Since the United Methodist Church (UMC) has seen fit to not allow the Discovery Institute to present their marketing material at their General Conference, the DI has been quite vocal about it. Multiple press releases and posts about their 'banning'. Now they have hit a new low . . . which before today I wouldn't have believed possible. I really should know better by now.
A new post on their Evolution 'news' and Views site looks like this:
What the headline forgot to tell you is that Discovery Institute itself conducted the poll. That raised a question, or several, for me. The reason is simple, polling, like any human endeavor, can be twisted and spun to produce the results that you want, and the DI are masters of the spin! A lot depends on what question you ask and who you ask. I recall a bad joke from years ago, you ask someone "So, when did you stop beating your spouse?" Of course how you answer that question can be taken a number of different ways. But no matter what, it immediately puts one on the defensive, intentionally so.
Here is the question that got asked:
"The United Methodist Church recently banned a group from renting an information table at the Church’s upcoming general conference because the group supports intelligent design—the idea that nature is the product of purposeful design rather than an unguided process. Some have criticized the ban as contrary to the United Methodist Church’s stated commitment to encourage “open hearts, open minds, open doors.” Rate your level of agreement or disagreement with the following statements:Now, if anyone has used Survey Monkey, you know they do not write the survey questions and the possible responses. They are simply the medium by which surveys can be asked. They also let you define the type of audience you are trying to reach. The wording and audience for this is straight from the DI! Yes, that makes a difference.
- The United Methodist Church should not have banned an intelligent design group from renting an information table at its conference.
- The United Methodist Church’s ban on the intelligent design group seems inconsistent with the Church’s stated commitment to encourage “open hearts, open minds, open doors.” "
But this is quite a long question, but please note the wording. First of all, they use the word 'banned'. That tells me which way they want the result skewed. Anyone, especially people who aren't familiar with the nefarious marketing methods of the DI, would not like the term 'banned', it creates an instant negative connotation. Many people would automatically vote in opposition to it regardless of the rest of the question simply because of the word 'banned'.
But did the UMC actually 'ban' the DI? No, they simply said that this time, the first they have considered outside exhibitors, that the DI couldn't have a table. Can they, the DI, apply at the next one? Certainly. Did they issue some proclamation? No, the UMC simply said, 'No!' and only for their General Conference. The UMC holds many meetings at many levels, the DI is certainly free to try and horn in on one of those. But for this General Conference, the answer is 'No!' Of course we know how much the DI likes hearing that.
They sort of left out a few things, things that might have framed the question within a very different context:
- Did the question mention the UMC's stand on supporting real science? Or that the UMC is a supporter of the Clergy Letter Project? Which means the UMC already rendered judgement on ID, and that was also something the DI didn't like.
- Did it mention that Intelligent Design is considered by the rest of the world to be pseudo-science? That might have had the respondents seeing things differently.
- Did they forget to mention that the definition the say for ID is not their complete definition, just the soft-soap one, sort of the pablum-version? Wikipedia defines ID as "is the pseudoscientific view that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." That certainly reads a bit differently, doesn't it.
- Now they did mention "Some have criticized the ban . . .", but did they mention who that 'Some' were? Guess who they are? The criticisms I have been able to find, to the tune of multiple posts and press releases, are from the DI itself, or people who already support the DI. Funny how they forgot to mention that little detail.
My survey looks a little different. First I set the context of the survey:
"The United Methodist Church (UMC) is an endorser of the Clergy Letter Project which takes a stand for science and against supernatural causation. Recently the UMC decided not to allow an organization, The Discovery Institute, from sponsoring a table at the General Conference. Just so you know, the Discovery Institute is an organization dedicated to replacing current science with what they call 'theistically-friendly' science, in direct opposition to what the UMC stands for."Then I asked two questions:
- Does the United Methodist Church have an obligation to allow the Discovery Institute to sponsor a table at their general conference?
- Is Intelligent Design a viable alternative to Evolutionary Theory? Intelligent Design is defined as "is the pseudoscientific view that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." (Wikipedia)