Calvert’s Wichita MeetingJuly 17, 2006 at 4:31 am | Posted in Journal of Anti-Science meetings | 16 Comments
When “Dr.” John Calvert arrived at the new and attractive Alford Library on South Meridian in Wichita, I was very helpful. I held the door open for him when he walked up because he had a dolly with many bags on it and carrying another one – his hands were full. Before the meeting, he asked me to help him move the table his projector was on so the projected screen would be bigger. Then he asked me to go find him some tape to use because one of the cables he was using had screws in it, but no holes were there to be filled by them. I joked, “Well, that certainly is a bad design,” and then I went and got him some tape from this incredibly nice librarian. I was more than happy to help. I’m always happy to help.
Unfortunately, my helping got him irritated enough that he addressed me during the second half of his presentation and when I answered he said, “Did I ask you to speak?”
40 well dressed people attended this meeting, most of them very nice, but I could tell that two women were pretty angry with me after the meeting for being there and asking questions. Calvert was brought here by someone who heads a Catholic organization, however I didn’t catch his name or the organization. He introduced Calvert and mentioned his organization, though.
Basically, the meeting went like this. As he claimed that intelligent design is not in the Kansas science standards and he doesn’t think they should be, he talked about how the new science standards allows for intelligent design and why it should be there but can’t be because of “materialism,” the requirement that science only use natural explanations. Read that twice.
Calvert started off by saying that he looked for frauds as a corporate attorney and that helped him find frauds in evolution. Then he went on to say that “fraud” may be a bit strong, and he thinks it’s generally just misinformation. Then he added, “though some of it is intentional.” He said that he was trained in science, because he has a bachelor’s degree in Geology (it’s a bachelor’s of arts in geology), but the GI bill paid for him to get his juris doctorate (JD), which is what he uses to justify calling himself “Dr. John Calvert” on the roadshow flyer that his organization put out – although there are master’s level and doctorate level degrees beyond JD. This is technically okay that he does this as a “Doctor of Law” only, however he is not allowed to use that to imply that he is an expert in anything else under Kansas Law (7.1 a,b), (8.4 c):
RULE 7.1 Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s ServicesA lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. A communication is false or misleading if it:(a) contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading;(b) is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve, or states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate the rules of professional conduct or other law; or(c) compares the lawyer’s services with other lawyer’s services, unless the comparison can be factually substantiated.
Rule 8.4 MisconductIt is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:(a) Violate or attempt to violate the rules of professional conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another;(b) commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects;(c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation;(d) engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice;(e) state or imply an ability to influence improperly a government agency or official;(f) knowingly assist a judge or judicial officer in conduct that is a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct or other law; or(g) engage in any other conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law.
Calvert really toes the line on this, claiming to be trained in science, and presenting material he claims to be scientific along with intelligent design. He should be careful that he doesn’t break the law.
Calvert presented typical paranoid and botched stories about how scientists are not allowed to talk about “design,” especially in the class room. What he neglected to do was mention the difference between design by natural and unnatural causes, instead he lumped them both together, talking about one while defending the other.
Someone asked how you can determine if something is designed. He submitted ID mathematician William Dembski’s steps to do so.
Dembski’s 3 logical steps to testing for intelligent design.
1. Does it appear to have a purpose?
2. Do material causes explain the pattern?
3. Can chance explain the explanation?
Calvert showed many slides as sort of an interactive lesson for the audience. The first slide showed a drop dropping into water like this one.
And he applied Dembski’s steps. “Does it appear to have a purpose? I don’t know. Do material causes explain the pattern? Yes.” So, Dembski’s test showed that the “circle” wasn’t designed.
Then Calvert showed a slide of a bird’s nest, and put it to the test. “Does it appear to have a purpose? Yes, for eggs.” So, the bird’s nest was shown to be designed by Dembski’s test.
Then he showed a few other slides, I think the next one was a van wrapped around a tree. I can’t remember the conclusion he came to. There may have been another slide, but the last one was a picture of something resembling an arrowhead. The conclusion was troubling, “I don’t know is a good answer, but modern science is unwilling to say that,” which shows his paranoia.
I asked Calvert to return to the water drop and tried to make the point that science as it is could measure the acceleration of the drop and if it’s greater than would account for the acceleration due to gravity, it could say it was propelled by something. My point was that science as it is could find a “design” for an event where Dembski’s methods could not. This exchange was confused, but not as much as the confusion about his DNA presentation.
Calvert fell into a pet peeve of mine, saying “that evolution is merely random chance.” He confused this with “random mutation” with “evolution is merely by chance.” The “random” of “random mutation” simply means that there is no method for predicting when and where a mutation will occur, though physical factors such as increased radiation show that the probability of a mutation increases. It very much doesn’t mean that mutations are not the result of physical factors at work. Evolution is directed by physical factors, not only with DNA mutation but with the assembly of molecules, but also natural selection. I tried to point this out to Calvert, and he provided several statements from scientists saying that evolution was “random, unguided, and without a purpose.” There was a bit of confusion over this and when I put two and two together I told him what they meant, “DNA mutations are random meaning we don’t know how to predict them, and unguided, without a purpose means that it’s mindless. It is a mindless process, but it’s not by chance, it’s subject to physical forces and natural selection.” Mindless just means that you can’t choose the variation of your offspring.
I said all of this to explain why Dembski’s math, which was also presented, claiming that evolution is improbable doesn’t work. At one point the number 1/1×10186,000 as the insurmountable probability for the assembly for the first message for life (DNA). Dembski’s math is meaningless because it doesn’t account for physical factors, assuming a truly random system (which is not the case), including the very nonrandom process of atoms combining due to electrochemical gradients.
The “random, unguided” part is what Calvert made reference several times later in the meeting, when he was pointing at me and talking to me, and when I responded and he said, “Did I ask you to speak?”
He then went on to talk about Kansas Citizens for Science (KCFS), focusing on a lot of different postings by Liz Craig on their forum. Then an issue about a meeting handout titled “Character Assassination and the Denigration of Theism to Promote Belief in Unguided Evolutionary Change”, was brought up by a member of the audience. This picture was used.
That weird looking thing is known as the “Flying Spahgetti Monsterism.” It’s a joke on Intelligent Design, which neglects to name a designer for legal reasons (the establishment clause). Supporters of the “Flying Spahgetti Monsterism”, known as “Pastafarians” demand that “Flying Spahgetti Monsterism” be considered. This image was shown on the cover of the handout and twice on page 3. On page 3, the section titled “Connie Morris Complains About the Strategy (of KCFS)“, says:
In April 2006 the State Board of Education was taken on a tour of a science classroom in a public middle school. As they walked into the room they all saw the poster shown to the right, displayed prominently on the door of the room, where children would constantly pass by it.
The issue was brought up in the audience was by the man whose door it was. The point the man made was a good one. Morris is quoted in the handout as saying:
“That offends me… What will it do to our children’s belief in God?”
His point was, you could see Morris saying that if that was the actual picture used, which is a spoof on Michaelangelo’s painting of the Sisteen Chapel where “Flying Spahgetti Monsterism” is the hand of God in Michaelangelo’s original work. But it makes no sense in reference to the actual picture the man in the audience had on his door, contained on a single piece of typing paper. It was a black and white computer sketch of the “Flying Spahgetti Monsterism” by itself, with no implication at all that the “Flying Spahgetti Monsterism” was God.
(The Wichita Eagle article from April 20, 2005 about the event can be found here.)
The crowd seemed to see the difference, and Calvert was asked that the image be corrected. Calvert got dodgy, first defending himself by saying it was in the media, then a website, then said he’ll look into it. The crowd asked more questions and a woman asked something about how intelligent design could explain a 10,000 year old earth. He said, that ID does not say there’s a 10,000 year old Earth. And she said that’s not what IDers say. He said, “if you’re not hearing it from somebody ID, it’s probably wrong,” and then said something about how he “as a scientist” supports ID.
I used his quote, saying, “I submit that if you don’t hear it from a scientist, it’s probably wrong. You’re not a scientist, you’re a lawyer. You appear to not even have a basic understanding of the principles involved in evolution. You’re not qualified to talk about this.”
Calvert later used this in a statement that Jack Krebs, the president of KCFS, is not qualified to be the president of KCFS because he was on a pro-evolution council, is not a scientist, and only a math teacher. At that point I said that he’s not qualified to present the material he’s presenting because he doesn’t even understand the quotes.
We got in a confusing tangent here where the argument came up about “chance” again and he asked me to list all of the causes of “random mutation.” I simply said, “radiation, chemicals, etc. etc. etc., it’s not a closed list.” This conversation ended because Calvert said something like I don’t understand how questions and answers work or something, and “the debate is over.”
Finally a nice woman asked that the image be changed because it looks like he’s being dishonest. Calvert dodged her entirely and began asking the man with the “Flying Spahgetti Monsterism” on his door questions about why it was up there, and I started demanding that he answer the lady’s question. He didn’t and asked for a 5 minute break, and asked me to go up there and talk to him about it in person. I refused saying that he presented it to the public, he should answer it publicly and not doing so showed his dishonesty. He approached me at my seat during his break and talked a bit more about basic evolutionary principles he didn’t understand.
A few other people came up to me during the break and we had nice exchanges, I just simply tried to explain the limitations of science, the way it operates, what it says right now, and what it’s done for us.
In his second presentation, which was supposed to focus on the science standards, Calvert gave several very confused and contradictory arguments supported by selective data and bad science, mainly about the effect of the limitation science has that only natural explanations be used somehow making children atheists, while saying that the same time intelligent design has nothing to do with religion, at one time even saying that “the Bible is irrelevant in terms of ID,” he explained that the “materialism” of science only allows children to be atheists, using this quote by Richard Dawkins from his book The Blind Watchmaker, among many others, to support his statement.
“…although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”
Calvert would get no argument at all from anyone who understands science that Dawkins statement is not a scientific statement. It’s simply a philosophical extrapolation derived by similar methods that the Intelligent design/creationism movements have used – personal interpretation of science. Basically this same strawman of saying this philosophical extrapolation is accepted science was used over and over and over again.
Outside of that, Calvert used a 3 legged chair as a diagram. The seat was titled, “Evolution.” The legs of the chairs were labeled, “microevolution”, “macroevolution” , and “chemical evolution.” He used out of context quotes that he didn’t understand and a lot of bad science to support his argument that the only leg left for evolution is “microevolution,” but making the unqualified point that the chair still stands by the support of “materialism.”
To show how out of touch he is, he used Michael Behe’s “irreducible complex” system of cilia. Which has not only been shown to be reducibly complex, but incredibly reducibly complex since Behe’s publication of ID’s most major “work.” Calvert also showed a slide that listed evolution with Haeckel’s embryos as accepted science. Both of this are very bad signs of a propagandist, and not anyone interested in science or an honest exchange.
I had my hand raised for the entire questions and answer system at the end, which he set ground-rules for before starting the second half in an effort to avoid “debate.” I started my question with, “Since your arguments are confused and contradictory, and misrepresenting mainstream science…”
Calvert said, “That isn’t a question,” and he ended the meeting.
I said, “My question is, how do you get away with this?”
He didn’t answer. Some other hard questions came from the crowd which led me to say other things I don’t remember. I approached him to retrieve the tape so I could return it to the librarian.
That’s the best I can recall from the meeting. It was 3 hours long and eventful. Hopefully I’ll have audio for you soon.