Monday, September 24, 2012

#353: Granville Sewell

Edward Granville Sewell is a mathematician, intelligent design advocate, and currently a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Texas, El Paso. He does presumably know math. His understanding of science is, however, sorely deficient.

Sewell is signatory to the Discovery Institute's A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism petition and has had (in 2000) an anti-evolutionary article published in The Mathematical Intelligencer. This is cited by the Discovery Institute as one of the “Peer-Reviewed & Peer-Edited Scientific Publications Supporting the Theory of Intelligent Design”, an assertion rejected by people who actually manage to distinguish science from delusional rants, including Judge Jones in the Dover trial.

In this and other articles the main claim reiterated ad nauseam is the claim that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics (more here). It isn’t better supported than it sounds, and even Sewell’s attempts to battle strawmen is somewhat quixotic. Jason Rosenhouse’s Intelligencer article “How Anti-evolutionists Abuse Mathematics” is directly targeted at Sewell, as is his “Does Evolution Have a Thermodynamics Problem?”. Mark Perakh called Sewell’s work “depressingly fallacious”. Sewell’s “experiments” are, well, not exactly what scientists would call experiments, and his proposed “laws” aren’t what scientists would count as scientific laws. And as most creationist Sewell doesn’t see that even if evolution were to fail, it wouldn’t mean that Intelligent Design creationism is correct unless someone had actually formulated a theory, some predictions, and garnered independent support through testing.

Sewell also writes for Dembski’s blog “Uncommon Descent” (no link to the actual blog provided).

Diagnosis: “Sewell is to thermodynamics as Sal Cordova is to a) biochemistry, b) information theory, c) classical mechanics, d) all of the above” (Blake Stacey). He is also a professional but not very successful bane of strawmen. A pawn in the denialist movement.

Since we’re covering the fallacious second law arguments against evolution, it might be timely to bring up the all time classic quote on the issue.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

#352: Jay Seegert and the cssmwi

John Scudamore, the guy who runs (and apparently believes everything written on) is British (Herefordshire), so unfortunately he has to be disqualified.

CSSMWI and its leader Jay Seegert are Milwaukee-based, however. CSSMWI stands for “Creation Science Society of Milwaukee”. Their website is here. Now, societies like cssmwi exist throughout the US and there is probably nothing particular about this one. This entry should thus stand as a representative for all such pockets of denialist lunacy anywhere.

In any case, CSSMWI is your typical Reversia stronghold where the idea of science is literal interpretation of the Bible and rejecting all evidence that cannot fit smoothly with the reading of the Bible that Seegert and his crew think best fit their preconceptions. They have helpful subsites on “Evolution is Religion, not science”, “Genomes project data indicate a young human race”, “radioisotope dating” (they have absolutely no clue) and the standard canards and fallacies generally promulgated on sites like this.

Jay Seegert is their ringleader; he is the President & Principal Lecturer for the Creation Education Center, as well as a national speaker for Creation Ministries International (the world’s largest creation organization). Yes, it’s all about lectures and reaching out to the children; the “research” part of science seems to have been lost on them: their website has a lot on Seegert’s background as a minister; none on his research work, rather unsurprisingly.

Their other speakers include:
- Keith A. Robinson, who’s written a novel about the origin of life and the universe as he sees it and is therefore a qualified researcher.
- Kitty Foth-Regner, whose scientific data for creationism comprise revelation, wishful thinking and appeal to emotion.
- Ken Bahr, high school teacher “prepared to teach your kids in church and at school”.
- Russ Hanson, who has a bachelor’s degree in science.
- Gary Locklair, a professor of Computer Science at Concordia University and probably the most dangerous of the lot.
- Jerry Frye, who is president of an employee benefit brokerage firm.
- Nathan Jastram, head of the Theology Department at Concordia University who has worked on the Dead Sea Scrolls, which “demonstrate the extreme accuracy of the copying of Biblical manuscripts, contrary to the assumptions of evolutionary scholars and others.” Yes, those dastardly evolutionary scholars; they always threaten to oppose Jastram’s firm confirmation bias.

Diagnosis: Overall, these people are actually really dangerous, and do a lot of harm by spreading denialism, ignorance and lies. There’s really nothing cute about them, despite their rather helpless take on reality.

#351: Michael Schwartz

Michael Schwartz is a nutjob chief of staff for senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma (at least he used to be), whose job seems to have been to make Coburn come off as the paragon of intellect, integrity, sanity and reasonability. With the clinically insane moron Jim Inhofe as his sidekick, one wonders why Schwartz was deemed necessary. He nevertheless failed: despite his own lunacy, there is no way Schwartz is going to make Coburn come off as sane.

Anyway, Schwartz is notable for his claim that “All pornography is homosexual pornography, because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards”. The purpose of the point, although a little unclear, seems to have been to tell kids that “porn is not cool”. That does not make the claim any better, really. It did make it to the Daily Show, however.

Schwartz also has views about the legal system.

Diagnosis: Quite delusional. He seems to be able to button his own shirt (who knows), but that’s about as far as his intellectual capacities go. Impact unknown