Sal Cordova, Intelligent Design Blog a Hoax? John A. Davison Edition

December 30, 2007

I’ve already gloated over having two posts worth of material generated by Sal Cordova’s new Intelligent Design blog, Young Cosmos. But I’m starting to think that the entire site might be a clever hoax.

Case in point is this short post:

I would like to present John Davison’s website. He was a biology professor for 42 years and accepts Intelligent Design. He studied under some of the great ones like James Crow. He deserves a fair hearing.

Merry Christmas, John.

Seems inconspicuous enough, no? But the thing is, John A. Davison is, as far as I can tell, the retired Vermont U physiologist who ran for Governor of Vermont, at least in his own mind. And put simply, it’s very very difficult to read through Davison’s writings and history and not come away with the idea that he is very much a complete crackpot, calling into question anyone that claims to take him seriously.

An oft noted case in point are his previous blogs. And when I say previous blogs, I don’t mean that in the sense of one person writing on different blogs. I mean in the sense that Davison was so confused by the very concept of blogging that his “blogs” consisted of a single post each, followed by hundreds of follow up comments. The majority these were, in fact, Davison himself randomly updating his latest thoughts, periodically interrupted by a few passersby trying in vain to explain to Davison that you’re supposed to add new blog posts to update a blog, not simply endlessly reply to yourself in the comments.

This first outing was called Prescribed Evolution, which at last count has 883 comments, most of which end with Davison’s trademark exclamation “I love it so!” At some point, Davison declared (emphasis mine):

The original Prescribed Evolution blog got pretty cluttered so I am starting a new one. Hopefully I will be able to better manage this one than the original.

This, in fact, was to be the first and only post of his second blog, New Prescribed Evolution, now weighing in at 654 comments. This soon came to a close as well:

I am abandoning this blog with all its revealing comments about and by my many enemies. Don’t expect any further responses from me here.

I am opening a new blog with the tantalizing title – The end of evolution. Let’s see what kind of perverts that will attract.

I love it so!

It didn’t stop there either (the different blog title format of the third and all follow blogs was, by the way, almost certainly due to the fact that some jokester, recognizing the trend, registered “New New Prescribed Evolution” before Davison could get to it). But you get the long, sad picture.

I’m generally not one for poisoning the well. I could try to go into some of Davison’s actual arguments against evolution (though that would be hampered by the fact that his writing style and lack of coherent organization is very very hard to make sense of what he’s even claiming). Normally I would. But if you spend any time reading through his “posts” (i.e. the comments), or catching sightings of his rambling comments at the Expelled! blog and elsewhere, I think you’ll come to the conclusion that going with the  “crackpot” label and leaving it at that is perfectly forgivable.

Then again, these many bizarre blogs could have been a clever caricature of a much savvier real-life Davison (though no one has ever admitted to it, nor has the real Davison has ever denied authorship). Of course, telling truth from parody would be much easier if the actual arguments weren’t so close to rambling parody of themselves to begin with. If these Intelligent Design blogs are really all just a put on, I still think I have a pretty good excuse as to how I got hoodwinked into thinking it was all for real.

Abstinence-Only Education As Applied to Loaded Guns

December 28, 2007


Sal Cordova, The Evolutionary Expert Who Thinks Fish Turn Into Cows

December 28, 2007

I can tell that newfound Intelligent Design blogger Sal Cordova is going to provide a rich vein of bad ideas. I’m set! Like many Intelligent Design blogs, Sal and pals over at Young Cosmos apparently cannot handle allowing critics open access to comment and respond to his claims, which just means more entertainment for you, the Bad Idea Blog reader, rather than me dividing my efforts elsewhere.

In this latest edition, let’s take a gander at what Sal’s picture of what evolution is:
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Sal Cordova, Young Earth Creationist, Used Car Salesman

December 27, 2007

Back when I first started blogging, one of the first things I highlighted were the madcap quote-mining antics of Intelligent Design sycophant Sal Cordova. Sal has been a longtime net presence on numerous forms devoted to evolution and intelligent design, but it seems that now he has his own blog: “Young Cosmos.

I have to admit: I honestly somehow missed the fact that Sal was a straight up young earth creationist (he says old that dabbles in “young,” but whatever). Whether it was a sort of open secret until now, or I just haven’t expended enough time obsessing about Sal Cordova I don’t know. It certainly does make him a rather poor spokesperson for the claim that Intelligent Design is not, as he has long insisted, a direct outgrowth of the political and scientific failures of classic creationism.

In any case, in his latest post, Sal tries to take on the classic problem of evil: why would a good God create a world that not only has evil, but seems in many respects designed to be specially conducive for evil and suffering?

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Skeptic Beats Psychics on Year End Predictions

December 25, 2007

Skeptico has been looking back over the decidedly non-psychic predictions he made on January 1st of last year, and has concluded that with just a little common sense and guesswork, he’s got alleged professional psychics beat.

Now, the cynics among you will probably say I ignored the predictions I got wrong and just concentrated on the hits. Well, I never claimed to be 100% accurate. And as Sylvia Browne said, only God is 100% accurate. Others may say that some of the predictions weren’t really that surprising. Well, at least I didn’t predict that Tiger Woods would win a golf tournament.

Of course, making obvious predictions, and then counting the hits and not the misses, is all that professional psychics do anyway. And I still think I did better than them. Remember that when, this year, we get the same bunch of lame playing the odds guesses, reprinted uncritically by a gullible media. And although these “psychic predictions” might look like just a bit of fun, remember that uncritically reporting this nonsense as if it were real gives cover for vultures like Browne to prey on the recently bereaved. They also waste police time by forcing them to follow up their made-up psychic “impressions”. I did better than any of them by just guessing.

So if you’re wondering what 2008 will bring, the lesson here is to do yourself a favor and just think about it. Or, better yet, go out and make it happen (like whomever got Christina Aguilera pregnant did). And if you positively, absolutely must give someone money to make up amazing “paranormal” predictions off the top of their heads, get a skeptic. We’re much better at it!

Dear Christians: Thanks for Christmas, Love Atheists

December 25, 2007

Christian friends, the season is upon us. Not, as some of you seem to think, just your season either. Our season. All of us.

The fact is, any thriving society needs community holidays and social rituals. And Christmas is simply one of the finest ever conceived: a holiday that boasts its own distinct cultural spirit. If you think that non-believers can’t appreciate it, you’re quite wrong. Why would we need disown it, or turn up our nose at it? It’s as much ours as yours in its modern character and conception. We don’t even need to take the Christ out of Christmas: we can recognize its roots even as we enjoy its modern fruits, finding spiritual meaning in stories without having to believe in the supernatural pretensions. Mythology can be meaningful too, after all.

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The Ten Commandments are Not the Basis of Anything: Huckabee Edition

December 24, 2007

Pretty much the best way to tell if someone is truly full of it is if they insist that the Ten Commandments are the basis of the American legal system and philosophy. As countless skeptical folks have tried to explain, this argument is so patently absurd that you really have to wonder if the people claiming it have actually even read the “Ten Commandment”s in the first place. Ed Brayton over at Dispatches takes on the latest example of this claim: from a Presidential candidate no less. As he notes, as seems obvious, and yet as no theocratic activist seems to ever acknowledge, of the standard ten, only two would even be constitutional in the U.S., and even those two (against murder and theft) are common universals in nearly every society in recorded history.

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Carl Sagan Blog-a-thon Today: Celebrating a Scientist and Inspiration

December 20, 2007

Surf through the scienceblog world, and you might find a number of reflections on a man who is a hero to many: Carl Sagan. Today is the 10th anniversary of his passing, and among other things, a blog-a-thon is being held in his memory.

I touched on Sagan a little bit in my post “Scientists May Have Already Saved the World, Just by Observing It!“… and if you somehow managed to get through life this far without hearing his short “Pale Blue Dot” speech, you owe it to yourself to check that video out (it’s the last video on that page, and you can find many versions of it on youtube.

I’m too young to really remember Sagan as a cultural force, and in some sense it seems like the decade I’ve been most active and aware of science and culture in is a lot poorer after his passing. My take on the man, looking back rather than remembering, is sadness that there has not really been anyone in the popular culture to take his place. There are tons of fantastic science journalists and bloggers and writers and even popularizers like Bill Nye out there today, many of whom owe their careers to the wonder that Sagan sparked in them. But there’s been so far no one to replace him as a singular public figure and advocate.

Some things can’t be replaced.

Affirmative Action for Intelligent Design: “Martyr” Gonzalez continues to make a fool of himself

December 19, 2007

Guillermo Gonzalez, the Intelligent Design proponent who was failed to get tenure at Iowa State University’s astronomy department, is apparently still hell-bent on destroying his own career by making an issue out of it. When ISU originally denied him tenure, they quietly issued him a letter explaining their reasons. They did not publicize their list of criticisms and shortcomings. This is a good thing, of course: doing so would hurt the career prospects of a young Ph.D at other universities. And yet Gonzalez, for all the complaints about discrimination, has still failed to publicize this letter himself. And in the attempt to spin his case as ideological, anti-religious warfare, Gonzalez and the Discovery Institute keep forcing the issue, causing his actual record as a scholar to come under scrutiny. It’s not turning out well for him.

The Discovery Institute has naturally been a model of misdirection on this issue, citing Gonzalez’s publication records prior to his stint as ISU as evidence that he was a superior scholar. This is, as I mentioned, comparing rotten apples to fresh oranges: publishing under someone else’s wing is very different from seeing if you can carry your weight. But the DI is pressing on, now issuing a document purporting to show that Gonzalez published more than in the same time period than the professors who decided on his case: another irrelevant comparison. Even worse for Gonzalez, however, is that this data does contain a relevant comparison, and it is damning. As Ed Brayton over at Dispatches has pointed out that, when you place Gonzalez’s record side by side with the other candidate from his same department that did get tenure, Gonzalez doesn’t even come close to measuring up in either number of new publications or literature citations… the very two things the DI claims are most impressive about Gonzalez. And this isn’t even taking into account his failure to shepard graduate students or bring any significant amount of money into the school (his colleges averaged over a million: he brought in almost nothing at all). Or the actual quality of his work.

What seems clear is that Intelligent Design is quickly turning into little more than a scam for special treatment. They don’t want to play by the rules of science, where a claim must be confirmed or disconfirmed by evidence. They don’t want to be judged like other scientists on the quality of their work or their arguments. If anyone criticizes their work, it’s just a materialist paradigm defending its own. The possibility that their arguments are lousy, as lousy as those of countless normal scientists who have seen their ideas tossed down the crapper by their peers, isn’t even open for discussion. They bristle at the idea that their arguments are essentially based on religious presumption rather than scientific evidence, but then scream religious discrimination at the first sign of resistance to their ideas: even when their critics are themselves religious. If scientists criticize Intelligent Design, then they are engaging in a conspiracy to silence Intelligent Design. If they don’t, they are engaging in a conspiracy of silence to ignore it.

I’m sure other universities, after watching this spectacle, can’t wait to take Gonzalez on now and put up with this sort of behavior.

First Review of Expelled!: An all around pan for Creationist cinema

December 17, 2007

The first major review of a preview screening of Expelled! has hit the net, and the reviewer basically confirms all our prophetic jeers and boos.

In keeping with what I’ve pieced together about film’s likely approach, it apparently never really even defines what Intelligent Design is, or really even explains what evolution is. Informing your audience about the basic ideas so they have some context to work with (and some way to understand the ideas and positions under debate) apparently got cut out of the film in the final edit.

In other words, this is not a film written by even someone like Michael Behe, who at least understands the basics of evolutionary theory and evidence to some extent. It’s a film written by pop creationists, who virtually never have the first idea what evolution is, how scientific evidence works, and so on. Instead of any serious discussion of biochem, genetics, or anything else, it looks like we get a heap of phony outrage generated by flat out lying and misleading the audience about cases like Richard Sternberg.

Fair warning though: one unfortunate part of the review is the discussion of junk DNA, which is just too simplistic to be anything other than misleading.

Note: My own final and detailed review/fisking here, finally. And there’s a whole host of much more in-depth Expelled-related content around here than you’ll find in just this short post.

Related: Another review casts more detail on the Hitler-happy nature of the film, as well as Ben Stein’s history of celebrating crazy conspiracy theories.

More: One of the best and most comprehensive accounts of the film, along with my debunking of one of its bizarre claims. And a review that sums up the film in a single picture. You should also check out Expelled Exposed, the official NCSE response site to the film’s claims, and I, of course, have plenty more to say on the subject.

Support Skepchick Radio! Listen to NPR Pilot Show from Rebecca Watson

December 17, 2007

The delightfully droll Rebecca Watson of and the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast is going for the big time: the pilot for her new NPR show has now gone live on the Public Radio Talent Quest page.  I can’t say that I’m blown away by the working name “Curiosity Aroused”  (seems decidedly too twee), but the show itself is golden, especially given that it’s a first time outing.  Give it a listen.  Hilarious, fast-paced, and skeptastic radio.

Baptist Albert Mohler doesn’t get it: More Stupid Christmas Tricks

December 16, 2007

I’m not sure what to make of this sneering holiday column by Albert Mohler, leader of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He’s baffled, simply baffled by “atheist apostle” Richard Dawkins and his singing of Christmas carols. It’s not clear what Mohler thinks his point is here, other than that he believes there is some sort of disconnect between atheists and celebrating Christmas or even culturally Christian traditions.  I can’t quite follow the logic: do I really need to be “Hot for Teacher” to enjoy Van Halen songs?  Do I need to believe in Purple People Eaters to sing that song to kids?

All we can say for sure is that Mohler is a pretty good example of how incapable of empathy or understanding many believers can be when they try to wrap their minds around the reality of atheists (complete with an inability to use anything other than religious ideas like “apostle” to describe us). All he’s really exploring is his own self-flattering ignorance of who atheists are and what we’re about.

He even manages to find solid evidence that evil atheists like Dawkins want to purge our culture of religion just like Mitt Romney and Neuhaus warned us:

“So, yes, I like singing carols along with everybody else. I’m not one of those who wants to purge our society of our Christian history.

“If there’s any threat these sorts of things, I think you will find it comes from rival religions and not from atheists.” (emphasis added)

Oh wait, no.


So, let me get this straight: religious nuts like Mohler spend half of their time railing against how atheists want to ban Christianity.  Then they turn around and debunk their own lies, and act surprised to find that atheists don’t actually hold the straw man position that they claimed  And we’re then supposed to think Dawkins is weird or inconsistent in the face of that sort of intellectual vaudeville act?
Well Mohler: Merry Christmas, moron.