13 October 2005

Famous last thoughts

Advisor: "You just need to remember, Mike, when you start working on your proposal, that the expectations are going to be a bit higher than you've been used to."
Me (thinking): "Yeah, right. No sweat. No way is this going to be any harder than the last few things I've written."

10 October 2005

Dog Bites Man

I was going to title this post something like, "Casey Luskin totally misunderstands and misrepresents something related to biology," but the title I settled on seems to sum up the news level involved much more concisely. In this instance, Casey attempts to explain away some of the evidence for human-chimp common descent that was presented by Ken Miller during his testimony last week in the Dover case.

I'd like to be able to quote the entire relevant portion of Dr. Miller's testimony here, both because it establishes the context for Luskin's ill-founded critique, and because it is a beautifully elegant and simple explanation of a powerful piece of evidence that supports the common ancestry of apes and humans. However, it is too long for that to be convenient. If you want to read the whole thing for yourself - and I encourage you to - you will find it starting on page 22 of the pdf file linked above.

Luskin starts off by taking some gratituitous digs at the status of evolution, deliberately misunderstanding the reasons for Miller's testimony, and with some other inanities. He then moves on to his main complaints with Miller's testimony:
Miller made his prediction that there was a fusion event simply by counting chromosomes in apes and humans—not by analyzing the chromosomes themselves.

Miller started off his "prediction" by simply observing that humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes and apes have 24 pairs; therefore two ape chromosomes were fused into one human chromosome. Miller claims that this simple chromosome-counting requires a fusion event if common ancestry is true.

Actually, Dr. Miller did more than "chromosome counting". This is fairly obvious after just a cursory reading of the testimony.
Now, what that means, Mr. Walczak, is that you and I, in a sense, are missing a chromosome, we're missing a pair of chromosomes. And the question is, if evolution is right about this common ancestry idea, where did the chromosome go?

Now, there's no possibility that that common ancestry which would have had 48 chromosomes because the other three species have 48, there's no possibility the chromosome could have just got lost or thrown away. Chromosome has so much genetic information on it that the loss of a whole chromosome would probably be fatal. So that's not a hypothesis.

Therefore, evolution makes a testable prediction, and that is, somewhere in the human genome we've got to be able to find a human chromosome that actually shows the point at which two of these common ancestors were pasted together.
As you can see, the reason for Miller's prediction goes a bit beyond the, "apes have 48, we have 46, so we must have had 48 once, too" line that Luskin presents. The prediction is trivially obvious - if you understand the slightest thing about common descent. If humans and apes are closely related, then their genomes will, we expect, be very similar. This means that if we are short a chromosome pair in comparison to apes, then that genetic material needs to be somewhere.

Mr. Luskin, however, has some ideas about other things that could be responsible for the chromosomal patterns that we see:
Why couldn't it be the case that the common ancestor had 23 distinct chromosomes, and one chromosome underwent duplication in the line that led to apes? Or maybe the common ancestor had 20 distinct chromosomes and there have been 4 duplications events in the ape line, and 3 in the human line?
The short answer to Luskin's question is that the different chromosomes are, well, different. We have looked at them. We have sequenced them. They are not obvious duplicates. They have different genes. That would, to me, seem to argue strongly against the pattern that we see being the result of a series of recent duplication events. Of course, I'm kind of strange when it comes to formulating opinions about stuff like that. I think that evidence actually means something.

Casey continues:
or maybe the ancestor had 30 distinct chromosomes and there have been 6 fusion events for ape-line but 7 fusion events for the human-line.

Do you see my point? Simple chromosome-counting or comparisons of numbers of chromosomes does not lead common ancestry to make any hard predictions about how many chromosomes our alleged ape-human common ancestor had. So, under Miller's logic, there is no reason why a chromosomal fusion event is a necessary prediction of common ancestry for all upper primates.
Casey might actually have a point here, if his representation of Miller's argument had even the faintest resemblance to reality. However, the argument is nowhere near as simplistic as Luskin makes out. (Shocking, that.)

Not content with mere error, however, Luskin descends into sheer inanity:
In fact, if we find evidence that humans have two distinct chromosomes that have evidence of fusion (i.e., let's say human chromosome #2 has fusion evidence, and then, hypothetically, we also find evidence for fusion on human chromosome #9), then under Miller's logic, if apes lack any evidence for a fused chromosome, then this should count against common ancestry. Thus, at the present time, absent a full analysis of fusion evidence in our chromosomes, we cannot necessarily say that the presence of one fused chromosome in humans is a prediction of common ancestry. Much more research still needs to be done.
Wow. Now there is an argument that lacks honesty, integrity, reason, intelligence, and logic. And all at once, too. Where to start...
First, Casey's so-called argument is based on the assumption that unless we know everything, we know nothing. That's a rather pitiful attempt to dodge actually looking at any evidence ever. Second, Casey somehow or another manages to assume that we actually don't know about the other chromosomes. The fact is, we have a pretty good idea about human and chimp chromosomes. It's one of the things that you pick up after years of study - particularly when you do little things like sequence the entire genomes of humans and chimps.

Luskin decides not to quit while he's behind:
So I am more than willing to acknowledge and affirm that Miller did provide some very good direct empirical evidence for a chromosomal fusion event which created human chromosome #2. But I'm more interested in two other questions: if we accept Miller's chromosomal fusion evidence as accurate, then (1) is his chromosome fusion story good evidence for Neo-Darwinian common ancestry between humans and apes? Or (2) does it perhaps pose great problems for a Neo-Darwinian account?

The answer to question (1) is "NO" and the answer to question (2) is "YES!"
This should be good.

The fusion-evidence implies that some of our ancestors likely had 48 chromosomes. But Miller has not provided any evidence that the individual with 48 chromosomes was historically related to modern apes. (I grant that our chromosome #2 has banding patterns similar to two ape chromosomes, but given that our chromosome structure is generally similar to that of apes anyways, it is not a stretch to assume that any 48 chromosome ancestor of you and me had a chromosome structure similar to apes, regardless of whether or not that individual was related to apes. Claiming that banding pattern similarities is evidence of common ancestry with apes simply invokes the “similarity = ancestry” argument, and thus begs the question.) It is entirely possible that our genus Homo underwent a chromosomal fusion event within its own separate history.

OK. First, we expect, based on common ancestry, to find that our chromosome structure is similar to that of apes. The Intelligent Design folks, on the other hand, expect that... well, actually, this is another case where ID predicts absolutely nothing.

Second, we do not claim that the chromosome banding patterns are evidence for common ancestry because they "look similar". Chromosome banding patterns are yet another area that we have been researching for decades. We know that they are heritable characters. In fact, they are heritable characters that are shared between humans and apes. That is evidence for common descent.

As far as the third point is concerned, the chromosome fusion certainly could have taken place any time after the human-ape split. Nobody I know of is claiming that the chromosome fusion is the reason that we are different from apes. It is evidence that we share a common ancestor with them, and it may have played a role in the divergence, but it may also have played no role whatsoever.

Luskin, however, fails to grasp this:
All that evolutionists have claimed is that this fusion event occurred after the split that led to humans, so it occurs only in the human lineage. Evidence of a chromosomal fusion event is not evidence that our line leads all the way back to apes.

Given that we had a 48-chromosome ancestor, we don't know if our 48-chromosome ancestor was an ape or not. For all we know, our 48-chromosome ancestor was a part of a separately designed species, as fully human as anyone you meet on the street today. There is no good reason to think that going from a 46-chromosome individual to a 48-chromosome individual would make our species more ape-like.

Common descent could not have been falsified if there was no evidence for a fusion event, but common descent certainly is not refuted by the presence of a fusion event. The question now stands, does this fusion event provide any evidence for common ancestry between humans and apes? The answer to that question is no.
That last paragraph is a bit confusing, and I'm not entirely sure what he's trying to get at. Let me try to make the reality-based view a bit more clear. Based on everything that we know about our relationship with apes, we could quite firmly predict that there would be a chromosome fusion, and we could predict which chromosomes would be involved. The prediction turned out to be correct. Had it not turned out to be correct, that would have been a very, very large problem. It would, in fact, have refuted our common descent-based expectations. Personally, I think that the fact that the predictions of common descent were so clearly met is powerful evidence in favor of common descent. But again, that's just my own reality-based view.

Luskin, after presenting a fancy (but meaningless and misleading) animated gif, moves on to his next line of misunderstanding:
Under Neo-Darwinism, genetic mutation events (including chromosomal aberrations) are generally assumed to be random and unguided. Miller's Cold-Fusion tale becomes more suspicious when one starts to ask harder questions like "how could a natural, unguided chromosomal fusion event get fixed into a population, much less how could it result in viable offspring?"
That is actually a relatively reasonable question, and the concepts involved can be confusing. I'll try to explain them as clearly as possible, as I respond to each of Casey's points.
(1) In most of our experience, individuals with the randomly-fused chromosome can be normal, but it is very likely that their offspring will ultimately have a genetic disease. A classic example of such is a cause of Down syndrome.
This is actually not quite true. Down syndrome is caused by duplication of chromosome 21, resulting in the victim having not the normal two, but rather three copies of the chromosome. A chromosome fusion is not a duplication. A chromosomal fusion occurs when two different chromosomes get stuck together, forming one larger chromosome. Someone with a chromosome fusion has no more, and no fewer, copies of any particular gene than someone without that fusion. They are likely to be genetically normal.
(2) One way around the problem in (1) is to find a mate that also had an identical chromosomal fusion event.
Actually, all that is necessary for successful reproduction is for the chromosomes in one individual be able to line up with the other individual's chromosomes. This is entirely possible in the case of a recent fusion, particularly since the same chromosome sequences are present in both individuals.

In some cases, differences in chromosome number can result in the offspring being sterile. This is, in fact, what happens in mules. However, that type of thing doesn't happen right after a fusion. It happens once enough changes have occurred in the fused chromosomes that they can no longer line up with their unfused counterparts.

There are actually some populations of Drosophila species that are polymorphic in their number of chromosomes. That means that, within the species, some individuals will have the chromosome fusion, and others will not. The two types interbreed freely.

Luskin concludes:
Miller may have found good empirical evidence for a chromosomal fusion event. But all of our experience with mammalian genetics tells us that such a chromosomal aberration should have resulted in a non-viable mutant, or non-viable offspring. Thus, Neo-Darwinism has a hard time explaining why such a random fusion event was somehow advantageous.

If it were to turn out that the fusion of two chromosomes can only result in a viable individual if the fusion event takes place in a highly unlikely and highly specified manner, then we may actually be looking at a case for a non-Darwinian intelligent design event in the history of the human genus.
Actually, none of our experience with mammalian genetics tells us that a chromosome fusion should have resulted in either a non-viable or a non-fertile offspring. In fact, our knowledge of Drosophila genetics - coupled with our evolutionarily-informed understanding that fly genetics are not all that different from mammalian genetics - tells us that these sort of fusions don't usually have any impact on the viability or fertility of the offspring.

Mr. Luskin's criticisms are, as always, poorly informed. Dr. Miller, unlike Casey, understands biology and evolution. His choice of the chromosome differences between humans and apes was a very good example of evidence for common descent.

09 October 2005

It really does matter if it's right.

I just read, for the second time, an article by Doug Kern that's available at Tech Central Station. After my blood pressure came back down a bit, the article got me to thinking. The tone of the piece is annoying and condescending, and there is far more in it that is wrong than is right, but it illustrates a number of the political problems that we face all too well.

The title of the article is, "Why Intelligent Design is Going to Win." The thesis statement is short and simple: "Intelligent Design theory is destined to supplant Darwinism as the primary scientific explanation for the origin of human life. ID will be taught in public schools as a matter of course."

The first flaw, of many, in the article is in this thesis statement. One thing which, I think people frequently fail to fully understand is that the current battle over Intelligent Design has absolutely nothing to do with anything other than getting ID taught in public schools. It certainly has nothing to do with the actual validity of the "theory". It has still less to do with what the primary scientific explanation for the origin of human life will be. Intelligent Design could be force fed down the throat of every American schoolchild for the next century, but that will not make it the primary scientific explanation for the origin of human life. Scientists will continue to study evolution, until such time as evolutionary theory is supplanted by another scientific theory. That will happen only if empirical, scientifically testable hypotheses are presented, tested, and if they pass repeated tests.

Allow me to be clear on one point here: I am not arguing that teaching Intelligent Design to every child in every school in America would accomplish nothing. If I believed that, I'd be pretty damn silly to be arguing about it. Actually, I think that teaching Intelligent Design in the public schools would accomplish a large number of things. It would, for starters, prove that if you try hard enough, you really can obfuscate your way around the constitution. It will also serve to put a set of religious beliefs into the public school classroom - beliefs that run counter to my own - and force me to pay to have those beliefs taught to my children. It will further reduce the already pitiful level of scientific literacy in our country. It will accelerate a brain drain that is already taking place, and it will serve to hasten the country's slide from first-world status. That's just some of what teaching Intelligent Design will accomplish.

Kern goes on to present the reasons that he believes that Intelligent Design will one day rule the country:
ID will win because it's a religion-friendly, conservative-friendly, red-state kind of theory
Please note that this may be true, but it says absolutely nothing about the scientific merits of Intelligent Design. I hope it isn't true, but I am afraid that it is.

Kern gives some reasons to justify this statement:
The most vocal non-scientist proponents of ID are those delightfully fertile Catholics, Evangelicals, and similarly right-leaning middle-class college-educated folk -- the kind whose children will inherit the country. Eventually, the social right will have the sheer manpower to teach ID wherever they please.
That was one of the statements that had me almost literally seeing red. The founders of our nation shed blood to establish a society founded, in part, on the principle that the government should not be used as a tool to advance religion. Kern apparently believes that once they have enough people, the religious right can ignore that, and push religious beliefs on the remaining minority - despite the fact that we have a constitution specifically to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. What's worse is that this jackass doesn't seem to find anything wrong with that position.

Kern goes on:
Belief in ID does nothing to make believers less capable in science or engineering. No geek in the world will find his computer mojo diminished because of his opinions on irreducible complexity. To the contrary: ID might make biology and the natural sciences more appealing to believers who might otherwise find science to be too far removed from God's presence.
Actually, belief in ID does make you less capable in biology. That's the result of the whole "evolution is the core concept that unites biology" thing. Another article, this one on Jeb Bush and ID, makes the point quite nicely:
University science professors and a national group that had concerns about how science curriculum was rewritten in Minnesota say it's ironic that Florida would spend hundreds of millions of dollars to woo The Scripps Research Institute to the state, yet hire a top educator who does not accept Darwinian evolution — something Scripps scientists say they prove every day in their experiments.

Not satisfied with the hole he's dug for himself, Kern goes on to provide more of the reasons that he thinks ID will win: "2) ID will win because the pro-Darwin crowd is acting like a bunch of losers." Well, I guess that's as good as any to throw out the cornerstone of biology - the people who support it act like losers. Kerns continues:
Vitriol, condescension, and endless accusations of bad faith all characterize far too much of the standard pro-Darwinian response to criticism.
Vitriol is common, and it is becomming more common. It would be nice if we could all maintain our composure as nicely as Douggie "they're acting like losers" Kerns does, but it can be hard sometimes. This is especially true for scientists in the face of the continuing creationist assault. We spend hours working in the field and lab for every minute that they spend spewing out their nonsense to non-scientific audiences. Keeping cool becomes increasingly difficult under the circumstances. There are also frequent accusations of bad faith. That's because the creationists frequently display bad faith. Don't just take my word for that. Go look at the trial transcripts from this week, where numerous witnesses document the efforts that the Dover school board made to add creationism to the curriculum, before settling on the current ID maneuver. Then look at the way that they keep claiming that their motives were entirely secular. Look at the Meyer affair. Or the Leonard affair. Or at any number of other incidents through the years.

Here, though, we again find one of the more frustrating realities that we are faced with. We are dealing with opponents who will make inaccurate, misleading, and dishonest claims, and then claim that we are whiners when we point that out. It must be nice to argue without having to worry about your scruples acting up. I really should try it someday.

Kerns continues:
A reasonable observer might note that many ID advocates appear exceptionally well-educated, reasonable, and articulate; they might also note that ID advocates have pointed out many problems with the Darwinist catechism that even pro-Darwin scientists have been known to concede, when they think the Jesus-kissing crowd isn't listening.
Back in the good old days of usenet, this sort of thing used to be called the "lurkers support me in email" argument. Making a blanket statement about things that go on behind the scenes, without providing evidence to support any of it, is a common strategy. It's not a particularly honest strategy, but it is common. To the best of my own knowledge, as someone who has put a hell of a lot of time into both dealing with creationist lunacy and into studying evolution, the Intelligent Design folks have not made a single contribution to the field in any way - and that includes pointing out substantive problems with evolution.

The next reason that he gives is my favorite: "ID will win because it can be reconciled with any advance that takes place in biology, whereas Darwinism cannot yield even an inch of ground to ID."

Isn't it a wonderful argument? What he's saying boils down to this: ID will win because it can't possibly be refuted. To a lawyer like Kerns, that's a fantastic strength in an argument. To a scientist, that's proof that an argument is completely non-scientific in nature. Lest you think that I am somehow misrepresenting Kerns, here's the rest of this argument:
So you've discovered the missing link? Proven that viruses distribute super-complex DNA proteins? Shown that fractals can produce evolution-friendly three-dimensional shapes? It doesn't matter. To the ID mind, you're just pushing the question further down the road. How was the missing link designed? What is the origin of the viruses? Who designed the fractals? ID has already made its peace with natural selection and the irrefutable aspects of Darwinism. By contrast, Darwinism cannot accept even the slightest possibility that it has failed to explain any significant dimension of evolution. It must dogmatically insist that it will resolve all of its ambiguities and shortcomings -- even the ones that have lingered since the beginning of Darwinism. The entire edifice of Darwinian theory comes crashing down with even a single credible demonstration of design in any living thing. Can science really plug a finger into every hole in the Darwinian dyke for the next fifty years?
I really wish I could give this to the judge in the Dover case. This sums up, better than anything else that I have seen, the scientific principles involved. Evolution is a scientific theory. It has been subjected to tests, it is being subjected to tests, and it will continue to be subjected to tests. It stands a very real chance of failing some of these. It might, conceivably, be shown to be wrong. If it is, we will have to replace it with a better explanation, and that new explanation will have to be tested, retested, and tested again. If it fails, it will have to be replaced with a better explanation, and the process will continue. That is how knowledge advances. Intelligent Design, on the other hand, cannot be subjected to tests. It cannot be proven wrong ever, under any circumstances. It will be an explanation that cannot be replaced. That is how knowledge stands still.

Kerns has a couple of more reasons for his belief, relating to a perceived need to change the way science works in order to accommodate information theory (he seems to be blissfully unaware that information theory is doing just fine as things are) and the ability of humans to perceive design. (He argues that just because we are hardwired to detect design doesn't mean that design isn't there.) In the interests of getting a decent night's sleep, I'm going to slide past those and move on to his conclusion:
The only remaining question is whether Darwinism will exit gracefully, or whether it will go down biting, screaming, censoring, and denouncing to the bitter end.

It's tempting to let the nation go to hell in its own, uniquely American way, but I can't. For some strange reason, I think that it is important for us to give our children the best education that we can. In my mind, a twisted, unrecognizably distorted view of science doesn't begin to enter that picture. Mr. Kern might hope that we will go gently, but that will not happen. Intelligent Design is bad science, it is worse theology, and it is built on a foundation of dishonesty. The entire world could embrace it, but that wouldn't change those basic facts.

Not one of the reasons that Kerns gave to support his belief in the inevitable success of Intelligent Design has anything to do with the question of whether or not Intelligent Design is correct, or even whether it is scientific. To a certain degree, this makes sense. The battle over ID is not a scientific one, but a political struggle. Sadly, whether or not a position is right or wrong has become totally irrelevant to modern politics. Perception, spin, and how to manipulate popular opinion matter. Truth is meaningless.

I am not a politician. I am a scientist. Like most scientists, I believe that reality matters. Truth matters. Science matters. This may place me at odds with politicians. It may not endear me to Kerns and his ilk. It may not make me popular. None of that matters. I will not "go gracefully." I will stand up for what I know is right. To teach Intelligent Design is to lie to our children. That is wrong, and it does matter.

Another Dover news carnival

After spending most of the week stranded deep in the mire of proposal writing, I've rewarded myself with a day off. Actually, it's not so much a matter of rewarding myself as it is a matter of attempting to resusitate the last remaining shreds of my sanity. So instead of continuing to pickle my brains in the volumnous literature surrounding the history of genetic divergence in various species of Drosophila, I decided to take some time to skim through a number of the news articles that the Dover trial has spawned in the last week. (Why I thought this would help maintain my sanity should serve to indicate just how brain-corroding the scientific proposal process actually is.)

Rather than taking as inclusive a look as I did last time, I think I'm mostly going to focus on the more annoying articles this time. It might just have been my mood this week, but it certainly felt like there was a heck of a lot more stupidity being aired this time.

To lead things off, we have an editorial in the York Daily Record. This was somewhat disappointing, since their coverage of the whole Dover affair has been, overall, outstanding. (I should probably note that the author is a copy editor, and that this may constitute "community opinion" rather than that of the editorial board. In his piece, titled: "Don't settle for separate but equal", Dave Dentel writes:
The truth is that anyone who’s being intellectually honest will admit that science can never be divorced from religion, that a person’s philosophical outlook will always affect how he or she interprets nature’s phenomena. Honest people will also admit that Darwinism supports a definite philosophy about nature, one that is hostile to theistic faith held by many Americans.

This is why I find the Dover plaintiffs’ arguments disingenuous. Their witnesses, like many adherents to Darwinism, insist modern science respects religion when in reality it marginalizes it and usurps its authority.
Mr. Dentel needs to learn that "his religion" is not necessarily equal to "all religion", and that there is a big difference between "hostile to theistic faith" and "hostile to a theistic faith". There are plenty of people out there who really do believe that science provides the best explanation for the way that the physical world works, but that science also only explans how the world works. The why questions are not addressable by science, but that does not make them any less real. Dentel goes on to conclude with this set of concerns:
What does this means for students? It means that explicitly and implicitly they’re taught that science trumps faith.

It means they learn that men in white lab coats — the ones who offer medicines, iPods and weapons of mass destruction — speak with greater authority than pastors, rabbis and priests. It means they’ll be told the reason they exist is no reason at all, just chance, mutation and blind law.

And chances are they’ll believe it, because after all, it’s based on science.
Mr. Dentel, scientists do speak with more authority than pastors, rabbis, and priests - when it comes to the nature of the physical world. That does not mean that scientists should be accepted as speaking with authority when they talk about things, like meaning, that are beyond the nature of science. If students believe that science trumps faith, it is because fools like you - or, for that matter, like Richard Dawkins - continue to insist that there is an absolute, either/or choice between science and religion.

Moving along, the Kingsport (Tennessee) Times-News ran an article on "local debate". I honestly can't tell why they used the word "debate" in the headline, since there really wasn't much of one there. They presented the malformed opinions of some twit of a "biology" teacher at a local "Christian" school, and then, presumably for balance, decided to close the article with the "contrasting" views of a lawyer/preacher who is a firm Intelligent Design proponent. The net effect of the article was to convince me that Kingsport is definitely not going to appear on the list of the ten places I want to move to. (This news will probably come as a relief to them, too.) The article quotes one Dora Phillips, who, it is alleged, is a "biology" teacher at a local "Christian School":
Phillips does not pretend to be unbiased about her approach.

"We have our own bias that are opposed to evolutionists' views. Evolutionists have biases too."
She's right. I freely admit it. I'm biased. I have a massive, bias that nobody will ever be able to shift me from. I firmly believe that it is an absolute moral wrong to teach children material that is nothing short of a flat-out lie. Phillips continues:
"Good science is based on three things: observations, the ability to measure those observations, and the repeatability of those measurements and observations. If those three things are not there, then it is a theory, not science," she said. "Creationists have not seen God design the universe, but evolutionists have not seen anything evolve from one species to another species, so we have a little more support than the evolutionists."
Wow. I realize that this is a private school, and that it doesn't receive government funding, but I still can't believe that anyone finds it acceptable to have someone who clearly lacks any comprehension of the way science really works teach the topic. The article then shifts the focus of the "debate" from this so-called "teacher" to Doug Tweed, who is a Methodist minister and a lawyer:
"This is not a case about defending religion. This is a case about defending truth as it is being discovered in the scientific community, and at the same time, trying to shed some light on the fact the position taken by the plaintiffs, even though they deny it, also has a religious motivation to deny the existence of God," Tweed said.
No, Doug. This isn't about anything that is being "discovered in the scientific community." Were it, there would actually be some discussion taking place in the scientific community. Not in courtrooms, not in schoolboard meetings, not in newspaper op-eds, but in scientific journals, at scientific conferences, and above all else, in laboratories.

Next on our list of unintelligent commentary on intelligent design, we have an opinion piece by Charlie Mitchell, editor of the Vicksburg (Mississippi) Post. Mitchell attempts to depict the current court case as a battle between the extremists on two sides of a religious battle:
Evolution has become the norm in science textbooks — underline science. In some jurisdictions, creationists have objected. Although they may want more, they insist that "intelligent design" must at least be mentioned.

This, in turn, spurred the ever-vigilant church-state separation crowd into fits of protest. They insist that for a teacher to mention the possibility of a guiding force in the universe is tantamount to trying to trick vulnerable little minds into becoming — oh no — Christians. Few will admit it, but from their narrow view, they believe Christians are the bane of human existence.
It's interesting, in a way. The more obvious it becomes in court that the Dover school board was motivated by religion, the more desparate people like Mitchell become to depict those opposed to the Dover school board as being motivated by religion, too.

That paragon of Moonie virtue, The Washington Times, has an OpEd on the topic by one Woody Zimmerman. Mr. Zimmerman, in a farily short article, manages to trot out just about every tired old creationist standard that the world has ever seen. I particularly enjoyed this one:
Darwinism's "holy grail" would be species-crossovers found in the fossil record to fill those pesky "gaps." But the grail remains elusive. Occasionally a jawbone or tooth, etc., has been proclaimed as evidence of a long-sought "missing link." These hopes have died when the artifact traced to one species or another, never to an intermediate.
As far as fighting creationists goes, I sometimes think that it would be better if we never found another intermediate - because, as far as jokers like this are concerned, every time we find an intermediate it just gives them two new gaps to complain about - one on each side of the new find.

There's more idiocy out there, but that just about does it for my tolerance this week. But don't worry. The trial's not over for a while yet, so we should see plenty more foolishness before it's all over.