ICR Lectures Scientists on Misinformation

If you’ve been wondering why your irony meter has been blowing out the last few days, we think it’s because of a pair of posts by the granddaddy of all creationist outfits — the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). They’re the fountainhead of young-earth creationist wisdom.

Both ICR posts refer to an article in Nature about a recent surge in withdrawn papers: Science publishing: The trouble with retractions, which says:

This week, some 27,000 freshly published research articles will pour into the Web of Science, Thomson Reuters’ vast online database of scientific publications. Almost all of these papers will stay there forever, a fixed contribution to the research literature. But 200 or so will eventually be flagged with a note of alteration such as a correction. And a handful — maybe five or six — will one day receive science’s ultimate post-publication punishment: retraction, the official declaration that a paper is so flawed that it must be withdrawn from the literature.

It is reassuring that retractions are so rare, for behind at least half of them lies some shocking tale of scientific misconduct — plagiarism, altered images or faked data — and the other half are admissions of embarrassing mistakes. But retraction notices are increasing rapidly. In the early 2000s, only about 30 retraction notices appeared annually. This year, the Web of Science is on track to index more than 400 (see ‘Rise of the retractions’) — even though the total number of papers published has risen by only 44% over the past decade.

Bear in mind that creationists never retract anything, and they endlessly recycle old, oft-refuted clunkers to illustrate their “creation science.” See TalkOrigins excellent Index to Creationist Claims, many of which have been around for a century, and some, like William Paley’s watchmaker argument have been around far longer.

The only exception to this dreary recycling of shabby nonsense is a peculiar feature maintained by Answers in Genesis (AIG), one of the major sources of young-earth creationist wisdom. They have a small list of Arguments that should never be used. And here’s a supplemental list. There they’ve collected some of the absolute worst, most easily-debunked creationist arguments. This lets them pretend that they don’t promote nonsensical claims. But of course they do.

We’ll give you some excerpts from each of ICR’s two posts, with bold font added by us and their links omitted. The first is Mistakes and Misconduct in Science. Here we go:

These numbers [of retractions] are difficult to ignore, particularly in the case of politically charged research areas. In 2004, South Korean stem cell researcher Woo Suk Hwang claimed to have cloned a human embryo and taken stem cells from it. The following year, he said he had created 11 stem-cell lines. Then in 2006, investigations by both scientists and media found that all his data were faked.

Yeah, yeah. One clown’s misconduct is sufficient to prove that Noah’s Ark was real. The ICR article continues:

And if that’s just scientific reliance on faulty data from 1966-96, what about the theories of Charles Darwin that have pervaded scientific thinking for the past 150 years? Later discoveries are continually refuting his speculations, like his “evolutionary tree,” and yet many scientists still accept and support evolution.

Right! When will science finally get around to retracting the theory of evolution? Here’s the end of ICR’s first post:

With this many errors, and more disturbingly the acknowledged presence of falsified and fabricated data, how can the field of science maintain any semblance of infallibility [huh?] or impartiality, especially when used in concert with political agendas?

They have a footnote to explain “political agendas.” It says:

Stem cells, global warming, and teaching evolution in public schools are some of the controversial areas that have called for political intervention based on partisan scientific perspectives.

Now let’s turn to ICR’s second post on this topic. It’s More Transparency Needed in Science Textbooks, Museums. They repeat the information about retractions, and then say this:

But just because a retraction occurs doesn’t mean that the flawed report goes away. Nature reported that 235 papers retracted between 1966 and 1996 were cited in 2,000 later studies, and only 8 percent of those acknowledged the retractions.

That can happen. Let’s read on:

If other scientists are citing outdated or misleading data, what about outdated and misleading data presented in museums and textbooks? For instance, in 2010, the University of Pennsylvania toured an exhibit called Surviving: The Body of Evidence that claimed, “You are a survivor…of the process of evolution.”

Wow! That’s gotta be retracted! Then they mention Haeckel’s drawings, and after that:

Scientific investigation is an ongoing effort, and as more discoveries are made, it makes sense that older studies will be disproven or updated. But like the science paper retractions, discredited scientific notions keep turning up.

Okay, that’s enough. Now you know what’s been causing your irony meter to explode. It sure is thoughtful of ICR’s creation scientists to tell real scientists how to behave.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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8 responses to “ICR Lectures Scientists on Misinformation

  1. It is ever so easy to make scientific arguments regarding the absurdity of the creationist’s claims, but there are also religious arguments. Creationists essentially are claiming that the Old Testament is the “inerrant word of God” meaning it must be true (lock, stock, and barrel). But the Old Testament also legitimizes and regulates slavery and the selling of one’s own female children. Should not then creationists be advocating for these “truths” also? Creationists cherry pick their data like the bad scientists who retract their publications.

  2. So, using their numbers (which we probably shouldn’t do), the cases of identified fraud in mainstream science has changed from ~0.09% to ~0.7%. Yawn. If anything, this sounds like the peer review process is working correctly: objecively small numbers are consistent with scientists being basically honest, and a relative rise is consistent with improved fraud detection.

  3. Peer review is not set up to detect fraud anyway. The fact that so few papers turn out to be fradulent is not due to the vigilance of peer reviewers but to the basic honesty of scientists.

  4. Gabriel, I agree wholeheartedly. Its set up to detect error. I would guess most scientific fraud is discovered when someone else tries to replicate the results, and can’t. Then they start doing an in-depth assessment as to why, which reveals the truth. This can occur long after the findings have been published.

  5. The creationists have a very, very old document that needs retracting. It makes assertions that have never been independently verified, are contrary to the available evidence, and it’s authors are anonymous – yet citations from the document appear in virtually all subsequent creationist writings.

  6. But of course you realize that you will be going straight to Hell and taking me with you for agreeing with you.

  7. Tomato Addict

    @ Ed: Oh that’s wonderful. Let’s retract the bible!

    And as long as we are on the subject of academic standards: http://funnies.paco.to/GodTenure.html