Thursday, December 20, 2007

Judgement Day rebuttal from your 'friends' and mine, the Discovery Institute

It took long enough, but as per their usual knee-jerk reaction, the Discovery Institute has responded to criticisms in the Nova episode "Judgment Day" which is about the Dover PA trial on Intelligent Design.

They pulled together a slide show they claim refutes claims made in the show and after looking at the first one I started to laugh. I'll look at each one, but this one was the killer. The Discovery Institute, that bastion of misdirection, lying, and ignoring of evidence is whining about the precise definition of the word evolution as it pertains to how it was used in the show. First of all when does the Discovery Institute ever define their terms when telling people "Evolution is JUST a theory" and "Teach the Controversy" to name two. Their marketing muscle and spin doctors use this exact tactic and now they claim it was used against them? Actually what appears to be happening is that they are using the same tactic to try and refute what Nova said.

How can they get away with this? Anyone remember from a psych class from years ago -- at least years ago for me -- a defense mechanism called "Projection". If memory serves it describes how someone takes their own personality traits and projects them into the behavior of other people in order to rationalize a reason for their behavior. The idea that you can't swindle a con artist because they expect everyone to be acting the way they act so they are more watchful over it. That type of thing. Well I think we are seeing a prime example of Projection here when the Discovery Institute said . . .PBS confidently instructs us that “evolution happens.” But should that matter? Even Darwin’s scientific critics agree that evolution happens. PBS is introducing equivocation into the discussion by failing to clearly define “evolution.

Sure, when someone else uses a term that disputes what you say you demand an immediate definition and claim foul when it's not provided. But when you do it, it's Science!

And that's just the first slide in the slide show, let's move on to slide 2.

I think we are seeing a trend here. The Discovery Institute says "PBS urges viewers to believe that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” Such a statement reverses the scientific process by putting conclusions ahead of empirical observations of nature. PBS also quotes evolutionary paleontologist Niles Eldredge, stating, "Nothing that we have learned in the intervening 175 years has contravened Darwin's basic description of how natural selection works," and asserting that the data “unequivocally” support Darwin’s view. Such dogmatic statements fly in the face of the scientific spirit, which opposes dogmatic attachments to theories and promises to follow the evidence wherever it may lead."

The Discovery Institute, in marketing a pseudo-science is using scientific inquiry to argue against PBS' statements. They don't state any objection to the content, because they know it's a true statement, they are just whining that making such statements fly in the face of the scientific spirit. When in the Discovery Institute does this spirit live? We haven't seen any evidence of it. What they say about Newton in the beginning of the second slide is true, but misleading. "Yet despite the long-lasting success of Newton’s ideas, technological advancements in the early 20th century overturned Newtonian physics and replaced them with Einstein’s theories. If history is to be our guide, science must always be open to following the evidence where it leads, even if that means challenging orthodoxy." Science is completely open to inquiry and even hypotheses that challenge orthodox thinking, if not then many idea would have never become accepted scientific theories. But this requires effort, time, and investigation the Discovery Institute hasn't been willing to undertake. Marketing should come after scientific discovery and exploration, not before it. Look at Plate Tectonics and even look at Evolution itself and the orthodox view it overturned. This is science in action, take notes and do the leg work!

Slide 3, tries to raise the idea of this scientific controversy. "Indeed, over 700 doctoral scientists have signed a public statement proclaiming their agreement that, "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life." It's funny, normally they use this line to show the support for Intelligent Design, for a change they are using it correctly and show that a small group of scientists are skeptical. In their own words, "So What?" This doesn't' address other parts of evolutionary theory, only a small part. It doesn't say they actually alternative theories, it only says they are skeptical.

How many scientists are not skeptical? Over 300 science organizations, representing thousands of scientists support Evolution. Over 11,000 clergy support it as well. Sure, keep waving your list of 700 and keep misrepresenting what they say to indicate a firestorm of controversy.

Lynn Margulis' quote is another example of quote mining by the Discovery Institute. She is a scientist who did the work and brought what was considered a fringe theory into the accepted and now orthodox thinking about evolution today. Funny how she's not one of the 700 the Discovery Institute likes to brag about. She is critical of Neo-Darwinism -- but not that I could find of Evolution as a whole, I wonder what her opinions of the Discovery Institute and Intelligent Design are?

Damn, that's only the first three. I need a break and I'll post my comments about the rest later. But for now, take a look for yourself. They are a riot!

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