BBC blames the victim

Jody McIntyre, who attended the U.K. student protests against rising university fees that may put first-tier universities out of reach of all but the rich, calls a BBC on its scripted interview questions which suggest that he is responsible for police dragging him out of his wheelchair and assaulting him. In McIntyre’s opinion, the police actions were designed to provoke violence from other protesters (which could then be used to justify repressive measures).


Republican: If one family is good, two must be better

drunken Vito Fossella, Republican representative, DWI, police photo

Republican family values Representative Vito Fossella loves families so much he has a second one that he keeps hidden.

Fossella was arrested for drunk driving after breaking tables in a D.C. bar. He called his mistress to help bail him out. The mistress is also the mother of his three year old daughter. Fossella’s wife didn’t know about the affair and the child and she wasn’t very pleased when she refused to be near him during a press conference.

As if that weren’t enough, he was picked up May 1 for drunken driving:

GOP Rep. Vito Fossella’s blood alcohol level was .17, nearly twice the state legal limit, when he was arrested for driving while intoxicated in Alexandria, Va., in the early hours of Thursday, according to documents filed today in Alexandria General District Court.

He called his mistress, rather than his wife, when he was arrested.

See “The Fossella Scandal,” NY Times.

(Hat tip to Doo Dah Blue)

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.”

Medical illustrator calls out Dembski and Expelled

David Bolinsky, the medical illustrator behind Harvard/XVIVO’s The Inner Life of a Cell, has written an open letter to Willism Dembski and the makers of the movie Expelled: “Expelled Ripped Off Harvard’s ‘Inner Life of the Cell’ Animation.” Images are from Christopher Sisk:

Expelled movie copies Harvard/XVIVO video

For more about this travesty of a movie, visit Expelled Exposed.

(hat tip to Pharyngula: “Thieves and Liars.”)

The Austringer: Ben Stein contradicts Mark Mathis

Wesley ElsberryWesley R. Elsberry lays out the details that expose Mark Mathis’ self-serving lies. See “The Austringer: Ben Stein contradicts Mark Mathis.

Expelled: the copyright issue

Expelled exposedWesley R. Elsberry at The Austringer points out a delicious irony: the hypocritical dishonesty of the Expelled producers as it relates to copyright law could result in the exposure and collapse of the whole Discovery Institute house of cards.

It’s bad enough to for Kevin Miller and Mark Mathis lie and deceive to get interviews. It’s laughable to expell the people you interviewed and filmed from a movie decrying persecution. It’s ludicrous to pick on science blogger PZ Myers and miss major author Richard Dawkins. But to steal intellectual property from Harvard University and science-movie-makers XVIVO is going too far. It seems that religion excuses everything.

Read “Expelled: Plagiarism will do that for you.”

Miss Quote-mine is at it again

Dense O’Leary, a dim-bulb journalist and cdesign proponentist, has been regaling anyone who will listen with tales of the dangerous PZ Myers who might have plotted to disrupt an advance screening of the movie Expelled , in which he was featured, and for which he had registered under his own name. Diffidently I point out that she wasn’t there. By all eye-witness accounts, the assistant producer vetted the guest list and decided to turn Prof. Myers away at the door. That was an ill-judged show of spite and cowardice that violates the registering site’s privacy policy. But the producers have tried to hide their movie from both movie reviewers and the scientifically literate.

Dense quotes something about PZ breaking out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, trying to imply that he was talking about the movie. But that would be a lie. The quote-mine queen had to go back to 2005 to find something that sounded vicious enough for her. And naturally she dug it out of a completely different topic, one that is worth getting passionate about, even if the boots are rhetorical.

Of course, she’s just following her mentors at the “Discovery” institute. Jonathan Witt used the same quote about disagreements in evolutionary theory. PZ reports:

Because we think the unqualified lawyers, philosophers, bibliolaters, and kooks of the Discovery Institute deserve no place in the curriculum, we must also be planning to snuff out other unconventional thinkers.

“According to the Darwinists’ Ohio logic, scientists who merely point out weaknesses in Darwinism (Stephen Jay Gould, Franklin Harold, Stuart Kauffman, etc., etc.), are arguing for intelligent design, are card-carrying design theorists. That means they’re fair game: break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles. (See “No more coffee for Mr. Witt.”)

funny pictures
(More funny pictures)

What Prof. Myers actually said, after he discovered that he’d been lied to and tricked into doing an interview for a pro-ID propaganda movie, was that he’d go to the movie and cheer loudly at his 30 seconds onscreen. And I think he was kidding.

PZ Myers
I will go see this movie, and I will cheer loudly at my 30 seconds or whatever on the screen, and I will certainly disembowel its arguments here and in any print venue that wants me. That’s going to be fun.

Here’s the original context of the ‘steel-toed boots’ remark:


John Hawks thinks there’s too much “foaming at the mouth” over Bush’s support for Intelligent Design creationism.

I want to improve the teaching of evolution. Taking an adversarial position toward religious viewpoints or political parties is not the way to make education better. Sometimes such conflicts are unavoidable. Some religious beliefs are just scientifically wrong. The Earth was not created 6,000 years ago, and any scientific understanding of the past must repudiate this particular religious view. But many deeply religious people, and entire faiths, have no conflict with evolution. Even so, they may believe that alternative views should be available in schools.

Would it help to have a biology teacher call a child’s parents “lunatics”? Certainly not. But parents, community members, churches, and other people that children know and respect are precisely the people that one is attacking, when one uses derisive rhetoric. —John Hawks

PZ MyersThere is a bit of truth here terribly wrongly applied. It is correct that if I were talking to a student or a parent, trying to persuade them to abandon misbegotten notions of creationism that are affecting the student’s ability to be a good biologist, I wouldn’t call them lunatics. It isn’t very effective to try and persuade an individual by calling them idiots, and in most cases I don’t think the creationist students I occasionally get are idiots—just sadly misled.

However, I was not attacking such individuals, but the president of the US and the preachers at the Discovery Institute. You know, the responsible people who are lying to the public or working to disseminate destructive delusions.

Oh, but Hawks has that covered; his last sentence suggests that the people they “know and respect” should not be so harshly criticized, lest we alienate them. I strongly disagree. It is the leaders and enablers who must be vigorously attacked, the ones who abuse those positions of authority and respect to poison minds. When thinking people abstain from criticizing religious or political groups out of some abstract notion that responsible intellectuals are aloof from sectarian or party arguments, they are betraying the principles of their discipline.

I am a biologist. Like it or not, the Republican party is being led by religious zealots who are anti-biology, who publicly and vigorously oppose reason and knowledge and evidence in my field of study. This hasn’t always been true, and it may not always be true (I hope), but right now and right here, it is inarguably the case. I will not throttle my criticisms of the despicable gang of anti-intellectuals who run this country because it might irritate all those millions of people who voted for George W. Bush; they were wrong and he is wrong and it is my responsibility as a scientist to oppose ignorance, especially ignorance that has power and influence. Let them find comfort and forgiveness for stupid mistakes in their religion, because I sure as hell am not going to give it to them.

Don’t tell me to be dispassionate or less unreasonable about it all because because 65% of the American population think creationism should be taught alongside evolution, or that Americans are just responding to common notions of “fairness”. That just tells me that we scientists have not been expressing our outrage enough. And yes, we should be outraged that the president of our country panders to theocrats, faith-healers, and snake-oil artists; sitting back and quietly explaining that Bush may be a decent man who is mistaken, while the preachers are stridently condemning all us evilutionists to hell, is a damned ineffective tactic that has gotten us to this point.

I say, screw the polite words and careful rhetoric. It’s time for scientists to break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, and get out there and hammer on the lunatics and idiots. If you don’t care enough for the truth to fight for it, then get out of the way.

However, I will concede that there are reasons to argue that the worries of scientists are overblown. There is the matter of perspective.

The fate of science in our country is a small thing (but it is my small thing, so be understanding when it is the one I harp on) compared to other issues. For instance, consider Gary Farber’s accounts of our soldiers, also summarized by Digby. Our people are killing Iraqis by beating them with a rubber hose while tied up in a sleeping bag, or pounding on them with sledgehammer handles. We are aggressors who have launched an unjust war and are committing atrocities against a civilian population.

So, yeah, that argument would give me pause. It is relatively unimportant to bash on the Republican party as a scientist, for betraying the promise of the Enlightenment.

We should be marching in the streets as self-respecting human beings because the Republican thugs have betrayed the cause of civilized humanity. We should be yelling EVEN LOUDER.

Goddamn, but don’t even suggest that we’re being too partisan. I am on the side of reason and human rights, and my only failing is that I’m not partisan enough. —PZ Myers

Most of the bolding is mine. Now, isn’t that worth getting pasionate about? A strong human disgust for lying, pandering, torture and atrocities. And that’s the person the Expelled producers (and others) slander and want to shut up!

PZ Myers Expelled by creationists
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