A Demonstration of Discoveroid Doublethink

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:

This post shall not be construed as being disrespectful of the Discoveroids.

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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12 responses to “A Demonstration of Discoveroid Doublethink

  1. Can one imagine the job that someone has of reading through scientific publications looking for quotes to quote mine? Do they have paid subscriptions to lots of journals (that would add up to quite a sum)? Or do they have access to some scientific library? (Are they regulars at one of the
    Seattle libraries open to the public? Libraries are not to report on whom reads what, so we’d never know.) I picture some anonymous person turning up at the reading room each day and asking for the latest science journals, and reading through them, and occasionally photocopying one page. Sort of like the character in “Cheers”, where all of the librarians know your name, “Mornin’ Norm. We have issues of Nature, Cell and JAMA today.” “Mornin,
    Thank you.” Of course, the quantity of material to scan prevents anyone from reading with comprehension. The task is just to find certain magic words, which the miner is to bring back to the interpreter.

  2. Klinkletinkle doesn’t need a byline. His sophomoric slop speaks for itself. (then runs off in shame and hides)

  3. Mike Elzinga

    You can be sure that if an ID/creationist is accusing the science community of some kind of “intellectual atrocity,” they are giving you a huge picture window into their own psyche. Projection is what they do; they have no clue about what real scientists think and know.

  4. “they sometimes try to idiot-proof their papers”
    In my opinion this is a waste of time and effort, that takes IDiots way too seriously. It’s better to just add a disclaimer like “anyone who refers to our usage of terms like complex as proof for IDiocy is simply dishonest”.

  5. @TomS: given how little IDiots publish about their own research it seems to me that they have lots and lots of time to burn for doing silly things like that.

  6. Pete Moulton

    “Oh, and isn’t BIO-Complexity the title of a peer-reviewed science journal open to examining ideas supportive of intelligent design?”

    Well, no. It’s just another element in their cargo cult. In 2016 they published four ‘papers,’ while they published only three in 2015. These weren’t papers in the usual sense of scientific papers, which detail actual research, but rather were more in the way of mental masturbation. But nice try, cretinists.

  7. Now that you have a disclaimer, Curmudgeon, perhaps you could adopt Larry Moran’s (http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/) terms for supporters of ID. He calls them “IDiots.”

  8. It is tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

  9. Some people seem to have a (genetic?) predisposition to look for things they can twist to their favor. Coppedge was (is? as I don’t go there anymore) famous for finding scientific articles to distort. One of his favorite tactics was to note that because the paper in question never used the word evolution, evolution and evolutionary theory obviously aren’t needed to do good science, thank you very much. And, I once had a student who spent more time trying to find an ambiguity, a misplaced word, a hidden meaning in a test question to gain a point rather than study a bit more. I don’t think he ever made it to medical school.

  10. Personally, I think avoiding certain terms are a waste of time, not because they might cause an association with something the DI might say. It’s because since when does the DI need actual words to try and form an association.

    I also find is hilarious that they still refer to Bio-Complexity as a peer-reviewed science journal. To quote The Princess Bride “I do not think that word means what you think it means”. As far as I understand the process, peer-review doesn’t mean having a few people who already agree with you read your papers and pat you on the head.

  11. Michael Fugate

    Ted, I do too. Dennett has written a strong argument for the efficacy of bottom-up design with no need for intelligence.

  12. Yes, Michael, I have read some of Dennett’s material. I especially like the quote:

    “The traditional view of purpose says it comes from on high, from God, from the Creator. Darwin’s idea of natural selection makes people uncomfortable because it reverses the direction of tradition. Whereas people used to think of meaning coming from on high and being ordained from the top down, now we have Darwin saying, “No, all of this design can happen, all of this purpose can emerge from the bottom up without any direction at all.”