Friday, September 5, 2008

And right after the Ft. Worth Article, the DI rebuttal

You can almost set your clock to when the Discovery Institute will respond to any article about Intelligent Design. The fun part is reading their rebuttal and looking for the misleading statements. I think I need to start a pool, how many misleading and misdirecting statements will the DI make? Well I don't plan on counting them right now, but I do plan on bring up some of the more interesting ones.

Of course they are claiming the Ft Worth Weekly piece was short on facts and misrepresented their position -- something I believe them to be an expert in. So let's dig in a little bit and see what we can see. I've already posted my opinion of the Ft. Worth Weekly piece here. Did the DI attack the piece itself, no they did their usual and took specific sections trying to weaken the purpose of the piece. But their very defensive attitude defeats their purpose.

The article stated:

"One of the center’s primary goals is to support research by scientists and other scholars challenging various aspects of Darwinian theory. The CSC’s leaders have advanced degrees — but they aren’t scientists: Director Stephen Meyer has a Ph.D. in the history and philosophy of science, while Associate Director John G. West holds a doctorate in government.

One of the hallmarks of the institute, according to many scientists, is that the CSC generates pseudo-scientific research, done by researchers with Ph.D. credentials, to bolster claims concerning intelligent design, to build support for that idea as a credible scientific theory. Of course the proponents of intelligent design also include those with legitimate hard-science backgrounds, like McLeroy and Maddox."
And the DI knee-jerk reaction is this:
"Discovery Institute has as Fellows nine PhD biologists or biochemists. Additionally, there are several who are chemists, physicists or astronomers. To imply that Discovery’s PhD credentialed Fellows are only in philosophy or some other non-hard science area is untrue, and a disservice to readers."
First of all did the article imply that the DI only employed philosophers, no! The article said the leaders were not scientists and it substantiated that statement. It did say that the 'fellows' of the DI "generates pseudo-scientific research". Did the DI object to the characterization of it's work as "pseudo-scientific research." No, they pull a little legalistic word trick and make an unsubstantiated claim and then change the direction of the conversation. You know by not objecting to the generates pseudo-scientific research, this could be taken as an implied statement that they agree the 'research' done by their fellows is 'pseudo-scientific', right?

No a brief aside. When a DI fellow, one with a PhD or other degree in a scientific discipline, writes a popular press book about ID -- does that count as scientific research? In my opinion No! Sure Michael Behe has a PhD in biochemistry and has tenure at Lehigh Universisty. But when he is publishing books like "Darwin's Black Box", is he acting under his persona as a PhD and University Professor? He uses the titles to add a level of credibility to his popular press publishing's, but that's all. In my opinion it would be the same thing as him writing a cookbook and signing it as "Michael Behe, PhD".

OK, back to the supposed 'rebuttal'.

The article also stated:
"The Discovery Institute was the prime source of information for a group of school board members in Dover, Pa., who, like the seven Young Earth philosophists on the Texas SBOE, wanted to put forth their version of natural history. In 2004, Dover school administrators, at the insistence of the district’s board, added the following sentence to the biology curriculum: “Students will be made aware of the gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design.”

Adding later: The Discovery Institute’s policy of promoting intelligent design as secular science was thwarted in Pennsylvania, but it may well reappear in Texas."
That's when things really get hincky for me. First of all is it a misstatement to say that "The Discovery Institute was the prime source of information for a group of school board members in Dover, Pa . . ." No. Didn't the DI meet with the School Board in an executive session? Didn't the School Board contact the DI for information? Read the trial transcripts for yourself, the DI gets mentioned quite a few times. The did release a statement in Oct 2004 (which we will get to in a minute) and supporters of the Dover school board were surprised because they had an expectation that the DI was supporting them. Gee where in the world would they get an expectation like that? Again, read the transcripts for yourself! Look for references to exhibit 119, that's the DI press release.

OK, in their 'rebuttal' the DI says that they released a statement that they "actively opposed the actions of the Dover School Board. Indeed, before the ACLU ever filed a lawsuit the Institute released a statement explaining that we did not endorse the Dover board’s action. " By the way here is a link to that statement. So I am re-reading their statement and where exactly does it say that? Hmm no where I can see. What is does say is:

"Recent reports have circulated about Dover Area School District and its consideration of “Of Pandas of People” for optional inclusion by science teachers alongside the District’s required, standard biology textbooks. Although “Of Pandas and People” is an excellent educational resource covering a topic appropriate for inquiry and discussion, the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture has not endorsed its inclusion in public school science curriculum. "
Now I read that as opposing the use "Of Pandas and People" in the school curriculum. Since they were not actually making a curriculum change, just reading the statement (oh so nicely shredded by Judge Jones in his decision) and making the book available in the library. So in other words the DI is claiming that they didn't support the actions of the Dover School Board, yet at no place in their supposed statement does it say they do not support their actions. You know when you read anything from the DI, you gotta really watch both hands because they are like a magician misleading the audience.

Now the other part of their statement

"The Discovery Institute’s policy of promoting intelligent design as secular science . . ."
They seem to be objecting to this part as well. Yet their own statement says " . . . Center for Science & Culture is the nation’s leading think-tank exploring and publicizing the scientific theory of intelligent design . . ."

Here is what I think happened in 2003-2005. I think the DI met with and encouraged the Dover School Board. But when they realized they were about to get hammered they started damage control. They claimed to not support it, then they had a falling out with the Thomas More Law Center and Senior DI fellow William Dembski didn't testify. And then they changed tactics to "expose weaknesses in evolution" from "promotion of ID". This rebuttal is simply more damage control.

They also attack the journalistic integrity of the reporter by saying
"Never mind that she’s produced an extremely biased polemical piece, as opposed to objective reporting of the issue."
This is another common tactic. When you can't claim they lied about what you said, claim they are not being objective. I thought her piece represented the situation quite well. Being objective in journalism doesn't mean you give the DI free reign to say anything they want. You report what happened and what is happening, and what it means.

They ended with their usual disdain about anyone who disagrees with them.
"Barker’s article is wrong about Discovery Institute, misrepresents what evolution and intelligent design are, and misleads readers about the evidence related to Darwinian evolution. Perhaps she should stick to what she knows enough about to have an informed opinion: restaurant reviews."
Barker's article hit the DI with the one thing they haven't been able to successfully do, deal with the truth. That seems to be what causes the quickest knee-jerk reactions from the DI.

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