Friday, August 28, 2009

Project Steve Update

Just got an email from the NCSE and they mentioned an update to 'Project Steve'. I thought it was done and gone, but nice to know it's continued. If you aren't familiar with it, it started pretty much as a twist on the Discovery institute 'Dissenting from Darwin' petition. You might remember that the 'Dissenting from Darwin' petition was presented to the State of Ohio and used during the Dover Trial as evidence that there are scientists who disagree with evolution (and support Intelligent Design). I put the second part in parentheses because the petition itself doesn't support Intelligent Design, but it was how the petition was marketed after the fact in which the DI tried to use it to show support for ID.

Well after something like 8 years the DI managed to gather up 700 signatories. And while they marketed them as 700 Doctoral Scientists, we learned that not only were they all not scientists, but some did not have a doctorate, and that many originally hide their affiliation with the Discovery institute when signing it. Plus very few of them were working in Biology at all.

To contrast that list a tongue-in-cheek petition called Project Steve started. The requirement to sign the list was that you had to be a scientists named Steve, or some cognates such as Stephanie, Esteban, Istvan, Stefano, or even Tapani -- the Finnish equivalent, were accepted. This represents about 1% of the population. This list is now at 1100 signatures and of over 54% of the signatories work in the biological sciences proper; 61% work in related fields in the life sciences. (Survey in 2006).

One point to make, while it was started as a parody, the statement these scientists signed is serious.

"Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to 'intelligent design,' to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools."
This was not a wishy-washy Dissent from Darwinism, which is pretty much NOT a statement against evolutionary theory nor one in support of Intelligent Design. In fact it pretty well means nothing at all. Here it is, read it for yourself:
"A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism
"We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."
Pretty much a non-committal statement. Some of the signatories have asked that their name be removed because at the time, they had no idea what the Discovery institute represented, or how this list was going to be used. In response to complaints about the list, the DI changed how it was represented on their website and pretty much made it worth even less . . . but they still like to use it to make people think there is some hotbed of controversy over biological evolution. It may be a political hot-potato, it certainly is not a scientific one.

OK, for more information on Project Steve, please click here: If you really need to see the Dissenting petition, please go here: For fun you can also read the following Blog posts (here, here, here. and especially here) about the dissent list, which link to the material explaining how the list has been mis-represented over the years.

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