The National Center For Science Education

The NCSE is the premier organization in this country promoting legitimate science in public schools and in the public forum. They are a 501 (c) (3) organization, deserving of your contributions. I give money to the NCSE. You should, too.

Following is a recent notice from the NCSE:

1904 Franklin Street, Suite 600 Oakland, CA 94612-2922

510.601.7203 •

With the unprecedented 2016 election finally behind us, we can all turn our attention back to issues that haven’t been in the spotlight lately. Like science education. As you’ll read below, there’s plenty to be concerned about. But NCSE has not taken its eye off the ball, and our new programs are really starting to pay off. I hope that you’ll consider joining our effort to help teachers cover evolution and climate change confidently and completely.

When you consider the state of science education today, it’s easy to be disappointed, disturbed, and dismayed. Consider the following recent incidents.

  • In Alabama, the state board of education voted to continue to mandate a disclaimer about evolution in the state’s textbooks. Such disclaimers date back to 1996. But even after Alabama adopted a new set of state science standards in 2005, that described evolution as “substantiated with much direct and indirect evidence,” the board disappointingly voted to retain the scientifically unwarranted and pedagogically irresponsible message.
  • A national survey conducted by NCSE with researchers at Pennsylvania State University, which asked 1500 science teachers in public middle and high schools about their attitudes toward and practice in teaching climate change, found disturbing gaps in their knowledge. For example, less than half of the teachers realized that more than 80% of climate scientists agree that recent global warming is caused primarily by human activities.
  • In Kentucky, a young-earth creationist ministry opened a Noah’s-ark-themed amusement park. The truly  dismaying aspect of Answers in Genesis Ark Encounter was its invitation to local public schools to flout the principle of church/state separation by bringing students there on field trips, at a special discounted rate. Judging from reports received by NCSE over the years, public school excursions to creationist attractions are dismayingly common.

Dealing, and helping people to deal, with such assaults on science education is all in a day’s work for us at NCSE.

But as you know, that’s not all that we’re doing. A suite of innovative new programs is aimed at reinforcing the confidence of teachers, recruiting scientists to help, and rallying communities to support science education locally:

  • NCSEteach (, NCSE’s network to support climate change and evolution educators, now includes nearly 6,000 teachers, each of whom receive regular advice and resources from NCSE aimed at improving their scientific knowledge and pedagogical confidence. And they now know that NCSE will have their backs when they encounter challenges to the teaching of evolution or climate change!
  • NCSEteach’s “Scientists in the Classroom” program is bringing eager and energetic early career research scientists into middle and high school classrooms across the country to enrich students’ climate change and evolution learning experiences. Over one hundred teacher—scientist partnerships have already been formed, to the great and continuing benefit of all involved. More are in the works.
  • NCSE’s Science Booster Club project, piloting in Iowa, has provided fun, hands-on, and accurate educational activities on evolution and climate change to over 50,000 participants at local events in the last year, and raised funds to purchase science equipment for the benefit of over 3,000 local students. In 2016, the project not only exhibited at county and state fairs but also hosted a free summer science camp to provide rural low-income students with evolution education.

Are these programs working? Judging from the heartfelt expressions of thanks from teachers who have participated in NCSEteach, from teacher/scientist partners who have participated in Scientists in the Classroom, and from thousands of Iowans involved with a Science Booster Club, yes!

But to science fans like you and me, what’s even more convincing than testimonials is data. The Science Booster Club in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, administered a twenty-four-question science literacy survey at its public events throughout the year. And voilà:

That’s significant—literally (p = 0.03) and figuratively. Working with a low budget but a high degree of enthusiasm, the science boosters in Cedar Rapids—and elsewhere in Iowa—are making a measurable difference.

I’m excited about these efforts, and I hope that you are, too. We want to extend these programs to communities across the country. To do so, we need your support. Your gift to NCSE will help us help teachers to present science properly.

You can donate on-line at A gift of only $500 will allow us to provide a new booster club with all the materials needed to provide hands-on evolution or climate change activities to 10,000 participants! Or consider a recurring gift of $10 or $20 per month; such donations help make our budget more predictable so we can start new projects with confidence. A gift of any size will go directly to improving science education.

By reinforcing the confidence of teachers, recruiting scientists to help, and rallying communities to support science education locally, NCSE is helping to ensure that science will be taught honestly, accurately, and confidently. Please help us to do so.

Sincerely yours,

Ann Reid

Executive Director, NCSE

The Age Of Embarrassment

Cross posted from Skeptical Analysis


We haven’t had one of these in a while. So, what’s new?

A Real Climate Scientist Demolishes Bill Nye’s Global Warming Alarmism

All right, this one is a bit old—from last year even. That aside, I want to thank whoever posted this on Facebook for me to pick up. The truth be known, Facebook is a prime source of story ideas for this blog.

And this is refreshing. For once I’m not having to explain some fact-deprived meme from The Comical Conservative. This time we have Dr. Roy Spencer, an actual climate researcher, weighing in. And he has much to say about the evidence. Actually, he doesn’t. At least in the YouTube clip he doesn’t. Additionally, the item posted by Austin Peterson on The Libertarian Republic presents little in the way of evidence, either for or against the case for anthropogenic global warming (AGW). But Spencer is a real scientists working in the field, and it is worth knowing what he had to say in the interview.

Global warming alarmist talking heads like Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Al Gore are constantly paraded around as experts on climate.

I hope not. Because none of the three do research related to climate, and nobody would seriously refer to them as experts. What they happen to be are public defenders of the science behind AGW—speakers, if you like. In fact, you can discount Vice President Al Gore right off the bat, because his expertise is politics, and his training in serious science is close to vacant.

On the other hand, Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson have taken some college courses—Tyson more so—in physics, and the science of physics lies at the base of the study of AGW. In full disclosure, I have had college courses in physics, including four in the critical field of thermodynamics, and it is from this background that I come to agree with the argument for AGW.

To be sure, Dr. Roy Spencer has had these courses, and beyond that he has degrees in atmospheric science, including a Ph.D. in  meteorology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The Wikipedia entry for Roy Spencer lists a number of peer-reviewed papers critical of AGW, such as this one:

In 2007, Spencer and others published a paper in Geophysical Research Letters regarding negative cloud feedback in the tropics that potentially supports Richard Lindzen‘s Iris hypothesis, which proposes that as the tropical atmosphere warms, cirrus clouds decrease, allowing infrared heat to escape from the atmosphere to outer space. Spencer stated, “To give an idea of how strong this enhanced cooling mechanism is, if it was operating on global warming, it would reduce estimates of future warming by over 75 percent. […] Right now, all climate models predict that clouds will amplify warming. I’m betting that if the climate models’ ‘clouds’ were made to behave the way we see these clouds behave in nature, it would substantially reduce the amount of climate change the models predict for the coming decades.

This paper is available on-line from the American Geophysical Union, and I have retained a copy for your viewing:

Spencer’s objections to AGW, based on publication topics, appear to be related to the effects of clouds on solar energy loss. Some of his publications have received major push-back from other scientists. Of note is a recent work published in 2011 with William Braswell:

In 2011, Spencer and Braswell published a paper in Remote Sensing concluding that more energy is radiated back to space and released earlier than previously thought. Spencer stated, “The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show. There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans.”

The paper was criticized by numerous climate scientists. Kerry Emanuel of MIT, said this work was cautious and limited mostly to pointing out problems with forecasting heat feedback.

The editor-in-chief of Remote Sensing, Wolfgang Wagner, later resigned over publication of Spencer and Braswell (2011), stating, “From a purely formal point of view, there were no errors with the review process. […] the problem I see with the paper by Spencer and Braswell is not that it declared a minority view …but that it essentially ignored the scientific arguments of its opponents. This latter point was missed in the review process, explaining why I perceive this paper to be fundamentally flawed and therefore wrongly accepted by the journal.” Wagner added he, “would also like to personally protest against how the authors and like-minded climate sceptics have much exaggerated the paper’s conclusions in public statements”.

Spencer responded that Wagner’s assertion was wholly inaccurate, “But the paper WAS precisely addressing the scientific arguments made by our opponents, and showing why they are wrong! That was the paper’s starting point! We dealt with specifics, numbers, calculations…while our critics only use generalities and talking points. There is no contest, as far as I can see, in this debate. If you have some physics or radiative transfer background, read the evidence we present, the paper we were responding to, and decide for yourself.”

Andrew Dessler later published a paper opposing the claims of Spencer and Braswell (2011) inGeophysical Research Letters. He stated, among other things:

First, [they] analyzed 14 models, but they plotted only six models and the particular observational data set that provided maximum support for their hypothesis. Plotting all of the models and all of the data provide a much different conclusion.

At the very least, Spencer’s methods indicate a lack of scientific rigor. I went into this with the possibility of finding an additional factor, that factor being denial of AGW is strongly linked with political alignment and to a lesser degree with religiosity. Spencer’s Wikipedia contains two notes pointing toward religious influence:

Spencer is a signatory to An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming, which states that “We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence —are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception. Recent global warming is one of many natural cycles of warming and cooling in geologic history.”. He believes that most climate change is natural in origin, the result of long-term changes in the Earth’s albedo and that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have caused some warming, but that its warming influence is small compared to natural, internal, chaotic fluctuations in global average cloud cover. This view contradicts the scientific consensus that “most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities”.


In TCS Daily, Spencer wrote, “Twenty years ago, as a PhD scientist, I intensely studied theevolution versus intelligent design controversy for about two years. And finally, despite my previous acceptance of evolutionary theory as ‘fact,’ I came to the realization that intelligent design, as a theory of origins, is no more religious, and no less scientific, than evolutionism. In the scientific community, I am not alone. There are many fine books out there on the subject. Curiously, most of the books are written by scientists who lost faith in evolution as adults, after they learned how to apply the analytical tools they were taught in college.” In the book The Evolution Crisis, Spencer wrote, “I finally became convinced that the theory of creation actually had a much better scientific basis than the theory of evolution, for the creation model was actually better able to explain the physical and biological complexity in the world. […] Science has startled us with its many discoveries and advances, but it has hit a brick wall in its attempt to rid itself of the need for a creator and designer.”

Climatologist Patrick Michaels has defended Spencer, arguing that his religious beliefs have nothing to do with his climate change research.

Dr. Michaels holds a “Ph.D. in ecological climatology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison” and is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank whose agenda includes opposition to AGW. He is correct in arguing that Spencer’s religious beliefs have nothing to do with whether he is correct in his conclusions. Most likely, there are many researchers supporting AGW who are also deeply religious.

What bears on religion and science is the matter of demonstrable science as opposed to personal opinion. Spencer has published his research, some of it valid, some not so much. Base on his research and that of others he voices the opinion that AGW is without merit. It’s here the value of his opinion comes into play.

When a person says in one breath that AGW is invalid science, and in the next breath he expresses belief in a mythical person who created the universe in six days and has power over our daily lives, then you can begin to doubt his conclusions regarding AGW. My observation from many years is that if a person’s thinking is horribly screwed up in one part of his brain, it’s time to closely examine everything else he says.

The Age of Embarrassment is still upon us, and there will be more on this. Keep reading


Skeptical Honesty


An Editorial

First, I want to express my gratitude to fellow skeptics for allowing me to post to the NTS site. At this point I will take advantage of that privilege to express some personal thoughts. These are mine and do not necessarily represent those of the NTS Board of Directors.

The North Texas Skeptics is organized as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit educational and public service corporation. We do not get involved in politics, and officially we do not engage in religious disputes. That philosophy is not, however, a surrender flag on our intellect. Skeptics have always been and should always be able to call out religious stupidity.

While skeptics may step around religious statements of faith, there are still issues painted over by religion that we can and must dispute. If somebody tells us his faith in Jesus is a comfort to his life, then we nod, not necessarily approvingly, but knowingly. However, when statements about the creation of the universe, the age of the Earth, the origin of the human race conflict with known facts, skeptics must step up to the challenge. We have done that before.

Thirteen years ago James Cunliffe presented a talk on biblical historicity. The sum of it was that the Bible lacks any amount of factual content. This should not be seen as an attack on religious faith. Faith does not rest on fact. That’s why it’s called faith. We will continue to confront areas where faith conflicts with reality. Notable topics are:

  • Creationism
  • Faith healing
  • Biblical historicity

All the while, skeptics must take care to understand that people of faith are not the natural enemies of truth. Science, and rational skepticism, have many friends in the world of faith. One of the staunchest defenders of modern theories of biology is Professor Kenneth Miller, author of biology text books and a reliable defender of biological evolution. His testimony against creationist arguments has been invaluable.

All that said, the notable defenders of science in the face of religious objections have been prominent atheists. To name a few:

  • Richard Feynman
  • Carl Sagan
  • Richard Dawkins
  • Lawrence Krauss
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • Bill Nye

Yes, Bill Nye, the Science Guy. Bill Nye, who turned 60 last month, graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. His popular show Bill Nye the Science Guy ran from 1993 to 1998 and went a long way toward popularizing science for young people. More recently he has taken his honed TV personality on the road, giving lectures, delighting audiences, and at the same time continuing to educate the public on science.

Which brings us to today’s topic:

Waco Tribune did *not” pull its Bill Nye the Science Guy story

A Washington Post journalist sends this email:

I saw this posting today on Facebook — that the incident happened isn’t very surprising, but is it true that the Waco Tribune took down its story about it (mentioned at the bottom of this post)? I’d be interesting in knowing what really happened.

The emailer links to a piece from 2009 that’s apparently making the rounds on Facebook. It reports that Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”) “managed to offend” a Waco audience “when he suggested that the moon does not emit light, but instead reflects the light of the sun.”

The post adds that “this story originally appeared in the Waco Tribune, but the newspaper has mysteriously pulled its story from the online version, presumably to avoid further embarrassment.”

Wrong! says Waco Tribune editor Donnis Baggett. He tells Romenesko readers:

The story was published on April 6, 2006, and is still posted on our paid subscription website. Therefore, it’s available only to readers who pay for access.

Additionally, for arcane reasons connected to a change in site hosting two years ago, sometimes the story is erroneously labeled as having been removed. This has apparently led some to believe we pulled it because of
pressure, when in fact we have not.

I’ve copied the story from our site and am attaching it below for your reference.

Here is an excerpt from the Tribune-Herald article by Tim Woods:

The Science Guy is entertaining and provocative at MCC lecture

Author: Tim Woods Tribune-Herald staff writer

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Waco Tribune-Herald on April 6, 2006

Audience members who expected to see Bill Nye “The Science Guy” conduct experiments and wow their children received quite a surprise Wednesday when Nye spoke at McLennan Community College.

Nye instead addressed such topics as Mars exploration, global warming and energy consumption, particularly oil and gas. He even ruffled a few religious feathers along the way.

The problem came when Bill disputed the Genesis story of the creation of the sun and the moon as two great lights, one to do during the day time and the other to serve at night. Bill observed that the moon is not a light unto itself but serves only to reflect light from the sun. He could also have pointed out the moon shines during the day when its light is not needed, but that would have been superfluous.

Anyhow, some people objected to this as anti-religious and walked out. And the Tribune-Herald did not subsequently delete the story from their Web site. Like all their news, it eventually went behind their pay wall, as seen above.

And the Tribune-Herald did not pull the story in deference to the Science Guy. They could possibly have pulled it in deference to the fools who objected and walked out, but reputable news sources do not do this.

I have a separate blog that treats religious and political areas where the North Texas Skeptics must not venture. I do this so the NTS won’t have to. In the mean time there is no area of religious irrelevancy I will not avoid on behalf of the North Texas Skeptics, and these observations will continue to be posted here.

Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Your drive could get shorter.

We ran this story five years ago:

How come we did not see this one coming?  How clueless can you get?

It took a headline from The New York Times:1

HOUSTON — A Texas higher education panel has recommended allowing a Bible-based group called the Institute for Creation Research to offer online master’s degrees in science education.

The action comes weeks after the Texas Education Agency’s director of science, Christine Castillo Comer, lost her job after superiors accused her of displaying bias against creationism and failing to be “neutral” over the teaching of evolution.

That was news.  The last we heard the ICR was out in Santee, California.  Did we miss something?

We have followed the doings of the ICR for over 20 years, and it’s been a fun ride.  If you want to see creationism in its purest form, here it is.  You want to embrace the golden calf?  Ankle, and thigh, and upper half?  Here it is – I mean here it is. 2

Creationist Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., formed the ICR as an offshoot from the Creation Science Research Center in 1972.  Their principal entity previously was the Museum of Creation and Earth History in Santee.  The museum featured dioramas recreating the story of Genesis and especially the flood of Noah.  An upper level school was in the same building, and here students of a creationist bent were expected to achieve college-level training in science that conformed to Biblical teachings.

The ability of the ICR school to offer college-level degrees was initially approved by California, but subsequently there was a back and forth tussle that resulted in a lawsuit, in which the ICR prevailed and was awarded monetary damages. Ultimately the ICR was given a religious exemption from California’s post-secondary school requirements. 3

Founder Henry Morris died in 2006, and in 2007 the decision was made to relocate to Dallas because of its more central location and because Dallas offered logistical and demographic benefits.  Ironically, Dr. Morris was a native of Dallas.

The move to Texas has meant starting the accreditation process over, meeting stiffer resistance in Texas (surprise).  So far, Texas education officials have denied the ICR recognition of its degree program by a slim vote margin.  The tussle continues.


Our cup does overflow. For you this holiday season come great tidings:

Creationists expanding institute to include the ‘Dallas Museum of Science and Earth History’

The Institute for Creation Research, which teaches there’s scientific proof that God created the earth in six days, is ready to expand its headquarters in Northwest Dallas, adding a museum and “3D planetarium” to its existing facility at Royal Lane and Luna Road. But first the proposed Dallas Museum of Science and Earth History needs to stop at Dallas City Hall.

The item from The Dallas Morning News comes with a video clip:


There are a few road bumps on the ICR’s path to museumship. The land at Luna and Royal is zoned for industrial research, meaning a variance will be needed from city zoning. Skeptics, will you join me in wishing the ICR the best of success. We can hardly wait to see this icon of human stupidity coming a short drive away. It’s the kind of thing what gets us going in the morning.

Creating Information

Two summers ago I volunteered to review physics texts for the Texas Education Agency. The reviews were held in a large hall in a hotel in Austin, and other teams were reviewing other books. In particular I ran into a creationist I had met twenty years previous. He is Walter Bradley, and he was reviewing biology texts for the State of Texas. What I found odd about this was:

  • Dr. Bradley has no academic standing in the subject of biology. He is former chairman of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University.
  • Bradley is an acknowledge creationist, a position he has taken in opposition to basic principles of biology.

Here is Dr. Bradley with fellow creationist Ide Trotter at the text book review:

Wikipedia has this to say:

Bradley was one of the pioneers of the concept of intelligent design, attempting to explain topics not yet understood by science as the activity of God. Bradley’s writings on the subject anticipated some of the concepts later articulated by William Dembski and Michael Behe, and he was a participant in early meetings regarding the wedge strategy, a religious public relations campaign with a goal of reshaping American culture to adopt evangelical Protestant values.

I struck up a conversation with Dr. Bradley, and the topic naturally turned to Intelligent Design. What is pertinent to this is that Bradley posed this question to me: As new organisms develop by biological evolution, where does the new information come from?

I knew the answer to the question, but I did not press Dr. Bradley on it. I will give the answer now, and it is counter-intuitive. New information comes from completely random processes. I have highlighted that statement. Carry this forward to the discussion of observed evolution by random mutation and natural selection—Darwinian evolution.

Prior to the development of Nylon, there was no bacterium that could eat the substance. You have a fabric made of wool or cotton, and it is subject to attack by any number of bacterial agents. Not so with Nylon. Eventually a bacterium was discovered that could “eat” Nylon:

In 1975 a team of Japanese scientists discovered a strain of Flavobacterium, living in ponds containing waste water from a nylon factory, that was capable of digesting certain byproducts of nylon 6 manufacture, such as the linear dimer of 6-aminohexanoate. These substances are not known to have existed before the invention of nylon in 1935.

Further study revealed that the three enzymes the bacteria were using to digest the byproducts were significantly different from any other enzymes produced by other Flavobacterium strains (or, for that matter, any other bacteria), and not effective on any material other than the manmade nylon byproducts.

A random mutation had produced a bacterium that could eat Nylon. This was a new organism that filled a newly-created niche (Nylon) in the environment. This was Darwinian evolution in action. What do the creationist say in response?

Many supporters of evolutionary theory have claimed that nylon-eating bacteria strongly demonstrate the kind of evolution that can create new cellular structures, new cells, and new organisms.1 However, examining only the apparent, visible beneficial trait can be misleading. Recent research into the genes behind these traits indicates that no evolution has taken place.2In fact, the genes of nylon-eating bacteria show that they have been degraded through mutation.

The gene that mutated to enable bacteria to metabolize nylon is on a small loop of exchangeable DNA.3 This gene, prior to its mutation, coded for a protein called EII with a special ability to break down small, circularized proteins. Though synthetic, nylon is very protein-like because inventor Wallace Carothers modeled the original fiber based on known protein chemistry. Thus, after the mutation, the new EII protein was able to interact with both circular and straightened-out nylon. This is a clear example of a loss of specification of the original enzyme. It is like damaging the interior of a lock so that more and different keys can now unlock it.

This degeneration of a protein-eating protein required both the specially-shaped protein and the pre-existence of its gene. The degeneration of a gene, even when it provides a new benefit to the bacteria, does not explain the origin of that gene. One cannot build a lock by damaging pre-existing locks. Nylon-eating bacteria actually exemplify microevolution (adaptation), not macroevolution. Science continues to reveal, though, how benevolent is our Creator God, who permits bacteria to benefit from degradation, and man also to benefit from bacteria that can recycle synthetic waste back into the environment.

The three references cited are listed below:

  1. Thwaites, W.M. 1985. New Proteins Without God’s Help. Creation/Evolution. 5 (2): 1-3.
  2. Anderson, K.L, and G. Purdom. 2008. A Creationist Perspective of Beneficial Mutations in Bacteria.Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Creationism. Pittsburgh PA: Creation Science Fellowship and Dallas, TX: Institute for Creation Research, 73-86.
  3. Yasuhira, K. et al, 2007. 6-Aminohexanoate Oligomer Hydrolases from the Alkalophilic Bacteria Agromyes sp. Strain KY5R and Kocuria sp. Strain KY2. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 73 (21): 7099-7102.

The author of this is “Brian Thomas, M.S.

Brian Thomas received his bachelor’s degree in biology in 1993 and a master’s in biotechnology in 1999 from Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas. He taught junior high and high school at Christian schools in Texas, as well as biology, chemistry, and anatomy as an adjunct and assistant professor at Dallas-area universities. Since 2008 Mr. Thomas has been a science writer and editor at ICR, where he contributes news and magazine articles, speaks on creation issues, and researches original tissue fossils. He is the author ofDinosaurs and the Bibleand a contributor to Guide to Creation Basics,Creation Basics & Beyond, and Guide to Dinosaurs.

Interesting points of his argument are:

  1. This degeneration of a protein-eating protein required both the specially-shaped protein and the pre-existence of its gene.
  2. The degeneration of a gene, even when it provides a new benefit to the bacteria, does not explain the origin of that gene.
  3. One cannot build a lock by damaging pre-existing locks.
  4. Nylon-eating bacteria actually exemplify microevolution (adaptation), not macroevolution.
  5. Nylon-eating bacteria actually exemplify microevolution (adaptation), not macroevolution.
  6. Science continues to reveal, though, how benevolent is our Creator God, who permits bacteria to benefit from degradation, and man also to benefit from bacteria that can recycle synthetic waste back into the environment.

1. Regarding the prerequisite of a specially-shaped protein, another prerequisite is the existence of the bacterium. I hate to be picky, but still another prerequisite is the existence of the planet Earth. This is not a well-based point to argue from.

2. The origin of the original gene is not explained. The origin of the original gene is not at issue here. Darwinian evolution is classically step-wise. Every novel feature is derived from or is built upon an existing one.

3. The “lock” mentioned here is an analogy. A mechanical lock is a device that is used by people, and Thomas is reminding us that a lock that is damaged, such as by putting a .357 Magnum slug through it, does not produce a useful mechanism. The problem with this argument is this is not a lock mechanism built by people. This is a gene that expresses the production of a protein (or an RNA sequence), and it has been altered, and the altered form produces a result that allows the bacterium to digest Nylon.

4. Yes, this is micro evolution. What did Thomas think this was all about? Just about all gene mutations produce micro changes in the offspring. Darwinian evolution, including the the formation of new species, is the accumulation of micro-changes.

5. I am going to let Brian Thomas have this point. I mean, if it’s God doing all of this, then who am I to dispute it?

Back to Walter Bradley’s challenge. New information does come from random processes. People who employ genetic algorithms to develop improved systems (e.g., Diesel engines) use random processes to inject variation into trial designs. It works in modern industry. It works in nature.

Heart of Stupid

This is a cross post from the Skeptical Analysis blog.

I borrowed the title from Joseph Conrad. I’m holding onto it for continuity. These posts are in response to comments from creationist David Buckna. Here is a link to the previous post.


Creationist David Buckna commented on a prior post. One comment included the following three links. I have previously responded to other parts. The following is from David Buckna:

All three links are to pages on the Creation Ministries site. The first was posted last March by creationist Russell Grigg and is titled David Attenborough’s Dawn of the Mammals. Grigg sets out to critique Episode 2 of the TV series, Rise of Animals. He instructs readers on how to avoid being convinced by Attenborough’s presentation. For starters:

In order to show the alleged progress of evolution over millions of years, Attenborough’s tactic is to show fossils of animals with alleged different ‘beneficial’ characteristics in a descending order of alleged ‘long’ ages. These are not the various fossils’ real ages, but are the ages that evolutionists have allotted to the various strata in which the fossils have been found. And how is the age of any particular stratum determined ultimately? Answer: By the fossil(s) which it contains. This is circular reasoning, and such ‘illogic’ would have no validity as ‘evidence’ or be tolerated in any other scientific discipline. It is unique to the theory of evolution. Make no mistake: radiometric dating does not break this circle—there are many examples of radiometric ‘dates’ being trumped by the fossil ‘dates’, as shown in How dating methods work.

Grigg’s initial effort is apparently to cast doubt on deep time. A frequent challenge by creationists, particularly by those adhering to the recent creation of the Earth story in the Bible, is to contradict geologists’ methods for determining the ages of formations. Note Grigg’s use of the wording “alleged ‘long’ ages.” Modern science dates geological formations to the millions and billions of years old. This must be countered by creationists of the first kind.

As Grigg alludes, paleontologists determine the age of fossils by the age of the geological formation in which they are found. This is not unreasonable.

  • There usually is no method for direct determination of the age of a fossil.
  • The ages of various geological formations can be and have been determined with good assurance.

If an animal  fossil is determined to have been encased in a specific formation at the time the formation was laid down, then there is the good presumption the animal died during the time the formation was laid down. The age of the fossil is then presumed to be of the same age as the formation.

Often, geological formations, layers of rock or sedimentary material, encompass large regions. If a study of the entire formation determines there is good certainty the entire formation was laid down during the same period, then varied regions within the formation are presumed, not unreasonably, to be of the same age.

If the location of a fossil find cannot be directly measured, but another region of the same formation can be, then the reasonable conclusion is the fossil is the approximate age of the region that can be dated.

If a geological formation spans a large period of time (bottom part is much older than the top part), then the age of a fossil can be adjusted with respect to the measured point in the formation by assuming some rate of growth of the formation.

If no point in a formation can be dated, then geologists can look to formations that overlay the one in question and also formations below. If the ages of formations above and below can be determined, then the age of the formation in question can be estimated by the bracketing ages. The initial presumption is that formations on the bottom were laid down prior to formations on the top.

This sequence can be skewed, however. There is a geological process called over thrusting. Once formed, two adjacent regions can be pushed together, causing one to overlay the other. This causes some older rock to overlay some younger rock. In other cases a layer can be folded by horizontal force, causing a region to be completely overturned, reversing the order in which the layers were originally formed. Professional geologists recognize when this has happened and make allowances.

Grigg uses this much-abused argument: “These are not the various fossils’ real ages, but are the ages that evolutionists have allotted to the various strata in which the fossils have been found. And how is the age of any particular stratum determined ultimately? Answer: By the fossil(s) which it contains. This is circular reasoning, and such ‘illogic’ would have no validity as ‘evidence’ or be tolerated in any other scientific discipline.” This would make some sense if it were not false at its base. What undoes this argument is that ultimately the ages of formations are determined by radiometric dating.

Grigg needs next to attack the validity of radiometric dating. His link to radiometric dating. is not to a scientific source but to another page on the Creation Ministries International site. Following that, his link to How dating methods work is to yet another page on the CMI site. So far, Grigg has not pointed readers to any reputable sources to make his argument. I am now left with the choice of continuing to follow David Buckna’s chain of links in search of elusive validity or calling a halt to this charade. I’m going to choose the latter.

David submitted a comment to my prior post. That post stated, in part:

I’m continuing a review of comments from creationist David Buckna. I will keep the current title for this series in order to maintain continuity. Additionally the wording tends to reflect the sense of the comments I’ve been receiving.

I stated that I was not going to respond to his lengthy comment all at once, but would piece my response out in manageable bites. This led to an email dialog and the three links I noted above.

Rather than address my original statements directly, David has responded with links to numerous sources of dubious quality. If I pursue this dialog in the manner of David’s choosing I will be left with putting hours of response for each of David’s links to nowhere. My preference would be to have a dialog with somebody who has facts in hand and is willing to make an argument based on these facts. That person is not David Buckna.

Readers are invited to challenge me on this. Why am I not pursuing each of David’s links in turn and spinning out long analyses of each point in these long chains? Fair enough. If anybody reading this wants analysis of a particular claim by David or by any of the sources he has linked to, then I am eager to respond.



The Best of the ICR

ICR in Dallas

ICR in Dallas

The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) has been around in some form since 1970, when Henry M. Morris, and Nell and Kelly Segraves organized the Creation Science Research Center in Santee, California.

Recently I came across this item on the ICR Web site. It had the following title:

Should Evolution be Immune from Critical Analysis in the Science Classroom?

Michigan State physiology professor Robert S. Root-Bernstein wrote regarding his introductory course on evolution: “I encourage [students] to be skeptical—as long as their skepticism is based on logic and evidence. . . . Questions are what drives science, not answers. . . . Take nothing for granted, I counsel my students: that is what makes a scientist” (“Darwin’s Rib,” in Discover, September 1995, pp. 38–41).

Taking a cue from professor Root-Bernstein that “questions are what drives science, not answers,” what follows is a partial list of questions that could be used to critically examine and evaluate evolutionary theory.

These questions would make good classroom discussions, initiated by either teacher or student, or good student research assignments.

There follows a list of 33 questions that, presumably, creationist should ask in a biology class. So far I’ve had a quick look at them, and most of them are already quite familiar to me and to others. If these ever came out on a CD the disk might be titled The Best of the ICR. I call them the best of the ICR, because this kind of thing is about the best the ICR can come up with.

Since this is a lot of stuff I have posted my responses to each of David Buckna’s 33 questions on the Skeptical Analysis blog.

Stupidity on Stilts

It’s the now-famous Megan Fox review of modern science. Reposted from Skeptical Analysis.

– by John Blanton

Up front, full disclosure: I did not coin the phrase, “stupidity on stilts.” My inspiration is Professor Paul Braterman of Glasgow University.  When blogger  asked him about some creationist pseudo scientific babble he called it “bullshit on stilts.” I’ve merely given bullshit another name and adopted the phrase for my own use. I’m thinking I’m going to find it a lot of employment. Let’s start here.

In  the video embedded below, fundamentalist Christian home-school mom and conservative cultural critic Megan Fox — no relation to “Transformers” actress Megan Fox — visits the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and purports to “audit” the museum for its “liberal bias.”

This is so remarkable. What I will do is hopscotch through the 30-minute clip and pick up legible pieces of Fox’s monologue and then apply some Skeptical Analysis. I will start with a screen shot from the video as available on YouTube. The original is not top-notch videography, and there’s not much I can do about that. I pumped up the contrast a bit, but that’s as far as I could go.


She starts by examining a display on eukaryotic cells. The display seems to be explaining the distinction between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. She’s puzzled, having not been exposed to the concept before. True confession: Before I started following the creationists around 25 years ago this was a puzzle to me, as well. If they covered this in my high school class I must have been asleep. For the record, prokaryotes are simple cells with no nucleus. Eukaryotes are more complex cells, having their chromosomes contained within a cell nucleus. Bacteria are prokaryotes. Complex life forms such as us are made up of eukaryotic cells. Here’s what Fox has to say:

Now they’re going to tell you how the evolution of the cell begins.

She reads from the display, and I’ll just transcribe from the image.


Eukaryotes are different from other cells because they have a nucleus, which contains the cell’s DNA, and other specialized compartments. These different compartments perform different tasks within the cell.

Only, after Fox says “DNA” she just continues with “blah blah blah.” Then she resumes reading.

At first, all eukaryotes were single-celled, and many still are today.

The display text continues:

But every organism, living and extinct, that is not single-celled—including you—is made up of eukaryotic cells.

What Fox says at this point is so remarkable.

What? If many still are today, then that would support the theory that they have never changed, that have always been as they are today. Not that they started some place else, and they are here, but that they were always this, and still are today. This makes no sense. No sense.

Fox quotes the text:

… living and extinct, that is not single-celled—including you—is made up of eukaryotic cells.


Well then doesn’t that suggest that everything was made up of eukaryotic cells in the beginning? Also that they weren’t something else that became eukaryotic cells. They are always and have been eukaryotic cells.

None of this makes any sense. It doesn’t make sense to a 5th grader. It doesn’t make sense to a 3rd grader. It doesn’t make sense to a 30-year-old. None of this makes any sense.

She continues.

This is muddled thinking. This is thinking from like Darwin thinking from, you know, a hundred years ago. And we should know better by now. We really should know better by now. Darwin once said that if the single cell is more complex than I think it is, then all of my theory is … I’m going to have to start all over again.

Between now and then what we have discovered is that the single cell … if the single cell back then were, you know, a Buick, then the single cell now is a galaxy. So Darwin, himself, would have said, “OK, back to the drawing board. None of this makes any sense.” But yet we’re still stuck with 100-year-old science. Disgusting. No one cares. Does no one care? Does no one want to know the truth? Because I want to know the truth. Because this [pointing to the display] makes no sense.

At this point Fox heads off toward another display, leaving views to ponder. Is this for real? Is all this just a put up by some anti-creationists to make creationists look stupid?

Let’s assume for the moment that this is not a joke. Let’s apply some Skeptical Analysis. First of all, who is Megan Fox?

Don’t confuse this Megan Fox with the actor Megan Fox. This one is so-called conservative social critic Megan Fox. That said, about the earliest I could find about this Megan Fox is that she has a YouTube channel and a Facebook page. It does not appear that Fox writes a bunch of stuff. She posts videos on her YouTube channel and then links to them on Facebook. Taking a look at her Facebook page we can get the idea of her conservative bent. First, she seems to be a fan of Ben Carson, a politically conservative hero to many and potential candidate for president as a Republican. Here’s Fox’s take on Carson’s latest book:

Fans of Megan Fox

STORY TIME! Megan Fox checks out Dr. Ben Carson’s newest book. Dr. Carson would make a terrific President. Time to have someone in the Oval Office who is not a lawyer or career politician. Time to have someone with real world experience and the skills of a neurosurgeon to get his country back on track the way he’d tend to a sick patient. His book is HIGHLY recommended!

Fox also seems to align herself with some conservative views on illegal immigration:

Fans of Megan Fox

The CDC has been burying evidence that the “mystery respiratory illness” was rare in the United States until the surge of invaders from Central America over the summer. This disease is caused by the enterovirus that is common in Central America but rare here. The people the Obama regime allowed to flood our border and then redistributed around the country brought this virus with them, and now American children have it.

She does not seem to be a big fan of science and likes to trumpet failures of the scientific establishment.

ANOTHER SCIENTIST CAUGHT MANUFACTURING DATA AND FAKING RESULTS: This is a real problem in the scientific community in the year 2014. I think this started in the late 1990s and into the 2000s. There’s been a culture change, where Alinsky political methods became adopted by the scientific community and they have a “ends justify the means” attitude toward their work now. There’s no longer an atmosphere where faking results and manipulating data to reach desired outcomes is frowned upon. Scientists seem to do this all the time now, and that’s because scientists have become too politicized. This is the result of so many of them getting caught up in the Anthropogenic Apocalypse Cult and joining in the mob intent on propping up the doomsday assertions that the Left wants propped up. Since they fake data for that purpose, it’s no longer forbidden to fake data in other areas too. Like this scientist in Japan caught doing just that, manipulating data to get the results that she wanted:

That posting links to a news story about scientific misconduct:

Japan scientist quits as cell research discredited

Her attitude toward science is colored by a distaste for modern theories of biology and other fields that support biological evolution:

SCIENTISTS ARE AGAIN BAFFLED AND PUZZLED BY DISCOVERY OF NEW FISH IN PLACE THEY THOUGHT FISH COULD NOT EXIST. Life finds a way to continuously defy what scientists say can’t exist or can’t be true. Again and again, scientists are caught having to admit they were wrong (again!) when it comes to some creature that is not as fragile as they claimed. That’s the problem that I have with modern science: claiming all the animals are so fragile. When in reality humans still don’t know all there is to know about the natural world and the assumptions that scientists make are so often wrong. They say animals can’t exist below certain depths…until we find out there’s thriving life down there. They say certain animals went extinct…until we find out they didn’t. The problem with modern scientists (which sets them apart from scientists of the past) is that today these people claim to be the definitive experts on things that we are still learning about. There’s a hubris to these people that did not exist in the past. 30 years ago, scientists weren’t baffled and confounded so often as they are now because the scientists didn’t claim to know everything. The problem is that when science became politicized and the scientists started pushing agendas they left true science behind to pursue this “the animals are fragile!” agenda. In reality, nature is hearty. The animals will thrive long after humans are gone. Watch an abandoned building: in a year, nature has reclaimed it. In five years, the place is unrecognizable. In 10 years, it’s like no building even existed. This is not a fragile planet.

That posting links to a story from ABC News:

How Scientists Found Deepest-Ever Fish 5 Miles Down

What is especially notable is a comparison between what’s in the ABC news item and what Fox says in response. Take for example this excerpt:

They say animals can’t exist below certain depths…until we find out there’s thriving life down there.

Then read the remainder of the ABC News item. I have highlighted a pertinent text:

“We’re pretty confident it’s a snailfish,” Dr. Alan Jamieson from the Oceanlab at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland told ABC News. “Not that we know. It’s a new species.”

The Ocean Schmidt Institute and Oceanlab carried out the 30-day voyage on the ocean vessel, the Falkor, as part of the Hadal Ecosystem Studies (HADES), an international project funded by the National Science Foundation that explores trench and hadal ecosystems. The Falkor, using unmanned landers, encountered the critter with two or three other new species of fish while recording 104 hours of footage at depths as low as 10,990 meters.

The fish is 20 centimeters in length, with a distinct snout similar to that of a cartoon dog. It also has long and very thin and fragile fins described as “tissue paper underwater,” though scientists will not be able to identify it until a physical sample is captured, according to Jamieson.

“If you don’t have a sample, a physical sample in your hand, you cannot do it,” he told ABC News. “Which is why we can’t do it for the fish.”

Fish contain osmolyte, a protein that allows their cells to function under high pressures, allowing them to thrive at low depths. Scientists theorize that the lowest level at which a fish can survive at is 8,200 meters below the surface.

Timothy Shank, the director of the program and an associate scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said the program hopes to capture a physical sample in the near future.

“Absolutely. No doubt,” Shank said. “We put out fish traps. We put out landers that have baited traps on them. We very much want to capture these deep-sea living fish.”

Other voyages in the Mariana Trench through HADES will continue, with one set in the coming weeks on the Falkor again, according to Shank. The current voyage took one physical sample of another, unidentified species of snail fish. It will take approximately one year to formally declare a name for that species.

Jamieson told ABC News that deep-sea exploration is important and necessary for learning more about fish life and the depths at which they can thrive.

“There are still things to find because we weren’t expecting that,” Jamieson said. “And it shows that complex animals such as fish can exist much deeper than we thought.”

“Scientists theorize that the lowest level at which a fish can survive at is 8,200 meters below the surface.” This fish was found at a depth of 8,145 meters. Does Fox have a problem with reading comprehension? If not, is it possible she thinks her readers do?

Again Fox: “When in reality humans still don’t know all there is to know about the natural world and the assumptions that scientists make are so often wrong.” Yes, humans still don’t know all there is to know about the natural world. That’s why we have the study of science. Scientific study is aimed at finding out stuff we don’t already know. Yes, the assumptions scientists make are often wrong. Correcting false assumptions is part of what science does.

Fox’s misinterpretation of what was reported in the ABC News item is one of 1) comical, 2) reflective of a poor understanding of the real world, 3) deliberate misrepresentation. Or some of all three.

What I have noticed is that creationists, Fox apparently being one of them, tend to have issues with science in general. They don’t trust science. Science is telling them things about God and Jesus they don’t want to hear. Science is Neil deGrasse Tyson getting on television and telling kids the universe was not created in six days. Science is bad. Scientists are bad or at least fools.

Unfortunately the creationism camp tends to get followed by the politically conservative faction of society, and these conservatives vote together and put into places of power like-minded people. These elected officials tend to vote against grants for politically disfavored scientific studies, and they attempt to incorporate pseudo scientific notions such as creationism into public school curricula.

It is, then, with particular glee that Fox has highlighted the story of discredited researcher Haruko Obokata. See, science is bad. Evolution is science. Evolution is bad. (my interpretation) What Fox fails to notice, much less emphasize, is that Obokata’s research fell victim to the scientific method. The scientific method incorporates attempts to falsify scientific theories. When one researcher reports something, other scientists attempt to replicate the results. Failing the ability to replicate, scientists get suspicious and demand a closer look. Science, as a result, has proved to be a highly-reliable method for discovering the truth. Only people not comfortable with the truth will find fault with this approach.

I’ve gone all this way examining who and what Megan Fox is, but I’ve yet to examine her examination of the Natural History Museum exhibits. It’s time to do that.

The exhibit discusses prokaryotic cells versus eukaryotic cells. Since I didn’t get any of that from my high school biology (asleep?) I will just take it off the top of my head. Prokaryotic cells are simple. No nucleus. The DNA just exists unconstrained within the cell’s cytoplasm. Eukaryotic cells are more complex. The principal DNA exists in the chromosomes within a defined cell nucleus. The cytoplasm of eukaryotic cells harbors any number of mitochondria. Mitochondria perform a number of useful function for the eukaryotic cell, and they are thought to have originated as bacteria that infiltrated eukaryotic cells in the deep evolutionary past. Mitochondria participate in cell mitosis (splitting) by, themselves, splitting and becoming introduced both daughter cells. Sperm cells (generally) do not have mitochondria, so in sexual reproduction only the female’s mitochondria are passed on to the offspring.

I’m thinking Fox did not know all of that.

The exhibit explains that originally all organism that were composed of eukaryotic cells were single-celled. Now eukaryotic cells make up all multi-cellular life. No multi-cellular life is composed of prokaryotic cells. So Fox makes the comment, “What? If many still are today, then that would support the theory that they have never changed, that have always been as they are today.”

This 74-year-old brain of mine is unable to come to grips with Fox’s conclusion. How does the statement that previously all eukaryotic life was single-celled, and now all multi-cellular life is composed of eukaryotic cells support the “theory that they have never changed?” May I be allowed to answer that one?

First of all, “they” in fact never changed. “They” all died. A long time ago. What we see around us are “their” descendants. What has happened is biological evolution. The populations of succeeding generations have changed over the millions of years, and we now see, not only single-celled eukaryotic life forms, but multi-celled eukaryotic life forms. An example of a single-cell eukaryote is the paramecium. An example of a multi-cell eukaryote is Megan Fox.

I’m going to leave the remainder of Megan Fox’s commentary for the reader to digest. In fact, I’m going to leave the remainder of Fox’s museum tour for subsequent posts, because this post is becoming overly long. Keep reading.

NBC’s Mysterious Origins of Man

Here’s a repost from the Skeptical Analysis blog. The story has aged a lot since it first aired on TV, but the concern is still the same. Speculation and fabrication are presented as valid accounts.

– John Blanton

It can’t be possible I have not already done a post on this. Apparently I have not. It’s about time.

Charlton Heston introduces the documentary

Charlton Heston introduces the documentary

It’s been nearly 20 years since this came out. OK, nearly 19. But I’m not going to wait for the the anniversary. I will get this going by reposting my notes from 18 years ago. This appeared in the April 1996 issue of The North Texas Skeptic shortly after the show first aired on NBC. I will follow up this post with a series of posts touching on the main topics of the documentary.

NBC’s Mysterious Science

by John Blanton

“The Mysterious Origins of Man,” which aired on NBC in February, had a lot not to like about it. Besides giving a very good impression of an attack on science, it exhibited on the part of its producers and major players an appalling ignorance of some basic facts of the universe. In this cynical world, where, it would seem, half the population is trying to manipulate the other half, there is a temptation to find wonder in such innocence and naivet. Would that the enemies of this country were such babes in the wilderness.

If you did, you should not have missed it. Besides Charlton Heston (more famous as Moses and Ben Hur), there were our own local creationists Don Patton and Carl Baugh, come to explain how the scientific establishment continues to ignore their evidence and to promulgate the myth of evolution. Those even faintly acquainted with Patton and Baugh will be struck with one glaring irony in the program. The luster of national exposure for their young-Earth agenda was more than slightly dimmed by the show’s continual reference to fossils millions of years old. Maybe that’s why at the MIOS meeting the following week, Don showed considerable modesty when making reference to his appearance. I further noted that many of the creationists at the meeting had not seen the program. It aired when many of them were at church.

Naturally, the program has its detractors. I will not dwell on their remarks. I have a video of the program. Watch it, and you can supply your own comments. The producers have responded to their critics, however, and they have graciously allowed us to reprint the text. To me these thoughts, spilled out on paper, make my case completely (John Blanton):


By Bill Cote, Carol Cote and John Cheshire

(Reprinted with permission)

As we expected, the response to our show has been heated. We’ve been accused of pseudo-science and setting back the course of education in America. But our goal was simply to present the public with evidence which suggests an alternative view to some of our most accepted theories. After all, the theory of evolution is still a theory, not a fact, and therefore alternative views should be welcomed, not banned.

Probably the most common criticism is that the show gave no opposing view from the academic community. The producers’ position is that the accepted view has been so frequently presented to the public that only a brief summary by the host was necessary. It was more valuable to focus on the documented anomalous evidence.

For example, if man evolved from the apes around 5 million years ago, then how does the scientific community explain tools of modern man found in rock strata dating to 55 million years old? (J.D Whitney, California State Geologist, Table Mt. Mine) Those artifacts currently reside in a museum in Berkeley, California. When we applied for permission to film them, we were denied by the museum.

Another criticism is that the information in our show is presented by experts who do not hold degrees in their fields of expertise and therefore their opinions are not endorsed by the scientific community. But Dr. Virginia Steen McIntyre holds a Ph.D. in Geology and was a fellow with the USGS when she did her field work in Mexico. Her conclusions about the age of the spear points she dated (250,000 years BP) were backed by two other USGS members, yet because of their implications, the findings were ignored and her career was ruined.

In the case of the Paluxy River man tracks, to our knowledge, no accredited archaeologist has ever proven the prints to be fake. Furthermore, many scientists have referred us to an article written by Kuban and Hastings who seem to be the experts on this site. They categorically deny that there is any validity to the prints and that the case has been solved.

It is interesting to note that the scientific community refers to this report as if it is definitive proof, when in fact neither gentleman is an accredited archaeologist, anthropologist or paleontologist. If this is to be a fair discussion let’s all play by the same rules.

Many of our critics are using very strong language, calling us morons, liars, and subversive creationists. These are emotional responses, not logical arguments. To set the record straight, we are not creationists or affiliated with any group whatsoever. We are being attacked on a personal level, because we are questioning issues that have been deemed too fundamental to be questioned.

We are fully aware that the information presented is highly controversial. This was re-iterated by Charlton Heston in the show, “We’ve seen a broad range of evidence, some of it highly speculative. But there are enough well documented cases to call for a closer look at the conventional explanation of man’s origins.”

We never take the stance that we know the answers or in any way suggest that we will provide them. We are merely offering an alternative hypothesis. In this way, we feel that the American public is fully capable of making up its own mind. Bill Cote, Carol Cote and John Cheshire Producers of The Mysterious Origins of Man. To follow the controversy on our World Wide Web site:

– Copyright 1996: Bill Cote, Carol Cote and John Cheshire. . . . May reprint with permission. – Distributed (not written) by Thomas Burgin . . . Direct any inquiries to

Ferris Bueller Gets Expelled

This is the second installment of the review of Ben Stein’s Expelled video. It was previously posted on the Skeptical Analysis site.

– John Blanton


This is the second in a series reviewing Ben Stein’s Expelled video. The first was sort of an introduction—introducing some of the players and giving readers a feel for what this production is all about. I also dipped into the first of six people who were supposedly expelled for speaking out against Darwinian evolution or even seeming to support the concept of Intelligent Design.

The first personality was Dr. Richard von Sternberg, who supposedly (watch the video) lost his position at the Smithsonian Institution because he published a paper by creationist Steven C. Meyer in the journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, of which he was the unpaid editor.

In the video Ben Stein interviews Sternberg, and they discuss the terrible consequences of Sternberg’s actions. His “life was nearly ruined.” That, I find interesting. His life was not ruined. It was nearly ruined. Without outright fabrication the video conveys the idea that Sternberg’s life was ruined when, in fact, it is never stated that his life was ruined. Only nearly ruined. Speaking as a person whose life has been nearly ruined many times, I am eternally grateful it was only nearly ruined and not actually ruined.

Such is the art of propaganda, which this video is all about.

There is something else curious about Stein’s interview with Sternberg. They discuss what is supposed to be a grievous injustice perpetrated on an honest man, but no details are revealed.

Sternberg tells us that he lost his office (at the Smithsonian), but he does not describe the scene. He had to turn in the keys to his laboratory space. How did this happen? Did the lab manager come to him and say, “Dr. Sternberg, you can no longer work here. Hand over your keys and never set foot here again?” If that’s what happened, then why doesn’t Sternberg in the interview provide the circumstances, name names and dates?

To me the answer is clear. Sternberg and Stein are not being straight forward with viewers. They both know the details, and they know that revealing the details would be detrimental to their argument, their argument being that Sternberg suffered a terrible injustice. The conclusion from the known facts is that Stein and Sternberg are not honorable men. I will extend that to saying that Intelligent Design is not a worthy cause, because it requires dishonorable tactics to promote itself.

Here are the facts not mentioned in the video, reprinted from my previous post:

Posted by JAC on February 3, 2005 9:36 AM

Although I do not wish to debate the merits of intelligent design, this forum seems an apt place to correct several factual inaccuracies in the Wall Street Journal’s Op Ed article by David Klinghoffer, “The Branding of a Heretic” (Jan. 28, 2005). Because Dr. von Sternberg has filed an official complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, I cannot comment as fully as I would wish.
1. Dr. von Sternberg is still a Research Associate at the National Museum of Natural History, and continues to have the usual rights and privileges, including space, keys, and 24/7 access. At no time did anyone deny him space, keys or access.
2. He is not an employee of the Smithsonian Institution. His title, “Research Associate,” means that for a three year, potentially renewable period he has permission to visit the Museum for the purpose of studying and working with our collections without the staff oversight visitors usually receive.
3. I am, and continue to be, his only “supervisor,” although we use the term “sponsor” for Research Associates to avoid personnel/employee connotations. He has had no other since Feb. 1, 2004, nor was he ever “assigned to” or under the “oversight of” anyone else.
4. Well prior to the publication of the Meyer article and my awareness of it, I asked him and another Research Associate to move as part of a larger and unavoidable reorganization of space involving 17 people and 20 offices. He agreed.
5. I offered both individuals new, identical, standard Research Associate work spaces. The other accepted, but Dr. von Sternberg declined and instead requested space in an entirely different part of the Museum, which I provided, and which he currently occupies.
6. As for prejudice on the basis of beliefs or opinions, I repeatedly and consistently emphasized to staff (and to Dr. von Sternberg personally), verbally or in writing, that private beliefs and/or controversial editorial decisions were irrelevant in the workplace, that we would continue to provide full Research Associate benefits to Dr. von Sternberg, that he was an established and respected scientist, and that he would at all times be treated as such.
On behalf of all National Museum of Natural History staff, I would like to assert that we hold the freedoms of religion and belief as dearly as any one. The right to heterodox opinion is particularly important to scientists. Why Dr. von Sternberg chose to represent his interactions with me as he did is mystifying. I can’t speak to his interactions with anyone else.

Sincerely yours,
Jonathan Coddington

By the time Ben Stein concludes his interview with Richard Sternberg, he has become completely disillusioned. Never had he thought our country’s liberties could be forsaken over a matter such as posing challenging questions about science. He did not have far to go to find another example. The video shows a clip extolling the virtues of George Mason University, a short distance from where he was standing.

Caroline Crocker

Now he relates the sad tale of Dr. Caroline Crocker:

Caroline Crocker (b 1958) is an American immunopharmacologist who taught a biology class at George Mason University in 2005, while employed in a non-tenure track contract position as “contingent faculty”. She also held another teaching position at Northern Virginia Community College. After her contract at George Mason University was not renewed, as is common with such positions, she claimed that she lost her job there “for teaching the problems with evolution” in a lecture which she repeated in a class at Northern Virginia Community College in the presence of a Washington Post reporter on November 2, 2005.

A GMU spokesman told the reporter that the university let her go at the end of her contract period for reasons unrelated to her views on intelligent design. In January 2006 she began a postdoctorate year at the Uniformed Services University. Her case has been presented in a Discovery Institute intelligent design campaign and features in the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

[Some links removed]

I have previously covered the Caroline Crocker story in the September 2010 issue of The North Texas Skeptic. What I will do here is just plagiarize myself and paste the main body of that story:

I feel sure that Crocker never actually taught creationism to her students. She apparently did much more than that. As Crocker has demonstrated, it’s possible to create a lot of mischief without actually teaching creationism. Some have noted that Crocker is not so much the victim that is painted in Expelled. But she is still worth a book.

Free to Think is Crocker’s story of her ordeal with GMU, and more. The following is from the publisher’s Web site.3

The heart of the book covers how she impartially presented the students with the scientific evidence for and against evolution and the scandalous reprisals that resulted. It continues with the saga of the attempted lawsuit and ends, triumphantly with a call to action.

After you have read the book you are invited to return and to post a comment. Being over-eager, I posted a comment before I even received a copy:

I reviewed the Washington Post item from 5 February 2006 that included an interview with Crocker. It appears she freely admits to promoting what are distorted and incorrect views about the science behind biological evolution. Only a single example here: She repeated claims by Jonathan Wells about the peppered moth experiments:

“The experiment was falsified. He glued his moths to the trees.”

I am a photographer, and if somebody wanted photographs of moths for a book or a magazine or a paper, this is exactly what I would have done. I would have glued the moths to the trees. Students hearing Crocker’s explanation would be left with the conclusion that real scientists are lying to them in this case. That was obviously the point Crocker was trying to get over. She was, in effect, deliberately lying to the students.How can a teacher who does this expect to keep her job?

After posting my comment I received a response from Kevin Wirth. He reminded me that comments were solicited only from people who had read the book and wanted to discuss the book. He said he was going to move my comment to the blog section.

That started a nice dialog with Kevin Wirth. Besides being the CEO of Leafcutter Press, Crocker’s publisher, he appears to support Crocker’s cause and also to oppose the science behind biological evolution. His position is not surprising. A little Internet research reveals that Kevin Wirth is also the name of the Director of Product Development for Access Research Network (ARN). From the ARN Web site:4

Seattle area resident Kevin Wirth is a founding member of Students for Origins Research (now known as Access Research Network) and is the CEO of a micro-publishing firm called Leafcutter Press. He has been conducting research on viewpoint discrimination against students, educators, and scientists who are Darwin skeptics for over 25 years, and just recently collaborated with Dr. Jerry Bergman in the publication of a groundbreaking book on this topic titled Slaughter of the Dissidents. Kevin seeks to create greater public awareness of not only the plight of dissenters who have been discriminated against for harboring doubts about Darwinism, but also provides access to vital information supporting a rationale for skepticism about evolution-related issues.

Kevin wanted to make an issue of the pepper moths glued to trees, but there was no basis for his argument. Bernard Kettlewell did glue moths to tree trunks for various reasons, one being perhaps to take photographs. No secret was made of this, and if any experimenting was falsified (using Crocker’s language), this was not it. Crocker was wrong to make this statement in class, either through design or ignorance. Neither instance would be commendable.

A single case could be excused, but this was a pattern with Crocker. Her statements in the Washington Post story, plus other data, point to a deeper problem. The Post story is informative beyond the peppered moth remarks:5

But this highly trained biologist wanted students to know what she herself deeply believed: that the scientific establishment was perpetrating fraud, hunting down critics of evolution to ruin them and disguising an atheistic view of life in the garb of science.


Before the class, Crocker had told me that she was going to teach “the strengths and weaknesses of evolution.” Afterward, I asked her whether she was going to discuss the evidence for evolution in another class. She said no.

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has put up a Web site in response to the Expelled video, and this includes a section devoted to Crocker.6

The late D. James Kennedy produced a video featuring Caroline Crocker. The video is posted on the Coral Ridge Ministries (CRM) Web site, and it contains samples from Crocker’s classroom presentation at Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC).

One slide says this:7

Scientists are Confused
Scientists have differing opinions on this issue; intelligent design model is gaining ground.
Gould and Eldridge [sic] (evolutionists) “There is no validation of the position that speciation causes significant morphological change.”
Werner von Braun (rocket scientist), “It is unscientific to teach evolution only.”

Another slide features Archaeopteryx and Eohippus:8

Presumed Transitional Forms

Archeopteryx [sic]
Birds there in same layer.
Is a bird (like an ostrich), not a reptobird.
Only one complete fossil and has been questioned as a fraud.

Eohippus is found in the same layers as the modern horse.
Eohippus is the same as modern-day hyrax.

I am certainly confused. “Scientists having differing opinions” is a standard part of main stream science and is not peculiar to biological evolution. Also Crocker’s statement “intelligent design model is gaining ground” is overly optimistic on her part. The modern Intelligent Design conjecture has been kicking around since about 1990, and in this time no serious research has come out supporting it. Science magazine is the premier American professional science journal. What mention I have found of Intelligent Design (disregarding letters to the editor) in Science has been derogatory.

The Gould and Eldredge quote is addressed on NCSE’s Exposed site:9

Gould actually said “But continuing unhappiness, justified this time, focuses upon claims that speciation causes significant morphological change, for no validation of such a position has emerged.” (Gould, SJ and Eldredge, N, “Punctuated equilibrium comes of age” Nature 366, 223-227, 1993). In other words, there is a question of the order in which speciation and physical diversification take place, not “confusion” over whether any link exists between such diversification and speciation. Crocker’s erroneous quotation and mischaracterization of the author’s intent show poor scholarship, and encourage her students to misunderstand key concepts.

I am glad that Crocker mentioned von Braun’s disdain for teaching only evolution. That pretty much settles the issue, because we all know the great rocket engineer held the ultimate truth on all other matters under his consideration. No, seriously, this is not an argument from science. It’s an amateurish attempt at argument from authority.

I don’t know what a reptobird is, but Archaeopteryx had features common with some dinosaurs that modern birds do not. I will go Crocker one better on the “one complete fossil” claim. A review of the ten known Archaeopteryx fossils indicates every one of them is missing at least some small part (or much more). Too bad for Crocker; after she made her wild claims about Archaeopteryx in 2004-2005 another fossil was assigned to Archaeopteryx siemensii in 2007. It is the “the most complete and well preserved” yet.10

It was easy for Crocker to make the claim “has been questioned as a fraud.” All she has to do is to assert that Archaeopteryx is a fraud, and the foregoing statement becomes true. In fact, astronomer Fred Hoyle and physicist Lee Spetner also made this assertion. What Crocker failed to mention is that these claims were refuted by scientists familiar with archaeological research and not so familiar with cosmology.11

I could find no research that backs up Crocker’s statement that “Eohippus is found in the same layers as the modern horse.” A FAQ entry on the Talk Origins site gives the following possible origin:12

…Eohippus fossils have been found in surface strata, along side two modern horses, Equus nevadensis and Equus occidentalis.

The quote is from The Neck of the Giraffe by Francis Hitching, who does not provide a justification for the statement. Talk Origins traces the statement back to a book by creationist R.L. Wysong. Crocker appears to have lifted a bit of myth from creationist literature and used it in class with no attempt at confirmation.

The statement that “Eohippus is the same as modern-day hyrax” is amateurish and unbecoming of someone holding a Ph.D. in the life sciences. Eohippus is not the same as a hyrax. The rock hyrax is the closest living relative to the modern elephant.

Crocker has another interesting slide in the CRM video:13

Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
Failed at medical school (could not dissect).
Had some training as a clergyman.
Rich kid who enjoyed partying, drinking, and gambling.
Went to Galapagos Islands.
Father was not pleased.

That settles it for me. If Darwin was such a slacker, then the whole science of biological evolution is worthless trash. Anyhow, this seems to be Crocker’s argument, and it lacks a certain amount of scientific and scholastic rigor.

A closer look at the Kettlewell research story finds little actual controversy within the scientific community, Crocker and Wells notwithstanding.

Laurence Cook has posted his lecture on The Rise and Fall of the Peppered Moth. I have copied his text for you to read, but you can follow the link to see the complete presentation.14

Michael Majerus wrote Melanism: Evolution in Action, and biologist Jerry Coyne reviewed the book in Nature. Coyne’s review was critical of Kettlewell’s experimental technique, but Majerus disputes Coyne’s interpretation and has emphasized support for Kettlewell’s conclusions. Others have been critical of Kettlewell and the peppered moth research, including a book by journalist Judith Hooper titled Of Moths and Men. Regardless, all critiques of moth research have been refuted by those scientists who actually do the research. See the Wikipedia page for the whole story.15

What has not happened is that Jonathan Wells and others critical of peppered moth research have not gone into the field and done their own research and published the results in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. It has become apparent that the science of Intelligent Design does not involve any actual scientific research.

If arguing against Darwinian evolution is what Crocker was paid to do for NVCC (and possibly GMU), then they should have hired me for the job, because I could have done it better. Had GMU hired me to disparage Darwinism I would have pulled up the work of someone like Michael Behe. Behe’s argument from irreducible complexity has some semblance of a scientific basis. If there is no Darwinian pathway leading from an ancestral feature to a modern feature, then something else must account for the modern feature besides Darwinism.

Behe has been pitching this argument for about fifteen years, but he has not been making any headway. So far irreducible complexity exists only as a conjecture with no scientific research to back it up. Unlike the arguments put forward by Crocker, irreducible complexity more closely resembles real science. If Crocker had wanted to argue against Darwinism in her GMU class, she could have cited Behe, but she also would have had to note that irreducible complexity has not in any way been demonstrated. Obviously she did not bother to do any of this.

I may have been the first to post a comment about Free to Think, but the first comment to stick was posted by Ray Bohlin.16

Great Read! As is usually the case, the full story is even worse than the abbreviated version in Expelled. Her book will not only help you see how unseemly academia can be, but also inspire you with personal stories of Caroline’s impact on students.

Of course, Ray Bohlin is our own Ray Bohlin. He has a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Texas at Dallas and currently heads up Probe Ministries in Richardson, Texas. Probe Ministries was co-founded by Jon Buell, founder and president of the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE), also in Richardson. FTE is the publisher of the book Of Pandas and People, the original “text” book geared toward Intelligent Design. Despite having a Ph.D. in biology, Bohlin has a curious view of biological evolution. At the Texas Faith Network conference on 3 November 2003 in Dallas he addressed those in attendance and stated he believes all modern life forms have a common ancestor. All except humans, he said. We do not share ancestry with those other creatures. Bohlin is a fellow of the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture, the principal organization promoting Intelligent Design in the United States.

Both Expelled and the CRM video feature some glowing testimonials by students. Crocker also mentions these in the book. So, why was such a popular teacher expelled? GMU stated that student complaints kicked off the process. Who is to know? I don’t have an official poll of Crocker’s popularity with students at GMU, but there is an on-line survey from NVCC students. Some of them gave her good reviews. Others, not so good. Readers should be wary of any negative comments posted by students, even assuming the posts are by actual students. A failing student can use such a vehicle to even the score with a teacher.17

There is another Web site called N.C.S.E. Exposed that purports to correct “errors in the National Center for Science Education’s fact-free attack on Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.” The section pertaining to Caroline Crocker emphasizes the high praise she received as a teacher but does not dispute that she taught creationism or even Intelligent Design. The page contains several links to external material. A linked page discusses the Washington Post story, and it quotes text favorable to Crocker. However, it omits Crocker’s incriminating remarks, previously mentioned. There is a link to a page attempting to refute the Miller-Urey experiment (one of the Jonathan Wells icons). Another linked page tells of rave reviews for Icons of Evolution. Crocker has written her own rebuttal to the “false claims” about her, but the link to that page is broken.18

Besides Free to Think, Crocker has written Guide to Cell Structure and Function (2005) and has authored a chapter in The Immunopharmacology of Allergic Diseases (1996). In addition to a number of peer-reviewed papers, the page claims she has contributed magazine articles to SalvoMagazine, including “What Exactly is the Problem with Evolutionary Theory” and “Do ID Proponents Get Persecuted in the Academy?” The first is nowhere to be found but the second is in the 4-2008 issue. She has contributed “Intellectual Freedom Must Include Conservative Professors, Scientists” in Washington Examiner, 30 June 2008.19

You can view the video that started the whole expelled business back in 2008. It runs about an hour and 38 minutes, and the screen is small, but it’s free. Get some popcorn.20

Leafcutter Press has a press kit for Free to Think. Besides a rundown on the book, the kit provides extensive biographical information on Crocker.21

Also at
10 ibid.
11 ibid.
Pages are archived here at the following links:
The broken link points to this domain:

 Resuming fresh material

For readers’ convenience and before I forget to do it, I’m linking to duplicate copies of pertinent documents:




The above mentions images—screen shots—from the Web site of Coral Ridge Ministries. I have no evidence these are actual copies of Crocker’s classroom presentations (at NVCC, not at GMU). We have only the Coral Ridge Ministries reference to them as Crocker’s material. Here are the images.






With the assistance of Kevin Wirth I was able to contact Caroline Crocker by e-mail. I asked about these presentation slides. She told me that what I needed to know was in the book.

With that in mind I purchased a copy of Free to Think. Contrary to what I had hoped, based on my correspondence with Crocker, the book does not give any details about what she taught in her classes (about evolution or creationism). The pertinent details are on page 89. “Dr. Carter” was her new boss in 2004.

‘The meeting went quite amicably at first, talking about the past semester
and the TAC project, bur then it turned in an unexpected direction. I was alrcady
standing, ready to leave, when without preamble, Dr. Carter announced, ”I’ve
been told by several students and faculty that you’re teaching ‘creationism.’ I am
going to have to discipline you. You won’t be allowed to teach lectures this coming
semester, but will fulfill your hours by teaching labs.” He stood up as he spoke.

[Page 89]

The best I can make of that is that one or more people complained that Crocker was running down Darwinian evolution, and this got reported as teaching creationism. We will have to take her word that she did not teach creationism or even Intelligent Design.

It would not be surprising if Crocker never actually taught creationism. Creationists do not have to do that. Creationists will accomplish their core goal if they can dismiss the vast body of science behind Darwinian evolution. They believe, and in many cases rightly so, that doing damage to  mainstream science will leave students with the idea that alternatives such as Intelligent Design have merit.

As I mentioned in my NTS piece, Crocker received both good and bad reviews from her students. Regarding whether she taught Intelligent Design, here is one that says she did:

Interesting class, but she teach ID and use a bunch of inaccurate propaganda to do it. She also plays favorites if
you don’t toe the line. You’ll still get credit, but just keep in mind she’s teaching a bunch of BS.

Crocker’s culpability in the matter becomes additionally apparent with events following her 2004 encounter with “Dr. Carter.”

Northern Virginia Community College

At the same time Crocker taught at GMU, she was also an adjunct professor at Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC). On November 2, 2005, she gave a lecture which she told a reporter was the lecture that had led to her losing her job at a previous university. She said “I lost my job at George Mason University for teaching the problems with evolution. Lots of scientists question evolution, but they would lose their jobs if they spoke out.” Crocker had described the lecture beforehand as teaching “the strengths and weaknesses of evolution”, and when asked afterwards if she would be discussing the evidence for evolution in another class, said that she would not as “There really is not a lot of evidence for evolution.” Myers remarked that this statement was grounds for her dismissal.

Subsequently, she resigned from NVCC and began work for the Department of Defense in cancer research.

Intelligent design

Crocker became the Executive Director of the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center in early 2008. She left the Center in the summer of 2008 to pursue other endeavors. She appeared in a Coral Ridge Ministries video entitled The Intelligent Design Controversy in Higher Education and in the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The claims she made in the Coral Ridge video about transitional fossils (and specifically Archaeopteryx and the evolution of the horse) were criticised by PZ Myers as being factually incorrect. Crocker currently runs a promotional website advertising her public speaking. According to the website topics include: The Censorship of Science, Evolution: Fact, Science, or Religion, along with an Alpha course.

[Slight edits (misplaced period) and some links deleted. The first reference to “Myers” is presumably biologist and noted atheist PZ Myers.]

This bit puts to tests Ben Stein’s statement in the video that not only did Crocker lose her job at GMU, “she suddenly found herself blacklisted, unable to find a job anywhere.” I guess by that he means anywhere but the United States Department of Defense and the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center.

Lest we delude ourselves that Ben Stein is just performing a scripted role in a video production, there is ample evidence he is a supporter of creationism. I will just mention here his endorsement of Crocker’s book. In the Forward, he praises Crocker’s courage and forthrightness, which is laudable. He also displays the complete lack of knowledge of the subject matter and the disregard for scientific integrity that so exemplifies creationist thinking.

Despite lack of clear evidence that Darwinism explains everything it purports to, no one is allowed to question that the evidence had to be “Darwinist”, that is, accidental. Despite the truth that no life could exist without the basic laws of gravity and physics and thermodynamics, and despite the absence of any evidence that these laws came into being accidentally, one cannot question that they must have come about by chance.

Despite the fact of the incredible, mind boggling complexity of the cell, despite the truth that no one has ever been able to explain how a cell could have hundreds of thousands of interlocking parts that repair and reproduce themselves, no one is allowed to question that the cell happened by accident.

[Page ix]

Expelled features four additional people of courage who have been expelled. Next up is Guillermo Gonzalez.