Let's Arrest the Discovery Institute!

This isn't really math, but I can't resist commenting on it. I was looking at Evolution News and Views, which is yet another "news" site run by the Discovery Institute, because the illustrious Dr. Egnor had an article there. And I came across this, which I found just hysterically funny:

If You Have Laws, Don't You Have to Have Punish Lawbreakers?

Robert Crowther

The Advocate today gives a big hip-hip-hooray for Darwin's "process." They worry that the public doesn't accept Darwinian evolutionary claims to explain the complex diversity of life and the universe. Must be that they just don't understand. Their solution?

Perhaps the "law of evolution" would be more easily understood by the public than the "theory" of evolution.

It's interesting that evolution is so solid, so proven, that it will only survive if it is declared a law. When evolution is the law of the land, what will happen then to those who dissent?

Yeah. The reason for talking about the law of evolution is so that we can throw anyone who disagrees with it in jail. Just like we do with the law of gravity, or the laws of thermodynamics.

There are two reasons for using the term "Law of Evolution" - one scientific, and one political. The scientific reason for talking about a law of evolution is because the term
"evolution" covers a bunch of different things, among them:

  • The process of evolution: that is, the specific observed process(es) by
    which evolution occurs, including mutation, natural selection, and drift;
  • The fact of evolution: that is, the direct and indirect observations of
    the results of process of evolution, both historical and experimental in the laboratory;
  • The law(s) of evolution: that is, the rules that describe the observed processes
    of evolution.
  • The theory of evolution: the scientific theory that is derived from observations
    of the facts and process of evolution, and from which the law(s) of evolution are derived.

The political reason is because cranks from places like the DI constantly criticize evolution
by saying it's "just a theory" - trying to play on the common misunderstanding of what the term
"theory" means to make it appear more speculative than it actually is. The "law of evolution" is a
law in exactly the same way as "the law of gravity" or "the laws of thermodynamics": all are rules
derived from well-validated theories with volumes of evidence. Referring to it as a law is a
response to the silly rhetorical trick of playing on the word "theory" to suggest uncertainty.

Of course, people like the DI cranks hate this idea - it deprives them of one of their
easiest tricks. So they need to find some way of weaseling around this - and as usual, they
play the paranoia card. Just like they constantly claim that there's tons of ID research, but they can't talk about it, because the evil evolutionist boogeymen would get them for it; and they can't publish peer reviewed research, because the evil evolutionist boogeymen stop them - so
the reason for talking about a "law of evolution" can't be a response to the pathetic word games played by the IDists and friends, but instead, another way for the evil evolutionist boogeymen to get them.

More like this

If there is any phrase that is sure to raise the hackles of an evolutionary biologist, it is that evolution is "just a theory." This rallying cry of creationists plays off of the public misuse of the term "theory" to mean "Any wild guess that comes to mind which doesn't have substantial evidence to…
Ever since Darwin, there has been one main argument against evolution. I am referring to the general feeling that things don't naturally get more complex over time. Evolution says that novel structures and functionalities can evolve through entirely natural means, but that is counter to intuition…
...That all around evolution-ignorant but nonetheless eager lapdog of the Discovery Institute, SUNY Stonybrook Professor of Neurosurgery Dr. Michael Egnor, is back. Rats. I thought that the utter drubbing he took at the hands of myself and my fellow ScienceBloggers (in particular PZ Myers) might…
Last November news broke of at least one Florida school district opposing new education standards that would bring the term "evolution" to the state's students for the very first time. Since that time opponents to the view have attempted to rally but never quite got their act together, and now it…

Evolve or die!

I wonder if the RICO statutes would be applicable to the Discovery Institute.

By Mustafa Mond, FCD (not verified) on 10 Mar 2007 #permalink

Who leaked? The Evolutionary Storm Troopers of Death squadron of the Evil Atheist Conspiracy&trade is looking for one more reason to crack down on the IDiots. Oh well, it's too late for them anyway! Their followers shall forever glorify these fellows' status as saintly martyrs fighting the oppression of the Darwinian establishment.

I suppose you can't blame the IDers/creationists for engaging in so much misrepresentation. After all, it's all they have.

Laws? These guys don't seem to realize that biological systems follow the zeroth law: they can be mathematically modeled.

I was just reading:

Quantitative Biology

From: Andrei Zinovyev Dr.
Date (v1): Wed, 15 Nov 2006 17:55:21 GMT (198kb)
Date (revised v2): Tue, 5 Dec 2006 11:46:11 GMT (101kb)
Date (revised v3): Thu, 8 Mar 2007 12:46:18 GMT (98kb)

How much non-coding DNA do eukaryotes require?
Authors: Thomas Fink, Andrei Zinovyev, Sebastian Ahnert
Comments: 5 pages, 4 figures, 1 table
Subj-class: Genomics
Despite tremendous advances in the field of genomics, the amount and function of the large non-coding part of the genome in higher organisms remains poorly understood. Here we report the observation of a striking relationship between the amounts of protein-coding DNA (cDNA) and non-coding DNA (ncDNA) in the genomes of 733 eukaryotic species. This relationship indicates that eukaryotes require a certain minimum amount of ncDNA, the value of which increases with the amount of cDNA. Based on a simple model of the growth of regulatory networks, we derive a theoretical prediction of the required quantity of ncDNA and find it to be in excellent agreement with the data. The amount of additional ncDNA (in basepairs) which eukaryotes require is
1/2 (C / Cprok) (C - Cprok), where C is the amount of cDNA, and Cprok is a constant of about 10Mb. This value corresponds to a few percent of the genome in Homo sapiens and other mammals, and up to half the genome in simpler eukaryotes. Thus our findings indicate that eukaryotic life depends on a substantial fraction of ncDNA which is very likely to be involved in genetic regulation.

The reason for talking about the law of evolution is so that we can throw anyone who disagrees with it in jail. Just like we do with the law of gravity, or the laws of thermodynamics.

So that's why no one's built a free energy machine.

What will happen to those who dissent? In science, this is easy: you'll get promoted if you're right, or even if your dissent provides some useful info to add to the science, and if you're wrong you'll be treading water, and if you persist in being wrong and refuse to change to being right, you'll sink. Science thrives on dissent; it requires it to advance.

Unlike religion.

The reason for talking about the law of evolution is so that we can throw anyone who disagrees with it in jail. Just like we do with the law of gravity, or the laws of thermodynamics.

If only. That second law canard is getting awfully tiresome.

Well, you don't wanna fuck with the Gravity Police.

By kamagurka (not verified) on 12 Mar 2007 #permalink

I really wish there were separate terms for "scientific laws" and "governmental laws", because they're really quite different; scientific laws are, of course, descriptive, while governmental laws are proscriptive, and I've had quite a bit of difficulty explaining to some of my friends why, eg, you can break a governmental law but not a scientific law, or why one should challenge unjust governmental laws when you're a scientist.