Thursday, September 30, 2010

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.

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