Discovery Institute — Propaganda Whiplash

This one is a bit complicated to write about, but we’ll give it a try. On 10 May, this editorial appeared in Nature: Beware the anti-science label. It said, with our bold font:

True anti-science policies — the early Soviet Union’s suppression of genetics research, for example, and its imprisonment of biologists while trying to revamp agriculture — can wreck lives and threaten progress. But it’s important not to cheapen the term by overusing it. And it’s wrong for researchers and others to smear all political decisions they disagree with as being anti-science. For instance, despite being labelled by many as anti-science, the US Republican Party — for all of its flaws — is not trying to hobble innovation or seeking to dismantle the research enterprise.

[…]

If science sometimes loses out to concerns about employment or economics, scientists should not immediately take it as a personal slight. Rather, it is a reason to look for common ground on which to discuss the concerns and work out how science can help: creating jobs in green energy, for instance, or revamping wasteful grant programmes.

Of course, corruption and conflicts of interest can frequently motivate political decisions as well, and researchers and others should not hesitate to highlight them. But name-calling and portraying the current political climate as a war between facts and ignorance simply sows division. If scientists are feeling threatened by budget cuts and real anti-science rhetoric, they should look for all the help and support they can get.

That was certainly not a defense of creationist legislation, but the Discovery Institute seized upon it, did a bit of quote-mining, and spun it in their favor when they posted Abusing the “Anti-Science” Label — Editors of Nature Agree with Wesley Smith! They said:

Nature, the world’s foremost science journal, urges readers to cool it with the “anti-science” slur. They do so in an editorial, “Beware the anti-science label,” that is uncompromising in its common sense: [a few mined quotes].

[…]

Good for you, Nature editors. When establishment pillars like yourselves finally get fed up and speak out against the weaponizing of science rhetoric to political and ideological ends, that’s a welcome and very healthy sign.

But two days later, Nature posted Revamped ‘anti-science’ education bills in United States find success, in which Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), was quoted about recent legislative activity we’ve been reporting about, such as non-binding resolutions recently passed in Alabama and Indiana — see Alabama Is Officially Insane and also Indiana: A New Kind of Creationist Madness.

The use of the “anti-science” label to describe legislation so dear to the Discoveroids was embarrassing, so they just posted Two Days After Warning Against “Anti-Science” Label, Nature Calls Academic Freedom “Anti-Science” at their creationist blog. It was written by Sarah Chaffee, whom we call “Savvy Sarah.” Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

From the headline of the piece you might think you were reading some online tabloid. But guess again. Published in Nature on May 12 and republished by Scientific American, Erin Ross’s article declares, “Revamped ‘anti-science’ education bills in United States find success.” The headline is describing legislation in Florida and academic freedom resolutions in Alabama and Indiana.

The term “anti-science” is ironic. As we noted at Evolution News [the Discoveroids’ creationist blog] the other day, Nature itself published a May 10 editorial, “Beware the anti-science label.” It warned against using the term lightly and urged that “Presenting science as a battle for truth against ignorance is an unhelpful exaggeration.” Now here is Nature, just two days later, labeling academic freedom resolutions as “anti-science.”

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Then Savvy Sarah says:

Ross [author of the piece in Nature] extensively quotes Glenn Branch of the National Center for Science Education, a group that is staunchly opposed to academic freedom legislation, but doesn’t quote supporters of the Alabama or Indiana legislation. The article represents a one-sided perspective on academic freedom legislation.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! She goes on a bit more, but we’ll skip to the end:

Academic freedom resolutions are limited pieces of legislation that are non-binding and simply urge support for teachers who choose to teach scientific evidence on both sides [Hee hee!] of controversial scientific topics covered in the curriculum. They strengthen science education [Aaaargh!!] by offering students the chance to critically examine scientific ideas rather than just memorizing and regurgitating.

The moral of the story, which the Discoveroids are certain to miss, is simply this: Don’t quote-mine Nature‘s editorial articles.

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

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5 responses to “Discovery Institute — Propaganda Whiplash

  1. Eric Lipps

    Academic freedom resolutions are limited pieces of legislation that are non-binding and simply urge support for teachers who choose to teach scientific evidence on both sides [Hee hee!] of controversial scientific topics covered in the curriculum. They strengthen science education [Aaaargh!!] by offering students the chance to critically examine scientific ideas rather than just memorizing and regurgitating.

    I feel a bit of regurgitating coming on.

    Seriously, there’s nothing wrong with teaching both sides of a scientific controversy–if there actually is a legitimate controversy. But the issue of whether evolution is or isn’t true stopped being controversial in the scientific community sometime in the last decades of the nineteenth century. The tiny minority of people with scientific backgrounds who favor some species of creationism are to put it bluntly, crackpots, at least on this issue, whatever their qualifications on other issues. (Ben Carson, at least, had the good sense to keep his creationism–as a Seventh-Day Adventist, he is required to accept that doctrine–on the down-low during his presidential run.)

  2. Ross Cameron

    Sounds like the old Kalamazoo double-shuffle to me. 🙂

  3. The most that an anti-evolution has offered is “there is something wrong with evolutionary biology”. That is, there is no there, there. No one, as far as I know, has offered a design by which Intelligent Designer produces the variety of life without reference to common descent with modification.

    No one has told us what the “other side” is. Once the teacher has taught about evolutionary biology, all that is left to be taught is “Or maybe there is something else”. And “academic freedom” or “fairness” would demand that be said about everything else in all schools.

  4. “If science sometimes loses out to concerns about employment or economics, scientists should not immediately take it as a personal slight.”
    If the Law of Gravity loses out to the concerns of the aircraft industry, scientists should not immediately take it as a personal slight, sometimes scientists should step aside and let employment and economics have precedence.

  5. The Law of Gravity says that airplanes can’t fly. This shows that Intelligent Design is what makes airplanes fly.

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