Alert! Alack! I have been quote mined!

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Anyone who has been a “creationism watcher” for any length of time is familiar with the venerable creationist tactic of “quote mining.” Since creationists, essentially universally, can’t (or don’t want to) deal with actual scientific data pertaining to evolution, they attempt maintain a facade of respectibility by quoting statements from biological authorities. This can take many forms; for example, for the 1987 Supreme Court Edwards v. Aguillard case, the creationist lawyer Wendell Bird, apparently with the help of Paul Nelson, assembled a massive 500-page brief that consisted almost entirely of thousands of quotes from authorities on every topic bearing on “creation science”, from astrophysics to biology to philosophy to religion. This failed to convince the Supremes, but Bird turned his brief into a large two-volume book, The Origin of Species Revisited. Other elaborations on creationist quote-mining include various “Quote Books”, including The Quote Book (1984 booklet, inserted in Creation magazine I believe) and The Revised Quote Book (1990) from Answers in Genesis, the Handy Dandy Evolution Refuter (now online), and Henry Morris’ That Their Words may be used against Them (comes with CD!). Then we have endless collections of quotes on creationist websites, 50 of which were recently surveyed and ranked against the Talk.Origins Quote-Mine Project. Sometimes these quotes evolve and mutate over time (here is an example from Of Pandas and People), and sometimes they even spontaneously generate from thin air, as with this imaginary quote from Clarence Darrow.

You may be saying, “Surely this is a problem, but only famous authorities get quote mined. It would never happen to me!” Think again. On September 5, 2006, an article I coauthored in Nature Reviews Microbiology on flagellum evolution was published on the NRM website as an Advanced Online Publication. Before the ink was even dry – heck, before the ink was even wet, the October issue hasn’t come out yet – Casey Luskin at the Discovery Institute is quote mining it! The mining occured in Luskin’s insta-response to the revised edition Chris Mooney‘s book The Republican War on Science. Check this out:

While intelligent design may be a persecuted minority viewpoint within the scientific community, it is nonetheless receiving increasing levels of scientific support and its proponents continue to publish their research in scientific publications which develop and extend the theory. Meanwhile, Darwinists feel compelled to respond to ID-claims in scientific journals, admitting that their own literature has lacked adequate responses to the ID arguments.[4]

[…]

[4] For a very recent example, see Mark J. Pallen and Nicholas J. Matzke, “From The Origin of Species to the origin of bacterial flagella,” Nature Reviews Microbiology, AOP, published online 5 September 2006; doi:10.1038/nrmicro1493 which writes, “the flagellar research community has scarcely begun to consider how these systems have evolved.”

As if once wasn’t enough, we actually get a two-fer, presumbably just in case the Discovery Institute’s readers missed it the first time around:

Moreover, if there is no scientific controversy, then why are Darwinists responding to the scientific claims of ID-proponents in leading scientific journals such as Science and Nature? One article recently published in Nature Review Microbiology [sic] acknowledges that “the flagellar research community has scarcely begun to consider how these systems have evolved.”[26]

[…]

[26] Mark J. Pallen and Nicholas J. Matzke, “From The Origin of Species to the origin of bacterial flagella,” Nature Reviews Microbiology, AOP, published online 5 September 2006; doi:10.1038/nrmicro1493.

Wow. Do we get some kind of prize? A plaque welcoming us to the illustrious “quote-mined by creationists” club? [1] I feel a little bit like I’ve joined the big leagues now. [2]

Whipping the Flagellum in the Quote-Mine

This particular variety of quote-mining, which basically argues something like “devastating and dismissive rebuttals of us actually means we are being taken seriously scientifically!”, has been increasingly popular with the ID creationists in the period following Kitzmiller (the DI does the same thing to Chris Adami just after citing the Pallen/Matzke article – maybe their secret plan is to swell my head so much that it pops). Superficially, it’s a no-lose strategy – if no one rebuts the ID nonsense, then they can propagate it with no interference, and if someone gets annoyed enough to publish a rebuttal, well then, there’s a controversy!

The Problem with “there is a scientific controversy!”

The only problem with this is that vicious one-sided pummeling in the scientific literature (well, in review essays at least – Pallen and Matzke 2006, Adami 2006, and Bottaro et al. 2006 were all essays commenting on how the research literature pertains to the social controversy around ID) does not a real scientific controversy make. In a fake scientific controversy, like the one about ID, the scientific community occasionally gets annoyed enough to write an essay commenting on how this or that piece of recent research just happens to destroy a claim that is common in the social controversy outside the scientific community. On the other hand, in a real scientific controversy, both sides produce original research data that indicates one hypothesis or another, and the two (or more) hypotheses are considered sufficiently well-supported that peer-reviewers recommend publication in the research literature. Despite the Discovery Institute list of “peer-reviewed” “articles” that Casey Luskin has been promoting to anyone who will listen – and which actually consists of ragbag of (1) non-reviewed book chapters, (2) “peer-edited” chapters and articles that are evidently supposed to impress us because “peer-edited” sounds kind of like “peer-reviewed” even though it actually means “DI fellows like William Dembski or Stephen Meyer liked the article”, (3) articles that don’t even mention “intelligent design”, and (4) one non-research review article that didn’t even review the relevant literature – they haven’t got anything like that. Judge Jones knew it, Chris Mooney knows it, and deep down the ID movement knows it, as Paul Nelson admitted in print and as Michael Behe admitted on the stand under oath last year.

The First Problem with “[scientists admit] that their own literature has lacked adequate responses to the ID arguments”

Okay, so we have established that kicking the ID movement while it’s down does not equal a scientific controversy. What about the DI’s claim that Pallen and Matzke 2006 shows that:

Darwinists feel compelled to respond to ID-claims in scientific journals, admitting that their own literature has lacked adequate responses to the ID arguments.[4]

[…]

[4] For a very recent example, see Mark J. Pallen and Nicholas J. Matzke, “From The Origin of Species to the origin of bacterial flagella,” Nature Reviews Microbiology, AOP, published online 5 September 2006; doi:10.1038/nrmicro1493 which writes, “the flagellar research community has scarcely begun to consider how these systems have evolved.”

There are several very sneaky things going on here. Now, we meant what we said: “the flagellar research community has scarcely begun to consider how these systems have evolved.” This is quite true, at least in print (I am aware of informal discussions amongst flagellar researchers on the question). Leaving out work not by flagellar/T3SS specialists, there are two major articles on the relationship between flagellar and non-flagellar Type 3 Secretion Systems (F-T3SS and NF-T3SS), some discussions of this work in other papers, many papers documenting the specific homologies of flagellum proteins, and finally Pallen et al.’s 2005 paper that contains a bioinformatics survey of flagellar components and some more extensive discussion of the evolution question. This is actually quite a lot of evolutionary work. But (at least until Pallen and Matzke 2006), no one in the flagellar research community had really sat down and published a survey of all of this relevant data – took a synoptic view of all of the known homologies, for instance – and boiled it down to a basic model for how the flagellum evolved.

But notice sneaky implication #1: the DI article suggests that “Darwinists” [3] have had no “adequate responses” at all to the flagellum argument. But this is not what we said. We said that the flagellar research community hadn’t done much synthetic work producing an evolutionary model. That doesn’t mean that no one had done such work. In fact, just to be clear on this point, we kicked off the article by citing Kenneth Miller’s testimony at the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial:

Kenneth Miller, who appeared as a witness for the plaintiffs, elaborated, in non-technical terms, some of the arguments against the notion that the flagellum is irreducibly complex (see Further information for links to trial material); he and others have also done so in print [1,2]. Crucially, Miller pointed out that the flagellum is modular, in that the T3SS that is responsible for flagellar protein export constitutes a functionally intact subsystem capable of performing a useful function (protein secretion) in the absence of the rest of the flagellar apparatus.

[…]

1. Musgrave, I. in Why Intelligent Design Fails: a Scientific Critique of the New Creationism (eds Young, M. & Edis, T.) 72–84 (Rutgers University Press, Piscataway USA, 2004).

2. Miller, K. R. in Debating Design: from Darwin to DNA (eds Dembski, W. & Ruse, M.) 81–97 (Cambridge University Press, New York, 2004). [Miller’s article, entitled “The Flagellum Unspun: The Collapse of Irreducible Complexity” is online at Miller’s website, along with another one.]

So, not only do we say that Miller successfully made crucial points, we also cite what we think are two very good book chapters (one by PT poster Ian Musgrave) where biologists elaborate the arguments and propose evolutionary models basically similar to ours. (And even if Kenneth Miller and Ian Musgrave didn’t exist, there are other responses to ID arguments that are more general, but still adequate. E.g., it is a valid argument to note that “Biologists don’t yet know everything about everything” does not support “IDdidit.”)

So, sneaky implication #1 about our quote goes down the drain. But if the existing arguments were adequate, why did we write the article? Well, knowing more about a question is always better. As we note just after the above passage,

However, there are additional arguments, which we elaborate below, in favour of viewing bacterial flagella as evolved – rather than designed – entities. (emphasis added)

In other words, Ken Miller’s testimony and the chapters by Miller and Musgrave are great, but there is even more evidence that makes the ID argument flagellum untenable.[4]

Obligatory Trial Detour

To give you a little background on why we saw this was important, ever since my 2003 Big Flagellum Essay (updated!) I have been gathering papers that document homology or inessentiality for flagellum proteins. Even before the trial started, I knew that the common ID talking point – that, apart from the Type 3 Secretion System, “the other 30 proteins are unique” – was just wrong (see my previous PT post on this point). When Scott Minnich wrote in his expert report, “the other thirty proteins in the flagellar motor (that are not present in the type III secretion system) are unique to the motor and are not found in any other living system”, I knew we had a potential scientific “gotcha” that would be scientifically devastating (at least I thought so). You can see this strategy explored somewhat in Minnich’s deposition, where we showed that Minnich didn’t have a clue about the homologies of the flagellum motor proteins, MotAB, to the nonflagellar proteins TolQR and ExbBD (pp. 180-185).

So, during the trial, I lobbied enthusiastically for trying to get this evidence into court somehow. The problem was that any review of homologies would require a lawyer (or Ken Miller) to read into the record passages from a dozen or more articles, and even if this onerous procedure was done, it wasn’t clear that a nonspecialist judge would “get it.” So – proving, by the way, that the plaintiffs had some very good lawyers – we never attempted this particular cross. In the end, Minnich did not the repeat the “30 unique proteins” statement during his direct testimony, and since the expert report is not typically introduced into evidence, there was no strong reason to rebut it. This was the only (very, very, very minor) regret I had in the case.

Readers can now see that while Ken Miller did get the basic points across in court (and they are admirably laid out in the Kitzmiller decision), there is a great deal more that science can say about the evolutionary origin of the flagellum. And that is what is done in the NRM article. Among the points we make:

1. There is no such thing as “the” bacterial flagellum. There are thousands, maybe millions, of variations on the bacterial flagellum. Some of these variations are minor, but others are substantial (I blogged another example recently):

Many new flagellar systems have been discovered through genome sequencing – a trend that is likely to increase with time. For example, over three hundred flagellin sequences were obtained in a single sequencing project that focused on samples from the Sargasso Sea. By even the most conservative estimate, there must therefore be thousands of different bacterial flagellar systems, perhaps even millions. Therefore, there is no point discussing the creation or ID of ‘the’ bacterial flagellum. Instead, one is faced with two options: either there were thousands or even millions of individual creation events, which strains Occam’s razor to breaking point, or one has to accept that all the highly diverse contemporary flagellar systems have evolved from a common ancestor.

2. Within this diversity, bacterial flagella show the same evidence of being subject to the same evolutionary mechanisms as other systems – for example, with vestigiality, internal duplications, duplications of the whole system, modification for different environments, etc.

3. The axial proteins (rod, hook, linker, filament) are all related to each other:

Beyond the common ancestor

Despite this diversity, it is clear that all (bacterial) flagella share a conserved core set of proteins. Of the forty or so proteins in the standard flagellum of S.typhimurium strain LT2 or E. coli K-12, only about half seem to be universally necessary (Table 1). This reduced flagellum is still a challenge to explain, but if one accepts that all current flagellar systems diverged from their last common ancestor (the ur-flagellum), why stop there? All flagellins show sequence similarity indicative of common ancestry (homology). But then all flagellins also share homology with another component of the flagellar filament, the hook-associated protein 3 (HAP3) or FlgL (as is evident from the application of InterProScan to FlgL from E. coli). Therefore, although the ur-flagellum contained flagellin and HAP3, these two proteins must have evolved from a common ancestor in a simpler system that contained only one flagellin-HAP3 homologue. Similarly, six proteins from the rod (FlgB, FlgC, FlgF and FlgG), hook (FlgE) and filament (HAP1/FlgK) show sequence similarities indicative of common ancestry. Therefore, the flagellar rod–hook–filament complex has clearly evolved by multiple rounds of gene duplication and subsequent diversification, starting from just two proteins (a proto-flagellin and a proto-rod/hook protein) that were capable of polymerization into an axial arrangement.

4. Only about half of the proteins of the “irreducibly complex” bacterial flagellum are universally required.

5. Most of the required proteins have known homologs to other proteins, in exquisite contradiction to numerous statements from leading ID advocates (See my previous PT post and the included Table 1).

6. The bacterial flagellum is not the only path to motility, and there are many potential “starting points”:

Although the evolution by random mutation and natural selection of something as complex as a contemporary bacterial flagellum might, in retrospect, seem highly improbable, it is important to appreciate that probabilities should be assessed by looking forward not back. For example, from studies on protein design it is clear that creating proteins from scratch that, like flagellin, self-assemble into filaments is not very difficult. Furthermore, it is clear that there are many other filamentous surface structures in bacteria that show no apparent evolutionary relationship to bacterial flagella. In other words, there are plenty of potential starting points for the evolution of a molecular propeller. Evolution of something like the flagellar filament is therefore far less surprising than it might at first seem. In fact, microorganisms have adopted other routes to motility besides the bacterial flagellum. Most strikingly, although archaeal flagella superficially resemble bacterial flagella, in that they too are rotary structures driven by a proton gradient, they are fundamentally distinct from their bacterial counterparts in terms of protein composition and assembly.

7. There are even some examples of potential “intermediate forms” in modern systems (the NF-T3SS filament EspA is used as an example).

One would think that, especially given #4 and #5, the only responsible thing for the Discovery Institute people to do at this point is to issue a correction and admit that many of their previous talking points about the flagellum – their favorite system – were badly wrong and were due to poor research. But no, what we’ve got instead is quote-mining of Pallen and Matzke 2006 – and, I should add, in the very same document the Discovery Institute continues to cite Meyer and Minnich’s 2003 conference proceedings article (which was the original source of the “30 unique proteins” mistake in Minnich’s expert report) as if it is authoritative.

The Second Problem with “[scientists admit] that their own literature has lacked adequate responses to the ID arguments”

Here comes sneaky implication #2: Even if it were true that we thought that “Darwinists” “lacked adequate responses” to arguments about the flagellum, this would not mean, as the DI article implies, that we thought that science lacked “lacked adequate responses” to “the ID arguments” in general. Research on the evolutionary origin of the flagellum has been starting up in the last few years, but the situation is much different for other biochemical systems. Famously, immune system research has been conducted with a clearly evolutionary, comparative framework for a hundred years, and was quite vigorous even in the 1970s. In the Annotated Immune System Evolution Bibliography, I laid out some of the reasons why, out of Behe’s various “irreducibly complex” systems, the Plaintiffs in Kitzmiller put extra emphasis immune system (although we did address blood-clotting and the flagellum also):

As it happens, there is probably more scientific literature directly on the evolution of the immune system than on the other three systems put together (we can chalk this up to (1) the long tradition of evolutionary and comparative studies in immunology; (2) the age of the discipline (going back to the 1800’s); and (3) the massive amount of medical research money available for studies of the immune system, for obvious reasons). So, while Behe makes various mistakes on the other systems, many also discussed at trial, he is most dramatically wrong about the immune system literature.

And better yet, stunning advances have been made in the last 10 years. Behe found this out to his chagrin at trial, and notably, three of us PT posters wrote an essay for Nature Immunology laying all of this out specifically to head off the Discovery Institute folks when they began trying to rehabilitate Behe’s trial performance. Now, the inevitable has just happened, and yet the DI has yet to even acknowledge the existence of the Nature Immunology article, let alone rebut it. Perhaps they are afraid that some of their readers will begin to realize that the ID movement’s confident claims are not all they cracked up to be. But until the ID advocates actually grapple seriously with the evolutionary immunology literature, they are not even attempting to be serious players in a “scientific debate.”

Our actual point

No quote-mine rebuttal is complete without putting the quote in context. There is really no way to stop between the mined quote and the end of the essay, so, without further ado, I quote the end of the article:

However, the flagellar research community has scarcely begun to consider how these systems have evolved. This neglect probably stems from a reluctance to engage in the ‘armchair speculation’ inherent in building evolutionary models, and from a desire to determine how a system works before wondering how it got to be that way. However, there are several good reasons for adopting an evolutionary approach to flagellar biology. Assignments of homology can provide insights into function, and can provide a framework for interpreting the sequence data in the post-genomic era. The abundance of these data indicates that current studies are looking at the ‘tip of an iceberg’. Recently, genome sequencing revealed that Desulfotalea psychrophila, a sulphate-reducing bacterium from permanently cold Arctic sediments, has the largest of all known flagellin genes, but without a ‘bigger-picture’ view of flagellar biology, we have no idea why. Furthermore, an evolutionary comparative approach fits in perfectly with the current zeitgeist, with its emphasis on evolutionary systems biology.

Notwithstanding the good scientific reasons for new forays in this direction, the lack of a scientific literature on flagellar evolution also has another undesirable consequence – it leaves open the suspicion among members of the public that maybe there is some mystery here, that maybe the ID proponents do have a point. Although all experts in this field agree that there is nothing to these claims, as Wilkins has recently pointed out, in these politically charged times, it is no longer enough to say, for example, that bacterial flagella evolved and that is that. Instead, scientific experts have to engage with a sceptical public.

Scott Minnich speculated in his testimony that studies on flagellar evolution need not be restricted to sequence analysis or theoretical models, but that instead this topic could become the subject of laboratory-based experimental studies. But obviously, one cannot model millions of years of evolution in a few weeks or months. So how might such studies be conducted? One option might be to look back in time. It is feasible to use phylogenetic analyses to reconstruct plausible ancestral sequences of modern-day proteins, and then synthesize and investigate these ancestral proteins. Proof of principle for this approach has already been demonstrated on several NF proteins. Similar studies could recreate plausible ancestors for various flagellar components (for example, the common ancestor of flagellins and HAP3 proteins). These proteins could then be reproduced in the laboratory in order to examine their properties (for example, how well they self-assemble into filaments and what those filaments look like). An alternative, more radical, option would be to model flagellar evolution prospectively, for example, by creating random or minimally constrained libraries and then iteratively selecting proteins that assemble into ever more sophisticated artificial analogues of the flagellar filament. Another experimental option might be to investigate the environmental conditions that favour or disfavour bacterial motility. The fundamental physics involved (diffusion due to Brownian motion) is mathematically tractable, and has already been used to predict, for example, that powered motility is useless in very small bacteria.

The final word

Like Darwin, we have found that careful attention to homology, analogy and diversity yields substantial insights into the origin of even the most complex systems. We close with a quotation from the closing chapter of The Origin of Species that applies as well to a bacterial flagellum as to any other evolved entity:

“When we no longer look at an organic being as a savage looks at a ship, as something wholly beyond his comprehension; when we regard every production of nature as one which has had a long history; when we contemplate every complex structure and instinct as the summing up of many contrivances, each useful to the possessor, in the same way as any great mechanical invention is the summing up of the labour, the experience, the reason, and even the blunders of numerous workmen; when we thus view each organic being, how far more interesting – I speak from experience – does the study of natural history become!”

Just to head off another quote-mine, we did debate whether that last Darwin quote gave an opening to the ID guys (They are terribly bad at analogies. “A ship is designed!” Sigh.). But on balance it seems pretty clear what Darwin is getting at, and most people can tell an analogy when they see one. So the more people that see it, the better.

In Conclusion

That about covers the basic points that need to be made. Once again, we have seen the truth of the dictum that it takes pages to rebut a claim that a creationist can fire off in a sentence or two. But I think that in doing so, we may have an interesting result: assuming the print version of the article comes out on October 1, due to Advanced Online Publication, we have a creationist quote-mining the article at T-minus-16-days, and we have the response of the outraged (co)author at T-minus-14. That’s gotta be some kind of record.

Notes

Note: citations omitted from quotes of the NRM essay.

[1] (Founding members: C. Darwin, T. Huxley. Past president: S.J. Gould. Current co-presidents: C. Woese, S. Conway Morris.)

[2] (A very tiny little bit. I am fully aware that I am an ant among giants.)

[3] “Darwinists”, by which the folks at the Discovery Institute mean “nasty atheist-materialists”, but with which they label anyone who accepts modern evolutionary theory, plus judges who rule against them.

[4] I hesitate to say that ID is “disproved”, since that implies that ID is testable. To head off the common half-baked catcall of “You say is both falsified and unfalsifiable, you are contradicting yourself!” I will spell it out: creationist objections to evolution are testable, because evolution is testable – and the data has shown that the creationist/ID objections have no merit, as was elaborately evidenced during the Kitzmiller trial. However, the ID movement’s “positive” arguments for design are untestable, basically because ID advocates invoke an unconstrained supernatural power to explain everything they don’t understand. This is all quite clearly spelled out in black-and-white in the Kitzmiller decision, but the ID guys still have trouble getting it.

3 TrackBacks

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469 Comments

Great stuff, Nick!

I’m honored to be able to comment on yet another creationist quote-mining scandal a full two weeks before the quoted material even becomes official!

CHEERS, Dave

Dave Thomas’s response shows a lack of imagination. With a bit of effort he could have quote mined the Casey Luskin article, hence being the first person to quote mine a quote mine of unofficial, not yet published material :-)

Oh, and nice work Monsieur Matzke

Keep calm there, will you. A passerby might get an impression there’s a terrorist attack.

“This page … of … falsehood … could … not be further from the truth.” –Casey Luskin

(mined from http://www.caseyluskin.com/id.htm)

It is really kinda fun…

I saw this coming as soon as I read your original post about the article. In a sense you invited it by the parts of your article which allude to the importance of flagella structure in ID arguments - in recognizing their arguments, you give them validity. Now they can say, “Look, serious scientists are arguing with us in serious science journals; serious scientists argue with one another all the time; therefore, what we’re doing must be serious science!” That may not mean much to real scientists since we know there’s good science and bad science, but it does provide more kindling for the cultural ID fire.

An honest question perhaps you have asked yourself: do you think it would have been better to present the research without alluding to ID at all?

[ A passerby might get an impression there’s a terrorist attack.]

Seems pretty clear to me who the terrorist(s) are.…

*snicker*

Philip Bruce Heywood tacitly agrees that the IDers have been naughty, but apparently feels that calling them to account is overblown. For shame that we call liars liars! I don’t know what got into us.

TLTB is correct in a way. Specifically mentioning ID in the paper almost begs for a response and what are the odds it would deal fairly with the factual claims made in the paper? However, the converse is not true. Even if ID were not mentioned specifically, a distorted response would still probably have been forthcoming. Notice that nowhwere in the actual quote is there any mention of ID. If they can claim that papers that never mention ID support their cause, they are certainly of this type of nonsense, whether or not they are provoked.

Great stuff, Nick!

I’m honored to be able to comment on yet another creationist quote-mining scandal a full two weeks before the quoted material even becomes official!

CHEERS, Dave

Thanks Dave. You might have noticed that I was channeling your “style” a bit.

Is it just coincidential or is WD’s newest post Are wiki-textbooks going to make room for ID? at UD the begin of a new strategy? It starts

Who needs paper?

his is just quoted from a Nature News article. On the other hand this is one of rare the momments of truth at UD. Finally they do not need papers because everything has already been put down in a thick old book 2000 years ago. Or are they quote mining that one too.

Quote mining may be considered foreplay leading to outright pubjacking. The long history of quote mining without proceeding to the next step of pubjacking suggests either a lack of drive, or a misunderstanding of the process. As referenced in the post, notice the many bumbling attempts, false starts, and out right errors in quote mining technique throughout its history. But like all maturing adolescents they have grown in experience with time becoming more adept in their skills relying on the responses of others for feedback. This has finally resulted in the discovery of pubjacking. They have continued to expand their repertoire of quote mining techniques and share the most effective among themselves. The use of current technology to spread their techniques is sign of sophistication that belies the underlying lack of understanding.

Their preferences for long dead authors in many cases is somewhat disturbing and switching to living authors is to be acknowledged as a positive sign of their maturation as is the increased ability to manipulate text to produce responses from others. A major drawback is the inability to create universal positive responses from others. Only a limited group respond positively to their techniques. This group may possess common quantifiable characteristics that would allow further research.

It is unfortunate Nick has become an unwilling partner in their maturation process in this manner. By participating in their growth and maturation through quote mine feedback Nick may have some influence on their future development.

Bruce Thompson Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

“Keep calm there, will you. A passerby might get an impression there’s a terrorist attack.”

Actually, this is exactly what it is. Its not true that there has not been terrorist attacks on our our way of life since 9/11. What Nick is referring to is nothing more than terrorism, if you define terrorism as an attack on a social system using minimal resources with the goal in mind to undermine the system. In this case, the IEDs that are being used exploit the general lack of understanding of the public are dishonesty and subtrefuge.

An honorable battle would take place where all science does battle, and that is the time-honored battlefield of professionable peer reviewed scientific literature. A terrorist’s approach, however, is to avoid the open battlefield and instead terrorize the civilian population capriciously so as to create the maximum psychological damage with the least amount of resources.

To use another analogy, instead of participating in the great court of scientific inquiry, the ID proponents are outside in the parking lot and handing out leaflets. Quote mining is the equivalent of terrorizing the courthouse by calling in a bomb scare.

The amazing thing is that the main goal of this terrorism is to tear down a system that has raised the standards of living for billions of people in the matter of only a few hundred years.

Soldiers fight soldiers. Terrorists target civilians.

Have you no decency, Casey Luskin?

My first thought after reading the mined quote was “Scientists haven’t bothered rebutting ID because they felt ID was an utterly worthless concept not worth the bother of responses, but having now now realized the havoc it may wreck upon education and society, are beginning to respond to the lies and distortions promulgated by the IDists.”

Has anyone yet determined whether Luskin is a congenital ignoramus or is a habitual bald-faced liar? He certainly doesn’t seem to think his readers are very smart.

Many new flagellar systems have been discovered through genome sequencing — a trend that is likely to increase with time. For example, over three hundred flagellin sequences were obtained in a single sequencing project that focused on samples from the Sargasso Sea. By even the most conservative estimate, there must therefore be thousands of different bacterial flagellar systems, perhaps even millions.

I think an enormous stumbling block for public appreciation of evolution is their unawareness of the extent of biodiversity. Hence, their talk of “kinds” and failure to distinguish the innumerable variations on themes.

An honest question perhaps you have asked yourself: do you think it would have been better to present the research without alluding to ID at all?

Eh, well, the piece was conceived as a “Science and Society” piece, explicitly commenting on both the Kitzmiller case and the science.

I know that sometimes quote-mines can be predicted and sometimes avoided, but I am becoming less and less convinced scientists should worry about this (and they mostly don’t anyway, because they are concerned about making points with their peers, not with random outsiders who are basically speaking a different language anyway, and who consider proof-texting a legitimate argument). Why should people have to self-censor their work just to head off misrepresentations by a fringe group of pseudoscientists, who would probably find something to mine and distort anyway?

(Scientists should of course avoid overblown rhetoric and exagerration in their papers, and they shouldn’t pontificate authoritatively on matters outside their own studies – both of these are the source of some quote mines.)

(I do think scientists should respond when the quote-mining becomes sufficiently annoying, and explain what they actually said and how the antievolutionists are getting it wrong.)

We’ve found the WMDs! The DI has the Weapons of Mass Disinformation!

I think terrorism comparisons are overwrought (although the analogy of asymmetry is quite useful in understanding ID tactics).

However, I am now all in favor of the new term pubjacking, now that I have figured out that it means “publication hijacking” and not “Stealing a nice pub and carrying it off for the sole use of you and your buddies.”

(However, the latter does bear a suspicious resemblance to a rumor I once heard about the origin of the Panda’s Thumb pub, the structure at the core of the University of Ediacara.)

Sparc wrote: Are wiki-textbooks going to make room for ID?

No! Because Wiki-books are not going to be subject to the same economic pressures that paper textbooks are under today.

Paper publishers have to kiss ass with the bible belt states because they’re a huge market. If Texas or Ohio blacklists your book, there goes sales for 200,000 copies.

That economic pressure simply doesn’t exist in the Wiki-world.

So Alabama doesn’t use your book. Big deal.

Yeah, there will always be political pressure for some districts to use a dumbed-down bioligy book, and California will still require a positive picture of an individual from every single minority group - in a wheelchair - playing sports.

So what? Somewhere in America, right now, there’s a christian school teaching biology out of Pandas and People - you can’t win them all, but at least if the reality-based districts have access to reality-based books we can take some stupidity out of the process.

However, I am now all in favor of the new term pubjacking, now that I have figured out that it means “publication hijacking” and not “Stealing a nice pub and carrying it off for the sole use of you and your buddies.”

The double-entendre seems appropriate. The latest practice of appropriating publications that have no relation to ID but contain the word design or program deserves attention. Making fun of the practice is one way of discouraging intelligent design theorists of distorting legitimate research and claiming it supports their position. While some may find it mildly offensive it’s just a way of pointing out that real research is much more satisfying than trying to twist others work to support your position.

Bruce Thompson Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Congratulations Nick.

There is quite a field of quote nuggets that Casey has plumbed.

Actually his first was by Michael Walker, which was debunked by John Stear when it was used by arch-creationists at Answers in Genesis. This same quote is also popular with ur-creationist Jack Chick. Interesting isn’t it that the IDistas true colors are now out in public- they have little left to lose pretending they aren’t garden variety creationists.

Then there is the notorious Dr. Philip S Skell, who, from the same article mined by Casey, wrote from his background as a chemist that there are no “… credible ancestors to the Cambrian animals.” (“Why Do We Invoke Darwin?: Evolutionary theory contributes little to experimental biology” The Scientist 2005, 19(16):10)

I suggest that the whole list of quotes be carefully examined. For ex. I just emailed Jerry Coyne for a “reprint”/PDF of his book review quoted by Casey.

A further example is the quote Luskin recycled from Dembski by Franklin M. Harold, The Way of the Cell: Molecules, Organisms and the Order of Life, (pg. 205, New York: Oxford University Press 2001) is technically correct, but out of context.

Nick,

How can you possibly be against ID when you yourself stated in your article, and I quote:

Kenneth Miller, who appeared … for the plaintiffs, elaborated .….. the notion that that the flagellum is irreducibly complex

Seriously, you have to be careful what you write - perhaps it would be best to avoid words altogether.

It’s typical. If you don’t respond, they say “what are you afraid of? Why not just publish the evidence for your ‘theory’.” Then you tire of the whiny know-nothings and comply with their demands, and they say, “Thank you for answering as we desired.” Just kidding, they do the only thing they know how to do, carp, complain, and spin the fact that someone finally had to respond to their IDiocy with this: “Meanwhile, Darwinists feel compelled to respond to ID-claims in scientific journals, admitting that their own literature has lacked adequate responses to the ID arguments.”

Really, isn’t the entire DI just about on the level of DaveScot, that is, essentially using middle school tactics to always make the other person out to be wrong no matter what? Sure, a few might be a little better than the rest, but those people don’t stop Luskin from putting out the most transparent and contradictory rubbish, either whining that they’re not answered, or trying to make up something out of the fact that they are answered.

Attack is all they know. Simply following the rules wouldn’t even occur to them, or, of course, they’d actually be doing some research.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

There seems to be another trend in the Idiot response to being exposed as frauds. For years they have been cluttering up the public perception of evolution with fraudulent claims and other scams. Now that Dover has take place, and scientists are trying to repair the damage created by these jerks, they are starting to claim that exposing their fraud gives legitimacy to their arguments.

It’s almost like a crook being caught red-handed by the police and then arguing to the judge that his being caught made his crime legal.

Are these IDiots that stupid, or just that devious?

Seriously, you have to be careful what you write - perhaps it would be best to avoid words altogether.

I once saw an interview with Richard Dawkins. The interviewer asked some innane question about ID and Dawkins sat there silently trying to sort out how you answer such complete drivel. Of course, in the final edit, there’s a voiceover asking “tick, tick, tick why doesn’t he answer, what’s he afraid of?

I noticed that Nelson claims he has been “lecturing in Sweden” ( http://www.idthefuture.com/2005/10/[…]_book_1.html ). But his own link ( http://www.dagen.se/dagen/Article.aspx?ID=96576 ) doesn’t support that claim.

‘Dagen’ (“The day”) is a paper produced by a publisher jointly owned by some nonconformist churches. That could explain why they present Nelson as ‘a researcher in evolution biology’ (“forskare i evolutionsbiologi”) - or perhaps Nelson forgot to point out that he is a “philosopher of biology, , specializing in evo-devo and developmental biology”.

‘There was big activity at The Swedish Museum of Natural History at the beginning of the week. The phones were ringing and everyone asked where they could register to the seminary by Paul Nelson, a researcher in evolution biology, on Intelligent Design. … The information from radio was erroneous, and there was no seminar by Paul Nelson to register with. Therefore the arousal at Natural History become large among the personal when Paul Nelson really was at the museum, though not to hold a seminar, but to give interviews to swedish journalists.’

(“Det blev stor aktivitet pÃ¥ Naturhistoriska riksmuséet i början pÃ¥ veckan. Telefonerna gick varma och alla frÃ¥gade om de kunde anmäla sig till seminariet med Paul Nelson, forskare i evolutionsbiologi, om Intelligent design. … Uppgifterna i radion var felaktig, och sÃ¥ledes fanns det inget seminarium med Paul Nelson att anmäla sig till. Därför blir uppstÃ¥ndelsen pÃ¥ Naturhistoriska stor bland personalen dÃ¥ Paul Nelson verkligen finns pÃ¥ museet, dock inte för att hÃ¥lla föredrag, utan för att ge intervjuer till svenska journalister.”)

“Dagen” cites Nelson on ‘wishing that we continued to have a dialog at our universities’(“önskat att vi fortsatt att föra en dialog pÃ¥ vÃ¥ra universitet”).

But also say that ‘The critics claim that this isn’t science, but a smart way of packaging old theology to circumvent the law from 1987.’ (“Kritikerna hävdar att detta inte är en vetenskap, utan ett smart sätt att förpacka om gammeldags teologi för att kringgÃ¥ lagen frÃ¥n 1987.”)

I haven’t listened to recordings from the radio show. If people here are curious about ID I hope it is of the freak show curiosity type. There isn’t any public creationism discussion that I’m aware of, which is hopefully a good sign. If creationists really succeeded in managing a lecture, I also hope some from the knowledgebased culture would comment on the politics and the misinformation in the papers.

Uups! “way of packaging” - way of repackaging (“sätt att förpacka om”).

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Excellent post. I have just a comment on this:

Instead, one is faced with two options: either there were thousands or even millions of individual creation events, which strains Occam’s razor to breaking point, or one has to accept that all the highly diverse contemporary flagellar systems have evolved from a common ancestor.

If one option is “evolved from a common ancestor” then “thousands or even millions of individual creation events” is really two formal alternatives. Actually, if one counts the imagined alternative timelines (YEC, “man-as-old-as-coal,” Last Thursdayism), it’s many formal alternatives, but for simplicity, let’s ignore timing and reduce it to the “big two.” (1) Michael Behe seems to think that the “creation” occurred “in vivo,” which preserves common descent if not “macroevolution.” (2) Paul Nelson seems to think that the “creation” occurred “in vitro,” IOW separate abiogenesis events for some unidentified “kinds.”

Of course IDers rarely make that clear be cause that would call attention to internal differences that are even more profound than the one they collectively have (or more likely “pretend to have”) with mainstream evolution. Yet, ironically internal debating is the least they can do to back up their claim that ID is scientific. But there’s a method to their madness: they know that, as long as one uses some scientific jargon and quote mines scientists, their target audience will think it’s scientific. And when that too fails, they fall back on the trusty old “‘Darwinism’ is a religion” line. There too, as a scam, ID can’t lose.

Re Stevaroni’s comment.

This article suggests Dawkins was not thrown by the stupidity of a question, rather he was debating whether to throw the interviewers out of his house or remain polite. You could say he was video-mined.

PS may I add my thanks to Nick Matzke for a great article.

I must admit twas a crafty rhetorical trick by a bold dittohead.

As if atheists and other mindless evolutionists don’t quote mine Christians.

Richard Dawkins latest spiel, comoing soon to the LIED Center at KU, will be a CLASSIC of the genre, I assure you.

Want me to help you in your attack on Intelligent Design, the “not-so intelligent movement?”

absolutely.

…and here’s the best way for you to contribute:

support ID over on UD, with the same argument style you use here.

I can’t think of any better way for you to contribute than just being youself.

you’re simply posting in the wrong blog - go over to Uncommonly Dense and post there.

What is the meaning of pneuma? This word “primarily denotes ‘the wind’ (akin to pneo, ‘to breathe, blow’); also ‘breath’; then, especially ‘the spirit,’ which, like the wind, is invisible, immaterial and powerful” (ibid., p. 593). It is used 385 times in the King James Version and is usually translated “Spirit” or “spirit.” http://www.gnmagazine.org/issues/gn[…]eratwork.htm

For the Aeolists, in the beginning there was the wind; everything, corporeal and immaterial, originated from it and resolved into it. http://enculturation.gmu.edu/1_1/dipiazza.html

http://history.hanover.edu/texts/pr[…]pythagor.htm

First causes are immaterial. YES! :). And the Greeks agree.

http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl[…]n_jadms.html

Just for the record here Gould, this letter is quite honestly the biggest sham I have ever seen. Jefferson’s bald assertion is simply silly and ridiculous here (and really beside the point, these are just politicians here, not Theologians).

Well, I see your “religious neutrality” is obviously shining through here.

Well, I see your “religious neutrality” is obviously shining through here. Aren’t my 1st amendment rights being violated here?

absolutely.…and here’s the best way for you to contribute:

support ID over on UD, with the same argument style you use here. On Dumbski’s Blog? I’ll pass on that one.

I can’t think of any better way for you to contribute than just being youself. Oh you guys really do love me :).

you’re simply posting in the wrong blog - go over to Uncommonly Dense and post there. No thanks, though I do like that…Uncommonly Dense, I’ll have to share that with the guys over at AIG sometime :).

I meant..”on Gould” not Gould.…just in case you might think I was talking to some dead person there.

But I would like to share:

Goodnight, poor hahvahd hahvahd, goodnight Oh, we’ve got your number You’re high as a kite Oh, goodnight, poor hahvahd You’re tucked in tight When the big blue Team gets after you hahvahd, goodnight!

An old traditional classic from us Yale Bulldogs there :).

Sorry if I’m…”making you look bad” here. By all means, we can measure God too.

I appreciate your concern, but it’s OK, Doc, you go ahead and fire away at my reputation. I’ll be OK.

But back to the central theme;

Measure God, you say. I’m intrigued. Praytell, let me know how to do that. I have all kinds of meters, rulers, even a transit. Where do I go?

Look how many people accept God’s existence around the world. That is about as easily detectable as the wind itself, wouldn’t you say?

Yup. And as late as 1800, nearly every single human being on earth though it was flat, heavier than air flight was impossible, and starting a land war in eastern Europe in the fall was a good idea.

They were wrong.

Stacks and stacks of people can stand in line and swear that the sun goes around the earth, and they would still be wrong. In fact, they did, and they were.

To this day, there are large numbers of Frenchmen who think Jerry Lewis was funny. They too are wrong, but seeing as that statement is an opinion, not a fact, we will respect that.

If you want to believe. there is a God, hey - good for you. Go ahead, and science will not bother you.

But if you want to use the public schools to teach that evolution is bunk and the God of Abraham whipped us up one Saturday evening out of mud and spare-ribs, I expect you to be able to show me some proof.

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Stacks and stacks of people can stand in line and swear that the sun goes around the earth, and they would still be wrong. In fact, they did, and they were.

…and they are.

depending on which poll data you gander at, as much as 20% of americans think that the sun revolves around the earth.

that’s up from 11% only about 18 years ago.

go figure.

There’s not much to respond to on this last post. The first few examples were all false analogies that had nothing at all to do with a transcendant and infinite God. The Catholic Pope issue was based around politics, which are not what Orthodox Protestant Christians truly care about in the first place. That doesn’t concern us at all.

The opinion thing, heck, don’t care about Jerry Lewis, but he’s open to that opinion.

The evidence issue, heck, I have provided so much evidence here its ridiculous. I have asked you for evidence, and you have provided none for your side. Granted, I think this warrants more than just a little speech from you. At least consider the evidence I provide as legitimate and as fairly as you would Evolution’s evidence.

As far as Science, heck no, Creation Science is not opposed to God at all. Science will not stop me from believing in God, and I’m thankful for that.

And I’m also glad that you seem to also believe that Evolution will not stop me from believing in God either. Granted, I am appreciative of at least that respect :).

As far as the school systems, I have made my position known on that. Its not about winning the polls, or getting it in schools at all. Its about winning souls for Christ, and establishing the truth on the evidence within Science and providing it with integrity and honesty. Thats all, at least from the Editor’s perspective, I care about at all. So I will be praying for each of you, and I hope you do consider my evidence for God’s existence and for the Bible and Christ. God bless each and all of you.

Now lets go pummel those ID idiots :). I’ve got a few bones to pick with them if you can’t tell from my Wells bashing.

I really question that poll (and hope that its wayyyy off there) :).

I really question that poll (and hope that its wayyyy off there) :).

well, you can search gallup polls yourself.

the numbers are dead on.

up from 18% in 1999.

why do you find this so unusual, i wonder?

these folks observe the sun rising and setting, and make the natural conclusion that the sun spins around a stationary earth.

Isn’t that how you make your observations to support your rejection of evolutionary theory?

it’s just a gut reaction; you have no evidence to suggest otherwise, and no alternative that fits the data any better, so how is your rejection of the ToE any different than these folks rejection of heliocentric theory?

yes, your position really is just the same. The fact you are unable to see this for yourself says volumes about your mental state (er, along with the endless stream of consciousness posts you make).

Well I’ve clearly demonstrated the differences. I’ve documented evidences. I’ve even gotten several debaters into corners they were not able to get out of. So at this point, I really have nothing more to say. I have successfully defended the side of Creation Science, and at this point, you are just providing false analogies against the position, as such, creating positions of ad hominems, and I’m through with the debate. This has come to a dead end, and a really dreary end at that. Our position is significantly different from the analogy you present, whether you wish to believe this or not, and once again, I have clearly demonstrated this. Ignorance is no excuse. Its that one itty bitty piece of evidence that we have, that the sun worshippers do not. You know what that is? Its the Bible! The most historically significant, Scientifically significant, etc. significant piece of literature, as well as the only book that has successfully been able to keep all of its divine prophecies, and proven them true at that. The only religious book that encourages people to actually worship God, and where God seeks us out, instead of us seeking him out. It has all of the answers. If this so frustrates you, I can only deduce that it is the Holy Spirit making you realize follies that you may want to address. This has just moved into a state of redundancy, and should be closed with this final statement. Once again, I have provided tons of evidential support for my position, while asking you for just one shred of evidence from your side, and you have failed to provide me ANY at all, while instead just providing me with accusatory and flaming statements, no need to give them attention at all. Thanks for not answering a single one of my questions. It has provided quite useless use of my time. The only thing I can say is I hope I at least reached out to one person on this site so that they may consider Christ as their Lord and Savior. Faith is not blind, when its based on evidence. Christianity is based on a solid foundation of evidence. If you do not believe me, by all means, check out the 20 sites or so I have provided on your forum here.

So at this point, I really have nothing more to say

???

PRAISE BE!

you have everybody here’s permission to depart with all due speed.

I rather suspect you are lying, however, and won’t actually depart until you get back on your meds.

Oh, I’m going to post on Panda’s Thumb, just not on this thread. I’ve moved onto the Wells site thread. You can find me there if you so desire (though I’m sure we’ll both agree on that issue).

“Doc” Martin sed:

“No eye has ever seen, no ear has heard.”

Didn’t Moses see his backside?

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on September 17, 2006 9:51 PM.

Macroevolution FAQ updated was the previous entry in this blog.

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