ID, Scott, Steves in Newsweek. Forecast: DI Complaints.

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The hugely successful Media Complaints Division at the Discovery Institute Center for [the Renewal of] Science and Culture already covers the major land masses of three medium sized planets and is the only part of the Institute to have shown a consistent growth in recent years.* Just last week, Time magazine reviewed the various recent attempts by creationists and “intelligent design” advocates to force public schools to misinform students about the scientific status of modern evolutionary theory (see previous PT post). The DI Media Complaints Division, working overtime this week, put extra effort into complaining about the Time article (DI #1, DI #2).

For good measure they have been complaining about the “Legacy Media” in general. (I think that somebody at the Media Complaints Division flipped a switch and activated a microchip telling all employees to insert “Legacy Media” wherever a normal person would say “the media.”) Strangely, all this talk about the “Legacy Media” temporarily disappeared on Friday, when a pro-ID opinion piece (probably wildly inaccurate – we’ll see what the other side says) appeared in the Wall Street Journal with the apparent purpose of attempting to incite a witch hunt against the rabid pack of herpetologists, acarologists and cephalopodologists (especially those crazy cephalopodologists) at the Smithsonian. So I guess the media is only “legacy” when they aren’t trumpetting your cause. But really, who cares about self-consistency and favoring honesty over spin when you are trying to get good coverage from the media? (Except maybe the media, which has a tough time with complex science but which can sniff spin from 100 feet away – but remember, they’re just the “Legacy Media.”)

But you haven’t seen anything yet. With the publication of a longish story on the various ID battles in the February 7 issue of Newsweek, the DI Media Complaints Division might have to expand onto a fourth medium-sized planet.

Not only does this article dare to quote an ID critic or two after giving the Discovery Institute CSC – a miniscule fringe group of mostly-not-scientists – several paragraphs in a national publication to to explain their position. No, Newsweek actually has a picture of “Darwin spin-doctor extraordinaire” Eugenie Scott! And, adding insult to injury, Newsweek didn’t go for reporting unopposed the DI’s favorite trick, their list of 300-some scientists (well, some of them aren’t scientists, and most of them aren’t biologists, but whatever) who signed the DI’s ultra-vague, non-ID-supporting statement. Instead, this dinosaur of the Legacy Media actually did a little bit of research and discovered that, in fact, evolution is overwhelmingly supported by the scientific community – a fact that is actually surprisingly underreported, and which the Discovery Institute attempts to obscure by making the untrue claim that they constitute a “rapidly growing minority.”

It appears that what Newsweek discovered was another list, far bigger and more distinguished than the DI’s list (several have won Nobel Prizes and/or appeared on The Simpsons). That’s right: Newsweek reported on Project Steve:

For Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, there’s no mystery about what I.D. proponents believe: “It’s another way of saying God did it. It isn’t a model of change; it isn’t a theory that makes testable claims.” A 2002 resolution by the American Association for the Advancement of Science called I.D. “an interesting philosophical or theological concept,” but not one that should be taught in science classes. In fact, the Discovery Institute doesn’t call for teaching I.D. in school either, only the “controversy” over Darwinism. But most scientists don’t believe there is one. The institute’s “Scientific Dissent From Darwinism,” whose operative sentence reads “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life,” has been signed by about 350 scientists. (AAAS has 120,000 members.) Scott’s organization has circulated a countermanifesto asserting that “there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is [the] major mechanism… “ As a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, they signed up only scientists named Steve. At last count they had 528.Feb. 7 Newsweek article

Some have hypothesized that the Steve mine was more or less played out – I mean, how many more evolution-supporting Ph.D.-scientist Steves (and Stephanies! Don’t forget the Stephanies!) could there possibly be? The hypothesis shall now be tested.

As seems to always be the case, NCSE recently sent off the order for the new Steves T-shirt (“Over 500 Steves agree”), only to have an event occur soon afterwards that could lead to another serious Steve spike. Maybe NCSE will just have to make a Project Steve Addendum Cape or something.

* All similarities between the DI Media Complaints Division and the Complaints Division at the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation are purely accidental.

35 Comments

Great post, Nick! I especially liked the part about the cape.

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Creation ‘scientists’ have to be puffed up little egomaniacs who are experts in multiple fields for the simple reason that there are so few of them.

Looks like the pro-Id piece was inaccurate: it leaves out entirely all the stuff about Sternberg sneaking the Meyers article past the normal review channels and paints him as the victim of a witch hunt.

Regarding DI spin, someone had better get to the bottom of the Sternberg incidence pretty soon, because we all know the martyr complex that is the DI is ready to milk it for all it’s worth.

If the Dover case makes it to precedent status, the DI will be in ruins.

And in perhaps the biggest slap in the face for IDCists is how the Newsweek article finishes with a subtle call for theistic evolution.

Well, so does the pope, but the Vatican has said it finds no conflict between Christian faith and evolution. Neither does Francis Collins, the director of the Human Genome Institute at the National Institutes of Health and an outspoken evangelical. He wrote recently of his view that God, “who created the universe, chose the remarkable mechanism of evolution to create plants and animals of all sorts.” It may require some metaphysical juggling, but if more people could take that view, there would be fewer conflicts like the one in Dover.

Gasp! Theistic evolutionists are sell-outs…wafflers…not strong in their faith!!

For some reason, I’m reminded of the coliseum scene in Monty Python’s The Life of Brian where they yell at the old man representing the Popular People’s Front.…”SPLITTER!!”

Why does every single reporter have to include the Scopes trial whenever they report on teaching evolution?

Neither does Francis Collins, the director of the Human Genome Institute at the National Institutes of Health and an outspoken evangelical.

He may be an evangelical but, relatively speaking, he does not seem “outspoken” about his religious beliefs in the way that many of the “ID theory” apologists and anti-science types typically are.

I assume Dr. Collins doesn’t have a blog …

Has anyone heard him speak at lenghth on the subject of teaching ID nonsense in public schools? If he familiar with the Entire Sordid Story and its cast of characters? My impression from hearing him speak in public and on television is that he comes off as an honest and rather nerdy character.

Well, I think the biggest thing against the DI, which their lawyers will have to spin quite a bit, is that even when it came to the presentation of ID (which the administrators had to do since the biology teachers declined) it was a one sentence read-off that didn’t even match the sentence in the school board curriculum.

it also utterly failed to actually *define* ID and how its supposedly an alternative to the evolution instruction they will be (but at that point in time hadn’t yet been) receiving instruction on.

The obvious question: why didn’t they actually define ID?

The only answer a court would be able to logically conclude: because they *knew* the definition of ID if actually taught would violate the 1987 decision that creationism can’t be taught in science classes because they knew it was really creationism.

Thus, ID and the DI are likely seriously screwed by the fact that Dover jumped the gun and implemented ID in schools before the ID movement was “ready” for them to.

someone pass me the popcorn, this is gonna be fun…

Well, I think the biggest thing against the DI, which their lawyers will have to spin quite a bit, is that even when it came to the presentation of ID (which the administrators had to do since the biology teachers declined) it was a one sentence read-off that didn’t even match the sentence in the school board curriculum.

it also utterly failed to actually *define* ID and how its supposedly an alternative to the evolution instruction they will be (but at that point in time hadn’t yet been) receiving instruction on.

The obvious question: why didn’t they actually define ID?

The only answer a court would be able to logically conclude: because they *knew* the definition of ID if actually taught would violate the 1987 decision that creationism can’t be taught in science classes because they knew it was really creationism.

Thus, ID and the DI are likely seriously screwed by the fact that Dover jumped the gun and implemented ID in schools before the ID movement was “ready” for them to.

someone pass me the popcorn, this is gonna be fun…

apologies for the double-post. got a hiccup and then it never actually showed up the first time, so i wasn’t sure if it got through. obviously it did. *sigh*

Why does every single reporter have to include the Scopes trial whenever they report on teaching evolution?

They all learn about it in reporter school. It was, after all, an important episode in the history of journalism, the first “trial of the century.” (It was also very important in the history of the creationist movement, and particularly the history of policies banning evolution, which remained on the books for 40+ years after the Scopes Trial.) It would be nice if they mentioned the McLean trial occasionally, however (they did mention the 1987 Edwards decision before the Supreme Court, and noted that ID was a direct response of the creationists to that decision).

However, since U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) sounds like he wants to testify in the Dover case, you never know, we might be seeing a 21st-century version of William Jennings Bryan.

Nick, that background looks familiar. Was that picture taken in the Valley Life Science building at Berkeley?

Yeah, that is the Triceratops skull that sits in the entrance to the library at UC Berkeley’s Valley Life Sciences Building. The T. rex (see the UCMP page on the T. rex) is behind the Triceratops in that camera shot, out in the stairwell, but you can’t really see it in the photo.

For the sake of completeness, the Newsweek Media Lead Sheet/February 7, 2005 Issue (on newsstands Monday, January 31)

IDEAS: “Doubting Darwin” (p. 44). Senior Editor Jerry Adler reports on the renewed battle between teaching evolution and creationism, this time called “intelligent design,” a critique of evolution couched in the language of science. Opponents say it’s just another way of saying God created the world. Proponents regard it as an overdue challenge to Darwinism’s monopoly over scientific discourse. The real stakes go beyond teaching I.D. in school. To accept it is to admit a supernatural process in the realm of science.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6884904[…]te/newsweek/

“Legacy” media? I thought they were “Heritage” media!

Either way, freedom is the legacy, or the heritage, we get from having free media, right?

For the sake of completeness, the Newsweek Media Lead Sheet/February 7, 2005 Issue (on newsstands Monday, January 31)

IDEAS: “Doubting Darwin” (p. 44). Senior Editor Jerry Adler reports on the renewed battle between teaching evolution and creationism, this time called “intelligent design,” a critique of evolution couched in the language of science. Opponents say it’s just another way of saying God created the world. Proponents regard it as an overdue challenge to Darwinism’s monopoly over scientific discourse. The real stakes go beyond teaching I.D. in school. To accept it is to admit a supernatural process in the realm of science.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6884904[…]te/newsweek/

However, since U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) sounds like he wants to testify in the Dover case, you never know, we might be seeing a 21st-century version of William Jennings Bryan.

Yeah, except that William Jennings Bryan was a really nice guy…

Meyer’s view is simply that “we don’t know.” He declines even to offer an opinion on whether people are descended from apes, on the ground that it’s not his specialty.

Doesn’t Meyer’s current institution require him to sign a statement of faith saying that he believes in special creation of humans?

Doubtless that’s part of the reason he refused to answer…

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on January 30, 2005 11:59 AM

Why does every single reporter have to include the Scopes trial whenever they report on teaching evolution?

Long ago, I got to the point with physics that I started avoiding popular coverage. Just hearing the words Schroedinger’s Cat is enough to make my eyes roll so far back i can see my brain.

As far as this article, it would be nice to see journalists stop misleadingly calling ID a theory, but that’s perhaps asking too much.

Given the Dover case, it’s probable that the DI is a dead man walking, but it occurred to me that there’s yet another reason they’re doomed. Entrenched scientific theories are not replaced with agnosticism. They’re replaced by better theories. The DI wants us to abandon evolution for agnosticism. That’s not how it works. Even if evolution did have big flaws, it would linger until a better theory came along. The DI is trying to show that evolution’s deficient, and hope we give it up. They don’t understand how science evolves. To ruin evolution, they’d not only have to demonstrate a compelling flaw, which they’ve failed to do, but also provide a scientific replacement, which they’ve failed to do. A person would have to be very strongly motivated by religion, to not see the hopelessness of the DI’s efforts.

Regarding William Jennings Bryan and Rick Santorum…I may not have agreed with what Bryan had to say, but I respected his intellect and rhetorical gifts. Santorum is just a far-right political hack who lacks both Bryan’s IQ and his speaking abilities. Remember, this is the clown who claims that gay marriage will result in people marrying their pets, etc.

I hope that such a high-profile mention of the NCSE will lead to it getting some new members.

Which is an excuse to mention that someone can join the NCSE by visiting the linked page. If anyone here has not then I encourage them to do so and post a reply mentioning that they did so. This is a simply way people can help. (Linking to the NCSE, to the Panda’s Thumb, and to Talk.Origins is another really easy way to help as well.)

– Anti-spam: replace “user” with “harlequin2”

The DI is facing some interesting consequences of its rhetorical success outrunning its scientific success. People, convinced by the veracity of the claims that God can be reliably detected by science, are attempting to introduce ID into the highschool curriculum, making a fool of themselves. I wonder when the public outcry starts against the claims of ID when people find out that there is not even a theory of Intelligent Design.

PvM Wrote:

I wonder when the public outcry starts against the claims of ID when people find out that there is not even a theory of Intelligent Design.

Probably not any time soon. Most of the people in the general public who support antievolutionism or are sympathetic to it probably don’t care that ID does not have a “theory” which matches what mainstream philosophy of science or practicing mainstream scientists would call a “theory.”

They rather are concerned that classroom might be teaching things contrary to their interpretation of the Bible, or that classrooms are teaching “atheism” or “naturalism”. So long as those are the primary concerns, the lack of ID theory will fall on deaf ears.

– Anti-spam: replace “user” with “harlequin2”

In the article, [Meyer] cites biologists and paleontologists critical of certain aspects of Darwinism–mainstream scientists at places like the University of Chicago, Yale, Cambridge and Oxford. Mr. Meyer gathers the threads of their comments to make his own case.

Wow. The PR people have done their job. The writer is completely oblivious to quote mining. And if he is oblivious, it’s not hard to imagine that so are the vast majority of uninformed readers of such propaganda. Sad.

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PvM asks,

I wonder when the public outcry starts against the claims of ID when people find out that there is not even a theory of Intelligent Design.

They don’t care. They’re not in this to develop scientific theories.…they’re here to save your soul.

According to the Newsweek article:

“Meyer’s view is simply that ‘we don’t know.’ He declines even to offer an opinion on whether people are descended from apes, on the ground that it’s not his specialty. The diversity of life, in his view, is a ‘mystery’ we may never solve.”

Let’s say I’m not certain that “people are descended from apes.” I am at least overwhelmingly justified in believing that they are. The diversity of life is not a “mystery.” It is overwhelmingly probable that a single-celled microorganism that lived about 3.8 billion years ago evolved into the variety of organisms that have lived on earth. I, personally, don’t have a clear picture of the series of events that resulted in the first cell(s) on earth. But given the rate of understanding that humans have acquired over the last 150 years, there is good reason to believe that, by the year 2205, humans will have a good understanding of the series of events that resulted in the first cell(s).

Reed Cartwright Wrote:

Why does every single reporter have to include the Scopes trial whenever they report on teaching evolution?

You know the answer. Whether liberal or conservative, the “Legacy” media’s mantra is “sensationalism first.” Note the obnoxious title of Newsweek’s online link to the article: “A New Theory on the Origins of Life.” While the DI wants to have it both ways with the “Legacy” media (and practically everything else), my opinion is quite consistent – I am no fan. That of course doesn’t mean that reporters never get it right; in this case the article ends on the one note that neither endorses the DI nor gives them the “false dichotomy” ammunition that keeps them going. I could be wrong, but maybe the “Legacy” media is starting to respond to “evolve or perish” challenge from the Blogs.

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But given the rate of understanding that humans have acquired over the last 150 years, there is good reason to believe that, by the year 2205, humans will have a good understanding of the series of events that resulted in the first cell(s).

Yep. The understanding will be *poof* here we are.

But given the rate of understanding that humans have acquired over the last 150 years, there is good reason to believe that, by the year 2205, humans will have a good understanding of the series of events that resulted in the first cell(s).

Yeah, it will be *poof* here we are.

According to Jeff, “Yeah, it will be *poof* here we are.”

Jeff, I don’t see your point. Could you elaborate on it? Thanks.

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on January 30, 2005 5:53 AM.

PBS Affiliate KNME Gets Some Support was the previous entry in this blog.

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