Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Discovery Institute is annoyed because their version of Scientific Denial. . . isn't!

Little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer is up in arms that a National Review article about scientific dissent forgot to mention the Discovery Institute (DI) and Creationism/Intelligent Design (C/ID).  His post "Leaving Evolution Skeptics Out of a Discussion of Suppressing Scientific Dissent" is pretty funny.  Before looking at klingy's post, I would like to examine the original article, mainly for two reasons.  First of all, I do not trust anything quoted by a member of the Discovery Institute.  One of their favorite tactics is quote-mining, that is to deliberately take a quote out of context in order to make it sound as if it means something completely different.  The second reason the source he is quoting, the 'National Review', is not one of my favorite sources of information.  While they may not be guilty of quote-mining, they definitely like to spin things in a certain very right-wing direction.  So I would like to deal with their article before trying to makes heads or tails out of anything klingy has written.

The original post is "Who Are the Real Deniers of Science?", pulled from the National Review and written by Jonah Goldberg 20 May 2016. Just looking at the headline, you might guess how I would answer that question. But let's see what Jonah has to say:

"Masking opinions in a white smock is a brilliant, albeit infuriating and shabby, rhetorical tactic."
I agree, but I have to wonder if Jonah and I agree on who uses this tactic.  The ones that come to my mind include:
  • The makers of lead additives to gasoline, who for years poisoned our environment while earning millions, if not billions of dollars.  They had a few scientists on heir payroll and successfully fought to keep poisoning us for decades;
  • The tobacco industry who also obfuscated the dangers of tobacco with phony scientific claims for decades so they could keep selling poison for a profit;
  • and The oil and gas industry who are currently doing to same when it comes to addressing climate change, once again for the purpose of making billions.
Ah, Jonah takes a slightly different tack and takes aim at liberal causes, which does make sense considering the far-right leaning of the National Review.  Ah, here is an old trope:
"Scientists are constantly questioning their understanding of things; that is what science does."
Yes, by itself that statement is true, but the context is misleading. Science does question itself, constantly. But that doesn't invalidate what is known to be true today. Jonah makes it sound as if science cannot be trusted because it might change its mind.

However, when you think about it . . . to use my examples from above.  
  • Did science change what it knew about lead additives from the 1920's when the danger was discovered through to the 60's, 70's, and 80's when it was finally removed from gasoline?  Yes, and the more we learned the worse it got.  
  • Tobacco was the same way.  We learned it was bad and the more we learned the worse it got!  
  • Climate change and the relationship to fossil fuels and human activity is currently fighting that same argument.  The more we learn, the deeper the problem becomes and the more we need to take action.  But that action is seen as a threat to the industry folks who make billions off of it . . .. just like the makers of lead additives and tobacco.  
At no point in time did scientists 'change their mind', they only confirmed, re-confirmed, and refined the dangers.  Were we wrong about lead and tobacco?  Hasn't all the evidence from multinational sources of climate monitoring confirmed climate change?  The decade long fights to remove lead and force the tobacco industry to own up to its responsibilities and admit it's lies were not because of science changing its mind, but because of the political and legal activities of the industries behind them. One more quote form the article and then we'll move on to klingy's latest whine:
"Many liberals believe that “denying” climate science should be a criminal offense . . ."
That's a lie!  No one has said denying climate science, or climate change, should be a criminal offense.  What has been said was the people who deny climate change for the express purpose of profiting from it should be investigated for possible criminal activities.  Exactly like the Tobacco industry was!  Remember what they did.  They didn't just push tobacco products.  They had years and decade of research on the dangers of tobacco and they hid it and denied it.  That was criminal!  It deserved an investigation.  What if we find evidence that the fossil and gas industry was well aware of the dangers and suppressed them for the purposes of continued profits?  What if they colluded with other companies and politicians to hide the truth in order profit?  Wouldn't that deserve to be investigated?  But Jonah put a conservative spin!

Having an opinion about climate change is a matter of free speech.  But using that opinion to mislead others so you can continue to profit . . . that's a different story.  OK, enough about Jonah, let's see if klingy actually adds anything to the conversation.  Actually not much.  He's more annoyed that any conversation about science denial doesn't include those people who laugh at Creationism/Intelligent Design (C/ID).  Here's a quote:
"Except there is no mention of the subject on which censors have done the most to silence dissenters. That subject is Darwinian theory, of course. Not one word."
You know, klingy is simply repeating a common tactic of claiming Creationists and ID supporters are being censored for their views.  As you know, I disagree.  While the DI spins a different tale, anyone who looks at the situations objectively knows that Guillermo Gonzalez, Catherine Croker, Nathanial Abraham, and a few others had some negative career occurrences for failing to do their job.  Yes, the reason they failed to do their job might have had something to do with the time and energy they spent promoting Creationism, but the reason they got into some trouble was failing to do their job.  Folks like John Freshwater also got into trouble for assaulting students by burning crosses into their arms with an electrostatic device and also lying about what he was doing and what he was teaching.  David Coppedge was an ass who was held accountable when it came time to downsize a JPL program.  Of course the DI doesn't call him an ass for failing to keep his skills relevant and being known to be 'difficult' when dealing with customers and harassing co-workers on California Proposition 8 (Gay Marriage) and Intelligent Design.  But when you can't say something true, you spin things and declare Coppedge some sort of C/ID hero (Time to Re-Write History . . . Again)!

Another related whine is that the DI's stable of C/ID pets cannot get published in legitimate science journals.  I have two things to say about that.  The first is I am not aware of them actually submitting work to legitimate science journals.  That would tend to be a worthwhile statistic . . . if they are actually being turned down.  The second aren't my words, but the words of Mark Chancey, the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Southern Methodist University:
"When scholars criticize ID, they are not attacking religion. They are only asking ID proponents to be transparent in their agenda, accurate about their representations of scholarship, and willing to play by the same rules of peer review and quality control that legitimate scholars and scientists around the world follow every day." (SMU Daily Campus)
Little klingy closes with a quote from a Christian Professor who fears that coming out of the closet for Intelligent Design might get him fired. Here is the quote:
"It's not that they're being persecuted for belief in God. They're being persecuted for being associated with this movement [intelligent design]. So for example, I'm a Christian. None of my colleagues have a problem with that. But if I came out positive[ly] for intelligent design, the movement, I would probably be in danger of losing my job."
I would say the professor is more than a little paranoid.  Has Lehigh University fired Michael Behe for being an ID proponent?  Has any public university fired anyone for being a Christian, a Creationist, or an C/ID proponent?  No!  The only ones that have gotten disciplined in any way are the ones who failed in performing their job!  I bet Michael Behe hasn't let his interest in C/ID interfere with his work at Lehigh?  That's the problem!  Not being a proponent, but not doing their job!  That's what happened to Gonzalez at IU and Croker at George Mason.  Also, to be accurate, they weren't fired.  Gonzalez didn't get tenure and Croker's adjunct contract wasn't renewed, but the reason was their not doing their job!  Again, not because of ID, but because they didn't do the job they were hired to do.  Click the links and check out some of the actual facts and not klingy's spin.

As I said in other posts, I do consider the DI a nest of science deniers.  My reasoning is not that they support C/ID, but that they spend an inordinate amount of time arguing against evolution and a surprisingly little time developing their own ideas.  Look at their tactics?  How many of them are aimed at supporting ID as actual science?  Any of them?  Not that I can see.  They are all aimed at undermining science education with the intention that they can slip C/ID in without bothering to do the actual scientific work that would get them in the front door.  That makes them science deniers to me.  

As usual, klingy doesn't say much worth reading, but he does try and spin things around to draw attention to C/ID while claiming to be some sort of victim here.  It's another one of their common tactics.  They, the DI, are doing the denial of actual science while accusing the rest of the scientific community with imagined examples of censorship and suppressing scientific dissent.  You know, shouldn't Creationism/Intelligent Design actual be science before you can accuse of anyone arguing against them as science deniers?  But that would make sense, at least to me.


  1. Mr. Herrlich,
    First off, thank you for your blog. I read it often but don't comment much. I don't post comments to many of the blogs I read. Not sure I have much to add to what I read.
    This time I just want to add one thing. IF the C/ID clowns did any actual science why that sir would be the dreaded four letter word. The four letter word I mean here is work. Yes, science, real science takes lots of very hard (at times seemingly very difficult, even damn near impossible) work. Being, in my personal opinion, these DI clowns are highly lazy and very ignorant of any real science, they will never do and real science work.
    Can you actually imagine these highly ignorant clowns even trying to do a simple middle school science project? I have tried and all I see if absolute failure. No, much easier to sit back and spew nonsense about some imaginary sky critter and keep calling "Darwinist evolution" evil.
    Lazy and ignorant, and those who follow these ID clowns are even more ignorant and lazy.

  2. Thanks for the feedback. I read a number of blogs as well and don't comment all that often. I agree with your comment and usually refer to the DI as being unwilling or unable to do the necessary scientific work. I'm not sure which it is and tend to go either way depending on the conversation. I do feel that most of the DI is made up of lawyers and philosophers with only enough actual scientists to give the patina of legitimacy. So that would certainly affect their ability. Their unwillingness, at least to me, stems from the possibility they have already tried to do the work and know it fails on every level. But since 'Lying for Jesus' is such an ingrained part of so many Evangelical-type theists, they can never admit it and find the only game they have is marketing.