Pharyngula

Innocence lost!

I was just asked to confirm something. A reader, TheFallibleFiend, noticed that DaveScot at Uncommon Descent had claimed that he had heard the “Tree of Life Exploding” because an examination of an ultraconserved genetic element in humans had found that “the closest match was to DNA from the coelacanth”. The reader then checked the Nature article, and discovered that it didn’t seem to say anything of the kind. He tried to point this discrepancy out in a comment, but it never showed up (oooh, surprise!).

Our bewildered reader wonders if he could be misinterpreting the article—he’s not a biologist—but you know, the abstract seems to plainly contradict DaveScot. How could this be?

Alas, I have to destroy his touching faith in human nature. DaveScot completely failed to comprehend the article. He misrepresented its meaning in his description. He’s ruthless about expunging any criticism, so he almost certainly intentionally deleted any comments that might mention his incompetence. The string of commenters at UD who all thought this was wonderful evidence against evolution further exemplify the willful inanity of the Bill Dembski fan club. FallibleFiend, your understanding of the abstract and paper seems to be quite accurate; theirs is incredibly off-base.

You will be pleased to know that Carl Zimmer has discussed this same Nature article in PLoS Computational Biology, and he backs you up.

Everyone should know by now that if the Dembskiites say it, it is almost certainly wrong; they trade in ignorance and dishonesty, and now we can add disillusionment to their wares.

Comments

  1. #1 quork
    December 29, 2006

    that DaveScot at Uncommon Descent had claimed that he had heard the “Tree of Life Exploding”

    What is the sound of one hand slapping an extremely stupid forehead?

  2. #2 Stanton
    December 29, 2006

    DaveScot is hitting the Skittlebrau again?

  3. #3 Great White Wonder
    December 29, 2006

    You can almost hear DaveTard’s response: “But … but … I am an inventor on an issued patent!”

    So is Catwoman, DaveTard.

    DaveTard = truly one of the sleaziest morons of our time.

  4. #4 Gerard Harbison
    December 29, 2006

    Several of us had fun with that post.

    I ran a maximum parsimony program on the sequence DaveTard was referring to, and posted the results on my blog. Surprise, surprise, the tree for that 85 nucleotide sequence was gratifyingly close to the canonical tree of life.

    http://homepage.mac.com/gerardharbison/blog/RWP_blog.html#sxg187665897

  5. #5 Warren
    December 29, 2006

    I propose a new moniker for the UD site: Uncommon Condescent.

    I wouldn’t expect them to grasp the subtlety, though.

  6. #6 Scott Simmons
    December 29, 2006

    There’s a significant difference between ‘deleting/disemvowelling non-constructive posts and banning trolling posters’ and ‘silently excising any and all verbiage that could possibly be construed as criticism’.

    Here, watch this. “P.Z. Myers goes overboard in denouncing religion. Theists are perfectly capable of understanding science, and there’s no reason to suggest that a believer in theistic evolution has an inferior grasp of biology.” I’ll bet you a dollar that P.Z. doesn’t delete that or ban me for posting it. He might argue with me, maybe even mock me, of course, but the dialogue will exist. Now try posting something like that about Dave or Bill on UD, and see how fast they yank your posting privileges …

  7. #7 TheFallibleFiend
    December 29, 2006

    PZ, thanks for looking into this. Hopefully your blog will exist as long as UD, so that anyone who is interested can at least get a start on checking out the facts.

    I’m not actually new to arguing with creationists. My first post on the internet more than 25 years ago, was about creationism – although I was sortuva fence-sitter at that time. Still, this seems like such a simple thing to correct. You make a mistake, you admit it, you take your lumps, you move on.

    I don’t think I mentioned the word incompetence in my post to Uncommon Descent. I may have thought it, but I didn’t say it – and I’m pretty sure I didn’t even imply it. Certainly I didn’t intend to convey that.

    The alarming thing to me is that
    1) this seems like such a blatant mistake. So far as I can tell the real Nature article doesn’t say anything remotely close to what DaveScot maintains – and in fact, directly refutes the basic claim. If he just read the abstract, he’d know he was wrong, and

    2) even if DaveScot is not a practicing scientist, presumably Dembski and a few others over there are, or at least claim to be. I’m not a scientist, though I work with a crapload of them – and I have to say, if I were to publish something that reflected poorly on the group, there would be a line of people wanting to take me out to the woodshed. Some people would be very diplomatic and others would be considerably less so, but I would remember the licks for a long time – and I’m pretty sure there would be an official correction of some sort.

    This is just a blog. I don’t look at a mistake as all that big a deal, particularly if DS is not a scientist. He read the HHMC article and didn’t bother to check the original source. It’s a simple mistake. But come on, this is silly. How hard could it be to say, “Hey, I pushed ‘send’ too quickly on that one?”

    Even more alarming is that I can see 20 years from now somebody quoting his “analysis” as if it were established fact. You get a lot of these factoids all lined up for the average person who desperately wants to believe, and who isn’t inclined to attempt reading articles in Nature – and suddenly they’re thinking “Well, with all this here evidence, SOME of it’s just got to stick.”

    Well, anyway. I’m not completely new to this subject, but, yes, it’s fair to say this experience is disillusioning.

    Over time, I’m becoming more and more convinced that these guys are not even trying to win the argument. They’re intent on creating enough confusion they can gain a few yards in the pandemonium.

  8. #8 Caledonian
    December 29, 2006

    Oh, please. PZ lets me post, so this “censorship” crap is garbage. Charlie Wagner, you were banned for not only being stupid but being rude while doing it and ignoring requests for you to stop abusing your granted privilege to post. And then, eliminating all possible mercy that might have been granted you, you troll the comments from a variety of IPs.

  9. #9 Vampyroteuthis infernalis
    December 29, 2006

    “Thr’s sgnfcnt dffrnc btwn ‘dltng/dsmvwllng nn-cnstrctv psts nd bnnng trllng pstrs’ nd ‘slntly xcsng ny nd ll vrbg tht cld pssbly b cnstrd s crtcsm’.”

    N mttr wht y cll t, t’s stll cnsrshp. Paul removes my posts for one reason and one reason only: he doesn’t like what I say.
    flly spprt blg wnrs rght t bn ppl wh r bsv, nsltng, cntmls, ffnsv, rd r prfn. My nly sn s dsgrng wth Pl bt drwnsm. H’s trd f lstnng t t nd h’s trd f qstns tht h cnnt nswr. H cn’t pnt t n nstnc whr ‘v bn ncvl r nfrndly. S t’s cnsrshp, pln nd smpl.
    ‘m rspctfl prsn nd xpct t b trtd th sm. f Pl pltly rqsts t, wll nvr pst hr gn. Why cn’t h brng hmslf t d tht? Hmmmmm…

    [I will reply to that one sentence I’ve left intact. Charlie Wagner is simply lying. I have allowed him to comment freely here for nearly 3 years; what prompted his loss of commenting privileges was not that he is a ludicrous anti-evolutionist, but that he disobeyed a plain request to maintain civility on a thread, and responded by spamming the same message almost 20 times to the thread. He has since flaunted his willingness to continue to spam the site and to try to work around any measure to ban him.

    He got kicked out for being a pain in the ass.

    There will be no parole for him. He’s gone for good.
    — pzm]

  10. #10 The Spanish Preposition
    December 29, 2006

    lng tm g, n glxy fr, fr wy, thr lvd gnt sqd wth lrg brd f sqdlts. Th flyng spghtt mnstr wtchd vr thm wth grt cr.

  11. #11 The Spanish Preposition
    December 29, 2006

    Sorry about that, just having a little fun.

  12. #12 Caledonian
    December 29, 2006

    How about honoring the requests that have already been made, you lying sack of Creationism?

  13. #13 junk science
    December 29, 2006

    In fact, I kind of like you, surprising as it may seem.

    Not really, since you seem like a pretty persistent stalker.

  14. #14 Scarlet Seraph
    December 29, 2006

    Now, Mr. Caledonian, sir – keep in mind that Charlie wants to think that he’s PZ’s peer. Of course, an email would be necessary, it allows him to keep his illusion that he is somebody, rather than just another ignorant fundie blogger.

    Wagner, like Springer-spaniel, and Sal “I gave up logic ’cause it gets in the way of my religious beliefs” Cordova, wants the attention to distract from non-achievement. It’s sad and more than a little pathetic.

  15. #15 Scott Simmons
    December 29, 2006

    Oh, was that Charlie again? Sorry–had I known, I wouldn’t have dignified his accusation with a response.

  16. #16 Lago
    December 30, 2006

    “Over time, I’m becoming more and more convinced that these guys are not even trying to win the argument. They’re intent on creating enough confusion they can gain a few yards in the pandemonium.”

    The above is all of creationism in a nutshell

  17. #17 sparc
    December 30, 2006

    I am waiting for DaveScot or Casey (case lost) Luskin citing Schwabe’s Ciona intestinalis relaxin BS again.

  18. #18 truth machine
    December 30, 2006

    “I’m not a scientist, though I work with a crapload of them – and I have to say, if I were to publish something that reflected poorly on the group, there would be a line of people wanting to take me out to the woodshed.”

    You’re rather confused, FF. Those folks don’t share your values — that truth is good and falsehood is bad. For them, statements against evolution are good and statements for it are bad. Thus, DS did a good thing and is honored for it, whereas you are taken out to the woodshed.

  19. #19 Keith Douglas
    December 30, 2006

    TheFallibleFiend: I’m with you on that. It seems that the strategy now (what with Dembski’s ridiculous ridicule of Judge Jones, etc.) is the “nuclear option”. I think this is far worse for science and reason, as scientists generally assume (sort of tacitly) everyone at the table is civil and honest. Slowly they wake up to realize this isn’t so – I think this is the greatest merit of James Randi, for example. He’s a professional fooler, whereas science is about not being fooled. And yet they work well together when the fooler is “for good”.

  20. #20 steve s
    December 30, 2006

    2) even if DaveScot is not a practicing scientist, presumably Dembski and a few others over there are

    Nobody over there is a practicing scientist. Dembski is a professor of thumpology at a bible college. Davescot is a retired computer technician. Some other people around there have degrees in law or engineering, most don’t, and none know anything about science. When an actual scientist stops by, like Tom English or David Heddle, he’s quickly banned.

  21. #21 Sounder
    December 30, 2006

    “Over time, I’m becoming more and more convinced that these guys are not even trying to win the argument. They’re intent on creating enough confusion they can gain a few yards in the pandemonium.”

    Welcome to apologetics. The goal isn’t to prove your side correct, or even the other side wrong. The goal of apologetics is to provide a smokescreen or barrier which will protect your beliefs and the community which you share them with from an outside intellectual influence. The more damning the evidence against a community’s unifying beliefs, the stronger its apologetic movement or movements will tend to be.

    My favorite article on apologetics was written by a fellow ex-Mormon, and though it deals specifically with mormon apologetics it can be generalized on to other apologetic movements. I was stunned at how obvious the parallels between my old Mormon apologists and the ID nuts were after reading it for the first time, and was disappointed with myself for not seeing it before. I highly recommend the read.

    http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon441.htm

  22. #22 Lino D 'Ischia
    January 1, 2007

    PZ Myers writes:
    “Everyone should know by now that if the Dembskiites say it, it is almost certainly wrong; they trade in ignorance and dishonesty, and now we can add disillusionment to their wares.”

    And FallibleFiend writes:
    “I’m not actually new to arguing with creationists. My first post on the internet more than 25 years ago, was about creationism – although I was sortuva fence-sitter at that time. Still, this seems like such a simple thing to correct. You make a mistake, you admit it, you take your lumps, you move on.”

    Didn’t anyone catch this whopper, including you, PZ? The Internet didn’t exist 25 years ago. The Internet didn’t take off–let alone allow for posting–until 1993-1994. AOL didn’t exist until 1995, or so. So, are corections in order, or would you like to stand by your statement, Fiend?

  23. #23 Caledonian
    January 1, 2007

    A proto-DARPAnet existed twenty-five years ago, IIRC.

  24. #24 Diquea
    January 1, 2007

    “Didn’t anyone catch this whopper, including you, PZ? The Internet didn’t exist 25 years ago. The Internet didn’t take off–let alone allow for posting–until 1993-1994. AOL didn’t exist until 1995, or so. So, are corections in order, or would you like to stand by your statement, Fiend?”

    I would be so embarrassed if I said this and was serious. No one cares when his first internet post was.

  25. #25 Lettuce
    January 1, 2007

    Usenet’s been around for more than 25 years. No?

    1979 -2007, I think.

  26. #26 morfydd
    January 2, 2007

    AOL was founded in 1983: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AOL though it didn’t allow Usenet access until the early 1990s, IIRC
    Usenet was founded in 1979: http://archive.salon.com/21st/feature/1998/09/15feature.html

    Internet != WWW, and making that mistake will just make us laugh at you.

  27. #27 Lino D'Ischia
    January 5, 2007

    This is what Fallible Fiend wrote:
    “My first post on the internet more than 25 years ago, was about creationism…” He didn’t say “usernet”; he didn’t say “proto-DARPnet”.

    From what I remember of the usernet, you had to wait in line at a library to use it. “Posting” didn’t start until the advent of the internet, i.e., circa 1995-1996.

  28. #28 llewelly
    January 5, 2007

    Lino D’Ischia said:

    This is what Fallible Fiend wrote:
    “My first post on the internet more than 25 years ago, was about creationism…” He didn’t say “usernet”; he didn’t say “proto-DARPnet”.
    From what I remember of the usernet, you had to wait in line at a library to use it. “Posting” didn’t start until the advent of the internet, i.e., circa 1995-1996.

    The starter message for talk.origins is still in google’s archives. It was posted in 1986

  29. #29 llewelly
    January 5, 2007

    Furthermore, the oldest usenet groups go back to 1979 – Fallible Fiend is not the only person who has been posting for 25+ years.

  30. #30 Caledonian
    January 5, 2007

    How much ‘skepticism’ on the web is really just a reflexive rejection of claims that are unfamiliar or unsettling, I wonder?

  31. #31 Kseniya
    January 5, 2007

    “Posting” didn’t start until the advent of the internet, i.e., circa 1995-1996.

    Even I know that this is simply untrue, and I can’t believe Lino is still scrambling around, splitting hairs and grasping at semantic straws in an effort to avoid the simple and painless act of admitting an honest mistake.

    Getting back to the main topic for a moment, I have to say I find FF’s self-doubt refreshing. But that’s just me.

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