Monday, March 2, 2009

The Discovery Institute and Michael Engor are at it again

Recently some news source reported that several scientific organizations have put Louisiana on a list to NOT to hold their annual meetings/conventions. The reason, as quoted in a letter to the Louisiana governor is simple, the passage of SB 561 [renumbered to SB 733] advocates a weakening of science education. As a result they decided not to hold a convention in New Orleans.

In all honesty, I am not sure I totally agree with them, but I certainly see their point and honor their decision to hold their convention wherever they choose. My disagreement is based on the point that having it in New Orleans might also have a positive impact on science and scientists in a State that obviously needs a wake-up call. But I do agree that the economic impact might cause them to wake up a bit faster -- at least I hope.

Well the DI, those less-than-honest fellows in Seattle have been at it again. They are accusing the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) of:

"Your opposition to academic freedom and your astonishing decision to boycott the people that you unsuccessfully tried to censor will only serve to further alienate ordinary Americans who already doubt your commitment to honest non-ideological science." (An Open Letter)
Do you see how easy they bandy around terms they clearly do not understand. Louisiana State Bill 733, the so-called "Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA)" is NOT an example of academic freedom, yet they insist that opposing such a disastrous bill is anti-academic freedom.

They go further and state that
"The LSEA is a landmark academic freedom bill that allows teachers to use supplementary materials to teach controversial scientific theories without threat of recrimination."
Once again, nothing could be further from the truth. If you read the bill itself and the accompanying instructions the State School Board, you can see that it opens the door to bring in anything they want, whether it has anything to do with the subject at hand or not. That is not academic freedom! It violates the responsibilities that go hand in hand with real academic freedom!

The DI also accuse the SICB of censorship and sneering at the people of Louisiana. Once again, far from the truth. The Society lobbied for the veto of this bill, as is their right. They wrote to the Governor about it, and when the State of Louisiana passed such a mockery to academic freedom, real academic freedom, they [the SICB] elected to move their direct financial support elsewhere. The State of Louisiana has the right to do as they did! No one disputes that. But of course the DI, and Engor, want to take away the right of the SICB to do as they did! There is no disdain, no sneering, if anyone is responsible for disdainful action it is Michael Egnor who, in the name of the DI, who is disdainful when he uses the pejorative "Darwinist" Please note his "Darwinist -Free Zone" comments!

Egnor, who is not a Biologist, has also been critiqued a number of times for his postings, Biologist Jerry Coyne responded to Egnor in the past, noting that he is not even a scientist, and has stated that "Egnor is decades out of date and shows no sign of knowing anything at all about evolutionary biology in the 21st century." (Jerry Coyne)

That does explain this next part. Rather than go into details on how academic freedom is served by the Louisiana law, Egnor falls on Creationism. I kid you not! Check out the paragraph that starts with:
"Most Americans are creationists, in the sense that they believe that God played an important role in creating human beings and they don’t accept a strictly Darwinian explanation for life."
I find this hilarious! How how can the DI claim that Intelligent Design is not a form of Creationism, yet use Creationism to defend the actions of the people of Louisiana? Of course logic and the DI seldom go hand in hand, as we have all seen. I think they need a better spokesman than Michael Egnor! Although I doubt their usual mouthpieces of Johnathon Wells or Casey Luskin do much better.

I hope every professional organization in the world notes this and seriously re-considers Louisiana as a state for more than their conventions. Any organization in search of a well-educated workforce must now re-considered any plans to expand or move into the State of Louisiana! This is the reality chosen by that state and signed into law by their Governor. And it is the reality they get to live with. Of course the DI is well insulated from any recriminations when their actions have a negative impact on the economy of the State.

My personal aside for the people of Louisiana is to examine what academic freedom really is and recognize the lie being perpetrated by the Discovery Institute. I believe they will repeal this law when they realize that teachers have always had the freedom to bring in supplementary material -- as long as it is part of the subject under discussion! This law does nothing but open the door to do things against education, against academic freedom, and be shelter teachers from any action in doing so!

I also remind the people of Louisiana that they really should repeal this law before some poor school district winds up on the losing end of a Dover-Style law suit. The first teacher that brings Creationist material to teach an unscientific alternative, like the DI's pet idea of Intelligent Design, will be the opening step of a very expensive lawsuit.

In close I would like to remind anyone that it is not censorship to oppose a law like the Louisiana Science Education Act , but it is the responsibility of organizations such as the SICB to oppose such anti-education efforts. The very idea that the DI has to fall to lies and mis-direction is a telling point of their own complicity in damaging the future science education in the State of Louisiana!

I like Louisiana, both of my children were born in Louisiana, but I am glad my grandchildren will not attend school in Louisiana! I hope soon the people of Louisiana can do the right thing, the intelligent thing, and repeal that law and also make me change my mind about education in that Great State!

Today I noticed my Blog was hit from StoneyBrook, from the school where Engor hangs his shingle. I hope he read it. If so, I would like to add this. Based on your rather silly letter, do you practice what you preach? So when you hold a consult in your specific field you invite everyone, especially people with no working knowledge of the subject to contribute? That is what you are advocating. Why would I find it hard to believe that you have any respect for any other opinion other than your own?

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