Pharyngula

Oh, gosh … this Expelled movie is going to be ghastly. Check out this interview with Walt Ruloff, the executive producer. Ruloff’s credentials on this issue are that — get ready for it — he was a software engineer. We get a good feel for the tack the movie is going to take: biologists don’t ask interesting and productive questions, they are defined by the Darwinist orthodoxy, and they actively suppress any questioning. It is, of course, a lie from word one.

Intelligent Design is a science stopper. It offers no productive hypotheses, but only carps upon subjects where our knowledge is incomplete. Ruloff tries to get around this deficiency of his favored superstition by turning it around and claiming that evolutionary biology is the science stopper. He makes two arguments for this:

  1. He claims that roughly 85% of the country are religious (a conservative estimate), either creationist or theistic evolutionists. Then he argues that because we have this godless, materialist theory of evolution, that is effectively a barrier that prevents a huge majority of the country from studying evolutionary biology — therefore, we are preventing real advances in the science.

    He sneakily elides several issues. One is that business of theistic evolutionists: he admits that 30-40% of the population fall into that category. Somehow, though, he neglects to mention that these are religious people who are doing good science. Whoops. His barrier seems to be rather permeable.

    Another flaw in his complaint: of course a large proportion of the country can’t contribute to the science. The fact that they don’t know calculus is probably a bigger barrier to entry than that they believe in god; the obstacle that stops most of our students from advanced study is general chemistry, not their knowledge of Southern Baptist dogma. They can and do shed or modify their superstitious beliefs as part of their education.

  2. His second reason is truly contemptible. He admits that his movie is going to show many people complaining about evolution, and their faces are blacked out and their voices disguised. In other words, he’s going to trot out a collection of anonymous creationists who are going to claim that there is all this secret evidence pointing away from natural mechanisms.

    He claims, for instance, that the “area of RNA synthesis” points in “radical new directions”, and that they can’t publish it because it doesn’t meet the standards of fitting into the orthodoxy. He pulls an imaginary number out of his ass, 20-30%, of all scientific evidence is unpublishable for this reason. What nonsense.

    He never bothers to actually describe any of this mysterious suppressed evidence — “RNA synthesis” is not an answer. He also doesn’t explain how ID helps to explain this evidence better, which of course he can’t do because he doesn’t tell us what the evidence is. So, in other words, we’re going to get a bunch of gomers with bags over their heads talking funny and telling us there is secret evidence of Intelligent Design, although they won’t tell us what or how or anything relevant.

    Let me just say that if you’ve got a good, testable idea that explains 30% of the uninterpretable data coming from a lab, that makes that data comprehensible and interpretable, it can be published. I guarantee it. These ID frauds don’t have one.

I guess this is the future of the ID movement. Demand representation by religious ideology in the halls of science, and use anonymous informants to make up unsourced and non-specific claims of mysterious data supporting their position. I am even more unimpressed than I usually am by the handwaving and nonsense of the creationists — this movie is going to be a kangaroo court, where they control the words of the defendants and use innuendo and ideology from masked “witnesses” to prosecute science.

Comments

  1. #1 bad Jim
    August 28, 2007

    Look, you can’t actually be surprised by the news that this film is going to be a pseudo-scientific mess. Quite the contrary. Considering the subject matter, it would be astounding if it was otherwise.

  2. #2 Bruce
    August 28, 2007

    To be good at software engineering, you must have a logical mind, with respect for causes and effects. So it may be just as well that this Ruloff is not working on software; it’s better that he’s producing drek rather than Shrek.

  3. #3 jeh
    August 28, 2007

    “He claims, for instance, that the “area of RNA synthesis” points in “radical new directions”, and that they can’t publish it because it doesn’t meet the standards of fitting into the orthodoxy.”

    Is he thinking of RNAi and the like? That would explain the utter lack of papers on the topic. No budding young scientist would get anywhere near that RNA stuff–it’s obviously a career-ender! Dice and slice your bid for tenure!

    Ever notice how ID’ers try to co-opt hot topics in research?

  4. #4 Russell
    August 28, 2007

    Just how are the religious prevented from studying biology? Have you damned biologists introduced loyalty oaths into your qualifying exams?

  5. #5 raven
    August 28, 2007

    He claims that roughly 85% of the country are religious (a conservative estimate), either creationist or theistic evolutionists. Then he argues that because we have this godless, materialist theory of evolution, that is effectively a barrier that prevents a huge majority of the country from studying evolutionary biology — therefore, we are preventing real advances in the science.

    This is a nonsensical lie. The number of religious is more like 90%. So what? Anyone can study evolutionary biology any time they want. There is a vast amount of knowledge on the internet everywhere including jewels like talkorigins.org and pubmed. Public libraries have books, amazon.com has books. Just about anyone who wants to can go to a univesity, college, community college, online college. This is the freest, most knowledgeable, and open access time in the history of the world.

    And what do people’s religious beliefs have to do with what they study. If I study communism in polysci, does that make me a commie? Or buddhism in religious studies make me a buddhist?

    Most religious people who studied science or became scientists gave as much thought about it and the conflicts as they do about what to order on top of a pizza.

    Expelled will be the gift that keeps on giving. You can’t make up stuff this crazy.

  6. #6 Brian X
    August 28, 2007

    Somehow this reminds me of the Y2K “expert” (Michael Hyatt is his name, IIRC) who claimed that he was qualified to fearmonger report about the impending doom by virtue of being fluent in six programming languages, including three dialects of BASIC. (For the nonprogrammers: that’s sort of like bragging that your radio station plays all kinds of music — country AND western. Or that you’re an expert in Italian cooking because you put a quarter teaspoon of garlic powder in your spaghetti sauce (stolen shamelessly from The Onion)).

  7. #7 raven
    August 28, 2007

    He claims, for instance, that the “area of RNA synthesis” points in “radical new directions”, and that they can’t publish it because it doesn’t meet the standards of fitting into the orthodoxy.

    More nonsensical lies. With modern means of communication, anything can be published almost instantaneously. The internet is a great leveler and enabler. It is also the golden age of crackpottery for the same reasons but that is another story. Just today on this blog we heard about someone and the first botched creation of humans “60 million years ago” and the aliensdidit theory of intelligent design.

    When they play the persecution, paranoia, and conspiracy cards this early in the game, you know they don’t even have a pair of deuces.

    What is funny, this movie will probably go straight to Utube, the churches, and cable Xian broadcasting. There is absolutely no lie too big for these people to believe.

  8. #8 Bobby
    August 28, 2007

    He claims that roughly 85% of the country are religious (a conservative estimate), either creationist or theistic evolutionists. Then he argues that because we have this godless, materialist theory of evolution, that is effectively a barrier that prevents a huge majority of the country from studying evolutionary biology — therefore, we are preventing real advances in the science.

    So he wants a godful, immaterialist theory of evolution? That’s not going to play well with the evolution deniers.

    Also, I wonder whether the godless, materialist theories of chemistry, physics, geology, embryology, crop rotation, and software engineering are keeping 85% of the country from studying those fields?

    Ah, well. He’s undoubtedly pushing the right buttons for his target audience. Shame on us if we expect him to actually make sense.

  9. #9 Janine
    August 28, 2007

    So…, in order to be a Darwinian evolutionist, do you need to do through some antibaptish ritual? If so, what is it?

    Off the topic but which is the worst thing Ben Stein did; being a speech writer for Nixon, giving us Jimmy Kimmel (The Man Show!?!) or fronting this forcoming drivel.

    To paraphrase Bill Hicks, he is a demon from hell, here to lower the standards. (Yeah, I say this while not believing in hell.)

  10. #10 Ed Darrell
    August 28, 2007

    . . . this movie is going to be a kangaroo court . . .

    Man, there you go dissin’ the kangaroos. You owe them an apology!

  11. #11 AlanWCan
    August 28, 2007

    To paraphrase Bill Hicks, he is a demon from hell, here to lower the standards.
    You missed the whole “Sucking on Satan’s pecker” bit…despite not believing in satan either ;-)

  12. #12 MartinC
    August 28, 2007

    The reason why they have a slight chance of falsely impressing some members of the US population, the lack of knowledge of, and indeed the lack of interest in basic science, is the same reason why it is doomed to failure. Quite frankly who in the general population gives a damn about some academic version of Ned Flanders not getting a research grant? (and then running off to the Discovery Institute screaming “I’m done-diddley-done-for!”). Most of the population doesn’t even consider scientific research a real profession. Does anyone here seriously consider that, apart from some church groups, anyone is going to pay their hard earned money just to hear some religious looneys (or as they describe her “brilliant biologist”) such as Caroline Crocker whining about lack of career prospects due to their attempts to teach christian creationism as science?
    There are two ways to effectively counteract this film.
    1. Publicize the Wedge document. Remind people that members of the Discovery Institute (such as Jonathan Wells) readily admit that, based on scientific evidence, Darwinian natural selection is the best explanation for the diversity of life on earth. Their real argument is nothing to do with actual physical evidence, its whether ‘science’ itself should allow supernatural explanations.
    2. Based on the above remind people what the introduction of supernaturalism in education actually means. Its not just ID being taught within science classes, its flat earth theory taught in geography class, its alchemy and wizardry taught alongside chemistry, its astrology taught in physics and indeed UFO visitation theory taught in history class. And this is not even getting into the different variations of each of these ‘alternatives’. The false dichotomy aspect of ID theory has not been impressed upon the public enough, even Dawkins completely drops the ball on this one (Richard, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is not an updating of the Russell teapot argument, its an argument against the false dichotomy of Natural Selection versus ID).
    Pointing out that the film is simply full of lies will not work as the average member of the public is not in a position to judge who is telling the truth.

  13. #13 DGS
    August 28, 2007

    As a former software engineer (and as a biologist, a de facto software engineer any time I need to simulate something), the ID vs. evolution mindset can have quite a difficult time cracking the engineer mindset. It’s no coincidence that many of the academics signing up for supporting ID are engineers. If you see your work from a design perspective… well, then it’s easy for you to see the world from a design perspective.

    Though this may not apply, on second thought… though I’m an atheist my morals (and those of all other atheists I know) are certainly not based on survival of the most fit.

  14. #14 Tyler DiPietro
    August 28, 2007

    DGS,

    I attribute the phenomenon you speak of to what I like to call the “profundity temptation”. There seems to be an inherent tendency to view what you do professionally as the root and apex of everything. It is why you so often see computer scientists, for instance, who are sympathetic to arguments from Ed Fredkin and Stephen Wolfram that in essence postulate that computation “underlies” physical reality. (It’s the other way around, really.)

    Not everyone is so egotistical that they succumb to the temptation, but it would help explain why engineers are in large numbers so tempted by pseudoscientific pablum like ID.

  15. #15 ngong
    August 28, 2007

    Does anyone have an idea what Ruloff is referring to when he talks about research in “RNA synthesis” pointing to radical new directions that the orthodoxy might not approve of?

    It’s true that RNAi, siRNA, miRNA, etc., is exciting stuff. But it’s hardly getting suppressed. And I fail to see how it supports an ID agenda. If anything, it adds support for an ancient “RNA World”. So I’m curious how this stuff could be spun and co-opted by IDers.

  16. #16 mark
    August 28, 2007

    “SW engineer”, or “code bunny who fancies himself an engineer”?

    Anyway, I can understand how many ID proponents are engineers, MDs and such. But in my experience (albeit in Silicon Valley) the vast majority of engineers understand the difference between science and ancient mythology tarted up with a new marketing campaign.

  17. #17 DM
    August 28, 2007

    I spent the last 3 years doing my part to make sure I was able to weed out lots and lots of science-hopefuls. Now I’m working towards defeating those in my former position by preparing high school kids with a foundation in chemistry.

  18. #18 DrFrank
    August 28, 2007

    Now taking all bets on when the first reference to Galileo will appear in the movie.

    I’ll give 5-2 on it being in the introductory segment.

  19. #19 MartinC
    August 28, 2007

    ngong – “I’m curious how this stuff could be spun and co-opted by IDers”
    Is there any piece of research that could not be co-opted by them? All they need to say is that this gene, or that endogenous retroviral sequence was put there by ‘The Designer’ for some mysterious purpose we have not yet worked out. It explains everything – and nothing, but of course they fail to acknowledge the implications.
    The RNA stuff I guess is quite simply the IDiots co-opting the discovery of regulatory RNA sequences and transcripts from within non protein-coding genomic regions or regions previously not proven to have regulatory function – so called junk DNA.
    This is why the Discovery Institute concentrates its research budget on regulatory RNA these days, discovering new microRNAs and publishing seminal papers regarding the regulation and targeting of such molecules. Either that or they are doing zero research and simply spending all the Templeton foundations cash on publicity campaigns that tell lies about biological research and whining that ‘creation science’ and ‘scientists’ are not respected by the academic community.

  20. #20 Timothy
    August 28, 2007

    Can we stop saying “pseudo-science” yet? Maybe I’m way off (I haven’t consulted a dictionary on it today), but doesn’t “pseudo” at least imply being like something? This intelligent design crap is about as much like science as a Ford is like a toothbrush.

    Let me nominate “pseudo-babble” as the new terminology for this quackery, because it’s kind of like babbling but makes less sense.

  21. #21 Peter
    August 28, 2007

    Can we stop saying “pseudo-science” yet? Maybe I’m way off (I haven’t consulted a dictionary on it today), but doesn’t “pseudo” at least imply being like something?

    You are way off

    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/pseudo-

    From the Greek for false or lying so perfectly appropriate.

  22. #22 negentropyeater
    August 28, 2007

    Is there one scientist in this world who would not dream of becoming the next Newton, Einstein, Mendel or Darwin ? One who would come up with a new theory that would open up a completely new field of science and human discoveries.

    One that would be built on testable hypothesis and which would make useful predictions, one that a whole generation of scientists would be studying and trying to verify or to refute.

    One that would explain how a superior intelligence created the universe and via specific laws in other dimensions influenced all the happenings in the past.

    Please IDers, stop complaining about the scientific academy, nothing stops you from comming up with the new theory that will revolutionize the whole of science. Just build that theory and put it on the internet.
    I’m convinced that if you have within your camp the next Einstein or Darwin, there will be hundreds if not thousands of reputable scientists that will join you.

    The problem is that so far, your ouput has been quite thin, to say the least. Apart from the Irreductible Complexity argument nothing much has been proposed which is of any value at all. And even that one has by now been sufficently anaylised and discusssed and shown to be a no-brainer.

    It’s just not that easy to become the next Einstein, wish you good luck IDers.

    NB : a movie is not exactly sufficient

  23. #23 Lepht
    August 28, 2007

    i’m amused by the way they think anonymity is going to help their cause. believe me, it don’t work like that – having no name and no face almost always inspires FUD and distrust, whether it’s an individual or an entire ideology.

    then again, it is the ID movement. i swear there are airquotes around the I.

    Lepht

  24. #24 anevilmeme
    August 28, 2007

    Are we sure this movie isn’t a comedy?

  25. #25 Jud
    August 28, 2007

    “Does anyone here seriously consider that, apart from some church groups, anyone is going to pay their hard earned money just to hear some religious looneys (or as they describe her ‘brilliant biologist’) such as Caroline Crocker whining about lack of career prospects due to their attempts to teach christian creationism as science?”

    My guess is that “some church groups” would consist of all the church groups they can find shortly before school (or textbook review) board election time in a locality or state, so as to fund the campaigns of the “right” candidates. That would be followed by showings of the movie to such boards as part of an effort to persuade them to adopt the “right” biology texts.

    From there, the strategy would be to bank on two things: (1) Lack of funding or energy for challenges to all the boards that decide to allow ID in biology classes, so de facto victories there; (2) A board that, when challenged, is willing to take the issue to the Supremes. There’s Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia (though the latter may surprise). That leaves only one more justice to persuade in order to make ID “science” for purposes of public school biology classes nationwide.

    Re #15 – Walt Ruloff is rumored to have pocketed somewhere in the neighborhood of $90-$100 million from selling his software business to Microsoft, so if he’s a “code bunny,” fit me for long ears and a furry tail, please. (Hold the Jebus transplant, though, thanks.)

  26. #26 ngong
    August 28, 2007

    negentropyeater…I don’t see how “irreducible complexity” has added anything to science. Behe claims that, by definition, an irreducible system can’t evolve by “slight, successive modifications”. Correct me if I’m wrong, but he has no hard method of actually determining this (knockout experiments aren’t sufficient to meet his definition…he must prove that no scaffolding was involved at some point). His only method is incredulity.

  27. #27 Token
    August 28, 2007

    “Can we stop saying “pseudo-science” yet? Maybe I’m way off (I haven’t consulted a dictionary on it today), but doesn’t “pseudo” at least imply being like something? This intelligent design crap is about as much like science as a Ford is like a toothbrush.”

    You may be thinking of ‘quasi-’ there. I used to get the two confused.

  28. #28 R. Paul Wiegand
    August 28, 2007

    The amazing thing to me about this “science orthodoxy” argument I hear so frequently (not just about evolution, but also global warming, etc.), is how much it reveals the presenter’s ignorance of science itself.

    Science is mainly a deductive process, so it works specifically by modifying, extending, or contradicting what has gone before. Moreover, there’s a wonderful culture in science to intentionally inspire disagreement; scientists simply do not agree that often. Indeed, our entire system of value for publishable material is centered around novelty. One isn’t published with articles that say, “Joe Smith’s article on foo was bang-on. I completely agree.” (Aside from a small subset of validation/verification studies.)

    I think those that really believe there’s a secret cabal of scientists handing down the unquestionable dogma to the whole body of science need to spend a little time with my colleagues and me over a beer at a conference. I’m not a biologist, so I can’t say for that field, but in my field there is constant disagreement at almost every level — from big concepts right down to terminological disputes. In fact, I have most of my disagreements with those that I respect the most. And I measure people’s willingness to (appropriately and intelligently) confront my ideas as a form of respect.

    So when scientists do agree (in the vast majority), it is because the arguments are particularly compelling. Our natural bias is to move away from one another’s ideas.

    Scientific agreement on various topics in evolutionary biology suggest the persuasiveness of its arguments, certainly not our tendency to agree.

  29. #29 gravitybear
    August 28, 2007

    Ben Stein, what have we done to deserve this movie?
    The same lies, now in movie form!

    Blech.

  30. #30 Caledonian
    August 28, 2007

    It is why you so often see computer scientists, for instance, who are sympathetic to arguments from Ed Fredkin and Stephen Wolfram that in essence postulate that computation “underlies” physical reality. (It’s the other way around, really.)

    Ha ha ha ha ha!

    You fail.

  31. #31 sailor
    August 28, 2007

    Well PZ at least someone finds biology exciting enough to make a movie about. Though one may have hoped for one that would be better than your description:
    “So, in other words, we’re going to get a bunch of gomers with bags over their heads talking funny and telling us there is secret evidence of Intelligent Design, although they won’t tell us what or how or anything relevant.”
    Sounds like a black comedy to me. Or maybe one of those real-experience space-alien abduction movies.

  32. #32 Thoe
    August 28, 2007

    Really this is just a propaganda piece, just like Flock of Dodos and Inhert the Wind were propaganda pieces.

    We now know, for example, that Randy Olsen fudged and distored as well.

    Whats the whining about?

    Its all propagnada.

    If you want to learn someething, go to reliabe texts and journals.

  33. #33 REd State Rabbeler
    August 28, 2007

    Raven, comment 8, says anything can be pusblished automatically on the internet.

    Of course, that is not peer reviewed publishing, but don’t tell Raven.

    It might get upset because it thinks blogs are peer reviewed liteature.

  34. #34 Red State Rabbeler
    August 28, 2007

    Sorry, that was comment “7″ by Raven.

  35. #35 MartinM
    August 28, 2007

    Raven, comment 8, says anything can be pusblished automatically on the internet.

    Of course, that is not peer reviewed publishing, but don’t tell Raven.

    Not being allowed to publish crap in peer-reviewed journals isn’t censorship. It’s peer review.

  36. #36 Bob
    August 28, 2007

    Really this is just a propaganda piece, just like Flock of Dodos and Inhert the Wind were propaganda pieces.

    Hmmm, I must be completely brainwashed, because I never saw Flock of Dodos as a “propaganda piece.”

    He claims, for instance, that the “area of RNA synthesis” points in “radical new directions”, and that they can’t publish it because it doesn’t meet the standards of fitting into the orthodoxy.

    Hey, this sounds like the Vatican during the Inquisition…

    (Or, I guess, the current administration)…

    The first rule of RNA Club is not to talk about RNA Club…

  37. #37 bob
    August 28, 2007

    If there is so much unpublished ID scientific evidence, how come ID can’t manage to publish their own journal?

  38. #38 rjb
    August 28, 2007

    We now know, for example, that Randy Olsen fudged and distored as well.

    I know, don’t feed the trolls, but this is a new one to me. I’ve never seen one statement outside the DI that said he fudged anything. I even recall quotes from Behe saying that he felt that the movie did represent him and his views fairly well. Not sure if I’m remembering this correctly, though.

  39. #39 Bunjo
    August 28, 2007

    As far as I can see the film will be using science to make a political point, and to lay the groundwork for introducing a theocracy. There is no point in debating the science – it won’t change fixed minds, and it won’t sway disinterested minds.

    If you want to challenge the film, point out that it is propaganda, and the long term aim is to re-introduce slavery, make Mormonism and Roman Catholicism illegal, prohibit divorce, and institute stoning adulterers to death. That way you might alert people to what is going on.

    These claims seem extreme – but they are no more of a stretch than the reverse case made by the abti-materialists.

  40. #40 MartinC
    August 28, 2007

    “Not being allowed to publish crap in peer-reviewed journals isn’t censorship. It’s peer review.”
    To take it one step further, its academic freedom
    - the freedom of fellow academics to judge a manuscript as worthy of publication within that particular journal (and they don’t consign the article to oblivion if it is rejected, you are still free to try another journal or publish it yourself on the net or in book form).
    Its hardly the kiss of death to publish something in non peer reviewed book form, it didn’t do too much harm to the career or reputation of either Darwin or Dawkins, did it ?

  41. #41 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 28, 2007

    So when the fiendish Science Inquisition of the Bright Ages isn’t forthcoming with torture racks and stake burning, the creationists have to go medieval and invent their own conspiracy?

    Seems the hypothesis of deluded schizotypals founding religions has notched up another set of circumstantial evidence.

    ngong:

    I don’t see how “irreducible complexity” has added anything to science.

    Your analysis is exactly correct, but negentropyeater is correct as well. The reason “irreducible complexity” is connected to science is that it is not a genuine design argument as the rest of them, and when well expressed falsifiable (and indeed falsified in Behe’s form) to boot.

    In fact, Behe’s original definition (subtractive non-function) was predated and named by a biologist. Muller predicted this very “interlocking complexity” as an evolutionary consequence in the early 1900′s.

  42. #42 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 28, 2007

    So when the fiendish Science Inquisition of the Bright Ages isn’t forthcoming with torture racks and stake burning, the creationists have to go medieval and invent their own conspiracy?

    Seems the hypothesis of deluded schizotypals founding religions has notched up another set of circumstantial evidence.

    ngong:

    I don’t see how “irreducible complexity” has added anything to science.

    Your analysis is exactly correct, but negentropyeater is correct as well. The reason “irreducible complexity” is connected to science is that it is not a genuine design argument as the rest of them, and when well expressed falsifiable (and indeed falsified in Behe’s form) to boot.

    In fact, Behe’s original definition (subtractive non-function) was predated and named by a biologist. Muller predicted this very “interlocking complexity” as an evolutionary consequence in the early 1900′s.

  43. #43 Graculus
    August 28, 2007

    BTW, what I can dig up on Ruloff indicates that he wasn’t a code bunny at all… he was an IP speculator during the dotcom bubble. Got one potentially hot property and sold it to MS.

  44. #44 Saber
    August 28, 2007

    I’ve been following the evolution of the ID movement for quite some time now, it’s good stuff really. It started as straight up Creationism, which was really just simpletons trying to maintain their hold on a world view they understood. But thanks to research and testing a broader understanding emerged and the simps enlisted some smart people for their cause. These hired spin doctors (using misinformation and shills like Behe) attempted to bypass genuine science by injecting mythology directly into the classrooms and text books (which is still going on) but opposition from reasonably intelligent communities and a few outstanding judges forced another adaptive response. The new tactic is to cry about exclusion, but it’s also doomed to fail for the same reasons as their earlier attempts. They don’t understand that science isn’t a dictator (like religion) but a process. Until they find a way to overcome that misunderstanding they’ll keep up with this sort of thing.

  45. #45 fnxtr
    August 28, 2007

    There seems to be an inherent tendency to view what you do professionally as the root and apex of everything.

    The adage is “To a man with an axe, everything looks like a tree”.

  46. #46 raven
    August 28, 2007

    Raven, comment 8, says anything can be pusblished automatically on the internet.

    Of course, that is not peer reviewed publishing, but don’t tell Raven.

    That is true but irrelevant.* If someone has data, a hypothesis, or a theory and it is correct and true and verifiable and reproducible then it will eventually be accepted. That is how science works. A lot of groundbreaking science was published in the old days by Newton and his contemporaries without peer review because it didn’t even exist.

    Peer review is useful but it is a nicety not a necessity.

    Besides which, the DI institute supposedly had their “peer reviewed” pseudoscience journals at one time. I’m sure they would be thrilled to publish groundbreaking scientific papers proving Darwin was wrong, and god therefore exists. [A false dichotomy but hey, this is the DI were talking about here.]

    *Some online journals are peer reviewed. They are becoming more and more popular. Plos.

  47. #47 jeff
    August 28, 2007

    Fredkin and Stephen Wolfram that in essence postulate that computation “underlies” physical reality. (It’s the other way around, really.)

    Tegmark also seems to think that all reality is “math”. I’m not sure I can agree with any of them. It seems that more is required to confer reality upon something. And are they really sure they can reduce “qualia” to math or computation? (I believe that was also addressed in Wigners famous essay)

  48. #48 frog
    August 28, 2007

    It’s actually not surprising that this dreck is coming from a software engineer. A lot of engineers are finely trained in their area of specialization, but are woefully ignorant outside of it. Limited biology, limited anthropology, and second-hand economics. It’s exactly what I think of as the 90%ers that make up the leadership of the IDers. They’re pretty smart (say 115-120 in the IQ game), they know a lot about one field and then think they’re experts on everything.

    They tend towards these kinds of cultish pseudo-scientific beliefs: Liberterianism, ID, conspiracy theories and so on. They’re smart enough to know how much garbage we’re fed in economics and politics, but they’re not smart enough to recognize that a home-cooked brew of second-hand ideas is not a suitable replacement.

  49. #49 wildcardjack
    August 28, 2007

    As a non-squishy science kinda guy, it shows to me the depths of this mans ineptitude that while being able to program computers, he hasn’t played with the various “genetic programing” concepts out there.

    The fact that Wolframs “A New Kind of Science” is larger than any bible and offers not just examples but source material must freak out religious people. “Mysteries of the Universe” aren’t supposed to be shrunk down to a few lines of code, according to theist.

    I heard a speech by Bruce Sterling where he lambasted the comparison of computer systems to living organisms because all the lower level ones were gone, the Univac’s and the Apple IIe’s being his examples. This is like a creationist asking why there are still monkeys. All the lower level computers are still around, doing their lower level things. Like a forest full of thousands of types of beetles, you don’t recognize the evolutionary path from the Univac to your wrist-watch, but the path is there.

    Non-squishy science people need to learn about evolution too. Simple enough to say, but perhaps impossible to implement.

  50. #50 frog
    August 28, 2007

    It is why you so often see computer scientists, for instance, who are sympathetic to arguments from Ed Fredkin and Stephen Wolfram that in essence postulate that computation “underlies” physical reality. (It’s the other way around, really.)

    Tyler, how do you know? Either way it’s currently simply an assumption. I see no evidence or logical necessity in reality being the equivalent of computation, or that computation is just a subset of reality.

    I would let physicists like Tegmark and Smolins work it out over the next few centuries before having a strong opinion on that question. We’ll eventually see what is necessary for the physics we see. It’s not for our generation to know, unless the physicists make some unexpected break throughs, but a lot of productive physics seems to suggest that computation may be the essential nature of physics at the smallest scale (for example, work in quantum gravity).

  51. #51 Calladus
    August 28, 2007

    Perhaps it would help if colleges insisted that their Engineering students take more classes on genetic algorithms for software and demonstrate evolved hardware.

    At the very least, it might mean an increase in engineering skills that allow these students to make a better living at their profession, instead of becoming an executive producer of a straight-to-DVD movie.

  52. #52 H. Humbert
    August 28, 2007

    MartinM said:

    Not being allowed to publish crap in peer-reviewed journals isn’t censorship. It’s peer review.

    Exactly. ID isn’t rejected by scientists because it’s religious, but because it’s scientifically sterile. But hey, if they want to conflate bad science with their religion, who am I to stand in their way? Eventually it will dawn on them, like the Roman Catholics, that reality will always trump dogma in the end; and that clinging to failed hypotheses is the surest way to invite scorn and lose converts.

  53. #53 Doug
    August 28, 2007

    Speaking as a software engineer and degreed computer scientist, I fail to see how such qualifications lend any credence to this film. Personally, I recently discovered that my knowledge of evolutionary biology is woefully lacking. Heck, I might be getting my information from AIG had it not been for my skeptical mind and desire to discover what actual biologists had to say. Hopefully I never would have sunk so low, but I’m much better now. Thanks for that, Dr. Myers.

  54. #54 Bob L
    August 28, 2007

    At the very least, it might mean an increase in engineering skills that allow these students to make a better living at their profession, instead of becoming an executive producer of a straight-to-DVD movie..

    I was wondering that myself. You would think being a software engineer pays better that a cheesy anti-science movie producer.

    The bit about the black out faces of THE TRUTH(tm) speakers is hilarious. I mean if it is the truth why can’t they find someone with the balls to say it publicly? Christians aren’t supposed to be afraid of martyrdom.

  55. #55 Brain Hertz
    August 28, 2007

    There seems to be an inherent tendency to view what you do professionally as the root and apex of everything.

    Hence Michael Behe thinking that because he understands microbiology* that he’s qualified to talk about design…

    *I’ll let the microbiologists debate that part.

  56. #56 Blake Stacey
    August 28, 2007

    Tyler DiPietro:

    It is why you so often see computer scientists, for instance, who are sympathetic to arguments from Ed Fredkin and Stephen Wolfram that in essence postulate that computation “underlies” physical reality. (It’s the other way around, really.)

    frog:

    Tyler, how do you know? Either way it’s currently simply an assumption. I see no evidence or logical necessity in reality being the equivalent of computation, or that computation is just a subset of reality.

    The problem with the Fredkin-and-Wolfram crowd is that they aren’t really paying attention to what physics is saying. I once heard Fredkin give a talk in which he advocated the idea that a discrete, classical, cellular automaton underlies quantum physics. During the Q&A session, my friend sitting next to me raised his hand and asked, “What about Bell’s Inequality?”

    Fredkin shrugged it off with a few syllables about as-yet-unknown long-distance correlations. Nary a word about what happens when you introduce such “threads” to fake quantum behavior: you break relativity. Fredkin also said something about Feynman thinking such a thing was the case, which veers dangerously close to item 29 in the Crackpot Index:

    30 points for suggesting that a famous figure secretly disbelieved in a theory which he or she publicly supported. (E.g., that Feynman was a closet opponent of special relativity, as deduced by reading between the lines in his freshman physics textbooks.)

    We all know that Feynman was sympathetic to the idea that the Universe shouldn’t have to do an infinite number of computations to figure out what happens in a tiny patch of space. (Look it up in The Character of Physical Law.) However, he also paid stringent attention to the problems of constructing hidden-variable theories and otherwise wishing for a level of reality “beneath” the quantum world. (See the Lectures on Physics, pages III-1-10 ff., III-2-8 ff.; also QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter.) In fact, Feynman was almost unbelievably prescient; witness what he said in TCoPL:

    Somebody says, “You know, you people always say that space is continuous. How do you know when you get to a small enough dimension that there really are enough points in between, that it isn’t just a lot of dots separated by little distances?” Or they say, “You know those quantum mechanical amplitudes you told me about, they’re so complicated and absurd, what makes you think those are right? Maybe they aren’t right.” Such remarks are obvious and are perfectly clear to anybody who is working on this problem. It does not do any good to point this out.

    Consider Scott Aaronson’s proposition that NP-complete problems cannot be solved in polynomial time, and that indeed, this property is an overarching principle of physical law akin to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I find the idea plausible and well-motivated. However, the good will which this generates does not extend to other ways of considering physics in computational terms, ways which are neither well-motivated nor particularly plausible.

  57. #57 Gelf
    August 28, 2007

    PZ Myers:

    Ruloff’s credentials on this issue are that — get ready for it — he was a software engineer.

    I may cry.

    Graculus:

    BTW, what I can dig up on Ruloff indicates that he wasn’t a code bunny at all… he was an IP speculator during the dotcom bubble. Got one potentially hot property and sold it to MS.

    Okay, I feel a little better now.

    On the subject of the interplay between physics and computation, I am fairly sure that the terms are too badly defined, at least in the context of this discussion, to make much headway.

    To me, the idea of “computation” intuitively suggests an intentional act. Describing a natural, ungroomed physical system as performing “computations” can only be regarded as metaphorical. Humans infer computations from observations of physical systems, and in many cases construct artificial systems to simulate the sorts of computations they have inferred. Saying all physical interaction is computation is like noticing a rock that looks like a human face and calling it a sculpture. In fact, it’s like saying all rocks are sculptures, just waiting for human beings to ascribe to them an antecedent form.

    But that’s just my intuitive definition. Yours may vary.

  58. #58 Melissa G
    August 28, 2007

    We get a good feel for the tack the movie is going to take: biologists don’t ask interesting and productive questions, they are defined by the Darwinist orthodoxy, and they actively suppress any questioning.

    I couldn’t help but chuckle in grim amusement that the film’s overarching argument appears to be, “No, you are!”

    Perhaps they expect us to rebut with the “I’m rubber and you’re glue” defense?

  59. #59 astrogeek
    August 28, 2007

    Does anyone recognize the people being interviewed in the trailer?

  60. #60 Jim
    August 28, 2007

    I can’t believe you’re all falling for this subterfuge. PZ is actually going to be one of the “masked creationists” in the film. Close study of cephalopod DNA reveals a little tag that says “Made by Jehovah, patent pending.” PZ’s been crushed into not just silence, but posing as a rabid evolutionist. The Darwinian Inquisition is THAT powerful. (Their chief weapon is surprise. And fear….)

  61. #61 frog
    August 28, 2007

    Blake: The problem with the Fredkin-and-Wolfram crowd is that they aren’t really paying attention to what physics is saying.

    You over-read if you think I’m pushing Wolfram. The problem is not that computational theories of physics aren’t sufficient to dislodge our current theory of physics – the problem is we haven’t had “a” theory of physics for almost a hundred years now. We’ve been making do with special-cases in different regimes. The last TOE went out the door with the failure of Newton; obviously there’s something that we’re missing fundamentally.

    Some of the competitors look awfully much like computational systems. That could be simply a product of our current technological era, or they could be pointing to something deeper. And it’s not just the Wolfram automata crowd who are suggesting a depth to mathematics beyond simply the descriptive. Tegmark’s paper on self-aware entities within mathematics is interesting, even if vastly immature.

    I’m withholding judgment on the form of the next unifying physics. Hopefully, it’ll appear and reach the level where a lowly biologist can understand it within my lifetime – if not, well, there’s still other work to do.

    And wasn’t the FTL entanglement problems of Bell’s theorem thrown out a few years ago? Folks had simply used the non-time dependent form of Schroedinger’s equation, so as soon as you threw in time and solved the proper equations, all the solutions showed that there was no communication going on faster than light?

  62. #62 Blake Stacey
    August 28, 2007

    As far as I understand the history, there never were real FTL problems with Bell’s Inequality. Splitting up an EPR pair and sending each half to a distant locale still can’t transmit energy or information faster than light, and I’m pretty sure this was worked out back in the 1960s.

    The new result (2002 vintage) is that a classical, deterministic model, using Wolfram’s “long-range threads” to connect entangled particles, cannot be compatible with both special relativity and the violation of Bell’s Inequality which we observe. If you try to fake physics using a classical system which has a preferred reference frame, you can get either relativity or quantum behavior, not both.

  63. #63 Greg Peterson
    August 28, 2007

    As an alternative to “pseudoscience” I sort of like Phil Kitcher’s suggestion in “Living With Darwin”: “dead science.” He said that ID was, in Paley’s day, a live hypothesis. It has since been tested, a better hypothesis advanced and accepted, and the old one pronounced dead…just as a flat earth is dead geography. I guess I like it because it’s so stark. It’s not fancy Latin “pseudo.” It’s ass-kicking Anglo-Saxon “dead.”

  64. #64 Glen Davidson
    August 28, 2007

    It’s been alluded to previously, but of course the ISCID “journal” languishes for lack of anything to write about, and this dishonest yahoo is complaining that there’s all this evidence that can’t be published.

    More importantly, does anyone still think that this movie is aimed at anyone who can think at all? A bunch of blather from anonymous scientific illiterates is only good for UFO believers, those who think 9-11 was a conspiracy, and the various IDiots and cretins who already believe in a massive conspiracy to cover up “design”.

    Tacitly they’re acknowledging that this conspiracy theory is all that they have any more, and they’re too stupid to pull the ISCID “journal” to try to bolster their lies. I don’t doubt that up to 50% or so of Americans are just ill-educated and/or stupid enough (or have the kind of “faith” that mimics a rather low stupidity) that they can believe a collection of sheer lies like this movie promises to be, but by Phillip Johnson’s original hopes to actually convince intelligent people, ID has completely and utterly failed. That’s why it’s all lies about conspiracies and the like by now.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  65. #65 tourettist
    August 28, 2007

    So he’s going to try and convict evolution on secret evidence. Hmm, can’t quite place it, where have I heard that kind of thing before?

  66. #66 J Myers
    August 29, 2007

    The title of that interview is “Expelling Dogma”……. exactly.

  67. #67 Timothy
    August 29, 2007

    Is it called “Expelled” because they all got kicked out of science class for being morons?

  68. #68 Timothy
    August 30, 2007

    Peter: Pseudo tends to have a popular connotation (aka it “implies”) of being like something. Watch how people use it. I think this lends far too much credibility to “ideas” too absurd to be called fantasy.

    And while you could argue that it has no such meaning, you could do the same with words such as decimate, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.

    From the Wikipedia article for “Pseudo“:

    “It also identifies something as superficially resembling the original subject; a pseudopod resembles a foot, and pseudorandom numbers simulate numbers generated by truly random events, but are in fact produced by an algorithm.”

  69. #69 Ajardoor
    September 7, 2007

    I’d also like to note that he never talks about the remaining 15% of the population. Are they ALL in a field of science? And do they ALL believe in Evolution?

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