Discovery Institute: Waiting For Dark

THIS has been a horrible year for the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids). Not only have they achieved no political successes, and of course no scientific breakthroughs, but they had to endure the year-long cavalcade of Darwin celebrations due to the concurrence of the 200th anniversary of his birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of Origin of Species.

So they’ve been hunkered down, like vampires during the day, waiting for the return of darkness.

This is a good example of their attitude now that Darwin’s year is ending. Behold Darwin Fatigue Sets In, which appears at the Discoveroid blog. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

2009 is almost over, but the hangover from the Darwin parties has already begun. Jonathan Wells has the story at American Spectator:

[Discoveroid quotes Wells:] The Darwin Year delirium reached such an extreme that even evolutionists grew weary of it.


University of Florida biologist Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis wrote in Science, “Just when it looked like the ‘ultra-Darwinists’ were winning the ‘year of Darwin’ with their interminable love-fests, triumphalist narratives, and self-serving revisionist histories; when we were starting to think that Darwin was the only evolutionist to have lived in the past 150 years; and when we might conclude that nearly the entire evolutionary community had drunk the Kool-Aid of antiquarian Darwinism,” David Prindle published a book on Stephen Jay Gould that “would likely challenge much of the ultra-orthodoxy passing as reflective history and science written expressly for the year of Darwin.” Smocovitis concluded: “Darwin is dead. Long live evolution.”

As soon as we saw that it looked to us like a classic case of creationist quote-mining. We know who Jonathan Wells is. See: The Genius of Jonathan Wells. When one sees a moonie creationist being quoted with favor in the Discoveroid blog, what’s the reaction? The rational reader is on full alert for an avalanche of dishonesty.

We also know something of Professor Smocovitis. We wrote about her here, Kirk Cameron: “Out Of His Mind” Says Professor, and she dropped into our humble blog to offer some comments. Immediately, we suspected that if her article were read in its entirely, it wouldn’t offer any solace to the Discoveroids. So we looked for a copy of Betty’s article to see if Wells got any of it right.

Here it is in Science: Darwin Is Dead—Long Live Evolution. It’s a review of a book about Stephen Jay Gould, but you’ll need a subscription to get in. So we kept looking and found an accessible copy here, at a website called Kasama. Okay, what did Betty really say about Darwin? Was it in a context that provides any comfort for creationists?

Bear in mind that Betty’s article is a review of Stephen Jay Gould and the Politics of Evolution by David F. Prindle. So it’s not literally about either evolution or Darwin. Instead, it’s about how one author has written about a complicated scholar like Gould. Betty says:

Not much in Prindle’s treatment is surprising. The author characterizes Gould as a leftist but refutes the mythology that he was a Marxist.


As Prindle correctly explains, Gould’s self-critical perspective on evolution provided fodder for creationists and lacked the consistency of Dawkins’s atheistic position. Gould’s more nuanced, irenic views, however, avoided what he saw as “the polemics of ill-conceived battle between science and religion.”

Gould is still providing “fodder for creationists,” but this time it’s being quote-mined from a review of a book about him. What else did Betty say that might have excited a creationist like Wells? Let’s read on:

[A]s a historian of science, I don’t share Prindle’s problem with the incomplete nature of Gould’s evolutionary (or political) theory. Who in the history of science (or politics) has left behind a fully formed theory? Not Darwin: It took a small army of workers, including geneticists and mathematicians, simply to get to the synthetic theory of evolution. And that was before 1953, when the structure of DNA was determined. Science, like politics, is rarely about completion.

“Synthetic theory” probably refers to the modern synthesis, essentially — but not entirely — the reconciliation of both genetics and natural selection. We continue — hey, here’s something that might thrill the Discoveroids:

The book is especially well-timed to challenge the many ultra-orthodox, ultra-Darwinists who seem to have taken center stage for 2009. It reminds us that evolution is represented by a plurality of voices.

It’s true, there’s more to evolution than Darwin, just as there’s more to science than evolution. Ah, here’s something Betty said that the Discoveroids won’t be quoting:

The book’s final chapter does much to honor the lively spirit of Gould’s special blending of politics and science. The opening section of the chapter rolls together 19th-century Darwinism, conservative politics, and references to the egregious misuse of history by the likes of filmmaker Ben Stein (Expelled), conservative pundit Ann Coulter, and others who link Darwin to Hitler. Here, Prindle finally gets into the nitty-gritty unpleasantness of the politics of evolution as manifested in some current populist anti-evolutionist movements.

Betty’s review ends with this, and we’ll use red to highlight the bit of it that Wells quote-mined. We think you’ll agree that it’s rather shameless of the Discoveroids to be quoting Betty Smocovitis. She doesn’t appear to be their friend. But then, what rational person is?

As we enter the home stretch of 2009, let us remember Gould and honor his legacy with the following thought: Darwin is dead. Long live evolution.

There you have it, dear reader. In their own twisted way, the Discoveroids are celebrating the end of the year of Darwin. They’re happy, because they think they can see dark at the end of the tunnel.

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

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4 responses to “Discovery Institute: Waiting For Dark

  1. I like Betty’s, “Science, like politics, is rarely about completion.” Science, unlike creationism, is fluid, not static. It is self-correcting and ever-growing. The Discoveroids have only one tune and they sing it badly.

  2. Darwin is dead. Long live evolution.

    Absolutely true. Darwin died 19 April 1882, and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

    His seminal scientific work permanently reshaped our understanding of the natural world, and will continue to do so as long as there is science.

    What comfort in any of this for a wingnut Moonie like Wells? And for the rest of us, what’s not to like?

  3. Great Claw asks: “What comfort in any of this for a wingnut Moonie like Wells?”

    The Wells maneuver is so shabby that it makes grasping at straws look like a sure bet.

  4. Curdge: “The Wells maneuver is so shabby that it makes grasping at straws look like a sure bet.”

    Well, their entire worldview is pretty much this, so why would they change it.