Discovery Institute: Tantrum at Year’s End

THE neo-theocrats have another of their “Bah, humbug!” blogs post at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids). This one is by that scientific giant, Jonathan Wells — about whom we wrote The Genius of Jonathan Wells.

Without further introduction, dear reader, we present some excerpts from his year-end rant: PBS: Pushing Bad Science. With bold font added by us, and with a few of his links left out, Wells says:

As 2009 comes to an end, so does the delirium of “Darwin Year.” From “Darwin Day” on February 12 (Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday) to November 24 (the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species), Darwin’s disciples spared no expense (using mostly taxpayers’ money) in their exuberant celebrations, even though most of Darwin’s ideas were mistaken and his contributions to science were insignificant compared to those of hundreds of others—including (to name just a few) Isaac Newton … [list of worthies omitted].

Quite an opening — delirium, Darwin’s disciples, taxpayers’ money, mistaken ideas, insignificant. Let’s read on:

What Darwin promoted was not empirical science but materialistic philosophy.

Actually, it was empirical science, and much of it has held up very well, in spite of continuous testing whenever a new fossil is found or another creature’s DNA is explored. We continue:

But the assumption that everything can be explained by natural causes is characteristic of materialistic philosophy. This is why atheists want to establish Darwin Day as a secular alternative to Christmas.

Darwin Day instead of Christmas? We hadn’t heard of such a proposal, but new holidays are constantly being promoted by various groups — far more than there are available days in the year. Aside from that, which Wells tossed in as an emotional distraction to fire up his natural fan base, the philosophy of metaphysical naturalism probably does assume that “everything can be explained by natural causes,” because that philosophy asserts that no other causes exist.

Science, however, is not congruent with metaphysical naturalism. Whatever personal beliefs a scientist may have about supernatural affairs — and some definitely have a wild streak — a scientist’s professional work is concerned only with natural phenomena. That isn’t because he’s philosophically required to reject the existence of fairies and angels, but because there’s no way to verifiably observe supernatural entities or test their influences on the natural world.

Then Wells gets around to the matter suggested by his article title — “bad science” pushed by PBS:

The U. S. “Public” Broadcasting System (PBS) has a long history of promoting materialistic philosophy disguised as empirical science. In 1980, PBS brought us Carl Sagan’s thirteen-part Cosmos series, which featured Sagan — in the name of Science — assuring us that “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.”

That must have driven the creationists crazy. We can imagine them screaming at their television sets: “There’s more than the cosmos! Much more — there’s also Oogity Boogity!” Maybe that’s true, but until the Discoveroids devote their resources to inventing an angel detector, we won’t be able to study the supernatural side of things. Moving along:

In 2001, PBS broadcasted the seven-part series Evolution. The first episode featured atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett praising “Darwin’s dangerous idea,” which according to Dennett “eats through just about every traditional concept” — including the concept of God. (Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, p. 63) At the time, the Discovery Institute published a scene-by-scene viewer’s guide that documented the flawed science and anti-religious bias of the series, yet PBS’s Evolution is still being used to indoctrinate students in U. S. public schools.

How frustrating it must be to produce material that the rational world regards as worthless. Here’s more:

Now PBS is about to jump on the departing Darwin Year bandwagon with another special, “What Darwin Never Knew,” scheduled to air on December 29.

Wells included a link to a Discoveroid blog article about the new PBS show. Instead of wasting your time with that, here’s what the National Center for Science Education says about it: What Darwin Never Knew.

What else does Wells have in his article? Quite a bit, but little of it is worth your attention. For example:

If the developmental genes of insects and mammals are similar, then — as Italian geneticist Giuseppe Sermonti puts it — why is a fly not a horse?

The standard Darwinian answer still attributes differences to DNA mutations. But biologists have now generated all possible developmental mutations in fruit flies, and the evidence shows that there are only three possible outcomes: a normal fruit fly, a defective fruit fly, or a dead fruit fly. Not even a new species of fruit fly, much less a horse fly or a horse.

We’ve found that all of Wells’ writing is more or less at that level. Click over there and read the whole article — if you like that sort of thing. We’ll leave you with his final paragraph:

The American people deserve better from their “Public” Broadcasting System.

We too have gripes about using tax money for PBS — and for a thousand other things — but that’s not the issue here. Wells’ complaint seems to be of a more theocratic nature — he’s upset that the government isn’t promoting his personal religious views.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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18 responses to “Discovery Institute: Tantrum at Year’s End

  1. “Darwin Day”? Oh, NO! Can’t have that, it would just be another excuse for government employees to get a 3-day weekend and make us pay for it. Of course, if there was a move to have an “Intelligent Designer Day” that would be OK, right? Oh, wait, they already do, it’s called Christmas.

  2. “Darwin’s disciples spared no expense (using mostly taxpayers’ money)…”
    I saw very little evidence of that. Even if that were true, it seems the Discoveroids are just being jealous. Isn’t one of the primary purpose of the DI to get government to pay to promote their viewpoint?

  3. I, too, have a gripe about tax dollars for public broadcasting, that is, there has never been anywhere near enough of it to make it an independent force for education, information and culture that it could have been. We have long needed an American BBC and from the looks and sounds of commercial media at the end of 2009, we now need it more than ever.

  4. Little Green Footballs is visiting. Welcome, y’all.

  5. You know, if you rub a little bit of “Preparation D” onto your Discoveroids, it will ease that itchy-burning sensation.

  6. Y’know, Tomato Addict, that’s pretty funny.

  7. Good point Dwight. Federal money only makes up about 15 percent of PBS funding. Corporate sponsors seem to make up the bulk of programming funds and it’s individual donations that keep the local stations running.

  8. jugglingbuffoon

    Okay, this is freakin’ ridiculous. What kind of biologist is Wells? Any undergrad could point out many, many things wrong with his writing. I mean, Hovind and other kinda have an excuse because they are not trained biologists but Wells?
    He (and the college that he graduated from) should be ashamed.

  9. Crurmudgeon: “Wells’ complaint seems to be of a more theocratic nature — he’s upset that the government isn’t promoting his personal religious views.”

    It takes megadembskis of chutzpah to whine that tax dollars are spent on PBS science programs while demanding that tax dollars be spent teaching anti-evolution pseudoscience in schools.

  10. “PBS: Pushing Bad Science.”

    I thought at first Wells meant PBS was going to be broadcasting a series about Intelligent Design. I’m glad that’s not the case.

  11. The Curmudgeon notes:

    Science, however, is not congruent with metaphysical naturalism. Whatever personal beliefs a scientist may have about supernatural affairs — and some definitely have a wild streak — a scientist’s professional work is concerned only with natural phenomena.

    Precisely, and the history of this approach is far, far older than PBS. As it happens, I spent this very afternoon hiking across the Gorhambury estate in Hertfordshire to the ruins of the house of Francis Bacon, for whom the Discoveroids likewise would have had little time, I warrent!

  12. The most interesting thing I learned about in the Year of Darwin is what he knew but was too prude to write about.

  13. Shocking, Oroboros, simply shocking.

  14. Benjamin Franklin

    Curmudgeon,

    I just think that the NonDiscovery Institute is pissed because one of their stated five year objectives in the Wedge Document was to have “Significant coverage in national media” including ” a PBS show such as NOVA treating intelligent design fairly.”

    That they have not been able to accomplish that goal calls for nothing short of “war on PBS” as is evidenced by this behavior.

    It seems the Creationist manta is “If they don’t comply, they must be destroyed”.

  15. Benjamin Franklin says:

    That they have not been able to accomplish that goal calls for nothing short of “war on PBS” as is evidenced by this behavior.

    I hope they don’t send in an underwear bomber.

  16. Benjamin Franklin

    A BVD WMD?

  17. Gabriel Hanna

    The standard Darwinian answer still attributes differences to DNA mutations.

    How did this guy pass his classes if he didn’t know about development? Put fruit-fly genes into a human ovum in a human uterus and you get a mess. Put fruit-fly genes in a fruit0fly ovum you get fruit flies.

    This man is lying.

  18. retiredsciguy

    Curmy: “I hope they don’t send in an underwear bomber.”

    I knew there was a joke lurking in this near-disaster. Remember the raunchy comic-music group The Hot Nuts? Guess they were just way ahead of their time.