Discoveroids: Outgunned & Outsmarted

We’ve been noticing something about the Discoveroids, described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page. They don’t have any positive accomplishments to brag about, so their blog postings are becoming increasingly desperate.

As you know, their legislative crusade to get states to adopt some version of their anti-science, anti-evolution, pro-creationism Academic Freedom Act has come to an embarrassing stage. This year, “academic freedom” bills have failed to pass in Arizona, in Colorado, in Indiana, in Missouri (two bills), in Montana, in Oklahoma (two bills), and in Texas.

After their initial legislative victory in Louisiana back in 2008, and one more pathetic triumph last year in Tennessee, all other states that have considered passing such a law have refused to do so. As a result, the Discoveroids are left with the annual task of defending the Louisiana Science Education Act against an increasingly vigorous repeal effort.

In the arena of courtroom litigation, the Discoveroids’ only effort this year was the David Coppedge case, and they lost that one — totally. See The David Coppedge Case: It’s Over. The endless case of John Freshwater is about to be decided by the Ohio Supreme Court. It’s not a Discoveroid case, and neither is John Oller’s litigation against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Their efforts to infiltrate legitimate academic institutions aren’t going anywhere — their assault on Ball State University has been exposed and is unlikely to have results favorable to them. Aside from bible colleges, the Discoveroids have no real presence in academia, and it doesn’t look like they’ll be getting any.

We know they’re not doing any science, so what is it that the Discoveroids are doing these days? And more importantly, what have they got to show in the way of progress when the time comes to solicit more funds from their generous patrons?

It appears that they spend their time patrolling the news media, and savagely criticizing anything that is uncomplimentary to their theocratic efforts. We saw a good example of this recently — see Klinghoffer Responds to the Times Article.

Aside from that, all they’ve really done this year is promote Stephen Meyer’s book. They managed to goose its initial sales enough to squeak onto the New York Times list of best sellers for one week. After that it dropped precipitously — see Stephen Meyer’s Book — How’s It Selling? Nevertheless, they endlessly declare it to be a “best seller.” Besides touting the book at their blog, what they mostly do is defend it against reviews which have thus far been — shall we say — unflattering.

An example of this is the latest entry at their creationist blog: In National Review, John Farrell’s Predictable and Misleading Review of Darwin’s Doubt. It’s by Casey Luskin, our favorite creationist. His article is very long (there was a lot of criticism in the National Review) and most of what Casey writes isn’t worth repeating, but we’ll give you a taste of it. He says, with bold font added by us:

We’re beginning to see a formula, repetitive and predictable, among critical reviews of Darwin’s Doubt. … Meyer’s main argument concerns the cause of the origin of the Cambrian animals, not their pattern of appearance in the fossil record. Specifically, Meyer argues that the genetic information (as well as the circuitry and epigenetic information) necessary to produce novel forms of animal life is best explained by intelligent design, rather than by various unguided evolutionary processes (like the mutation-selection mechanism).

We’ll skip an ark-load of that stuff. Casey eventually gets around to Farrell’s review:

Now, writing in the conservative outlet National Review, longtime ID-basher and Huffington Post-contributor John Farrell employs the same strategy.

You can read Farrell’s article here: How Nature Works. This is the best part of Casey’s attack on Farrell:

Instead of addressing, or even accurately representing, Meyer’s main argument for intelligent design, Farrell devotes a significant portion of his review to criticizing the book for the alleged misuse of an ellipsis.

That “alleged misuse of an ellipsis” is one of the most amazing acts of quote-mining ever attempted. The ellipsis in Meyer’s book is in the middle of a quote that joins together two parts of a paper by University of California, Berkeley, paleontologist Charles R. Marshall that were, in the original paper, separated by 15 pages! Panda’s Thumb had a whole article about it — see Stephen Meyer: workin’ in the quote mines. Casey sees nothing wrong with Meyer’s quote, and he defends it for several paragraphs. This is typical:

As to Farrell’s charge that Meyer misuses an “ellipsis,” this too is contrived, because, though the two quotes are separated by fifteen pages, they occur in similar contexts and make the same point. … It is worth pointing out as well that even if Meyer had misconstrued Marshall’s position on the artifact hypothesis, it would have had no material bearing on the argument Meyer was making, which shows you how superficial Farrell’s review is.

Good, huh? There’s another ton of it which you can read for yourself. We’ll ignore all that and jump to the end, where Casey says:

On top of all of this, Farrell frames Meyer’s argument as a strictly negative critique of evolution based upon “personal incredulity,” ignoring (and thereby failing to address) Meyer’s extensive critique of the mutation-selection mechanism, as well as Meyer’s rigorous positive case for design. … This weak review is unworthy of a respected outlet like National Review.

So there you are. The Discoveroids are on a roll. But it looks to us as if they’re rolling downhill. And they’re picking up speed.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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20 responses to “Discoveroids: Outgunned & Outsmarted

  1. Our Curmudgeon observes:

    The Discoveroids are on a roll. But it looks to us as if they’re rolling downhill.

    But can you detail every single microstep of their bathetic journey to the lower regions? That’s the ‘standard of proof’ that Creationists like Luskin demand–as was so splendidly illustrated by Richard B. Hoppe in a classic Panda’s Thumb post (highly recommended): Casey Luskin thinks normal scientific explanations are “just so” stories

  2. I wish I’d never heard the Gerbil speak. Ever since, I hear his voice when I read anything he writes.

  3. Maybe this should have been split across two articles, the first about the Discoveroids’ ambling and the second about Blustkin’s review of a review.

    Concerning the former, Discoveroids’ only weapons are rabblerousing rhetoric and semantic subterfuges, as instanced by Blustkin’s blah.

    Which raises the question: Would it be overconfident or unkind to suggest that this entry’s title is self-evident — a smidgen from being tautological? 😈

  4. …Meyer argues that the genetic information (as well as the circuitry and epigenetic information) necessary to produce novel forms of animal life is best explained by intelligent design, rather than by various unguided evolutionary processes (like the mutation-selection mechanism).

    Variations on this abound in the pro-ID literature. I don’t need to point out to our readers here that the claim is that there is something better than evolutionary biology but that there is no description of what that something better is. There is no attempt to say what happened, where and when, that resulted in this rather than that. There is no interest in exploring the constraints on explanatory factors that make reality one of the more probable outcomes out of an infinity of possibilities.

    But how can we get this across to a wider audience? How can we make the typical ID statement be seen as the embarrassment to the movement that it ought to be? When is the immediate response to this sort of obfuscation going to be, “And what is that better explanation? Please, give us just one example of an explanation that ID generates.”

    I suggest that such a response is more critical than things like, “What is your evidence?” or “You are just peddling dog-whistle creationism” or even “Your arguments are scientifically flawed”.

    We all know that science is not perfect, and we eagerly await the newer ideas that will do even a better job of accounting for even a wider range of phenomena. (Some of us may suspect that those newer ideas will be even more offensive to the ID-types.)

  5. I just ran across this article regarding lying and it seemed appropriate to reference it when talking about the dishonesty institute fellows and their efforts to fool the public.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130904205111.htm

  6. Ah, yes, Attack Gerbil Luskin complaining about John Farrell complaining about misusing the ellipsis! Take it away, Casey, and show us how it’s really done in your review:

    Another trip to the Quote Mine courtesy of Luskin’s review of Prothero’s review of Meyer’s Hopeless Monster 2 (now playing in theaters near you! Check for local times.)

    Luskin writes:

    ***

    “Regarding the reality of the Cambrian explosion, Erwin and Valentine write:

    “Taken at face value, the geologically abrupt appearance of Cambrian faunas with exceptional preservation suggested the possibility that they represented a singular burst of evolution, but the processes and mechanisms were elusive. Although there is truth to some of the objections, they have not diminished the magnitude or importance of the explosion. … Several lines of evidence are consistent with the reality of the Cambrian explosion. (The Cambrian Explosion, p. 6, emphases added)”

    “So it seems, contra Prothero, that Valentine and Erwin don’t believe the Cambrian explosion is merely an “artifact of preservation.”

    ***

    Notice the dreaded creationist ellipsis! We now enter the Quote Mine. What E&V actually say starting on page 5 (Luskin leaves all of this out because it blows Meyer’s creationist thesis!)

    “The reality of the cambrian explosion has been questioned by a number of scientists. One line of argument has been that because the fossil record is incomplete, the absence of earlier animal fossils is not evidence that such forms were not present in earlier faunas. Therefore, it has been argued that the explosion is more apparent than real and simply reflects unusual conditions of fossil preservation. Another frequent criticism is that because evolution is assumed to proceed by rather gradual change and not by jumps, the rapid appearance of such a diverse, novel fauna could not have arisen in such a short period of time as the explosion interval, almost a geological instant. Arguing from negative evidence is clearly dangerous.”

    ((Now we get to the quote mine. Notice how Luskin conveniently skips the paragraph gap. At the end of a paragraph describing the Burgess and China shale discoveries E&V write:))

    “The evolutionary history behind these assemblages was not well understood, however. A long, hidden history of animal evolution seemed possible. Taken at face value, the geologically abrupt appearance of Cambrian faunas with exceptional preservation suggested the possibility that they represented a singular burst of evolution, but the processes and mechanisms were elusive.”

    “Although there is truth to some of the objections, they have not diminished the magnitude or importance of the explosion. A long history of metazoan evolution did precede the Cambrian, perhaps by 200 million years of more. This long history was unknown when the explosion faunas were first described but it is being gradually revealed by comparative studies of the rates of molecular sequence divergence, by studies of molecular fossils or biomarkers and by a growing knowledge of the fossil record. The only animals present during most of the preexplosion interval were sponges and architecturally simple organisms built of sheets of tissues. A few tens of millions of years before the explosion, however, small organisms that had body plans designed for locomotion on the seafloor – bilaterian-grade forms – evolved.”

    ((more long paragraph talking about increased oxygen in the sea, etc, ending with the following:))

    “Solutions to some of the biomechanical problems posed by those larger bodies commonly involved the evolution of either tough organic or even mineralized skeletons. It was this round of metazoan evolution that produced the fossils of the Cambrian explosion. Thus, explosion fossils did have a metazoan ancestry stretching back well before the Cambrian into the Neoproterozoic, but earlier faunas did not consist of numerous, large, complicated body plans.”

    “Several lines of evidence are consistent with the reality of the Cambrian explosion. First, metazoan fossils are not the only fossil groups to suggest an unusual period of evolutionary activity during the early and middle Cambrian. The rise in fossil metazoan diversity is closely tracked by an increased diversity of organic-walled microfossils known as acritarchs as well as by an increase in the diversity and complexity of trace fossils – the signs of animal activity such as trails or burrows.”

    And this continues a little further talking about how increased burrowing and crawling disturbed sediments making fossilization problematic.

    So, Luskin tries to make the reader believe that E&V are arguing for a short, mysterious explosion when exactly the opposite is true. E&V discuss a long evolution prior to the Cambrian explosion and don’t see any mystery at all.

    Finally, note how Luskin uses the “Several lines” sentence to end his quote mine when E&V clearly use it to begin a new paragraph talking about lines of evidence.

    Absolutely, totally dishonest but in keeping, at least, with Meyer’s book in general.

  7. Great comment, Doc, you should post it at PT.

  8. They’ve been on a downward spiral since Dover, the differences now are 1 it’s more obvious even to a casual observer and 2 they now know it as well and are getting desperate.

  9. Man Mountain Molehill

    “Meyer’s main argument concerns the cause of the origin of the Cambrian animals,…”
    Is he claiming something like Hallucigenia was intelligently designed? I’d have an easier time believing it was the result of The Flying Spaghetti Monster performing an unnatural act on The Invisible Pink Unicorn.

    How about a compromise with the discoveroids: We get to teach kids logic, reason and the scientific method for a year before they get to teach intelligent design, YEC or whatever other nonsense of their choice. Should be good for a few laughs.

  10. The Tute has a new attack hack who we have already mocked here.

    The hack is now going after a real scientist who is reviewing Meyer’s Hopeless Monster 2 page by page. I predict the review will be 2000 pages long if he actually spends ink pointing out ALL of Meyer’s misrepresentations.

    Don’t take my word for it, go out to Smilodon’s Retreat and read the review for yourself. He’s only on Chapter 1. This could go on for years!

  11. If the DI fellows want to be taken a little more seriously, they need to grow up and act like adults. No real scientist calls upon lawyers like Luskin to defend them against their critics when they write a popular book on some subject. The book is published, and gets reviews pro and con, and that’s it, usually. If the author feels like he/she was misunderstood, or wishes to defend a point, they will do so themselves – perhaps by writing a paper in a journal addressing the issues raised, or maybe even posting a response on a blog if they happen to have one. Why isn’t Meyer answering these issues himself? Is he too embarrassed? He should be.

    It’s not just Meyer that can’t seem to play the part of a legitimate scientists. The existence of the DI organization itself is a clue to the non-scientific nature of Intelligent Design. The DI can’t even get cargo-cult science right. They run their “science” from a political organization, something more akin to the heritage foundation than anything in academia. They spend their time attempting to advance anti-science legislation, demeaning scientists who write about evolution, speaking in churches, and attempting to rouse culture warriors to their cause. Even if one might be sympathetic to the idea of intelligent design, a quick survey of the DI’s activities would make it clear that these are not scientists, no matter what letters they have after their name. They are political activists, attempting to return the US to some imagined 18th century ideal of a christian theocracy.

  12. Of course Ed knows the Disco Tute is a fraud. That’s why they hired a former fundraiser and speech major – to raise funds and make speeches!

    If the Tute’s sources of money get cut off they will disappear. They have no product. They prey on the gullible. The only thing they lack in their title is “ministry.” Perhaps they should take a page from the ICR, move to cheaper digs in a strip mall in Dallas and go pander crazy! Why not? Better climate, more rubes, more money. Perfect, I’d say.

    Come to Texas, Tute, and we’ll give you a proper welcome!

  13. Ceteris Paribus

    Jerry Coyne posted this morning that Darwin’s Doubt has been re-classified by Amazon.

    It is no longer in the actual Science catetgory.

    Under the Product Description for “Doubtitude” the paths to the hardcover item are now:

    #3 in Books > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > Science & Religion
    and
    #29 in Books > Christian Books & Bibles > Theology

    The Kindle version is said to now be in the actual Religion & Spirituality category, but I didn’t check that myself.

  14. Amazon Canada. You know those socialists up there. Too much Moosehead lager. Mounties running around in red pants. It’s a disgrace.

  15. Doc: Good posts. Luskin the Gerbil just keeps running on his wheel, but get no where no matter how fast he runs his mouth.

  16. @ Ed: I was in pretty much full agreement with your post, above, until your concluding sentence, which I am obliged to challenge:

    They are political activists, attempting to return the US to some imagined 18th century ideal of a christian theocracy.

    Did you mean 18th century, or was that a typo for 8th century?

    Considering the links of some of the Disco’Tute’s funders, I am certain the past ‘Golden Age’ to which they would drag us back is deep into the Dark Ages.

    Consider, in particular, the Christian Reconstructionist sympathies of DI bankroller Howard Ahmanson, Jr.; although he has lightened up a bit in recent years. He

    “no longer consider[s] [it] essential” to stone people who are deemed to have committed certain immoral acts. Ahmanson also told the Register, “It would still be a little hard to say that if one stumbled on a country that was doing that, that it is inherently immoral, to stone people for these things. But I don’t think it’s at all a necessity.”

    That’s what the thick end of the DI’s Wedge Strategy looks like–and it is at least a millennium behind the Enlightenment ethos of the 18th century.

  17. Our Discoverhoids have become inflamed, swollen, and increasingly painful.

    — Diogenes

  18. Diogenes writes up the patient’s symptoms:

    Our Discoverhoids have become inflamed, swollen, and increasingly painful

    I concur with your diagnosis–but I’m not writing a prescription for Preparation H. My Rx for Casey SkyLuskin is for a healthy dollop of Curmudgeonite morning, noon and night, to be applied on Uranus.

    I would have said “to be applied liberally”, but somehow that adverb didn’t sound quite right in this context…

  19. My Rx for Casey SkyLuskin is for a healthy dollop of Curmudgeonite morning, noon and night, to be applied on Uranus.

    Step 1: Remove head from Uranus.

  20. TomS: “But how can we get this across to a wider audience?”

    You know, but for readers’ benefit:

    1: Ignore the hopeless ~25% that will not admit evolution under any circumstances, and concentrate on the other ~50% that has varying doubts, or accepts evolution (usually a caricature) but thinks it’s fair to “teach the controversy” (as I did before I learned how devious the anti-evolution arguments were).

    2: In the presence of that ~50%, ask the activist basic “what happened when” questions about their “theory” and refuse to let them change the subject back to their recycled, long-refuted arguments against evolution, all of which are answered here: Index to Creationist Claims. There too, ignore overt Biblical activists, and concentrate on ID peddlers and “pseudoskeptics” who claim to have “no dog in the fight.”

    3: If the activist retreats to charges of “Darwinist” “censorship” do not just show how we do not censor anything – no one can stop a student from learning anti-evolution propaganda on his own time – but show how the activist favors censorship by demanding to replace much of what has earned the right to be taught with material that has not only not earned the right to be taught, but is misleading, and has refutations that will certainly be censored if that activist gets his way.

    4: Avoid the “ID is creationism/religion” line, however true it is. There are 2 battles to fight, but 99% of us insist on fighting only one, and the same one that NSCE is already fighting for us (keeping anti-evolution propaganda out of public schools). While NCSE works on the “supply,” and better than we can hope to do, we need to fight the battle to reduce the “demand.” It won’t be quick or easy, but we can do it.

    5: Show the games the activist plays – playing favorites with evidence, defining terms to suit the argument, conflating evolution with abiogenesis, demanding double standards, resorting to false dichotomies, such as the basic “is/ought” one where, when all else fails, they’ll show that their real objection to evolution has nothing to do with the evidence, but with their fear that acceptance causes all sorts of evil behavior.