The blog The Skeptical Zone is run by Elizabeth Liddle, a neuroscientist connected with the University of Nottingham in England. For a long time she was one of the most cogent, most patient, and most polite commenters at the anti-evolution blog Uncommon Descent, where she tried to defend evolutionary biology. In early 2012, she and other anti-ID commenters were banned from the Uncommon Descent in a crazed burst of bannination that even banned some pro-ID commenters, and caused some others to depart. This left UD a virtual echo chamber. So she used a blog of hers, The Skeptical Zone, to continue those discussions, welcoming anti-evolution commenters to join that discussion. She tried to maintain a civil discussion between pro-Intelligent Design and anti-Intelligent Design commenters. She has been less able to comment at TSZ in recent years, and has appointed other moderators in her place.
I have made 20 posts there:
(March 4, 2012) I showed a numerical example demonstrating that natural selection can result in Functional Information (or Specified Information) getting into the genome of an evolving population. This is a counterexample to William Dembski's assertions that Complex Specified Information in a genome is evidence of Design.
(January 17, 2013) On Uncommon Descent, poster "niwrad" (no prizes for guessing where that name comes from) linked to a Sequences Probability Calculator which figures out how long a pure mutational process (without natural selection) takes to arrive at a particular protein sequence (it takes basically forever). This assumes that there is no partial function of a partially matching sequence -- evolution cannot reach the sequence by rewarding partial agreement with it. I listed several kinds of experimental results that disagree with that. "niwrad" must think that different species originated in different Special Creation events.
(March 25, 2013) On Uncommon Descent, the ever-stimulating "niwrad" was at it again, with an assertion that what the equations of theoretical population genetics showed was that Hardy-Weinberg "equilibrium" was a force opposing evolutionary change. I just had to clear that one up.
(March 6, 2014) A response to VJTorley's argument with Jerry Coyne. In his blog Why Evolution Is True, Jerry had criticized Bryan College for a "clarification" that its theological position insisted on that Adam and Eve were real people who were the ancestors of us all. Torley argued with Jerry's math, and, as I noted, came to grief.
(October 3, 2014) A post at TSZ pointing out my post at Panda's Thumb which was critical of William Dembski's and Robert Marks's Search For a Search argument, the basis for Dembski's talk at the Computations in Science Seminar at the University of Chicago in August, 2014.
(November 15, 2014) Many people at The Skeptical Zone have argued that William Dembski's use of Complex Specified Information (CSI) to conclude that a feature of an organism has not evolved but is designed is circular, because his definition of CSI requires that evolution be ruled out first. At Uncommon Descent commenter "Keith S." has hammered away at this, and finally Dembski's coauthor Winston Ewert has conceded the point there. My post at TSZ points this out and asks for discussion at TSZ.
(March 29, 2015) A brief post pointing out to the folks at The Skeptical Zone that Tom English and I have posted at Panda's Thumb a careful consideration of William Dembski's, Robert Marks and Winston Ewert's recent papers on the Search For a Search. In that PT post we correct an error in my previous response to Dembski and Marks's SFS argument. We argue that the Search For a Search argument does not require a designer to intervene to have evolution succeed in substantially improving fitness.
(September 3, 2015) A post noting that Granville Sewell, creationist mathematician, continues to make his usual argument at Uncommon Descent. He thinks that fundamental particles cannot be "rearranged" into Apple iPhones and nuclear power plants, and that if biologists would only look at the matter a different way they would realize this. He makes the rearrangement sound like an sudden accident, and does not note the intermediate steps -- the origin of the solar system, of life, and the evolution of intelligent humans who build phones and power plants. If Sewell would only look at the matter a different way ...
(September 27, 2015) A post wondering why so many people were debating whether A = A here. That was one of "The Laws of Thought" invoked by Barry Arrington, the owner of the pro-ID Uncommon Descent blog, when he engaged in a crazed mass banning of his opponents in 2012. Arrington claimed that skeptics of ID were denying these laws, including the Law of NonContradiction (LNC). Posters and commenters at TSZ then had a lot of fun debating the logic and philosophy behind asking whether A = A. I asked whether this had actually ever been an issue at Uncommon Descent. No one has pointed to a comment there that engaged in the kind of argument that Barry Arrington imagined.
(November 10, 2015) A video by Jonathan McLatchie in a "One Minute Apologist" series defined Specified Complexity. It was touted by Uncommon Descent's "News" (Denyse O'Leary). She then scornfully called for the "Darwin faithful" to "create a distraction below". So I put a post at TSZ instead, pointing out that McLatchie did not explain whether natural selection could account for Specified Complexity. He did not resolve any of the self-contradictions of the Specified Complexity argument. He thereby did not make clear whether Specified Complexity is of any use in any argument about evolution. Even though he took 2 minutes.
(February 25, 2016) Arguments about Richard Dawkins's famous "Weasel" algorithm led to others writing code and testing runs of it, to test creationist assertions that natural selection would be ineffective. To allow population genetics analysis, in a post at TSZ I imagined a Weasel program that had one adult string that had an infinite number of offspring strings, with a multiplicative selection operating among them, and then the next generation's adults chosen from the resulting genotypes. This would also be a Wright-Fisher model. When N > 1 surviving adults were allowed, we could use the criterion that selection would be effective if roughly 4Ns > 1. In the case of N = 1 I derived the long-term equilibrium probability of a match at one of the 28 positions in the target phrase; this would be independent at each position.
(June 19, 2016) In a discussion on epistemology, a subject I rigorously avoid, someone mentioned the thought-experiment of the Boltzmann Brain, a brain that arises in a thermodynamic system at equilibrium, as a result of thermodynamic fluctuations. It was noted that in a Reddit discussion several years ago it was pointed out that evolution makes the origin of brains much more likely than that. I made a post pointing out that this is true, but must happen in a system far from thermodynamic equilibrium, such as the earth-sun system. Considering that also makes it clear why the arguments of Granville Sewell, who tries to make it seem absurd that one could go from a soup of elementary particles to the origin of computers, are themselves absurd.
(July 8, 2016) Jonathan McLatchie made a longer video, a 15-minute one. And still managed to incorrectly explain Specified Complexity and the way it is used to argue against natural selection. Now he has 15 minutes instead of 2 minutes, but he prefers to spend the extra time at the origin of the Universe rather than correcting his argument about Specified Complexity. So I complained about this.
(August 15, 2017) Commenter "Mung" at TSZ reiterated his claim that he had offered a a $10,000 bet which none of us "Darwinists" had ever taken him up on. A thread (here) attempts to get Mung to state what it is he proposed to bet on.
(January 9, 2018) Creationists William Basener and John Sanford published a paper in Journal of Mathematical Biology which argued that the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis sprang from R.A. Fisher's Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection, and then added terms for mutation to the FTNS, and presented a computer simulation that was argued as showing that fitness typically decreased rather than increased once these terms were added. At TSZ in this post, I argued that this is a misreading of the history of population genetics, that the basic work on selection and mutation was done in the 1920s and did not involve the FTNS.
(January 23, 2018) In another post, co-authored by me and Michael Lynch of Arizona State University, we argued that Basener and Sanford's computer simulation was flawed in ways that led to their results on decline of fitnesses. They omitted recombination from their simulation, and assumed a distribution of net fitnesses of new mutations that implied strong interaction of all loci. This led to mutation overwhelming selection, which it would not do if the individual loci in the genome had fitnesses effects that were independent.
(March 21, 2018) After William Basener and John Sanford replied (here) at The Skeptical Zone to the criticism of their Journal of Mathematical Biology paper, I wrote a rejoinder there. I argued that R. A. Fisher's Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection is not the foundation of subsequent work on the effects of mutation and selection. Basener and Sanford had said it was, but then had described their multiple statements to this effect as "unintentional". They gave multiple quotations from population geneticists about the importance of Fisher's work and of Fisher's 1930 book. But these missed the mark -- they do not say that the FTNS was foundational. Nor do they actually use it in their computer simulations. My comment also points out that Fisher did not draw from his FTNS the conclusion that mean fitness must always increase, as Basener and Sanford had said.
(May 21, 2018) At Uncommon Descent, poster and commenter "gpuccio" has been pushing an islands-of-adaptation argument about the evolution of molecular function. Gpuccio has invoked Jack Szostak's concept of "functional information" and argued that if we see more than 500 bits of "functional information", "we can safely infer design". In a post at TSZ I asked how gpuccio could justify there being such a rule, since all one would need to generate that much functional information without Intelligent Design would be to have a gradient of fitness leading to a well-adapted sequence. In a massive thread (almost 2,000 comments) gpuccio's defenders have conceded that there is no mathematical proof of impossibility, and have restricted their defense to cases where less-adapted sequences all have zero "function". In effect they are conceding that a general 500 Bits Rule does not really exist. Earlier, gpuccio had called that alleged Rule "the fundamental idea in ID"!
(7 November 2018) At the Discovery Institute's "Mind Matters" series of blog posts, Eric Holloway has declared that Intelligent Design can "be demonstrated mathematically through information theory", that this was shown by William Dembski, and that on reading criticisms of Dembski's work "I have not been able to discover a precise reason why they think Dembski is wrong" and that critics of Dembski "actually tend to agree with Dembski when the topic lies within their respective realms of expertise." I posted at Panda's Thumb a reply pointing out all the demolitions of Dembski's work that Holloway missed or misunderstood. Just as he did with criticques of Dembski's use of the No Free Lunch Theorem in 2011. I made a small parallel post at TSZ so discussion could occur here as well.
(2 December 2018) At Uncommon Descent commenter "gpuccio" repeatedly asked what was my response to his example of the ease of opening one safe with a 150-digit key versus opening 150 safes each with a 1-digit key. User "jawa" concluded there that I was avoiding this argument. So I explained that, as anyone who read my previous threads on gpuccio's arguments would know, I was not doubting that point but was disputing how gpuccio knew that nature was like that, with all results outside the target region of genotypes equally bad. Many comments later it develops that gpuccio never showed that, it's just that he doesn't think natural selection can follow uphill paths on a fitness surface. He is an extreme skeptic of any effect of natural selection. So why the safes example?
After the end of 2018, I continued commenting at The Skeptical Zone, but have stopped making posts there, because posting there has been too polluted by very disturbed and narcissistic trolls putting up crazy and ignorant rants about how wrong evolution is. There are still some excellent posters and commenters there (such as Tom English, Neil Rickert, and Alan Miller). But the very "Quaker" policy of the site is to allow all commenters to make posts, and to assume that they are made honestly and in good faith. This does not work out, so I have concentrated on making my posts at Panda's Thumb. I also have commented on Peaceful Science, on the scientific issues raised there, but mostly not on the dicussions of theology.