE’S BLIND SPOT by Cornelius Hunter

This is a short post from Bill recommending an anti-science book to his audience.

26th of July – A Scoville Scale for Dangerous Questions

This is a good one from Dembski – he is using the scale that measures the hotness of chilli as a way of rating questions proposed to “materialists”. Bill can be very creative too.

24th of July - Intelligent Design in Business Practice

Dembski cries and feels sorry for ID and wants to make it go into business practices. Be aware, the emptiness of ID has turned from school classrooms to business offices! Let’s see what ID has to offer for the success of the economies around the world.

Bill says:

Get used to it: ID is going every place that Darwinism has gotten its fetid little fingers.

I am seriously worried about Dembski’s state of mental health, no kidding. His bitterness has turned to this me-against-the-world ill feeling which has shown time and time again.

20th of July – Casey Luskin interviews Robert Marks, director of Baylor’s Evolutionary Informatics Lab

A short post by Bill advertising for his colleague Robert Marks. If you have read Bill’s post earlier, they are actually writing a very important and critical academic papers on, er, disproving Jesus Tomb.

20th of July – Kevin Padian: The Archie Bunker Professor of Paleobiology at Cal Berkeley

For those who aren’t familiar with Padian, he is a paleontologist who testified in the now famous Kitzmiller v. Dover trial in 2005 which led to the defeat of the Intelligent Design side. Here is the entire testimony by Padian. Given this background, no wonder our oh-so-lovely Bill takes issue with Padian.

Bill creatively calls Padian the Archie Bunker this month, and as reported here last month Bill called the evolutionary biologist Coyne Hermant Munster. I am eagerly waiting what Dembski the creative soul will come up next month.

Incredibly Bill is actually on the defensive for once.

For a rebuttal of Dembski’s whining and vileness, see the wonderful Jason Rosenburg’s post here (and its comments). Jason said well to sum up William Dembski’s mentality:

Mentally healthy human beings do not write paragraphs like that.

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My First Time Experience In a Creationism Sermon Monday, July 30, 2007

Posted by h3nry in Anthony Flew, anti-creationism, anti-evolution, anti-fundamentalism, Charles Templeton, Christianity, church, Creation Ministry International, creationism, fundamentalism, Haeckel, Piltdown Man, Presbyterian, science, sermon, Sydney.
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Given the rare chance and out of immense curiosity, I attended a creationism sermon – for the very first time – at a Sydney Presbyterian church last weekend. The title of the sermon is Creation, a Key to the Gospel.

The presenter was Dr. Tas Walker, a retired engineer with quite a good working experience. He now works full time at the Australian based fundamentalist organisation called Creation Ministries International, where the Ken Ham, the brain behind the $US27 million Creation Museum originally comes from. I knew this before I attended the sermon, and was glad that someone highly educated and seemingly intelligent was delivering it, rather than the idiotic Ray Comfort type. The sermon was conducted with Powerpoint slides.

Walker opened the sermon by showing a collection of newspaper headlines on evolutionary discoveries, presenting it as if the secular media favours too much on evolution. He also asked if the Christians have ever had troubles or being bothered in completing school assignments on evolution, and how he hoped his presentation would answer some of the troubles. This exemplifies one central characteristic of fundamentalists – the psychology of they being marginalised and even victimised by the secular society. Perhaps these creationists should openly protest against the teaching of evolution and start a public civil movement of destroying the fact of evolution.

After this sensationalised opening, Walker proceeded to the make his case of why creationism matters. I did not fully grasp his logic because I was puzzled by his reasoning. Anyhow it roughly went something like this: Christianity is based on the Gospels and the Genesis, the two absolute central basis of the Bible, and it is in the Genesis that it states clearly that God created the world and all living things. Then evolution comes along and turns this completely upside down, hence it must be bad for Christianity. This is quite the normal argument (although I regretted not having writing down or recording his sermon… but I think next time I will be much better prepared).

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Echoing Dawkins – Don’t Call Us Fundamentalists Thursday, July 26, 2007

Posted by h3nry in anti-fundamentalism, atheism, Bible, Chinese, Christianity, Dawkins, faith, fundamentalism, God, Islam, Judaism, Koran, rationality, reason, religion, Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion.
8 comments

Richard Dawkins has lately written an article titled “How dare you call me a fundamentalist” as a response to some of the main criticisms he received for his controversial bestseller The God Delusion. Here I will add my own arguments to what Dawkins has already said, because when rational people criticise god and putting religion in perspective, they get unfairly judged, and this we must address.

The criticisms made on Dawkins are in bold.

I’m an atheist, but I wish to dissociate myself from your shrill, strident, intemperate, intolerant, ranting language.

How you feel about the tone and language of the book is entirely up to you. Some might find it clear and concise. I find it to be passionate and blunt, and I think blunt is a much better and objective description of the tone and language of the book.

Take the first chapter for example. The one line where I can find people might find it offending is this line:

The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naive.

Now seriously, how shrill and intolerant is this? Try replacing the words “a personal God” with something else say “United Nations” or “the Live Aid concert”. Does it make a difference?

I offer this advice to people who feel the book is arrogant and condescending: read it again (or at least some of it), and you might come to feel differently about it as the first time might come as a shock.

You can’t criticise religion without detailed study of learned books on theology.

The book is not ignorant on theology and various aspects of religion – see Dawkins’ own explanation – this alone should settle this particular criticism. I would add that you need not to be a scholar to highlight the obvious problems of religion, such as the blind faiths people have in ancient scriptures that drive them to happily hurt and kill others for no other reason than religion. There is a difference between criticising something while being completely ignorant (such as simple-minded creationists), and being knowledgeable enough.

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Atheists – Face Your Worst Nighmares – An Awesome Video! Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Posted by h3nry in anti-creationism, anti-evolution, anti-fundamentalism, creationism, faith, fundamentalism, funny, God, humor, humour, nightmare, parody, religion, science, video.
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Following the overwhelming success of the now famous Peanut Butter and Banana videos on the Internet, here is another video presenting not one, but many convincing and irrefutable evidences of how the Almighty God created everything! So there you go, those damn non-believers…

Courtesy of the Friendly Atheist.

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Kansas Classrooms – Comic Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Posted by h3nry in anti-fundamentalism, comic, education, funny, humor, humour, Kansas, science.
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Kansas Classrooms

It doesn’t have one drawn specifically dedicated to evolution!?

Click on it to see it bigger.

Darwinists’ Worst Nightmare – The Frightening Spectre of ID Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Posted by h3nry in anti-creationism, anti-evolution, anti-fundamentalism, anti-ID, creationism, Darwinism, evolution, Fred Hoyle, fundamentalism, intelligent design, natural selection, naturalism, rationality, reason, religion, science, scientists, straw-man.
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Apparently the Intelligent Design movement has got the “Darwinists” scared, according to an article posted on an American right-wing extremist website (courtesy of the resourceful Darwininia).

While the title of the article “The frightening specter of Intelligent Design” sounds spectacularly frightening, it fails spectacularly to frighten anyone who knows something about ID. This is because the article is a simple repetition of the usual ID and creationism rhetorics.

So why are Darwinists scared? Because the progresses of science have rendered natural selection more and more unable to explain the complexity of life.

And this is pretty much the entire article offers – it mentions absolutely nothing, zero, nil, nada, on what these recent science progresses are.

And unlike many other more sophisticated ID arguments, the author displays all the hallmarks of basic creationism knowledge. The article starts with the main ID theme that life is too complex to be explainable by natural selection. This is where the ID argument (if there is one to start with) ends, and the good old dose of creationism takes over.

The author says that life is too complex to have come about by random chance – and he even brings up the really, really, really old and wrong Fred Hoyle chance calculation which I thought has been buried for good!

Then the scientific community is under attack with his straw-man argument:

But if design, conversely, is rational, why do so many scientists reject it? Because this is not an issue of science, but of religion. Their religion is that of materialism and naturalism, and they are under no illusions as to the implications of design.

Now this line of thinking exemplifies the frightening spectre of religious fundamentalism.

Intelligent Design Marching Into UK Thursday, July 12, 2007

Posted by h3nry in anti-creationism, anti-evolution, anti-fundamentalism, anti-ID, BBC, creationism, education, Eugenie Scott, evolution, intelligent design, Lewis Wolpert, podcast, rationality, religion, science, Science Weekly, Simon conway Morris, Truth In Science, UK, United States, video.
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Blue Rat alerts us that the dishonest, disingenuous and manipulative movement called Intelligent Design is trying to get into the UK schools. Here is a video of an interview conducted by the BBC’s Newsnight program between an ID advocate from an organisation called Truth In Science and Professor Lewis Wolpert, a distinguished biologist and humanist.

In December 2006 Science Weekly published a podcast on this very topic, this time again involving Professor Wolpert as well as the famous paleontologist Simon Conway Morris. Also in the podcast is Dr. Eugenie Scott from the USA, a leading science educator who has been at the front-line of combating creationism and Intelligent Design for years, and has recently published a book titled Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools. You can download the entire podcast in mp3 format on the Science Weekly website.

Awesome Video Refuting Creation Museum Monday, July 9, 2007

Posted by h3nry in anti-creationism, anti-evolution, anti-fundamentalism, creation museum, creationism, evolution, fundamentalism, geology, Kentucky, rationality, science, video.
18 comments

Here is yet another video refuting the stupidity that is of the creation museum, but this time with a twist. This video shows that the museum is built right on an area rich in fossils and geological features!

Although undoubtly videos like this or anything else is not going to convince the dogmatic and ignorant creationists, this video is quite educational and well-made, worth your time going through it. PZ Myers has already declared this to be one of the most effective refutation.

Courtesy of Richard Dawkins .net.

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