The Discovery Institute engages in censorship

Many from the Discovery Institute have argued against censorship in any form.  Yet, when someone criticizes Discovery Institute fellow, Casey Luskin, they fully engage in censorship.  Recently, Luskin appeared on Fox News to discuss the recent battle of how evolution should be taught in Texas schools.   DonExodus posted a point-by-point video rebuttal to Luskin:

The Discovery Institute responds by sending a copyright claim and demanding the video be taken down.   Below is DonExodus describing the situation in his own words:

This example of censorship is shocking in light of what they have written on the subject.  Take for example the whole idea of academic freedom.  The supposed impetus for needing academic freedom is that some scientists were being censored due to their beliefs.  In regard to academic freedom day celebrations:

we want students everywhere to speak out against censorship and stand up for free speech by defending the right to debate the evidence for and against evolution

Then there is this blog post that says Censorship is Wrong.

I do realize that their are a variety of opinions at the Discovery Institute, and that not everyone there agreed that this action was appropriate.  However, enough people did agree for this action to move forward illustrating, yet again, that the DI is not interested in a full and eqqual intellectual debbate/


Texas SBOE member Terri Leo lies to make a point

Recently I wrote in defense of Dr. Ronald Wetherington, an anthropology professor at SMU, and his expert testimony before the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) on January 21st, 2009.  During the question and answer portion, SBOE member Terri Leo outright lies in order to trick Wetherington.

At around the 34 minute mark of Wetherington’s testimony, the following discussion happened between Leo (L) and Wetherington (W):

L: Let’s say at the university level do you support academic freedom in investigating origins?

W: Yes at the university level we do.

L: Ok. If a student group came to your campus and wanted to sponsor an event where they were bringing in scientists and experts who were challenging your view of evolution you wouldn’t object to that?

W: I have had it in my class. I have had at least two different non-evolutionists, creationists, one from Baylor come into my human evolution class and give a lecture.

L: Well, no, an event on your campus…not in your class… Like if they were sponsoring an event on you campus you would be in support of that.

W: Are you talking about the Darwin vs. Intelligent Design conference that was held on our campus the year before last

L: Yes

W: Ah, well you should have asked me that directly.

L: Yeah, I didn’t remember the name of it.

Ok. if she didn’t remember the name of it, why didn’t she ask the name of the conference first?  Why didn’t she ask about how he felt about this conference since she already knew about it?  This was going to be her gotcha moment but Wetherington didn’t fall for it.

After he catches her in the lie, Wetherington tells Leo about how they did have such a debate on campus in 1992.  He also says that he debated Phil Johnson twice on the SMU campus. He says that he will be open to such a thing if it is done legitimately.

Leo replies with:

so legitimate only means that if it is not challenging neo-darwinism

I don’t think Leo was even listening.  She is just determined to say her talking points no matter what Wetherington says.  He told her about and gave examples of how he is open to the possibility of such a debate. It just didn’t matter to her.

I am all for lively debates, but this kind of tactic has no place in a Texas SBOE meeting.  It really is a sad state of affairs that a woman who is willing to lie to trick an expert is helping to determine the path that education will take in Texas.

A response to the Discovery Institute’s criticism of Wetherington’s expert testimony

In a recent post over at the Discovery Institute’s blog, Evolution News and Views,David Klinghoffer writes about the expert testimony of Ronald Wetherington. Ronald Wetherington is an anthropology professor at Southern Methodist University.  In his post, Klinghoeffer claims that Wetherington was “sloppy with his facts.”  Unfortunately, I can’t find a transcript of Wetherington’s testimony, but a recording can be found here.

Some of the criticisms focus on hominid evolution, the subject of Wetherington’s expertise.  This is not my expertise and I will leave it up to the readers to decide. However, I find it hard to believe someone from the Discovery Institute over an expert.

Lets look at some of Klinghoeffer’s specific claims:

Klinghoffer criticizes evolution of the mammalian eye. He describes Wetherington’s discussion of the subject as “laughably simplifies what eye-evolution would entail.” However, he never gives any real criticism of the ideas except to say that it is absurd. He never makes specific criticisms of current models of eye evolution, but he does lend support to the idea of eye evolution by quoting Sean B. Carroll.  Carroll warns us about “simple” eyespots (believed to be precursors to modern eyes): “But do not be fooled by these eyes’ simple construction and appearance. They are built with and use many of the ingredients used in fancier eyes.”  This is a good point and shows the reducible components of the eye.

Klinghoffer then goes on to attack Wetherington’s use of genetics as support for evolutionary theory. Klinghoffer’s arguments are really just an exercise in quote mining to support the logical fallacy of personal disbelief.  He quotes from a 2000 article in Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics where the authors describe the “mystery” of how mutation and natural selection resulted in the complexity of life today. He also quotes Frank Harold as saying that “there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.” Neither reference is evidence against evolution, but are an acknowledgment of our incomplete understanding of evolution.

Klinghoffer says:

The more we know about genetics, the more we must, if we are honest with ourselves, doubt Darwin.

This is simply ridiculous. Genetics provides excellent support for evolution. For example, all living animals on earth have the same genetic code in their DNA. Dead viruses found in genomes can be traced back to when they were inserted along an evolutionary tree. Gene similarities between closely related species are more similar than those same genes between less related species. The list goes on, but it is clear that genetics provides excellent support for evolution, not the other way around.

Klinghoffer then goes on to regurgitate the deeply flawed observation by Michael Behe about the rate of mutations in humans by looking at a pair of mutation in the organism that causes malaria (Plasmodium falciparum).  I discuss Behe’s flawed reasoning here.

Klinghoffer has a few other nit-picky complaints towards the end:

-Wetherignton says that the term missing links isn’t used too much anymore.  Klinghoffer says that “ it is used in places like Science, Nature, Paleobiology, the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, and elsewhere.  My own experience tells me that Wetherington is correct, but just to be sure, I did a quick pubmed search with “missing link” and evolution. Only 96 results.  Wetherignton makes the point here that the reason we don’t use the term anymore is because it is inaccurate.  Once a fossil is found, it is no longer missing.  Besides, once one missing link fills in a gap, there are now two gaps to fill.

-Wetherington says Cambrian explosion lasted “at least 25 million years.” Klinghoffer says it was “under 10 million.”  Geez, what a terrible mistake of Wetherington, I guess evolution is completely false!  Seriously though, the length of the Cambrian explosion seems to vary dependent on who you ask and how you define it.  For example, Charles Marshall of Harvard writes:

Depending on when exactly one thinks the Cambrian “explosion” began, it is clear that there is a considerable temporal anatomy to the radiation. From the first appearance of heavily skeletonized animals to the first body fossils of trilobites, the radiation took some 20 million years. If one starts with the first abundant trace fossils through to the end of the Cambrian, then the radiation ran for some 65 million years.

-Wetherington says the explosion was “dominated by two phyla.” Klinghoffer says that Wetherington is wrong and actually  “19 of 28 phyla appeared.”   “Dominated by” is not the same as “appeared.”  Klinghoffer is trying to pull a fast one here.

-Klinghoffer complains that Wetherington confused a taxonomic class with a taxonomic order. Talk about grasping at straws

-Wetherington discusses research showing that hox genes can be interchanged between species. Klinghoffer denies this possibility  and claims this is “a piece of information that would startle Darwinian biologists.” Yet,  it has been shown that you can replace a Drosophilia Hox gene with a mouse Hox gene.  The switch leads to legs instead of wings, but illustrates overlap of function that Wetherington was talking about.  There are many other examples in the literature.

Finally, Klinghoffer has an excellent quote in this post that describes the work of ID proponents:

it seems obvious that men and women who invest themselves in their work over a lifetime may come to tell lies to themselves without ever knowing it, in order to maintain crucial fictions on which their life’s work depends. It’s human nature.

Only, he was talking about research scientists instead of ID proponents. However, evolution has facts and experimental data to support it, while intelligent design has only human intuition and logical fallacies to back it up.

Discovery Institute and Absurd Evolution Marketing Lessons

On October 22, 2008, Casey Luskin wrote “Darwin Defender Daniel Bolnick Illustrates How to Market Evolution to the Public.” He is criticizing an op-ed written by Daniel Bolnick, leader of the Texas 21st Century Science CoalitionDr. Bolnick is a professor at UT Austin, and has at least 21 scientific articles on the subject of evolution.The op-ed appeared side-by-side with the young earth creationist and head of the Texas State Board of Education, Don McElroy.  Bolnick’s piece focuses on the proposed changes to the Texas science standards.

Casey Luskin gives us a list of 6 lessons (although 2 overlap each other) of how to argue for evolution:

Lesson 1: Vaguely Assert Massive Support for “Evolution” From the Scientific Literature

No matter how ID proponents spin the evidence for evolution, there is “massive support” for evolution in scientific literature. I would argue that every paper published on the subject of paleontology supports evolution as no fossils have been found contrary to evolution. Of course evidence for evolution can be found in a litany of other areas.  A pubmed search for “evolution” yields 229,000 articles. Is that massive enough?

Lessons 2 & 3: Re-label Evidence Against “Evolution” as Religion and Claim That Such Evidence Doesn’t Exist

I will agree that intelligent design is not religion although many evolution proponents have said so before. ID is based on religious motivation, but is in fact pseudoscience. It uses meaningless science sounding words such as irreducible complexity without actually proposing hypothesis that are later tested. What about there being any evidence against evolution? Well, I am not aware of any exists and Luskin does not offer any. Surely this would have been the time since he says the lack of evidence “claim is easy to refute.”

Lesson 4: Dogmatically Assert the “Overwhelming” Evidence for Evolution (But Don’t Discuss the Evidence)

Of course there is overwhelming evidence for evolution. From genetic sequences to transitional fossils to laboratory experiments, the evidence is mountainous. Even more telling is that nothing has been found to disprove evolution. Luskin brings up the fossil record as if the “fossil record has posed major problems for Darwinian evolution.” That’s funny, I don’t remember any fossils being found that are contrary to evolutionary theory.

As far as Bolnick not discussing the evidence, I can only think that it was an op-ed piece in a small paper with very little room for a scientific discussion. Besides, discussion of evolutionary evidence is easily found for anyone. The evidence for ID? I am still looking….

Lesson 5: Change the Topic from Science to Religion

Isn’t this just lesson 2 (Re-label Evidence Against “Evolution” as Religion) over again?  I know it must be hard to argue against reality, but does he need to repeat himself to boost his list?

Lesson 6: Demonize your Opponents

Intelligent Design proponents are more guilty of this than anyone. Their favorite method is to call all evolution proponents atheists. Of course religion should have no effect on facts and evidence, but evolution is often grouped with atheism. Don’t forget the use of the derogatory term “Darwinist” as if evolution proponents worship Charles Darwin as a god.

For contrast, read my Top 10 Intelligend Design Tactics.

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