Pharyngula

The PIG-fest continues

The ongoing dissection of Wells’ The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design continues, with two new disembowelments on display.

Andrea Bottaro rips up Chapter 9, “The Secret of Life”. In this one, Wells makes the tired old argument that only intelligent agents can create information, therefore informational macromolecules must have been created by intelligent agent(s). It’s also got a sharp, succinct critique of the Sternberg affair, in which Stephen Meyer smuggled an ID paper into Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. (Don’t ask what those two subjects were doing together in this chapter. Wells is not big on logical organization.)

Mark Perakh takes on Chapter 16, “American Lysenkoism”. You can guess the subject from the title: the Darwinists are persecuting the proponents of heterodoxy, confining them to the gulags of right-wing think tanks, like the Discovery Institute, and not allowing them to be represented in the universities. Yeah, right. We also don’t let flat-earthers get professorships in geology.

Expect more in the near future. We divvied up the chapters a few weeks ago, and everyone is working through them at their own pace (for the record, mine was ready to go a week and a half ago, and I held off to give a few people a chance to catch up—doesn’t everyone whip out a few thousand words in a few hours?), and they’re getting released as they’re done. When they’re all organized, it’s going to represent a very substantial rebuttal of some extraordinarily shoddy scholarship.

One of the things all of us are noting that may not get communicated well in the rebuttals is how much is wrong in each of Wells’ chapters. We’d have to write a whole book for each chapter just to explain all of his foolish errors and dishonest cheats, and what we’ve all been electing to do (by necessity!) is to focus on just a few examples and shred those. This is a book that would be slashed to bits by competent reviewers—I have a growing sense of amazement that it got published at all. But then, all I need to do is note that it was put out by Regnery, where incompetence and lies are a prerequisite for publication.

Comments

  1. #1 dr. dave
    August 30, 2006

    When it’s all put together, make sure you put up a book review at Amazon and BN.com and include a link!

  2. #2 Steve LaBonne
    August 30, 2006

    This group effort is the intellectual equivalent of cleaning up a house flooded by an overflowing sewer. Not a job I would ever volunteer to do, and I really admire those who have taken it on.

  3. #3 hoody
    August 30, 2006

    doesn’t everyone whip out a few thousand words in a few hours?

    Some people are capable of cranking meaningful K’s of words, others just blather about.

    all I need to do is note that it was put out by Regnery, where incompetence and lies are a prerequisite for publication.

    Translation: ANYTHING THAT I DISAGREE WITH MUST BE INCOMPETENT.

  4. #4 Steve LaBonne
    August 30, 2006

    Translation of hoody: I’M IGNORANT AND PROUD OF IT AND I MEAN TO STAY THAT WAY.

    Can’t these brain-damaged wingnuts at least come up with some original schtick now and then? What bores.

  5. #5 BlueIndependent
    August 30, 2006

    hoody:
    “Translation: ANYTHING THAT I DISAGREE WITH MUST BE INCOMPETENT.

    Because, in this case, it is…? Regnery would be a more aptly-titled publisher if it was “Wrongery”. Their books do not debate anything; They are there merely to produce attack material. If conservatism is going to put up a decent argument for debate, Regnery is an extremely poor choice for an outlet to do so.

  6. #6 BruceH
    August 30, 2006

    All caps translation:

    EVERYBODY LOOK AT HOW WRONG I AM!!11!!!ONE!

  7. #7 Dark Matter
    August 30, 2006

    BlueIndependent wrote:

    Regnery would be a more aptly-titled
    publisher if it was “Wrongery”. Their books do not debate
    anything; They are there merely to produce attack material.

    Didn’t L. Ron Hubbard make a comment about
    “Always attack, never defend” in response to
    how to handle critics of Scientology?

    This is what I am worried about actually- the entire
    point of always putting your opposition into
    a defensive posture- always make attacks
    into your enemy’s “territory” and not allow
    them to make any into your own…

    Now thanks to the home schooler movement
    and places like Liberty “University” (which
    is really just a lobbyist training camp) they
    have secure “territory” from which to make
    attacks from.

    Regnery and their ilk are not interested in
    “good science”, they are interested in warping
    American society into their own image. They
    are interested in political and social control.

  8. #8 boojieboy
    August 30, 2006

    Re:Your comment about flat-earthers among geologists.

    It’s a poor analogy. A better one would be geologists who deny plate tectonics. In fairness, I don’t know of any prominent geologists who are tectonics-denialists.

  9. #9 Kristine
    August 30, 2006

    American Lysenkoism indeed! Orwellian, that. Wells hits the nail on the head in a twisted way, but he’s driving that nail into the hand that feeds him (religious connotations intended here also).

    I think that I have made it clear to everyone with half an eye who visits Pharyngula/Panda’s Thumb how outraged I am by books like this. I don’t need to repeat that I know people taken in by this crap and when I try to talk to them about it, they slide from the debate of the “science” to the “need for meaning” in their lives. (And to the “yuck” factor about common ancestry with apes. I feel like I’m back in high school–“You’re friends with those people?“)

    Well, far be it for me to deprive anyone of some kind of purpose–listen up, hoody–all I ask is that they look for their own personal purpose, that they exercise their American individuality within the framework of physical reality, and not make of themselves deckhands on an ideological cruise ship to nowhere that is apparently more seaworthy than the Soviets ever hoped communism to be

    Everything that Wells says is true of himself. All the charges that Dembski, Behe, etc. level at the so-called “Darwinists” are sins that they themselves commit. This talk of “Lysenkoism” is the story of the whole intelligent design hysteria! I can only hope that someday soon Americans will wake up to this, and while I do not think that Wells, Dembski, Behe, and their immediate colleagues really want to resort to Lysenko’s tactics (at least I hope that they don’t), I would not put it past people like Ham and Hovind to want to see biologists and intellectuals shot in secret basements.

    However, since intelligent design offers absolutely nothing for the benefit of humanity, and since it must be remembered that Lysenkoism was similarly “empowering” to many proletariats at first (Lysenko was not saying anything that people did not want to hear), I cannot trust that Wells, Dembski, or Behe truly care if people die as a result of their manipulation, as so many millions died as of result of forced collective farming. Lysenko certainly didn’t care.

    So if I have not effectively communicated that the reason I get so bent out of shape about this stuff is that I do care about people’s lives, I wish to say that now. You all care–as scientists you do your work because you care. I guess that’s the only thing I can say to people at this point, for people seem to think that scientists hold the general person in contempt, which is ridiculous, but that’s the major theme of the Discovery Institute’s propaganda, and it sells.

    So, guys…I’m not in high school, but grad school next week, not for science, but for Library and Information Science (so take that, Dembski, my little inchworm), and will not have much time to spend reading this stuff and making my bizarre comments. Thanks for your tolerance. I hope I added a few laughs, at least, and I hope to visit from time to time…and I will finally shut up for now!

  10. #10 Splash
    August 30, 2006

    Regnery is a big problem that has to be dealt with. Media Matters (David Brock’s organization), among others, monitors right-wing publishing shops like Regnery. There is an excellent discussion in David Brock’s “The Republican Noise Machine” about the techniques Regnery uses to sell its books, inclouding bulk purchases. (paperback edition, pp. 355-364). This should be monitored – Media Matters should know about all this. To sample the excellent work of Media Matters, see http://mediamatters.org/

  11. #11 Millimeter Wave
    August 30, 2006

    oh dear god, not this drivel again.

    …only intelligent agents can create information, therefore informational macromolecules must have been created by intelligent agent(s).

    The only reason that idiots like Wells and Dembski can get away with making statements which are this blatantly false is that they’re dealing with a branch of science that is unfamiliar to most people (even most scientists). To anybody remotely familiar with information theory, the suggestion that information cannot be generated other than by intelligent agents is ludicrous.

    It is a fundamental principle of information theory that information is generated by any stochastic process. This fact is discussed at length in Claude Shannon’s 1948 paper which introduced the concepts of information and information theory, and formulated the metrics for what constitutes information.

    In fact, the metrics for information are largely derived by considering the rate at which information is generated by a stochastic process.

  12. #12 386sx
    August 30, 2006

    I don’t need to repeat that I know people taken in by this crap and when I try to talk to them about it, they slide from the debate of the “science” to the “need for meaning” in their lives.

    Don’t worry, because lots of folks are in the same shoes. The “need for meaning” is actually one of the more sophisticated arguments.

  13. #13 RedMolly
    August 30, 2006

    Now thanks to the home schooler movement

    Please, please, please don’t lump all homeschoolers into the same creationist slop.

    There are ever-growing numbers of humanists, atheists and all-around secular free-thinking types who are opting to homeschool because we disagree with the mass-manufacturing approach of much of public education, not for any whackadoo religious reasons.

    One of the coolest things about homeschooling is that we can talk about evolution, the geologic column, comparative world mythology and the dangers of right-wing nuttery as much as we like. (Honestly, how often is evolution actually discussed in elementary school classrooms?) And we don’t have to line up every morning and pledge our allegiance to an invisible sky-buddy, either.

  14. #14 Cris
    August 30, 2006

    I wish the Panda’s Thumb crew could somehow obtain a copyright deal that would allow them to publish “The Annotated Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism,” with the original PIG text accompanied by correct scientific deconstruction in the margins. Maybe it could appear on bookshelves right beside the original malefactor, and the people who actually need to read it would.

  15. #15 Nance Confer
    August 30, 2006

    Please, please, please don’t lump all homeschoolers into the same creationist slop.
    *****
    Really. Please keep your otherwise instructive attacks aimed at those who deserve them. Many of us homeschool and delight in this website and other real science sites — all in the same house.

    Nance

  16. #16 Ed Darrell
    August 30, 2006

    Meanwhile, over at “Culture Watch: Thoughts of a Constructive Curmudgeon,” philosopher Douglas Groothuis, who teaches philosophy at Denver Seminary fully endorses Wells’ work. When I asked in comments how he could do such a thing, as a Christian, he said my comments lacked substance. (Go see: http://theconstructivecurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2006/08/review-of-jonathon-wellss-new-book.html)

    I get this image of ID defenders standing for judgment before Jesus: “Truth has no substance. You can’t hold us responsible for not telling the truth.” What would Jesus do?

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