The Discovery Institute has put up a fascinating post about their propaganda tactics — it’s never about actual science — at their creationist blog: Whatever You Do, Don’t Say “Irreducible Complexity”. It has no author’s by-line.
As you know, quote-mining is a favorite propaganda technique. It’s not only dishonest, it’s easy, so even a creationist can do it. Probably the all-time creationist classic is plucking a phrase out of the sub-title of Darwin’s book, Origin of Species, and then babbling that Darwin was a racist. If you’re not familiar with that one, see Racism, Eugenics, and Darwin. But the technique goes far beyond that, and the Discoveroids do it all the time — see, for example, Shock! Discoveroid Quote-Mining.
They also do it whenever a biological paper uses non-technical terms like “machinery” or something similar when describing some cellular function. Then they leap upon that terminology and start screaming: It’s a machine! Machines are designed! The biologists admit that this feature didn’t evolve!
As scientists become aware of such tactics, they sometimes try to idiot-proof their papers by inserting disclaimers to prevent creationist misinterpretations. That’s the cause of today’s Discoveroid post. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
While browsing through the articles forthcoming in the Journal of Molecular Evolution, we ran across the following sentence:
[Alleged quote, with the author’s precautionary language in red:] Since the subject of cellular emergence of life is unusually complicated (we avoid the term ‘complex’ because of its association with ‘biocomplexity’ or ‘irreducible complexity’), it is unlikely that any overall theory of life’s nature, emergence, and evolution can be fully formulated, quantified, and experimentally investigated.
Okay. Nice try. What can the Discoveroids do with that? Here it comes:
Shhh! Don’t say…well, just don’t say THAT word. You know the one. The “c” word…ending in “x.” Because people might think of…you know. The irreducible thing and that pest Michael Behe.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Then the Discoveroids say:
Oh, and isn’t BIO-Complexity the title of a peer-reviewed science journal open to examining ideas supportive of intelligent design? Yes. In that case, whatever you do, don’t say “biocompexity,” either! Say “complicated” instead. “Rather complicated.” That’s better. Fewer of those nasty associations.
What’s going on here? Can the Discoveroids score any points like that? We doubt it, but they’re certainly trying. This is our last excerpt:
Alas, trying desperately to avoid discussing a topic by policing your language or thought only calls attention psychologically to the very topic one seeks to avoid.
What can we say? It’s interesting that if we use disclaimer language to say: “This isn’t about intelligent design,” the Discoveroids pounce upon it and say: “Aha, that means it IS about intelligent design!” But in their own model Academic Freedom Act, they insert disclaimer language that says: “Nothing in this act shall be construed as promoting any religious doctrine, promoting discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promoting discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.”
We’ve often described that “shall not be construed” provision as comparable to a suicide-bomber’s explosive-laden vest being sewn with a tag saying: “Attention Bomb Squad Coroner: The deceased wearer of this garment should not be construed to be a suicide bomber.”
The rule seems to be that if the Discoveroids use a disclaimer, it’s okay; but if we do it we only make things worse. That’s Doublethink, and we reject it. Therefore, as we’ve done before, we end this post with a disclaimer we adapted from the Discoveroids’ academic freedom act:
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