Casey Luskin and the Inappropriate Scare Quotes


PZ has done a splendid job of disemboweling Casey Luskin’s silly screed about my op-ed from yesterday’s Albuquerque Tribune.

Speaking of me, Luskin complains

He says that the “creationists” are getting “sneakier,”…

But, readers of the Thumb already know this is exactly what’s happening. This is a totally inappropriate use of scare quotes, and I’m calling Luskin on it.

As I discussed in “Cheshire Cat” Creationism in New Mexico, the very “science-y”-looking website for the “New Mexico Science Foundation” is simply a front for the young-earth creationists at the Creation Science Fellowship of New Mexico (CSFNM).

To see why Luskin’s scare quotes are silly, just take these steps: (1) Browse the science-y-looking “New Mexico Science Foundation” website.

(2) Copy the domain name,, into any convenient WHOIS utility. See that the registrant is Mark Burton, with e-mail address

(3) Do a Google Search for “Mark Burton” NM, and follow the links to Burton’s Christian home-schooling website, his involvement in the creationist debate with NMSR, or his long-standing association with the Creation Science Fellowship of NM.

(4) If your name is Casey Luskin, go look up the definition of Q.E.D.

By the way, Luskin made no mention of my favorite point in the op-ed:

Look out for complaints that simply teaching the scientific method - testing real-world (natural) explanations - somehow denies even the possibility of a guiding intelligence above it all. Science is not “atheism” just because it cannot invoke supernatural causality.

Only a few days left in the Legislative Session. So far, so good.


Dave, I edited your post to center the image because it wasn’t showing up correctly on the main page.

As further evidence that NM Science Foundation is deceptive go to their links page. It’s a case study in ID-creationist ideological camouflage.

As of 3/13/6 there were 9 links.

The first and most prominent link was to the National Science Foundation’s website. I can’t help but conjecture as to whether this is an intentional and dishonest attempt to implicitly attribute some type of type of association between it and the New Mexico Science Foundation. Does Mark Burton want to viewer to believe that the NM Science Foundation is the state organization of the National Science Foundation? Given the close similarity of the names of the two organization’s a responsible and honest Mark Burton would have explicitly stated that no relationship exists despite the similarity of the names of the two organizations. Furthermore the NSF holds a position that ID is not science.

The second link is to the National Science Teachers Association. Again, the NSTA holds a position that ID is not science and takes an active role in keeping ID/creationism out of the science classroom.

Next, comes the Institute for Systems Biology link. The ISB is a research laboratory whose work has zero to do with ID. Then STEM, a legitimate New Mexico science education organization associated with the University of New Mexico that does not promote the teaching of ID.

Only at the bottom are the links to creationists websites included in a less prominent location at the bottom of the links page. A classic case of bate and switch.

The inclusion of the above links as the first and most prominent furthers the case that NMSF (not associated with the NSF) is merely attempting to appear like a legitimate science education organization by implicitly associating itself with legitimate organizations, the most prominent of which are actually in opposition to the purpose of the NMSF and Mark Burton’s creationist ideology!

This is clearly yet another dishonest tactic to obtain a thin veneer of legitimacy within science in order to attack science. I constantly ask myself, why the need on the part of ID-creationists for such subterfuge? Mainstream science is upfront about its tenets, but in stark contrast, ID-creationists continually play this sneaky game of ideological camouflage.

Of course, the response to all accusations of ideological camouflage will be answered by Mark Burton along the lines of Marion Anthony “Fat Tony” D’Amico of the Simpson’s.

Fat Tony: Chief Wiggum! You honor us with your presence. Chief Wiggum: Baloney! I’m not going to rest until one of us is behind bars. You! You wouldn’t happen to know anything about a cigarette truck that got hijacked on Route 401? Fat Tony: What’s a truck? Chief Wiggum: Don’t play dumb with me!

attotheobscure Wrote:

bate and switch.

Of course; creos are masters at this.

I’m a graduate of New Mexico Tech, and I’m proud to call myself a New Mexican when I see the splendid work you are doing to keep the likes of Burton and his IDiot cheerleader Casey away from the schoolhouse doors.

Thanks and Cheers!

What’s so inappropriate about Luskin using scare quotes? I mean, he’s obviously scared by facts, scared out of whatever wits he may have, at one time, possessed, or he wouldn’t do so bad a job at his job. I’m just surprised he doesn’t have scare quotes around every word, and a few more dotting the margins here and there.

scare quotes are simply Casey-struck-out’s “tell”.

IOW, they identify terms he is either misusing, doesn’t understand, or has entirely made up.

the more scare quotes, the more content is being made up or misused on the fly.

go ahead, read some of his drivel and tell me I’m wrong.

the less he knows about something, the more scare quotes he uses.

Unfortunately for Dave Thomas, he has here shown his ignorance of what scare quotes are. Luskin did not use scare quotes, let alone use them inappropriately. He used a real quote. He quoted the word “sneakier” right out of the op-ed he was criticizing.

One uses scare quotes when quotation marks are inserted for a purpose other than quoting someone. Luskin was actually quoting somebody, namely Thomas.

Let’s hope Thomas studies evolutionary biology more carefully than he does English.

Well, Paul, let’s see what Luskin wrote (the original, the article to which I was responding, and not the 3rd revision now posted):

He says that the “creationists” are getting “sneakier,” but in reality it’s the Darwinists who are getting more desperate …

Now, what are so-called “Scare quotes”? Here is Google’s #1 definition:

Scare Quotes The use of quotation marks can be extended to cases which are not exactly direct quotations. … Scare quotes are quotation marks placed around a word or phrase from which you, the writer, wish to distance yourself because you consider that word or phrase to be odd or inappropriate for some reason. Possibly you regard it as too colloquial for formal writing; possibly you think it’s unfamiliar or mysterious; possibly you consider it to be inaccurate or misleading; possibly you believe it’s just plain wrong. Quite often scare quotes are used to express irony or sarcasm …

Paul Bluebell, yours is the most pathetic “rebuttal” I have ever seen. Of course Luskin was using Scare Quotes! But, I see you are just parroting what Luskin has written in his 3rd (?) revision of his post:

** Thomas has replied calling my direct quotation of him here the equivalent of using scare quotes. That’s a weak response because I’m simply quoting his own words. In the English language, quotation marks are used when you’re quoting someone. That’s why I used quotation marks around those words because I’m quoting his words and I intended to show that. It’s not complicated.)

Like I said, pathetic.

Did he put you up to it? Or are you just trying to get enough credits to join the Discovery Institute’s Academy for Wayward Sycophants? Or is your real name “Casey Luskin”?


Since Luskin has responded

Thomas also objects to usage of the word “Darwinists” even though the term is commonly used by, well, Darwinists, when talking about themselves.

I might as well direct folks to an article on this topic by Wes Elsberry and myself,

“Dogmatic Darwinists” - An Instance of the Misleading Rhetoric of the Anti-Evolutionists


Since it looks like Bluebell and Luskin are totally clueless re “Scare Quotes,” I thought I’d make it ultra-simple.

Luskin says

I’m simply quoting his own words…

Here is an actual sentence composed of my own words, from the Trib op-ed:

Creationists aren’t going away. They’re just getting sneakier.

Now here is what Luskin wrote:

He says that the “creationists” are getting “sneakier,”…

So it’s plain that Luskin did not quote me directly, but used Scare Quotes instead.

Even if Luskin had quoted that sentence verbatim, it wouldn’t change my conclusion: that ID is creationism, and that it’s getting sneakier.


When a creationist quotes something less than a full paragraph, it is likely some form of deception. If it is more, it’s still not uncommon. If they “quote a few words” and then “quote a few more”, it is a near certainty.

In Creabonics, an ellipsis means “lies follow”.

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This page contains a single entry by Dave Thomas published on March 14, 2007 12:02 PM.

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