ID, Scott, Steves in Newsweek. Forecast: DI Complaints.

The hugely successful Media Complaints Division at the Discovery Institute Center for [the Renewal of] Science and Culture already covers the major land masses of three medium sized planets and is the only part of the Institute to have shown a consistent growth in recent years.* Just last week, Time magazine reviewed the various recent attempts by creationists and “intelligent design” advocates to force public schools to misinform students about the scientific status of modern evolutionary theory (see previous PT post). The DI Media Complaints Division, working overtime this week, put extra effort into complaining about the Time article (DI #1, DI #2).

For good measure they have been complaining about the “Legacy Media” in general. (I think that somebody at the Media Complaints Division flipped a switch and activated a microchip telling all employees to insert “Legacy Media” wherever a normal person would say “the media.”) Strangely, all this talk about the “Legacy Media” temporarily disappeared on Friday, when a pro-ID opinion piece (probably wildly inaccurate – we’ll see what the other side says) appeared in the Wall Street Journal with the apparent purpose of attempting to incite a witch hunt against the rabid pack of herpetologists, acarologists and cephalopodologists (especially those crazy cephalopodologists) at the Smithsonian. So I guess the media is only “legacy” when they aren’t trumpetting your cause. But really, who cares about self-consistency and favoring honesty over spin when you are trying to get good coverage from the media? (Except maybe the media, which has a tough time with complex science but which can sniff spin from 100 feet away – but remember, they’re just the “Legacy Media.”)

But you haven’t seen anything yet. With the publication of a longish story on the various ID battles in the February 7 issue of Newsweek, the DI Media Complaints Division might have to expand onto a fourth medium-sized planet.

Not only does this article dare to quote an ID critic or two after giving the Discovery Institute CSC – a miniscule fringe group of mostly-not-scientists – several paragraphs in a national publication to to explain their position. No, Newsweek actually has a picture of “Darwin spin-doctor extraordinaire” Eugenie Scott! And, adding insult to injury, Newsweek didn’t go for reporting unopposed the DI’s favorite trick, their list of 300-some scientists (well, some of them aren’t scientists, and most of them aren’t biologists, but whatever) who signed the DI’s ultra-vague, non-ID-supporting statement. Instead, this dinosaur of the Legacy Media actually did a little bit of research and discovered that, in fact, evolution is overwhelmingly supported by the scientific community – a fact that is actually surprisingly underreported, and which the Discovery Institute attempts to obscure by making the untrue claim that they constitute a “rapidly growing minority.”

It appears that what Newsweek discovered was another list, far bigger and more distinguished than the DI’s list (several have won Nobel Prizes and/or appeared on The Simpsons). That’s right: Newsweek reported on Project Steve:

For Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, there’s no mystery about what I.D. proponents believe: “It’s another way of saying God did it. It isn’t a model of change; it isn’t a theory that makes testable claims.” A 2002 resolution by the American Association for the Advancement of Science called I.D. “an interesting philosophical or theological concept,” but not one that should be taught in science classes. In fact, the Discovery Institute doesn’t call for teaching I.D. in school either, only the “controversy” over Darwinism. But most scientists don’t believe there is one. The institute’s “Scientific Dissent From Darwinism,” whose operative sentence reads “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life,” has been signed by about 350 scientists. (AAAS has 120,000 members.) Scott’s organization has circulated a countermanifesto asserting that “there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is [the] major mechanism… “ As a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, they signed up only scientists named Steve. At last count they had 528.

Feb. 7 Newsweek article

Some have hypothesized that the Steve mine was more or less played out – I mean, how many more evolution-supporting Ph.D.-scientist Steves (and Stephanies! Don’t forget the Stephanies!) could there possibly be? The hypothesis shall now be tested.

As seems to always be the case, NCSE recently sent off the order for the new Steves T-shirt (“Over 500 Steves agree”), only to have an event occur soon afterwards that could lead to another serious Steve spike. Maybe NCSE will just have to make a Project Steve Addendum Cape or something.

* All similarities between the DI Media Complaints Division and the Complaints Division at the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation are purely accidental.