Thursday, September 30, 2010

That didn't take long UK Intelligent Design meet US Intelligent Design

It was just this past Sunday that I posted about us exporting the foolishness colloquially known as Intelligent Design to Great Britain ("It's about time we got even"). As I said there the link to the Discovery Institute might not be official, but the DI was trumpeting like it was an actual victory. Well it's more than a philosophical link now. The UK-based Centre for Intelligent Design has just announced a fall lecture tour featuring Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Michael Behe.

The press release is from the Discovery Institute, so lies, exaggerations, and distortions are a matter of course. So when they say "Controversial ID Scientist tours the UK" are they really serious? Let's see -- this is the man whose own organization, Lehigh University, does not agree with his hobby horse. This is a man who under oath admitted that no one was doing the scientific work needed to support his own ideas. This is the man who stated that in order for Intelligent Design to be accepted as science the very definition of science would have to be expanded to the point of making Astrology a science . . . get the idea? Michael Behe will do for Intelligent Design in the UK what he's done for it in the US -- damn near nothing at all!

I mean, really is he so controversial? I think by now even the DI would question his ability to help their cause. I will say one thing about Behe is at least he had the intestinal fortitude to stick to his beliefs and testify during the Dover Trial -- unlike other members of the DI. But as a controversial figure he rates pretty low on the scale.

Just as a reminder, here is what Lehigh University says about Intelligent Design:

"The department faculty, then, are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory, which has its roots in the seminal work of Charles Darwin and has been supported by findings accumulated over 140 years. The sole dissenter from this position, Prof. Michael Behe, is a well-known proponent of "intelligent design." While we respect Prof. Behe's right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific."
Here is another exaggeration of the DI. When Michael Behe is stumping for the DI and waxing poetic on Intelligent Design, is he acting within his scientist persona?

It's something to think about. I mean if my dentist discusses the cyst I have on my back, he's not being a dentist, right? When the butcher offers portfolio advice, he's not acting as a butcher. Are my dentist and butcher free to offer an opinion on something other than their specialty? They certainly are -- but when they do so they are acting outside of their professional persona. Of course no one would take my butcher seriously if I identified him as the source of my stock advice!

However, when Behe speaks, the DI is quick to cloak him in his scientist cape -- but should it? Lehigh University says Intelligent Design has no basis in science, so calling anyone an 'ID Scientist' really has little to no meaning! Yes, Behe is a scientist when he is teaching and working in Biochemistry -- but Behe himself is not doing the work to support his own ideas (by his own admission). He's not being a scientist when he writes and speaks about Intelligent Design.

Yet, according to the Discovery Institute Michael Behe is a 'Controversial ID Scientist'. At the very least the DI is overstating the case -- at the very worst they are doing nothing but smoke and mirrors to catch some of the glint over having an actual biochemist selling their snake oil. But that's pretty typical for the Discovery Institute.

4 nails in the coffin containing the remains of the Discovery Institute credibility.

In my post "So there is nothing religious about Intelligent Design? " I mentioned a Discovery Institute seminar at physically located at Southern Methodist University (SMU) called "4 Nails in Darwin's Coffin". My post was concerning the constant efforts the DI makes to distance their work from religion, yet they continually seek religious organizations to present their work.

Well some faculty members at SMU decided to set the record straight and offered their own 'side' of the story. In a letter posted in the SMU Daily Campus a number of faculty members said a few not-very-surprising things, casting more doubt into the Discovery Institute's credibility, knowledge, and intellectual honesty . . . well please read both the letter (SMU Professors Speak Out Against Darwin Presentation") and the link within the letter for yourself. Here is a touch:

"We were outraged by the dishonesty of Thursday's presentation, but not entirely
surprised by it. The Discovery Institute is a well-financed organization that
has repeatedly attempted to discredit Darwinian biology and thereby advance its
brand of religion called Intelligent Design. We do not object to religion as
such. But we do object to blatant distortions of Darwinian thinking, and to
pseudo-scientific alternatives to it that are falsely alleged to be better
supported by the evidence."
Gee, would the Discovery Institute be less than honest? Nothing new there, but it certainly is a fun read.

The link within the letter is absolutely priceless. Here are a few highlights from "Big Problems With Intelligent Design", which addresses not only this presentation, but Intelligent Design and the Discovery Institute.
  • [The Discovery Institute] presented a film and live presentations filled with distortions of the legitimate scientific literature
  • Misquoted, misrepresented, falsely interpreted, grossly exaggerated and outright silliness tangentially derived from the scientific literature concentrating on four real scientists (Darwin, Gould, Conway-Morris and Valentine) slickly mixed with deception, misinterpretations and long-windedness from five Discovery Institute employees (Meyer, Wells, Nelson, Axe and Sternberg).
  • Contrary to what the film asserts, transitional forms between animal phyla have been found in Cambrian rocks.
  • The movie didn't consider the positive evidence for thinking that the various animal phyla are related, including genetic similarities that they share distinct from other phyla, and the fact that all earthly life employs basically the same genetic code for translating triplets of DNA base-pairs into amino acids.
  • Richard Sternberg showed a figure depicting whale evolution and the large numbers of known transitional forms that looked like it was taken from Don Prothero's evolutionary classic, Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters. Sternberg tried to use the figure to attempt to assert that population genetics (mathematical descriptions of evolution) predict that this transitional series couldn't possibly have occurred. He did this without presenting the mathematics used, nor did he talk about the computer programs that actually crunched the required numbers.
  • Deceptive tactics were used to produce the DVD: The producers of the DVD shown by the Discovery Institute did not inform and apparently hid from Prof. James W. Valentine, a renowned member of the scientific community, professor at UC Berkeley, and an expert in the evolution of animal phyla, the fact that they were making a creationist's film on the Cambrian Radiation. He felt he was so misrepresented by the producers of the film (Statement available at "Was the DI being Honest".
  • At the end of the presentation Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute thanked the “SMU administration” for hosting the event. That is just another lie. The SMU Administration had nothing to do with the seminar. If you really want to know what SMU thinks of Darwin try
Those are just a few, the entire document is fascinating reading. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Intellectual dishonesty, quote-mining, and out-and-out lies is pretty much the expectation of any DI presentation. The question I would have asked is simply does the Discovery Institute even know how to spell the word 'ethical'? They sure do not appear to know what the word means.

I think they should go back to peddling their wares at strictly small church audiences where they might receive more positive reviews because trying to preach to anyone who knows even the basics of evolutionary theory wouldn't sell much snake-oil. The only nails being driven were the ones into any possible chance of anyone believing the DI has a shred of credibility! Darwin's work -- even if it were wildly incorrect -- would still be safe from these pseudo-scientists and their religion.

Monday, September 27, 2010

An additional note on Modesto

PZ Myers on Pharyngula picked up on this one as well ("The science media make my head hurt") and he commented on something I noticed but hadn't thought through -- so I wanted to add this to my original post.

If you went to the original link ("Modesto science teacher's plan to teach intelligent design sparks debate") you saw that off on the left-side of the main article are two sets of links, one explaining ID and one explaining Evolution. The article's writer went to the Discovery Institute (DI) and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) for their information. The error they made, and one I agree with PZ on, is that they seemed to treat both organizations the same. This offered way to much credibility to the Discovery Institute! As PZ said:

"And of course, they go to the Discovery Institute for their story about ID, and set them against the NCSE, as if these two groups have an equal investment in the scientific truth. They do not. Intelligent Design has no credibility, no empirical support, and no reasonable proposals for scientific investigation. When will the media wake up and realize that their constant pushing of a false equivalency is a major factor in feeding this pseudo-controversy?"
One of the factors driving the success of the Discovery Institute's marketing campaigns is that the media tends to treat them as if they have credibility, as if they are offering something on par with evolutionary theory. That's is simply not true!

Lauri Lebo discussed this in her excellent book "The Devil In Dover" with a quote from Science Magazine's Donald Kennedy:
"There's a very small set of people who question the consensus," Kennedy said. "And there are a great many thoughtful reporters in the media who believe that in order to produce a balanced story , you've got to pick on commentator from side A and one commentator from side B."
She also quoted Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in their book "Elements of Journalism":
"Balance, for instance, can lead to distortion. If an overwhelming percentage of scientists, for example, believe that Global Warming is a scientific fact, or that some medical treatment is clearly the safest, it is a disservice to citizens and truthfulness to create the impression that the scientific debate is equally split."
Nan Austin of the Modesto Bee made the error of consensus. Oh I am sure she means well, but by giving the impression that the NCSE and the DI have the same degree of credibility, or that Evolution and Intelligent Design are on equal footing in the scientific community is just plain wrong!

Modesto rather than Livingston?

Modesto CA rather than Livingston Parish LA might be a site of the next Dover trial lawsuit. This article doesn't say much "Modesto Science Teacher's plan to teach Intelligent Design" Apparently the teacher in question, Mark Ferrante, hasn't said anything other than he plans to teach it. His school board has said that

"He will not be teaching intelligent design. He has been instructed to teach the
state standards and intelligent design is not in the state standards," Modesto City Schools spokeswoman Emily Lawrence said last week.

I am going to make two predictions -- First that after drawing such attention to himself and his plans he will not actually attempt to teach it, but just mention it in class. That he might get away with -- without threatening his job. My second prediction is that shortly the Discovery Institute will have a press release on the big bad bullies of science and science education are trying to silence this brave teacher who is just trying to do right by his students. Oh I bet I have the words wrong, but not the content.

Any takers?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It is about time we got even!

Over the past number of years Great Britain has exported an extraordinary number of TV shows. We got "American Idol", "JunkYard Wars", "America's Got Talent", and "The Weakest Link" to name a few. Some of these shows worked out -- others made me question the sanity of our partners across the pond. Well now we get even! Not only are they importing "Law and Order" -- but they get our least impressive export as well -- Intelligent Design! I think "The Gong Show" would make more sense!

Yes, the poor island empire is opening its very own ID apologetics with a small office and a website. The Centre for Intelligent Design is opening in Glascow. Although it is not officially associated with the Discovery Institute, the DI is trumpeting it as some sort of victory. Of course any news that isn't immediately anti-ID is good news for those less-than-honest fellows over at the DI -- it represents a life-saver of hope at a time when they seem to be losing at every turn.

Luckily there is no intention of including ID in the school curriculum, as evidenced by a return letter to Prof. Thomas Blundell. I especially like the

"Creationism and Intelligent Design . . . do not form part of the National Curriculum Programmes of study"
Don't you? Anyone want to start a pool for when the first lawsuit happens?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Now you know I am not a fan of the Discovery Institute

But before I talk about them, I want to make it clear that I am also not a fan of crackers and hackers. Deliberately interfering with web traffic with Denial of Service (DoS) or other attacks is a criminal act. What should happen when any group is subject to such an attack is to use the appropriate resources and identify the attackers and take appropriate legal action. DoS attacks are a crime in the U.S. and a number of other countries.

Of course when the Discovery Institute is the subject of such an attack, or I think I should say 'alleged' attack, what do they do? They spin! They get up on the tips of their pointy-toes and spin like the mad little pseudo-scientists that they are.

Here is an example, Jonnie West is whining about a DoS attack against the DI "Cyber Attacks Attempt to Shut Down Discovery Institute's Websites on Day of Event Challenging Darwinism" So without any evidence of who was attacking, or even why they were attacking he assumes it was 'Darwinists' and repeats his many old claims about a conspiracy by his Institute's detractors to silence them. Once again I will state that I am completely against these sort of attacks for any reason! In my opinion the best thing anyone can do for science is let the DI have their say. The more people hear about their foolish ideas, the easier they are to deal with.

But again does the DI attempt to actually identify the attackers? No, they will get more mileage by not identifying them. Besides if the attackers were known, the DI might be dragged into court and we know how they tend to avoid court.

Is the attack even a real one? There have been numerous instances in the past where a websites popularity is mistaken for a DoS attack. Well I guess we can rule that one out because I cannot imagine the DI being a popular web destination. But it is still within the realm of possibility, just not probability.

Could the attack have been orchestrated by someone other than an alleged 'Darwinist' -- like maybe a former ally of the DI who became disenchanted with their tactics and lawyer-ing word games? Most cyber attacks are from insiders not outside sources. Plus let us remember than in spite of the 'big-tent' approach, not everyone who is against real science is in the DI's corner.

No, West assumes pro-science supporters -- and uses the typical pejorative 'Darwinists' -- and then attempts to make it sound as if we are trying to close down discussion. No one I know is afraid of discussion. No one I know is even afraid of the DI. The only concern any of us have is their marketing success, pandering of politicians, and impact on the conservative religious audience they covert and how these things can damage science education in this country. We have repeatedly asked for the DI to bring their science to the table -- but rather than do they, they market, pander, and preach.

Like most things, in my opinion, rather than use the opportunity as a PR campaign, the DI should be using it's resources to identify and bring the attackers to justice. But justice doesn't seem to be on the agenda of the DI, not when they can spin.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Intelligent Design: one of the worst ideas of recent decades (Discovery Magazine)

Creationism, and it's little brother, Intelligent Design have offered some fun moments over the years. Remember how the Creation Museum was listed among the Worlds my Craptastic Tourist Attractions? Although 'attraction' might not be the best word to use. How about Michael Behe's hilarious testimony during the Dover Trial and William Dembski's response to his critics -- any of them. Little science but plenty to laugh at over the years.

Well Discovery Magazine is celebrating it's 30th anniversary in it's Oct 2010 edition. In it they are listing some of the biggest blunders of recent years -- including, as I am sure you guessed, Intelligent Design. What they have to say contains one small error (as reported by the NCSE) but the rest is spot on:

"Not satisfied with the biblical God who created the world in six days, creationists developed a "science" that aims to explain the supernatural force behind the whole shebang: intelligent design. Because we cannot reverse-engineer things like the human eye, they say, it follows that all must be designed by a higher being. (The human knee presumably came together during a moment of distraction.) This tactic had some success easing intelligent design/creationism into American public-school science lessons. But in 2005 a jury prohibited its teaching in the schools of Dover, Pennsylvania, delivering a stinging rebuke."
The error is tiny. The Dover trial wasn't decided by a jury, but a Judge in a bench trial. We should also never forget that Creation Science also crashed and burned well before 2005. You can take a look at:
  • Epperson v. Arkansas - 1968 -a case that invalidated an Arkansas statute that prohibited the teaching of human evolution in the public schools.
  • Daniel v. Waters - 1975 - struck down Tennessee's law regarding the teaching of "equal time" of evolution and creationism in public school science classes.
  • Hendren v. Campbell - 1977 - ruled that the young-earth creationist textbook Biology: A Search For Order In Complexity, published by the Creation Research Society and promoted through the Institute for Creation Research, could not be used in Indiana public schools.
  • McLean v. Arkansas - 1982 - mandated the teaching of "creation science" in Arkansas public schools, was unconstitutional.
  • Edwards v. Aguillard - 1987 - ruled that a Louisiana law requiring that creation science be taught in public schools, along with evolution, was unconstitutional because the law was specifically intended to advance a particular religion.
Remember that is was Edwards v. Aguillard that drove the changes that brought about Intelligent Design. This was part of the evidence during the Dover Trial that showed the time line of when the Creationist text "Of Pandas and People" went from Creationism to Intelligent Design with some screwed up cutting and pasting. 'cdesign proponentsists' anyone?

I'm sure someone from the DI will have something to say, after all they attacked a grandmother from making a quilt that called ID a myth, so I expect them to be further up in arms over the Discovery Magazine's article. Shall we start a pool on which shill will voice their unsupported opinion first?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Discovery Institute's Continued Persecution of Darwin

Once again Darwin is being blamed for things he had nothing to do with. And typically the culprit is the Discovery Institute, this time John West. FamilyNet will be airing a documentary featuring West waxing less than Poetic called "What Hath Darwin Wrought?" It also stars a couple of other Discovery Institute shills.

First things first, FamilyNet? Of course we continually hear about how the Discovery Institute and Intelligent Design have nothing to do with religion. So of course their documentary is featured on a broadcast television network owned by ComStar Media Fund. It was founded in 1979 as the National Christian Network, and took the name FamilyNet in 1988 under the ownership of Jerry Falwell. The channel was acquired by InTouch Ministries in October 2007 from the Southern Baptist Convention. In December of 2009, FamilyNet was acquired by Robert A. Schuller's ComStar Media Fund.

So let's get this straight:

  • National Christian Network
  • Jerry Falwell
  • Southern Baptist Convention
  • InTouch Ministries
  • Robert A. Schuller (Televangelist, in case you didn't know)
So the Discovery Institute is still playing to crowds of people already primed to accept their ideas and they still insist that they have nothing to do with religion or a religious perspective.

So "What has Darwin Wrought?" Well according to West
"If you're concerned about the devaluation of life -- for example, if you're concerned about the new atheists who claim that science somehow proves that God doesn't exist -- you need to be concerned about Darwin because a lot of those ideas came from him," West contends. "Darwin was a nice man personally, but his ideas were not so nice -- and they're not accurate, in fact. But they have tremendous repercussions for each and every one of us today."
So is West ever right? Nothing he has produced has shown me he knows anything about the subject he spouts off about. And this article calls him a scholar! In my opinion he does not deserve to be considered a scholar.
  • So What about Darwin's work devalued life? Nothing!
  • What does Darwin have to do with "New Atheists"? Nothing!
  • What has been proven inaccurate about Darwin's work? Nothing! Oh yes there were things he didn't know and some details he didn't get complete, but his core ideas have been well supported and continue to be well supported by the evidence even today!
In other words this is nothing but a typical marketing film. marketed to religious folks, by folks who are trying to demonize Darwin in an effort to discredit the science of evolution. Of course since the Discovery Institute hasn't been able to discredit the science itself, they attack one man who has done little but explain the world around us.

Yes, that is ALL Darwin did. The questions he offered answers to had been asked for decades, even centuries. His observations, and those of the many who came after him, have done nothing but explain natural events that happen on a daily basis. The problem is West and his cronies don't like the explanation. They prefer one that puts God ahead of anything else (Stated pretty clearly in the Wedge Document). And they spend marketing money to attack a man who is safely dead!

Wells, who claims his prayers as a member of the Unification Church lead him to spend his life destroying Darwinism. We have yet another connection to religion. And we have also another unsupported attack on a man who did nothing wrong. A man who offered an explanation of what is actually going on. And it's being offered by a man who has a huge chip on his shoulder, who belongs to an organization who cannot attack the evidence or the science so they market and sell -- primarily to religious audiences. Pretty ridiculous, if you ask me. Anyone who buys into this is already primed against science anyway. Bet the reception by anyone outside of the targeted FamilyNet audience gives it the same credence as 2008's "Expelled:" mockumentary?

Someone else with a working brain visited the Creation 'Museum'

The write up is hilarious! "Kentucky Fried Creation"is a masterpiece. I especially loved one of his summary lines

"the only difference between a 21 million dollar Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY and people who consult astrologers is budget"
Pseudo-science is pseudo-science regarldess of what other labels you want to put on it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

So there is nothing religious about Intelligent Design? Part II

So once again we can see that there is nothing religious when it comes to the Discovery Institute and intelligent Design, right? Sure and one of their new bloggers is living proof. She's a hard-hitting science type with no interest in religion? Guess again.

Josh Rosenau noticed this right off and posted a terrific post about it on his blog "Thoughts from Kansas". Here is how they introduced her:

"[NOTE: Today we welcome a new contributing writer to Evolution News & Views, Heather Zeiger. Ms. Zeiger graduated magna cum laude from the University of Texas at Dallas with a B.S. in chemistry and a minor in government and politics. She received her M.S. in chemistry, also from UTD; her research was in organic synthesis and materials.]"
However Josh found a slightly more detailed description that seemed to leave a few parts out:
"Heather Zeiger graduated magna cum laude from the University of Texas at Dallas with a B.S. in chemistry and a minor in government and politics. She received her M.S. in chemistry, also from UTD; her research was in organic synthesis and materials. She interned at Probe Ministries prior to graduate school and now serves with Probe as a Research Associate. Her interests involve science and culture issues, including bioethics, origins, and the environment. She is currently working on a M.A. in bioethics from Trinity International University. She is married to David, another former Probe intern and teacher at Trinity Christian Academy. "
Notice how the Probe Ministries and Trinity Christian Academy just happened to not be mentioned by the Discovery Institute.

I suppose we could give Heather the benefit of the doubt -- but that's not going to happen. She testified in Texas and bragged about it. No, Miss Heather is not interested in science much. Here are a few select quotes from her blog: (links provided so you can see the whole quote in context)
  • "our mission at Probe, essentially helping people think biblically" (Mar 2009)
  • "hopefully we can discuss the Christian worldview on stem cells." and "This is part of our ministry of "having a defense for the hope that you have in Christ." (April 2009)
  • "I am working on a book review on Signature in the Cell. The review will be published soon. I was contacted to write this review because of my chemistry and apologetics background - I'm not sure how much of this was their enthusiasm over my "awesome writing skills" or the fact that there aren't that many Christian apologists that are chemists. (August 2009)
  • "I gave one talk on Wednesday and will be giving another one for a Sunday School class this Sunday on the Evidences for the Existence of God." (November 2009)
That's just a few. In fact I pulled those quotes on the ONLY 4 pages I looked at. It's not like I had to dig hard to find them. I think the only good thing about her is she seems to be honest about her beliefs. You can't say that about the majority of the folks at the DI.

I especially like the book review of Stephen C. Meyer's 'epic'. Now why would there not be many Christian Apologetics that are chemists? Plus her link takes us to the Amazon page and there doesn't seem to be any review by her on their pages. I also wonder who 'asked' her to do a review. I guess the book can't stand on it's own when you have to scare up apologetics to write reviews. Having read the book, yea, it needs all the propping up it can get. It certainly cannot stand on it's own legs based on any included science. Oh well back to Miss Heather.

I hope you can see what I see. We have yet another apologetic posting on the Discovery Institute blog . . . and yet they still claim that ID has nothing to do with religion. That little deception has worn paper thin! I have one small hope. I hope that Miss Heather continues to represent her beliefs in the forefront of her posts for the DI. I am not particularly hopeful because in her first post, in my opinion she screws things up. A the end of the third paragraph she has this gem:
"So while the biologists are discussing how natural selection acting on random mutations will produce new species and evolution is good because it produces more fit species, the geneticists and the engineers are looking for ways to overpower Nature and take the reins of our own evolutionary advancement."
Is Evolution 'good'? No, evolution simple 'is'. There is no good or bad about it. It's an explanation of how nature works, nothing more. Are geneticists and engineers looking for ways to improve upon nature? Of course they are. Look at the things they have already produced. Isn't that what we have done in every scientific discipline? Well we shall see what her posts are like. But I doubt she will be as open as she was at Probe Ministries, I don't think the DI won't allow that to happen!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Is Biologics part of the DI?

Someone dropped me a line to tell me that the Biologics Institute is a separate organization from the Discovery Institute and that implying differently wasn't fair.

So I guess this line from their own about page ( was just my imagination:

"Its founding was made possible by Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and
Culture, which continues to support its ongoing work."
And here is another one from their contacts page (

Press inquiries should be directed to:
Robert L. Crowther, II
Director of Communications
Center for Science & Culture
Discovery Institute
206.292.0401 x107

All other inquiries can be made to:
Biologic Institute\
16310 NE 80th Street
Redmond, WA 98052 USA

I am just imagining this, right? Anyone else remember how Doug Axe, the current director of the BI, was featured in the Wedge Strategy Document? The playbook of the Discovery Institute? And how the his 'work' was featured in The Edge of Evolution by Michael Behe, and Signature in the Cell by Stephen Meyer. If those names look familiar, look over at the DI website and their list of folks.

Their information on ID is identical to the DI, including a link to the DI's own Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture's Intelligent Design website (

So on paper the two organizations may be different, and I am sure they are separate on the tax paperwork. But the DI handles their PR and funds them. In my opinion a difference that makes no difference is no difference.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

So there is nothing religious about Intelligent Design?

So when "Scientists Converge on SMU to Discuss Death of Darwin's Theory" has nothing to do with religion.

OK, So that means SMU -- Southern Methodist University -- has nothing to do with religion.

"The event, sponsored and organized by PULSE and Victory Campus Ministries"
has nothing to do with religion. I guess 'Ministries' might give it away. Oh don't you know what PULSE is? It's a weekly gathering for . . . wait for it . . . Victory Campus Ministries. So in fact the talk is sponsored by the Victory Campus Ministries and the Victory Campus Ministries.

So, in other words, the audience that best accepts Discovery Institute propaganda are religion ones. Well this isn't something terrible new. But it certainly accents the relationship between Creationism and Intelligent Design. They can't seem to escape it.

Oh they do use their built-in excuse. Bobbie Crowther, also of the DI,
"At that event some of the faculty and other Darwin activists around Dallas said that such a discussion has no place on an academic campus and tried to shut down the event"
Gee, scientists who think a pseudo-scientific subject that has been ruled religion has no place on an academic campus. Of course I haven't seen a single article critical of this particular gathering -- but stuff like facts don't bother the DI. They want an audience that will be less critical in a setting where their ideas are partially already accepted, and where they can do their wink-wink at the identity of the designer. Always nice to play to receptive audience.

Yes, and if you thought the press release was a little . . . antagonistic . . . towards The Theory of Evolution, please note that the presenters and members mentioned in the article are from the Discovery Institute and the Biologics Institute -- which is just a sub-organization of the . . . wait for it . . . the DI. So you can say the attendees are from the Discovery Institute and the Discovery Institute.

Also note who was the source of the press release -- yup, the Discovery Institute. So that pretty well explains things. Wonder who is paying for this particular road trip?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Viewpoint Discrimination?

After I posted my latest concerning ICR (ICR admits defeat . . . sort of) I re-read back through my earlier posts and realized I had jotted down a post about the subject of ICR's suit against the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board (THECB) and promptly forgot about it. What ICR sued for, in addition to religious discrimination is something called 'viewpoint discrimination' and that's the phrase that caught my eye. Is there such a thing as viewpoint discrimination?

I did learn there was, as evidenced in Rosenbuger v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia(1995) considered whether or not a state university might, consistent with the First Amendment, withhold funding from student religious publications, that also is provided to secular student publications.

But after trying to follow the thinking that ruled against UVA, I tried to understand how THECB withholding their permission for MS degrees in science education and I failed to see the parallels. While I am not sure I completely agree with the Rosenbuger decision, it doesn't seem to apply in this case. The glaring difference I see is that the UVA was talking about financially supporting an independent publication by a non-secular student group. The ICR was claiming that the THECB saying

"1) that ICR failed to demonstrate that the proposed degree program meets
acceptable standards of science and science education; and
2) that the proposed degree is inconsistent with Coordinating Board rules which require the accurate labeling or designation of programs ... Since the proposed degree program inadequately covers key areas of science, it cannot be properly designated
either as 'science' or 'science education".

was a form of viewpoint discrimination? Let me get this straight, the ICR asked for permission to award science degrees and when the organization in Texas responsible for overseeing such things looks under the hood they find . . . not much . . .. How is this an issue with differing viewpoints? If their program had met acceptable standards of science and science education or if the degree request was in line with the labeling they wanted, they might have received a favorable consideration.

But as it stood they were asking for the State's concurrence to award degrees in an area they are unfit to award! Imagine hiring a graduate of this program to teach science in a school near you? If the State of Texas had approved it, they would have been complicit in what amounts to a crime. Because awarding a degree without requiring the student learn the required material should be criminal. It makes an ineligible candidate appear, on paper at least, to be qualified. Imagine the waste if a school system hires one of these graduates and discovers well into a school year that they are unqualified to perform the duties required of them. Look at the legal fees being incurred by Woods-Hole Oceanographic Institute because it hired an evolutionary biologist who, after being hired, states that he can only do a small percentage of the job because he doesn't believe in Evolution. What a waste! He should have never been a candidate for the position. In my opinion Woods Hole should sue him for mis-representing himself.

It's not 'viewpoint discrimination' when the basis for the decision is not based on their viewpoint, but their inability to actually perform the job. ICR is woefully inadequate in teaching science, therefor the THECB was entirely in the right by denying their application to award MS degrees in science education.

ICR admits defeat, sort of . . .

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is reporting that the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) has apparently given up on their attempts to award a master's of Science Graduate degree in science education. In case you missed it, it is something I have blogged about a few times. (Texas scores a big win! , Texas on a different but related subject, Showdown in Texas, Hasn't Texas had enough, and Yea for Texas). Basically they were trying to award an MS graduate degree with, in my opinion, little science involved -- in particular evolution. In all honesty how can an organization award any type of science degree when everything they do is filtered through biblical colored glasses?

Unfortunately they will not be folding up their revival tent and going home, they plan to opening

". . . the ICR's School of Biblical Apologetics, which offers a Master of Christian Education degree; Creation Research is one of four minors. The ICR explains, "Due to the nature of ICR's School of Biblical Apologetics — a predominantly religious education school — it is exempt from licensing by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board [THECB]. Likewise, ICR's School of Biblical Apologetics is legally exempt from being required to be accredited by any secular or ecumenical or other type of accrediting association."
This does open the question is that if the THECB isn't going to license or otherwise certify their education program, who will? Will it become a unaccredited group like the Patriot Bible University , the group that 'awarded' Kent Hovind, aka Dr. Dino, his PhD? Will they seek alternative accreditation? My opinion is they will remain unaccredited as long as some number of people are willing to pay to attend their idea of education. After which they will discontinue their program, or rename it in the interest of suckering in a few more paying souls.

What I find most interesting is that they made a point about being unaccredited when there are several nationally recognized accreditation associations for non-secular schools, like

Yet the ICR isn't seeking them out. I wonder why? It does make one think why they do not take advantage of being accredited. Actually it doesn't make me wonder, but I know I won't be applying for a degree from them. I question whether it will be worth the paper it would be printed on!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New DI attack whine -- Science Funding

OK, we all know the Discovery Institute does not actually perform science. They write popular press books and articles, they market the hell out of themselves, they use disreputable tactics in all they do, they whine incessantly, and they tend to run away when things get warm.

In my opinion they do not even understand how science works. The reason I say this started with that stupid Stein mockumentary, which featured the DI, and this label he kept using 'Big Science'. Exactly what is 'Big Science'? Stein never explained -- because he wouldn't have been able to do so. There is no single organization controlling scientific work in this country or around the world. There is no single pipeline of grants and funds. There is no cabal that make decisions for the entire scientific community in some secret smoke-filled room. Scientists are affiliated with a wide variety of businesses, schools, museums, foundations . . .. Their funding sources are as diverse as can be imagined. While the Federal Government funds a great deal of science, even that funding comes from a wide variety of sources.

In other words while we refer to a 'Scientific Community' colloquially, there really is no large-scale organizations of scientists. There are a number of loose federations, you might say, of scientists who share the same discipline. There is no controlling entity -- there is no 'Big Science!'.

OK, let's connect the two. Right now there is a Harvard Professor who apparently messed up. Harvard is dealing with it, as they should. Did he actually make mistakes, was it documentation errors or procedural errors -- are they correctable or not? Since he is affiliated with Harvard, Harvard gets the first crack at investigating him -- as they rightly should. Here is one source article from NPR "Harvard probes Claims of Scientific Misconduct".

So how does the Discovery Institute fit in? Bruce Chapman, yes the man who is busy running away from Louisiana. He blogged about the issue and says some pretty stupid things.

"Dr. Hauser probably can escape permanent damage to his employment prospects if he explains that his genes made him cheat. In the history of hominids, after all, shaking down taxpayers is a well-established behavior to enhance reproductive advantage."
Does that paragraph make any sense at all? Does Chapman understand anything? in my opinion, apparently not. But this is the line that killed me:
"And why does Big Science, alone among American institutions, get to police itself? "
First of all I object to the use of the word 'alone'. Is Chapman forgetting the American Medical Association and the American Bar Association? How about every Union in existence. How about the Catholic Church and their decades-old policies of self-policing pedophiles. These are a great many organizations that police themselves to a surprisingly autonomous degree, sometimes a shocking degree. So even if such an organization existed for all scientific research, the word 'alone' certainly would not apply.

My second issue, my real issue, relates to how I started this blog entry. What organization in 'Big Science' should be doing this policing Chapman is talking about? There isn't one! There isn't an organization to police! It's all in the mind of pseudo-scientists like Chapman who are looking for stuff to whine about.

Let's look more objectively at what happened.
  • The scientist in question was reported by members of his own staff. Science:1 Chapman:0
  • The organization he was working for investigated it. Science:2 Chapman:0
  • They released their findings publicly. Science:3 Chapman:0
  • They also sent their findings and evidence to the government organization who funded the research. Science:4 Chapman:0 If this was baseball I say Chapman took four swings to strike out!
It looks like everything that should have happened has happened. The scientist's future is still undecided, as is any action by the Government. It certainly looks like the scientific community started the ball rolling in policing themselves -- as they have for years. Remember Cold Fusion? It wasn't the Discovery Institute who discovered the problems with those experiments, but other scientists. How about the irregularities in the cloning experiments in South Korea? Other scientists yet again! Piltdown Man -- a favorite whine of Creationists -- yup, scientists announced the hoax nearly immediately!

So why am I concerned about anything Chapman has to say (while he continues distancing the DI from the problems they caused in Louisiana)? It's simple. Here we have an organization that doesn't seem to have a clue about how to do science claiming that someone outside of science should be monitoring and control science funding? Remember how the Discovery Institute operates, rather than science they politicize, they market, they whine -- they don't perform science. One of them posts something and a bunch of them jump on the bandwagon to make it look like there is an actual problem. Remember 'Teach the Controversy'? A controversy they tried to create out of a tempest in a teacup! How about their trying to tie Darwin to Hitler, another series of whines and posts that have no support. Lately their support of David Coppedge, the JPL employee who got demoted for harassing his co-workers. Their marketing schemes are certainly more successful than their efforts at science. Contrived and created for their own purposes!

Chapman's blog has already been picked up by . . . guess who? You got it, another Discovery Institute member, Wesley Smith and his blog "Do We Need Better Oversight On How Scientists Spend Public Money?" The attack on science funding is one we need to pay attention to because one of the last organizations on the face of the Earth that should have input to how scientists are using their research funding is the anti-science Discovery Institute!

Just out of curiosity, who polices the Discovery Institute? Well if they would actually publish in scientific journals the scientific community certainly would have input into their 'work'. But since they publish in the popular press, they really don't have to answer to anyone -- as long as they have their own funding. I wonder how many state and federal grants they have attempted to get over their existence? More interestingly would be how many have they received? Anyone have any ideas?