Crowther’s spin on the DI blog is all wrong

| 123 Comments

The Discovery Institute’s blog ‘Evolution News and Views,’ supposedly in existence to correct ‘misreporting’ in the media about Intelligent Design, isn’t doing such a hot job itself.

Their latest post by Rob Crowther (here) is entitled ‘AAAS Issues Gag Order to Scientists, Seeks to Stifle Debate.’

The article starts by listing a number of public debates (just the kind of thing the DI like to point as evidence that Intelligent Design is credible) between such people as Nelson and Shanks, Provine and Meyer, and so on.

Then Crowther writes,

But, no Darwinist will testify to the Kansas board of education. Amazing. Simply amazing.

Why? Because the Darwinian high priests at the American Association for the Advancement of Science have issued a sort of scientific papal bull, a gag order to scientists, telling them not to debate the flaws in Darwin’s theory before the Kansas State Board of Education.

What a bunch of uninformed and dishonest bull!

Kansas Citizens for Science called for the boycott of the hearings a month ago, and the boycott has held: this fact is clearly stated in the AAAS statement.

Furthermore, AAAS nowhere says that others should not participate – they merely say that they have declined, and they tell why:

AAS “Respectfully Declines” Invitation to Controversial Evolution Hearing

AAAS on Monday declined an invitation from the Kansas Board of Education to appear at a May hearing on teaching evolution in public schools after concluding that the event is likely to sow confusion rather than understanding among the public.

In a letter to George Griffith, science consultant to the Kansas State Department of Education, association CEO Alan I. Leshner sided with the leaders of the Kansas science community who have described the hearings as an effort by faith-based proponents of “intelligent design” theory to attack and undermine science.

“After much consideration,” Leshner wrote, “AAAS respectfully declines to participate in this hearing out of concern that rather than contribute to science education, it will most likely serve to confuse the public about the nature of the scientific enterprise.”

Where is the ‘gag order’ here? Where is AAAS ‘telling them [other scientists] not to debate the flaws in Darwin’s theory?’

It ain’t there, and if Crowther has any intellectual honesty and/or reading ability, he would know that.

How can the DI’s complaints about the media have any credibility at all when their own reports are so obviously spin? It looks like they better start cleaning their own house first, if you ask me.

As you might tell, Crowther’s piece makes me a little angry. KCFS has led the way in asking scientists to not participate. We obviously have no power to tell anyone to do anything. Scientists have listening to our arguments and responded. That’s all.

The DI blog doesn’t allow comments, so I have copied this to Crowther himself. He’s welcome to come here and respond.

123 Comments

Dear Mr. Crowther: I do not know what you wish to debate. To my knowledge, there is no “Intelligent Design Theory” Michael Behe attempted to formulate one, and failed badly. William Dembski attempted to repair it, and his notions have been completely discredited, including in some comical ways, such as when David Wolpert commented on Dembski’s use of Wolpert’s NFL theorems. Until anyone develops an actual ID theory, there’s just nothing to debate. Biologists don’t seriously discuss Discovery Institute biology, any more than physicists discuss Jay Richards’s Discovery Institute relativity. It’s nonsense.

Of course, Crowther et al will tell you that there are not wanting to debate ID, but rather just certain weaknesses in evolutionary theory.

However, Steve’s comments apply to this also: the ID arguments against evolution have had no impact on science, in part because the ID movement doesn’t attempt to argue them in the science community.

I cross-posted my opening post on the KCFS Forums here, and csadams has made an excellent response to this point. In its entirety, she wrote,

One point Crowther makes is that the minority report isn’t asking to include intelligent design in the standards.

He’s right.

Just because John Calvert, founder/leader of IDNet, subcommittee members’ campaign contributor, is counsel to the minority surely doesn’t mean that ID is being given any preference.

Just because the list of witnesses is chock-full of ID proponents can’t mean ID is on the way into the standards.

Just because “teaching the controversy” is a political strategy endorsed by the Discovery Institute (the Seattle ID hotbed) doesn’t guarantee ID will make its way into science class.

And, just because the three subcommittee members were elected on anti-evolution platforms doesn’t mean they can’t be objective in this matter.

Now, if you honestly believe this stuff (and it would be an irrational, untenable, fly-in-the-face-of-evidence belief), then I’d really like to sell you a bridge or two.

Scientists are among the most prideful, arrogant, rude people I’ve ever known. Any organization that would “tell” them or “order” them to adhere to any irrational action or “papal bull” would be met with derision, rebellion, and perhaps the verbal equivalent of a common gesture. As noted elsewhere, there are few things scientists enjoy more than knocking down another scientist’s arguments in the scientific arena. Note that this arena is made up of other experts in the field, NOT the court of public opinion. This boycott is being supported because it’s right, not because of any orders from on high.

Like it or not, becoming a scientist takes years of study and education, and some folks just won’t make it, just as others will never become concert pianists or NBA stars. Will the anti-science board members next set themselves up as arbiters of classical music, or as NBA referees?

The pro-ID proposal has been reviewed by scientists and wholly knocked down. These Kansaroos have an overtly political agenda, one that is less concerned about the education of Kansas’ kids than it is the solidification of an anti-science attitude in the general public.

This is an excellent comment.

P.S. “Kansaroos” is an excellent neologism.

Crowther’s article ends with:

No Comments/Trackbacks/Pingbacks for this post yet…

Hey guys, did someone forget to trackback Crowther’s post or have they cut it out? This is important since it give anyone visiting them the right to see what our side has to say which the DI simply can’t refute. And if they do refuse trackbacks, then our side can make sure the people are informed that the Discovery Institute does not want anyone to find out what the other side of the so-called “controversy” has to say.

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

…if they do refuse trackbacks, then our side can make sure the people are informed that the Discovery Institute does not want anyone to find out what the other side of the so-called “controversy” has to say.

I’ll be following this closely. Maybe they’ll have to change the slogan from Teach the controversy! to Teach the controversy*! *(well, our side of it)

Rob Crowther Wrote:

…the Darwinian high priests at the American Association for the Advancement of Science have issued a sort of scientific papal bull, a gag order to scientists, telling them not to debate the flaws in Darwin’s theory before the Kansas State Board of Education.

This de facto “gag order”, this refusal to debate the merits of evolutionary theory (or lack thereof) is not restricted to the Kansas issue, nor is it something new.

It has been in effect for quite a while, as I can testify from my own personal experience. You simply cannot get a reputable scientist to discuss these questions, either on the record or off the record and this has been going on for a while. I often write comments to researchers regarding the interpretations and implications of their work on evolutionary theory and I am consistently met with absolute stonewalling. They simply don’t want to discuss it. And if they say anything at all, it’s something comical and useless like “we don’t know all of the specific mechanisms” or “evolutionsary theory adequately explains it”, or “it evolved..”. Now what the heck does that mean? Even here at PT and over at T.O I find that, while “creationist bashing” is rampant, actual discussion of the science itself is almost completely absent. I recently asked several reputable evolutionists if they cared to discuss the findings in this report and offer some kind of explanation as to how a highly organized and complex system such as described below could have emerged by mechanisms like those that are included in current evolutionary thinking. I’m still waiting. So far the only response has been the sound of crickets chirping.

Resting Microglial Cells Are Highly Dynamic Surveillants of Brain Parenchyma in Vivo Axel Nimmerjahn 1, Frank Kirchhoff 2, Fritjof Helmchen 1*

1 Abteilung Zellphysiologie, Max-Planck-Institut für medizinische Forschung, Jahnstr. 29, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany. 2 Abteilung Neurogenetik, Max-Planck-Institut für Experimentelle Medizin, Hermann-Rein-Str. 3, 37075 Göttingen, Germany.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. Fritjof Helmchen , E-mail: [Enable javascript to see this email address.]

Microglial cells represent the immune system of the brain and therefore are critically involved in various injuries and diseases. Little is known about their role in the healthy brain and their immediate reaction to brain damage. Using in vivo two-photon imaging in neocortex, we found that microglial cells are highly active in their presumed resting state, continually surveying their microenvironment with extremely motile processes and protrusions. Furthermore, blood brain barrier disruption provoked immediate and focal activation of microglia, switching their behavior from patrolling to shielding of the injured site. Microglia thus are busy and vigilant housekeepers in adult brain.

Published online 14 April 2005 Science Express

Do you want to get answer? You are so naive. I challenge Darwinists to falsify NS or geographical isolation in role of speciation six months ago, nobody steps out.

Charlie - I’d be glad to discuss it with you. (Perhaps the After the Bar Closes would be a better venue than here - which is really all about Kansas.) Looking forward to it!

I thought Panda’s thumb would find this exchange of interest. A Kansas creationist psychoogist, Paul Ackerman (Wichita State University), just sent me the pictures of the T Rex soft tissue recently discovered adding his own comments, “If you haven’t seen these, here are the pictures of the recently announced T-Rex dinosaur tissue samples. Obviously these bones and tissues are not 70 million years old as portrayed by the rule-governed (‘only-natural-explanations-allowed’) constructions of earth history by the Darwinists.”

My response was, “How do you know how old this tissue is?”

He responded, “I don’t know how old it is, but surely you don’t suppose it is 70 million years old, unless, of course, you have a philosophical based rule that forces you to believe it is millions of years old. Or, unless, your professional reputation would be in the toilet if you don’t go along with the idea it is millions of years old.” To which I added, “Paul: Since dinosaurs are millions of years old, their remains must be also. Let’s see what the dating reveals…oh, I forgot – you believe all dating techniques to be flawed and part of the “science conspiracy.” So, if I understand it, since you (and creationists) say it’s not millions of years old, that must be the truth. Come on, Paul…last week you said you were not dishonest!”

csadams Wrote:

Scientists are among the most prideful, arrogant, rude people I’ve ever known. Any organization that would “tell” them or “order” them to adhere to any irrational action or “papal bull” would be met with derision, rebellion, and perhaps the verbal equivalent of a common gesture. As noted elsewhere, there are few things scientists enjoy more than knocking down another scientist’s arguments in the scientific arena. Note that this arena is made up of other experts in the field, NOT the court of public opinion. This boycott is being supported because it’s right, not because of any orders from on high.

The facts prove otherwise. Like Michael tells Fredo in the Godfather:

“never take sides against the family”.

The self-deprecation in the first sentence does not apply to the majority of scientists I have met who are anxious to discuss their work, help other scientists, share their thoughts, render assistance to students and be civil and pleasant to each other and the public. It’s only when issues of evolution (or cosmology) come into the picture that they circle the wagons. There are plenty of arguments *within* families, between brothers, sisters and parents but when the family is attacked from outside, blood is thicker than water and they unite against what they see as a common enemy.

Trackback to the DI blog added.

Charlie Wagner: Excellent work in completely evading the issue. Now try actually responding to the points Jack Krebs actually made.

You’re not being singled out, charlie. The NCSU physics department weekly gets letters, calls, emails, from laymen explaining their breakthrough ideas. In the case of the physics dept, the ideas are not about how evolution is wrong, they usually are about how Special Relativity is wrong, General Relativity is wrong, here’s a machine which can run perpetually, here’s an engine which doesn’t generate any waste heat, here’s how you make cheap and easy fusion, here’s why the Big Bang is wrong, here’s why Quantum Mechanics is wrong, etc. Researchers in all the sciences are contacted by cranks who don’t understand the fundamentals of the science, and think they’ve discovered deep flaws. Like you. Ignoring such people is the only way to get work done.

Hmmmm.…

I’m a member of AAAS and I haven’t yet been ordered to boycott the KS proceedings. Anyone else here get the word from “on high”?

I wonder if the response to these proceedings would be different if the KS school board tried to lend some sort of accountability to the “debate” - such as agreeing to take an exam (based on any presentations made by scientists, and not dependent on affirmations of faith or belief) and recuse themselves from any votes if they failed the test. I know that I would be favorably impressed if an elected official in my state would make such an offer. Personal accountability in our elected officials is such a rare commodity.

Crowther and Wagner’s spin on the AAAS letter is just plain dumfounding, and are simply outright lies, plain and simple.

The AAAS and its members aren’t willing to engage in any debate, because they all know that it would be a waste of time. Even “if” any mainstream professional scientist “won” in that trial, the outcome would still be the same; the Creationists would trumpet their “victory”, and Creationism would be taught in Kansas schools. The Kansas trial wants the AAAS there so they can paint great big targets on their bodies, and the AAAS knows it.

Science is not determined in public show trials or in public debates: it is determined in the hard, hard work that scientists undertake, whether it be in the field or in the lab. That Creationists, trumpeting their “Protestant Work Ethic” have not even the slightest iota of appreciation for that insults me not only as a student of science, but as a Christian as well.

the American Association for the Advancement of Science have issued a sort of scientific papal bull, a gag order to scientists, telling them not to debate

The DI blog doesn’t allow comments

Damn, broke ANOTHER irony meter . … . .

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 13, column 2, byte 703 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

Even here at PT and over at T.O I find that, while “creationist bashing” is rampant, actual discussion of the science itself is almost completely absent.

Hey, I’m all ready to discuss ID’s “science”. All you need to do is PRODUCE some.

We can start with something simple. Such as “what IS the scientific theory of ID and/or creationism, and how do we test it using the scientific method?”

Wanna answer that simple question for me, Charlie? Or are you going to run from it in terror, just like every *other* IDer/creationist does?

Put up or shut up, Charlie. Fish or cut bait. Shit or get off the toilet.

What’s it gonna be . … .

Jack Krebs Wrote:

Of course, Crowther et al will tell you that there are not wanting to debate ID, but rather just certain weaknesses in evolutionary theory.

Surely this has been mentioned before, but IDers were first to decline the debate by refusing to participate in the research arena. I should remind the lurkers that some IDers do publish peer-reviewed research, but it is unrelated to their ID claims and does not support their implied alternates to evolution. So, even with Meyer’s “peer-reviewed” argument from incredulity (that the journal publicly regretting publishing, no less) IDers still refuse to participate where it counts. So why should any scientist want to participate where it can only mislead?

Even without mentioning ID, if IDers had their way, the “Kangaroo Court” would consist of misrepresentations of evolution vs. defenses of evolution against them. The scientists would have little opportunity to put the “weaknesses” of evolution back in their proper context (where they lose “weakness” status), and some will even take the bait and argue on IDers’ terms. Once the filtered through the sensationalist media, little would remain of the outcome but the usual ID sound bites, and complaints of “sneaking in God.”

Charlie Wagner Wrote:

I often write comments to researchers regarding the interpretations and implications of their work on evolutionary theory and I am consistently met with absolute stonewalling. They simply don’t want to discuss it. And if they say anything at all, it’s something comical and useless like “we don’t know all of the specific mechanisms” or “evolutionsary theory adequately explains it”, or “it evolved..”. Now what the heck does that mean? Even here at PT and over at T.O I find that, while “creationist bashing” is rampant, actual discussion of the science itself is almost completely absent.

I think of lot of responses like this that one might get from scientists can be explained by way of “conditioning”. For example, the undergraduate research that I am currently participating in involves looking at variable stars. We take, usually, a couple thousand images of one star over the course of a night for several nights, often over the course of months. After calibrating all that data, we do time-series photometry to find the precise brightness variations. After that, we use a mathematical tool called a Fourier Transform to find the period(s) at which the star is pulsating.

In all honesty, the theory behind what we do is not that difficult. The problem is, many, if not most, people just do not have the prerequisite knowledge to understand what I am talking about when they ask me to explain what it is that I do. Thus, whenever someone asks me “What is it that you do at that internsip thing?”, I get blank stares from about 85-90% of the questioners, and all I have to do is say the term “variable stars”. It can get massively frustrating.

Admittedly, not every one is like this, and you do not need a college education to understand what is is I do on a fundamental level. But when I start getting into intricacies, such as the theory behind and the use of Fourier Tranforms, it has been my experience that precious few people can still follow me. And it is not just me. The professional astronomers that I work for have said that they have repeatedly experienced the same thing, even from family members who have been asking “What is it that you do, again?” for years.

So back to the conditioning thing, I don’t believe that most (hopefully all) of these scientists are ignoring you based on a lack of a response. They are acting on experiences that have told them that it is often simply a waste of time to discuss scientific intricacies with laypeople.

Russell Wrote:

Charlie - I’d be glad to discuss it with you. (Perhaps the After the Bar Closes would be a better venue than here - which is really all about Kansas.) Looking forward to it!

I started a thread there. “Microglial Cells: Evidence for Intelligent Input”

Joe E Wrote:

So back to the conditioning thing, I don’t believe that most (hopefully all) of these scientists are ignoring you based on a lack of a response. They are acting on experiences that have told them that it is often simply a waste of time to discuss scientific intricacies with laypeople.

When I talk to a researcher about his/her work I make it clear that I’ve read the paper and that I understand the paper. I formulate meaningful questions that specifically address points raised by the paper. There should not be any doubt in the person’s mind that I am not a moron or a crackpot. Not everyone who challenges accepted orthodoxy is a crackpot or misguided. And while I don’t work in scientific academia, it should be obvious to the least perceptive person that I am hardly your average “layperson”.

Wagner writes “I often write comments to researchers regarding the interpretations and implications of their work on evolutionary theory and I am consistently met with absolute stonewalling.”

Yeah Charlie, what would we do without you?

So you bother professional researchers? I used to get letters from cranks regarding the formation of the Earth, Expanding Earth or bizarre ideas regarding the Earth’s interior.

THose letters mostly found their way into my waste paper basket. Thats probably where yours went.

Joe E. Wrote:

So back to the conditioning thing, I don’t believe that most (hopefully all) of these scientists are ignoring you based on a lack of a response. They are acting on experiences that have told them that it is often simply a waste of time to discuss scientific intricacies with laypeople.

Joe, I agree with most of what you are trying to say. Everyone’s time, scientist’s or layperson’s, is valuable, and nobody likes to waste it, particularly on those who have little respect for the work we may have put much time and energy into.

However, there are many in the lay public who are genuinely interested in science, even re. highly specialized areas. What’s more, many are willing to invest much energy and time into understanding them. And for lack of a better word, I think that is just beautiful.

Unless you sense a feigned interest (usually a family member just trying to be polite) or unless you sense you are being set-up by a person with ulterior motives, it’s important to honor everyone’s curiosity, even if you do not have the time to satisfy it.

I have to remind myself sometimes of how crucial it is for science to remain consistently engaged in all levels of popular discourse, even though it can be tiring and frankly above my skills. Given the current political climate, the alternative could be much worse. That’s why good science reporters are so precious. (Kudos to Ira Flatow, and co.!)

The bottom line is this. If we allow a certain minority of the population to paint scientists as arrogant evil “magicians,” and science as a kind of irresponsible “religion,” then we truly will be stepping back into a darker time. And I mean both for authentic religious expression and for science.

If the space between science and popular culture becomes too distant, then in the minds of many science=technology=magic. It is a very slippery slope. This is what I try to keep thoroughly in mind when I am feeling bushed and someone (whom I have no reason to suspect of obscurantism) bumps into me while I’m trying to relax at my favorite pub and asks, “Now what’s that fellowship thingy you’re doing this summer, again?”

Ultimately, while I may be unable to teach them the words to the song, per se, I can usually get them to hum the tune.

Joe E writes “They are acting on experiences that have told them that it is often simply a waste of time to discuss scientific intricacies with laypeople”

I think that is way to harsh an assessment.

I can only write for myself here. But on t.o, sci.geo.geology and the occasional letter I get, I will always do my best to answer straight forward questions regarding my research or science.

A. I owe at least that much to the taxpayer.

B. I actually enjoy it, and do what I can to increase people’s enthusiam for the subject.

Thats a far different thing then getting repeated emails and letters etc. from kooks. In those cases, when I respond, its only for sport, although people can learn something from the responses.

And I have found I do not normally have to get into the scientific intricasies of a subject to give lay people an answer that has meaning and value to them. If they want to get into the details I usually suggest references, and that they can wirte back with questions.

If somebody can’t explain the basics of what they are doing, then perhaps they don’t understand what it is they are doing.

Weinstein Wrote:

If somebody can’t explain the basics of what they are doing, then perhaps they don’t understand what it is they are doing.

Right! Why not feed genuine enthusiasm? Stuart’s is a succint and, therefore, more useful version of what I was trying to get around to saying above.

Rob Crowther Wrote:

Why? Because the Darwinian high priests at the American Association for the Advancement of Science have issued a sort of scientific papal bull…

I’ve always found it amusing, if slightly disturbing, just how badly the IDists seem to hate religion. If you’re an ID advocate who wants to insult scientists, there’s no better way than to compare them to clergymen. So we have the leadership of one of the world’s foremost scientific organizations referred to as “high priests” who have issued a “papal bull”.

Putting aside the obvious falsehood of the comparison, I wonder if Crowther thinks that high priests within the Christian are nothing more than narrow-minded dogmatists, and that papal bulls issued by, you know, the Pope, are nothing more than stifling enforcements of orthodoxy. Because that’s what he’s implying with the way he uses those terms.

The ID movement wants to “renew” the American political scene by injecting (or reinjecting) religious authoritarianism. They know that Americans by and large are manifestly against such a policy, so they have to be careful about what they say, using deceptive language to hide their goals. And so one of their most common tactics is to project all of their own worst beliefs and tactics onto their opponents.

Is there a difference between going to Dover to debate the creationists, and debating them interminably on this board?

For the record, it would be interesting to know how many comments on this blog have been devoted to “discussing the science” with the likes of Charlie Wagner. I’m guessing on the order of hundreds.

And then at some point we grew tired of Charlie’s dissembling and his habit of quote mining biologists’ work as “evidence” that mysterious alien beings must have designed all the life on earth, and we learned – not agreed – to ignore his trolling.

Now he claims that there is some sort of conspiracy to stifle the “views” and “ideas” of uninteresting deluded cranks and Sasquatch-lovin’ charlatans.

The appropriate term is “deluded,” Charlie.

Thanks for your input everyone. I will admit, sometimes I am not sure if someone gets lost during my expalanations because they can’t understand it or if it is just a result of my general difficulty in explaining things. I guess I just need to come up with better analogies, or something, so that I can be clearer.

Anyway, I would love to continue this discussion, but I have a mountain of homework that is not doing itself…

Concerning the comments about today’s newspaper stories in Kansas:

The newspaper reports around the state didn’t get things completely right last night.

What they did get correct is that KCFS will be working with others to provide daily events associated with the hearings.

However, it is not correct to say that Mr. Irigonegaray is represented the majority on the science committee. As a member of the science committee, I know for sure that our position is that Draft 2 is what represents us. Mr. Irigonegaray may represesent the majority, mainstream viewpoint, but he doesn’t represent the actual members of the committee.

Also, I have listened to a recording of last night’s meeting. I am pretty sure that Mr. Irigonegaray did not say, as the KC Star says, that

quote:Defenders of evolution, despite earlier pledges of a boycott, plan to present three days of evidence in support of the scientific theory at hearings next month.

What Mr. Irigonegaray did say was that, as the paper quotes,

quote:Our witnesses will be called in a timely manner, and they will have relevant and important information.

And last, I can imagine that one reason Mr. Irigonegaray did not want to name witnesses is that he doesn’t know completely, or at all, who they will be. This was his “first day on the job,” so to speak. As far as I know he has not been involved in science activism in the state in the past, so it will probably take some work on his part to find witnesses and to prepare a plan.

If people have further questions, please feel free to ask.

keep us posted, please.

Ed+Ed, PZ Myers, Dr.GH, Nick Matzke and many others at PT: Thank you so much for your time and eloquent arguments for evolution. Keep fighting against the tide of ignorance that gaining power in this country.

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This page contains a single entry by Jack Krebs published on April 17, 2005 8:39 AM.

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