November 21, 2007

Bad week for creationists

Looks like the “intelligent design movement” picked the wrong week to continue sniffing glue.

First, PBS brought its oft-celebrated dissembling modus operandi to the national airwaves. Then, “intelligent design theorist” Michael Behe was forced to admit that one of the central claims in his book, The Edge of Evolution, is demonstrably false.

Now, one of the other “intelligent design” top dogs, mathematician and theologian William Dembski, has been caught misappropriating a computer generated video, evidently the copyrighted product of Harvard University and a corporation, XVIVO.

The Behe episode is especially entertaining, as he was originally exposed by a 24-year-old female graduate student named Abbie Smith. In fact, Behe's initial response was to blow her off, for being just that, the classic ad hominem fallacy or, in this case, the argument against the woman.

But a fellow named Ian Musgrave took up cudgels on Ms. Smith's behalf and initiated a series of open letters, to which Behe responded at his blog. The entire exchange is archived here. It's a lot of reading, is quite technical, and refers to a lot of side links (all worthwhile), but it's instructive, to say the least.

Ultimately, Behe doesn't have the balls to concede the point to Ms. Smith, who made it in the first place, but rather to Musgrave.

Smith, who is rapidly becoming a cause célèbre among the biological sciences crowd, maintains a blog called ERV (short for endogenous retrovirus, since she's a researcher of HIV/AIDS). She also provides laymen's translations of her original Behe critique here and here.

In fact it was Ms. Smith who busted Dembski on the Harvard/XVIVO video as well.

That bit of unintelligent redesigning is both shameless and shameful, given the ID movement's agenda to retool scientific methodology by insisting that it allow for the Hand of Jesus in the construction of cellular organelles.

Dembski is traveling about, like a circus clown or monkey, charging several grand a pop to deliver lectures backed by a video swiped from Harvard researchers, from which he's removed the biology and added subtitles describing cells as “lilliputian machinery factories” or some such nonsense.

He's also appended to it an absurdist narration, which Abbie Smith describes as sounding like South Park's Big Gay Al.

PZ Myers of Pharyngula has a bit more on Dembski's opéra bouffe here. It might be nice to think any of this was surprising, but it isn't. It's typical. And, you can count on the glue sniffing to continue.

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