The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design Review: Whose Head is Ugly? Jonathan Wells and Lysenkoism (Chapter 16)

| 40 Comments

Jonathan Wells (2006) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.Amazon

Read the entire series.

I’ll address in this article chapter sixteen, “American Lysenkoism”, in Jonathan Wells’s Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. As Wells (1994) explained, he went to study biology at the behest of his spiritual “father” the Reverend Sun-Myung Moon, with an explicit goal to devote his life to “destroying Darwinism”. Since he set out to destroy “Darwinism” before having sufficiently familiarized himself with it, this immediately points to his lack of impartiality when dealing with “Darwinism.” Wells’s goal was not to evaluate “Darwinism” on its merits but to search for any arguments, regardless of their merits, which would serve his goal set in advance. This alone is a strong warning to the consumers of Wells’s literary output: take Wells’s arguments with a good dose of salt; he is not an unbiased judge of evidence, but a partisan of an anti-evolution effort whose goal is not to find the truth but to prove his viewpoint regardless of means.

In a box in the margin of chapter sixteen Wells writes: “Lysenkoism is now rearing its ugly head in the US, as Darwinists use their government positions to destroy the careers of their critics.”

Really? Thousands of biologists in the USSR at the time of Lysenko’s reign were arrested, exiled to Siberia, and many of them shot in the basements of the notorious Lubyanka prison, while intelligent design advocates in the US thrive on lavish donations from ultra-religious sources, have their own publishing outlets, lecture all over the country without any interference from genuine scientists, endlessly appear on TV and radio shows, and enjoy support from the extreme right-wing pundits and commentators?

Readers having even a minimal knowledge of the actual situation immediately see that no reasonable discourse can be expected from a writer so brazenly misrepresenting the reality. Which “government positions” does Wells have in mind? Are “Darwinists” holding all (or most) positions in the present Republican administration? Are they in command of the Congress?

Perhaps Wells wanted to really say that “Darwinists” occupy many positions of authority in universities. This is certainly true. By the same token the “Newtonists”, and “Einsteinists”, and “Maxwellists”, and “Boltzmannists” occupy positions of authority in universities as well, while Wells would perhaps like to see “Moonists” in such positions instead.

If indeed “Darwinists” (Wells’s term for modern biologists) are predominant in biological science, it is for good reason. Evolutionary biology is a robust science whose fruits are proven to be of great use in technology, medicine, agriculture, and many other fields. On the other hand Wells’s co-travelers, the “intelligent design” activists, have yet to show any, even very modest, contribution to science. Why should they get any position of authority anywhere besides their own outlets such as the infamous Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute of Seattle? Despite the abject lack of any positive contribution to the society from the CSC, which “Darwinists” have ever “destroyed careers” of its fellows, such as Wells?

Wells and his colleagues in the anti-evolution enterprise thrive despite their destructive activity aimed at “destroying” biological science. They receive good salaries and grants, travel all over the globe assaulting biological science, and often also occupy positions in legitimate universities despite the egregious lack of substance in their favorite “intelligent design” “theory”. This is still a free country, and there is no alleged nefarious activity by scientists aimed at muzzling “intelligent design” activists, who are free to spread their nonsense as suggested by Wells, along with the proponents of a flat earth or of astrology, or of geomancy, palm reading, “creation science”, and all other fads and fallacies which usually are much more popular than genuine science.

There is indeed an “ugly head rearing in the US”, and it is that of “intelligent design” activism.

I shall discuss now specific notions in Wells’s screed used by Wells to mislead his readers. The chapter in question deals with the alleged manifestations of “Lysenkoism” in the US. This term stems from the sad story of the destruction of the thriving biological science in the USSR under the guidance of Trofim Denisovich Lysenko (Трофим Денисович Лысенко), which started in the late twenties of the 20th century and ended in the seventies. Lysenko was a poorly educated but politically savvy agrobiologist, who for decades managed to get an unconditional support from the tyrannical ruler of the USSR, first Joseph Stalin and later Nikita Khrushchev.

He indeed used his power to “destroy the careers” of many scientists, who either held views differing from those of Lysenko or just earned his hostility for arbitrary reasons. “Destroying” careers often extended to arrests and exiles of Lysenko’s victims, who were sometimes even killed. At a minimum they were deprived of their jobs and of any means to conduct their research. Wells wants his readers to believe that the “Darwinists” allegedly occupying “government positions” in the USA treat the critics of “Darwinism” the same way Lysenko treated the biologists in the USSR. Of course, Wells cannot support such an assertion by any factual evidence, therefore he resorts to a rather transparent shenanigans to somehow “prove” his point. He uses several means to achieve his goals, including misquotations and sometimes bold lies.

Quotemining

Here is an example. Wells refers to my essay (Perakh 2004a) wherein I described my personal experience regarding the “Lysenkoism” in the USSR.

The essay in question is a part of an article co-authored by Wesley R. Elsberry and myself. The article consists of two separate parts: a part written by Elsberry and a part written by myself. While I do not wish to appear to be promoting my own essay, readers who really want to know what was written there instead of relying on Wells’s misrepresentation can easily verify my words by looking up my essay. It can be accessed either in an HTML version (Perakh 2004a) or in a PDF version (Perakh 2004b).

Wells provides a quotation from my essay and gives it in a rather peculiar form, amounting to a deliberate distortion of my thesis.

Here is how Wells quotes from my essay:

Retired physicist Mark Perakh, who grew up in the former Soviet Union, writes: “The anti-Lysenkoist stand of the ID advocates is … ludicrous given the similarity of their denial of Darwinian biology to the denial of the neo-Darwinian synthesis by the Lysenkoists.” Perakh continues :” From my experience both with Marxism and with the realities of the Soviet system, I can assert that … it is ID advocates whose behavior is reminiscent of the oppressive Soviet regime” since they subject Darwinists to “continuous denunciations, verbal assaults, derision, and ultimately to dismissal from their positions.”

(p. 182)

A brief look at the actual text of my essay immediately reveals that the alleged quotation has been constructed by Wells by means of some tricks.

  • He transposed various sentences from my essay, placing those that occur somewhere later in the text, ahead of some other that in fact occur earlier in the text.
  • He used ellipsis in several cases, apparently to hide from readers the exact wording of my essay.
  • He combined partial quotes taken from different parts of my essay in an allegedly single sentence thus fraudulently attributing to me something I did not say.

Here are some details.

The sentence in the above quotation, starting with the words “The anti-Lysenkoist stand” and ending with the words “synthesis by Lysenkoists” occurs in my text several pages later than the sentence starting with the words “From my experience both” and ending with the words “oppressive Soviet regime.” Wells has transposed these two sentences, placing a sentence that occurs much later in the text, ahead of a sentence, which in fact precedes it by several pages. He inserts the words “Perakh continues” thus exacerbating his distortion by falsely asserting the order in which my sentences appear, opposite to their actual order of appearance. This way he creates a false impression that the latter sentence is a continuation of the former, which it is not. The insertion by Wells of his own words “Perakh continues” is a testimony to Wells’s intentionally contrived misleading of readers.

Since both sentences are nevertheless indeed present in my text (but in an opposite order), some readers may try to justify Well’s “creative quoting” by pointing out that this is a minor infraction that does not affect the gist of his argument. Perhaps this is indeed a minor point, but being contrary to the common rules or proper quotations, it is indicative of the overall doubtful reliability of Wells’s quotation habits, where the strict adherence to facts is not of paramount importance.

I will not discuss here the parts of my actual text replaced by Wells with ellipsis, but will rather point out now to a really egregious example of quote mining by Wells, which amounts to a direct fraud. Here is how Wells quotes from my text:

From my experience both with Marxism and with the realities of the Soviet system, I can assert that … it is ID advocates whose behavior is reminiscent of the oppressive Soviet regime” since they subject Darwinists to “continuous denunciations, verbal assaults, derision, and ultimately to dismissal from their positions.”

And here is the actual text in my essay:

From my experience both with Marxism and with the realities of the Soviet system, I can assert that in the dispute between the Intelligent Design advocates and their opponents, including pro-evolution scientists, it is ID advocates whose behavior is reminiscent of the oppressive Soviet regime.

Comparing Wells’s quotation with the actual text of my essay, we immediately notice that my actual text ends with the words “Soviet regime” and a period, whereas Wells quotation contains additionally the words:

“since they subject Darwinists to ‘continuous denunciations, verbal assaults, derision, and ultimately to dismissal from their positions.’”

While readers may be confused by this discrepancy, I’ll clarify now how Wells’s shenanigan works.

First, the words “since they subject Darwinists to” are inserted by Wells; they are not part of my text. As to the rest of the added words, they are indeed found in my text but are taken by Wells from a page in my text which is many pages further in the text than the preceding phrase ending with “Soviet regime.” Where these words occur, they relate to a different topic, having nothing to do with “intelligent design” advocates. By fraudulently combining in one sentence two unrelated quotations, plus inserting several words of his own, Wells misleads readers, apparently aiming to create a false impression that I accuse “intelligent design” advocates of subjecting “Darwinists” to “dismissal from their positions.” In fact the second quoted phrase describes not the behavior of “intelligent design” advocates but rather the behavior of the Soviet authorities at the time of Lysenko’s reign.

Of course “intelligent design” activists do not “subject evolutionary biologists to dismissal from their position”. They certainly would be happy to do so (see the proof of that statement in my essay, Perakh 2004a), but their hands fortunately are too short for that. They must limit themselves to verbal assaults. Misquotation is a device used when no arguments of substance are available, as is the case of Wells fighting modern biology.

While Wells’s “creative quoting” is in itself a telltale testimony to the dismal level of his unscrupulous discourse, it is just a secondary component of his narration which is substandard all over.

Lamarckism

One of Wells’s theses is his asseverations that, first, “Darwinism” includes elements of Lamarckism, and, second, that Lysenko’s pseudo-biology, officially approved in the USSR, was “Darwinist” throughout.

Did You Know?

  • Lysenkoism was anti-Darwinian.
  • Lysenkoism rejected the modern synthesis because it didn’t fit with “Marxism-Leninism”.
  • There are more similiarities between “intelligent design” activists and Lysenkoists than between modern biologists and Lysenkoists.

With a sufficient desire, it is always possible to find signs of similarity between any, even drastically opposite, systems of views. Wells provides a quote from Darwin which, in his view, is in harmony with Lamarckism.

First of all, although Lamarck’s main ideas have been largely abandoned by biological science, it does not mean that everything Lamarck believed was necessarily wrong. In fact Lamarck was a serious scientist, unlike Wells and his friends at the Discovery Institute. There were positive elements in Lamarck’s views, so it is no wonder Darwin, who worked in the pre-genetics age, could find some elements of Lamarckism to be in tune with his own views. However, to assert that Darwin’s theory of natural selection is in any way analogous to Lamarckism is absurd. While Well’s interpretation is his privilege, he seems to be not aware of the most principal difference between the views of Lamarck and Darwin.

The inheritance of acquired characteristics was considered “common knowledge” in Darwin’s time, when there was yet no knowledge of genetics, of Mendel’s work and of any other elements of the “modern synthesis”, which is an important part of biological science in our time. Darwin did in fact believe that the transmission of acquired traits could occur, as explicated in his “pangenesis” theory. I am not sure if he thought it was a significant component of heredity, but he indeed postulated that the environment could affect changes both at the “germinal” level and at the “somatic” level, the latter of which would have been “lamarckian” sensu latu. It was a secondary point in Darwin’s system of views, which was discarded many years later with the advent of the modern synthesis.

In fact, Darwinian theory differed from Lamarck’s in a very principal way, and no cherry-picked quotations by Wells can prove otherwise.

What differentiated Lamarck’s theory of evolution from Darwin’s was that

  • Lamarck believed all species arose and evolved separately and sequentially, i.e. with no (or very limited) common descent, and
  • there was a “vital force” that pushed organisms to evolve along certain lines (very much teleologically). Darwin certainly disagreed with both, and adhered to the view that evolution is given “direction” by the action of selection, and not by intrinsic mechanisms.

Creative Darwinism

Regarding the allegedly Darwinian essence of the Soviet Lysenkoist pseudo-biology, here Wells displays the same level of ignorance as he demonstrated in his infamous utterance (Wells 2002) wherein he compared evolutionary biologist Kenneth Miller to Heinrich Himmler (the notorious Chief of SS in the Nazi Germany), who, in Wells’s uninformed mind, was the chief of the Nazi propaganda machine (thus confusing Himmler with Goebbels).

Wells seems to be unaware of the simple facts of history. In the Soviet system, words rarely were used to denote what their direct meaning implied. Given the expertise of Wells’s colleagues in an Orwellian “newspeak”, he should appreciate the virtuosity achieved by the Soviet doubletalk, in particular in its ostensible adherence to Darwinism. Yes, Darwinism was acclaimed in the USSR as the officially adopted doctrine, allegedly the only one compatible with Marxism-Leninism. There was an important nuance, however. The term “Darwinism” in the USSR was used with a qualifier, “creative Darwinism”, which was in line with the more general but equally ubiquitous term of “Creative Marxism”. The latter term simply meant the most recent decisions of the Communist Party’s leadership, which in Stalin’s time was just Stalin’s personal view. Most often it had nothing to do with the legacy of Marx, or even of Lenin, but whenever Stalin announced his opinion, it was automatically referred to as the great achievement of the “creative Marxism-Leninism”. The succinct expression asserted that “Marxism is not a dogma but a manual for action”. Likewise, whatever Lysenko announced as the new achievement was automatically praised as the further development of “creative Darwinism” for which an alternative term was “Michurinian biology” (Perakh 2004a). More often than not, it had nothing in common with the real Darwinism.

Wells seems to be blissfully unaware of all those facts of history. His assertions that Lysenko was a Darwinist are either naively uninformed or deliberately misleading.

Wells mentions Lysenko’s notorious experiments with “yarovizatsiya” (i.e. vernalization) of winter crops, without explaining its relation to “Darwinism”. (There was none.) He seems to be unaware of other theories by Lysenko. For example, the omnipotent academician fervently propagated his pet theory asserting that there is no competition for resources within individual species. This idea was radically incompatible with Darwin’s natural selection, although spin experts from the Discovery Institute probably can apply their acrobatic abilities to “prove” that Lysenko’s theory also was Darwinian. (Indeed, they likewise “prove” that Hitler’s racist ideas were based on “Darwinism.” Of course, this assertion has little to do with facts—see, for example Flank 2006 or Walker undated). On the basis of his theory, Lysenko recommended to plant fruit trees and other cultured plants in packs, so that several plants were planted at the same spot in the soil. Since, as Lysenko claimed, the plants, being members of the same species, will not compete for food and light, they will actually help each other to grow and thrive. Khrushchev fell for Lysenko’s bait and ordered to follow Lysenko’s recommendation, based on “Marxism-Leninism”, according to which members of the same class in the human society are never antagonistic to each other but are united by common interests in the struggle of classes, only the latter being antagonistic. The result was of course disastrous, as the plants stubbornly refused to convert to Marxism and competed for resources despite belonging to the same species and despite the decisions of the “Politburo”.

Perhaps Wells simply is not cognizant of these features of Lysenkoism, in which case he should have abstained from proclaiming a judgment on Lysenkoism’s alleged Darwinian roots.

Lysenkoism in the US?

Isn’t this story reminiscent of the attitude of the “intelligent design” activists like Wells and his colleagues in the “intelligent design” enterprise. Like Lysenko, they stubbornly adhere to their views regardless of facts and evidence. Recall Wells’s admission that his life is devoted to destroying “Darwinism”, whereas the possibility of evidence being in favor of modern biology is never mentioned. The word of the Reverend Moon obviously takes precedence for Wells against all the huge accumulation of empirical material testifying for evolutionary theory.

Of course, Wells’s main thesis is not that the “ugly head” of Lysenkoism “is rearing in the US” because evolutionary scientists in any way share Lysenko’s views. Such an assertion would apparently be too much even for Wells. On the other hand there is indeed a lot of similarity between Lysenko’s pseudo-science and “intelligent design”. Lysenkoists rejected the modern synthesis, like “intelligent design” activists. In fact, apart from Lysenko’s atheism and “intelligent design” activists’s religious affiliations, “intelligent design” activists and Lysenkoists are ideological twins, as both have been fighting science and defending their blind beliefs. Lysenkoism is, luckily, already in the dustbin of history, while “intelligent design” is still waiting for its turn to join Lysenkoism in the only place they both belong in.

Wells’s main thesis is that “Darwinists” persecute “intelligent design” activists and creationists of other variations, like Lysenko persecuted “Morganists-Mendelists-Weissmanists” in the USSR. Indeed? Who among the “intelligent design” activists have been arrested by “Darwinists” or exiled to Siberia or executed in basements of the KGB? Which “Darwinist authority” in the US has ever ordered to the entire mass media to collectively denounce “intelligent design” activists as “enemies of the people,” as the media in the USSR did day in and day out?

Whether Wells is living in a world of fantasy or consciously spreading lies about “persecution” of opponents of “Darwinism” makes little difference. The entire chapter 16 of Wells’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design is full of unsubstantiated assertions aimed at scaring readers with the imaginary power of “Darwinists” ruthlessly persecuting honest searchers for truth who dare to doubt “Darwinism”. In reviews of some other chapters of Well’s book, the alleged examples of the “persecution” of “intelligent design” activists or of their co-travelers, such as von Sternberg, are shown to be exaggerated and distorted.

There is little choice but to assert that the contents of the chapter in question can be properly referred to as lies.

Who Needs a Shower?

In another part of chapter 16, Wells refers to the exposure (Perakh 2004a) of his rude and tasteless remarks wherein he said that after meeting biologists Kenneth Miller and Lawrence Krauss, he felt a need to take shower. Of course, for every reasonable reader it is obvious that such utterances cannot be justified by any excuses. However, instead of apologizing for his ugly words, Wells attempts to exonerate himself by asserting that his words were in response to a verbal attack by some “Darwinist”:

What Perakh neglected to mention was that I made the comment only after one of the Darwinists in the debate had begun with a series of personal attacks on me.

(p. 187)

In fact there was indeed somebody in this case, who “neglected” to mention a relevant fact, and this somebody was Wells himself. What Wells neglected to mention was that he never provided any actual quotations demonstrating the alleged personal attacks by “one of the Darwinists”, whose name he “neglected” to mention. Wells “neglected” to explain, how I could have not “neglected” to mention something which was not reported anywhere in sufficient detail enabling one to judge what did in fact happen. In his post Wells (2002) writes about alleged “personal attack” upon him by Lawrence Krauss, but “neglects” to specify what exactly this scientist has said. Moreover, if it was only Lawrence Krauss who allegedly wounded Well’s sensitive soul with some disparaging remarks, why does Wells insult not only Krauss but also Miller?

On the other hand, Wells’s own rude and tasteless attack on the two “Darwinists” is documented in Wells’s own words, which also testify to his ignorance of the recent history, i.e. confusing Himmler with Goebbels. Without the exact quotations from what Miller and Krauss said, which could be verified and either acknowledged or denied by these two scientists, we are invited to take Wells’s word, not supported by any citations. However, the experience with Wells’s statements, including those partially discussed in this review, shows that relying on Wells’s word poses a tangible danger of getting led far astray.

Of course, the good news is that, if we believe his words, Wells takes shower from time to time. This is a healthy practice.

It is hard to avoid pointing out that, by opening Wells’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, readers will be exposed to a real pigsty.

Come back tomorrow for another entry in our review of Jonathan’s Well’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design.

An earlier version of this review was posted at Talk Reason. The author would like to thank Andrea Bottaro for his helpful suggestions.

References

  • Wells, Jonathan (1994) “Darwininism: Why I Went for a Second Ph.D.” See tparents.org; accessed August 20, 2006.
  • Perakh, Mark, (2004) “Under the Party’s Thumb.” In Talk Reason, accessed on August 20, 2006.
  • Perakh, Mark. (2004) “Under the Party’s Thumb”. In W. R Eslberry and M. Perakh, How the Intelligent Design Advocates Turn the Sordid Lessons From Soviet and Nazi History Upside Down. See antievolution.org. Accessed on Aug. 20, 2006.
  • Wells, Jonathan (2002) “Comments and report from Dr. Jonathan Wells (one of the four panelists) of the Discovery Institute concerning the Ohio State Board of Education Standards Committee Meeting on March 11, 2002 to discuss Intelligent Design” creationists.org; accessed August 20, 2006.
  • Flank, Lenny, (2006) “Creationists, Hitler and Evolution.” In Talk Reason, accessed on August 20, 2006.
  • Walker, Jim (undated) “Hitller’s Christianity.” See nobeliefs.com. Accessed on August 20, 2006.

40 Comments

The antievolution.org link has some bogus stuff at the beginning. The paper is actually at:

http://www.antievolution.org/people[…]ys/eandp.pdf

It’s true! Darwin was an anti-Semite that inspired Hitler! Look at this quote that I found in the Origin of species!!!

“…I think…that…J…e…w…s…must…be…eliminate…d”

Oi, that taped together “quote” from your essay borders of fraud. I wonder if you should contact the Anti-Defamation League…

“Lysenkoism is now rearing its ugly head in the US, as Darwinists use their government positions to destroy the careers of their critics.”

It seems the Cre’ist definition of “persecuted” is “kept from power; prevented from persecuting our adversaries.”

Of course, the good news is that, if we believe his words, Wells takes shower from time to time. This is a healthy practice.

LOL

Collin, learn some thermodynamics, or shut up. Your ignorant rants serve no purpose.

And that’s gone, now! :(

PLEASE some of you go immediately to amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, etc. and write accurate reviews of this book! I just looked at amazon, and so far the reviews say things like “Oooh, this book is just Wonderful, it explains ID Sooo well!” Right now, it has four stars (ug)! Unfortunately, the average Joe isn’t going to wander over here to read a review of the book. Please post your reviews anywhere and everywhere the general public will be able to easily find them. Just a suggestion…

Off-topic stuff moved to the Bathroom Wall.

Collin, you appear not to be able to figure out when you are on-topic or not. Off-topic stuff should be posted to the Bathroom Wall. If you persist in posting off-topic, your posting privileges will be terminated.

Although Collin’s comments regarding the alleged thermodynamic obstacles to evolution have been moved by PT administration to the Bathroom Wall, perhaps he is still reading this thread. On the remote chance that he is genuinely interested in the mentioned topic, some discussion of that matter which possibly can be of help to him can be found here.

Jennifer Wrote:

PLEASE some of you go immediately to amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, etc. and write accurate reviews of this book! I just looked at amazon, and so far the reviews say things like “Oooh, this book is just Wonderful, it explains ID Sooo well!” Right now, it has four stars (ug)! Unfortunately, the average Joe isn’t going to wander over here to read a review of the book. Please post your reviews anywhere and everywhere the general public will be able to easily find them. Just a suggestion…

Amazon is interested in selling books and doesn’t care about scientific accuracy.

Negative reviews of books are often removed at the author’s request.

Amazon.COM controlled by crackpots?

amazon run by crackpots?

In my opinion, amazon.com is committing fraud because it actively pretends that McCutcheon’s piece of rubbish is a 5-star book; what they’re doing is equivalent to selling excrements as shampoo which is a pretty bad thing even if 33 people like this “shampoo”. The bias is completely clear; nasty reviews of very good books about physics are usually tollerated. I am not sure whether the situation is sufficiently well-defined legally to win a trial against amazon.com; morally, the situation is clearly wrong and it is sad that one of the most important online bookstores behaves in this painful fashion.

the answer is NO.

amazon is run by somebody who immediately realized that postive reviews sell books, and negative reviews don’t.

there is nothing partisan here, just simple economics. amazon makes money selling books. postive reviews sell more books.

ergo, negative reviews may be removed.

simple logic.

the question is… is there someplace on Amazon where they VERY EXPLICITY specify that they do not alter reviews in any way, nor let authors do so of their own volition?

If not, then we should not be surprised to find by and large mostly positive reviews for most books.

anybody reading a review should always take it with a grain of salt, and rely more on independent book reviews rather than ones found in “book shops”.

Chris Noble’s view of Amazon may be flawed or obsolete, since there are several 1-star reviews posted, including one by the blogger he linked to. I fear instead that the number 5-star reviews – which are scary to read – accurately reflect the level of science education and the degree of hostility to science and scientists in our society.

There may be some 1-star review posted on McCutcheon’s book at any time, since Motl has organised a campaign against it. But all negative reviews that make it that far are systematically erased.

“Concerning McCutcheon’s book “The Final Theory”, the $13.08 campaign did not help to restore the reviews because all of the 200 inconvenient reviews were erased again.”

http://motls.blogspot.com/2006/08/2[…]w-fraud.html

There may be some 1-star review posted on McCutcheon’s book at any time, since Motl has organised a campaign against it. But all negative reviews that make it that far are systematically erased.

Something’s off here, because Motl’s 1-star review was posted over a year ago and has a 43/45 score.

BTW, I read the free first chapter of the book; I had to wash my eyes, but my brain may never recover.

Funny, I got negative reviews (one, at least) on Amazon for a book of mine, and it stayed there.

Wells use of creative ellipses reminds me of a parody blurb on the back of one of the Monty Python books: “The most … unbelievable load of … facts … I’ve ever seen.”

Mark, are you sure about _thousands_ of biologists?

Funny, I got negative reviews (one, at least) on Amazon for a book of mine, and it stayed there.

The claim isn’t that there are no negative reviews, it’s that certain authors concertedly have negative reviews of their books reviewed.

I would however be cautious about any claim by Luboš Motl, who is himself a raving crackpot when it comes to global warming and anything else that goes against his right wing dogma.

er, negative reviews of their books removed.

Last Sunday I watched the Coral Ridge Hour and Kennedy’s propaganda on Darwin and Hitler. Yesterday I sampled several chapters in Well’s PIG book. It looks like Well’s latest screed was the outline for that Coral Ridge Hour piece of trash.

Did anyone else get the impression from one of the talking heads in that Coral Ridge program that they regretted that blasphemy was no longer a crime? Would that be the same guy who wanted to reinstate capital punishment for heresy?

In comment 124377 Werty asked:

Mark, are you sure about _thousands_ of biologists?

I assume Werty’s question is about my statement that thousands of biologists were persecuted during the time of Lysenko’s reign in the Soviet biology.

Yes, while no full statistics is available, there are reliable data indicating that during the about fifty years of Lysenko’s being the Stalin’s and then Khrushchev’s viceroy in charge of biology and agriculture, the persecution of biologists (and not only of biologists) went through several waves, reaching periodical peaks (the largest in 1948-49). There is no exaggeration in stating that thousands of biologists fell victims of that persecution. Periodically the entire staff of certain research insitutions would be fired, and a certain fraction of them arrested. Also, in 1952 and 1953 (right before Stalin’s death) almost all biologists (and physicians) who were Jews were fired and forced to move from the central Russia and Ukraine to the remote areas of Central Asia, Kazakstan, and Siberia. Many of them were arrested and never seen again. This was just a particular component of the overall mass repressions by Stalin’s regime that, by various estimates, cost the country between 8 and 12 million human lives, both before and after the WW2, which claimed some 20 million more. After the collapse of the USSR, archives of the KGB became partially opened, and all those data which were kept secret, entered the public domain, confirming what was commonly suspected but not officially acknowledged hitherto. Not all of it is yet made public, but what is already known, reveals the stunning picture of merciless persecution of large masses of innocent people, on a scale hardly seen ever before. The tragedy of the Soviet biology was a part of the overall tragedy -the crimes committed by the rulers of the USSR.

Apropos of Mark’s remarks just above, I never hear “Lysenko” without thinking Vavilov.

RBH

“Lysenkoism”… stems from the sad story of the destruction of the thriving biological science in the USSR…

Which raises the question: which thriving scientific enterprises are being destroyed by the “persecution” of ID? Has Darwinism caused famines? Are there treasures of knowledge being hidden because of the adherence to “politically correct” science?

I would dearly love to know. Is that information in the book??

The way that Lysenkoism gained power is similar to the methods that have been tried by the ID groups. Lysoenkoism appealed to the political authorities that had certain philosophical views of Marxism-Lenninism. The biological views of Lysenko appealed to this political sensibility where class struggle and the perfection of the socialist man were orthodoxy. The same type of appeal to political authority is where ID has made its greatest inroads in that ID is an appeal to the theology of the powers-that-be. In that way, ID is an attempt to get a top-down political influence on biology training and thereby change the course of scientific inquiry.

Popper’s: “Something’s off here, because Motl’s 1-star review was posted over a year ago and has a 43/45 score.”

Yes, but he also says “My review has so far been erased thrice.” OTOH, “I would however be cautious about any claim by LuboÅ¡ Motl, who is himself a raving crackpot when it comes to global warming and anything else that goes against his right wing dogma” is certainly true.

Someone should talk about Hanns Hoerbiger’s Welteislehre (“Cosmic Ice Theory”), a delightfully complicated crackpot cosmology whose advocates organized pressure groups to make people believe their theories. They would heckle astronomers’ meetings with “Out with astronomical orthodoxy! Give us Hoerbiger!” And Hoerbiger himself once wrote in a letter, “Either you believe in me and learn, or you will be treated as the enemy.”

They even associated themselves with Nazism, saying that Hoerbiger, like Hitler, was an Austrian “amateur” who got those pesky Jews out of the way.

However, after WWII, they have had a much lower profile, and the Hoerbigerites have no Internet presence that I have been able to discover.

According to Hoerbiger, the Solar System is surrounded by a ring of ice blocks – a ring that is visible as the Milky Way. He claimed that pictures showing otherwise were “faked” by “reactionary” astronomers.

There are traces of hydrogen gas in interplanetary space, and this gas makes the ice blocks spiral in. Some of them collide with planets, coating their surfaces with a thick layer of ice. The Moon is also covered with a thick layer of ice; Hoerbiger came to believe that after looking at it through a small telescope and noticing how bright it was.

When an ice block passes by the Earth, sunlight glinting off of it makes it seem as a “shooting star”. And if it collides, it makes a long line of snowstorms and other bad weather. If it collides with the Sun, however, it makes a sunspot and evaporates, with the water vapor condensing out as “fine ice” and covering the innermost planets.

The Earth has had several previous moons; which have all spiraled into it. Its most recent moon was the Cenozoic or Tertiary Moon, and its final days are remembered in a variety of myths and legends. Legends of dragons, battles of gods, and the end of the world are all memories of those days; among them is the Bible’s Book of Revelation. And in those days, that moon pulled up the oceans in a “girdle tide”; when it finally sloshed back, that water produced such legendary floods as Noah’s Flood.

Genesis is the story of re-creation after that catastrophe, with the Caesarean birth by a heroine of that flood being misremembred as the Adam and Eve story. The Earth was moonless for a while, but it eventually captured its present-day Moon, and that Moon also is spiraling in. That capture produced various natural disasters, which, among other things, sank Atlantis.

Finally when it was pointed out to Hoerbiger that this or that assertion did not work out mathematically, he would respond “Calculation can only lead you astray” – which was a strange attitude for an engineer.

I will concede that my disussion of Hanns Hoerbiger’s Welteislehre may seem rather off-topic, but I think that it is worth mentioning here as an additional case of “science” by pressure-group tactics and seeking official favor.

Kinda reminds me of Walt Brown

Several months ago, I had some thoughts that were very much along the lines of this topic and the parallels with the Soviet Union. As a hobbyist reader on evolution but who has been trained extensively in the history of music (I am a composer), I started seeing some interesting paralles, mainly between “theistic realism” and “socialist realism.” Hope you enjoy the read.

The Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (CSC) is formulating a new order. Deeply displeased with the “cultural legacies of materialism,” their collective minds have focused on a philosophical stance that assumes the objective reality of the Christian God. Phillip Johnson, the lawyer who heads the intelligent design creationist (IDC) movement has distilled theistic realism. In essence, it states that any true knowledge must recognize God as a real actor in the history of the universe. It follows that all attempts to understand phenomena fail if they ignore the reality of God. Therefore, the theory of evolution, which Johnson contends to be inextricably linked to philosophical naturalism (not just methodological naturalism) and modern secular humanism, fails to explain the world because it ignores the assumption that God is “objectively real as Creator, and that the reality of God is tangibly recorded in evidence accessible to science, particularly in biology.”

We may fairly assume that theistic realism must become an a priori position to all activities that inquire about phenomena or act upon knowledge - aesthetic, moral and practical - or they will fail. What a disaster. Given that the CSC hopes to “renew” our culture by returning it to some Christian Arcadia, how would they enforce such a thing?

Soviet ministers regulated art through a doctrine of socialist realism in the U.S.S.R. and its satellite countries. According to the 1934 Statute of the Union of Soviet Writers, “socialist realism demands of the artist the truthful, historically concrete representation of reality in its revolutionary development, [that] must be linked with the task of ideological transformation and education of workers in the spirit of socialism.” Art, then, must reflect the objective truth of the socialist perspective and eschew the decadence of bourgeois life and art. Stalin had already realized the statute in his 1932 decree, “On the Reconstruction of Literary and Art Organizations.” Its enforcement was cruel.

One need only look at the life of Dmitri Shostakovich to see how the doctrine of socialist realism proscribed culture and hogtied artists. On January 22, 1934, Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District premiered in Leningrad at the Maly Operny Theater. It instantly received accolades that further launched the young composer into the international and Soviet limelight. In the following two years, the opera was performed some 200 times.

On January 26, 1936 Stalin and other Soviet higher-ups attended a performance at the Bolshoi. They didn’t stay for the last act. Two days later, an unsigned editorial in Pravda titled “Muddle Instead of Music” attacked Lady Macbeth. Noted Shostakovich scholar Laurel Fay writes in her enry on Shostakovich in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians that the editorial “equated the opera’s flaws with petty-bourgeois, leftist distortions in the other arts, contrasting this with the realistic, wholesome character of the ‘true’ art demanded by the people.” She continues, “It was the opening salvo in a campaign that resulted in the explicit subjugation of the individual creative freedom of Soviet artists to the repressive control of the Communist Party and State, through their obligatory adherence to the aesthetic doctrine of Socialist Realism.”

Shostakovich was blacklisted for years. He was not alone. Prokofiev, Khatchaturian and Miaskovsky were scorned as well. In Poland, Witold Lutoslawski was censured for his First Symphony. The doctrine that had started with theater extended to “absolute” music devoid of any program. Bureaucrats could read political agendum into anything they wanted to.

It would be unfair to say that socialist realist artifacts were uniformly poor. Shostakovich himself wrote pieces that may well embody the philosophy’s noblest ideals - his Eighth Symphony, written at the height of World War II, testifies to the war’s horror and more importantly the indomitable will of the people. But his best works wriggle out of the doctrinal straitjacket. One need only listen to his middle and late string quartets or viola sonata to hear distillations of abject depression and loneliness - certainly not the preferred revolutionary states of mind - or the second movement of the Tenth Symphony, a brutal and cynical alleged caricature of Stalin. In some ways Shostakovich was very fortunate. Despite years on a black list, his life was spared. Many artists disappeared in the gulag. History holds up Shostakovich as the unquestioned king of Soviet music and a peer of genius on par with Igor Stravinsky. But the toll of the socialist realist doctrine was heavy.

Thankfully, the theistic realists have no such obvious power today. Unquestionably, Phillip Johnson and his cohorts at the Discovery Institute pine for the day that we, the United States citizens, assume that God is “objectively real” in all of our endeavors. But what would that assumption do to art or science? How would they ensure that we follow the edict?

In art, it seems reasonable to speculate a reformulation of the Statute of the Union of Soviet Writers excerpted earlier: “Theistic realism demands of the artist the truthful, historically concrete representation of reality in its theistic development, [that] must be linked with the task of ideological transformation and education of citizens in the spirit of Christianity.” Art, then, should reflect the objective truth of the Christian perspective and eschew the apostasy of philosophical naturalism.

Might the medieval rules of counterpoint resurface? Shall we once again ban the use of the tri-tone, called the diabolus in musica or devil’s tone? A Department of Cultural Renewal (the CSC used to be called the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture) could censor whole genres of music like death metal for its overt statements on Satanism, violence and its frequent use of the tri-tone. Even the blues might suffer because of its long-time affair with fornication and alcohol. George Crumb’s Black Angels? Vanquished for its strange allusions to numerology, its nocturnal ritualism and non-Christian chanting. Phillip Glass is a Buddhist, a non-theist. Does his meditative music defile reality? Perhaps.

Applied to science we run into a wholesale redefinition that opens Pandora’s Box. If we accept the objective reality of God into the epistemology of science, we extend a bridge to studies currently classified as pseudoscience. The supernatural or preternatural, though still non-testable, may be incorporated into the explanation of phenomena. Science’s inherent demand that experimental research be subject to replication flies out the window because experimentation must necessarily allow for the validity of both revelation and inerrant arguments from authority.

Under the current operating definition of science and at least two centuries of its practice, revelation is strictly forbidden because its factuality is inherently unverifiable by any reasonably quantifiable standard. What could revelations hope to objectively prove to us anyway? What sort of revelations would count as scientifically valid? Presumably those espoused by “scientists” who believe a priori that God is objectively real. We might wonder, though, if Pat Robertson’s proclamations on the causes of natural disasters might enable the Christian Coalition to receive National Science Foundation research funding to determine if recent hurricanes were actually caused by God�s anger with America’s decadent life.

That sounds like a yellow brick road to bizarro world; a road to medievalism with only the most rudimentary understanding of nature; a path to beliefs that Jews need fresh blood to cure their sexual dysfunction; a fall into the oubliette of ignorance. Science cannot and must not recognize a simple argument from authority. Physicists today gleefully look at Einstein�s incorrect objections to quantum physics. “God does not throw dice,” he said. Einstein held more political capital than 99.9% scientists but his objections proved irrelevant. The data panned out. Naturalistic methodology carried the day and quantum theory outshines nearly all discoveries of the twentieth century.

Theistic naturalism has no place in science and certainly no place in government. In art, inspiration through revelation is entirely appropriate. I would be unsurprised if J.S. Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, Anton Bruckner and Olivier Messiaen would have identified themselves as theistic naturalists. All of them were deeply devout men who testified to their belief in God through their music. Messiaen most notably heard the wonder of divinity in the calls of birds that he mimicked in the bulk of his works. But these four are exceptions. What would become of the rest of art under the prescription of theistic realism? Censored. Proscribed. Straitjacketed.

Poorly premised philosophy yields even poorer policies. Let’s not even allow Johnson and his theocratic cabal to get close. The Soviet Union, the atheistic institution that it was, teaches us a good lesson about so-called “realisms” they place critical and creative people in manacles.

Peter, thanks for your comment. You are welcome on PT. Your comment provides a view from an angle so far not found on this thread in particular, and on PT in general. It is a pity you chose anonymity. I’d be curious to listen to your music. I was a little surprised reading your remark about Shostakovich’s being equal to Stravinski, which you seem to construe as a compliment to Shostakovich. My own view as a simple consumer of music is that Stravinski, however good, can’t even be a boy for errands to Shostakovich. Many of Shostakovich’s symphonies are, in my humble view, the summits of music ever composed. But I am not a musician. I could have added many comments to your description of “socialist realism” which used to be a butt end of derision among my friends in the USSR, and to point to many similarities between the habits of the Soviet propaganda machine and those of the ID advocates in the US, which you so aptly noticed, but it would be too off-topic, so let me leave it to another occasion.

Thankfully, the theistic realists have no such obvious power today. Unquestionably, Phillip Johnson and his cohorts at the Discovery Institute pine for the day that we, the United States citizens, assume that God is “objectively real” in all of our endeavors. But what would that assumption do to art or science? How would they ensure that we follow the edict?

Just ask Mel Brooks:

The Inquisition, what a show. The Inquisition, here we go. We know you’re wishin’ that we’d go away! So all you Muslims and you Jews We got big news for all of yous: You’d better change your point of views TODAY! ‘Cause the Inquisition’s here and it’s here to stay!

A Department of Cultural Renewal (the CSC used to be called the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture) could censor whole genres of music

They’ll get my Megadeth and Metallica CD’s when they pry them out of my cold dead fingers.

;)

It’s remarkable how much in opposition Peter’s comments are to those of Pim van Meurs from another thread. From http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives[…]mment-125484

Funny, that is exactly what you seem to be doing, redefining science to exclude ID a-priori. And yet, ID’s argument is logical and should not be dismissed as unscientific just because it attacks the foundations of science (methodological naturalism) unless one wants science to be dogmatic and not tentative. And the tentative nature of science includes its methodologies.

So far, I have seen little evidence that supports your claim that ID can be easily shown to be unscientific a-priori. In fact, various of your positions require ID to be shown a-posteriori to be unscientific, others presume that the scientific method is somehow sacred and not tentative. In fact, arguing that ID cannot be scientific a-priori because it fails the scientific method, is an illogical argument since ID clearly argues that the scientific method is not sufficient. So either one addresses their arguments and show that ID fails to live up to its claims, or one rejects ID dogmatically as unscientific because, it does not meet certain, arbitrary though pragmatic, guidelines we call the ‘scientific method’.

I’m with Peter.

As my country was one of those under “socialistic experiment”, we expressed ourselves in a typically Czech manner - through jokes.

I will share one about “socialist realism” with you.

“Once upon a time, there was a mighty ruler. But although he was mighty, he was ugly - one leg shorter than the other, one eye unfocused, and he was altogether short. Yet, this mighty ruler desired a portrait. So he called a painter to paint him one. The painter was very good, and painted the ruler exactly how he looked. But he offended the ruler’s vanity so much that he was executed, and another painter was called. The second painter drew the ruler as a tall, stout man, without any drawbacks. But he was executed too, as the ruler thought that art should be true. So a third painter was called. And this third painter drew the mighty ruler riding on a horse (so his shorter leg couldn’t be seen, as well as his overall shortness), drawing the bowstring (so his bad eye was closed). The mighty ruler was pleased and gave large amount of money to the third painter, who subsequently became a founder of socialist realism.”

In other words - the motto of socialist realism is “If you see flaws in the system, don’t act as though you didn’t see them - act quickly to cover them up.”

Popper, Mark, the Rev and others, Thanks for the kind words. I suppose I could add mountains more here on music but I won’t act like Collin and drown the board in tangents. ;-) I included my email address in the box to the left, so I should be reachable. If it doesn’t appear for some reason, here it is: [Enable javascript to see this email address.] I’ll be glad to share some of my music with you, recommend more than just Megadeth or Metallica albums (I’m quite the metalhead too) or my other writings on ID. I covered the Dover trial for a small PA paper and have written quite a lot about it, even getting interviews on the last day with Wesley and Nick.

I didn’t get to say in the last post that I find the total disregard for factual documentation with Wells appalling. It’s so convenient for him, Anne Coulter, 23-year-old NASA administrators and others to just ignore facts or rearrange them. Orwellian or even Stalinesque. I guess you would know the best out of all of us Mark. One of my wife’s graduate professors is Polish and he’s talked to us a few times about how in communist Poland, he and his friends got around a lying system by lying a bunch more. They had had to align whatever it is that they were doing with ideologues and their bizarro-world rules, so they just made stuff up to get a piece of the pie. It was by and large, according to him, a system that promoted mediocrity in everything except lying. Look at ID. A movement LOADED to the gills with fundamentalist Christians whose default position is supposed to be rooted in the Gospels. Well, I’d really like it if they’d take the mote out of their own eyes by stopping their newspeak and falsity.

In other words - the motto of socialist realism is “If you see flaws in the system, don’t act as though you didn’t see them - act quickly to cover them up.”

It’s remarkable that one of the most frequent contributers to PT (Pim van Meurs) is trying mightily to do that in his infinite thread, claiming that “there IS a scientific component of ID” – but behind the horse: “however vacuous it may be”. On the one hand (behind a horse somewhere) he admits that ID is not based on methodological naturalism (“ID’s argument is logical and should not be dismissed as unscientific just because it attacks the foundations of science (methodological naturalism)”, “Beckwith quotes Laudan [at 25] noting that ID ‘is inconsistent with methodological naturalism …’”), but in front he says “This makes it even harder to reject ID a-priori since it accepts MN” and explains this bizarre claim with “Since ID is meant to extend MN with the concept of design and the conceopt of design is limited in its applicability, there is nothing contradicting here”.

He offers a justification for this nonsense:

I am not sure if any of the above concepts can be rejected as necessarily supernatural. In fact, I am not even sure if supernatural claims can be rejected as unscientific as the example of the effect of prayer shows. A supernatural claim is made about the effects of prayer and science can address and has addressed these claims and shown them to be erroneous. As such, I am not sure that claims which include the supernatural are necessarily unscientific.

Here there is obvious confusion between an empirical matter, whether prayer affects healing, and the non-empirical question of whether any such effect has a “supernatural” cause (whatever that could mean). The confusion is made explicit in this exchange (emphasis added):

PvM Wrote:

While Popper attempts to claim what is not science, he has done little to show that these examples are unambiguously non-science a-priori. I already gave an example of how science can study the effect of prayer on healing. The argument is that God hears our prayers and acts on them. That’s a hypothesis which can be studied by science, and rejected, and yet some may have rejected the hypothesis a-priori because it involves ‘stuff about God’.

Popper's ghost Wrote:

No, the hypothesis that prayer can affect healing is a scientific hypothesis, for which relevant evidence can be gathered; the hypothesis that God hears our prayers and acts upon them is not a scientific hypothesis — if you disagree, then argue with the IDists who say that ID does not and cannot address whether God is the designer.

PvM Wrote:

You are conflating various concepts. The hypothesis that God hears our prayers and acts upon them is a scientific hypothesis, in fact it is a scientific hypothesis which can be and has been tested.

My response to this, noting that I had rather disentangled two concepts, the effect of prayer on healing and whether God causes such effects, and asking him to provide a test of God causing any effect, was deleted.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Hi, Peter: Since we have deviated already rather far from the topic of this thread, I’ll be brief. If you have, as you wrote in comment 125679, a lot of material on ID, you may wish to make it available for a wider audience. While commenting in existing threads on PT is open for all readers, posting an essay starting a new thread here, on PT, is so far a privilege reserved only to the co-founders of this blog, except for guest appearances, when a submission from an outsider is sponsored by one of the PT crew members. However, there is another way to get on PT: submit your essay to Talk Reason (admin AT talkreason dot org). Although PT (which is a blog) and TR ( www.talkreason.org , which is an archive) are managed by independent teams, there is a degree of cooperation as some of PT contributors are also involved with TR and may sponsor an essay submited to TR to also be posted on PT. This way essays of Mark Frank and of James Downard found access into PT.

Regarding the professor from Poland, indeed his story is rather typical of the behavior of scientists (and not only scientists) both in the USSR and in Eastern Europian countries within the Soviet empire. Typical, but with exceptions. Have you heard about dissidents there? Without pretending to be a renowned dissident, I can nevertheless claim that I (and many of my friends) did not behave in the manner described by the Polish professor. We spoke out. Most of us (including myself) found ourselves in Siberian prison camps, for speaking out and for other “crimes” like refusing to take part in atomic bomb projects.

Regarding the joke told by Marek 14 (comment 125584), I take the liberty of pointing, for those curious about it, to a collection of more than 600 Russian oral jokes I compiled and translated into English. It is found on my personal site.

It’s remarkable that one of the most frequent contributers to PT (Pim van Meurs)

Dude, is there ANYTHING that you don’t take personally?

Geez. Get over it. You’ll live longer, and more people will like you.

It’s remarkable that one of the most frequent contributers to PT (Pim van Meurs) is trying mightily to do that in his infinite thread, claiming that “there IS a scientific component of ID”

Dude, there’s a time and a place…

Dude, is there ANYTHING that you don’t take personally?

Complete non sequitur. We’re talking about threats to science, and to society, and the attempt to legitimize ID as a valid intellectual endeavor is part of such a threat. As Glen Davidson wrote in that thread:

Since you fail consistently to recognize what makes science into science, and how ID fails in a causal sense, in the evidentiary sense, and by illegitimately eliminating non-scientific “chance” and “regularity” to end up with a default to unknown “design”, perhaps it is best to point out what should be obvious even to one who doesn’t understand science as a whole: There likely is not a case against teaching ID in public schools if you and the IDists are permitted to redefine science.

Worse consequences would also be likely to follow, but that result would be bad enough.

A time and a plac, PG…

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Mark Perakh published on August 29, 2006 12:00 AM.

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design Review: The Secret is Lies (Chapter 9) was the previous entry in this blog.

Summer Institute on Science and Religion at the Jefferson Center is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter