Project Steve, Panda’s Thumb in the News

| 15 Comments

Columnist Linda Seebach of the Rocky Mountain News has written a column on Project Steve, the NCSE’s parody of creationist lists of evolution-doubting scientists. These lists, touted most prominently by the Discovery Institute, consist of scientists (and random other people) that are creationists, that doubt evolution in some way, or that are willing to put their name on a certain-to-be-abused vague statement encouraging “careful examination of the evidence”.

Project Steve was a list of mostly professional biologists that signed up to a strongly-worded statement supporting the scientific validity and educational necessity of the theory of evolution. The catch was that all signatories had to be named some variant of “Steve,” and even with these restricted conditions, this list ended up longer (435 at last count) than the Discovery Institute’s latest list (a mere 300).

In other words, the DI hasn’t got a leg to stand on when they drag out their list. Their scientific credibility is statistically equivalent to zero. Despite this, they are continuing on as if Project Steve had never happened. On Monday, May 3, Discovery Institute News issued a press release about a California poll on evolution teaching. They just happened to have gotten the poll results on the day before a Tuesday, May 4 school board hearing in Roseville, California on a so-called “Quality Science Education Policy” that was heavily promoted by ID advocates. The poll question itself is based on a misleading question, but that is a topic for another blog. At the end of the press release, Discovery Institute News quoted Discovery Institute president Bruce Chapman:

The margin of error for each survey was +/- 4 percent. Both surveys were conducted by Arnold Steinberg & Associates, a California-based polling firm, and released by Discovery Institute, a national public policy organization headquartered in Seattle, Wa. whose Center for Science and Culture has issued a statement from 300 scientists who are skeptical of the central claim of neo-Darwinian evolution.

“The only way the Darwin-only lobby can spin these kind of survey results,” added Chapman, “is to claim that the public is just ignorant. But that view is untenable in light of the more than 300 scientists who have publicly expressed their dissent from Darwinism, to say nothing of the many scientific articles that have been published critiquing the theory.”

That statement just wouldn’t have quite the same impact if Chapman had been forthright enough to add the truth, such as, “However, Project Steve showed that our list represents a miniscule proportion of the scientific community.”

The DI doesn’t get it, obviously, but Roseville, California, did. With substantial public opposition, the “Quality Science Education Policy” motion died on May 4 due to lack of a second, and was finally voted down on June 1.

So, check out the column and send Linda some positive feedback if you are so inspired. It’s nice to see journalists going to the right places for information.

15 Comments

Boy, I never thought they’d stoop so low. To say that Project Steve is about Peer pressure is just absurd. If that’s so, then who on the list is a “dissenter in hiding?” I know the answer to that question already: I can’t tell you, but they’re out there, and for now I’m going to keep their names secret to protect them!”

All that being said, I was also surprised to find on the Discovery Institute’s list that there is a Nobel Prize nominee, and at least one member of the ACS. To be fair, there may be enough credentials on the other side to warrant a public debate on the subject, and possibly a congressional resolution to firmly decide whether Darwinian evolution is really a good explanation of the modern world. After all, as Phil Johnson has pointed out, the most rigorous mthod of proof in our society is trial in a court of law. Darwinism may have only won so far because the prosecution has hitherto been denied a good lawyer, and credible witnesses. Put a Nobel Prize Nomminee on the stand and let those credentials go into the court record, though, and there may be a “hung jury,” or a complete reversal of the principle in some states. That’d make for some interesting science–what happens on the border between Pennsylvania and Ohio, when Darwinian evolution is the underpinning of one biome and the Christian Designer is the ultimate authority in another?

the most rigorous mthod [sic] of proof in our society is trial in a court of law.

You’re joking, right?

In response to Dave…been there, done that: http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archi[…]/000252.html. As for “debating” ID/creationists, that horse, too, has been beaten to death many times. Any number of threads on the Thumb have dealt with it; Ed Brayton also has an excellent post here: http://mblog.com/dispatches_from_th[…]ulture_wars/. Of course, at the risk of stating the obvious, it can be very frustrating to try to “debate” an opponent who has no regard for the underlying truth of his or her claims.

Dave’s post again raises the subject of rhetoric, which has been commented on here: http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archi[…]/000236.html. It demonstrates that to those who are uninformed, ID/creationist rhetoric can be persuasive. While there is occasionally some encouraging news (e.g., http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archi[…]65.html#more), I find much more common statements like those from Dave. “Wow! I didn’t know the ID/creationists had Big Name Scientist Doe on their side. We really should have a debate!”

A “congressional resolution” on Darwinism? Would you like that with or without a declaration of an official religion? Have you given ANY thought to the implications of such a thing? Scary.

Who’s the Nobel nominee they claim? It’s not the guy from UGA, is it?

Dave Wrote:

Put a Nobel Prize Nomminee on the stand and let those credentials go into the court record, though, and there may be a “hung jury,” or a complete reversal of the principle in some states. That’d make for some interesting science—what happens on the border between Pennsylvania and Ohio, when Darwinian evolution is the underpinning of one biome and the Christian Designer is the ultimate authority in another?

I’ve dealt with the idea that the IDists have a “Nobel prize nomminee” on their side. His near-Nobel prize credentials in chemistry are not well supported, and he has absolutely no credentials when it comes to evolution. Putting Schaefer on the stand or in a debate would be a disaster for the ID crowd. His entire contribution to ID is “Look at these scientists who were Christian. I support you guys.”

Reed, he’s the one that US News $ World Report speculated about having 5 nominations, but it’s never been verified?

Whoa, man, sorry about all the firestorm I generated.

Of course I’m joking. The ways I mentioned “Nobel Prize Nominee” were intended to point out just how dishonest the title is. The names are never released by the committee, and I don’t think you’re even supposed to tell someone if you’ve nominated them (I could be wrong on the second point), and it would certainly not be a good idea to say that under oath in a court, unless you prefaced it, as I think that Schafer guy (from Georgia Tech) does, that it’s a rumor, not a fact.

The “congressional resolutions” and “trial by court” are also mockery. The second notion, in fact, came from the mouth of Shaun McNaughton, IDEA Club President at UCSD and a Math/Phil double major–so there are people with actual educations who sadly believe in things that would not stand a moment’s serious thought.

I had hoped that the first paragraph, coupled with the concluding remark about different modes of biological evolution occuring in different states because of local statutes, would be sufficent to convey my intention to parody creationist junk. Again, I’m sorry that it wasn’t.

Linda Seebach Wrote:

Matt Inlay, then a graduate student in biology at the University of California at San Diego, suggested that Steve would be an appropriate name, to honor Steven Jay Gould, who died not long before the project got started.

Yeah, but we all know who the real inspiraction was, don’t we Matt? ;)

Bob Maurus Wrote:

Reed, he’s the one that US News $ World Report speculated about having 5 nominations, but it’s never been verified?

Yes. We have no way of knowing how many times if ever Schaefer was considered for a Nobel, nor how seriously they considered him. Ultimately, Drs. Kohn and Pope won the Nobel prize for theoretical chemistry, Schaefer’s field.

Dave Wrote:

Of course I’m joking. The ways I mentioned “Nobel Prize Nominee” were intended to point out just how dishonest the title is. The names are never released by the committee, and I don’t think you’re even supposed to tell someone if you’ve nominated them (I could be wrong on the second point), and it would certainly not be a good idea to say that under oath in a court, unless you prefaced it, as I think that Schafer guy (from Georgia Tech) does, that it’s a rumor, not a fact.

Schaefer is from UGA not GT. I addressed the claims that he is a five time Nobel nominee in “Religiously Motivated Incredulity.”

Whew - I’m sure glad that was a satirical riff, dave.

I agree with the creationists that most of the Project Steve Steves were pressured into signing. Also, the 72 nobel laureates who signed a statement favoring evolution, and denying creationism was science, were all peer-pressured, when in fact they too believe in creationism. In fact, all 384,938 biological scientists in the country really believe in creationism, but they buckle under the extraordinary pressure of the one evolutionist, Frank Stalvey of Portsmouth, Oregon.

He’s extremely intimidating.

Until I checked the e-mail address, I was starting to wonder if ‘Dave’ was NavyDavy in a new guise …

-Scott Simmons

I had the same thought, Scott.

Steve Reuland Wrote:

Yeah, but we all know who the real inspiration was, don’t we Matt? ;)

Actually, I didn’t want to reveal it, but since you’ve twisted my arm I might as well tell you. The real inspiration for Project Steve was Steve Guttenberg, whom we all remember as officer Carey Mahony of the Police Academy series. However, several problems with Project Steve Guttenberg quickly began to emerge. One, I didn’t think a pro-evolution petition signed by a single individual (even one with Guttenberg’s stature) would be taken seriously by the public. Secondly, the response to creationists’ lists, “Yeah, but how many are named Steve Guttenberg?” doesn’t pack quite the same punch as the “Yeah, but how many are named Steve?” line. Third, Steve Guttenberg is actually a diehard YEC(*), so the Project Steve Guttenberg list is currently stuck at zero. In fact, Guttenberg is on one of the DI’s lists. Apparently, his role as a scuba diver in the movie Cocoon qualifies him by their latest criteria. And last, as it turns out, Project Steve Guttenburg already exists.

Matt

*I have no idea what Steve Guttenberg’s stance on evolution is. That was a joke.

I find it interesting that when you read the article, the Google ads on the right are for YEC websites.

Kind of ironic and sad.

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on June 12, 2004 3:15 PM.

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