Friday, October 22, 2004

Evolution Enters Scarborough Country

The following exchnage took place on the MSNBC chat show Scarborough Country this past Thursday. The panelists were Pat Buchanan and Robert Reich. The full transcript is available here.


REICH: Look, I am not talking about anybody being fanatics.

But I have come across, Pat, people who believe very passionately, and I respect them, but they believe very passionately that evolution, scientific evolution is just not truth, that Adam and Eve literally, literally, were put on the Earth as the first man and woman, and we should not in our schools teach evolution. We should teach creationism.

Now, I happen to—I don‘t agree with that. I think that that simply puts facts and analysis and logic aside. They don‘t want to think about science. They don‘t want to even have a discussion about science. And to me, that is dangerous. That‘s dangerous for our democracy. Jefferson would not have approved of that. Washington would not have approved. Our founding fathers believed in the enlightenment notion of deliberation and logic and facts and analysis.

BUCHANAN: Well, I think that there‘s—no one objects to the teaching of evolution as a theory and, quite frankly, Darwin and all the rest of it as historical figures and enormous impact of it.

But I think people do object, Robert Reich, to it being taught as something like religious truth, when they don‘t believe it to be that.


I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a single biology teacher in the country who presents evolution as “something like religious truth”. And Reich is entirely correct that fundamentalists don't want to think about or discuss science. Buchanan's comment is the standard defense used by people who want to oppose evolution without seeming irrational.

This exchange came in the midst of a discussion about the role of religion in modern American politics.

Earlier in the interview, Buchanan read from an article that Robert Reich wrote for The American Prospect some time ago:


“The underlying battle of the 21st century,” says Robert Reich, “will be between modern civilization and anti-modernist fanatics, between those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe that human beings owe blind allegiance to a higher authority, between those who give priority to life in this world and those who believe that human life is no more than preparation for an existence beyond life, between those who believe that truth is believed solely through scripture and religious dogma and those who rely primarily on science, reason and logic.”


Before moving to my present digs in Virginia I lived in central Kansas for three years. While there I listened to the local fundamentalist radio station almost every day. I also spent a lot of time browsing through the local Christian bookstore, reading fundamentalist literature, perusing their websites, and attending their conferences.

From that experience I learned that Reich's description in the paragraph above is no caricature. The sort of Christianity I encountered in Kansas was every bit as anti-intellectual, anti-science and anti-independent-thought as Reich is describing. And the number of people who subscribe to conservative religious faiths has been growing steadily for many years now. I don't know what to do about that, but it is definitely cause for concern.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Letter to Nature

Also in the current issue of Nature is this letter:


Sir:

I cannot in all honesty share in the anxiety surrounding publication of a dubious paper on 'intelligent design' regarded by most scientists as a version of creationism in a journal with an impact factor of less than one. Your News story “Peer-reviewed paper defends theory of intelligent design” (Nature 431, 114; 2004) suggests that getting an intelligent-design paper into a peer-reviewed journal is a huge achievement for creationism. I am more surprised it took so long to get one in.

The paper in question presents no new arguments and is unremarkable in any way except in that it has been published. It appeared in a journal that, until this particular editorial decision, enjoyed much-deserved obscurity. Proponents of intelligent design would have us believe that this publication is a testament to the scientific legitimacy of their theory although the editor has since left and the
journal has disowned the paper as “inappropriate” (see Nature, 431, 237; 2004).

In my opinion it is yet another testament to the rampant proliferation of scientific publications, resulting in a flood of inconsequential papers appearing in those thousands of journals that exist on the fringes of scientific publication.

The editors and reviewers of many low-impact journals cannot provide the quality reviewing process one gets with Nature, Science, Cell and a few (very few indeed) other established magazines, but any of them can affix the stamp of legitimacy to
their outpourings by formally following the 'peer-review' protocol.

Let's admit it and this is the real dirty secret of academic publishing one can publish just about anything if one goes far enough down the list of impact factors. There are papers all around us containing problems glaring enough to fai their authors in undergraduate midterm exams. The only reason they are not in the spotlight is because they do not deal with the theory of intelligent design.


Vladimir Svetlov
Department of Microbiology, Ohio State University,
484 W 12th Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA


I certainly agree with the overall thrust of Svetlov's letter. The fact that ID folks managed to slip a paper into a low-end journal hradly indicates that their idea are gaining any kind of acceptance.

But I have two disagreements with Svetlov. The first is that I think he is being very unfair both to the Biological Society of Washington (who published the article in question) and to the majority of journals residing below the highest echelons. I suspect it's a huge exaggeration to say that “there are papers all around us” guilty of elementary errors.

Certainly in my own field of mathematics it's not true that you can publish just about anything. Even low-end journals publish papers that are (for the most part) correct and new. It's that the results they publish tend not to be terribly important, and the methods used tend not to be very original.

And the problem with what happened at the BSW was not that they couldn't provide a quality reviewing process. It was that the editor was biased in favor of the paper, and almost certainly manipulated the peer-review process to ensure its publication. I suspect the normal fare for the Procedings of the Biological Society of Washington are papers that are solid and correct, but not ultimately very consequential.

But a more serious problem is this line: “Proponents of intelligent design would have us believe that this publication is a testament to the scientific legitimacy of their theory although the editor has since left and the
journal has disowned the paper as “inappropriate” (see Nature, 431, 237; 2004).”

If by 'us' Svetlov means the scientific community, then he is making a serious mistake. It is not scientists that ID proponents are trying to impress. It is the general public. And the public, upon hearing that a peer-reviewed journal published a pro-ID paper, is not going to make a distinction between high-end and low-end journals.

Then Again, Maybe it's Not Junk...

On the other hand, Scientific American has this article up arguing that much of the junk DNA does play a vital role in embryological development. Sadly, the full article is only available by subscription, but the headline and subhead say it all:


The Hidden Genetic Program of Complex Organisms:
Biologists assumed that proteins alone regulate the genes of humans and other complex organisms. But an overlooked regulatory system based on RNA may hold the keys to development and evolution


Of course, there's no contradiction between thie article and the news brief I mentioned in my last posting. It's only about two percent of the genome that codes for proteins. The rest is non-coding. It was only a small portion of this junk that was deleted in the mouse study reported below. It's entirely possible that some of the junk DNA serves a function, while some of it is, indeed, junk.

We should mention as well that finding some function for junk DNA does not imply that this DNA is not also an evolutionary vestige. As I have pointed out many times at this blog, vestigial and non-functional are two different things.

Maybe it Really is Junk

Here's part of an interesting news brief from Nature:


But transposable elements are only a small part of the non-coding regions. And now Edward Rubin's team at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California has shown that deleting large sections of non-coding DNA from mice appears not to affect their development, longevity or reproduction.

The team created mice with more than a million base pairs of non-coding DNA missing - equivalent to about 1% of their genome. The animals' organs looked perfectly normal. And of more than 100 tests done on the mice tissues to assess gene activity, only two showed changes. The results are reported in this week's Nature2.

The group has now created mice missing three million base pairs. “We can see no effect in them,” Rubin says.


You should follow the link both to read the rest of the brief, and to see a picture of the cutest little mouse you've ever seen in your life.

As is pointed out elsewhere in the article, it is quite possible that there was some effect on the mice, but that the effect was too small to be noticeable. Still, the result is interesting since some incautious ID folks have suggested that it is a prediction of ID that the so-called “junk DNA” has some function.

It's also interesting since people like William Dembski have written thinkgs like this:


But design is not a science stopper. Indeed, design can foster inquiry where traditional evolutionary approaches obstruct it. Consider the term "junk DNA." Implicit in this term is the view that because the genome of an organism has been cobbled together through a long, undirected evolutionary process, the genome is a patchwork of which only limited portions are essential to the organism. Thus on an evolutionary view we expect a lot of useless DNA. If, on the other hand, organisms are designed, we expect DNA, as much as possible, to exhibit function.


Since the brief makes it clear that the scientists who carried out this research take an evolutionary perspective, I wonder if Dembski would like to revise his statement.

More From Zimmer

An anonymous commenter has pointed out to me that Carl Zimmer made some further comments about Richard Dawkins' latest book at his blog. Go have a look!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Zimmer on Dawkins

Richard Dawkins' new book, The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimmage to the Dawn of Evolution, is finally available. At 688 pages it is Dawkins longest effort to date. I can't wait to get a copy! For now, I guess I'll have to make-do with Carl Zimmer's characteristically insightful review for the New York Times. Zimmer's review is mostly positive, but also makes a few criticisms. Here's his conclusion:


Despite these shortcomings, this is an ambitious, important book rich with fascinating insights. Also, it couldn't come at a better time. Evolutionary trees have become the lingua franca of biology. Virus hunters draw them to find the origin of SARS and H.I.V. Conservation biologists draw them to decide which endangered species are in most urgent need of saving. Geneticists draw them to pinpoint the genes that have made us uniquely humans. Genome sequencers draw them to discover new genes that may lead to new technologies and medical treatments. If you want to understand these trees -- and through them, the nature of life -- The Ancestor's Tale is an excellent place to start.


ID proponents are fond of telling their supporters that evolutionary theory has more to do with atheistic propaganda than actual biology. As Zimmer points out, you have to be deeply ignorant of modern biology to defend that conclusion.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Ratliff Weighs In

In this recent post I mentioned this article from Wired magazine about the attempts by ID proponents to alter high school science curricula. The article plainly took a skeptical view of ID, which prompted this response from the Discovery Institute. It was this response I was criticizing in my previous post.

The author of the Wired article, Evan Ratliff, was kind enough to send me an e-mail thanking me for the post. I reproduce his e-mail here, with his permission:


Hi Jason. I'm the guy who wrote that Wired article on evolution; was surfing around yesterday to see if anyone picked up the Discovery Institute press release (as often the Washington Times or other places will), and came across your blog. The Discovery statement itself is so frivolous that we decided not to respond to it, but I appreciate your doing so. In fact you did it better than I could have myself.

One other notable oddity in the press release, I thought, was that the one actual fact error that they alleged, regarding Stephen Meyer's bio, was also not in error. According to Meyer's official bio: “Dr. Meyer teaches a course each year in Christian Apologetics in the School of Ministry.” According to that, in fact, it's the only course he teaches. We could've included his more official title, I suppose, but the way its written seems equally if not more valid.

The rest of it, as you point out, seems to rely on a studied mis-reading of the article. The thing about all the claims of “omissions,” and failures to include various recently published books and articles, is that I did in fact interview Michael Behe--and I asked him whether he thought any new arguments were being put forth since his and Dembski's first books and the subsequent responses came out. Here's what he said:

“I don’t think the actual rebuttals and arguments have moved beyond the end of that [late 90s] flurry. I think it’s because we have made our points, we have argued why we think life looks designed, and they have countered, and we have said this is why they think you are flawed, and why, and they say no they are not flawed and why. You can read their stuff, our stuff, and make up your own mind.”

Indeed. In any case, thanks for all the kind words about the piece. I enjoy the blog.


Behe's statement here is basically an admission that ID has made no headway as science. ID proponents claim that their view of things is poised to revolutionize science (some of their more immodest devotees claim the revolution has already occurred). Yet here is Behe admitting that ID has offered nothing new since the late 90's. So according to Behe the story goes like this: A handful of people with scientific credentials made certain arguments hostile to evolution. The overwhelming majority of scientists responded by pointing out that these arguments were completely incorrect. And then...nothing.

On a personal note, I'd like to thank Evan for his kind words about the blog. In a subsequent e-mail, he mentioned that he has received hundreds of e-mails accusing him of being “biased”, a “journalistic fraud” and sundry other less kind things. Such is the fate of anyone who addresses this issue without parroting Discovery Institute propaganda. He deserves the thanks of everyone who cares about honest reporting on this or any other issue.

Prager on Not Voting for Kerry

Town Hall can always be counted on to provide the latest in cartoon right-wing commentary. And one of the very worst in a very bad lot is Dennis Prager. It is not just that his arguments are consistently shallow, poorly-reasoned, and mostly fact-free. After all, the ability to make such arguments with a straight face is a required credential for Town Hall columnists. What distinguishes Prager is that he fancies himself quite the intellectual.

Here's his latest column, in which he explains to his readers why he will not be voting for John Kerry. He offers five reasons. We consider them in order:


1. John Kerry was described by Lynne Cheney as “not a good man” after Kerry used the Cheney daughter's sexual orientation to score political points. She may be right. As William Safire writes, “The sleazier purpose of the Kerry-Edwards spotlight on Mary Cheney is to confuse and dismay Bush supporters who believe that same-sex marriage is wrong, to suggest that Bush is as 'soft on same-sex' as Kerry is, and thereby to reduce a Bush core constituency's eagerness to go to the polls.” Even the press, Safire notes, has respected Mary Cheney's right to privacy.


The number one reason on his list is Kerry's reference to Mary Cheney! First,it should be noted that Kerry said nothing negative about Mary Cheney. Recall that Kerry's remark came in response to a question about whether homosexuality was a choice. Bush said he didn't know. It was obvious from Bush's response that he considers homosexuals to be some sort of metaphysical abstraction. No one who has ever known a gay person would hesitate for a second to say that of course it's not a choice. So Kerry tried to put a human face on the issue by pointing out that the daughter of his vice-president was gay. Kerry, as he often does, expressed himself awkwardly. But the insinuation that Kerry had some sinister motive for bringing it up is nothing more than a desperate Republican smear to distract attention from Bush's dismal debate performances.

We should also point out that on several occasions the Cheneys themselves have talked publicly about their daughter's homosexuality. Add to that the fact that Mary Cheney is very much out of the closet, and the fact that when Republican senate candidate Alan Keyes referred to Mary Cheney as a &lduqo;selfish hedonist”, we heard nary a peep from the Cheneys.

As for Safire, apparently he thinks that there is a large contingent of ignorant bigots in the Republican base who will become “confused and dismayed” by learning that the vice-president has a gay daughter. Like maybe Bush can't really support an anti-gay marriage amendment since, after all, he chose a vice-president who has a gay daughter. Apparently I have a higher opinion of the typical Republican than Safire does.


2. John Edwards, Kerry's choice as his running mate, is a trial lawyer who has made a fortune suing hospitals. Like many in his profession, he has made America a worse country. However, even more of his character was revealed when he said after the death of Christopher Reeve, “If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.”


Reason number two is something Kerry's running-mate said! The idea of a rabidly right-wing radio talk-show host criticizing members of another porfession for hurting the country is a bit rich. It's especially rich when you consider that for every frivolous lawsuit that somehow manages to find its way into a courtroom, there are about a dozen in which people who were injured as the result of corporate negligence get some measure of justice.

And does anyone really believe that Prager's statement about Edwards getting rich by suing hospitals is based on a careful analysis of the merits of Edwards' trials? Or do you think maybe he's just repeating an RNC talking-point?

Edwards' statement about people walking out of their wheelchairs is certainly excessive, but a political campaign is hardly the time for subtlety. (After all, every time Kerry has tried to say something slightly nuanced he's been pilloried and ridiculed for it.) Edwards' statement is far less outrageous than the sort of bald-faced lies Bush and Cheney have been willing to engage in: like the idea that Kerry is proposing a government take-over of health-care or that Saddam Hussein had some connection to 9/11.


3. Normally even partisan observers of elections say nothing about the wives of presidential candidates. Aside from propriety -- the families of candidates should remain off-limits to political attacks -- every wife of every presidential candidate and of every president in living memory has been an asset to the country. It brings me no joy to say that Teresa Heinz Kerry is not worthy of being the first lady of the United States of America. From her public utterances -- such as young American men and women dying in Iraq because of American “greed for oil” -- and her many years of financial support for radical groups, it is clear to me and many others that this woman does not particularly care for this country. Her primary identity is that of world citizen, and her values are those of France and anti-American Europe.


Come on, this is just getting pathetic. This obviously doesn't merit any response, except to point out Prager's conflation of criticizing the war in Iraq with not particularly caring for this country.


4. John Kerry represents the Party of Michael Moore. This America-hating Marxist was given a place of honor at the Democratic Party Convention in Boston, seated next to Jimmy Carter, a former Democratic president who said that Moore's Goebbels-like propaganda film “Fahrenheit 9/11” was one of his two favorite films.


It has been wisely said that when you are confronted with someone who likens his opponents to Nazis you know you are dealing with a crank. Leaving aside the considerable merits of Moore's film (is it permissable in Prager's world to think that Moore made a lot of valid points in his film, but also overplayed his hand at times?), saying that Kerry represents the party of Michael Moore is meaningless partisan hackery.

The fact is that Moore voted for Nader in 2000 and was very hostile to the Democrats then. He's only supporting Kerry this time around out of revulsion for Bush, not out of any great love for Kerry. How does Kerry's supposed allegiance to Michael Moore translate into specific policy positions?

The fact is that Prager is not interested in making a reasoned argument for anything. He cares only about throwing around empty talking points and right-wing buzzwords.


5. A vote for John Kerry is a vote for Michael Moore, the ACLU, Ted Kennedy, trial lawyers, George Soros, the leftist academics who morally confuse generations of young Americans, and for Dan Rather, CBS News, and nearly the entire news complex that daily presents a proctologist's view of America. A vote for John Kerry is a vote for Jesse Jackson, whom Kerry has named a top adviser; and for Al Sharpton, with whom Kerry campaigns; for Sean Penn and his Hollywood world; and for the passionately pro-Kerry MTV, the greatest destroyer of young people's minds and souls in American history. And a vote for John Kerry is a vote for the countries that have abandoned us and against the countries that are helping us.


See previous point.

This is what passes for sensible commentary from the right. The Town Hall website is maintained by The Heritage Foundation, which is a perfectly mainstream group among conservatives. The columnists represented there are not wingnuts reviled by the more sensible members of the Republican party. They are the mainstream of the Republican party.

Carlson Replies to Stewart

Here's a brief AP report about the feud between Crossfire host Tucker Carlson and Daily Show host Jon Stewart. See yesterday's post for the background.


Carlson on Monday fanned embers still hot from their “Crossfire” confrontation, saying Stewart looked ridiculous during his CNN appearance and was a sellout for publicly backing Democrat John Kerry for president.


Carlson is kidding himself if he thinks he won their Crossfire exchange. What really happened was that Carlson and Begala were caught completely off guard by Stewart's criticisms. Begala at least made some attempt to defend the show. Carlson just lamented that Stewart wasn't being funny.


Carlson noted that many of the great comedians kept their political opinions to themselves, not for fear of offending anyone, but because it could hurt their art.

“You're selling out,” he said. “If you are a satirist or an acute social observer, and he is, and all of a sudden you suspend disbelief on someone or suck up rather than prod or poke someone, people will look at you and say, 'Even if I agree with you, I don't like it,'” he said.


That's pathetic. Stewart's criticisms of Crossfire had to do with its shallowness and its frequent descent into silly partisan bickering. The debates they have, such as they are, have more to do with talking points than with getting at the truth of anything. For Carlson to respond to this by attacking Stewart is rather childish.

The Daily Show goes after whoever is making news that day. Since most days it is the Republicans making news, that's who they tend to focus on. As for selling out his art by saying, when specifically asked about it, that he will be voting for Kerry, please.

The fact is that the Daily Show manages to get closer to the truth with a few well-placed jokes than Crossfire does in a week of phony debates. That's why Carlson is so touchy about it.

Monday, October 18, 2004

God Bless Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart's recent appearance on CNN's Crossfire has made a bit of a buzz lately. It's about time someone had the courage to state the obvious: that the cable news chat shows are so relentlessly shallow and dishonest, that they actually leave people less informed for having watched them. The transcript is available here. For those who do not watch the show, the hosts are Paul Begala from the left and Tucker Carlson from the right.


STEWART: Will jump on it.

In many ways, it's funny. And I made a special effort to come on the show today, because I have privately, amongst my friends and also in occasional newspapers and television shows, mentioned this show as being bad.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: We have noticed.

STEWART: And I wanted to -- I felt that that wasn't fair and I should come here and tell you that I don't -- it's not so much that it's bad, as it's hurting America.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: But in its defense...

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: So I wanted to come here today and say...

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: Here's just what I wanted to tell you guys.

CARLSON: Yes.

STEWART: Stop.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America.


And later:


STEWART: No, no, no, no, that would be great. To do a debate would be great. But that's like saying pro wrestling is a show about athletic competition.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Jon, Jon, Jon, I'm sorry. I think you're a good comedian. I think your lectures are boring.

STEWART: Yes.

CARLSON: Let me ask you a question on the news.

STEWART: Now, this is theater. It's obvious. How old are you?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Thirty-five. STEWART: And you wear a bow tie.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Yes, I do. I do.

STEWART: So this is...

CARLSON: I know. I know. I know. You're a...

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: So this is theater.

CARLSON: Now, let me just...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Now, come on.

STEWART: Now, listen, I'm not suggesting that you're not a smart guy, because those are not easy to tie.

CARLSON: They're difficult.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: But the thing is that this -- you're doing theater, when you should be doing debate, which would be great.

BEGALA: We do, do...

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: It's not honest. What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery. And I will tell you why I know it.

CARLSON: You had John Kerry on your show and you sniff his throne and you're accusing us of partisan hackery?

STEWART: Absolutely.

CARLSON: You've got to be kidding me. He comes on and you...

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: What is wrong with you?


Of course, we certainly can't leave out this one:


CARLSON: I do think you're more fun on your show. Just my opinion.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: OK, up next, Jon Stewart goes one on one with his fans...

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: You know what's interesting, though? You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show.


It's a pity Stewart said all this on Crossfire. As bad and shallow as it is, it is hardly the worst of the cable news chat shows. That honor must surely go to Hardball with Chris Matthews, with O'Reilly being a close runner-up. At least Crossfire has Begala and Carville to agressively defend the liberal viewpoint. Most of the other shows are just as dumb and just as shallow, but are heavily slanted rightward to boot.

If you haven't already done so, go buy The Daily Show's book. It's hilarious!

Kramnik Keeps Title!!

I recently adopted a couple of very enthusiastic kittens. It didn't take them long to discover the chess set I had set-up in my spare bedroom. They weren't much interested in chess, but they did think it was very amusing to knock one of the pieces on to the floor, and then swat it around like a hockey puck. Occasionally the piece would roll behind the desk or into some other inconvenient location. No problem! One of them would jump back on to the table, knock another piece to the ground, and the game would begin anew. Swat, swat, swat. Piece after piece.

That's basically what Vladimir Kramnik did to Peter Leko in the fourteenth and final game of their World Championship match. Down by one point, Kramnik needed a win to tie the match and thereby retain his title. He introduced a novelty six moves into a Caro-Kann Defense. Leko defended well until he made an unwise decision to trade queens, thereby going into an endgame that was defensible but very passive. Kramnik kept pressing, and eventually Leko cracked. Kramnik's pieces came crashing through, Leko's forces were butchered horribly, and, two moves from checkmate, Leko resigned.

Congratulations are in order to Mr. Kramnik, who showed some serious cojones in today's game. Winning a game at the highest level is a tall order when your opponent is content with a draw. Leko went up by a point by winning game eight, but he made the mistake of thinking that he could just make draws for the rest of the match. And, come to think of it, wasn't he warned that that attitude was a mistake? Yes he was ! Readers of this blog heard it here!

For more information, have a look at The Week in Chess.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Kramnik 6 - Leko 7

Peter Leko maintains his one point lead in the World Chess Championship after surviving what will surely go down as one of the most memorable games in World Championship history.

Kramnik had black in game thirteen, but with only two games left in the match he went all out for a win. His fighting intentions were made clear right from the start when he abandoned his strategy of playing solid but passive openings as black. In response to Leko's queen pawn opening, Kramnik trotted out the venerable, but highly risky, Benoni defense. In this opening black makes several clear positional concessions right from the start. He does this because if white misplays his hand even a little bit, black's pieces are well-placed for a vicious counter-attack.

That's precisely what happened. Leko chose a passive line that allowed Kramnik to build up an impressive looking king-side attack. Leko defended cooly, however, and managed to reach a four-rook endgame that appeared to be an easy draw. But then came the time scramble. Leko blundered, a pair of rooks came off the board, and it sure looked like Kramnik was well on his way to victory.

Most of the grandmaster commentators were already chalking up the game for Kramnik. But Leko defended solidly, took advantage of slight inaccuracies by Kramnik, and reached a miracle draw. It was impressive defense by Leko, and more evidence of Kramnik's poor form.

So it all comes down to the last game. Kramnik will have white and must win to keep his title. He is sure to go all out. It's largely a battle of nerves at this point. Stay tuned!