Writing Tips from Casey Luskin

Those of us who write about The Controversy between evolution and creationism are always dealing with the issue of how to write about the subject at hand so that it will be: (1) accurate, and (2) accessible to the general reader.

We do our humble best, but we are always impressed by the way authors like Ken Miller and Richard Dawkins strike a balance between readability and technical comprehensiveness so that their work can be be appreciated by a large audience.

But is there anyone in the universe who cares about how Casey Luskin — our favorite creationist — plies his craft on behalf of the Discovery Institute? Both he and they are described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page. We already know he’s a dedicated Discoveroid, so what else is there to know about him?

Well, there’s always the psychological angle. Some people may be curious about what goes on inside the head of such a person. Those skilled in such things may be able to make something out of what Casey just posted at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog: Striking the “High Accuracy” and “High Readability” Balance with the New Discovering Intelligent Design Curriculum.

It’s about the Discoveroids’ new book, authored by Casey (who is now the Discoveroids’ “research coordinator”) and two lesser-known intellects, Gary and Hallie Kemper (described as “home school educators”). We wrote about it four days ago when it was first announced. See Hey Louisiana — Here It Is! and then one more time: Discovery Institute Redefines Evolution.

Since their first announcement, the Discoveroids have posted an incredible six more times about the book, one of which was an “interview” with Casey — which we didn’t bother to read. Upon reflection, despite his new post’s promising title, it’s unlikely that Casey provides any revealing insights regarding his motivation or his skills. Anyway, we’ll take a look. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us and Casey’s links omitted:

Over the past couple of months, readers may have noticed I haven’t posted quite as many articles here as usual. This is partly because I’ve been working with my co-authors, Gary and Hallie Kemper, to put the finishing touches on a new introductory ID curriculum, Discovering Intelligent Design.

Actually, we didn’t notice the scarcity of Casey’s posting. We must have filled that intellectual void by watching shows about Nostradamus and ghost hunters on the History Channel. Casey continues:

Having written in this space since the end of 2005, I’ve learned a few lessons about science writing. One of the main things I’ve found is that that it can be a real challenge to communicate complex scientific concepts to a general audience.

What’s so difficult about pushing creationism? Casey explains:

First and foremost, a good science writer needs to make sure what he says is accurate.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Here’s more:

Then comes the next challenge: communicating those scientific ideas to a diverse readership — not just scientists and university students but bank tellers, hotel clerks, soccer moms, priests, rabbis, gardeners and even my dear old grandma. (OK, maybe not my own grandma in particular — she has no idea how to use the Internet.) And above all, teachers and high schoolers (and not just the nerds and geeks, but also goths, punks, vamps, skaters,…and maybe even the stoners and the jocks).

We can’t imagine Casey communicating to the jocks. He seems like the kid they used to take a whiz on in the high school locker room. Moving along, Casey expounds on his struggle between accuracy and reaching a general readership:

At this point, there are a couple options. The “quick and easy path,” as Yoda would say, is to sacrifice scientific accuracy for the sake of communicating to everyone.

That’s precisely what creationists do. Does Casey have any other option? He thinks he does:

Another path that can also be easier (but isn’t always the best choice) is to keep your science writing on a very high level, maintaining strict accuracy, but very likely failing to reach a broad spectrum of less-technical readers.

It seem to us that Casey has chosen the quick and easy path. But he sees things differently:

Given a choice between sacrificing accuracy and sacrificing accessibility, I’ve essentially always opted for the latter. That’s because I can’t stomach the idea of being inaccurate for any reason, even in the noble pursuit of informing my readership.

M’god — is he serious? Here’s another excerpt:

But what if this choice is really a false dilemma? Perhaps there’s a third way, one that communicates scientific information to a broad spectrum of readers yet remains scrupulously accurate. Indeed, I think there is such a third option. It typically requires a lot more time and effort to craft your material. It also usually requires that the science writer himself have a deeper understanding of the subject at hand, and use creativity so as to better explain the relevant ideas. This third way, in my opinion, is the best.

That’s what a good introductory textbook should do — but if it’s written to promote Oogity Boogity, there may have to be — shall we say — some slight sacrifice in the accuracy component. Then Casey says this:

It is precisely the approach we took in developing Discovering Intelligent Design. My co-authors and I worked very hard to make sure that we covered the core topics in the debate over intelligent design, yet communicated the material at an easy-to-read level …

Yeah, okay. We’ll spare you the sales pitch with which the article ends. So there you are, dear reader. Casey claims his new book is not only easy to read, it’s also accurate. It’s the best of both worlds!

We started Casey’s article hoping for some insights. Did we learn anything about Casey’s inner motivations, or his unique writing skills? No, not really. But we can take comfort in being assured that we made no mistake three years ago when we announced that Casey Luskin Is Named a Curmudgeon Fellow.

Copyright © 2013. 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

12 responses to “Writing Tips from Casey Luskin

  1. The advice given to all writers of expository prose:

    Who, what, where, when, why, how

    Who is/are/was/were the designer(s), what did they do, when and where did they do it, why and how did they do it?

  2. My feedback to Amazon on this book was where are the author bio’s? Luskin has a point about preciseness in his arguments, that’s why he became a lawyer so he could argue his case before his selected jury, the religious masses who don’t know or don’t give a damn about Darwin or science. Thus his accuracy in his argument is merely an attempt to sway or better, to poison, the jury, thus assuring his winning his case, like his hero and idol, Phillip Johnson. Furthermore, he argues his case in selected venues, e.g., churches, religious publications, etc. His and the Dishonesty Institute’s argument regarding freedom of speech and speak to the strengths & weaknesses is a blatant attempt to open and broaden his venue and insert religious nonsense into the scientific arena.

  3. waldteufel

    From TomS: “Who is/are/was/were the designer(s), what did they do, when and where did they do it, why and how did they do it?”

    Excellent points, to which I’d add: “And who designed and made the intelligent designer?”

  4. My co-authors and I worked very hard to make sure that we covered the core topics in the debate over intelligent design…

    Not having read the book (and not intending to do so) I will cut the authors some slack and assume they cover the debate over intelligent design, or at least their side of the debate. Covering intelligent design itself, however, they most likely do not do.

    Also, since as far as I know Luskin has only written about intelligent design, he has yet to engage in “science writing”.

  5. Nobody has to cut Luskin any slack. This dreck is better named “Discovering Intellectual Dishonesty” and in that realm Luskin is a master.

    Just go to Amazon and pull up random pages using the “Surprise me” link. You will find page after page of intellectual slander, misrepresentation and outright lies. Page after page after page after page. It only ends at the end.

    The workbook is no better. There are insipid experiments designed for 5th graders and misleading “experiments” that have no purpose.

    For example, go around your house and find things that are designed. Then go outside and find things in nature that have the appearance of design. Why, they’re designed, too! Leaves are designed but why are rocks not. Well, they don’t say.

    Dishonest from end to end. Typical Luskin.

  6. Casey says, “I’ve been working with my co-authors … to put the finishing touches on a new introductory ID curriculum, Discovering Intelligent Design.”

    Introductory ID curriculum??? BWAHAHAHAHAHA! As if there might be an advanced ID curriculum?

    Casey, if you are writing about your so-called “intelligent design”, you needn’t be concerned at all about accuracy. You are writing fiction. You are definitely not writing about science.

  7. They’re drawing salaries and need to do something to justify that. So Casey Luskin and co. will keep on writing articles & books and organizing conferences, no matter how stupid and dishonest those are.

  8. The whole truth

    spacey luskin is a legend in his own, deranged mind.

  9. waldteufel asked: And who designed and made the intelligent designer?

    Myself, I prefer not to ask that question because I think that it would tend to obscure the fact that they have no alternative to offer, nothing other than “something, somehow is wrong with evolutionary biology”. But I am interested in a description of the stuff that the design was performed on. How about, for example, the bacteria without flagella or vertebrates without eyes? Where did the stuff that was in need of design come from?

  10. Lessons in writing? How about lessons in honesty! Oops, too late by about 20 years for Luskin. Below, Luskin writes about “holometabolism” otherwise known as complete metamorphosis.

    It’s a MYSTERY!!!

    “But from an ID perspective, metamorphosis is easy to understand: it arose, evidently, by planning and foresight. An intelligent agent could produce the information to program the entire life cycle of such an organism, allowing it to undergo a radical transformation like this. Only a goal-oriented process like intelligent design can explain the mystery of holometabolism.”

    Or to paraphrase Luskin, “from a creationist perspective it’s easy to understand because God made it that way and only God can explain the mystery.”

    Or you could turn to another non-technical science source written to be approachable and accurate, Scientific American, August, 2010

    The evolution of incomplete metamorphosis into complete metamorphosis likely involved a genetic tweak that bathed the embryo in juvenile hormone sooner than usual and kept levels of the hormone high for an unusually long time.

    Furthermore, remove the gene named “block” from the caterpillar and it never forms a butterfly. Furthermore, an evolutionary sequence is described in the article. Sure, some historical details to be teased out about what happened 280 fricking million years ago to some bugs in a swamp, but, hey, gaps – them’s gaps!!11!

    Oh, I almost forgot: Luskin, you are such a liar!

  11. As Doc quotes Luskin:

    Only a goal-oriented process like intelligent design can explain the mystery of holometabolism.

    Perhaps only a goal-oriented process like intelligent design can explain the mystery of the AIDS virus, or flesh-eating bacteria, or smallpox and polio etc. In fact, if such things are intelligently designed for some goal, should we be actively acting to eliminate them? Are we opposing the designer’s plan?

    A logical consequence of ID is that all things are here for a purpose, and we should not act to eliminate any of them – we should end vaccination programs, discontinue development of antibiotics, and so on.

    If one organism is designed, they are all designed – for if evolution is admitted in any case, then it is possible in all cases.

  12. When Casey Luskin writes:

    “Then comes the next challenge: communicating those scientific ideas to a diverse readership — not just scientists and university students but bank tellers, hotel clerks…And above all, teachers and high schoolers (and not just the nerds and geeks, but also goths, punks, vamps, skaters,…and maybe even the stoners and the jocks).”

    I am reminded inevitably of “Grace”, the secretary in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off:

    “Oh, he’s very popular Ed. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads – they all adore him.”

    What kind of IDiot describes high schoolers as “vamps”?

    And does he really think he’s going to reach goth kids by telling them that the creator of galactic super-clusters gave himself a body so that he could murder it, and therefore, they have to do with their genitals whatever Casey tells them, which is, not much of anything fun?