Sunday, April 12, 2015

Russian Hack

The page read data for the last three weeks has been abnormally high.

The majority of hits come from a slew of Russian sites ranging from commercial to pornographic.

I don't know what they are up to but I doubt it is related to evolution, education, or creationism.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Dr. Dino Does Dumb

Some of you will have followed the recent trial of "Dr. Dino." There are several quick ways to get up-to-date if you would like the details. The Pensacola News Journal has several articles organized by a time line. Tax expert, and journalist Peter J. Reilly has a lot of good material on his personal blog, and his commentaries at Forbes on-line. Another tax expert, and retired IRS investigator Robert Baty has a very active blog dedicated to the trials and tribulations of the Hovind clan. And a final recommendation is, Hovindology created by Dee Holmes.

For fairness, there here are two links to concentrated Hovindry. There is the "official" Kent Hovind website. And this is in my opinion one of the most unbalanced pro-Hovind sites Free Kent Hovind. I have played in the comments for their YouTube video.

Well, the jury acquitted Kent Hovind zero times. They found him guilty on one charge of contempt. Kent Hovind can also say goodbye to any chance at parole on his existing sentence. Will the Judge add the new time on the existing? I think so. If I understand the rather dense guide lines, he might not even get to count the time wasted during this trial. A any rate, Kent Hovind is in jail waiting for his next sentencing hearing in June.

At a minimum he is in the jug for another 3 1/2 years and could easily see 5 more.

What will happen on the other charges?

He was not acquitted and is still vulnerable to retrial. I have no idea how this will work out in the court. If as some people have speculated there was just a single juror that prevented guilty verdicts, then there will certainly be a retrial.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Was Darwin "Debunked" about extinctions?

I can always count on creationists to lie, and distort science.

A recent comment I saw was that "Darwin's theory on extinction has been debunked, see this takedown" and a link to Darwin, Then and Now.

The link is to a website maintained to promote an anti-science book written by Richard William Nelson.

Darwin is always a favorite target as if he had been the last authority on evolutionary biology rather than the first. "Darwin's theory on extinction has been debunked" is built on the false claim was that Darwin thought that all species extinction must be very slow. This was based on a partial citing of a sentence fragment ripped from context, AKA a Quote Mine. The actual section from the definitive 6th edition of Darwin's "The Origin of Species" was "On Extinction" in Chapter XI regarding the fossil record. It reads;

"Both single species and whole groups of species last for very unequal periods; some groups, as we have seen, have endured from the earliest known dawn of life to the present day; some have disappeared before the close of the palæozoic period. No fixed law seems to determine the length of time during which any single species or any single genus endures. There is reason to believe that the extinction of a whole group of species is generally a slower process than their production: if their appearance and disappearance be represented, as before, by a vertical line of varying thickness the line is found to taper more gradually at its upper end, which marks the progress of extermination, than at its lower end, which marks the first appearance and the early increase in number of the species. In some cases, however, the extermination of whole groups, as of ammonites, towards the close of the secondary period, has been wonderfully sudden."

The bold italic sentence fragment was the whole of "Darwin's theory" according to Mr. Nelson.

So all Darwin has said is that the disappearance of entire Genera, or Families is commonly slower than their appearance and diversification in the fossil record. He referred to a well known instance of rapid extinction. We do know today that there have been unusual events on time scales unimagined by Darwin, or his contemporaries. Time scales of millions and tens of millions of years have marked the ends of great eras, and the extinctions of millions of species, even entire phyla. These mass extinctions are commonly followed by equally rare periods of rapid diversification of species among the survivors.

Mr. Nelson's falsehood that Darwin's "theory of extinctions" was disproven by the rapid man-made extinction of the Great Auk is a fraud of his own invention. The Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis) extinction was sudden. But the extinction of the Family it was has been much slower than their origin. Further, Darwin was focused on the fossil record and was not addressing the human interventions into species diversity.

From Moum, Truls; Arnason, Ulfur; Árnason, Einar (2002). "Mitochondrial DNA sequence evolution and phylogeny of the Atlantic Alcidae, including the extinct Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis)". Molecular Biology and Evolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press) 19 (9): 1434–1439.

It is in perfect accord with evolutionary biology.

The discovery of mass extinctions following extraordinary events like the "Snowball Earth," Meteor impacts, or massive flood volcanoes was touted by Steven Jay Gould 45 years ago as "overturning Darwinism." He got his tenure at Harvard and then calmed down. We are in the midst of another extraordinary event. This is one we have done on our own starting with the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

I have been busy

But I did play hooky Saturday the 17th with my friend Randy Foliente. We were aboard the Fury out of Dana Point Harbor.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hindu UFO Cult Creationists (Updated 30 Dec. 2014)

In a recent FaceBook post by creationist Richard Haralambus, a link was given to a Hindu inspired UFO cult. This was amusing all alone since Mr. Haralambus presents himself a a Christian. I wanted to do a point by point debunking, but health and kitchen plumbing intervened. I have some free time today, and I'll make a start.

I do not want any creationists to comment in this thread at all. Your opinions are pointless.

The link was to an article entitled, "9 Scientific Facts Prove the "Theory of Evolution"," and it had as the top illustration a "quote mine" from Charles Darwin's book, "On the Origin of Species." (The Hindu UFO cultist cited the sixth edition). I have copied the JPEG to this page so that nobody will waste time going to the cult's advertisement trap. If you really want to see it, the site is called "humansarefree dot com"

Here is the entire quote in proper context.

Organs of extreme perfection and complication.—To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree. (only portion used by creationists) Yet reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case; and if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real."
In the 1872 6th edition, Darwin devoted the bulk of 4 pages, 143-146, to details of the evolution of eyes from light sensitive nerves to those of vertebrates. He cites studies from paleontology, and embryology. He concluded,
"... and when we bear in mind how small the number of all living forms must be in comparison with those which have become extinct, the difficulty ceases to be very great in believing that natural selection may have converted the simple apparatus of an optic nerve, coated with pigment and invested by transparent membrane, into an optical instrument as perfect as is possessed by any member of the Articulate Class."

So before we even get to the text, the author is already lying. This is a popular lie with many creationists, and is a TalkOrigins featured creationist falsehood. Darwin clearly refutes the notion that an eye could not evolve. Indeed, a recent book by Professor Ivan R Schwab, “Evolution's Witness: How Eyes Evolved” (2011 Oxford University Press) shows in great detail just how eyes have evolved many times. A new paper traces the chemical, genetic and functional evolution of the mammalian eye over 90 million years;

The second graphic I have posted shows a sketch of the known stages of eye evolution from Nilsson and Pelger,
1994 "A Pessimistic Estimate of the Time Required for an Eye to Evolve" Proceedings of the Royal Society 256: 53-58

Notice that these idealized steps are represented in a single modern organism, the Box Jelly.

The second instalment

The next lie told by the Hindu/UFO cult leader Alexander Light was a compound lie. There are multiple parts mixed together across a few paragraphs. Here are some relevant sentences.

"The DNA in plants and animals allows selective breeding to achieve desired results. Dogs are a good example of selective breeding. The DNA in all dogs has many recessive traits."

I'll first point out that Charles R. Darwin even wrote an entire book in 2 volumes on selective breeding, "The variation of animals and plants under domestication" (1868 London: John Murray, Publisher).

It is an excellent example of how selection alters the physical, and genetic biology of a species.

The remark about "recessive traits" might seem like a non sequitur. It is. However the unenlightened Mr. Light thinks this is an important fact. Mr. Light continues, "A desired trait can be produced in dogs by selecting dogs with a particular trait to produce offspring with that trait. This specialized selective breeding can continue for generation after generation until a breed of dog is developed. This is the same as the "survival of the fittest" theory of the evolutionists."

One more scientific and historical objection is that "survival of the fittest" was a phrase invented and promoted by 19th century economist Herbert Spenser. He had his own version of "evolution" with the explicit application to human institutions, and society. Darwin resisted using this term until it became so popular that he could not avoid it. Even then Darwin first used the phrase in his 1868 book on Domestication, and not until the 1869 5th edition of "Origin of Species." He then directly attributed this to Spencer, and in the context of human selection of domesticated animals. He nearly dismissed Survival of the Fittest when writing, "But Natural Selection, as we shall hereafter see, is a power incessantly ready for action, and is as immeasurably superior to man's feeble efforts, as the works of Nature are to those of Art." ("Origin," V Edition, pg 79).

Update. 21 Dec. 2014 (Happy Solstice)

Just time for a little debunking today (major plumbing problems).

The Hindu/UFO cultist site makes the false claim, "New variations of the species are possible, but a new species has never been developed by science. In fact, the most modern laboratories are unable to produce a left-hand protein as found in humans and animals. Evolutionist fail to admit that no species has ever been proven to have evolved in any way. Evolution is simply pie-in-the-sky conjecture without scientific proof."
There are several errors/lies. The most blatant is "a new species has never been developed by science."
We of course have directly observed the origin of new species in nature, and in experimental settings. I compiled a list of dozens of examples. The earliest publication was over a century ago. See: Emergence of New Species.

I thought I might add an update:

The creatocrap continued with "In fact, the most modern laboratories are unable to produce a left-hand protein as found in humans and animals."

This is a 3 for 1 lie. First is the lie that abiogenesis (the origin of life) is identical with the origin of species. Second is the lie that all proteins are formed exclusively by "left-handed" amino acids. For detailed discussion, see my short article, "A short outline of the origin of life"

But, the third lie is that we do not manufacture synthetic proteins, and genes to make them. We can, and we do.

For two papers I just read last night on new proteins made from first principles, see:

Nathan H. Joh, et al "De novo design of a transmembrane Zn2+-transporting four-helix bundle" Science 19 December 2014: 1520-1524.

Woon Ju Song and F. Akif Tezcan "A designed supramolecular protein assembly with in vivo enzymatic activity" Science 19 December 2014: 1525-1528.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Another palindrome milestone

I know that this is very silly, but the page view meter just turned over another palindrome, 92629.

This is personally amusing because it is also my ZIP code.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Gallop numbers on Creationism: 2 more years, and 3 more data points.

I last reviewed the Gallop organization poll on creationism two years ago in "On Reading a Graph."

There is new data from Gallop.

The question representing the Young Earth Creationists was, "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so."

This is a very "soft" question. Phrases like "pretty much" and "the last 10,000 years or so" don't pin down the response, particularly regarding the original human form. It allows the respondent to make arbitrary judgement of what is "human." It also excluded a faith group known as "old earth creationists."

The "old earth creationist" was supposed to be captured in the statement, "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process." But, this misses the majority of "old earth creationists" who believe that the earth and universe were as old as the sciences indicate, but that their god "inserted" modern humans at an appropriate time as per the biblical chronologies. The statement comes closest to the "theistic evolution" position. This might be paraphrased as, "Creation, and Evolution have occurred as discovered by science, but it is God's will that this is so."

The "young earth" data (percent agree "God created ...") 44, 47, 44, 47, 45, 45, 46, 43, 44, 40, 46, 42; mean 44.4, s.d. 2.06. This is a small data set, but we see that the most recent data are a full standard deviation lower than the mean. At the same time, the last time the poll hit the mean was 2008. Since then the data are very volatile running 2 s.d. down, or 1 up. More interestingly, the trend is toward the negative variation showing a probable weakening of support.

Compare this with the "theistic evolution" data; 38,35,39,40,37,38,36,38,36,38,32,31; mean 36.5, s.d. 2.7. Here the scores have rarely ever been low until the last two surveys. As an alternative with small data sets, we drop the extreme high and low scores and get a mean of 36.7, and a s.d. of 2.05. This suggests that the most recent years have seen an actual drop in support for the "theistic evolution" position.

Compare these both with the data for the secular position. First the cue statement, "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process." There is nothing that distinguishes it from the "Theistic Evolution" position other than the phrase, "God had no part in this process."
Percent agree; 9,11,10,9,12,13,13,14,14,16,15,19; mean 12.9 s.d. 2.96. Trimmed, m. 12.7, s.d. 2.2.
There is a nearly perfect "hinge" in the data when they switch from a negative, to a positive trend. This was first securely seen in 2004.

What about the "no opinion" group. They are often ignored in substantive terms. (Percent agree) 9,7,7,4,5,4,5,4,5,6,7,8; mean 5.9, s.d. 1.67. Trimming the extremes gives; mean 5.8, s.d. 1.4. The combined data shows an interestingly strong parochial trend with "no opinion" numbers below the mean between 1999 - 2008. They then move slightly above the long term average in 2010 with that trend increasing.

The Theistic Evolution population has also declined just over a standard deviation. Obviously there is no difference between the secular and theistic evolution position on many of the more contentious aspects of creationism - denial of evolution, denial of geology, denial of chemistry, or physics - when compared with the YEC. If we combine the data, there are ~58% of the American public able to face the fact that life has evolved over the last 4.5 billion years since the origin of the solar system. A narrow majority, but a majority.

The apparent declines in the creationist numbers I suspected 2 years ago seem real, and to have shifted strongly toward the secular, or weakly toward the "no opinion" positions.

I forgot to mention two books that give a historical perspective on creationism in America;

Numbers, Ronald L.
2006 "The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism" Berkeley: University of California Press

Scott, Eugenie C.,
2005 "Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction" University of California Press

Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Institute for Creation Research and their dupes, v.1.0.

The Dallas News recently ran a puff-piece lauding the Institute for Creation Research. The major reason to avoid public face-to-face debates with creationists is that they practice the technique called the “Gish Gallop” named after the late Institute for Creation Research master-debator Duane Gish. The method is to lie as rapidly as possible about as many possible things that the real scientist is overwhelmed. It was known before Duane Gish perfected it as the, “BuryThemInBullshit” method. However, in a written format this method typically falls apart. Sadly, I'll show that even in a supposedly public forum creationists cheat and lie with impunity.

During a protracted discussion in the Dallas News website a "bull-creato" emerged. A particularly outrageous false claim was made by creationist Paul Koepp, "Unfossilized organic soft tissue is found all through the geo column, found even in the Cambrian and dino DNA (small pieces of it) exist and have been documented."

He has consistently asserted this and obviously never consulted any reliable sources. I requested actual valid references which I knew don’t exist. Koepp replied with a number of vague claims about scientific papers, and more links to creationist websites. He then boasted, "Am I the one lying and being dishonest, or is there a learning curve going on here?"

It took a while to actually find and read the science journal papers alluded to, or cited in his creationist websites. My colleague Prof. James Hoffman provided some of the more difficult to find. (That link was to a very solid resource that anyone opposing the creationist anti-reality campaign should bookmark.) The creationists are lying again. What a surprise that must be!

I certainly never expected Mr. Koepp to admit he had lied. I actually doubt he is capable of recognizing his falsehoods. But the flagrant incompetence and/or dishonesty in the claim, “dino DNA (small pieces of it) exist and have been documented" should be sufficiently obviously false that any sane, rational person will see the error. The specific argument in support of his falsehood was some links to creationist websites, and one scientific article published in 1994. That article was, S. R. Woodward, N. J. Weyand, M. Bunnell, “DNA sequence from Cretaceous period bone fragments” Science 18 November 1994: 1229-1232.

In less than one year after the Woodward et al publication, their entire claim was debunked by four teams of paleontologists. One team that correctly identified Woodward’s “dino DNA” as modern human had Mr. Koepp’s favorite paleontologist, Mary Schweitzer, as a member.

SB Hedges and MH Schweitzer Science 26 May 1995: 1191-1192.

S Henikoff, Science 26 May 1995: 1192.

MW Allard, D Young, and Y Huyen, Science 26 May 1995: 1192.

H Zischler, M Hoss, O Handt, A von Haeseler, AC van der Kuyl, and J Goudsmit, Science 26 May 1995: 1192-1193.

The unknown sequences “like nothing we’ve seen before” according to Woodward were positively identified as, “the mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus, accession number X56291) and to human cytochrome b genes (Homo sapiens, accession number V00662) by Allard et al. Woodward thought his own cell’s DNA was from dinosaurs. Zischler et al sarcastically wondered maybe their human DNA had been contaminated with mysterious unknown dinosaur DNA. They concluded that in fact, Woodward had merely failed to use good lab procedure and had analyzed his laboratory's human contamination.

Here we are 20 years later, and Institute for Creation Research frauds, and their creationist dupes are still spewing lies about the discovery of "Dino DNA."

Why did these lies by Mr. Koepp go uncorrected? Because the Dallas News repeatedly banned, and deleted the correct information from their website.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Kent Hovind still in the slammer

There are many new developments that I'll try to get to soon. In the mean time, here is an interesting link on "the evolution of Kent Hovind."

Kent Hovind was sentenced to 10 years for 12 tax fraud offenses, one count of obstructing federal agents, and 45 counts of illegally structuring cash transactions. The minimum term he could have served was 8 years with the last 6 months in a half-way house, or home detention. Under that scenario he would have left prison February of 2015 with "time off for good behavior," and parole.

However it seem there are other plans for Hovind, Prisoner #06452-017.

According his son Eric, Kent Hovind was transferred August 13 to the Santa Rosa County Jail in Milton, Florida. There he was charged with contempt of court for violating an injunction contained in the 2012 civil case associated with the Federal settlement that seized the "Dinosaur Adventure Land" and other real property. If the question is "contempt of court," then Kent Hovind has shown nothing but contempt. What other than contempt has he shown? I thought his telephone conversations before his trial were extremely revealing (and funny as any comedy routine). Knowing he was being recorded, "Dr. Dino" made threats against the judge, and instructed his family on how to hide assets."

His court date is set for September 8, 2014 rescheduled for November, 2014. The timing here seems to me obviously intended to stop his early release in 2015, see that he serves his full 10 year sentence, and maybe give Hovind a little extra time to think this through.

I am not a lawyer, but I'll offer a guess that Kent Hovind won't be going home in February 2015.