Bruce Chapman Says: Beware Consensus

What would you do if you were the head of an outfit trying to promote some anti-science nonsense opposed to one of the best-established theories in science? To make it even more challenging, suppose you had no evidence to support your position? That’s the problem facing Bruce Chapman, whom we affectionately call “Chappy.” He’s the founder and chairman of the Discovery Institute.

Chappy’s position makes him Lord High Keeper of the Discoveroids’ Wedge strategy, and the ultimate leader of all cdesign proponentsists. Therefore, when Chappy speaks, creationists pay attention — and so do we.

Chappy’s latest is From the Folks Who Brought You Camels and Lucky Strikes: “Consensus”. As his title suggests, Chappy is going to argue that his isolation from the science mainstream is a powerful argument in his favor. He says, with bold font added by us:

Spend some time with old issues of Time Magazine or Look circa 1950 and you’ll find ad after ad touting the doctors who smoke Camels or Lucky Strikes … . The PR agencies surveyed the doctors, sometimes counting hundreds of thousands of them, then advised readers that such and such brand was “not irritating on the throat,” was “soothing,” and other euphemisms for scientific approval of what turned out to be a deadly product.

Scientific approval for a harmful product? Egad, could it be that the same thing is going on with evolution? Yes, dear reader, that’s what Chappy is suggesting. He tells us:

Most doctors smoked in those days. There was a kind of consensus that smoking was okay, especially if you bought a particular brand, one with filters, perhaps. That the incidence of lung and throat cancer was rocketing didn’t register fully on medical practitioners for a long while. The connection with heart disease also was missed.

Oh, they didn’t know. Most scientists don’t know about the wonders of intelligent design either, but that’s no excuse for peddling evolution. Let’s read on:

All those doctors testifying on behalf of cigarettes didn’t matter to the truth, did it? The cigarette makers did not exactly announce a scientific consensus, but they implied it.

Oooooooooooh — ignorance led to a consensus, or at least an implied consensus. Chappy wants us to learn from this that consensus is a very strong warning sign. He continues:

History tells repeatedly of scientific consensus or implications of same that were driven by self-interest, expedience, groupthink, or just plain ignorance.

Does history “repeatedly” tell us of such things about science? What about times in history when there was a religious consensus? Did that ever cause any problems? Chappy doesn’t bother with that. His enemy is science. Here’s more:

As SUNY brain surgeon Michael Egnor notes, the consensus is for man-made global warming (aka, climate change), Darwinian evolution, and whatever the latest fad headline attests that “Scientists Say.” In the case of forensic science and the FBI, it has turned into a scandal.

Michael Egnor? BWAHAHAHAHAHA! The last time we wrote about him was Egnor: Hatred of the Material World. Here’s one last excerpt from Chappy’s post:

But such is the prestige of scientists that you will hunt hard for universities that tolerate contrarian views on politically delicate science issues, or will even allow debate. But the careful reader can find out for himself.

Yes, the “careful reader” can visit creationist websites, like that of the Discoveroids. There they will learn about the evils of science, and the unmistakable warning sign of scientific consensus. The fringe is the best place to be — the farther out the better. The Discoveroids are very well positioned. So is The Time Cube.

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34 responses to “Bruce Chapman Says: Beware Consensus

  1. suppose you had no evidence to support your position?

    Suppose that you had no position. No positive, substantive position.
    Suppose that all that you had was that “something may be wrong with the consensus”.
    Suppose that for more than 100 years nobody thought of a possible alternative for the consensus. All of the smart people who have been thinking that there might be something wrong with evolution haven’t been able to suggest an alternative for what happens so that the world of life turns out as it does, rather than otherwise.

    Geocentrists can make the same guess, that maybe there is something wrong with the consensus of the heliocentric model of the Solar System, but they at least describe a geocentric model, whatever its faults.
    Flat-Earth advocates can complain about the round-Earth consenus, but they at least have an alternative.
    Intelligent Design advocates have nothing.

  2. And once again they argue for debate and free exercise of ideas on a website with no comments.

  3. Is the Time Cube site down? It’s not responding right now.

  4. Take Chapman’s tacit advice, and follow the money.

  5. michaelfugate

    Does Chappy know that creationism was the consensus before evolution was proposed?

  6. Bruce Chapman Irony Attack:

    Self-contradiction #1: Chapman compares evolution to big tobacco marketing campaigns. However, all modern anti-science movements, especially Intelligent Design creationism and global warming denial, borrow their rhetorical strategies and talking points from big tobacco marketing campaigns, which concocted words like “junk science” (evolution, or the belief that tobacco causes cancer) and “best science available” (anti-evolution, or the belief that smoking is healthy and gets you women.)

    Self-contradiction #2: Chapman has the audacity, the chutzpah, to compare evolution to recent scandals in forensic science! Which is amazing, because for many years IDers have claimed that forensic science is a branch of Intelligent Design theory, they called it “Intelligent Design in Action”, which logically means that if forensic science has scandals, then those are scandals of Intelligent Design itself.

    From a Disco Tute post of December 3, 2013, entitled “Intelligent Design in Action: Forensic Science”, see here: “In the past we’ve considered archaeology and cryptology as examples of intelligent design science in action. Forensic science is another. It seeks to tease apart purposeful causes from accidental ones in human events. For instance, in a murder trial, evidence is examined to determine whether the victim died of natural causes or was killed intentionally. The more perfect the crime, the more difficult the task.” If forensic science is “Intelligent Design in Action”, then the scandals of forensic science are ID scandals.

    Self-Contradiction #3: Chapman cites the alleged opinions attributed to medical doctors back in the 1950’s as proof of the unreliability of scientists— and then he turns around and cites his authority a medical doctor, Michael Egnor, who is a sawbones not a scientist, and who has demanded cutting all funding for all scientific research except medical research, the least reliable, least reproducible branch of scientific research.. If Chapman’s point is that doctors are unreliable, why is he citing a doctor as his authority?

    Chapman’s disgusting, revolting, hypocritical logic is that the failures of doctors mean that we should trust doctors, if they are creationist doctors, but we should not trust scientists. In other news, if cops shoot unarmed black men and plant evidence on their corpses, then we should trust cops, and we should not trust Baptist ministers.

    This leaves aside the separate question as to whether the opinions of doctors are an accurate gauge of scientists, their conclusions, and the reproducibility of the experiments performed by scientists; or whether the Madison Avenue men accurately described the opinions of doctors even in the 1950’s, issues that, while important, which merely pile more disrepute upon that huge pile of fraud, Bruce Chapman, and his Duplicity Institute.

  7. There might have been a consensus among cigarette makers and smokers that they were harmless, but scientists who actually did research on the effects of smoking came to a different opinion. It was the consensus of the knowledgeable scientists that is was harmful that eventually toppled the cigarette makers PR machine and began the efforts to curb smoking.

    The problem with smoking is that no actions to treat it as a health issue would occur if there was no consensus within the scientific community.

    I wonder what Chappy thinks about vaccinations. Beware the consensus?

  8. I love it when I read that modern science didn’t develop out of need, that it is simply the vanguard of a deliberate and calculated assault on mysticism.

    When viewed in the light of the inability to provide any proof to back up the claims made by the creationist community. Creationism is nothing more than just another conspiracy theory. It might be more accurately represented as a collection of conspiracy delusions that appear to offer support to the creation fantasy.

  9. waldteufel

    Chappy’s constant challenge is to make himself look relevant to his sugar daddies, when in fact he has no intellectual relevance in the real world.

  10. michaelfugate

    This goes to show that apologists never think things through – he is willing to throw out all consensuses that help him to discredit one that doesn’t. Doesn’t this make Christianity in the US suspect?

  11. Perhaps Chappy is unaware that it was research scientists who uncovered the mechanisms by which tobacco smoke increases the risk of lung cancer, heart disease, and other ailments. And they did it despite the relentless propaganda from the cigarette companies. That’s a bit like the fact that scientists have discovered the mechanisms of evolution, while the propaganda shills of the IDers have never discovered anything.

    And by the way, Chappy, if a consensus of 90+% of experts on a topic agree, I don’t pay much attention to the consensus of people who know nothing about it.

  12. Although this is slightly off topic, I just saw this article on the Nature web site:
    Only the abstract is available if you don’t have a subscription, but it’s about the isolation of a new group of archaea whose genome encodes a number of proteins characteristic of eukaryotes. I should get my paper copy of Nature tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to reading the whole article.

  13. Of course, Chapman’s argument could just as easily be turned against creationism. After all, before the nineteenth century, there was a consensus in favor of Genesis throughout what was then unhesitatingly called “the Christian world.”

    However, as it turned out, the “consensus” of the actual evidence moved in another direction, and eventually the old faith-based consensus gave way, at least among those not emotionally committed to the Biblical creation story.

    If the day should ever come when real evidence supported Creation and disproved evolution, it would be time for the “consensus” to shift again. Don’t hold your breath waiting.

    What Chapman is basically saying is, “Who cares what 99.9 percent of scientists say? I know what I believe, and that means they’re all wrong.”

  14. “scientific approval of what turned out to be a deadly product.”
    “There was a kind of consensus that smoking was okay.”
    Chappy doesn’t even get the facts right that he need to pull of his nonsensical train of thought.

    “Cigarettes were recognised as the cause of the epidemic in the 1940s and 1950s, with the confluence of studies from epidemiology, animal experiments, cellular pathology and chemical analytics.”

    Chappy is pathetic.

  15. I freakin love it when our Curmudgeon shreds the ‘Tuter.
    They should really read the blog. Maybe they can come up with some new approaches or something.
    Chapped Lips has some significant new
    pieces of shrapnel in his raggedy butt today.

  16. It is always interesting to see creationists lecture scientists on how science should be done.

    And it is most ironic, because creationists are anti-science and anti-evidence start to finish. Their only interest in science is to dispute its findings, and their only interest in evidence is to deny it.

    I guess the only reason we even read what they write, since they are doing the exact opposite of science, is for the amusement value.

    And sorry to say, they are so repetitious and uneducated (deliberately it seems) that even their amusement value is wearing thin. They rarely come up with anything new or even anything of much interest.

    I’m not sure why we even bother any more.

  17. Charles Deetz ;)

    The metaphor doesn’t even work. It wasn’t the scientists, it was the marketers that did the lying, misrepresenting the consensous. Much like today, where you have a group of non-scientists misrepresenting scientists about evolution and big bang theories.

    Hmm, wait, the metaphor does work after all, Chappie just didn’t explain it right😉

  18. So if we’re not supposed to trust scientific consensus, I guess no one at the Dishonesty Institute will throw around thier stupid dessent from Darwin list anymore.

  19. @ abeastwood: While awaiting your copy of Nature, the BBC has some reporting on the article about Lokiarchaeota: Newly found microbe is close relative of complex life. It’s reasonably well-written for a popular science article, and the topic is fascinating.

  20. Steve Greene

    You would think Chapman has never even been to a university, with his pretension that debate is not tolerated. Of course, as with all creationist rhetoric, the notion is ludicrous. It’s more of that conspiracy theory crap that creationists love so much. We see precisely the exact same rhetoric from young earth creationists where they try to pretend that there’s no debate involved in science – despite the fact that when we actually look at, for example, research articles in professional science journals of geology and geophysics, or paleontology and paleobiology – we see all sorts of debates going on all the time, over all kinds of specific topics and details.

    It all goes back to creationists throwing up a deceitful rhetorical facade of “no debate” to try to cover up what they’re really doing: Deliberately ignoring the basic standards of professional science, because in order to get their ideas to be considered as “science” then we have to ignore scientific standards of any kind.

  21. Chris Stevenson asks

    Is the Time Cube site down? It’s not responding right now.

    Jeepers! It does appear the domain name has lapsed, and the site–the Acme of Human Knowledge–is not available!

    Perhaps it will be back on line when the Earth completes its next diurnal rotation through the Higher Order of Life Time Cube…

  22. Och Will recommends that the Disco’Tooters

    should really read the blog

    They do read this blog, at least on occasion, and have even quoted our Curmudgeon (perhaps the Great Hand of Correction can insert a link here, as I–a mere mortal–cannot locate it at present?).

    But the substantive stuff on this blog has no impact on them, so armoured are they against empiricism by their a priori insistance on the Power of Oogity-Boogity, and the satiricial bits either go whizzing right over their heads, or at best simply feed their persecution complex, which they so assidiously tend.

  23. Megalonyx announces: “Jeepers! It does appear the domain name has lapsed”

    Oh the joy! That means you can achieve the dream of a lifetime and register that name as your own. Hurry!

  24. David Williams

    People who maintain ideas against scientific consensus are either visionary geniuses or cranks. Do any of the Discoveroids appear to be visionary geniuses? Complaining that the scientific consensus does not care what you think is science is one of the signs of a crank.

  25. @David Williams
    Do we have any examples of people who are recognized as having been visionary geniuses for saying that the consensus is wrong? That the consensus is wrong, without offering an alternative?
    Are there visionary geniuses who said, “Ptolemy is wrong”, “the Earth is not flat”, “something, somehow, is wrong with the phlogiston theory”, …?

  26. In answer to my question: how about the denial of Moses being the author of the Pentateuch? The occasional person who did point out the difficulties for Mosaic authorship is remembered, even though I think that it was only Jean Astruc (in the 18th century) who first proposed an alternative.

  27. @Tom S. Ralph Steinman proposed macrophages were not the cells that mediated primary immunity, which was against the consensus at the time. He went on to discover & isolate dendritic cells. That’s probably not a great example as he was not arguing macrophages did not exist. He won a Noble Prize for medicine in 2011 for that discovery. And also the only Noble winner to have received it posthumously

  28. I like mnb0’s point about the fact that science already knew in the 40s that cigarettes were harmful. So the tobacco industry pulled out doctors for their marketing to give them credibility. Very similar to what creationists do today: Get a doctor as a hired gun to give you credibility.

  29. Diogenes' Lamp

    See the presidential campaign of Dr. Ben “if the Earth’s orbit were 1 million miles farther from the sun, we’d all freeze to death” Carson.

  30. michaelfugate

    Steve, I think Chappy is assuming his audience has never been anywhere near a university or at least not a secular one except to attend a football game.

  31. Steve Greene

    I’m not actually familiar with what tobacco companies did, in regard to hiring scientists. But the issue with creationists is that they “hire” guys who have Ph.D.’s in some field of science that may or may not actually be relevant to whatever they’re talking about and that even if it is in a relevant field they’ve never published any scientific research in that field relevant to the topics of creationism they’re promoting.

    Oh, and then on top of that they go around – I kid you not – trying to seriously make the argument that creationism is science because some scientists believe in creationism. (Regardless of the fact that they obviously believe in creationism because of their personal religious beliefs in some religious doctrines based on religious myths in some religious book.)

    So in this regard – but I reiterate that I’m not really familiar with the details of what tobacco companies and some scientists did – I suspect that creationists are even worse snake oil salesmen than the tobacco companies.

    Creationist rhetoric is notorious for employing attacks against science that they are hypocritically blind to seeing how their own rhetoric puts the creationists themselves in a much worse light. Comparing evolutionary biology in the biological and paleontolical fields of science to tobacco companies is a perfect example of this. Creationists completely ignore the actual points of their own criticisms. They get their own metaphors backwards.

  32. @Steve Greene

    One effective ploy is to accuse one’s opponent of the very thing that one is doing.

  33. Steve Greene

    You make a good point, where you write, “Do we have any examples of people who are recognized as having been visionary geniuses for saying that the consensus is wrong? That the consensus is wrong, without offering an alternative?”

    Occasionally I see critics of creationists making that argument that there is something wrong with criticizing the theory of evolution without offering an alternative. Which is just a bad argument. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. If there is something wrong with some explanation, then there is something wrong with it, period, regardless of whether or not you happen to have an alternative explanation. Innocent until proven guilty.

    The truth of the matter is that the criticisms creationists make are either (1) bogus criticisms based on either their failure to comprehend evolution (or in the case of young earth creationists, failures in comprehending some aspects of geology, astronomy, physics, or what have you), or (2) a failure to keep up with the latest scientific research results, or (3) arguing that evolution is all wrong because we don’t know about the details of some particular aspect of it and therefore ‘God did it’ (god-of-the-gaps fallacy). Note that in the cases of (2) and (3) the basic scientific topic creationists raise may actually be perfectly legitimate – but they’re never thinking straight when they think that a common conceptual fallacy provides a good alternative scientific theory.