Stan sums up his feelings regarding the theory of evolution by natural selection (TENS, for short):

First, evolution resulting in speciation requires mutation; possibly introgression; and sexual selection. I am now able quote sources on this.

I'd like to see them. As far as I can see, there's absolutely no requirement for sexual selection. Asexual populations evolve as well. And, I think Stan's too hung up on mutations, especially in terms of their randomness. Mutations happen constantly, whether the populations in question speciate, or no. You might say it is a built-in feature of living things. One could just as well say that 'evolution resulting in speciation requires reproduction.'

Second, I am still unaware of real examples of true speciation, with the single possible exception of ring species, which I still have under study. I am not convinced that the species ever really were the same identical creature; that is not empirically provable. It appears to be another extrapolation of fortuitous circumstances, ie, circumstantial evidence.

The classic unlooked-for case of incipient speciation was stumbled upon, quite by accident, by Dobzhansky's group in the late 1950's and spawned a fascinating series of articles, many of which are available at the PNAS archives. The Drosophila literature is filled with this stuff, but what makes the Llanos B strain of D. paulistorium so intriguing is that it appears to be sympatric with other populations. It's been suggested that somewhere between the Orinoco basin and the lab that some of the flies got 'jet lag', and habitually bred later than other varieties whose internal clocks were less brittle. These flies were effectively separated from other flies with which they might have interbred in the wild.

Whether or not a mutation was instrumental was not actually determined in the initial research, though I should confess for Stan's benefit that I am certain that mutations occurred both before and after the speciation event. For me, bottom line, there are other mechanisms besides point mutations which, when coupled with some form of isolation, c
an lead to speciation. Stan, I would encourage you to go to the PNAS site and just search under 'Drosophila paulistorium' or 'Dobzhansky' and enjoy the reads. They are surprisingly accessible, tokens of an earlier time in biology before the molecular revolution had hit its stride.

And, for a very specific and recent instance of Drosophila sp. undergoing speciation in the wild,
check out this article. It's part of a burgeoning literature on in situ evolution in various taxa from a model site in Israel that's been christened 'Evolution Canyon', whose usefulness can be seen in this graphic, from Johannes Sikorski's home page:

If the usefulness of this location doesn't immediately suggest itself, Sikorski has a very thorough explanation on his site which I commend to everyone.


Some may recall that early on his Tonight Show career, talk show host Jay Leno was not above a covert operation:

Jay Leno has admitted that soon after he debuted as host of the Tonight show, he was so worried about negative critical and audience reaction -- and about being replaced -- that he hid in the closets of NBC executives so that he could eavesdrop on their conversations about him.

Now, low and behold, Science Blogger and All-Around Evil Atheist Conspirator PZ Myers has pulled a similar stunt. The gall! The chutzpah! The envy that I'm feeling!

Separated at birth?

(Be warned: the comments are a bit hot and heavy. I probably should've distinguished between Dr. Myers's opportunity to be a 'fly on the wall'---which I did envy----and the way he reacted. But, as I see it, I might have well reacted the same way under the circumstances. We're all capable of being provoked,and I certainly provoked some commenters, sad to say)



This is my 300th post since beginning this blog about 11 months ago. I've somehow managed to average a post a day. Not that big a deal when compared to the profligacy of some, but something of a surprise to me. I never imagined I would end up posting so often.

Also, I've had about 8,000 visitors in the last 72 hours, largely due to my glomming onto the hubbub about 'Expelled.' I hope most of my visitors found what I had to share helpful or interesting, and it tickles me to get that amount of traffic. Again, a surprise to me, and again a definite milestone.

I would like to thank two people, especially, for encouraging me to start blogging on my own. One is my friend and colleague Madhusudan Khatti. The other is my friend Calladus of CVASS. Thanks, gentlemen. You were right, and I'm glad that I listened to your advice.



Two big events that I want to share, of interest to science-lovers and skeptics alike.

First, on Monday, April 7th, the latest installment of Central Valley Cafe Scientifique. CSU Fresno physicist Ray Hall will bring us a presentation entitled: "Deep Time: The Amazing Age of the Earth and Universe". The show starts at 6:30 PM at Lucy's Lair, in Fresno.

Then, on Friday, April 18th, New Covenant Community Church is sponsoring a debate between Dinesh D'Souza and Michael Shermer entitled "The God Question", at the South Gym at Fresno State, free of charge to the general public on a first-come, first-served basis. Local celebrity/conservative radio talk show host Ray Appleton will be moderating and a sizeable crowd is expected. If you're on the skeptical side, it may be prudent to RSVP here.

This is all part of a weekend series that continues on Saturday (this part costs money, though) at New Cov, which will include a dialog between Christian apologists and representative members of CVASS, which I have been asked to moderate.

More details to come!


There was a bad link in this post, but I think it's fixed now.



A reader is skeptical about some of the particular issues I have with the veracity of the 'Expelled' production team. For example, my critic notes that I've inferred that Premise Media produces evangelical-friendly fare, and writes:

You've yet to establish that Premise Media is "evangelical"...

Fair enough. Here's what I've got, so far. All the names listed can be found on the Premise Media site under 'Principal Bios'. Anybody else with more info, please do pass it along....

Co-founder A. Logan Craft
is identified as a minister and TV producer on the American board of the Canadian Center for Cultural Renewal. These facts are curiously absent from the Premise Media web site. Craft spills the beans to a Southern Baptist site, but plainly thinks the filmmaker's religious identity irrelevant:

"Understand that although all the producers are Christians and we have, let’s say, complementary views about most moral issues, I can’t say we came to this project with any uniform view or underlying agenda."

Yet, in the same interview, Craft remarks that Ben Stein was chosen in part because one of his colleagues "had a real insight, we believe, into the necessity to have a person, first of all, who wasn’t overtly Christian or overtly religious."

Screenwriter Kevin Miller
is an evangelical Christian who describes his background as "four years of Bible college, one year of seminary, and nearly ten years of researching and writing Christian books under my belt" prior to entering the film industry. These facts also not on the Premise site, but I dug them up in this blog of his.

Producer Mark Mathis is interviewed here by YEC Carl Weiland. Mathis is coy on the age-of-the-Earth but otherwise delivers the sort of boilerplate statement that I associate with evangelicals and Biblical literalism. I can sympathize with his points, I just don't share his perceptions. You can decide for yourself. By the way, both Mathis and Craft are New Mexicans who were on the record as pro-ID a few years back. No agenda? Ahem!

Marketing Director Paul Lauer worked on grass-roots marketing for previous films targeting evangelicals, among them The Passion of the Christ and The Chronicles of Narnia. His web site talks about tapping into the 'Faith and Family Market'.

To get an idea of his schtick, check out this Slate article on his promotion of "The Polar Express." Very slick. Does that make him an evangelical? Maybe not. Does it make him an expert in the advertising industry on marketing to evangelicals. Oh, yes. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then....well, you can see where I'm going with this. My skeptic adds:

...and you presume the money is coming from them.

Or being funneled through them, as some suggest, through investors. However, interestingly enough, the CEO is a software engineer who retired at age 32 with $120 million worth of Microsoft stock back in 1998, a fella named Walt Ruloff. Lord knows what he's worth now. If he's not a billionaire, he's close. This is a guy who doesn't need investors to make a film! On the other hand, he doesn't need either investors or a film to share HIS evangelical roots.


My Mom and Dad recently toured Southern California, in part to promote his book 'Flat Out!', and in part to meet motor sports enthusiast Jay Leno and tape a segment on motorcycles for Mr. Leno's web site "Jay Leno's Garage." Here's late night's most celebrated profile posing with my parents during the taping session. Mom and Dad have a running gag going with their Sunday School class about Dad's 'close personal friend', so they wanted to share the candid shot above with me.

Hey, and guess what?


An intelligent if often adversarial reader of my blog wonders why I would call the people who crafted the movie 'Expelled' liars. What's the evidence, he wonders? Well....

Let's ignore the purported 'Darwin caused the Holocaust' argument which is supposed to occupy a substantial portion of the film. I haven't seen the film, and I'm not going to judge its merits until I've seen it, but for the record I think that is a deeply misleading argument, the kind of faux history whose only intent is to slur the scientific community.

Here, I'm referring specifically to the manner in which Stein, Mathis and Company have created the film and the way they have represented themselves since that point.

What are the facts? For one thing, they solicited interviews and gathered footage under false pretenses. While interviewing PZ, Dr. D and others, they told them they were making a film called 'Crossroads', which was billed as a general exploration of the interaction between science and faith. PZ posts the letter with which he was contacted here, along with a screen shot of the blurb for 'Crossroads' that at one point appeared on the Rampant Films site (it has since been removed).

The well-respected Times science writer Cornelia Dean interviewed the Rampant executives, and their statements can be found here. They essentially claim there was no deceit, and it was a marketing decision to change the name from 'Crossroads' to 'Expelled', the difference in descriptions between the two films not withstanding.

Well, that's just a lie. Wesley Elsberry researched the matter and found that the domain name for 'Expelled the Movie' was created back in Feb. of 2007, long before Dawkins, Myers et al were interviewed. No domain name was ever created for 'Crossroads.' Also, at the time the interviews were done, Rampant Films was not identified as a subsidiary of the more obviously-evangelical Premise Media , as it is now. Again, this was part of their deception, as investigation of their purported office address shows.

I won't bother trying to parse the competing accusations of dishonesty from both sides over the 'PZ Expulsion Affair', but based on their prior conduct, I find their denials and shifting explanations more than a bit hard to swallow.



Incredibly, there are those within the science blogging community who take exception to Dr. D and PZ's attempt to view the 'Expelled' documentary. Apparently those two are the wrong messengers, and they should, for the good of science, just clam up.

That didn't sit too well with other science bloggers, who are currently giving both Matt Nesbit and Chris Mooney a hard time, so much so that Chris remarks:

The abuse being heaped on Nisbet, and me, speaks for itself. I can only assume that we are challenging dogmas that are just as deeply held as any religious belief.

Well, Chris, I've already posted at Dr. Nisbet's site, but for the record I'm a theist. If this were actually about a direct attempt to spin 'evolution-as-the-catspaw-for-atheism' I might share your concern.

But the 'PZ Expulsion Affair' is not about evolution, or even about science. It's about speaking the truth to power. The filmmakers are liars, Chris, and you and Matt's high-minded appeal to PZ and Dr. D amounts to giving them a free pass. The idea that atheists who have been lied to shouldn't make a big stink about it, just because they are atheists, how does that work? Well, it won't work even if you get a theist like me in there to carry the message, Chris, because anyone who holds these guy's feet to the fire is going to be called an atheist whether they are, or not. The same card will be played, the same script will be recited.

Instead of blaming PZ and Dr. D for pointing out the dishonesty and the hypocrisy, let's put the fault for this affair where it lies. If Mr. Mathis had simply ignored PZ, this wouldn't be splashed all over the media right now. But he just couldn't stand the idea of an outspoken atheist in attendance. He acted unwisely. If he hoped to provoke a controversy, it has clearly backfired. Why? Because the issue is no longer whether or not ID is getting a fair case in the court of scientific opinion. The issue is why these guys are such obvious, clueless, liars.

In my most assertive voice: FRAME THAT!


The purpose of symbols is to remind us of the realities for which they stand.

Easter, for example, is filled with symbols of fertility: eggs, rabbits and cute little chicks:

The above picture, for example, was sent to me via email and labeled 'The Ultimate Peep Show.' Now, if celebrating reproduction and the general fecundity of living things doesn't seem that reminiscent of the risen Lord to you, there's a reason for that: much of the traditions associated with Easter were pagan in origin.

Now, pagan need not mean 'debased', 'uncivilized' or 'anti-Christian', a fact that seems to escape the Biblical literalist who fondly longs for a 'seamless garment' of belief. Here's a few quotes from such a believer. Savor, if you like, the sheer craziness of this inflexible brand of Christianity:

" God is very clear in his directives against the celebration of this Pagan holiday that Christians now universally celebrate as Christmas. God calls this an abomination! Christians celebrate December 25th blindly believe they are honoring the birth of Jesus, when they are in reality honoring the Pagan god Tammuz."

"Though the deified queen, whom Astarte represented, had no actual existence till some centuries after the flood, yet through the doctrine of metampsychosis, which was firmly established in Babylon, it was easy for her worshippers to be made to believe that, in a previous incarnation, she had lived in the Antediluvian world and passed safely through the waters of the flood. The Roman Catholic Church then adopted this mystic egg of Astarte, and consecrated it as a symbol of Christ's resurrection."

Valentine's day also has occultic origins. Cupid (Tammuz/Osiris/Nimrod) is the son of the Greek goddess, Venus (Semiramis). Venus, is the daughter of the Greek god Jupiter, the head god (Nimrod, the sun god of Babylon, and Ra, the sun god of Egypt). Cupid is depicted with a bow and arrow, a reminder of Nimrod being a "mighty hunter" (Genesis 10:9)."

" This is the Adversary's clever deception - Paganism dressed up in Christian clothes! It's still nothing more than Paganism, but the Christian churches have wholeheartedly embraced this deception."

To say that this author is missing the point is an understatement! Sure, Christian tradition has its pagan roots. That doesn't make it un-Christian,or an endorsement of paganism, any more than the influence of our deist Founding Fathers makes our Constitution anti-Christian. The entire notion that these holidays are 'occult' comes from the mindset of people who want us to be scandalized by the 'revelation' of the 'secrets' that they possess. Truly, I say unto you, that 'Christian' literature on such topics is often occult literature. What is Hal Lindsey and his ilk, but a cottage industry within Christianity offering to share with you the secrets of the 'End Times'?

Anyway, back to Easter. Yes, some of the traditions associated with Easter are syncretisms, and perhaps they sometimes flourished because they made the new religion of Christianity more 'user-friendly' to pagans used to their own tradition. But that is not why these symbols have been maintained! No, the fertility symbols, and their embedding in the coming of the spring, are symbols of life out of death, of the continuity and renewing of existence in cultures where time was as much as cycle as it was an arrow. Spring is a symbol of resurrection, and provides us with a reminder of what Christians claim is the pressing reality:


He is risen!


He is risen, indeed!