Discussion of Big Science Today, by an Important Member of the National Association of Scholars

So no, then.

It isn’t a population genetics problem at all.

In fairness to Bill, not even the “best” ID creationists, the ones with real science degrees (if not real science labs), know what populations genetics is.

I had repressed the memory of that video. Thanks for re-traumatizing me Faizal. Much appreciated.

It boggles the mind. She seems to be trying to attack phylogenetics, rather than population genetics. And she gets the whole thing wrong. It’s basically all wrong or meaningless criticisms. For example, she says “the conclusions aren’t guaranteed.” True, but no conclusions in science are guaranteed! All science is provisional, all measurements have error bars. Wouldn’t she know this? Doesn’t she have an actual degree in science? Her very first sentence is stupid crap. Yes. Stupid. Crap. And it just goes down hill from there. She says "the biggest problem with [population genetics](she probably means phylogenetics) is the assumption of common descent. (…) You assume a tree when that’s what you’re trying to prove." But there are tests for that. Ways to see if the data supports there being a tree. A charitable assumption is that she must not be aware? How can she not be aware? I’m an amateur in this. I have no formal education in bioinformatics or evolutionary biology. I know these things. How can she not be aware? She’s a biologist. She’s made it her career to criticize evolution. Shouldn’t she know the simplest things?

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She’s also another one who refuses to engage in discussion here are PS, because we’re a bunch of atheists meanies who are just so uncivil. The fact that she would be unable to get away with rampant BS of the sort that is in that video has nothing to do with it, I am sure.

Ann Gauger had to wear a lab coat so the green screen would not spill on her.

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Here’s a comment on that video:

This is what I like about Discovery Institute: their spokespersons are qualified, informed, and articulate. When I, a layman whose degree was not in biology or astrophysics, listen to those who are the expert spokespersons touting the party line (“science is materialistic”; “intelligent design is religion,” etc.), what I hear reminds me of the old carnival huckster or patent medicine seller: bait and switch, smoke and mirrors, a flourish of technical terms, questionable statistics, and VOILA!

You could not shield yourself from such a galactic jet of irony and stupid with forty thousand light-years of lead and concrete.


My comments (“psychtrane”) are still the first two there!

I’ve been facing that puzzle since my first unfortunate exposure to IDC with Darwin’s Black Box. My view is that the most charitable, kindest, and more importantly, most probable interpretation in a case like Gauger’s is blatant willful dishonesty. Some people don’t find that charitable; but I think most people would probably rather be thought to be intellectual criminals than to be thought to be THAT spectacularly dim, and the “dim” explanation doesn’t square with her apparent ability to form sentences and get dressed in the morning. There might be a few cases, among the principal cdesign proponentsists, where some combination of gross stupidity and horrifying religious bias account for the phenomenon, but I think they deserve more credit than that in most cases: they are craftsmen, and what they choose to craft is lies. They’re pretty good at tailoring those lies to dovetail with public ignorance of biology.

What is unfortunate, of course, is that the state of public understanding of biology allows this. Most people’s grasp is so poor that when they’re exposed to this kind of material they really have little or no idea whether what she’s saying is right or not. You don’t have to know very much to know that she is badly, badly wrong, but you do have to know SOMETHING.

At the cdesign proponentsist fringes, there certainly are some where sheer dimness is probably the main cause. Tom Bethell and Neil Thomas both have books out with the DI, and to the extent those books contain any crafty lying, it’s just repetition of the crafty lying of others. I think they really are that dim.

I would give her the benefit of the doubt, if I could work out what that implies.

Is it more beneficial to assume she is lying or to assume moron level stupidity? It’s hard to decide.

I think the gaffe around the meaning of “population genetics” is honest stupidity/ignorance. There is no benefit in misleading her followers about that. It is a problem the ID’ers face, in that the talent on their bench is so shallow that people often have to talk about things well out of their comfort zone. It’s as if the New York Yankees had to use a sumo wrestler as a pinch runner.


As a lawyer, I got to experience being perceived as both. Some of the environmental activists in a community where I worked thought of me as the worst and most dishonest kind of person (oddly, I also wrote columns a couple of times for the principal environmentalist publication in that community), but my introduction to practice in that community came when I filed a piece of litigation on behalf of my parents – a lawsuit against a sewer company under the Civil Rights Act of 1871 – which was viewed by all and sundry as simply the stupidest thing a lawyer had ever done. At least, until I won that lawsuit (beware the guy who might secretly be a Due Process clause expert). But UNTIL that, the perception of me as a complete idiot was like a taste that hung in the air at public hearings, et cetera.

Personally I thought being perceived as a dishonest and vicious destroyer of the natural environment was much more pleasant than being perceived as a moron. People’s mileage may vary, of course. But the first supposition doesn’t deprive me of all dignity and agency and self-awareness. The second supposition is utterly emptying.


It’s also a bit silly to try and squeeze an entire theory into a single sentence definition. It becomes even more difficult in biology where exceptions are the rule. We shouldn’t expect reality to conform to our human need for neat and tidy categories.


Which I haven’t done. But the process of evolution (as opposed to the theory) can be described in barebones form in just one sentence, just as gravity, osmosis, or any number of other things can be described in a single sentence. I offered one such single sentence in the other thread here, the “definitions” thread. More comments on the definitions of evolution, creationism, and intelligent design are welcome there.

Any such description would leave out specifics that any serious discussion would need. This is why arguments from definition become a bit silly in these discussions.

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Yes. @Eddie’s position is the equivalent of saying flat earthers agree with most scientists that the earth is “round” and therefore their viewpoint should be included in all serious discussion regarding the shape of the earth.


I have made no scientific arguments from definition. If you’re paying attention, you’d know that when I argue from definitions, I’m responding to political charges against ID people, and in the political sphere appeals to the generally employed meanings of words are legitimate. When foes of ID say that Behe does not accept evolution, they are playing, for political reasons, on an ambiguity of the term. Behe opposes certain parts of (not all of, not by a long shot) contemporary evolutionary theory, but he has never opposed the process of evolution – descent with modification from primitive multicellular forms. The same applies to Denton.

Similarly, when people say that intelligent design – in itself (as opposed to particular views of particular ID proponents), is creationism, they are employing a politicized language, and I have used definitions (drawn from properly inductive philological research) to show why the claim is not true. But that involved no scientific claim on my part, just a philological one. Again, if you wish to discuss definitions, please move your comments to the thread I created just for that purpose. The moderators should have closed this one long ago.

So Behe accepts that the bacterial flagellum evolved? That’s news.


You seem to be implying that there is something duplicitous or deceptive about saying that Behe does not accept evolution.

But it appears to me if an objective person who is otherwise uninformed about Behe’s thoughts and writings were told nothing else about him other than “Behe accepts evolution”, they would most likely conclude that he is simply among the many mainstream scientists who accept the standard textbook version of evolution, according to which it occurs thru nothing more than unguided natural processes such as mutation, natural selection and genetic drift.

Whereas if the same person is told “Behe is a creationist” he would conclude that this Behe guy rejects that standard textbook version for one in which God was somehow directly involved in the creation of life.

It is obvious that the conclusion conveyed by calling Behe a “creationist” is by far more accurate. Now, if it is political to ensure that communication is accurate, so be it.

Only by “Eddie’s” self-serving and politically motivated definition of the term “evolved.” There is not a single scientist on earth, other than those few affiliated with creationism, who would understand Behe’s version of how the flagellum arose to be evolution.

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He accepts that on the material level it is a modification of ancestor cells. If evolution means, or can mean, “descent with modification,” then, yes, that would be accepting a process of evolution (though I’m fully aware that he does not accept your explanation of the process). And by the way, several times on this site Joshua and John Harshman have said that “descent with modification” is one legitimate way of describing evolution (as a process). For more information, go to the definitions page – and feel free to add your new ideas there.

And even if we don’t count Behe, there is Denton. If even one ID proponent accepts non-miraculous evolution, and is affirmed by the official organization representing ID (the DI) as within ID bounds in doing so (since they published six of his books), then defining ID as automatically “creationism” is wrong. And don’t bother replying, “But most IDers are creationists,” since I’ve conceded that about a thousand times, since I first started posting here. I grant that most IDers are creationists; my opposition has been to politically motivated lies and distortions put forward by Scott, Pennock, etc. If the NCSE would publish a statement like this:

“For political reasons, we exaggerated the facts and misled the public. We now issue a corrective. The notion of intelligent design is not in itself creationism. There are ID proponents who are not creationists. We apologize to those who have objected to our mischaracterization. However, we maintain that most ID proponents are creationist, and that ID as a social movement (as distinct from an intellectual position regarding nature) is largely fueled by financial and moral support from creationists.”

I would agree that such a statement was fair. But when I ask for such a fair statement, one which cedes 95% of the ground to people here, several of the loudest voices here double down and demand the ceding of the other 5%. The people here are unreasonable. But I’ve known that the anti-ID movement is filled with unreasonable people since the first time I became aware of the debate. Myers, Chu-Carroll, Coyne, Giberson, Applegate … the list goes on an on. My folly was in expecting that most of the people likely to post on blog sites would have spent 30 years reading and reflecting deeply on the history and philosophy of science, on the notion of teleology, etc., and would have been trained in the Oxbridge gentlemanliness of debate that was a feature of my education from elementary school through to PhD. The internet, by its very nature, tends to be ruled by those who are most willing to use the lowest tactics to win every argument, and by those who are too proud to concede that they might be even just 5% wrong.