Pharyngula

Squish

That’s the sound you should hear when Joe Felsenstein takes on an idiotic claim by Sal Cordova. Would you believe that Cordova claims that Kimura and Ohta’s classic 1971 paper “shatters the modern synthesis”? That’s what he claims, on the basis of his poor understanding of the mathematics of population genetics, which is ridiculous on the face of it. So it’s very satisfying to see one of the big guns of population genetics take him down with one brief explanation: contrary to Cordova, the principle he’s describing confirms the effectiveness of natural selection.


Just to help everyone follow along, here’s the simple explanation. As Kimura and Ohta explained, most mutations, even advantageous ones, do not go to fixation in a population, and are lost. Slimy Sal just reports only that much, and declares the end of evolution, to huzzahs from his equally ignorant cronies. What he ignores, and what Felsenstein explains, is that 1) the frequency of fixation of advantageous alleles will be much, much greater than for neutral or deleterious alleles, and 2) that there are many mutations being generated — so natural selection is an effective filter.

It’s a kind of mathematical quote mine, where Cordova only tells a tiny part of the story and leaves out the important bit that destroys his thesis.

Comments

  1. #1 Brownian, OM
    May 5, 2008

    Actually, the sound one should hear is ‘Kaboom!’ for the pillar of fire that should erupt every time one of us unbelievers takes these Jack Offs for Jesus to task, if God still had the balls he did in the Pentateuch.

  2. #2 Glen Davidson
    May 5, 2008

    Yes, that’s very good.

    But I wish these idiots would actually try to explain something for once, like why it is apparent that beneficial mutations are positively selected in the genomes that are sequenced. Do they really suppose that God is saving certain genes, while letting countless individuals die for lack of being fit?

    Anyhow, Cordova’s claim is counter to Behe’s later lame idea about how ID works, which is that God makes the proper concurrent “mutations” appear, and selection preserves these. Dumb, ad hoc, and lacking in explanation for why certain characteristics appear it may be, but you can see that Behe is at least trying to fit the fact of selection into his useless “model” (though not telling us why God uses such inefficient methods, when humans find better ways to engineer organisms’ genetics).

    Oh well, it’s Sal being slimy, attacking with anything and everything hoping that something will finally work, while failing to understand either evolution or even ID.

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

  3. #3 Etha Williams
    May 5, 2008

    Cordova lost me at:

    Without going into details, I’ll quote the experts who investigated the issues.

    Yes, don’t go into details — the first commandment of cretinous IDiots everywhere. After all, that might make it more difficult to quote mine and deliberately misrepresent the experts’ claims!

  4. #4 Eddie Janssen
    May 5, 2008

    Scientifically i am ‘challenged’. I depend for my peace of mind on people like you. It has been my experience that every time one of the UDiots claims anything, i just have to wait for proper science to react. I read this stuff 8 hours ago and sensed there was something wrong.
    Keep up the good work!

  5. #5 danley
    May 5, 2008

    pwned.

  6. #6 Moses
    May 5, 2008

    Squishing Sal Cordova doesn’t seem to take a lot of effort. Kind of like hitting a bug with a truck at 60mph.

  7. #7 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 5, 2008

    I’m pretty sure I heard a distinctive SQUEEK before the squish.

  8. #8 Blake Stacey
    May 5, 2008

    It’s a kind of mathematical quote mine, where Cordova only tells a tiny part of the story and leaves out the important bit that destroys his thesis.

    Based on Sal’s encounter with quantum mechanics, I’d say that he’s incapable of treating mathematics in any other way. He can’t follow an actual argument — you know, something that starts with premises and works, by logical reasoning, to a conclusion — and instead reads a scientific paper like a frog hopping from one lily pad to another, quote-mining fragments and skipping everything in between.

    (I feel like somebody else came up with that frog image, but I can’t remember where I read it.)

  9. #9 Eddie Janssen
    May 5, 2008

    @Moses
    Yes, but someone has to explain the idiocy to us, laymen. When I read the stuff on UD i knew i had to rely on someone who actually knew where sc went wrong.
    So PZ, even it it may look very, very obvious to you where ID people go wrong keep posting it here.
    As Lucy van Pelt once said to Charlie Brown: “Well informed laymen are the backbone of society”.

  10. #10 alex
    May 5, 2008

    it’s like saying he’s overturned modern mathematics by adding two and two to get three, without making it clear to his readers that he’s only got halfway through the second “2” before drawing his loony conclusion.

  11. #11 Quiet Desperation
    May 5, 2008

    Jack Offs for Jesus

    Now there’s a charity event I can get behind.

    (rimshot)

    Thank you!

  12. #12 Sven DiMilo
    May 5, 2008

    Joe Felsenstein : Slimy Sal Cordova :: Godjira : Bambi

  13. #13 David
    May 5, 2008

    I think I am making progress.

    This time, when I heard the name of this crackpot (“Sal Cordova,” if I recall it correctly) I didn’t even try to research it to figure out what his agenda was, what he was pushing. I discounted his claim based purely on its (lack of) logical support and on the existence of well-supported disproofs of his argument. Then I didn’t pursue it any further. I have begun learning to ignore fools.

    Saves time.

    By the way, Sam Harris (have you met?) has a very good piece in the Huffington Post today. I recommend reading it: Link to the article if hyperlinks aren’t filtered out by your comment system

  14. #14 notthedroids
    May 5, 2008

    Felsenstein is merely doing what Sal Cordova’s father should have done a long time ago.

  15. #15 Greg Peterson
    May 5, 2008

    I see from his post that Sal saw both “Expelled” and “21” on the same day. What a rich, full life he must have.

  16. #16 molliebatmit
    May 5, 2008

    From the original Sal Cordova post:

    It is not surprising that Darwin could not see the flaw in his argument because he could not even do high school algebra even after substantial effort. The lack of basic math and logic pervades his flawed theory.

    The squish was the sound of Sal Cordova being flattened by Joe Felsenstein, but that ping you just heard was the sound of my irony meter exploding.

  17. #17 Richard Wolford
    May 5, 2008

    “Felsenstein is merely doing what Sal Cordova’s father should have done a long time ago.”

    What, pull out?

  18. #19 CJO
    May 5, 2008

    It’s not hard to squish Sal. But cleaning the smelly, disgusting mess off the bottom of your shoe later, that’s a problemm.

  19. #20 H. H.
    May 5, 2008

    I can’t read Sal’s name without mentally picturing Grima Wormtongue, which seems an apt appellation for that lying, poisonous boot-licker.

    http://tinyurl.com/3kmonk

  20. #21 Richard Kilgore
    May 5, 2008

    If only discussions at these blogs were more like Dr. Felsenstein’s post. I might learn something then. Instead I have to wade through a think morass of pointless, vicious personal attacks against Sal Cordova. By contrast, Felsenstein sticks to science.

  21. #22 Ichthyic
    May 5, 2008

    Would you believe that Cordova claims that Kimura and Ohta’s classic 1971 paper “shatters the modern synthesis”?

    sure I can, since this is hardly the first time he has intentionally misinterpreted Kimura, nor the first time the same corrections of his misinterpretations have been made (search the Panda’s Thumb Archives, and the “bar” for the thumb).

    I think this is more like the 4th or 5th, actually.

    Sal is a true believer in “A lie repeated often enough…”

  22. #23 Ichthyic
    May 5, 2008

    I might learn something then.

    fat chance.

  23. #24 Kseniya
    May 5, 2008

    Mr. Kilgore:

    pointless, vicious personal attacks against Sal Cordova

    You mean the same Sal Cordova who publicly accused PZ’s teenage daughter of endorsing bestiality and suggested that one day she’d bring home a peccary as a husband? That Sal Cordova? The innocent, charming, blameless Sal Cordova? The chronic liar, Sal Cordova? Him?

    Can you say, “As ye sow…?”

  24. #25 Ray M
    May 5, 2008

    #18 Cal

    I followed that link (now I need to take a shower), and found this halfway down the page:

    In fact, the best president of my lifetime, Ronald Reagan, was critical of Darwinism, as was the best presidential candidate since Reagan, Pat Buchanan.

    I’m not sure quite what to say. I am, to use the vernacular, gobsmacked. He considers these the best?!! What a total pillock!

    On the other hand, if both Raygun and Buchanana were critical of evolution, then that is simply more evidence that it is a good, solid theory. As if more evidence were needed.

  25. #26 craig
    May 5, 2008

    “Jack Offs for Jesus

    Now there’s a charity event I can get behind.”

    Better than standing in front of, anyway…

  26. #27 BlueIndependent
    May 5, 2008

    What that idiot Cordova is doing here is perhaps more insidious, dishonest, disingenuous, and contemptuous of his audience. He is taking something that says one thing, and claiming it says another. This thereby allows the idiots that do not factcheck the assumption that they can work pro-evolutionary works into a strictly anti-evolutionary ideology.

    “…Instead I have to wade through a think morass of pointless, vicious personal attacks against Sal Cordova. By contrast, Felsenstein sticks to science.”

    I’m so sorry your delicate sensibilities are hurt, even if Felsenstein and PZ are 100% right and Cordova is exposed for the fraudulent critic he is. Spare me the upturned nose and the vaccuous ruminations of personal objectivity. Cordova is a consummate, proven, habitual liar. Why exactly is it wrong to point this out?

  27. #28 Brownian, OM
    May 5, 2008

    If only discussions at these blogs were more like Dr. Felsenstein’s post. I might learn something then. Instead I have to wade through a think morass of pointless, vicious personal attacks against Sal Cordova. By contrast, Felsenstein sticks to science.

    I felt that about the Bible too. You know, I thought there might be some good tips on animal husbandry (I have some striped sticks, you see.) Unfortunately, I had to wade through a morass of pointless, vicious, personal attacks against women, homosexuals, Syrians, Canaanites, Midianites, Perizzites, Moabites, Benjamites, Philistines, Assyrians, Ethiopians, and pretty well everyone else in the Middle East at the time.

  28. #29 Gun Of Sod
    May 5, 2008

    And what really gets me, is that these people undoubtedly understand what they are doing yet continue in their intellectual dishonesty in order to try and validate their mythologies.

    Either you understand all the math or none of it, this kind of selective cheery picking is pure hypocrisy.

    No matter how much I try, I can’t get my head around how that kind of mind works.

    There must be either some kind of total disconnect going on because the alternative is something I can’t understand.

  29. #30 Svenpoe DiMilopoe
    May 5, 2008

    I am sick and tired of you evolandish liberals defaming the good name of upstanding Christians like Sal Cordova. Mr. Cordova was the only man brave enough to stand up to Big Science and expose the Darwin-puppy-kicking cover-up, and now he’s doing the same to Big Population Genetics. Mr. Cordova is a busy man, what with Big Embryology and Big Biogeography to take on next (hint: convergent evolution is against all odds!1!!), and if the equation on page 1 is enough to throw all of the rest of Big Biology into doubt, then why should he waste his time reading further?
    Sal, you go, girl.

  30. #31 Blake Stacey
    May 5, 2008

    Remember this passage, written by Charles Darwin?

    Once as a very little boy whilst at the day school, or before that time, I acted cruelly, for I beat a puppy, I believe, simply from enjoying the sense of power; but the beating could not have been severe, for the puppy did not howl, of which I feel sure, as the spot was near the house. This act lay heavily on my conscience, as is shown by my remembering the exact spot where the crime was committed. It probably lay all the heavier from my love of dogs being then, and for a long time afterwards, a passion. Dogs seemed to know this, for I was an adept in robbing their love from their masters.

    That’s the one which Sal Cordova quoted as, “I beat a puppy, I believe, simply from enjoying the sense of power”, full stop. Now Cordova is doing the same thing to mathematics. He deserves no respect.

  31. #32 Moggie
    May 5, 2008

    Wait. The modern synthesis was shattered 37 years ago, and somehow the entire scientific establishment failed to notice, or somehow swept the pieces under the rug? How can anyone take this seriously?

  32. #33 Dan
    May 5, 2008

    Richard Kilgore:

    If only discussions at these blogs were more like Dr. Felsenstein’s post.

    Then don’t read the discussions.

  33. #34 craig
    May 5, 2008

    “That’s the one which Sal Cordova quoted as, “I beat a puppy, I believe, simply from enjoying the sense of power”, full stop. Now Cordova is doing the same thing to mathematics. He deserves no respect.”

    Disgusting. Makes me feel like heading on over to wherever he posts his crap to give some of his quotes the “Cordova” treatment.

    Of course, that would be a waste of time though, since you don’t have to distort what he’s saying to make him seem like a repellent slug.

  34. #35 Spinoza
    May 5, 2008

    Dan, that’s a silly (juvenile, infantile) way of taking genuine criticism.

    The man expressed his opinion about the level of discourse. You can take offense to it and tell him (essentially) to fuck off and go play in another sand-box all you like, but that doesn’t address the issue.

    And that is his point, in the end, isn’t it!

  35. #36 Brownian, OM
    May 5, 2008

    Dan, that’s a silly (juvenile, infantile) way of taking genuine criticism.

    The man expressed his opinion about the level of discourse. You can take offense to it and tell him (essentially) to fuck off and go play in another sand-box all you like, but that doesn’t address the issue.

    And that is his point, in the end, isn’t it!

    Anytime Richard wants to learn something and enlighten the rest of us, he is welcome to. We discuss whatever the fuck we want to discuss, and if somebody learns something here (happens all the time according to many), all the better.

    If he wants to demand that the discussion provide better science content, then he can damn well pay us tuition.

    Maybe that’s it. Perhaps poor Richard’s just lost; he just misGoogled Phoenix and ended up here by mistake.

  36. #37 Fatboy
    May 5, 2008

    Whenever I see a creationist say that a theory predicts that evolution is impossible, I’m reminded of the old argument that aerodynamic theory says that bees can’t fly. If you have a theory that predicts something that contradicts observable evidence, whether common descent or the flight of the bumblebee, it’s your theory that needs work, and not reality. Although with creationists, in most cases the theory’s not even wrong to begin with – they just don’t understand it, or willfully misinterpret it.

  37. #38 Blake Stacey
    May 5, 2008

    Gee. Some of us have been trying to have a genuine discussion on the levels-of-selection debate, based on papers summarized and linked here, for starters. While I thought we had potential for real progress, I guess an non-ideological, interdisciplinary inquiry into subjects of current controversy just isn’t good enough for some people.

  38. #39 craig
    May 5, 2008

    “I’m reminded of the old argument that aerodynamic theory says that bees can’t fly.”

    Except that aerodynamic theory never said any such thing.
    http://www.paghat.com/beeflight.html

  39. #40 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 5, 2008

    LOL!

    How wrong can a creationist be?

    By seventeen thousand three hundred seventy-two orders of magnitude! ROTFLMAO!

    :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D

    You just can’t make this up.

    Although with creationists, in most cases the theory’s not even wrong to begin with -

    Exactly. In this case what was wrong was the implicit assumption that bees fly the same way as airplanes. See comment 39.

  40. #41 Ichthyic
    May 5, 2008

    You can take offense to it and tell him (essentially) to fuck off and go play in another sand-box all you like, but that doesn’t address the issue.

    um, actually, it does, both technically and pragmatically.

    In fact, let me take your synthesis and repeat it:

    fuck off, Kilgore.

    (I made sure to put the comma in, Etha!)

  41. #42 Ichthyic
    May 5, 2008

    @blake:

    did i miss that you had linked to that particular discussion in the other thread?

    are you trying to resurrect it at this point, or lamenting its demise?

    If the former, mind if I jump in tomorrow?

  42. #43 Sioux Laris
    May 5, 2008

    Why does Sal, a run-of-the-mill YEC crank whom no one listens to and whose work seems entirely to be self-published, rate even this amount of attention?

    Starve this little, smug, evil-minded shit of attention and let him die the miserable, early, lonely death he craves: no one can help him.

  43. #44 Blake Stacey
    May 5, 2008

    Ichthyic (#42):

    I had linked to the discussion at Plektix in the thread we were busily derailing yesterday. I wouldn’t mind discussion on the topic happening there, or here; I was mostly mock-lamenting that the people who complain about not having science on Pharyngula never seem to notice the science discussions we do have.

  44. #45 pedlar
    May 5, 2008

    Ah, dear, dear, Sal.

    Claim to fame? Being the butt-end of the Greatest. Takedown. Evah.

    Thank you, ERV. Every time I read that I feel a little bit better about the world.

  45. #46 Ichthyic
    May 5, 2008

    I was mostly mock-lamenting that the people who complain about not having science on Pharyngula never seem to notice the science discussions we do have.

    i got that, I was just was wondering if there was actually a desire to resurrect that thread. I think it would be far more appropriate there than in this thread, in any case.

    I’ll try to post something there tomorrow, and see if any new spark arises.

    Fair warning: every thread I’ve ever tried to flesh this out in before always ends up being a war between the modelers, the science philosophers, and the field biologists.

    It’s always interesting, but little ends up being resolved, as so few group selection models have actually been thoroughly vetted in the field (which says something in and of itself, as it hasn’t been for lack of opportunity).

    still, I almost always end up grabbing a few new references.

  46. #47 dave
    May 5, 2008

    Isn’t this Sal Cordova dude the one who got off on fantasizing that PZ’s daughter was into beastiality? I assume that’s permissible in the bible, as long as you sacrifice the animal afterwards.

  47. #48 Art
    May 5, 2008

    “Why does Sal, a run-of-the-mill YEC crank whom no one listens to and whose work seems entirely to be self-published, rate even this amount of attention?
    Starve this little, smug, evil-minded shit of attention and let him die the miserable, early, lonely death he craves: no one can help him.”

    Well, he claims to have been offered some sort of assistantship by Robert Marks. There’s no harm in showing how desperately bare is the ID intellectual cupboard, that they have to recruit this dishonest and utterly inept specimen.

    Sal is, I suspect, the cream of the IDEA club. Poor Caroline would not seem to have much to work with.

  48. #49 Ichthyic
    May 5, 2008

    Isn’t this Sal Cordova dude the one who got off on fantasizing that PZ’s daughter was into beastiality?

    that’s the one, alrighty.

    … and that’s just scratching the slimy surface of our beloved Slaveador Connedover.

  49. #50 Blake Stacey
    May 5, 2008

    Ichthyic:

    Fair warning: every thread I’ve ever tried to flesh this out in before always ends up being a war between the modelers, the science philosophers, and the field biologists.

    I suppose I’m a modeler by default, in that the only contribution I could hope to make is in wringing predictions out of some model (either computational or analytical) and comparing them to the field-biology data gathered by somebody else. I have seen that war play out in real life, or to be more specific, in the Q&A sessions after talks. The most exasperating times are when one of the participants is convinced that some new model or whatever represents a New Kind of Science (TM). Inevitably, they think that the reason they’re not being heard and their views have not become the new orthodoxy is that they’re just too revolutionary. Having tried a sip of that nectar, I feel pretty confident in betting that it’s Kool-Aid. Of course, I could be wrong. . . but as long as every debate is at cross purposes and the models never get vetted, no matter what interesting ideas they might have stuck in them, they’re still just a New Kind-of Science.

  50. #51 Sven DiMilo
    May 5, 2008

    *starts digging in on the field-biologist side of the, uh, field*

    (one foxhole that will have an atheist in there)

  51. #52 Bubba Sixpack
    May 5, 2008

    “As Kimura and Ohta explained, most mutations, even advantageous ones, do not go to fixation in a population, and are lost. ”

    There’s the problem right there: Sal Cordova has gone on to a fixation in a population of ignoramuses.

  52. #53 Ichthyic
    May 5, 2008

    The most exasperating times are when one of the participants is convinced that some new model or whatever represents a New Kind of Science (TM)

    trust me when I say: I know exactly what you mean.

    …and I’m very happy you hate them as much as I.

    ;)

    but as long as every debate is at cross purposes and the models never get vetted, no matter what interesting ideas they might have stuck in them, they’re still just a New Kind-of Science.

    meh, maybe it’s just because I’m old enough to have seen it a thousand times before, but so long as the debate itself keeps getting resurrected, eventually either the models get refined to the point where they are testable with any population, or exceptional populations are located that end up being ideally suited to testing a specific model.
    I have run across many examples of the former (which is basically what keeps me thinking that selection at the level of the individual is still sufficient) and at least one example of the latter. Unfortunately, I think the references are sitting on my dysfunctional laptop at the moment.

    If I can manage to slap the hard-drive in an external enclosure and access it from my desktop, I’ll try to toss them in the mix over on the thread you linked to.

    that single paper started a shitstorm of a thread on this issue a couple years back, IIRC. I *think* it was over on the ATBC area of the Panda’s Thumb, but it might have even been here? both?

    I have a fuzzy recollection of maybe PZ himself citing the paper as the basis for a thread once upon a time.

    maybe you even recall?

    hmm. maybe with the better search function, I can find reference to it around here.

    btw, I did at least find one of the threads where a few of us circled each other on this issue before:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/12/ardea_skybreak_teaches_the_con.php?utm_source=mostemailed&utm_medium=link

  53. #54 Ichthyic
    May 5, 2008

    There’s the problem right there: Sal Cordova has gone on to a fixation in a population of ignoramuses.

    LOL

    funny ’cause it’s true.

  54. #55 lithopithecus
    May 5, 2008

    “The Kimura/Ohta quote in question is on page 1 of their book…”

    (snort)

    (chuckle)

    GUFFAW!!!!!!

    oh, that sal!
    what a maroon!

  55. #56 Ryan Cunningham
    May 5, 2008

    Cross posting my advice to Sal:

    It’s a real expert arguing the technical details of his field. RED ALERT! FACTUAL ARGUMENT ENCOUNTERED! ALL ID PROPONENTS, FULL RETREAT! ABANDON PREMISE! ACT POLITE AND PRETEND YOU WERE MISUNDERSTOOD!

    Throw up some out-of-context quotes from Darwin as a smokescreen and run like hell! Mince words and pretend you were talking about something else! Whatever you do, don’t acknowledge your argument was just half-cocked bullshit pulled from page one of a text you don’t understand to dupe religious rubes!

    Don’t worry. In a few weeks, you can forget this entire discussion with Dr. Felsenstein ever happened and use these exact same debunked arguments in lectures and writings anyway. It’s not like the creationist rubes will check your work. In fact, maybe you can find some way to quote mine this discussion so it looks like Felsenstein supports your claims!

  56. #57 Ichthyic
    May 6, 2008

    btw, for those that wish to “engage” Sal directly, he and his “pleasantness” can currently be found trying to defend itself on the Panda’s Thumb:

    http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2008/05/gamblers-ruin-i.html#comments

    Sal is on an endless: “What i meant to say your majesty was…”

    (if you don’t get the reference, watch this:)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-4UL9_bZFQ

  57. #58 Etha Williams
    May 6, 2008

    @#56 Ryan Cunningham —

    Fun with quote-mining and outright lying:

    After encountering Mr. Cordova’s compelling evidence against evolution, one Darwinist gave this advice to his fellow atheists on Pharyngula:

    [Sal's] a real expert arguing the technical details of his field. RED ALERT! FACTUAL ARGUMENT ENCOUNTERED!…ACT POLITE AND PRETEND YOU WERE MISUNDERSTOOD!…Whatever you do, don’t acknowledge your argument was just half-cocked bullshit…

  58. #59 Fatboy
    May 6, 2008

    Craig & David (#39 & #40) – I wasn’t going to blogwhore, but just for the record, I do understand that aerodynamic theory doesn’t disprove insect flight.

  59. #60 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 6, 2008

    Ah, dear, dear, Sal.

    Claim to fame? Being the butt-end of the Greatest. Takedown. Evah.

    Thank you, ERV. Every time I read that I feel a little bit better about the world.

    Link doesn’t work. Please repost.

    I assume that’s permissible in the bible, as long as you sacrifice the animal afterwards.

    No, both of you are to be killed.

    I do understand that aerodynamic theory doesn’t disprove insect flight.

    Nobody implied you didn’t understand it.

  60. #61 Fatboy
    May 6, 2008

    Nobody implied you didn’t understand it.

    And such are the dangers of commenting on blogs, without face to face interaction. I hope my last comment didn’t come off as too defensive.

  61. #62 pedlar
    May 6, 2008

    Greatest. Takedown. Evah.

    Sorry, dead link. Try it this way. It’s worth it. Really.

    http://endogenousretrovirus.blogspot.com/2007/09/in-which-erv-eats-sals-soul.html

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