Project Steve, Panda's Thumb in the News

Columnist Linda Seebach of the Rocky Mountain News has written a column on Project Steve, the NCSE’s parody of creationist lists of evolution-doubting scientists. These lists, touted most prominently by the Discovery Institute, consist of scientists (and random other people) that are creationists, that doubt evolution in some way, or that are willing to put their name on a certain-to-be-abused vague statement encouraging “careful examination of the evidence”.

Project Steve was a list of mostly professional biologists that signed up to a strongly-worded statement supporting the scientific validity and educational necessity of the theory of evolution. The catch was that all signatories had to be named some variant of “Steve,” and even with these restricted conditions, this list ended up longer (435 at last count) than the Discovery Institute’s latest list (a mere 300).

In other words, the DI hasn’t got a leg to stand on when they drag out their list. Their scientific credibility is statistically equivalent to zero. Despite this, they are continuing on as if Project Steve had never happened. On Monday, May 3, Discovery Institute News issued a press release about a California poll on evolution teaching. They just happened to have gotten the poll results on the day before a Tuesday, May 4 school board hearing in Roseville, California on a so-called “Quality Science Education Policy” that was heavily promoted by ID advocates. The poll question itself is based on a misleading question, but that is a topic for another blog. At the end of the press release, Discovery Institute News quoted Discovery Institute president Bruce Chapman:

The margin of error for each survey was +/- 4 percent. Both surveys were conducted by Arnold Steinberg & Associates, a California-based polling firm, and released by Discovery Institute, a national public policy organization headquartered in Seattle, Wa. whose Center for Science and Culture has issued a statement from 300 scientists who are skeptical of the central claim of neo-Darwinian evolution.

“The only way the Darwin-only lobby can spin these kind of survey results,” added Chapman, “is to claim that the public is just ignorant. But that view is untenable in light of the more than 300 scientists who have publicly expressed their dissent from Darwinism, to say nothing of the many scientific articles that have been published critiquing the theory.”

That statement just wouldn’t have quite the same impact if Chapman had been forthright enough to add the truth, such as, “However, Project Steve showed that our list represents a miniscule proportion of the scientific community.”

The DI doesn’t get it, obviously, but Roseville, California, did. With substantial public opposition, the “Quality Science Education Policy” motion died on May 4 due to lack of a second, and was finally voted down on June 1.

So, check out the column and send Linda some positive feedback if you are so inspired. It’s nice to see journalists going to the right places for information.