Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Hearings

I've got today's witnesses liveblogged now. Better analysis follows. My photos are at Fotki.

For previous days, check out Red State Rabble. I guess he couldn't spend all three days on this, and I can see why. What a dull and pointless exercise!

Right now, some folks have gone to hand out press releases, and I'm working up my summary of the day, holding the fort here in the attic of the State Capital.

I got in part way through Nancy Bryson's testimony, just as "our" lawyer, Pedro Irigonegaray was beginning his questions. The ID Network's John Calvert would question for 30 minutes, Irigonegaray would get 20, and the committee got 10. Or something.

Each witness yesterday and today was asked a few questions by Iri.

  • Have you read both the minority report and the approved Draft 2?
  • Since you haven't read the approved draft, how can you comment?
  • How old is the earth?
  • Do you accept common descent of all life from one origin?
  • Do you accept common descent of humans from pro-hominids?

Most people hadn't read both reports, though some caught on since yesterday and skimmed through it for today. Most also felt comfortable commenting on it without reading it. In particular, claiming that it rejected the supernatural, when Draft 2 says that some things are beyond science, but still legitimate.

Several witnesses were asked to respond to the minority report's claim that "According to many scientists a core claim of evolutionary theory is that the apparent design of biological systems is an illusion. Other scientists disagree." What exactly is supposed to be apparent? Who cares?

Plus, many of those testifying want to teach metaphysics and philosophy of science in science classes. What topics should we teach less of?

Anyway, Bryson figured the Earth was between 4.5 billion years old and 10,000, which is a pretty good range. It excludes hard core YEC, but not by much.

She claimed that she thought "chemical evolution" was thermodynamically impossible, presumably on 2nd Law grounds. This is dumb. But it sounds fancy.

She pointed out that there are two theories of chemical bonding taught in chem classes, so why not teach creationism?

Then Iri asked for the full Powerpoint files of each witness to be kept as records, and he and Calvert sparred. Oddly enough, Calvert won.

Then came James Barham. He's a goober, working on his PhD in history and philosophy of science, an "independent scholar" trying to use nonlinear dynamics and condensed state physics to explain how nature could produce its own teleology. That may be emergent properties, but I suspect he doesn't know what that means either.

He rejects evolution because he thinks humans are different from animals, and evolution doesn't tell us why. He said something like: "I haven't studied chemical evolution, but I think it's a big problem." Nice of him to admit to talking out his ass.

Stephen Meyer just talked. His ass may have been involved, but it's not clear, since he was testifying by phone. He is incapable of saying one word when 1000 will do. And he doesn't want to paint a picture, he wants to obscure it. It was the usual mixture of nonsense about the Cambrian explosion, and attempts at philosophy of science.

The notes are long, so I'll just summarize. His dissertation work clearly was a major influence on the minority report. The most fascinating claim was that Draft 2 takes sides on design, but the minority report doesn't. Draft 2 doesn't mention design, so how does it take sides?

Then Connie Morris got all up in Jack Krebs's face, and there was a throwdown. Good thing the Capitol police were on hand.

He also claimed that any demarkation criteria which exclude design as a science also would exclude evolution. This is false.

Then Pedro Irigonegaray got started. Rather than say the earth was 4.6 billion years old, he did a five minute routine, which wound up with Steve Abrams explaining that he really did have to either give a number or refuse to answer, but he couldn't answer a different question. Duh!

Like several witnesses, he supported "limited common descent". Whatever that is. He's not an expert, so he doesn't know whether humans evolved from pro-hominids. He's not an expert on science education, but can offer a lifetime's worth of noise about that. Asked whether he had other hypotheses for human origins, he just chattered for a while. Humans are "very mysterious."

Meyer and Irigonegaray got into a schoolyard fight over who was more inappropriate. Rock, paper, scissors saved the day.

Then Kathy Martin asked whether historical science is taught as fact (evolution is a theory, why do schools teach it as fact?), and Meyer had to politely lead her back from the brink her own stupidity lead her to. Then she walked right back to the edge.

Finally, we got to the exciting testimony of Angus Menuge. He's a computer science professor who also heads the minor in philosophy at a Christian college in Wisconsin. He read all the reports. His deal is methodological naturalism, and he basically argued (wrongly) that methodological naturalism (or practical naturalism, as TfK prefers) is impossible for students to tell apart from philosophical naturalism. Therefore scientists ignore data (no). He quoted a C. S. Lewis essay, but most of the nouns were replaced by brackets. Much like this direct quote from him: "[Intelligent design] is [bad science]." This is easier than quotemining!

He had slides up, so I copied the text. He argued that practical naturalism excludes religious ideas, which is unconstitutional, so people could sue. Possibly the dumbest idea ever.

I chatted with him for a while, and he admitted he hadn't thought about how emergent properties fit in with design. That's a big failure for someone who insists that intelligent agents are the end all and be all. He was nice enough, for a Scot.

The dumbest moment was when Irigonegaray asked him how he explained methodologically naturalistic scientists who are also theistic. He said "Maybe they're confused." Several KCFSers wore stickers saying "Confused" for the rest of the day.

Then Warren Nord explained why economics is taught wrong, and how the same analysis shows science education to be illiberal, so scientists are conservatives. He basically said that every class (math, science, lit, econ, etc.) should have a part where religious perspectives on the subject are offered. He claimed religion is disenfranchised, much like racial minorities and women were. But now we teach female science and black science, so we should be teaching religious science.

He also said that he'd prefer if the science standards didn't define science. Irigonegaray read some long things.

Mustafa Akyol said that the Arab world would love us if we'd just teach ID. He's a Turkish newspaper columnist, so his views on science and international relations are particularly apt for Kansans. Denied having anything to do with the maumauing of Turkish evolutionary biologists.

Denies common descent of anything. He also claimed that the evidence of design is compelling, but also claimed that the weaknesses in evolution made it equivocal. Tell me, which has more support?

I'm sorry to say I fell asleep during Michael Behe's talk. I think people who know the field wouldn't learn anything new. Flagella, quotemining, Josh snoring.

Then John Calvert, author of the minority report and head of ID Network, examined himself. Irigonegaray cross-examined him, but I left to help set up the press conference.

The press conference was great. One reporter said that after Wells's talk the other day, he felt really convinced, but chatting with scientists afterward turned him around. That's exactly what we wanted. Let ID put on its best case, and we'll be there to explain why we weren't convinced. I explained naturalism to some reporters, and kept Menuge from getting out too many good quotes.

The press conference was a bit disorganized, since every scientist wanted to answer every question. And we did so very well. The press was interested in our opinion, and really seemed to be learning about the topic.

Quick summary: The boycott worked, and the IDolators didn't put on much of a case. They also got tripped up too many times to declare any sort of victory. Stupid missteps by the subcommittee and the witnesses made it easy to see that this really was a kangaroo court, not a serious attempt to explore the subject. If you know what you want, why read the Draft written by the majority of your committee?