Quote-Mining Where No Quote-Miner Has Gone Before

THE neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids) have once again descended to new depths. The Discoveroid blog has a strange new article by Casey Luskin, with one of his typically long titles: “Expelled Exposed” Is Wrong: Materialists Allowed to Challenge Neo-Darwinian Orthodoxy, Intelligent Design Proponents Are Not.

In this article, Casey diligently quote-mines a few articles by genuine scientists, who carefully stated that although they are challenging the views of their colleagues, they intend to give no comfort to creationists. But creationism disclaimers have no effect on quote-miners. Casey gleefully leaps upon such precautionary statements and uses them as “evidence” that scientists are afraid of being Expelled. He says, with bold font added by us:

We’re often told that the evidence for neo-Darwinian evolution — where natural selection acting on random mutations is the driving force generating the complexity and diversity of life — is “overwhelming.” But hints of dissent from this position can be found throughout the mainstream scientific literature.

Wondering what “hints” Casey has mined? We’ll see, but bear in mind that there is no evidence that contradicts evolution, so people like Casey are reduced to fly-specking the work of real scientists for any phrase upon which they can fixate. Casey gives some examples of articles that forthrightly mention the incompleteness of our understanding. He seizes upon such statements and spins them to his purpose, saying:

What is most interesting is how these hints of dissent are often accompanied by statements disclaiming any support for intelligent design (ID), seemingly intended to help deflect attacks upon the dissenter.

The “attacks” to be deflected aren’t from the authors’ professional colleagues, but from creationist quote-miners. Oblivious to what’s really going on, Casey gives what he imagines is an example that illustrates his viewpoint. He quotes a 2009 article by Günter Theißen which allegedly says [Warning: all Discoveroid quotes should be carefully checked]:

There is the opposite view gaining ground mainly outside of scientific circles that living organisms are so complex that they must have been created by an external intelligence – a novel version of creationism known as “Intelligent Design” (ID). A philosophical analysis of whether ID is a scientific hypothesis at all is beyond the scope of this review. In any case, its ability to develop fruitful research programs has remained negligible so far (Raff, 2005). With few exceptions (e.g., see Lönnig, 2004, and references cited therein) biologists do not consider ID helpful in our endeavour to explain life’s complexity and diversity.

Nothing wrong with that. But Theißen’s paragraph continues, and this is what Casey latches onto:

This does not mean, however, that we already have a complete and satisfactory theory which explains how the complexity and diversity of life originated. Thus the rejection of ID or other varieties of creationism is not based on the comprehensive explanatory power of any existing evolutionary theory, but has to be considered as an epistemological presupposition and heuristic basis of biology as a natural science.

We read Theißen to be saying that although our knowledge of evolution isn’t yet complete, ID is a worthless alternative because it isn’t science. Let’s see what Casey says about that:

Significantly, Theißen’s disclaimer admits that his rejection of ID is “not based on the comprehensive explanatory power of any existing evolutionary theory” but due to an “epistemological presupposition,” namely materialism.

[…]

Theißen apparently feels it necessary to announce his rejection of ID and his commitment to material explanations in order for his “anti-Darwinian” ideas to have any hope of gaining traction.

That’s how Casey reads it. We think Theißen is just trying to ward off the quote-miners. Alas, it’s not working. Even a blatant disclaimer like: “Don’t quote-mine this next sentence, you idiot, because it doesn’t support creationism!” wouldn’t work, because such a disclaimer will attract someone like Casey who will interpret it as a sign that the author fears being Expelled — and that fear (Casey believes) supports creationism.

Casey goes on to say:

This is by no means the only evidence dissent from neo-Darwinism is tolerated only if one pledges allegiance to materialism.

Yeah — pledge of allegiance to materialism. Moving along:

The message is clear: Dissent from neo-Darwinism is tolerated so long as it lends no credence or “ammunition” to proponents of intelligent design (whom they would lump with the “creationists” or “fundamentalists”). If dissent from neo-Darwinism is so difficult to make that one must carefully frame it so as not to lend any support to ID, imagine how difficult it is for ID proponents to promote their viewpoints in the academy.

Difficult? It’s impossible, because creationism isn’t science. One more excerpt:

So here we are, the apparently unwelcome proponents of intelligent design, quoting these scientists who are skeptics of the neo-Darwinian synthesis of evolution. Now of course I’ve made it clear that everyone quoted in this article is a fullblown materialist who disagrees with -intelligent design and feels that materialist explanations will be forthcoming. But that’s the point, isn’t it? One can express scientific dissent from neo-Darwinism–albeit rarely, sheepishly, and full of disclaimers and political pledges to materialism–so long as that dissent is does not support intelligent design.

Casey’s article goes on and on. He imagines that he’s providing evidence to support Ben Stein’s Expelled. It’s amazing, really. Creationist disclaimers, intended to avoid confusion — are misappropriated as “evidence” for creationism.

Click over to the Discoveroid blog and read it all — if you can endure that sort of thing.

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

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9 responses to “Quote-Mining Where No Quote-Miner Has Gone Before

  1. I’m surprised Crazy Casey is able to keep his head above … well, let’s just say it isn’t water but it is what the DI routinely spews. I wonder how well the dog-paddle works in something as thick and dense as DI drivel? (Redundancy intended)

  2. Dissent based on what? Seriously, Luskin needs to put up or shut up. What is this dissent based on? I want to read the “evidence” myself. Where the he** is his evidence? He talks all about dissent, but fails to back it up!

    Oh, that’s right. The Disco’tute has no evidence. Namely because they don’t have the first frakking clue what science is.

  3. waldteufel

    The poseurs at the Disco ‘Tute have nothing to do with science. The whole ID thing is merely a scam to get try to get around first amendment issues related to teaching science-vs-superstition in public schools.

    Casey is one of the more verbose and odious of that crowd, and his writing is uniformly bad. But, his writing is aimed at the useful fools who are the ‘Tut’s allies on school boards, and the useful fools are just that: fools.

  4. *sigh*

  5. Colloquy says: “*sigh*”

    You gotta admit, the Discoveroids hired the right man for the job.

  6. Damned scientific method ruins it for ID again….

  7. LRA wrote: “Oh, that’s right. The Disco’tute has no evidence. Namely because they don’t have the first frakking clue what science is.”

    Sure they have a clue. They know exactly what to avoid, namely stating their own hypotheses and testing them independent of “weaknesses” of “Darwinism”, and what and how to quote mine to best impress their target audience. Luskin personally maybe more science-challenged than most DI folk, but Michael Behe is a practicing PhD scientist (some of his research even supports evolution). But he’s been quote mining since at least 1996. Google “Jerry Coyne” and “More Crank Science” to see a classic Behe quote mine.

  8. Pretty audacious, but not entirely unexpected I’m sure.

    Who among us, whenever we have read the anti quote mine disclaimers, have never wondered in the back of our minds when this day would happen.

    Who among us…

  9. Frank J- Check out this gem!

    http://www.lehigh.edu/~inbios/news/evolution.htm

    Behe’s own university states that he doesn’t know what science is…