Discoveroids: The Corruption of Science

There’s a new post at the creationist blog of the Discovery Institute which demonstrates an astonishing lack of self-awareness: Should We Have Faith in Science?. It’s written by Kirk Durston, whom the Discoveroids introduced in this earlier post by telling us:

Dr. Durston is a scientist, philosopher, and clergyman with a PhD in Biophysics, an MA in Philosophy, a BSc in Mechanical Engineering, and a BSc in Physics.

Oooooooooooh — in addition to all those impressive degrees, Kirk is also a preacher! We shall respectfully refer to him as rev Durston. Here are some excerpts from his new Discoveroid article, with bold font added by us:

Many people today regard 21st-century science as a shining, monolithic spire of truth rising above the landscape of human ignorance and superstition. As a result, I often talk with people who fully apply all their critical thinking skills, and their full Internet-scouring abilities, to see if they can discover a weak link in evidence for the truth of Christian beliefs, but who have a complete, unquestioning faith in science.

Yes, people are always pointing out fallacies in the creationist claims of Discoveroids and others, but they never question the claims of science. It’s so unfair! Then rev Durston says:

Should you have blind faith in what science has become today? This article will be the first of several dealing with the corruption of contemporary science.

Oh joy! We can look forward to a whole series of these things. Let’s read on:

As a scientist, I am increasingly appalled and even shocked at what passes for science. It has become a mix of good science, bad science, creative story-telling, science fiction, scientism (atheism dressed up as science), citation-bias, huge media announcements followed by quiet retractions, massaging the data, exaggeration for funding purposes, and outright fraud all rolled up together. In some disciplines, the problem has become so rampant that the “good science” part is drowning in a mess of everything else.

No doubt rev Durston is referring to evolution, but he never specifically says that. He continues:

The heart of good science is the scientific method. … First, on the basis of a question, observation, or known laws of physics, draft a possible answer, explanation or “hypothesis.” Next, advance a falsifiable prediction on the basis of the hypothesis. Then, experimentally test the prediction. If the prediction is falsified, modify or abandon the hypothesis. If it is verified, the hypothesis is strengthened and lives to see another day.

Has anyone ever seen the Discoveroids applying the scientific method to their claims about a mystical designer — blessed be he! — who fine-tuned the universe and put the “information” into our DNA? We haven’t. Here’s more from rev Durston:

Avoid a double standard in how you apply your critical thinking skills; scientific claims are not above question. When you see a scientific claim, see if there is actually experimental verification of a falsifiable prediction. You might be surprised at how often a falsifiable prediction is not tested or even mentioned.

Excellent advice. A good place to start would be the “theory” of intelligent design, but rev Durston never mentions that. Moving along:

Look for the use of creative stories, or words like “suggests” or “may have” to make up for a lack of substance. Investigate whether evidence that does not support the hypothesis or prediction is being ignored.

One can find a number of such creative stories at the Discoveroids’ blog. Our last excerpt is from the end:

Coming up, I will look at specific types, with examples, of corruption in 21st-century science that are in contrast to good science and the scientific method.

Can anyone guess something that rev Durston won’t include among his examples? Hint: poorly defined terms like “complexity” and “improbability” as evidence of supernatural design.

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19 responses to “Discoveroids: The Corruption of Science

  1. Dave Luckett

    So far what we have is some general principles, plus an opinion. No doubt there are scientific papers that use words like “suggest” or “may have”. The writer has clearly read a lot of scientific papers, or he’d like you to think he has.

    I wonder if he’s actually written any, and what impact and reception they’ve had?

    But I must admit that I’m not curious enough to investigate further. I’m happy to wait until he tells us which exact research he’s talking about, with examples. If any.

  2. Perhaps his scienctific evidence comes from Ancient Aliens episodes?

  3. May I suggest Durston is creating a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” trap?

    He castigates scientists for using terms like “suggests” or “may have”, yet, would just as likely skewer scientists for using a words like “proves” or “proof”.

    After all, it looks like he wants to show just how unreliable scientific conclusions are. So, he has set up a snare in which he can get scientists for being certain (since they’re sometimes wrong) but he can also snare scientists for being uncertain (which shows how uncertain scientific conclusions are.)

    A win/win for Durston and IDology.

  4. “Avoid a double standard”
    Hypocrisy has reached an unprecedented low. This is similar to the human rights department of IS, if there were such a thing.

  5. michaelfugate

    Kirk at his Power to Change website is trying to convert every Canadian college student to Christianity. At his blog, he is trying to convert every scientist to pseudoscience; as “no new information” means – you guessed it – intelligent design.

  6. The whole truth

    I actually made it all the way through this, twice:

    What a dark, delusional, self-esteem destroying, fear mongering, threatening, arrogant, sanctimonious, dictatorial, two-faced, oppressive, enslaving, masochistic, sexually repressive, insane, homophobic pile of rancid excrement that is. In other words, it’s typically christian.

    If durston were to see my remarks he would of course shout ‘See, I told you so! I win! I’m hated and persecuted because I’m a nice, gracious, genuine, faithful, authentic Christian who is just sharing the loving gospel of Christ with humanity!’

    If my remarks were instead supportive of durston and his sermon, he would also shout ‘I win!’, because he would believe and claim that he had acquired and saved another ‘soul’ for his imaginary ‘lord-god-jesus’. In a similar vein to the win/win that Rob described above, durston is conjuring up a phony win/win for himself by what he preaches in that sermon too.

    That loon has children and he surely also has a lot of influence on what is crammed into the minds of the children that are indoctrinated at his church.

  7. There is some truth in what he is claiming. The medical sciences, etc. are woefully lacking in rigor (or being bought by medical corporations), with papers being withdrawn at very large rate due to mistakes and outright falsehoods.

    The scientific publishing biz, which was an icon of faithful service back when I was in college, is now charging authors to include their articles (take it out of your grant, sucker) and which then goes and charges $35 a pop for reprints from anyone wanting to read those articles (none of which goes to the author, by the way). That’s the price of a decent book for one crummy article (a PDF download at that). Again, take it out of your grant, sucker.

    Yes, there is trouble in science, but … but not enough trouble to open up holes wide enough to stuff in super aliens doing intelligent design.

    I’ve always wondered why the Discoveroids are against aliens. Didn’t an alien create us? And if aliens were created in other places, wouldn’t that fact show up in their scripture, rather than ours? Why are they so sure there aren’t multiple Intelligent Designers? Say, one for each galaxy. The galaxies are so far apart and the speed limit imposed is so slow, the species in each could never interact. So, if that is the case, ID theory should postulate the the number of gods, er, Intelligent Designers should be about 200 billion (one for each galaxy), no? Why are they so shy about proclaim surely what must be true?

  8. No idea why the quality of publishing went down, really. It’s not like there was one company attempting to make a mon- *couElsevierugh* – opoly of science publishing.

  9. michaelfugate

    If we are supposed to be like Jesus, shouldn’t we live at home until we are 30, never get married, wander around homeless preaching for 3 years, and piss off the authorities so they kill us? Has any really done this – including Kirk Dunston? When did Jesus pile up degrees and attack science?

  10. My first awareness of Durston came from this interesting article:

    It looks like Durston spun yet another retread of a very old argument polished up with some impress-the-donors mathematical notation. [Sarcasm alert.]

    Oooooooooooh — in addition to all those impressive degrees, Kirk is also a preacher!

    1) Are you sure he’s a preacher? I ask because I couldn’t find any evidence of that within the quotation or in some general Google searches. Apparently he’s a working scientist and a reasonably well published one at that.

    We shall respectfully refer to him as rev Durston.

    2) I also couldn’t find any indication of him being “Rev. Durston.” The quoted material calls him a clergyman. Beyond that, I don’t know. If he holds the “Rev.” title with a certificate on the wall or whatever, then one could be considered “respectful” in addressing him in that way, but I didn’t find any evidence of it. (The use of the “Rev.” honorific/style/title can vary greatly depending up the country, the culture, the denomination, etc. and some clergy even strongly eschew that title. In North America, “Rev.” typically indicates Protestant ministerial ordination. Of course, there’s lots of clergy who are neither ministers nor preachers and there’s many a preacher who will never be a “Rev.” )

    3) I’m curious as to why a working scientist with a valid Ph.D. from a solid institution [Biophysics, 2010, University of Guelph]—and what appears to be a reasonably solid C.V. of peer-reviewed journal articles in the field of his doctorate, if the website is telling the truth—writing on Should We Have Faith in Science? wouldn’t be addressed by the one title which appears to be the most obvious and relevant to opinion about science: Dr. Kirk Durston. Of course, seeing how the article simply refers to him as “Kirk Durston”, he probably doesn’t care either way. My reasons for caring are more than pedantry, however.

    One of the main reasons why I’m interested in the background of somebody writing for the website is that the standard fare of that deplorable hangout is so often written by science-ignorant attorneys and overly-cafeinated P.R. people. To see a lawyer or minister misrepresent science is nothing new but when an actual Ph.D. scientist pitches propaganda for The Dishonesty Institute and its disinformation venues, it seems more like professional misconduct. Yes, that’s hyperbole on my part—and I would certainly defend Dr. Durston’s freedom of speech—yet, when Ph.D. professional scientists join forces with propaganda purveyors with such pathological propensities to purloin the prestige of science for perjurious purposes [Sorry, alliteration amuses me]……well…. it ……. it makes my prose purposely polysyllabic.

    When Ray Comfort complains about scientists using words like “suggests” and “appears”, he has a good excuse. (That is, he’s an idiot when it comes to science.) But for Dr. Durston to play the same game takes something else all together.

  11. michaelfugate

    Prof. Tertius – you have to go to his blog at the Power to Change site (see links above) and read some of his stuff. He makes it very clear that after accumulating all kinds of degrees that it isn’t enough – he is working on another one in theology as we speak.

  12. Professor Tertius asks: “Are you sure he’s a preacher?”

    I regard all of the Discoveroids as such — they’re preaching creationism, which is a religious doctrine. As you noticed, the Discoveroids told us he’s a “clergyman,” and it’s my practice to refer to all such as “rev” — especially those I encounter in the context of creationism.

  13. he is working on another one in theology as we speak.

    I find that entirely believable. However, one can earn several theology degrees and yet not be a “minister” or a “clergyman” or a “preacher”—just as several science degrees would not necessarily make someone a professional scientist (or “working scientist”), I suppose. And for that matter even defending a dissertation wouldn’t make one a “published scientist” by most measures of the term.

    In any case, theology degrees don’t confer any of the familiar titles on the bearers other than that of the degree–other than perhaps the PhD or ThD in a theological field might prompt some to dub one a “theologian”. (Yet, pedants would probably demand a faculty post before applying even that term.)

    As to Dr. Durston, I found this on a forum from about six years ago:

    From Durston’s interview with Canadian Christianity:

    I have been doing a great deal of work in ID over the past few years — and have given presentations of my work in universities, both in Canada and the USA, that are well attended by both students and faculty. I have been very surprised by the fact that no significant objections to the evidence I present are being raised in these venues. I never bash Darwinism, I simply show them the positive evidence for ID — and it goes over very well indeed.
    I am currently working on a paper dealing with functional information, under the guidance of a professor in bioinformatics who wants to see my work published. It will be very low-key, mentioning nothing about ID, yet laying the groundwork for some major advances in this field — if it is, by some miracle, accepted for publication.

    Durston’s University of Guelph page says this:

    My research focuses on the application of information theory to biosequences, with the objective of developing a method to classify proteins in terms of functional entropy, and map their distribution in information space relative to each other. Such a method may make possible the reconstruction of evolutionary pathways and the prediction of other novel proteins within reasonable evolutionary range, as well as providing a more objective method of computing distance between biosequences. For my test suite, I am using a subset of 80 universal proteins that appear to occur in all living organisms.

    Curiouser and curiouser. I doubt if that last paragraph would pass muster at the D.I. website.

  14. michaelfugate

    It is pretty clear from his latest blog posts that he believes that genomes were somehow “front-loaded” by God and, other than a few minor “microevolutionary” tweaks here and there, they have been decaying ever since. There are actually fewer coding regions today than at creation. It is the usual probability argument and analogy to computer coding put forth with varying levels of sophistication.

  15. “As a scientist, I am increasingly appalled and even shocked at what passes for science.”
    This would of course exclude the many peer reviewed research papers “Durston the Dumpster” has had published recently. As a mechanical engineer, and an astro physicist, nuclear biostratigrapher and magical beard man in the sky expert, Durtson must have a truly impressive list of published research recognized by accredited science organizations and journals.
    I for one, would love to read these world class forays into the scientifically method, complete with miraculous wizardy events and poof “look what God did” explanations.
    It must be a veritable cornucopia of knowledge and scientific understanding. Pray tell Discorhoids, where might a humble seeker of knowledge go to find Durston’s powerful scientific work?
    Mad Magazine? The Evangelical Institute for Apologetics and Science Hatred? The National Enquirier? People?
    The world waits anxiously.

  16. It should be noted that Durston has never worked as a scientist. He worked for four years as an engineer for aircraft engine maker Pratt & Whitney, followed by the last 32 years in a student ministry (during which time he got his MA in Philosophy and his PhD).

  17. The whole truth

    I underestimated durston’s agenda. He goes way beyond influencing (ruining) his children and the children at his local church. He and his associated brain washers are spreading their despicable propaganda around the world (especially at colleges), and of course they’re generating a lucrative living for themselves by separating suckers from their money:

    (click on “View options”, etc.)

    Also see this:

  18. I attended a Durston presentation, approximately 2003. I followed up by searching for his contributions to the professional literature. Today, I find these:

    Durston, K. K., et al. “Measuring the functional sequence complexity of proteins.” Theoretical biology & medical modelling 4 (2006): 47-47.

    Durston, Kirk K., and David KY Chiu. “Functional Sequence Complexity in Biopolymers.” The First Gene: The Birth of Programming, Messaging and Formal Control (2011): 117-133.

    Durston, Kirk K., et al. “Statistical discovery of site inter-dependencies in sub-molecular hierarchical protein structuring.” EURASIP J. Bioinformatics and Systems Biology 2012 (2012): 8.

    There may be one other earlier paper under Chiu’s name as primary author, but I couldn’t find it.

    Impressive … NOT!

  19. Durston’s articles are competent, but don’t do anything to support creationism. He just uses them as a fig leaf (so to speak) to make it appear he supports ID out of genuine scientific principle. (“I am not a crackpot! Just look at these papers! So there!”)