Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Here is One of the Things that Annoys me about the Discovery Institute

In a brief post on their Evolution 'News' and Views site "The Physics of Intelligent Design" The Discovery Institute (DI) made prominent mention that David Snoke is a physicist who teaches at the University of Pittsburgh.  At first glance it looks like we have an outsider, a real scientist offering support for the DI and Intelligent Design (ID).  And if all you do is take their words in a straightforward manner, that's the impression you get.  However, knowing the history of the DI, I have to dig a tiny bit deeper -- as should anyone who reads their marketing material.

First glance and I see that Prof. Snoke is not a fellow at the DI.  Which I find refreshing.  In the past the DI tried to hide their affiliation, particularly when their members signed their little petition (the infamous list of 700 we've talked about before).  So that was a  positive sign, he might actually be objective.

While I don't expect to see someone's complete curriculum vitae, I would expect to be informed of any relationship with the DI when they go pushing his comments.  So the next question is does David Snoke have a relationship with the DI?  The answer is yes!

Prof. Snoke co-authored an article with Michael Behe.  Now Behe used this article during hearings in Kansas and during the Dover Trial as support for Intelligent Design.  In Judge Jones' Dover decision this paper, the only one cited by defense witnesses Behe and Scott Minnich (Both fellows at the DI), was called out:

"A review of the article indicates that it does not mention either irreducible complexity or ID. In fact, Professor Behe admitted that the study which forms the basis for the article did not rule out many known evolutionary mechanisms and that the research actually might support evolutionary pathways if a biologically realistic population size were used."(Wikipedia: David Snoke)
Now this would certainly be a negative and establishes that the Professor is a current drinker of the DI's particular brand of kool-aid and that relationship should be made clear whenever they are citing him.  But they can't do that, because I believe they want you to have the impression that this isn't a current supporter, that he is objective on the subject at hand.  But we can see he's not objective, but is involved.  He also published a review of Denton's latest effort on ENV.  I wonder if he's becoming a new poster-boy for the DI?

This isn't the first time this type of 'forgetting to mention connections' has occurred.  I wrote about it another time, and that one was a bit more blatant.  There was a trilogy of articles about ID back several years ago and one of them was by the DI's Stephen C. Meyer.  Aside from the article itself, which I discussed in "Intelligent Design, Sh** or get off the Pot!", Meyer said this in the article:
First, the scientific community is not uniformly opposed to ID. My recent book on the subject received enthusiastic endorsements from many scientists not previously known as advocates of ID, such as chemist Philip Skell, a National Academy of Sciences member, and Norman Nevin, one of Britain's top geneticists.
My response was this:
In my humble opinion Stephen C. Meyer is a liar. According to this quote Meyer states that Philip Skell and Norman Nevin were not previously advocates of Intelligent Design. Let's set the record straight, Skell is a Signatory of the very discredited "A Dissent From Darwinism", the list used in Discovery Institute intelligent design campaigns in an attempt to discredit evolution and bolster claims that intelligent design is scientifically valid by claiming that evolution lacks broad scientific support. Meyer is a liar, Skell may not have published a pro-ID fluff piece, but he is an advocate. Nevin is a supporter of "Truth in Science" a United Kingdom-based organization which promotes the "Teach the Controversy" campaign. It uses this strategy to try to get intelligent design taught alongside evolution in school science lessons. Meyer is once again, in my opinion, lying!
So you see, Meyer was much more deliberate about hiding connections, claiming that two ID supporters were not known to be ID supporters endorsed one of his books.  The tactic with Snoke is one of simply forgetting to mention any connections.

One last thing you might think about.  When looking up David Snoke I saw that he was actually there at the DI for a meeting of the 'Christian Scientific Society' and one of his previous publications was  A Biblical Case for an Old Earth.  I did mention this society last year when the DI both hosted and advertised for one of their meetings (So There is Nothing Religious about Intelligent Design (Part VIII)).

The DI is consistently trying to distance themselves for their appearing to be a Christian ministry.  I don't think this helped them any.  Their official position is they are a 'think tank'; however, their actions say a very different message.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Does Anyone Actually Believe the Discovery Institute when They say They are not Advocating Teaching Intelligent Design?

For quite a while the Discovery Institute (DI) has been claiming that they do not support teaching Intelligent Design in the public science classroom.  That's a lie of sorts.  Oh I know that a lie is a lie, but like so many things, there are shades of gray.  Officially, it's the truth, unofficially  . . . shall we see?  If you only pay attention to that little tiny piece of data,it seems fairly reasonable, but once you look at the context in which the DI operates, it takes on a new meaning.  Let's take a look at a few things and see if you agree with me.

Wedge Strategy Document

First of all, if you go back to the Wedge Strategy Document, you can see it pretty easily.  The document outlines a series of projects laid out in three phases:
  • Phase I: Scientific Research, Writing & Publication
  • Phase II: Publicity and Opinion-making
  • Phase III: Cultural Confrontation & Renewal
The second phase has seven projects, project number four was 'Teacher Training Program'.  The stated purpose of Phase II was [the underlines are mine]:
"The primary purpose of Phase II is to prepare the popular reception of our ideas. The best and truest research can languish unread and unused unless it is properly publicized. For this reason we seek to cultivate and convince influential individuals in print and broadcast media, as well as think tank leaders, scientists and academics, congressional staff, talk show hosts, college and seminary presidents and faculty, future talent and potential academic allies."
So, as you can see, the academic arena is one of particular importance to the DI in furthering their goals.  If you need a reminder, here are their governing goals, again from the Wedge Strategy Document:
  • To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies.
  • To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.
Couldn't have made it clearer myself!  So that is where you can start placing the DI's objectives within an appropriate context.  Their 'official' position of not advocating teaching Intelligent Design (ID) in schools is nothing but another tactic.
Kitsmiller vs Dover School Board 
To continue, remember what happened in Dover Pa?  It's been a decade, but that legal decision has been a thorn in the DI's side and one they truly wish had never happened.  If their true policy, not their 'official one' but if their true policy is not advocating ID in the classroom, why did they come to the assistance of the members of the Dover School Board who wanted exactly that?  Sure, they claim that the Dover Trial wasn't about them, but then . . .
  1. Why did the DI feel it was necessary to submit an Amicus Curiae brief about Intelligent Design if they weren't part of it?
  2. Why did the DI's own Wedge Strategy Document describe tactics similar to those used by the School Board and even by Michael Behe's [a DI Senior Fellow] in his testimony?  The strategy also says:
    "We will also pursue possible legal assistance in response to resistance to the integration of design theory in public school science curricula. (Wedge Strategy Document, Phase III, page 7)"
  3. Why did Seth Cooper, a DI attorney, have several calls with William Buckingham (Chairman of the Dover School Board Curriculum Committee discussing the legality of teaching ID.  (Trial Transcripts)
  4. Why did the DI forward to Buckingham DVDs, videotapes, and books. (Trial Transcripts)
  5. Why did two lawyers from the DI make a legal presentation to the Board in executive session. (Trial Transcripts)
  6. Why was the DI one of only two outside organizations consulted.  (The Thomas More Law Center was the other).  Plus the consult wasn't for scientific material, but legal advice. (Trial Transcripts)
Bottom line, if this is an example of not advocating teaching ID in the classroom, how do you explain all of their 'help' to a local school board?  The reality is you can't!  Their official position doesn't jib with their actions at all.

IDEA Student Clubs
So, moving on, in addition to the Wedge Strategy Document and Dover, how can we forget about the 'IDEA Student Clubs'?  Not sure if any of them still exist, but little casey luskin used to brag about them and his involvement before he left the DI.  Their website is still up and linked from the DI site itself.  It explains that [again, the underlining is mine]:
"The Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Center is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting intelligent design theory and fostering good - spirited discussion and a better understanding over intelligent design theory and the creation - evolution issue among students, educators, churches, and anyone else interested.
Our primary focus is to help students form "IDEA Clubs" on university and high school campuses to expand the dialogue over intelligent design"
Here are the menu options for anyone interested in a ' student club':
They not only have a 'startup packet', but training conferences and other resources.  So once again we see words are not matched with actions.  Officially they claim one thing, but they are encouraging the establishment of 'clubs' on colleges and high schools.  The official line is wearing quite thin!
Let's move on to Texas where two members of the Discovery Institute was asked by the then-head of the Texas State School Board to 'help' them determine science curricula.  Yes, John G. West and Stephen C. Meyer were asked by Don McLeroy, who without a doubt is a hard-core Evangelical Creationist, and tried to impose their so-called 'Academic Freedom' bill on Texas.  Luckily Texas wised up to a certain degree and voted a lot of that 'strengths and weaknesses' crap out and they also dumped Don.  

So . . . if the DI is not advocating Intelligent Design, why were they 'advising' a Creationist on public school curricula and textbooks.  
Ohio had it's own version of Texas' Don McLeroy, her name is Deborah Owens Fink.  Like McLeroy she is a Creationist who jumped on the ID bandwagon in an effort to get her religion into the classroom.  This was in the early 2000's and the DI's own Stephen C. Meyer proposed to the Ohio Board of Education the Institute's Critical Analysis of Evolution that prominently featured intelligent design.  It also included a model lesson plan!   So . . . let's not teach ID, but here is a lesson for . . . teaching ID!

For a while the DI was touting this as a significant victory;  however, also like Texas, Ohio wised up to the tricks and tactics and in 2006 deleted that lesson plan and also rejected a proposed legal challenge.  Luckily, the voters also wised up and Fink was sent packing. (Wikipedia: Intelligent Design in Politics)
The DI's own Website Resources
Least of which, if they are so not interested in teaching ID in schools, why do they have pages and pages of information for people who wish to do just that?

Education Curricula -- They have written educational material for teaching Intelligent Design!  Sure, and they have no interest in having ID taught in schools.  Look at just one of them.
Discovering Intelligent Design: This science curriculum (textbook, workbook, and DVD) presents the best evidence from physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology and related fields that provide evidence that nature is the product of intelligent design rather than blind unguided processes.
They do specifically suggest that this material would be most appropriate for private schools and homeschooling.  But still an entire 'science' curriculum for ID!

Key Resources for Parents and School Board Members  -- They have a ton of material here . . . and all geared to parents and school board members.  Yes, School Board Members!  I know, if they were serious about not advocating ID, why are they again targeting school board members?  Doesn't make any sense, does it?
Here is also where they brag about the failed Santorum Amendment?  Do you remember that?  The DI's own Philip E. Johnson wrote an amendment for a Pennsylvania politician for an education bill that became  known as the 'No Child Left Behind Act'.  The purpose of the bill was the promote the teaching of Intelligent Design.  The amendment failed, but some of the language was left in as part of the language, but it was in the non-binding part of the bill
"The Santorum Amendment was a failed proposed amendment to the 2001 education funding bill (which became known as the No Child Left Behind Act), proposed by Republican Rick Santorum (then the United States Senator for Pennsylvania), which promoted the teaching of intelligent design while questioning the academic standing of evolution in US public schools. " (Wikipedia: Santorum Amendment)
OK, I think this post is long enough.  There are many other examples.  The bottom line should be pretty simple for anyone to see.  Regardless of what they say 'officially', the Discovery Institute is interested in, and pursuing tactics to, replace actual science with their version of Creationism.  Their 'official' party-line is nothing but a tactic because after all of their defeats in court and in places like Texas and Ohio, they know an official push for ID would fail.  Dover hurt them much more than they will ever admit and another major court failure might do what must be unthinkable for them . . . a loss of donations!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

When Rationalization is the Only Tool in Your Toolbox, What Do You Do? You Rationalize!

Many, many years ago I read a small cartoon that struck me not funny, but something all too real.  I don't remember the source, it could have been anything from the New Yorker to Mad Magazine, but I remember the cartoon well.  It was the clearest example of racism I had ever heard and one I took a lesson from.  I wish I had the image, but while it left a lasting impression, the original source apparently did not.  I tried a web search, but my parameters are too wide.  Well anyway, it went something like this:

 A man was sitting in his easy chair watching a baseball game.  It was the bottom of the ninth, two outs, based loaded, and his team was down.  Visually he was pretty much an Archie Bunker type.  In fact you could easily picture Archie Bunker doing exactly this. 

The announcer names the next batter, an African-American player and the man is livid.  He goes on to proclaim the game to be over and how the next batter is a choker and can't handle the pressure of playing baseball all because of his race. . . you can easily picture this little bout of verbal diarrhea.

On the first swing of the bat the baseball the player hits it out of the park and wins the game.

The man now proclaims that the man was super-strong from all those years in the jungle.
Actually I paraphrased it a great deal, but I hope you get the gist.  You can probably well imagine the actual words used, so there is no need to repeat them verbatim.  The lesson I learned was that no matter what really happens, a racist goes into any situation prejudiced toward a certain result.  If the outcome is in line with his prejudices, he uses it as reinforcement.  If the actual results are contrary to his prejudices, he is going to find a way to rationalize the results to support his beliefs.

So as I was spending a small part of my weekend going through some news feeds I saw a great many articles about the discovery of Gravitational Waves.  It is very exciting news and also confirms a prediction Einstein made a century ago.  Here is a video from one of the many items I found in my news feeds on the subject.
Needless to say this is an incredible achievement!  But . . . me being me, I had to wonder if any of the Creationist organizations were going to say anything about it.  I haven't seen anything from ICR on it yet, but little kennie ham's Answers in Genesis and the Discovery Institute just had to start their spin.  Here are some quotes, and the links if you want to read their whole posts.

First up a few 'thoughts' from AiG (What Does the Detection of Gravity Waves Mean for the Creation Model?):
"What does this mean to the creation model? Not much. Some creationists may wonder about the distance, but we already know about many objects even farther away. Creationists are well aware of the light-travel-time problem, and we have proposed several solutions. By the way, the big bang has its own light-travel-time problem, the horizon problem."
 "This first direct confirmation of gravitational waves is just another example of how far out and cool God’s creation can be."
AiG pretty much dismisses the whole thing, they do try and remind true believers that the distances spoken of with the discovery isn't something they should consider to be real.  Their 'scientists' have postulate a rather creative 'problem' so they can dismiss the actual evidence.

Next the DI weighs in (What Should We Make of Gravity-Wave Detection?):
"In other words, the universe began to exist, and there is no physical explanation in cosmology or physics for why this happened. "
"The only causal option left is an immaterial transcendent personal agent of immense power and wisdom."
While AiG tried to dismiss the discovery as irrelevant, the DI tries to use it as justification for their mythical designer . . . you know the Christian God they never want to 'officially' recognize.  Simply put, if there is no physical explanation, there must be a supernatural one.  I see this as nothing but a re-statement of the God-In-The-Gaps argument.  Even if it were true that there is no physical explanation, that doesn't mean there will never be one, only that we may not have one right now.  The reason I worded it this way is because I really don't feel the need to dig into the research and see if the DI is telling the truth, about there being no physical explanation.  As you know, I don't trust anything the DI says -- and that's based on their history.

Now do you see the connection to my opening story.  No matter what actually happens in science, be it the discovery of new planets, new fossils, gravitational waves, whatever . . ., Creationists will find a way to use it to further rationalize their own beliefs. 

But really there is no surprises here.  Science will keep on moving forward and pretty much ignore the efforts of folks like these to drag down science in order to shore up their belief systems.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Time for a New Slogan for the Discovery Institute

I'm not being flippant, but I want to ask a serious question.  Does Astrology equal Astronomy?  Are they two sides of one argument?  Should each be given equal weight when looking at the cosmos?  When Astronomers have a conference, should Astrologers be invited, after all it's only fair, right?

Of course you know my answer, and I hope your answer is the same.  Astrology has offered absolutely nothing in the study of the cosmos and to invite them to an Astronomy conference would be ridiculous!  It might be a bit entertaining, but still bordering on ludicrous!  Any Astronomer who invited them as anything but comic relief would probably get a chilly reception from their professional colleagues, and deservedly so!

So why is the Discovery Institute still so fired up about not being allowed to sponsor a table at the United Methodist Church General Conference?  The UMC has made it quite clear their position on Creationism-lite (aka Intelligent Design) and decided in accordance with that position.  And yet with a multitude of posts and even selecting the UMC as their 'Censor of the Year', the DI keeps whining.  The UMC has answered any question -- Creationism, in any form, hasn't offered anything in the way of science, so it doesn't belong in the science classroom!

What I find most telling is the DI isn't telling us why they should be invited, what would they be able to contribute, or what they have contributed that would add value to their addition to the conference.  The ONLY thing they are claiming is that the UMC should allow them to sponsor a table because, according to the DI,  the UMC's slogan is "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.".  Slogans are apparently very important to them.

Anyone ever see a magician do sleight-of-hand?  That's what we are seeing here.  Rather than telling us things that might actually make a difference, the DI is trying to use an appeal to some artificial level of fairness to force the UMC to change their position.  They are distracting us from their lack of actual contributions to anything that does concern the UMC and focusing us on their other hand with a appeal to something that has nothing to do with why they should be invited, a slogan.

I've said it before, if the KKK or NMBLA wanted to sponsor a table, should the UMC allow it?  I mean should everyone be sleeping better knowing the KKK slogan of

"You can sleep tonight knowing the Klan is awake!"(Wikipedia: Ku Klux Klan)
According to the DI they should be permitted, after all "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors", right?

OK, unless something strange happens I am not going to write about this subject, I think it's exhausted.  But I will ask the DI for one simple thing.  Other than the slogan, why should the UMC allow you to sponsor a table?  What can you contribute to their General Conference?  I would like a very specific answer, not some generic piece of fluff about fairness or openness.  What would you contribute?

I guess I do have one final thing to ask, what is the 'slogan' of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture?  The one on your website makes little sense:
"Discovering Intelligent Design
I mean depending on which DI mouthpiece you listen too, ID was 'discovered' in 1991 by Phillip E. Johnson or it was 'discovered' by Anaxagoras, a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, well over 2000 years ago. In fact they reiterated that one again just yesterday (Excavating the Intellectual Roots of Intelligent Design).  You don't really have to click on their link, it's just one DI talking head repeating what another DI talking head posted last month.  Depending on whom you read, ID is either very new or very old, it all depends on whether or not they want you to think ID is relatively new and that's why they haven't made any serious headway in the sciences -- or -- that ID is ancient and they don't need to make any actual scientific contributions.  Either way what stands out about ID is that has yet to accomplish anything other than marketing.

As a result I think it's time for a new DI slogan. How about:
"The Discovery Institute: How NOT to do science in the 21st Century"
A possible alternative is a play on the KKK's slogan:
"You can sleep tonight knowing the Discovery Institute is doing absolutely nothing!"
Any other suggestions for the Discovery Institute?  Almost anything has to be better than "Discovering Intelligent Design!", I mean the answer to that one is pretty simple, just look up Creationism in the dictionary and there you are.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Honesty From the NCSE brings out the Foolishness in the DI, but then most things do, don't they?

Do these guys even read articles before responding to them?  I'm talking about the Discovery Institute (DI), of course.  It's somewhat funny.  I read a lot of articles and blogs and am always looking for something that peaks my interest to blog about.  As I look back over my own posts I do see two very common targets, The DI and Answers in Genesis (AiG).  For a few minutes I thought maybe I was targeting them too often and that I was missing other, more interesting, things.  Then they come along and say something so incredibly foolish that I just can't help posting about it.

Case in point "Sleepless in Oakland" is a response to an National Center for Science Education post "The Big Bang is Giving Me Big Headaches".  I really suggest you read the NCSE post before diving into the idiocy of Donald McLaughlin's response.

Reading through the NCSE post was interesting.  It wasn't a precise about the Big Bang, but more a description of Minda Berbeco's emotional reaction to learning more about the Big Bang.  She recognizes that answering many scientific questions isn't about the data, but about dealing with misconceptions that have become rooted in people's emotions.  As she says:

"Although data is powerful, most often the conflicts teachers experience have nothing to do with evidence."
Anyone who has wandered the web and read and responded to some of the wild things being said about such topics as Evolution, The Big Bang, and Climate Change has experienced this first hand.  Here is a very recent example.  I have a Facebook page.  I don't use it for too much but just the other day I saw a Facebook post from the DI from the First of Feb:

It was a link to their self-conducted poll that we talked about in "A New 'Poll' conducted by the DI says what the DI says, what a surprise!"  Well to be honest when I saw the post I nearly just ignored it, but out of curiosity I wanted to see if anyone responded to it.  I was pretty shocked at the responses.  The very first reply I saw was this one:
"Alyson Miller Hi, I'm a biology teacher who teaches a LOT of evolution to a LOT of bright kids - so far, I haven't seen a single piece of quantifiable evidence against the facts supporting Darwin's Theory. Please show me one. Remember - I teach science, so it's got to be a measurable piece of evidence from the natural world, not the supernatural world. :-)"
I wasn't surprised reading her post, it made perfect sense to me. How often we hear the cry to teach both sides, but then no one seems to be able to find things contrary to evolution that are measurable.  It's usually conjecture and wishful thinking that they invest in emotionally.  Often people complain about teaching both sides of a topic as some level of 'fairness', but when the two sides are obviously not dealing with the same context, covering both in order to be 'fair' is actually completely artificial. It was something we previously discussed several times, including "Is it really fair? and Arguments IX - Should students learn arguments for and against Evolution?"

What did surprise me were many of the responses to her comment.  Here are a few:
Benjamin Parker Lori, then you are doing your students a disservice because you are teaching them PSEUDOscience. Evolution is a fraud. There's absolutely no facts or evidence to support it. Any idiot can look at two fossils and FANTASIZE ancestry but that is NOT evidence but pure speculation, lies or wishful thinking.
Michael Norten Do you teach junk science out of ignorance or rebellion?
Lori Bourque Where is the missing link? Why are there still apes? Why do 2 planets revolve counter. clockwise? Who was the master designer? Evolution has a lot of missing data..I opt opt for the heavenly designer....God the father of all creation
Benjamin Parker Evolution IS a religion which is why you evos steadfastly defend it despite the utter lack of evidence to support it. That's why even after being shown all the evidence shown AGAINST it ever occurring, you evos STILL cling to your evolutionary FAITH. That's called brainwashing.
Kenneth Davis Sorry Alyson but the facts you're referring to have only been connected to evolutionary theory with speculation. For example no observed evidence has shown that natural selection changed an organism from one distinctive type to another. In other words, all the bacteria and fruit flies that have ever mutated still remained bacteria and fruit flies and never any new organism. Nat. selection was built into each organism for adaptation but not with any possibility of becoming a new creature. The transitions are totally nonexistent.
Lori Bourque Doug I beg to differ there is mounds of evidence..literal physical and spiritual..what do you think is happening now it is the final battle and it was written thousands of years ago and it is unfolding before our eyes God knew the end from the beginning! This is the final battle
Mory Von Werner I always go back to first life. As of yet no one can explain how a putative first life could start. As you know, the first life would have to been incredibly complex --- thousands, if not millions of amino acid structural, functional tertiary and chiral machines. This Protobiont would necessarily have DNA information storage, and the information able to be read by RNA and move on to the Ribosome for building. All this had to fall together by chance in roiling seas, the chirality thing is off the charts impossible! But there's more! It needs a phospholipid cell wall to protect the functioning cell machinery. So, you need DNA to make a Cell wall, but DNA would not form in a perfect environment, much less the open roiling seas it was purported to have formed---no cell wall. And, not just here, but on billions of plantets--- thus, starting life all over this universe. The whole thing is dead in the water if abiogenisis is not possible (and it's not)

That's just a small sample of the well over 100 responses her single comment received.  Just look at some of the misconceptions people have stated, clearly they have little knowledge of the subject, or I should say subjects.  A total misunderstanding of Evolutionary Theory is about the only way to explain comments like 
  • "Evolution is a fraud. There's absolutely no facts or evidence to support it. "
  •  "Evolution IS a religion "
  • "Missing Link . . ."
  • "For example no observed evidence has shown that natural selection changed an organism from one distinctive type to another."
  • "The whole thing is dead in the water if abiogenisis is not possible (and it's not)"
What has happened to basic science education?  If you keep reading, it gets even worse.  The most common mistakes made by many of the posters reveals not only a lack of knowledge about evolution, but a totally dogmatic view of any potential alternative, regardless of its lack of scientific support!  

Today's Non-Sequitur is a particularly good one to illustrate these points.  I am posting the image here because many of the comic strip sites remove the images after a while.  I got it here. 

Now McLaughlin is a new name to me, so I decided to check him out just a little before even reading his response.  Here is part of his short bio from the DI:
"Donald McLaughlin joined Discovery Institute in August 2013, as a Development Officer and Regional Representative in the upper Midwest and Northeast regions. His areas of responsibility include cultivating and stewarding major gifts, and planned giving. Donald has had a successful career in development, including 8 years as a Regional Director of Advancement for Prison Fellowship Ministries, 2 years as National Director of Major Gifts for Teen Mania Ministries and 5 years as Regional Director of Advancement for Taylor University."(DI bio)

Now before getting into anything else, please note the following:  Prison Fellowship Ministries, Teen Mania Ministries, and Taylor University (a Christian liberal arts college in Indiana).  I just have to say this, for an organization that keeps trying to distance themselves from any religious connections, this is the type of person you hire?  Seriously?  Who was the past new employee I commented about?  Oh yes, Heather Zeigler.  Do you remember her?  I don't know if she still works there, but when they announced her hiring they tried to hide her religious education and affiliations. (So there is nothing religious about Intelligent Design? Part II)

So just what is McLaughlin's job?  Is he their resident expert on the Big Bang?  On Biology?  On Cosmology?  No, he's their 'Development Officer and Regional Representative in the upper Midwest and Northeast' who seems to be responsible for asking for and collecting donations.  Which obviously qualifies him to defend anything said about the Big Bang and the emotional impact such topics might cause in people!  I guess with little casey luskin's departure, they needed a new second-stringer to pinch hit for the big boys who are still crying over the UMC debacle (The Discovery Institute (DI) Doesn't get Invited to the Really Good PartiesThe United Methodists Explain their Denial of the DI, and the DI disagrees . . . Surprise, Surprise!, and The Discovery Institute has named their 'Censor of the Year' for 2016).

So what did little casey's replacement have to say? Not much! He tried to defend the indefensible concerning the DI's poorly-named academic freedom bills, something else we've discussed often (Are Academic Freedom Laws Anti-Science?).  Then he pretty much misrepresents what Minda said in an effort to twist things around . . . in other words typical DI spin.

Here is the one that really cracked me up.  He quotes Sir Arthur Eddington:
"The notion of a beginning is repugnant to me ... I simply do not believe that the present order of things started off with a bang. ... The expanding Universe is preposterous ... incredible ... it leaves me cold." 
So here is an Astronomer who passed away in 1944, who exemplified support for the Steady State Universe concept that was replaced years later by the Big Bang Theory with the advent of such supporting evidence as the cosmic microwave background radiation.  Couldn't find anyone more recent?  Donnie not only used him to justify the DI's religious beliefs, but he then postulates about Sir Arthur's sleeping issues.  

OK, that's enough of that.  Time to close this thing out, and Donnie's closing is pretty funny:
"For someone who has staked her professional career on that insistence that intelligent design is illusory, I see why that would lead to some sleepless nights."
No!  Minda has staked her professional career on science and scientific methodology.  Intelligent Design provides hours of humor, not sleepless nights.  But I guess there is no scientific subject that would give you any sleep trouble.  After all, Donnie, all you need to do is keep passing a collection plate.  Don't worry, as long as there are churches, you'll be employed!

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Discovery Institute has named their 'Censor of the Year' for 2016

Yes, the United Methodist Church (UMC) has joined Neil deGrasse Tyson and Jerry Coyne for that coveted award "DI Censor of the Year".  They should be proud, I know I am proud of them!

Of course the requirements for winning such an award are a bit hazy, since the UMC has not censored them one little bit.  Don't believe me, check out the main source for postings and you will see more than 20 postings about the UMC and their decision not to have the DI sponsor a table at their general conference.  If the UMC was actually doing anything to censor the DI, would we even see all those posts?  That also doesn't count the many press releases, polls, and posts at other DI-sponsored and influenced sites like Uncommon Descent.  Censorship usually implies a reduction in communication, not an increase.  But then the two previous winners also had nothing to do with censoring the DI.  Like the UMC, all they did was say things that the DI didn't like.  That's all it takes, say things the DI doesn't like and they award you this prize.  I wonder if it comes with a check?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The United Methodists Explain their Denial of the DI, and the DI disagrees . . . Surprise, Surprise!

A couple of days ago the United Methodist News Services has a press release about the UMC's denial  . . . not ban . . . of letting the Discovery Institute sponsor a table at their General Conference.  Since they denied the DI, the DI has been going bat-shit crazy with blog posts, press releases, and polls all designed to try and make the UMC change it's mind.  That's the only way to describe it, bat-shit crazy.  Seriously the only other topic that they have been so vehement about was the Dover Trial, and they spent 10 years whining about that.  This has all been over the past several weeks.  The sheer volume of the whining, crying, and pleas for people to contact the UMC and do the DI's whining for them has been staggering.  But the UMC has stuck to their guns on this and the DI is still not getting a table.  In a nutshell, their reasoning is simple:

" . . . the group [the DI] was not in line with the church’s social teachings"
That should be the end of it.  But you know the DI, they cannot handle anyone saying anything other than positive things about them and their pet version of Creationism.  One of my questions is who is the one who gets to decide if a applicant for exhibitor is in line with the church's social teachings?  I have to leave that ball in the church's court.  The DI certainly isn't the one to make that decision, even if they are doing all they can to take over as the church's social conscience.

The article also explained the purpose of the exhibitor program,
". . . to acquaint people at the event “with products, services and resources that aid in local church ministries.”"
Now, if I were the DI I would try and explain how having a table at the conference would aid local church ministries.  But that makes sense to me.  But did the DI try that route?  Of course not, because they know their mission is in opposition to the Church . . . which is why, I think, they want a table.  They wanted another opportunity for press coverage, something the DI is a master of, certainly not performing anything related to science.

John West responded to this article and still failed to address how the DI sponsoring a table would be a benefit to the UMC General Conference and local church ministries.  In other words the one area where he might actually make headway in changing their minds doesn't even get addressed.  He repeated the official line that the DI and their pet version of Creationism isn't religious and doesn't require a designer, two things we know are absolutely bollocks . . . sorry, Watched the movie 'Wimbledon' the other night and I love that phrase 'Absolutely Bollocks!'  But that's the truth.  The DI does their best to hide any religious connection, including the identity of their erstwhile 'designer', but they haven't done a very good job of it because no one believes them.

Of course telling people you aren't religious and then going for a table at the United Methodist Church General Conference kinda seems a poor fit.  But that's simple logic to me. Here I what I think about the whole thing,  I think they knew going in that the UMC wouldn't approve them and the sheer volume of their response tells me this is nothing more than another way of getting coverage.  Even bad press is still press and it gets your name out there in the public eye.  And if you can claim some sort of 'unfairness' so you get folks not familiar with the issues to respond, all the better.

I think the DI, and John West, also spent way to much time trying to cast doubt on the process by which the UMC came to their decision, trying to sow dissent within the ranks of the UMC by saying this:
"If I were a United Methodist, even if I opposed intelligent design, I would wonder why my church officials are being so secretive that they won't even fess up to who actually made the decision to ban Discovery Institute from having an information table. It strikes me that this sort of secrecy and lack of accountability isn't healthy for any organization, least of all a major church."
Is it the DI's business who within the UMC made the decision?  Do we get to question who in the DI made the decision for such ridiculous tactics of mistake like "Teach the Controversy" and "It's only a Theory"?  Of course not.  The DI tries to present a united front in the face of overwhelming laughter from anyone who understands even elementary school science.  But they demand visibility into the decision process of the UMC through such back alley ways.

You know in the very first post I read on the DI's Evolution 'News' and Views site on this topic, I recall one small line that said the UMC did have the right to do what they did, here is the line:
"As a private organization, the UMC has the right to exclude us as an exhibitor."
But I guess the DI might officially acknowledge the UMC has the right, they are certainly pulling out all stops attacking those rights. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Another poll from the Discovery Institute, oh boy, oh boy!

The Discovery Institute (DI) conducted another poll and, just like the last one, the poll came to a conclusion supporting the DI.  Wow, how incredible is that, two for two!

This time the poll was announced here: "For Darwin's Birthday, Poll Shows Broad Support for Teaching Evidence For and Against Darwin's Theory"  You might recall my issues with their last poll, ("A New 'Poll' conducted by the DI says what the DI says, what a surprise!"), where the main issue was how the questions being asked drove the answers in a certain direction.  Well, can't make that complaint this time since they failed to tell us exactly what they asked, they did put a couple of phrases within quotes, so I am going to assume those were the questions, or at least part of the questions.  They are:

  • "when teaching Darwin's theory of evolution, biology teachers should cover both scientific evidence that supports the theory and scientific evidence critical of the theory."
  • "biology teachers should cover only scientific evidence that supports the theory."
Before looking at their conclusion, let's look at the questions.  Pretty innocuous, aren't they?  But look at what the questions imply.  By asking this way they are implying that biology teachers are only considering pros of evolution, not the negatives and that the teachers are also engaging in some sort of cover-up by only teaching the scientific evidence.   What they fail to do is provide any actual context for the questions, yet imply things to lead the respondents in the direction they wish.  Here are a few contextual things that someone should know before answering the poll:
  • Did the DI mention how that in past 150 years, not a single Creationist, including the Discovery Institute, has managed to provide any evidence contradicting the theory of evolution?  Of course not, that wouldn't drive the poll in the direction they want.
  • Did they simply forget to mention that science classes are already encouraged to teach  pros and cons, providing those pros and cons are based on actual science.  No they didn't forget, they deliberately left that part out.
  • Are biology teachers even qualified to teach any non-scientific evidence?  Regardless of the fact non-scientific evidence would be nothing but conjecture and wishful thinking. 
  • Should they have mentioned who the DI is their agenda?  I think so!  It might have affected the result and not in a way the DI would have liked.
One other thing  . . . just what are the possible answers allowed by the poll?  I don't know and they don't tell you.  Often a simple 'yes' or 'no' actually makes the poll harder for people to understand because they don't fully allow people to express their opinion.  For example if a poll asked "Is it OK to yell 'Fire!' in a crowed movie theater?"  Yes or No!  It's impossible to use any data from this poll effectively.  Most people would answer something like "Yes, if there is an actual fire!", but the poll doesn't allow for that.  Go back to the questions themselves and imagine a simple "yes or no" option.  Can you think of things that would make such a simple answer to a complex question worthless?  I know I can!  I do wonder how many people surveyed did not respond on the basis of a lack of context?  Now that would be an interesting statistic.  The only thing claimed is a little over 2,000 respondents out of a pool of something like 6,000,000.  Hmmm, statistically not very significant.

Would the DI ever be guilty of these type of lawyer-word-games?  Let me take you back a few years.  Do you remember this:
"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."
This is the text to a petition the DI put out back in 2001.  Look at the wording, it is fairly innocuous.  The wording can also take on multiple meanings.  By itself this statement doesn't imply issues with current evolutionary theory, but that was exactly how this little petition was used in 2001 and is still used today.  Here is a couple of different points of view on the DI's little petition:
"Southeastern Louisiana University philosophy professor Barbara Forrest and deputy director of the National Center for Science Education Glenn Branch comment on the ambiguity of the statement and its use in the original advertisement:
Such a statement could easily be agreed to by scientists who have no doubts about evolution itself, but dispute the exclusiveness of "Darwinism," that is, natural selection, when other mechanisms such as genetic drift and gene flow are being actively debated. To the layman, however, the ad gives the distinct impression that the 100 scientists question evolution itself."
(Wikipedia: Dissent from Darwinism)
The 'ad' mentioned was a reference to how this list of signatories was advertised in a number of prominent periodicals as a list of over 100 (That was back in 2001, since then they have managed to get over 800 signatories in recent years) scientific dissenters from what the DI called 'Darwinism.  We've talked about this list before, how the New York Times and the National Center for Science Education pretty well ripped it to shreds.  How the majority of the signatories had philosophical (religious) issues with evolution, not scientific ones.  How there were very few biologists, and many had their organizational affiliations inflated, or in the case of folks from the DI itself, hidden.  And how some of the scientists who signed the list didn't know what the DI was or how the list was going to be used.  Skip Evans, also of the National Center for Science Education, noted:
"that when interviewed, several of the scientists who had signed the statement said they accepted common descent. He thus suggests that this confusion has in fact been carefully engineered."(Wikipedia: Dissent from Darwinism)
'Carefully engineered'!  Sound familiar?  A fancy expression for marketing word games.  So, yes, the DI is very guilty of playing those games, and playing them often.  Remember the BS about calling ID a theory and then in the saem breath trying to compare it to an actual scientific theory?  Lots of word games!

Back to their poll, and here is their conclusion:
"Americans agree by an overwhelming margin that students should learn about all of the scientific evidence relating to Darwinian evolution, pro and con," said Dr. John West, Vice President of Discovery Institute.
Do they really?  Since when is 2,117 out of 6,000,000 an overwhelming margin?  Based on these numbers the only thing you can really say is an overwhelming majority did not respond.  If you look at the American population of 318,000,000 the 2,117 respondents start looking even less and less representative.  In addition we have no idea what audience group the DI targeted.  Don't forget, when you run a survey through Survey Monkey, you get to select the type of audience to aim the survey toward.  More information we don't have.  I will even go so far as to agree with the face-value statement I quoted from John West, with a slight wording change.  Students should learn all about the scientific evidence related to the Theory of Evolution.  But since that evidence would not include Creationism or Intelligent Design, I don't think that John really means just scientific evidence.

Here is my main takeaway.  Two things, since science classes already allow, and encourage, an examination of the scientific evidence, asking this as a poll question serves no purpose.  This does not indicate support for teaching Intelligent Design or even support for the pseudo-academic freedom bills like the LSEA.  If this conclusion were not associated with the DI, you might take it as face value, but since it was uttered by John West, you know there is a not-well-hidden agenda! My final takeaway, if the DI says it, you shouldn't place your trust in it!  After years of reading the foolishness that comes out of the DI, if they came out and said the sun rose this morning, I would still look outside to verify they aren't lying to me.

Based on their track record they would like me to believe the sun rose due to the actions of a sort-of unnamed Deity designer that we need to pay homage to with our every waking breath.  Sorry, Johnnie . . . the reason the sun 'rose' is due to a number of factors, chief among them is gravity . . . which is a fact and also a scientific theory.