Monday, February 11, 2008

SInce the "700" keeps coming up . . .

More on the 700:

Apparently the "Affiliations and credentials" part of the list of 700 is misrepresented. The way it works in science is that the organization you are currently associated with is listed in any document. Previous assignation or associations are listed in a curriculum vitae (CV). The Discovery Institute, that paragon of . . . . well this is a family blog, so I will leave the rest of that line blank . . . did not. They listed the most prestigious affiliations, even if in many cases the affiliation is from decades ago! This is contrary to standard academic and professional practice and is deliberately misleading. Here is a sampling:

Raymond G. Bohlin, Fazale Rana, and Jonathan Wells, were the University of Texas, Ohio University, and the University of California, Berkeley respectively, the schools from which they obtained their Ph.D. degrees. However, their present affiliations are quite different: Probe Ministries for Bohlin, the Reasons to Believe Ministry for Rana, and the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture for Wells. It makes me re-think someone's position when their tie to a Ministry or the Discovery Institute is revealed, but of course the DI doesn't want such a thing revealed.

Many of those who have signed the list are not currently active scientists, and some have never worked as scientists. For example, Leonard Loose signed the Dissent document at the age of 96, after a career as a high school teacher and missionary, but is listed as being affiliated with his alma mater, the University of Leeds. This is in spite of the fact that Loose's affiliation with the University of Leeds and the scientific community ended over 70 years ago. Makes me wonder what his affiliation is today?

Also, if a signatory was previously the head of a department or the president of an institute, their past and most prestigious position will be listed, not their current position. For example, Ferenc Jeszenszky is a physicist in Budapest who handles the "Hungarian Creation Research" videos, but appears instead on the list as "Former Head of the Center of Research Groups, Hungarian Academy of Sciences".

Visitors at prestigious institutions will have that affiliation listed, not their more humble home institutions. For example, Bernard d'Abrera, a writer and publisher of books on butterflies, appears on the list as "Visiting Scholar, Department of Entomology British Museum (Natural History)", in spite of the fact that this museum had become independent of the British Museum three decades previously and had formally changed its name to the Natural History Museum almost a decade before the petition. d'Abrera's primary affiliation is with his publishing company, Hill House Publishers. d'Abrera does not have a PhD either, nor any formal scientific qualification (his undergraduate degree was a double major in History & Philosophy of Science, and History), although creationists often call him "Dr. d'Abrera". It is not clear how many other signatories of the list do not have a PhD either, although the Discovery Institute currently recruits people with PhDs to sign the Dissent petition.

At least one other signatory, Forrest Mims, has neither a PhD nor any formal academic training in science. Additionally, at least seven signatories have their advanced degrees from outside the areas of "engineering, mathematics, computer science, biology, chemistry, or one of the other natural sciences" that are currently being recruited: Ronald R. Crawford has his Ed.D. in Science Education, David Berlinski has his PhD in Philosophy, Tom McMullen has his PhD in the History & Philosophy of Science, Angus Menuge has his PhD in the Philosophy of Psychology, Stephen Meyer has his PhD in the Philosophy of Science, Tony Prato has his PhD in Agricultural Economics, and Tianyou Wang has his PhD in Education and at least six, Jeffrey M. Schwartz, Ricardo León Borquez (incorrectly listed as "Ricardo Leon"), Gage Blackstone, Daniel Galassini, Mary A. Brown and Thomas C. Majerus, have professional doctorates (such as an MD, DVM or PharmD), rather than holding a research doctorate (such as a PhD).

Also, in early editions of the list, Richard Sternberg was described as "Richard Sternberg, Invertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution" though Sternberg was never a Smithsonian staff member, but an unpaid research associate. At the time of signing the list Sternberg was the outgoing editor of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, a minor biology journal, where he played a central role in the Sternberg peer review controversy. Later versions of the list dropped mention of Sternberg's affiliation with the Smithsonian in favor of Sternberg's alma maters, Florida International University and Binghamton University. At present Sternberg is a Staff Scientist with GenBank, the genetic database at the National Institutes of Health.

Critics also say the Discovery Institute inflates the academic credentials and affiliations of signatories such as Henry F. Schaefer. The institute prominently and frequently asserts that Schaefer has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Barbara Forrest and others allege that the Discovery Institute is inflating his reputation by constantly referring to him as a "five-time nominee for the Nobel Prize" despite that Nobel Prize nominations remain confidential for fifty years and there being about 250-300 nominations per prize per year. He is also a senior fellow over at the good old DI, shame they forgot to mention that as well.

Let us not forget that after the Discovery Institute presented the petition as part of a brief in the Kitzmiller v. Dover (October 2005) an unfunded grass roots counter petition, A Scientific Support For Darwinism, was organized and gathered 7733 signatures from scientists in four days. FOUR DAYS! After 7 years the Discovery Institute has managed to gather all of 700!

I am still waiting for that hotbed of controversy the DI keeps talking about!


  1. Hi Ted,

    You wrote, "Forrest Mims, has neither a PhD nor any formal academic training in science."

    True. My only degree is a BA in government with minors in history and English.

    I'm curious why you feel that an academic degree in the sciences is necessary to do science. Could you please elaborate? What, if anything, qualifies a person without a science degree to do credible science?

    Forrest M. Mims III

  2. Mr. Mims responded and here is my email reply:

    No I did not imply that, what I am stating is that according to the Discovery Institute you hold a Doctoral Degree, which is apparently untrue. One of my hobbies is catching the Discovery Institute in a lie, which seems to be pretty easy. According to them they have a list of over 700+ signatures of doctoral scientists who dissent from Darwinism for scientific reasons.

    Your name is on that list and that means the Discovery Institute is misrepresenting your educational background in pursuit of their own agenda. That was the point of my post.