Discovery Institute: Bloggingheads Hysteria

CREATIONISTS have failed utterly in establishing even a toehold in the world of science — where evidence and experimental results are peer-reviewed. They have made no effort at all to penetrate the corporate world, where their creationism would be as productive as astrology.

As we’ve pointed out before, the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids) have decided to concentrate on what they see as the soft underbelly of American society — the public school system, where education officials are elected and where scientific credentials aren’t required.

But the Discoveroid campaign to subvert the Enlightenment isn’t limited to electing ignorant rustics to minor offices, thus imitating other tyrannies by controlling the education system. There are additional levers of power that are held by unscientific minds, and those too are being targeted. One example is journalism.

From time to time we’ve mentioned instances where the creeping rot of creationism occasionally manages to infiltrate previously respected publications and institutions. For example: Forbes Magazine Promotes Creationism, and “U.S.News & World Report” Touts Creationism, and “Weekly Standard” Going Creationist?

The latest respected medium to provide an apparently legitimate forum for creationism is They hosted an an uncritical — and by some accounts fawning — interview with Michael Behe, whose “expert” testimony at the Dover trial proved so damaging to the creationist cause. See: Kitzmiller v. Dover: Michael Behe’s Testimony.

You can see Behe’s interview on Bloggingheads here. As a result, some reputable people did the rational thing and openly stated their intent to discontinue their appearances on that medium in the future. For example, science writer Carl Zimmer — see: Bloggingheads and the Old Challenges of New Tools. Zimmer says:

My standard for taking part in any forum about science is pretty simple. All the participants must rely on peer-reviewed science that has direct bearing on the subject at hand, not specious arguments that may sound fancy but are scientifically empty. I believe standards like this one are crucial if we are to have productive discussions about the state of science and its effects on our lives.

This is not Blogginghead’s standard, at least as I understand it now. And so here we must part ways

Okay, that seems fair. Here’s the reaction of Sean Carroll, a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology: Bye to Bloggingheads, in which he says:

Unfortunately, I won’t be appearing on any more. And it is unfortunate — I had some great times there, and there’s an enormous amount to like about the site. So I thought I should explain my reasons.


So last week we were startled once again, this time by the sight of a dialogue between John McWhorter and Michael Behe. Behe, some of you undoubtedly know, is a leading proponent of Intelligent Design, and chief promulgator of the idea of “irreducible complexity.” The idea is that you can just look at something and know it was “designed,” because changing any bit of it would render the thing useless — so it couldn’t have arisen via a series of incremental steps that were all individually beneficial to the purpose of the object.


Here’s the distinction I want to draw, which might admittedly be a very fine line. If someone wants to talk about ID as a socio/religio/political phenomenon worth of study by anthropologists and sociologists, that’s fine. …


But if you present a discussion about the scientific merits of ID, with someone who actually believes that such merits exist — then you are wasting my time and giving up on the goal of having a worthwhile intellectual discussion. Which is fine, if that’s what you want to do. But it’s not an endeavor with which I want to be associated.


Having said all that, I’m very happy to admit that there’s nothing cut-and-dried about any of these issues, and I have a great deal of sympathy for anyone who feels differently and wants to continue contributing to The site provides a lot of high-quality intellectual food for thought, and I wish it well into the future.

We’ve quoted Carroll’s remarks at length so you can judge his behavior for yourself. To us, it seems to be an entirely reasonable and restrained response. In effect he’s saying: “You are free to promote what I regard as pseudo-science, but I shall not lend my credibility to your endeavors.”

This is a truly interesting situation. This isn’t just another rural school board or state legislature (as in Louisiana) that is captured by creationist lunacy. Bloggingheads was created to present intelligent dialogue, which is what they have been doing until now; but the science community isn’t accepting their recent embrace of creationism. In other words, the rational world is openly objecting to this latest instance of Discoveroid infiltration.

What is the reaction of the Discoveroids? It’s not very pretty. Here is a post by their president, Bruce Chapman: “Bloggingheads” Faces the Guillotine.

Guillotine? You can see from the title that the Discoveroid reaction is, shall we say, a bit over the top. Here are some excerpts from Chapman’s post, with bold added by us:

How many intellectuals and media conveyers will defend free speech and the importance of an unfettered debate of ideas? Fewer and fewer. We are witnessing in America a kind of academic French Revolution, where leading opinion is fratricidal, enraged, fanatical — and then overthrown to make room for a newer fanaticism.

People are not getting their heads chopped off physically, of course, but careers are being sliced off and reputations ruined. Fear is in the air.

Oooooh! Fanaticism! Fear is in the air! Let’s read on:

There are manifold efforts to chase down, stigmatize and eradicate intellectual dissent, almost all of them in universities and media outlets. There is no recourse for the honest scholar or commentator except to stand up to the bullies, pay the price and then live in peace with his conscience, whatever his resulting — usually diminished — station might be.

O the ecstasy of being a martyr for Noah’s Ark! We continue:

I use the French Revolution metaphor above. But one also might mention McCarthyism — not the reality alone, but also the hysteria around it.

McCarthyism! Hey, if you like that kind of foaming-at-the-mouth prose, click over to the Discoveroid blog and read all of Chapman’s piece. It’s not very long. But it’s quite revealing.

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

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

7 responses to “Discovery Institute: Bloggingheads Hysteria

  1. The Curmudgeon wrote

    CREATIONISTS … have made no effort at all to penetrate the corporate world, where their creationism would be as productive as astrology.

    What? You mean oil companies don’t use Biblical geology derived from the account of the Noachic Deluge to locate petroleum?

    Whatever next? Physicians who give out ‘medications’ and perform surgery rather than healing by the laying on of hands?

  2. Curmudgeon wrote: “CREATIONISTS have failed utterly in establishing even a toehold in the world of science — where evidence and experimental results are peer-reviewed. They have made no effort at all to penetrate the corporate world, where their creationism would be as productive as astrology.”

    You have that backwards. They have tried to be as productive as astrology in terms of snake oil selling. But the popularity of their pseudoscience books, and propaganda films (e.g. “Expelled”) is probably well below their expectations. It’s the world of science where they “made no effort at all.” They “Flunked” not by “doing poorly on the tests” but by not showing up.

  3. Pardon more “devil’s advocacy,” but this looks like another example of “Darwinists” taking the DI’s bait. Rather than refuse to appear I would have asked BH why it would interview an advocate of “equal time” without granting “equal time” to his opponent. Why the blatant double standard?

    I have been noticing a trend when it comes to the sensationalist media. They want (need?) cool sound bites, however misleading. Not cold, often inconvenient scientific facts. Meanwhile, the DI and its trained parrots have learned to only grant interviews under the condition on no “equal time” for cointerpoint. Not that “equal time” is sufficient, given the nature of science-pseudoscience debates and public misconceptions.

    But that’s the point. Given the impossibility of any scientific success and limited financial success of their snake oil, the only thing they have is to flood the media with memes. The “guillotine” one will not be heard by many, but it won’t be challenged by many either. Score another one for the “chess”-playing pigeon.

  4. Once again, the Disco Tute clown car pulls up and Bruce Chapman gets out and starts crying about their “martyrs” or whining about the evils of rational thought.

    Were it not for DI’s earnest intentions — ruining science education in America — they’d be funny and entertaining.

  5. Relax, waldteufel, they’re just trying to save you from the immorality of materialist Darwinism.

  6. retiredsciguy

    Curmy says,
    “Relax, waldteufel, they’re just trying to save you from the immorality of materialist Darwinism.”

    But what if we don’t want to be “saved”? I wish all these so-called “Christians” would actually practice the (slightly) modified Golden Rule — “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them”. In other words, leave me alone — and my kids, as well.

  7. retiredsciguy says: “In other words, leave me alone …”

    Sorry, it’s for your own good.