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Monday, July 30, 2007

New ID threat assessment lists Akyol, O’Leary, ... oh and the Pope too, by the way ...

A friend draws my attention to a recent squawk in TRENDS in Biochemical Sciences Vol.32 No.7 (July 2007) by Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross, who - so far as I can tell - make a career out of opposing the intelligent design theorists.

Squawks about the alleged threat posed by the ID theorists are nothing new - this one (“Biochemistry by design”) is aimed mainly against Mike Behe - but my friend called my attention to the fact that it mentions me (and my friend Mustafa Akyol) - and in a most curious context too:
Nature recently featured a ‘special report’ cataloging problems with creationism in western Europe, Turkey and Russia [10]. Turkey harbors a particularly active network of creationists, one of whom – Mustafa Akyol – is a prominent Discovery Institute ally, appearing publicly in America with ID supporter and spokesman Denyse O’Leary. (O’Leary is a Canadian journalist with no scientific background, who typifies the ID movement’s support base [77–80].) Unsettling signals are coming even from the Vatican, where Cardinal Christoph Schönborn’s July 2005 public statement of support for ID, released by the public relations firm of the Discovery Institute, was followed by ambiguous comments from Pope Benedict [81]. Statements from the pope released in April 2007 have not dispelled concerns about this ambiguity [82,83].

I am, of course, pleased to be mentioned alongside my friend and fellow journalist, Mustafa Akyol, one of a growing number of voices of reason in the Muslim world.* But to mention either of us in the same paragraph as Christoph, Cardinal Schonborn or the Pope?

That’s the trouble with alarmist theories. All sense of proportion ... poof!

Believe me, if the Pope isn’t buying into Darwinian materialism, it will hardly matter to the world’s Catholics what O’Leary or Akyol think. But no, wait, that’s too sensible. We can’t think of things that way. So, realizing that you ought to be concerned, your best protection is to buy and read these books. It’s all in here, folks, all in here:

Here’s the abstract:
Creationists are attempting to use biochemistry to win acceptance for their doctrine in the public mind and especially in state-funded schools. Biochemist Michael Behe is a major figure in this effort. His contention that certain cellular structures and biochemical processes –
bacterial flagella, the blood-clotting cascade and the vertebrate immune system – cannot be the products of evolution has generated vigorous opposition from fellow scientists, many of whom have refuted Behe’s claims. Yet, despite these refutations and a decisive defeat in a US federal court case, Behe and his associates at the Discovery Institute continue to cultivate American
supporters. They are also stepping up their efforts abroad and, worryingly, have achieved some success. Should biochemists (and other scientists) be concerned? We think they should be.

*We’d been asked by the McLaurin Institute to talk about ID and the media.

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Edge of Evolution “misshelved” by Darwin zealot customer

At a blog called “biologists helping bookstores,” a Pasadena-based woman whose handle is Shandon explains how she deliberately misshelved Mike Behe’s Edge of Evolution, and a number of other books - distributing them around the store according to her private tastes.

Now, you might think that Shandon (hereafter Misshelver) is restricting the right of others to read. But whoever she is and whatever her connection to biology, she does not see it that way at all. Anyway, she describes her modus operandi:
I think I might have picked a bad week to start this quest. Behe's new book must have been just released: Four copies of The Edge of Evolution were discovered once more in the science section.

I flip a copy and read the back. Here's the beginning of the first quote from the back cover: "Until the past decade and the genomics revolution, Darwin's theory rested on indirect evidence and reasonable speculation..." (Dr. Philip Skell, Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, at Pennsylvania State University, and member of the National Academy of Sciences). That's not true! I am emboldened by this bare-faced lie from this well-respected elderly chemist, pick up all four copies, and stroll upstairs.

Now, some blog reader fans think Misshelver is way cool, but a bookstore employee wrote in to complain,
... At my bookstore, we attempt to shelve books where we think customers who don't want to ask for help in finding things will spot them.

Moving books to another section of the store is not "helping" or "making a statement"; it is making a mess. It makes finding a book much harder for the employee who has looked it up in the computer because it's not where it's supposed to be. It means the possibility of a lost sale because the book cannot be found, at least for the moment. It means more work for already underpaid sales clerks to have to move the books back to where they originally were -- because, rest assured, that's what will probably happen.

and other bookstore savvy dissenters chimed in.

Then, Misshelver herself held forth again, professing,
I am aiming to write a light-hearted blog that addresses the serious issue of the lack of science awareness in society: Science has been abused by extremist religion, business, and right-wing politics. So much so that the public cannot discern what science is and is not anymore. I mean, lots of people actually believe that evolution does not happen!

I understand the criticisms posted recently. However, if a few books get moved to another part of a store and a few people get an inkling of what science actually is from reading this blog, then it is worth it.

Well, I didn’t get any inkling of “what science is” from reading Misshelver’s blog, but I did get an inkling of the sort of people who are threatened by Edge of Evolution’s grim figures for the observed success of Darwinian evolution. A similar type of individual (a librarian) tried a similar stunt at a public library a while back.

I am beginning to recognize the type. Yes, they are dim, warped, and petty, but they are deadly serious. Now, if you think that you are a better judge of what you should read than they are, and have not already bought Edge of Evolution, this is definitely a good time. Go to your local bookstore and ask a clerk to help you find a copy. If copies listed in inventory are not apparently in stock, institute a search, citing this example. Whoever wins the intelligent design controversy, people like this must lose for the sake of society.

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Service Note

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?, or my book of essays on faith and science topics, Faith@Science: Why science needs faith in the 21st century (Winnipeg: J. Gordon Shillingford, 2001). You can read excerpts as well.

My other blog is the Mindful Hack, which keeps tabs on neuroscience and the mind.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

NEW!! My review of Mike Behe's Edge of Evolution

Evolution in the light of intelligent design - look up intelligent design topics here.

Animations of life inside the cell, indexed, for your convenience.

Anti-God crusade ... no, really! My recent series on the spate of anti-God books, teen blasphemy challenge, et cetera, and the mounting anxiety of materialist atheists that lies behind it.

Catholic Church A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

Collins, Francis My review of Francis Collins’ book The Language of God

Columnists weigh in on the intelligent design controversy A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

Darwinism dissent Lists of theoretical and applied scientists who doubt Darwin

Gilder, George A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism

Intelligent design academic publications.

Intelligent design-friendly students should be flunked, according to bio prof Evolutionary biologist’s opinion that all students friendly to intelligent design should be flunked.

Intelligent design controversy My U of Toronto talk on why there is an intelligent design controversy, or my talk on media coverage of the controversy at the University of Minnesota.

Intelligent design controversy timeline An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

Intelligent design and culture My review of sci-fi great Rob Sawyer’s novel, The Calculating God , which addresses the concept of intelligent design.

March of the Penguins A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.

Origin of life Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.

Peer review My backgrounder about peer review issues.

Polls relevant to the intelligent design controversy A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

Stove, David O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove’s critique of Darwinism.

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