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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Is there any scientific controversy about Darwinism?

I have received a note from Steve Meyer, the author of the recent, controversial, ID-friendly paper in Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington: “CNBC will broadcast a ten minute or so debate between Kenneth Miller (of Brown U.) and me sometime Sunday between 8:00-11:00PM. The program carrying the debate is TOPIC A with Tina Brown. The debate was taped Thursday and focused on the Kansas hearings and whether or there is any scientific controversy about Darwinism.” Naturally, Meyer hopes lots of people will tune in.

I must say, I love the irony! Asking the guy whose journal paper resulted in his editor having to appeal for protection to the Office of Special Counsel of the U.S. government whether there is a scientific controversy over Darwinism ... ?

The people who claim there isn’t a controversy would probably be working for the Politburo, if it still existed ...

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No More “Selfish Gene” Biology?

A recent article in the Guardian’s Education supplement suggests that new findings in genetics have undermined Darwinist Richard Dawkins’s famous “selfish gene”to the point where it is a meaningless concept.

Rather than having a single major function, most genes, like roads, probably play a small part in lots of tasks within the cell. By dissecting biology into its genetic atoms, reductionism failed to account for these multitasking genes. So the starting point for systems biologists isn't the gene but rather a mathematical model of the entire cell. Instead of focusing on key control points, systems biologists look at the system properties of the entire network. In this new vision of biology, genes aren't discrete nuggets of genetic information but more diffuse entities whose functional reality may be spread across hundreds of interacting DNA segments.

M‘bye, Dawkins. Whoops, don’t forget those selfish genes of yours, even though they’ll forget you. Seriously, as a result,

Systems biology is reasserting the primacy of the whole organism - the system - rather than the selfish behaviour of any of its components.

Systems biology courses are infiltrating curricula in campuses across the globe and systems biology centres are popping up in cities from London to Seattle. The British biological research funding body, the BBSRC, has just announced the creation of three systems biology centres in the UK. These centres are very different from traditional biology departments as they tend to be staffed by physicists, mathematicians and engineers, alongside biologists. Rather like the systems they study, systems biology centres are designed to promote interactivity and networking.

This new trend should be good news for the intelligent design scientists, who tend to thrive better in interdisciplinary groups than in closed, reductionist ones.


Spin Cycle: Did the Kansas Witnesses Read the Documents They Are Commenting On?

There’s a story going the rounds, according to which the witnesses at the Kansas evolution vs. intelligent design hearings have not read the science standards they were proposing to change. Apparently, the document they did read and were asked to comment on contains all the standards under discussion.

Here’s John West from the Discovery Institute on that point :

Who has read the Kansas Science Standards? How Knight-Ridder was Bamboozled by the Darwinists in Kansas.

by John West, Senior Fellow, Discovery Institute
Knight-Ridder Newspapers is circulating a false news report after apparently being bamboozled by the Darwinist spin-machine in Kansas. The article claims that the expert witnesses in the Kansas evolution hearings have not read the science standards they are seeking to change. But the charge is false, and the fact that a major news organization would promote such a bogus story makes one wonder about how many reporters have actually read the science standards in question. The article begins:

Those seeking change on evolution haven't read science standards TOPEKA, Kan. - (KRT) - None of the eight intelligent design proponents who testified at the Kansas State Board of Education's evolution hearings Friday have read the science standards they want changed.

Under cross-examination, all eight admitted they simply read the 28-page minority report and not the full 107-page draft of proposed science standards, most of which is not controversial.

What this story fails to disclose is that the minority report of the science standards committee reprints verbatim the relevant science standards relating to evolution from the majority draft. In other words, anyone who has read the minority report has read the majority draft of the science standards relating to evolution!

Thus, the headline and the first sentence of this article are absolutely false. It is false to claim that "None of the eight intelligent design proponents... have read the science standards they want changed." In fact, it's precisely the standards they want changed that they DID read! Again, the minority report reprints verbatim the proposed standards from the majority draft and notes the insertions and changes wanted by the minority.

Any reporter who has read both the majority draft and the minority report ought to know this, which raises an interesting question: Did the reporter and editors who handled this story actually read both of these documents?

In the future, journalists might want to be a little more skeptical before repackaging Darwinist spin as a news story without first verifying the facts.

Um, yes. The Internet is making life increasingly hard for those folks who just want to run with a “story.” I have seen the minority report document myself, or an earlier draft thereof. I cannot see that there should be any difficulty understanding the issues and the changes wanted. Most of the Kansas science standards are not relevant to the Darwinism vs. ID issue; reading them all would not be of use, a fact that the reporter more or less admits when he adds, "most of which is not controversial".

West also notes privately that, “When Rob Crowther [a Discovery employee] confronted the reporter about this story face-to-face earlier today, the reporter basically admitted that HE hadn't read the two documents in question. In other words, he printed these charges without even bothering to independently verify them.”

Sheesh, no wonder legacy media are losing circulation. Save your pennies for e-Bay.


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