400 (minus 1)

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The DI’s list of 400 Darwin doubting scientists has one fewer member. Robert Davidson has bailed out, saying

When I joined [the Discovery Institute] I didn’t think they were about bashing evolution. It’s pseudo-science, at best … What they’re doing is instigating a conflict between science and religion.

and

He was shocked, he says, when he saw the Discovery Institute was calling evolution a “theory in crisis.”

“It’s laughable: There have been millions of experiments over more than a century that support evolution,” he says. “There’s always questions being asked about parts of the theory, as there are with any theory, but there’s no real scientific controversy about it.

Davidson began to believe the institute is an “elaborate, clever marketing program” to tear down evolution for religious reasons. He read its writings on intelligent design — the notion that some of life is so complex it must have been designed — and found them lacking in scientific merit.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. And it’s in the DI’s hometown paper.

RBH

(Hat tip to Valentine Pontifex on Infidels)

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Richard Hoppe on The Panda's Thumb and Ed Brayton on Dispatches from the Culture Wars direct us to an article in the Seattle Times about Bob Davidson, a retired nephrology professor and a devout Christian, who had his name taken... Read More

81 Comments

I wonder if he was one of the precious few on the list that had a relevant degree in some aspect of biology?

Just to get things in perspective, does anybody have a reasonable estimate of how many PhD and/or MD biologists there are in the US, never mind the other disciplines represented in the “DI 400”?

Is anyone tracking those who leave the DI’s list? I know of one fellow who wishes to remain as incognito as possible, who became very irritated when he discovered that DI was behind a letter he had signed, and that the letter was being represented before a public body nearly 180 degrees differently from the way it was presented to him.

I wish a reporter from a good news organization would undertake to interview the 400 … but absent that, is someone tracking them for science’s sake?

BBB Wrote:

Just to get things in perspective, does anybody have a reasonable estimate of how many PhD and/or MD biologists there are in the US, never mind the other disciplines represented in the “DI 400”?

When the list was at ~300, many months ago, I did an “edit/find” for “biologist” and found 45. Later, counting biochem/biophys, someone said it was ~80. Not sure if all PhDs. Giving the pseudoscientists probably too much benefit of the doubt, I now say ~100. The list is noticeably padded with names of DI personnel. They should be subtracted due to conflict of interest. Then we should ask how many of the remainder object to evolution in general and common descent instead of just the “Darwinism” caricature. That # is likely close to zero. And if they are ever clued in to the antics of the DI, it just might go to zero!

And just yesterday I read that the number of Christian clergy who signed a statement endosing evolution has passed 7000. That’s ~1000 new signatures per month.

Hehe. I love it.

You know, everytime someone points out that stupid list of 100 of theirs, I have to bring up two points. The first is Project Steve. The second is to point out that the statement they circulated was so wishy-washy that it was the sort of thing I might have even signed. “Natural selection should be scrutinized?” Of course it should be! And it has! Repeatedly and for over 100 years! And it has been magnificently successful.

BCH

What is known about how the signatures for the DI petition were solicited?

I can’t wait for the first Anthony Flew comment.

I’m beginning to understand why Steve hangs out here for the comedy value. It’s fantastic how every single nuance of a criticism levelled at these chaps is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.

I’m with Sylas in being interested in how the signatures for this list were garnered. Is anyone in contact with someone from the legitimate fraction of the 400 399?

-Schmitt.

Joseph O'Donnell Wrote:

I wonder if he was one of the precious few on the list that had a relevant degree in some aspect of biology?

According to the article, Dr. Davison is a doctor and a professor of nephrology (kidney and related diseases).

Jason Spaceman mentioned it yesterday in a comment.

I’m with Sylas in being interested in how the signatures for this list were garnered.

Probably by word of mouth. I suspect that the signatures that come from my institution were organized though our Christian Faculty Forum, which serves as the center of anti-evolution activity on campus.

I wonder if the Discovery Institute will make any mention of this on their ID “blog” (which, sad to say, does not allow comments).

You know, this would be a great project for somebody with a little bit of time on their hands. It should be easy enough to contact most of the people on this list (maybe starting with the biologists) and just ask them (very politely) why they signed it, and whether they agree with how the Discovery Institute uses this list. Whether they will reply is another matter–but if even a few give answers like Davidson, it will be a serious blow to the credibility of the DI and this list they keep touting.

If I were to propose a list for people to sign up for, I’d start with the DI statement, and then add the part that would complete it.

Original DI part: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

Addition: “In agreement with Charles Darwin, we feel that evolutionary biology is comprised of more than just natural selection. We believe that a proper understanding of the history and diversity of living things requires knowledge of other mechanisms of evolutionary change, as well as natural selection, including, but not restricted to, genetic drift, endosymbiosis, and evolutionary development. Careful examination of the evidence that documents the evolutionary history of life and the varied mechanisms by which that history unfolded should be encouraged, in the same way that such careful examination has been practiced over the past fourteen decades, resulting in a voluminous scientific literature documenting the patient and assiduous work of legions of biologists, zoologists, botanists, ethologists, physiologists, geneticists, paleontologists, biochemists, taphonomists, and others willing to test their ideas against the empirical evidence. We further assert our skepticism that the re-labeled antievolutionary arguments common to “scientific creationism”, “intelligent design”, “evidence against evolution”, and “teaching the controversy” have any greater validity now than when first careful examination of those claims showed them to be specious, misleading, or entirely uncheckable against empirical evidence. We agree that primary and secondary science education should teach the best scientific knowledge available, and should eschew arguments that are part of the long-established antievolutionary canon.”

I’d sign that in a heartbeat.

The list was generated originally with letters to scientists who were identified to the Discovery Institute as perhaps being skeptical of Darwin somehow. Letters were then sent to several hundred, perhaps several thousand scientists, asking roughly if they supported serious study of Darwinian evolution and a critical analysis of it. They were given the wording that appears in the advertisements by DI – but as you can see, the wording says nothing about intelligent design, and technically it says nothing against evolution.

For various regional letters, such as those generated in Texas in 2003, DI sent letters generally to scientists in Texas. In at least one case the scientist involved was surprised and shocked to see his name affiliated with the statements of the DI, and he asked that his name be removed (it was). DI typically makes no comments when names are removed.

At one point, when I had a bit more time on my hands I started to contact the 400. I got as far as six when I got the impression NCSE was doing it more methodically. Of the six I contacted and got answers from, five said they have no problems with evolution and that they assumed it IS taught critically. The sixth was a mathematician who thought there might be some probability issues with evolution, and who said he might have a paper later on the topic. I’ve never seen the paper.

None I contacted could suggest any serious difficulty with Darwinian theory, and nonen had ever published any technical paper questioning any part of Darwinian theory.

I have seen varioius figures on how many practicing biologists there are in the U.S., ranging between 75,000 and 80,000 who have advanced degrees and who work in biology. This obviously excludes MDs and many other medical Ph.D.s. Perhaps there figures available from NIH, or the U.S. Statistical Abstract, or NSF?

Has anyone considered contacting the 400399 and seeing, if, in light of how the DI has been utilizing the list for PR purposes they wished to ammend/retract their support?

Just a short simple email from someone at a .edu saying: “I found your name on this petition used by this group (with a link) who is using it to say this (with a link). Do you truly support this position?”

I think it might become “the 400399398…”

Interesting. What about clergy who agree that evolution is good science? See the Beloit, Wisconsin, Daily News: http://www.beloitdailynews.com/arti[…]s/news02.txt

The number of scientists supporting IDC may be going down, but unfortunately the number of prominent members of the Party of Treason and Torture and Pseudoscience, more formerly known as the Republican party, has gone up as McCain joins the bandwagon.

Good old Seattle Times is quite upfront about Intelligent Design lately

in The philosophy of intelligent design

But intelligent design is not a scientific theory because there is no set of facts that would disprove it. No matter what science says tomorrow, a believer in intelligent design could say, “Yes, that’s the way God did it.”

in Bush endorses teaching “intelligent design” in schools

Scientists acknowledge that evolution doesn’t answer every question about the origins of life, but most consider intelligent design an attempt to inject religion into science courses.

and

“The fact is that a significant number of scientists are extremely skeptical that Darwinian evolution can explain the origins of life,” John West, associate director of the organization’s Center for Science and Culture, said in a statement.

A significant number minus one it seems…

Où est professeur Dembski? Waterloo est dedans crise!

“The fact is that a significant number of scientists are extremely skeptical that Darwinian evolution can explain the origins of life,” John West, associate director of the organization’s Center for Science and Culture, said in a statement.

How is 400-1 significant, in the grand scope of things? There must be a million people in the United States that, in the DI’s criteria, could easily be considered scientists.

> this would be a great project for somebody with a > little bit of time on their hands. It should be easy > enough to contact most of the people on this list

NCSE did something similar.

In 2002, the DI submitted a bibliography representing “dissenting viewpoints” to the Ohio BoE.

NCSE then contacted the authors of the papers listed in the biblio and 26 responded.

http://tinyurl.com/czen7

Here’s a quote from the NCSE web site: “None of the respondents to NCSE’s questionnaire considered their work to provide scientific evidence against evolution.”

Martin Poenie (Univ of Texas - a real biologist!) is another one who has vanished from the list.

He was on it back in the days when it was about a 100 names, but is not on the current (updated Jan 2005) list.

Poenie wrote one of the blurbs on the back cover of Dembski’s “No Free Lunch.” He still runs a lab at UT.

“The fact is that a significant number of scientists are extremely skeptical that Darwinian evolution can explain the origins of life,” John West, associate director of the organization’s Center for Science and Culture, said in a statement.

Another example of the dishonesty of the DI; evolution explains the diversity of life, not the origins of life, so it’s no wonder that a lot of scientists are skeptical.

- old NCSE article on the petition and the nature of its wording, etc.

“The fact is that a significant number of scientists are extremely skeptical that Darwinian evolution can explain the origins of life,” John West, associate director of the organization’s Center for Science and Culture, said in a statement.

How is 400-1 significant, in the grand scope of things? There must be a million people in the United States that, in the DI’s criteria, could easily be considered scientists.

Exactly! “Four hundred Ph.D. scientists” might sound a lot to the layman, but even limiting ourselves to doctoral level scientists working at universities and colleges in the United States it’s a drop in the ocean. Just think how many universities, medical schools and other professional schools there are in even one medium sized city, and how many biologists alone are employed by these places. If by DI “significant”, the DI means a tiny fraction, probably similar to the number of “Ph.D. scientists” who believe in faith healing, scientology, UFOs, or any other quackery, then yes there is “significant” scientific skepticism about evolution. ;)

Moses: “Où est professeur Dembski? Waterloo est dedans crise!”

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost For want of the shoe, the the horse was lost For want of the horse, the rider was lost For want of the rider, …

… the war was lost

Maybe chaos is taking hold.

And it’s [edit]like Bayesian Bouffant (calling Republicans the “party of treason, torture and anti-science”) who make my attempt to get more conservatives and Republicans involved in this debate on the side of evolution much more difficult. (To all the numbskull leftists out there who think that their stereotyping of all Republicans as unscientific is accurate: there are many, many moderate and otherwise science-minded Republicans out there who would be an ally in this fight if it weren’t often portrayed in the media as being partisan, rather than about science vs. non-science.)

I see this all the time on this site, and if [edit] like Bayesian Bouffant would leave their juvenile [edit] political ramblings to themselves, shut the hell up and stick to commenting on science, I wouldn’t constantly hear from conservatives how, as a political issue, supporting evolution can only help the [edit] Democrats. So, Baysean Bouffant, do the scientific community a favor and shut your friggin’ cake-hole [edit].

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PZ Myers writes: The Republican party, however, is hostile to science, and its current representatives are not people one can vote for and claim to be on the side of science. If you voted for Bush, you are not on my side.

So, you are saying that any PT authors/contributors or supporters who voted for Bush are not on the side of science. Am I correct in reading you?

“So, you are saying that any PT authors/contributors or supporters who voted for Bush are not on the side of science.”

Whatever exactly PZ is saying, I can see a possibilty or two here. People may have voted for Bush without realizing what it would mean for science, esp the first time. People may have judged that whatever they saw was not sufficiently harmful to outweigh some other possible benefits. And so on. In that case, one could argue, they have a special responsibility - and position - to criticize Bush’s actions in regard to science.

Fascism? Go visit David Neiwert at Orcinus. That’s his beat. He has a whole big essay about “The Rise of Pseudo Fascism” as well as another on “Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An Exegesis”- look on the right (of the page, I mean, and scroll down some …) I can’t help posting a great big Sinclair Lewis quote from that first one:

”… Wait till Buzz takes charge of us. A real Fascist dictatorship!”

“Nonsense! Nonsense!” snorted Tasbrough. “That couldn’t happen here in America, not possibly! We’re a country of freemen.”

“The answer to that,” suggested Doremus Jessup, “if Mr. Falck will forgive me, is ‘the hell it can’t!’ Why, there’s no country in the world that can get more hysterical – yes, or more obsequious! – than America. Look how Huey Long became absolute monarch over Louisiana, and how the Right Honorable Mr. Senator Berzelius Windrip owns HIS State. Listen to Bishop Prang and Father Coughlin on the radio—divine oracles, to millions. Remember how casually most Americans have accepted Tammany grafting and Chicago gangs and the crookedness of so many of President Harding’s appointees? Could Hitler’s bunch, or Windrip’s, be worse? Remember the Kuklux Klan? Remember our war hysteria, when we called sauerkraut ‘Liberty cabbage’ and somebody actually proposed calling German measles ‘Liberty measles’? And wartime censorship of honest papers? Bad as Russia! Remember our kissing the – well, the feet of Billy Sunday, the million-dollar evangelist, and of Aimée McPherson, who swam from the Pacific Ocean clear into the Arizona desert and got away with it? Remember Voliva and Mother Eddy? … Remember our Red scares and our Catholic scares, when all well-informed people knew that the O.G.P.U. were hiding out in Oskaloosa, and the Republicans campaigning against Al Smith told the Carolina mountaineers that if Al won the Pope would illegitimatize their children? Remember Tom Heflin and Tom Dixon? Remember when the hick legislators in certain states, in obedience to William Jennings Bryan, who learned his biology from his pious old grandma, set up shop as scientific experts and made the whole world laugh itself sick by forbidding the teaching of evolution? … Remember the Kentucky night-riders? Remember how trainloads of people have gone to enjoy lynchings? Not happen here? Prohibition – shooting down people just because they MIGHT be transporting liquor – no, that couldn’t happen in AMERICA! Why, where in all history has there ever been a people so ripe for a dictatorship as ours! We’re ready to start on a Children’s Crusade – only of adults – right now, and the Right Reverend Abbots Windrip and Prang are all ready to lead it!”

Here, today? No. Never? Well, I hope so …

Yes. It is my opinion that PT authors/contributors or supporters who voted for Bush were not on the side of science. You can plead ignorance or you can claim that you held your nose and voted for him on issues other than science, but it doesn’t matter: you cast a vote for creationism, corrupted science, and poor education.

Getting back to the topic of this thread.…

This is awesome news, awesome.

I beg everyone here to at least consider using, in their discourse with creationists, a phrase like “you know, a growing number of scientists are abandoning the ID movement”. Then include a link to this thread

when we called sauerkraut ‘Liberty cabbage’ and somebody actually proposed calling German measles ‘Liberty measles’

As Santayana said, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

“Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.” – Hermann Goering

Without wishing to fan the flames, I would like to renew my request for anyone who can tell me of a prominent Republican who has disowned ID.

George Will, Charles Krauthammer, and John Marburger come to mind.

Mona Wrote:

So, you are saying that any PT authors/contributors or supporters who voted for Bush are not on the side of science. Am I correct in reading you?

If that’s not what PZ’s saying, it’s certainly what I’m saying. A vote for Bush was a vote for religious fanaticism (and unnecessary war, but that’s way off topic).

It’s like asking whether someone who does something stupid is stupid, or whether someone who kicks a dog hates dogs. Specific actions don’t determine general capacities or attitudes. Smart people sometimes do stupid things, and people who kick dogs sometimes have reasons or motivations other than hate for dogs.

In other words, it’s a stupid question.

roger tang, I agree that the party leadership as well as the rank-and-file have to shape up. And I am trying. But the point I was making (rather poorly, upon reflection, owing to the reasonable rage at the insult,) is that when those who are supposed to be on “my side” (as ‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank put it) are making it difficult or impossible for me to effectuate that shake up, then they cease being on my side. And they help the IDers, because in the aggregate they limit my ability to make the very shake up that they, themselves, would prefer.

That’s useful for a while. But we’ve had nearly six years of science bashing. We got some useful increases in funding for science research, but at a price of a group at NIH to study “alternative” medicine.

At some point we have to notice that there really is a line in the sand, and those who dally close to it but fail to come over to the correct side are the opposition, no matter how nice they are or how intelligent they seem to be. What counts is what they’ve done for us lately.

The stakes are real. In 1981 it got real down and dirty on a small, $3 million/year program at HHS to inoculate indigent kids against measles. The Reaganistas argued that the disease was “almost eradicated,” and that private charities would take over the process and the disease would indeed be gone. The scientists argued the disease could be eradicated, but not without government help for the next decade. I remember one guy who was seriously trying to sway the new Republican majority on the Senate Labor Committee – he got into the staff/senator anteroom and cornered a few staffers who couldn’t get out fast enough, and it was my duty to rescue them by listening to him. “I’m serious,” he said. “If you cut this ‘piddling’ program, kids will die.”

You can imagine my horror in the 1990s as I watched a measles epidemic threaten my kids and their friends. 5,000 American kids died. Dallas County alone spent more than $1 million in care for the indigent kids who got measles (several survived).

Yeah, yeah – they got a war to worry about, and they’re “rilly, rilly” science friendly. Heck, they read the NY Times science section and they all know Phil Hilts personally.

But if they won’t vote to teach the real science, if they won’t vote to do the real research, if they believe the budgeteers that measles can be beaten by cutting the funding for the vaccine, they’re no friends of science. Conversion by playing softball with them will leave another 5,000 kids dead somewhere in the next decade. Or maybe 5 million this time.

[edit]

Ok, then: ts’s Law of anal orifices: The first person in a conversation to call someone an anal orifice is an anal orifice.

Conrad R. Jenkins Wrote:

I wouldn’t constantly hear from conservatives how, as a political issue, supporting evolution can only help the [edit] Democrats.

I pretty much skipped this post originally because of all the [edit] words, but this says something rather amazing about conservatives: that they would rather destroy science education than yield any partisan ground. To the degree that this is true, it validates Bayesian Bouffant’s charge and extends it from the party to its members. Since I don’t spend much time talking to conservatives, I wouldn’t have known this, but I have to take Conrad’s word that this is what he constantly hears from his fellow travelers.

I tried to leave a post but your box told me it doesn’t accept “questionable content”, which is funny because I can’t identify what was questionable about it, and plenty of Creationists leave some mighty questionable things in these here comment sections.

Ed - You mentioned “We got some useful increases in funding for science research, but at a price of a group at NIH to study ‘alternative’ medicine.” Does that mean you think “alternative medicine” should not be researched?

The worst-case scenario for alternative medicine is that it harms people and causes them to waste their time and money. Is there anything that science can do about it, other than to do research that exposes this fact?

a prominent Republican who has disowned ID.

George Will, Charles Krauthammer, and John Marburger come to mind.

a couple of columnists, but no actual politicians, no actual candidates.

(Marburger works for the Bush administration, but he’s actually a registered Democrat.)

this is my first posting to this group. i am a ph.d. in biology and i strongly support evolution.

i was initally fascinated by this thread, but as i see on evolution/creationism discussion boards repeatedly, it has descended into political RIGHT/LEFT issues and namecalling.

sadly, the original discussion thread has been completely obscured.

this is a favorite creationist tactic: “divert the debate”.

a modicum of decorum please, gentlefolk.

Matt Inlay wrote: Getting back to the topic of this thread.…

This is awesome news, awesome.

I beg everyone here to at least consider using, in their discourse with creationists, a phrase like “you know, a growing number of scientists are abandoning the ID movement”. Then include a link to this thread

You are absolutely right, Matt. Assuming that, using the loose DI standards, which include anyone with a science/philosophy of science PhD or a medical degree, there are at the very least several hundred thousands “scientists” in the US, and only 400 have signed the DI statement, and 2/400 (including Poenie) have withdrawn their signature, then proportionally many more scientists are leaving the DI list than are joining it. In fact, it’s a veritable stampede to get out.

a couple of columnists, but no actual politicians, no actual candidates.

You asked about prominent Republicans, which seemed like a fair question; the moved goalposts don’t seem so fair. Candidates – is there an election on? As for politicians – I haven’t paid close attention to this, but what Democratic politicians have disowned ID? Politicians tend to avoid taking stands unless forced to, and the Dems have generally been rather weak as an opposition party.

(Marburger works for the Bush administration, but he’s actually a registered Democrat.)

Oops. Well, I guess I didn’t do so well as a devil’s advocate for the Republicans. I feel a bit like Lot trying to identify 10 righteous persons.

Incidentally, Poenie might be off the DI 400 list because they, without his permission, had included his name among the “Texas scientists skeptical of darwinism”. He probably had enough of the political maneuvering then. http://www.texscience.org/files/ut-[…]n-profs2.htm

I beg everyone here to at least consider using, in their discourse with creationists, a phrase like “you know, a growing number of scientists are abandoning the ID movement”.

This makes it sound like there was some sizable number of scientists in the ID movement in the first place, and specifically that the 400 signatories have ever been part of the ID movement.

This thread has degenerated too far. I’m closing Comments.

RBH

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on August 25, 2005 12:55 AM.

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