Birds of a Feather Flock Together

With all the flap about D. James Kennedy and his “no Darwin, no Hitler” pseudo-documentary (see Pharyngula and Dispatches from the Culture Wars for the sordid details), I was reminded of some incidents that took place three years ago in New Mexico involving D. James Kennedy and the NM chapter of the Intelligent Design Network.

In 2003, when New Mexico was in the process of developing new science standards, Kennedy deployed his Center for Reclaiming America’s 1500 New Mexican “E-army” members to bombard the NM State Board of Education with letters opposing teaching “evolution only” in the schools.

This article fondly mentions the help of IDnet-NM’s leader Joe Renick in this effort.

The purpose of this post is to show that D. James Kennedy and Joe Renick are integrity-challenged “Birds of a Feather.” Since D. J. Kennedy is getting a lot of negative press this week, I’ll focus here on Joe Renick, who hired the Zogby Polling Firm for some extremely dubious research that purported to show New Mexican scientists were in favor of teaching ID in schools. A rather large flap ensued, and even the heads of Sandia and Los Alamos Labs entered the fray. When the dust settled, Renick promised to stop using the poll.

That was over three years ago. However, as of August 22nd, 2006, Renick’s group is still using those bogus Zogby polling results.

Three years of broken IDnet promises. I’m shocked - shocked!

As discussed in the NMSR article (IDNet-NM/Zogby) “Lab Poll” is BOGUS!, Renick’s group commissioned Zogby to poll New Mexican parents and scientists on teaching ID in school in 2003. When Renick made the stunning announcement that

In regard to teaching intelligent design, parents and laboratory scientists favored teaching intelligent design by an overwhelming factor of 5-to-1. …,

the New Mexican science community smelled a rat. And what a rat it was - of the 16,000 Sandia Labs/Los Alamos and academic scientists supposedly polled, only 248 people responded. School board member (and physicist) Dr. Marshall Berman then conducted his own poll of NM’s science community, and found that 96% of the 142 scientists who responded never even received the original “poll”.

Berman discovered the following:

I requested survey data from several hundred scientists at SNL, LANL, UNM, NMSU, and NMT. 61 direct responses were received and 81 indirect (from responders polling their own colleagues and peers). Of these 142 responses, 137 (96%) never received the ID poll. Not a single Sandia scientist or employee acknowledged receiving the survey. One LANL scientist received the e-mail survey and replied in opposition to ID; one other LANL engineer was said to have received the survey (indirect). Two people from NMSU and one from UNM said they received the survey and replied negatively. So of the five scientists who received the survey, all of them opposed ID. Yet IDnet-NM reports an ID approval rate of 76-79% for “NM scientists” and 45-61% for “NM Universities.” … it is quite clear that IDnet-NM selected the people to be polled and provided those email addresses to Zogby.

Normally the heads of Sandia and Los Alamos Labs are reluctant to dip even a toe into the pond of Public Opinion. But this incident was too egregious to let pass, and the presidents of both labs publicly condemned the Zogby poll as “a bogus mini-survey” (Sandia’s Dr. Paul Robinson) and “misleading” (Los Alamos’s Dr. Peter Nanos).

On August 17, 2003, a little over three years ago, science reporter John Fleck wrote in the Albuquerque Journal that

Renick said Friday [August 15th] his organization plans to stop using the poll, saying it is turning into a distraction from the really important business of the science standards.

Well, it’s been three years now, and we’re still hearing nothing but those darn chirping crickets.

To see the Zogby “scientist” poll for yourself, simply click through to the website of The Intelligent Design Network of New Mexico (IDnet-NM), and look down the menu on the left side of every page for the option labeled Polling Data. While the “scientist response” has been sanitized from the text of that page, it’s still there, at the bottom of the page, with a link to New Mexico Poll Results (Word doc. format)

Oh, and how did New Mexico’s standards turn out? Just fine, as you’ll see here, here, and here.

None of this has stopped IDnet-NM, the Discovery Institute, or the Center for Reclaiming America for Christ from continuing to misrepresent NM’s standards as “ID-friendly.” There’s a lot more about that in The Lie: “New Mexico’s Science Standards embrace the Intelligent Design Movement’s ‘Teach the Controversy’ Approach”.