Edward Sisson is the newest contributor to the Evolution News and Views blog at the Discovery Institute (DI). I would like to take this opportunity to address the DI’s choice of contributors. I am also going to examine Sisson, himself. I do not want to personally attack him, but I will address some of the comments that he has made in the past.
Sisson graduated MIT with a B.S. in architectural design (1977) and received his law degree from Georgetown (1991). He is an accomplished lawyer who focuses on suing the U.S. government. He has also done a large amount of pro bono work. The DI became interested in Sisson due to his pro-intelligent design advocacy. He was supposed to cross examine the scientists at the 2005 Kansas “evolution hearings,” but could not due to the scientists boycotting the event.
Notice anything missing from Sisson’s resume? Sisson does not have any real biological training. He doesn’t even have any real scientific training. With the addition of Sisson, the number of trained scientists contributing to the blog is 3 out of 16.
There seems to me to be two reasons why the DI would keep bringing nonscientists aboard. The first is that lawyers are really good at arguing and debating. It is what they are trained in and critical for job performance. If you want to win an argument without having reality on your side, your best hope is with a lawyer or perhaps a radio talk show host (see: Medved).
The second reason is that qualified scientists that are willing to support intelligent design are few and far between. This is quite obvious when you look at the lists of scientists who support intelligent design. Not a lot of biological scientists on those lists. So the DI is stuck with recruiting unqualified participants.
There is a series of you tube videos showing an interview of Sisson. Most of the interview addresses the trial in Kansas, but he does make some comments that I think need addressing.
The first is where he brings up the overused ID talking point that the world around us is too complex to have arisen naturally:
“such complexity and such code in the DNA …it seems to me that the proponents that it all came about by natural chemical processes have a very tough case to make. They have to present a lot of observational data and a lot of mathematical analysis of that data, and they haven’t done it.”
He is using the logical fallacy of personal disbelief. Just because he doesn’t see how it could have happened doesn’t mean it did not happen. He wants data supporting evolution? I guess 150 years of scientific analysis and thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers isn’t enough for him. This type of willful ignorance is characteristic of the DI and he will be a good fit there.
Sisson goes on a rant about how the proevolution side does not engage in debates that are fair. He says that they only agree on their own terms. The thing is, evolution is a strictly scientific issue. Scientific issues are not decided in a 1 hour debate, they are decided with theories, experiments, and data.
Another point he makes is about how evolution is entrenched in our culture:
The other side has 100 soe years where its doctrines have been promulgated through all the schools and they have a foundation of public acceptance and public awareness.
I guess Sisson is forgetting that teaching evolution was banned in areas of the U.S. during the early parts of the 20th century. Remember the Scopes mokey trial that found scopes guilty of teaching evolution? Besides, Sisson apparently is unaware that only ~40% of U.S. citizens think evolution is true. You call that a foundation of acceptance?
I will be honest; I could only make it through 3 of the 6 parts of his interview. If anyone else could stomach the rest of the interviews, please feel free to let me know what you think.
Well, I hope I have given you a taste of what the thought processes are at the DI in deciding who will contribute to their organization. I also hope that I have given you a taste of what Edward Sisson is like as I am sure we will be hearing more from him in the future.