Thursday, January 26, 2017

I Got Accused . . . again . . . Of Not Being A Biologist

I really wish more folks would comment on here, mainly because then you can read their comments and any return comment I might have.  Today I was accused of not being a biologist, so my blog was a . . . let me quote . . . "a waste of time and energy".  They had a little more to say, but I am not totally clear on whether or not they thought my writing this blog was a waste of my time and energy, or that reading my blog was a waste of their time and energy.  In any event, here is my response.  It's a bit more long-winded than it would have been face-to-face, but the message would have been the same.

I am not, nor have I ever portrayed myself as a biologist, credentialed or otherwise.  I state quite clearly in the 'About Me' section of my blog that my areas of expertise are computers and Information Technology (IT).  I have three degrees in that area and in addition I have a background in electronics, teaching, and computers all thanks to my time in the United States Air Force.  This in no way makes me a biologist, nor did I spend last night in a Holiday Inn Express.

The biology in my background comes from school, both public and parochial.  My first biology teacher was a catholic priest.  In Jr. High and High School I had several biology teachers, including the unforgettable 'Efsavia', I mean how can anyone forget that first name!  I passed the New York State Regents Examination in Biology, which I think they now call "Life Sciences". During my military career I attended so many different schools (13 different colleges and a large assortment of military training courses) that my wife referred to me as a professional student.  During those years I took a number of Life and Earth Science courses.  So, at best you can think of me as a science and biology enthusiast, or to quote an old TV series I thoroughly enjoyed, "A talented amateur".  If you can guess the series, you are as old as I am :-).  Even with all this, none of it makes me an actual biologist.

Because of all that, if you feel my blog is a waste of my time, then I put to you that it's not only my time to spend how I wish and that you do not have the right to tell me how to spend it.  That might sound a bit adversarial, but think it thorough -- do you let others define how you spend your time?  Secondly, if you think my not being a biologist somehow disqualifies me from have anything of value to say, let me remind you of a few things:

  1. The Discovery Institute is not aiming its marketing efforts at biologists, are they?  They are aiming at pretty much everyone else.  They want people who vote, people who are active in school organizations, or just about anyone who is willing to stand up and be heard.  They want these people because these are the people who can influence the behavior of politicians and school board members.  I am one of those people, and I feel that if they can take aim at me, I can take aim at them.
  2. I get annoyed, as should you, when an organization hides their motivations and then uses tactics designed to confuse rather than illuminate.  Does it require being a biologist to identify most if their lies?  Their tactics and strategies rely far less on biology and nearly entirely on marketing.  Like an old-fashioned clock, which is right twice a day, the few times they point out something actually within the realm of science, they get taken down quickly by actual biologists (like PZ Myers and Larry Moran), so I am happy to bow to their expertise. However, when they say things like "Intelligent Design has nothing to do with religion" or they accuse scientific theories of actually being religious beliefs themselves . . . I am happy to point out the error of their ways.
  3. One of the reasons I would like people to read this blog is because I am not a biologist, but because I am simply a person with an interest in science and science education, in particular the education of our children.  Everyone should be interested in that, regardless of credentials.
  4. On my blog I was very clear why I do it:
"Why blog on this topic? Well after seeing the tactics of groups like the Discovery Institute, I couldn't stay silent on the subject. After the Discovery Institute spins their lies, after the defendants in the Dover trial LIED under oath, and after Texas fired their state science curriculum director for forwarding an email appropriate to her duties -- I couldn't sit back and just watch."  
I was even quite clear as to why I blog in general:
"Why blog? In all honesty, why not? It's fun, has been very educational, and it also has offered me insights into people and positions I may not have thought much about before. " 
Well, I hope that explains things.  Of course you are perfectly free to disagree and disregard my blog because I lack the credentials you may feel I need to have.  You might keep in mind that if, in the future, you decide to voice an opinion on a subject in which you aren't 'credentialed', remember this post.  Hopefully you won't use your own lack of credentials to avoid voicing an opinion!  Silence often implies consent and, as you can see, I refuse to consent to the distortions and lies coming out of groups like the Discovery Institute simply because I lack the credentials as a biologist.


  1. Your credentials don't matter; your arguments do. If the person in question had effective counter-arguments, they'd be making them instead of worrying about whether or not you have the right letters after your name.

  2. Thanks Matthew. It's a logical fallacy called an 'ad hominen', when you can't refute the argument, attack the person. In this case my credentials, or lack there of. I could understand it if I was trying to explain hardcore biology, but marketing and politics? It reminds me of a post a few years back, about the DI's list of 700+ 'Doctoral' Scientists who oppose 'Darwinism' supposedly on scientific grounds. The NY Times discovered not all were Doctorates and I pointed out some of the examples in my own post. One of them actually emailed me asking me if I thought a PhD was a requirement to performing valid science. I explained to Forest Mims that I wasn't saying that, but that the DI was marketing him as having a PhD and all I was doing was pointing out their lies. Gotta have fun where I can :-)