Vertebrate Paleontologists Punked by Creationist Filmmakers

| 132 Comments

Kevin Padian, of the Department of Integrative Biology & Museum of Paleontology at University of California, Berkeley, recently dashed off a letter to colleagues titled “STARS OF V.P. PUNKED BY CREATIONIST FILMMAKERS.”

[VP is “Vertebrate Paleontology.”] What’s the beef? Padian wrote the following on Nov. 18th:

STARS OF V.P. PUNKED BY CREATIONIST FILMMAKERS

Got your attention? Good. Here’s a recent video called “Evolution, the Grand Experiment,” that dozens of VPers helped to make, innocent of the fact that the smooth-talking and obviously intelligent filmmakers were young-earth creationists. As the publicity says, it was “filmed over 12 years on three continents and seven countries,” and you can get it for twenty bucks on Amazon. It’s being widely shown on cable TV. And it’s being used in testimony for a current trial about whether and how to teach evolution in schools.

http://www.amazon.com/Evolution-Gra[…]p/0892216972

The scientists punked by these twerps include Jim Kirkland, Phil Gingerich, Angela Milner, John Long, Gary Morgan, Irena Koretsky, Tasser Hussain, Gunther Viohl, Peter Wellnhofer, Tim Rowe, Annalise Berta, Phil Currie, Bill Clemens, Paul Sereno, Dave Weishampel, Nick Czaplewski, Andy Knoll, and Monroe Strickberger … and yours truly. It’s not that what all of you say in the video is wrong. It’s that the filmmakers have taken it completely out of context. They have represented the honest uncertainty of science as fraud and hoax.

While this ‘punking’ may be a first for the vertebrate paleo crowd, it’s certainly not the first such devious effort. Here’s one involving biologists and our own P. Z. Myers.

Discuss.

132 Comments

Is Padian a creationist?

Kris said:

Is Padian a creationist?

Not in any way, shape, or form! He’s PO’d at the creationists who filmed him and other scientists using false pretenses.

As should be obvious to anyone reading the two paragraphs above. Dave

I really think that if possible, scientists should speak to a lawyer before agreeing to be interviewed. Or maybe they should have agents.

I found this review by a homeschooling Christian mom:

http://www.examiner.com/homeschooli[…]-carl-werner

And this sequence of images from the Film:

http://www.examiner.com/homeschooli[…]ide=19486511#

All the usual creationist/ID claptrap: “Darwin’s Enigma: No Ancestors”, “An amazing 1,000 Fossil Bats have been discovered, but none of the predicted evolutionary ancestors have been found!”, and “Hundreds of thousands of fossil plants have been collected, but plant evolution still remains a ‘Mystery’.” And they cite the usual polls. Sheesh.

A common tactic, and a common occurrence for Creationist “documentaries” (used in the loosest possible way). If the “Truth” is on their side, then why the deceit in getting qualified scientists on camera, and worse than that, why the quote mining and out of context application of their words? This video is like trying to present “Newtonian Laws vs. God’s Upholding Power” as a ‘scientific controversy’ in the science community today. The saddest part is that this will only feed the Creationist fire on their side, and the homers will eat it up, and scream “SEE!? We TOLD you!”. The rest of us will have one more ridiculous piece of creationist material to answer to when in direct conversation with these folks.

What trial is he referring to?

Padian garbled the situation somewhat. Someone from the Louisiana Family Forum was reportedly distributing DVDs of Evolution: The Grand Experiment to members of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Textbook/Media/Library Advisory Council after its vote to recommend that BESE approve the high school life science textbooks now under consideration for state adoption.

Thanks for the update, Glenn! Cheers, Dave

Creationist pricks. They tricked Phil Currie into participating in that idiotic “Voyage that Shook the World” documentary as well.

Honesty is simply beyond them.

Having dealt with the media before a few times, I don’t see how come scientists keep falling for it. In my case, they weren’t even trying to quote mine or slaughter my words.

It’s happened to Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, and now a host of new victims.

Something to be said for learning from the past. Scientists never seem to be able to do that.

Eminent invertebrate paleobiologists James W. Valentine (a colleague of Kevin Padian’s at Berkeley) and Simon Conway Morris were duped by Dishonesty Institute mendacious intellectual pornographer Stephen C. Meyer for Meyer’s “film” “Darwin’s Dilemna”:

raven said:

Having dealt with the media before a few times, I don’t see how come scientists keep falling for it. In my case, they weren’t even trying to quote mine or slaughter my words.

It’s happened to Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, and now a host of new victims.

Something to be said for learning from the past. Scientists never seem to be able to do that.

Padian a creationist? Hardly. Padian testified for the plaintiffs at the Dover trial.

Those same VPs should get together to shoot a film refuting that creationist drivvel. An argument-by-argument critique would be good. It could even be offered as a free download too.

That would certainly undercut the sales of that creationist video.

Having dealt with the media before a few times, I don’t see how come scientists keep falling for it.

My guess would be that it isn’t the same scientists each time.

It might be a case of deficiency of paranoia among those scientists.

Henry J

raven said:

Having dealt with the media before a few times, I don’t see how come scientists keep falling for it.

The difficulty is that many scientists see the importance of outreach to a wider community. Given their own limited time, they may be willing to allow someone else to do the grunt work in setting up the cameras, production, editing…

Yes, in a few highly publicised cases this has backfired. At first. Then word gets out about the manipulation and dishonesty of those who have misrepresented scientists and science, which will hopefully backfire on them.

It’s all very well chatting amongst like minded people on PT and Pharyngula, where the educated outnumber and can deal appropriately with the trolls, but it remains hugely important to get the message out beyond this small audience to people who are genuinely interested in learning.

The fact is that from the early days of McCready Price 100 years ago creationists have made their case by utter misrepresentation and continue to do so.

One only has to read any creationist or ID literature to find such dishonesty.

Creationists as a group are unwilling to stop this dishonesty.

Further it has crept into almost every church and few leaders are willing or knowledgeable enough to tackle it.

Kris: “Is Padian a creationist?”

Nope. Here’s testimony from none other than William A. Dembksi that Padian is not a creationist:

http://www.uncommondescent.com/inte[…]al-berkeley/

The story is told with all of WAD’s well known wit and wisdom.

P.S. Padian is the one on the left.

Michael Roberts Wrote:

The fact is that from the early days of McCready Price 100 years ago creationists have made their case by utter misrepresentation and continue to do so.

That’s why I rarely use the words “creationism” and “creationist(s)” without either quotes or enough context to make it clear what I mean. Since McCready Price, and especially since Morris, “creationism” has “evolved” from a collection of mutually contradictory honest-but-mistaken beliefs to a full-fledged pseudoscience, culminating with ID that seeks to be the “central pseudoscience.”

Unfortunately most of the rank-and-file has not “read the memo” and is still operating on mutually contradictory honest-but-mistaken beliefs, not deliberate misrepresentation of science. To me it’s simply counterproductive to use the same word for a snake oil peddler and a snake oil buyer. So I use “anti-evolution activists” and “rank-and-file evolution-deniers,” respectively. There’s no hard line between the two groups, so I also use “activist wannabes” to refer to those “in transit” like the amateurs who write letters-to-the-editor and/or frequent these boards to “refute” evolution.

As for the activists, I’m skeptical when they are referred to as “YECs,” as in the above excerpt, if only because too often we jump the gun. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that nearly all anti-evolution activists peddle YEC at least indirectly. But that’s to be expected because it’s the most popular of the mutually-contradictory “brands of snake oil.” If OEC were the big seller I have no doubt that they’d all be peddling that. But I pay very close attention to any “big tent” language that indicates a lack of confidence, if not private denial, that YEC has any evidence to support it. If these filmmakers are “serious” YECs, they’d be criticizing the DI’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, as AiG and ICR does. Does anyone know if that’s the case?

Dave Mullenix said:

Kris: “Is Padian a creationist?”

Nope. Here’s testimony from none other than William A. Dembksi that Padian is not a creationist:

http://www.uncommondescent.com/inte[…]al-berkeley/

The story is told with all of WAD’s well known wit and wisdom.

P.S. Padian is the one on the left.

Dembski claims that his book was peer reviewed? Clearly words have whatever meaning IDiots want them to have in UD land.

Michael Roberts Wrote:

Further it has crept into almost every church and few leaders are willing or knowledgeable enough to tackle it.

Good point. While many (most?) religious leaders accept evolution, that’s not enough. They need to criticize the arguments and tactics of the anti-evolution activists to truly serve their congregation. The closest I have seen to that, and I’m not sure if it was even deliberate, was in Pope John Paul II’s words “convergence, neither sought not fabricated” describing the evidence of evolution. If anything it should alert some of the more intelligent and honest audiences who have bought some anti-evolution propaganda that those who peddle it do nothing but seek and fabricate “evidence.” And even with all that cheating have been unable to force any convergence into a single coherent origins account, let alone anything close to a promising alternate theory.

Frank J said:

Michael Roberts Wrote:

Further it has crept into almost every church and few leaders are willing or knowledgeable enough to tackle it.

Good point. While many (most?) religious leaders accept evolution, that’s not enough. They need to criticize the arguments and tactics of the anti-evolution activists to truly serve their congregation. The closest I have seen to that, and I’m not sure if it was even deliberate, was in Pope John Paul II’s words “convergence, neither sought not fabricated” describing the evidence of evolution. If anything it should alert some of the more intelligent and honest audiences who have bought some anti-evolution propaganda that those who peddle it do nothing but seek and fabricate “evidence.” And even with all that cheating have been unable to force any convergence into a single coherent origins account, let alone anything close to a promising alternate theory.

Frank I am an Anglican priest and try to bring it to the attention of bishops etc.

However they choose to do nothing and then some are either YEC or sympathetic .

They cannot conceive of the idea that the snake-oil peddlers are actually dishonest and the sellers are selling that dishonesty under the mistaken idea that it is true

Scientists should get media training!

(btw, loved the “Rita Skeeter” character from the Harry Potter series.)

Michael Roberts said: Frank I am an Anglican priest and try to bring it to the attention of bishops etc.

However they choose to do nothing and then some are either YEC or sympathetic .

They cannot conceive of the idea that the snake-oil peddlers are actually dishonest and the sellers are selling that dishonesty under the mistaken idea that it is true.

Bingo, with respect to that last sentence. The BioLogos peoples’ attestations that the Reasons to Believe folks and DI folks were earnest and honest in their Christian dissent from evolution at that “Vibrant Dance” conference is a recent case in point. Sooner or later the persistent advocacy of falsehoods in the face of plain evidence that they’re false has to be called what it is: Flat out lying.

As an Anglican priest, are you aware of the existence of the British Center for Science Education? I don’t have their website address handy, but both they and the National Center for Science Education (http://www.ncse.com) could have invaluable resources for you to deal with your colleagues in the clergy who refuse to deal with evolution denialists:

Michael Roberts said:

Frank J said:

Michael Roberts Wrote:

Further it has crept into almost every church and few leaders are willing or knowledgeable enough to tackle it.

Good point. While many (most?) religious leaders accept evolution, that’s not enough. They need to criticize the arguments and tactics of the anti-evolution activists to truly serve their congregation. The closest I have seen to that, and I’m not sure if it was even deliberate, was in Pope John Paul II’s words “convergence, neither sought not fabricated” describing the evidence of evolution. If anything it should alert some of the more intelligent and honest audiences who have bought some anti-evolution propaganda that those who peddle it do nothing but seek and fabricate “evidence.” And even with all that cheating have been unable to force any convergence into a single coherent origins account, let alone anything close to a promising alternate theory.

Frank I am an Anglican priest and try to bring it to the attention of bishops etc.

However they choose to do nothing and then some are either YEC or sympathetic .

They cannot conceive of the idea that the snake-oil peddlers are actually dishonest and the sellers are selling that dishonesty under the mistaken idea that it is true

Which is why I don’t find BioLogos all too helpful since they seem more committed to “coddling” their fellow “Brothers in Christ” than in denouncing them as the unrepentant liars that they are:

RBH said:

Michael Roberts said: Frank I am an Anglican priest and try to bring it to the attention of bishops etc.

However they choose to do nothing and then some are either YEC or sympathetic .

They cannot conceive of the idea that the snake-oil peddlers are actually dishonest and the sellers are selling that dishonesty under the mistaken idea that it is true.

Bingo, with respect to that last sentence. The BioLogos peoples’ attestations that the Reasons to Believe folks and DI folks were earnest and honest in their Christian dissent from evolution at that “Vibrant Dance” conference is a recent case in point. Sooner or later the persistent advocacy of falsehoods in the face of plain evidence that they’re false has to be called what it is: Flat out lying.

Maybe, but I am skeptical of the formula suggested by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum in their book “Unscientific America” - and since then - since they have given the perception is that all you need is to have scientists “made up” so that they can be as attractive and as smart as Jodie Foster’s astrophysicist in the film based on Carl Sagan’s novel “Contact”:

Karen S. said:

Scientists should get media training!

(btw, loved the “Rita Skeeter” character from the Harry Potter series.)

Michael, I misspoke. Due to efforts from Genie Scott, Peter Hess and others at NCSE, their website has invaluable sources. In fact, they should be your first choice in looking up suitable material, especially since their UK counterpart has been in existence for only a few years:

John Kwok said:

As an Anglican priest, are you aware of the existence of the British Center for Science Education? I don’t have their website address handy, but both they and the National Center for Science Education (http://www.ncse.com) could have invaluable resources for you to deal with your colleagues in the clergy who refuse to deal with evolution denialists:

Michael Roberts said:

Frank J said:

Michael Roberts Wrote:

Further it has crept into almost every church and few leaders are willing or knowledgeable enough to tackle it.

Good point. While many (most?) religious leaders accept evolution, that’s not enough. They need to criticize the arguments and tactics of the anti-evolution activists to truly serve their congregation. The closest I have seen to that, and I’m not sure if it was even deliberate, was in Pope John Paul II’s words “convergence, neither sought not fabricated” describing the evidence of evolution. If anything it should alert some of the more intelligent and honest audiences who have bought some anti-evolution propaganda that those who peddle it do nothing but seek and fabricate “evidence.” And even with all that cheating have been unable to force any convergence into a single coherent origins account, let alone anything close to a promising alternate theory.

Frank I am an Anglican priest and try to bring it to the attention of bishops etc.

However they choose to do nothing and then some are either YEC or sympathetic .

They cannot conceive of the idea that the snake-oil peddlers are actually dishonest and the sellers are selling that dishonesty under the mistaken idea that it is true

He did a whole series in which he compared Genie Scott to a witch and Jerry Coyne to Herman Munster from “The Munsters”:

Dave Mullenix said:

Kris: “Is Padian a creationist?”

Nope. Here’s testimony from none other than William A. Dembksi that Padian is not a creationist:

http://www.uncommondescent.com/inte[…]al-berkeley/

The story is told with all of WAD’s well known wit and wisdom.

P.S. Padian is the one on the left.

And of course Dembski had the chutzpah to complain about “Darwinists” getting rich, pointing to the likes of Francisco J. Ayala, Richard Dawkins and Ken Miller, also at Uncommonly Dense.

The Founding Mothers said:

raven said:

Having dealt with the media before a few times, I don’t see how come scientists keep falling for it.

The difficulty is that many scientists see the importance of outreach to a wider community. Given their own limited time, they may be willing to allow someone else to do the grunt work in setting up the cameras, production, editing…

I have to agree with F.M. here. Science outreach is critically important. The cure of not talking to the media would be worse than the disease of misrepresentation.

You could limit yourself to known media outlets (major newspaper, local news stations, Discovery channel, etc.). That’s going to limit the public’s exposure to science, and it doesn’t guarantee a correct representation. But I doubt any movie director - even pro-science legitimate ones - would give an interviewee any sort of editorial control/veto over final product.

So I think it would be unreasonable to look for a magic bullet to this problem. There’s no morton’s demon that’s going to be able to filter the ‘good’ media from the ‘bad’ media with 100% accuracy. While Padian et al. got punked this time, and this is a bad thing, and we should try an learn what we can from it, it should no dissuade scientists from appearing in documentaries. A world with Expelled and Intelligent Design on Trial is probably better for science than a world with neither.

are you aware of the existence of the British Center for Science Education

Both Michael and I are well aware of the BCSE John, as well as the UK equivelent of the ASA (i.e. Christians in Science) which I’ve just recently joined.

Still, this isn’t the first example of this kind of thing:

http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl[…]file007.html

Recently Professor Dawkins had been made aware of a video tape being circulated in creationist circles, in which he appears, and on the cover of which is his photograph. Titled “From a Frog to a Prince,” it is distributed in Australia by Answers in Genesis, of Acacia Ridge, Queensland and in the USA by American Portrait Films, Cleveland, Ohio. Copyright is held by “A.I.G. - I.C.R. - Keziah” and it was produced by “Keziah”.

AIG, as regular readers will recognise, refers to Answers in Genesis, the new trading name of the Queensland based Creation Science Foundation; ICR is the Institute for Creation Research, a prominent US creationist outfit, and the source for much of what passes for information in such circles; Keziah was then unfamiliar to us.

Prof Dawkins was puzzled, and not a little perplexed, to be informed by a Christian contact in the USA that his appearance on the tape included a question being posed to him, whereupon he pauses for 11 seconds, and then answers an entirely different question. His contact, having viewed the tape, and having noticed the long pause and seeming evasion of what was a pretty simple question about evolution, was convinced that it had been a set-up

and:

http://www.hssonline.org/publicatio[…]blicity.html

were three well known historians were deceived by a front for CMI, Fathom Media:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/2009/[…]win_fil.html

I asked Phil Bell if this method of securing an interview was “deceptive”. He said: “Well, it could be called deceptive. But I think, at the end of the day, I would say that more people are concerned about how we’ve made a documentary, that’s a world-class documentary, clearly with wonderful footage, with excellent interviews, and balanced open discussion.”

Phil Bell also denied that his organisation had broken the ninth commandment by “bearing false witness” against Professor Bowler and his colleagues. “Nobody was told any lies,” he said.

and it certainly is unlikely to be the last.

YECs really must be getting desperate.

If you haven’t already noticed, when the Dishonesty Institute’s site touts its “books” on its home page, it links directly in to Amazon if you select one of their books/videos/etc. A cozy relationship perhaps, though I don’t suspect any of them are big money makers.

Stanton said:

Mike Elzinga said:

henry said:

Sorry this reply is so late. Many genealogists have found, to their sorrow, that the Mormon records may be complete and accurate, but a lot of their contents are not. You might want to see the book by Donald Harman Akenson, “Some Family,” which discusses the history and accuracy of this information.

Were these churches in the mainline denominations?

Not necessarily; the Mormons keep excellent records, for religious reasons.

The Mormons’ immaculate records provide stark contrast to the way Creationists shamelessly, dogmatically, and routinely rewrite history in order to slander Evolutionary Biology, placing blame on it for everything from murder and racism to Hitler and gays being in the army.

This part of my reply did not go through:

Sorry this reply is so late. Many genealogists have found, to their sorrow, that the Mormon records may be complete and accurate, but a lot of their contents are not. You might want to see the book by Donald Harman Akenson, “Some Family,” which discusses the history and accuracy of this information.

Were these churches in the mainline denominations?

Not necessarily; the Mormons keep excellent records, for religious reasons.

The Mormons’ immaculate records provide stark contrast to the way Creationists shamelessly, dogmatically, and routinely rewrite history in order to slander Evolutionary Biology, placing blame on it for everything from murder and racism to Hitler and gays being in the army.

clerihew said:

This part of my reply did not go through:

Sorry this reply is so late. Many genealogists have found, to their sorrow, that the Mormon records may be complete and accurate, but a lot of their contents are not. You might want to see the book by Donald Harman Akenson, “Some Family,” which discusses the history and accuracy of this information.

You mean like the way some Mormons have been posthumously converting various beloved deceased celebrities, US presidents, and victims of Nazi deathcamps?

clerihew said:

Sorry this reply is so late. Many genealogists have found, to their sorrow, that the Mormon records may be complete and accurate, but a lot of their contents are not. You might want to see the book by Donald Harman Akenson, “Some Family,” which discusses the history and accuracy of this information.

One of the first things anyone doing genealogy learns in a hurry is to crosscheck everything; and check them by multiple ways wherever possible.

Much of what you find on any ancestor or ancestry tree has been done by people who make mistakes, or who get names mixed up, or who have not done sufficient verification, or stopped checking when wishful thinking appeared to have been met.

And many official records and census data have been lost to various natural and man-made disasters.

Official data can be wrong too.

Fanny Middleton Biddulph i.e Fanny Mostyn Owen Darwin’s first girl friend , always under-estimated here age in 19th century census returns.

Just a warning

The author fo the book that the video inspired is one Carl Werner, MD. He makes some rather obvious and blatantly stupid claims and extapolations in his books, some of which are documented here at Amazon.com.

He and his acolytes seem to think that ‘years of study’ and visintg lots of museums makes one an expert.

It is clear to me that the definition of science I learned from a highly esteemed Philosophy 101 course is completed incomprehensible to evolutionist so I won’t bother to repeat it. I personally feel cheated by a scientific community that rejects all self evident truths from which any other truth is discovered. Their minds are closed to all but the mechanical.

Chris,

1) It is indeed possible that you were duped by an unscrupulous philosopher.

2) Why would you feel “cheated” because some scientist refuses to believe something? Why would you care if they accept “self evident truths” or not?

3) If you think that scientific minds are “closed to all but the mechanical”, then by all means, just ask them about the “mechanical”. Feel free to ignore anything else.

See, the only thing that science is closed to is that for which there is no evidence. You, on the other hand, are perfectly free to believe whatever nonsense you wish, regardless of the evidence or lack thereof. Why would you care what anyone else believes?

If you feel that you have access to “self evident truths from which other truth is discovered”, then all you have to do is use your special knowledge to discover things that science cannot. Once you have the evidence, then everyone will be convinced. Until then, all you’ve got is a bad case of science envy.

Now, you got any on-topic comments? Do you defend the actions of the lying and deceitful film makers? You don’t want to be considered just a troll now do you?

Mike Elzinga said:

clerihew said:

Sorry this reply is so late. Many genealogists have found, to their sorrow, that the Mormon records may be complete and accurate, but a lot of their contents are not. You might want to see the book by Donald Harman Akenson, “Some Family,” which discusses the history and accuracy of this information.

One of the first things anyone doing genealogy learns in a hurry is to crosscheck everything; and check them by multiple ways wherever possible.

Much of what you find on any ancestor or ancestry tree has been done by people who make mistakes, or who get names mixed up, or who have not done sufficient verification, or stopped checking when wishful thinking appeared to have been met.

And many official records and census data have been lost to various natural and man-made disasters.

What do you think about the genealogies in the Bible, especially of Jesus Christ?

henry said:

What do you think about the genealogies in the Bible, especially of Jesus Christ?

The most interesting thing about the first chapter of Matthew is the elaborate genealogy from Abraham to Jesus, via Joseph. The intent is to make the reader see that Jesus had Abraham as a direct ancestor.

But, we all know that the actual father of Jesus was supposedly Jahweh himself, and not Joseph, who was said to have played no role in siring Jesus. (“Virgin Birth” - remember?)

So, is Jesus in the line of Abraham, or not? Depends on how you play out the “Who’s your daddy” game.

Dave Thomas said:

henry said:

What do you think about the genealogies in the Bible, especially of Jesus Christ?

The most interesting thing about the first chapter of Matthew is the elaborate genealogy from Abraham to Jesus, via Joseph. The intent is to make the reader see that Jesus had Abraham as a direct ancestor.

But, we all know that the actual father of Jesus was supposedly Jahweh himself, and not Joseph, who was said to have played no role in siring Jesus. (“Virgin Birth” - remember?)

So, is Jesus in the line of Abraham, or not? Depends on how you play out the “Who’s your daddy” game.

Actually, there are two genealogies of Jesus, Matthew’s account and Luke’s account, the former gives Joseph’s side, the latter Mary’s side. Mary’s account gives Jesus the physical right to the throne of David, Joseph’s the legal right to it through adoption.

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