How can we tell the Expelled animation is copied?

It’s like this: All you have to do is look at all the different ways a class of art students draws a bowl of fruit to realize that two people indpendently contemplating the same thing don’t all have the same perspective. Two drawings of the same bowl of fruit is OK. Two concepts of molecular motion is OK. Copying someone else’s drawing, from concept to viewing angle to errors, is not. And that’s what the Expelled movie seems to be doing in its science videos.

Just for starters, here is a series of pictures. Each of them represents the same molecule seen from the same angle, produced by the same program.

space-filling with electric charge space-filling model showing electric charge on groups
molecule, cartoon model cartoon model
all protein composition: all protein
molecule - secondary structure secondary structure model
composition model with ligands composition with ligands
molecule, vines model vines model
molecule, vines model with water vines model with water
molecule, composition with water composition with water
molecule, cartoon model with water cartoon model with water
molecule, cartoon model with ligands cartoon model with ligands
molecule, contacts model with ligands contacts model with ligands
polar and non-polar groups hydrophobic and polar groups
molecule, hydrophobic and polar groups, water hydrophobic and polar groups with water
molecule, secondary structure with contacts and ligands secondary structure with contacts and ligands
molecule, secondary structure with contacts and ligands and water secondary structure with contacts, ligands, and water
molecule, cartoon model with ligands and resdues cartoon model with ligands and resdues
molecule, N to C rainbow subunits, nitrogen to carbon rainbow

Source: Molecules in Motion

This isn’t quite as striking as the Official Expelled Paternity Test but it reinforces the point that so much visual similarity is not accidental. (See also the DNA molecules in “Why did I bother?“)

Now that you’ve looked at the models, how do you think Premise Media came up with the image on the left?

Expelled movie copies Harvard/XVIVO video

There was a great comment from someone on Pharyngula (“Peter Irons drafts a letter, #195):

“I can’t wait for the court case, where Premise has to argue that the similarities between the animations are the result of convergent evolution, while XVIVO argues that they are the result of intelligent design!”

Now that you’re here, please look at “Who’s zoomin’ who?” for my take on Dembski’s doctored flagellum images.

Tangled Bank #103 at rENNISance Woman

The fortnightly Tangled Bank 103 is up on rENNISance Woman’s blog on Nature Network.

Speaking of losing strategies: anti-vaccine “expert” strikes out

A Photon in the Darkness has a remarkable list of cases where the testimony of Mark Geier has been found to be lacking and thrown out or discounted by judges:

some of the “premier” expert witnesses in the mercury-causes-autism camp have a pretty poor track record. Yet plaintiff’s lawyers are still hiring them – and, I assume, paying them.

For example, Dr. Mark Geier had his testimony thrown out of court twice in 2007 and, as the list below shows, this was just the tip of the iceberg.

Blackwell vs. Sigma Aldrich (2007):

“Dr. Geier is not qualified by his knowledge, skill, experience, training or education to render the opinions he proffers in this case… [T]his Court does not find that there exists a sufficient factual basis to support [Dr. Geier’s] proffered testimony…”

And it just goes on from there. Read “A Definition of Insanity.”

Computer science community discovers competent woman

Frances E. Allen, winner of 2006 Turing Award, IBM Fellowship

I know it’s late news but I loved Zuska’s title: “Computer science community stunned by discovery of a competent woman.”

So, they’ve been handing out this award for 40 years. For 39 of them, they couldn’t see fit to find any woman qualified to receive it. But FINALLY! Yay! Three cheers for Frances E. Allen, 2006 winner of the Turing Award and its $100,000 prize!

She only had to wait until she was 75, and retired for 4 years, to be honored for her work. I guess they just didn’t notice her anytime during the last four decades. Lucky for her she lived long enough for the judges to find her.

Who’s zoomin’ who?

William Dembski never ceases to appall.

  • Intelligent Design is science — but Intelligent Design is the Logos theory of St. John.
  • He’s a ‘philosopher” in the science community but a “theologian” in the religious community.
  • He doesn’t want someone else to use a picture of him — but he can use Harvard’s biology videos and John Lennon’s music!
  • He complains that someone illegally reprinted his essays — but, in fact, that person got permission from the copyright holder.
  • He demands endless proof of evolution — but he can’t be bothered to provide detail about mechanisms of Intelligent Design.

And he rests his case on the flagellum because it’s a little machine. Here, strictly for your review, is a low-resolution sample of Dembski’s blog header:

Dembski\'s metallic little motor flagellum

It’s almost shiny and the flagellum appears to be inserted into a pair of metal plates.

Now, here is an electron micrograph of a real flagellum:

visualizing flagellum base by electron microscopy

[Shahid Khan, Imran Humayun Khan, and Thomas S. Reese, 1991. New Structural Features of the Flagellar Base in Salmonella typhimurium Revealed by Rapid-Freeze Electron Microscopy. Journal of Bacteriology 173:2888-09]

Not quite so shiny, is it?

The closest I can come to Dembski’s machine image is a computer-generated image meant to artificially enhance the symmetry of the flagellum for educational purposes.

flagellum - computer-smoothed image

[A version of this image can be seen here in the Annual Review of Biochemistry 2003, with a note: “This reconstruction is derived from rotationally averaged images of about 100 hook–basal body complexes…. The radial densities have been projected from front to back along the line of view, so this is what would be seen if one were able to look through the spinning structure. Connections between the C-ring and the rest of the structure appear relatively tenuous.Digital image courtesty of D.J. DeRosier.”]

There are two very artificial maniplations in this image. First, about 100 images were averaged. That would tend to smooth out any irregularities. Second, a rotation of the image was computed, which would make anything look like an object that has been turned on a lathe.

So Dembski claims that the flagellum is a tiny, designed machine. His claim is supported by computer-generated images which bear little resemblance to reality.

This image showing actual placement of molecules is at least as accurate:

flagellum, atomic cross-section through filament

(from Keiichi Namba, nanonet) But, of course, you couldn’t mistake it for a machine.

And yet, Dembski believes that Ernst Haeckel’s drawings of developing embryos were fraudulent. Haeckel’s drawings were made in the 1870s. That’s 130 years ago! It’s likely that Haeckel simply wanted to make his drawings clear. Or perhaps he was fooled by trying to see details at the limits of his vision, like the astronomers who were sure they saw canals on Mars. Fairly quickly, people realized that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” was not strictly true. Scientists, not creationists, pointed out the errors. The drawings have been relegated to curiosities of history, along with the notions that albumin is the genetic material, continents don’t move, and dinosaurs dragged their tails. They are still studied to see where Haeckel went wrong. Here’s what scientists who recently analyzed Haeckel’s drawings have to say:

A recent study coauthored by several of us and discussed by Elizabeth Pennisi (Science, 5 Sept. 1997, p. 1435) examined inaccuracies in embryo drawings published last century by Ernst Haeckel. Our work has been used in a nationally televised debate to attack evolutionary theory and to suggest that evolution cannot explain embryology . We strongly disagree with this viewpoint. Data from embryology are fully consistent with Darwinian evolution…. the mixture of similarities and differences among vertebrate embryos reflects evolutionary change in developmental mechanisms inherited from a common ancestor… Haeckel’s inaccuracies damage his credibility, but they do not invalidate the mass of published evidence for Darwinian evolution. Ironically, had Haeckel drawn the embryos accurately, his first two valid points in favor of evolution would have been better demonstrated.
Michael K. Richardson, et al., “Haeckel, Embryos, and Evolution,” Science (Letters), Vol. 280 (May 15, 1998), pp. 983-985. (quoted from

Yet creationism and its outgrowth, Intelligent Design, carry on as if one set of discredited drawings somehow invalidates evolution. If that’s so, why don’t Dembski’s doctored images of flagella invalidate his theory?

And why focus on a few mistakes in a huge body of work? Have historians and economists and politicians never been wrong? The strength of science is that it is the best tool for correcting mistakes in knowledge—throwing out what’s wrong and keeping what evidence confirms.

It’s as if Dembski had wandered into a busy airport and declared, “Look! There’s a piece of litter in the wastebasket! Therefore, airplanes are impossible! (God never meant us to understand flight.)”

Take a balanced look at the whole body of real-world evidence. And demand an equal standard of behavior and morality for all people, with no free pass for the religious.

If he wishes to have any credibility at all, Dembski must demonstrate the same standard of conduct that he demands in other people. Until he does, he fails miserably as a human being and especially as a scientist, where, driven by his religion, he continues to commit intellectual atrocities.

See also: “The Dembski Dodge.”

%d bloggers like this: