Last Sunday's Cosmos took on the related concepts of extinction and climate change, topics I’ve had on my mind since reviewing The Sixth Extinction and interviewing author Elizabeth Kolbert.

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William Blake, "Ancient of Days" (1794)

The website of the magazine First Things recently featured a response by Stephen H. Webb, one of the magazine’s columnists, to Stephen Meredith’s essay entitled “Looking for God in All the Wrong Places,” which appeared in the February 2014 issue of First Things.

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Crystal Disco. ballA Crystal disco ball to celebrate the crystal anniversary of the Disco. 'tute's entry into the creationism business.
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Physical model of a bacterial flagellum

Recall that William A. Dembski, in his No Free Lunch (2002), posed the twin questions “Is intelligent design falsifiable? Is Darwinism falsifiable?” and answered, “Yes to the first question, no to the second question.” In part 1, I explained that although the questions are posed in terms of falsifiability, he in fact reformulates falsifiability as refutability (explicitly in The Design Revolution [2004]), claims that “intelligent design” is refutable, and (implicitly) concludes that “intelligent design” is therefore scientific. But, I noted, he fails to ensure that refutability is capable of playing the same role as falsifiability in providing a plausible criterion for what is and what is not scientific. Either it is not so capable (if it is construed so as to classify Popper’s examples of non-sciences as scientific) or (if it is construed to classify Popper’s examples of non-sciences as non-scientific) there is no independent reason to believe that it will classify “intelligent design” as scientific.

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Physical model of a bacterial flagellum

“Is intelligent design falsifiable? Is Darwinism falsifiable? Yes to the first question, no to the second question.” You might think that it’s Michael Behe again; after all, he’s on the record as having asserted, “ID is quite susceptible to falsification” while “Darwinism seems quite impervious to falsification.” (He said so in his “The Modern Intelligent Design Hypothesis” [2001]; I argued that he was mistaken in “Falsifia-behe-lity,” and noted in “Falsifia-behe-lity on the Edge” that he seems to have quietly abandoned the claim by the time of his second book, The Edge of Evolution [2007].) But no. Instead, it’s William A. Dembski, the chief theoretical architect of the “intelligent design” movement, in his No Free Lunch (2002). You might think that, since Dembski, unlike Behe, is trained in philosophy, that his argument will be clearer, crisper, and perhaps even not obviously misguided. But, again, no.

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Physical model of a bacterial flagellum

As a dog returneth to his vomit, I seem to be returning to, if not my folly, then Michael Behe’s folly. (I was going to try a pun here with “folly” and “falsifiability”—possibly involving “follysifiability”—but it was too much of a strain.) Previously, I was examining Behe’s arguments about the falsifiability of “intelligent design” and what he calls “Darwinism” in a 2001 paper entitled “The Modern Intelligent Design Hypothesis.” I argued (in “Falsifia-behe-lity”) that his attempt to turn the tables, by contending that “intelligent design” is but “Darwinism” is not falsifiable, fails. And then I argued (in “Falsifia-behe-lity Revisited”) that his accusation that his critics are trying to have their cake and eat it too, by arguing that “intelligent design” is both falsified and unfalsifiable, also fails. But those discussions concentrated just on that 2001 paper, so I decided to take a look at Behe’s two books to see what, if anything, he says about falsifiability there.

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Of Pandas and PeopleLast  Friday was the eighth anniversary of “Kitzmas,” the December, 20, 2005 ruling in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case involving “intelligent design” creationism. Unless you’ve just stepped off the Beagle from your epic eight-year round-the-world expedition, you know that this ruling was an unequivocal victory for science.

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’Twas the night before Kitzmas and all through the land,
No creationist was stirring, not even Ken Ham;
The briefs had been drafted and filed with great care,
In hopes that Judge Jones’s decision’d be fair;
The plaintiffs were nestled all snug in their beds,
While Bill of Rights visions ran round in their heads;
And Nick blogged for PT, and Vic played The Boss,
And fretted and fussed o’er the chance of a loss,

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After last month’s Texas textbook vote, I was ready to declare total victory. I wrote:

It's a joy to be able to report on a sweeping victory for science education in Texas, and to be able to give an eyewitness report of the fight over the textbooks that will be used in that massive textbook market for years to come.

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