‘Teach the Controversy’ Goes Viral

You know about the Discovery Institute’s propaganda slogan — Teach the Controversy. Wikipedia says it’s “a campaign, conducted by the Discovery Institute, to promote the pseudoscientific principle of intelligent design, a variant of traditional creationism, while attempting to discredit the teaching of evolution in United States public high school science courses.”

As we often point out, their campaign hasn’t been very successful — especially since Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. But despite decades of failure, they keep slugging away at it. Now they’re trying to expand their campaign into other areas, as if it were some kind of success formula.

They just posted this at their creationist blog: Stephen Meyer: Teach the (Coronavirus) Controversy. It was written by Klinghoffer. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

Our colleague and CSC director Stephen Meyer has a terrific article up now at The Federalist [link omitted]. As readers will know, when it comes to evolution education, the Center for Science & Culture [ “CSC” ] advocates “teaching the controversy.” Note Meyer’s application of the “Teach the Controversy” principle to how medical opinion is being given to U.S. leaders who make policy decisions about a national response to COVID-19.

Fascinating. Having triumphed over the theory of evolution, now they want to use “Teach the Controversy” to triumph over the coronavirus. Isn’t that wonderful? Oh, wait. We must pause to toss in a bit of background, which you’re free to skip:

We all know about Stephen Meyer. His Discoveroid job description has changed over the years, but as their bio page indicates, he’s one of their senior fellows and is currently the Program Director of their Center for Science and Culture — that’s their creationism shop. It should not be forgotten that Meyer was a central figure in the infamous Sternberg peer review controversy. According to the Discoveroids’ 2016 Tax Return, Meyer’s salary was $250K.

Okay, back to Klinghoffer, who says:

As Dr. Meyer observes, “The administration’s virus taskforce has recommended only a gradual lifting of stay-at-home orders and has established criteria for full re-opening that could take months to satisfy in many states.” His proposal is that rather than listen only to a group of experts with one set view, it would be productive to listen to another group as well, a “Team B,” or “what the military calls a ‘Red Team’ to challenge the received view of an organization from within”: [Big quote from Meyer’s Fedralist article].

Klinghoffer explains how it would work:

Let this Red Team provide a counterpoint to the current taskforce and thus “teach the controversy” to top decision-makers. If it works in the context of public school education [BWAHAHAHAHAHA!], would it work in the White House? I think it would, and for the same reason: Students and Presidents make better decisions when they are exposed to competing views. As Meyer says, allowing controversy and permitting it to be widely aired is how science makes progress and delivers understanding.

That’s a terrific idea! Hey — why not teach the astrology controversy in astronomy class? And how about Flat Earth controversy in geography class? We think the Discoveroids are really onto something here!

After another quote from Meyer’s Federalist article, Klinghoffer continues:

You can hear the objection already, one we’ve heard before in the Darwin debate. When it comes to the coronavirus, do legitimate scientists really disagree? Or is there only one valid position, represented by what the media refer to with a definite article, not “science” but “The Science”?

Then he gives us a huge quote from Meyer’s Federalist article, after which his final paragraph says this:

It’s an important perspective, and not for scientific or medical reasons alone. In the never-ending lockdown, there is more at stake than health, including economic ruin, bringing its own threats to life, and perhaps above all, America’s future as a free country.

So there you are, dear reader. In the Discoveroids’ view of things, everything is subject to debate. But we wonder, would they ever say there was something that was known with certitude — that should be taught without controversy? Well, there’s the wickedness of Darwin, of course. But other than that, is there anything at all?

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35 responses to “‘Teach the Controversy’ Goes Viral

  1. Derek Freyberg

    As Pepe le Pew used to say, “Le sigh”.
    And the idea that the orange moron would make better decisions when exposed to competing views is just ludicrous: he already has competing views, all in his own head – first it’s just a virus, now 100,000 deaths is getting off lightly and he should be commended, and all the variations in between. Besides which, he already has the Faux News crowd busy challenging the scientific consensus.

  2. I predicted this; as with climate change, DI and Heartland are now in lockstep in challenging whether there really is,or ought to be,a consensus, and denying a problem that implies interference with business as usual

  3. Could someone with some knowledge of military strategy explain the concept of the Red Team?
    What it suggests to me is war gaming, where one has two teams, the Blue Team and the Red Team. But I don’t think that the Red Team can take the option of “the Blue Team is doing it wrong”, without offering an alternative.
    That, of course, has been the long-term stance of creationism. Despite all of those years and all of those geniuses, nobody has offered an explanation for the variety of life without mentioning evolution.

  4. Michael Fugate

    Right wing clickbait lacking ethics.

  5. Derek Freyberg

    @Michael Fugate: Right on! I actually went to The Federalist and looked at both Meyer’s piece and the comments. Nasty, both of them, I rather wish I hadn’t. But this is what a non-trivial portion of the US believes.
    A restaurant in Carmel, California, is defying the lockdown and has opened, no masks, no distancing, no nothing, just business as pre-COVID usual. Covered on the local TV news in the Bay Area last night. 2-second interview with a guy in a convertible about it – his response: “Have a Corona for breakfast. Comes with a free body bag.”

  6. Formely Holding The Line In Florida

    As George Carlin said, “I distance myself from wishing for a good outcome, I will let it do what it will do. I will enjoy it for the entertainment now.” It is one way of looking at it.

  7. chris schilling

    It warms the heart to see people like Meyer and Klinghoffer — who are otherwise pro-life when it comes to abortion and assisted euthanasia — now so willing to sacrifice the elderly and immunocompromised, as well as hard-hit black and Latino communities, for the sake of the economy.

    Full of the milk of human kindness (full of something, at any rate).

  8. Dave Luckett

    TomS. “Red Team” is the opposition to “Blue Team” in a military simulation exercise (not quite the same as a “war game”), where “Blue Team” is usually the side trying out new weapons, systems or tactics in simulated combat. “Red Team” typically deploys current or extant equipment and conventional tactics, which “Blue Team” attempts to defeat.

    The analogy would imply that the DI sees itself as the conventional, traditional and conservative side in this “debate”, which, as we all know, is not a debate, and if it were one, was over long ago.

    As a side note, especially when exercises give Blue Team “cutting edge”, very expensive, elaborate and costly equipment, the object is to justify the expenditure and ratify the brilliant judgement of the military in acquiring it. The rules of the exercise are typically written to serve those ends. If Klangdropper is aware of that, he might be implying that the “evolutionists” have the rules written to suit them. Of course he’d agree with that, without for a moment asking himself who writes these “rules”, but I don’t think that idea has occurred to him. If it had, he’d have laboured the point more.

  9. greenpoisonfrog

    I just figured Republican. Surely the DiscoTute couldn’t be on the side of the Blue Democrat team.

  10. “up now at The Federalist [link omitted]”
    What? And neglect such a piece of exquisite creacrap? Intolerable, I say! Here it is:


    StevieM analyzing “Two Conceptions of Science”! With this little gem:

    “Science also involves a deliberative process of testing and evaluating new evidence.”
    Indeed! And when was the last time you saw an IDiot involved with some “deliberative process of testing”?

    “Yet the president has not yet recruited …..”
    Give Donald the Clown some credit – he hasn’t recruited IDiots for a creacrap anti-COVID taskforce either. But StevieM knows what to do!

    “Here’s a Way Out”
    Check it if you don’t believe me: StevieM wants Donald the Clown hiring Dougie Axe! Truely a match made in heaven.
    Then Donald the Clown “may stave off economic calamity and, quite possibly, save his presidency.”
    If there are two things I’ll never underestimate it’s creacrap stupidity and Donald the Clown’s political instinct. Today I read in my local newspaper that Johnson & Johnson (to great extent thanks to three Dutch scientists) is well on its way to develop a vaccin. This is one way how Donald the Clown is going to save his presidency: promise to vaccinate all American citizens. Another way is just sit back and watch Biden stumbling through his campaign.
    Oh – almost forgot to make my point. How many IDiots work at Johnson & Johnson?

  11. Our dear SC doesn’t take Kclunckerdunkcer’s excellent proposal far enough:

    “Hey — why not teach the astrology controversy in astronomy class? And how about Flat Earth controversy in geography class?”
    Why not form a Red Team to challenge the consensus within NASA? Or rather two – one for astrology and one for FET? I’m very, very sure Those Who Are In Charge will make better decisions then!

    “But other than that, is there anything at all?”
    Oh yes – the salaries they (do not really) earn.

  12. Ironically, there really is a scientific case for easing the lockdown, at least in some places, provided this is combined with extensive tracking, tracing, and isolation, as argued by a team based at the the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University; https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/we-could-stop-the-pandemic-by-july-4-if-the-government-took-these-steps/2020/05/15/9e527370-954f-11ea-9f5e-56d8239bf9ad_story.html There is also a false dichotomy between economic and health arguments, since, even if we forget for the moment that the entire purpose of the economy is human well-being, the health effects of allowing Covid-19 to spread unregulated would themselves give rise to economic disaster

  13. Christine Marie Janis

    Goodness, the comments on The Federalist article (I’ve only been able to read a few of them before being overcome by nausea —- ‘communist governors’ did me in) show that the US is going to be a dangerous hotbed swamp of this virus for many years to come.

  14. Christine Marie Janis

    Oh no, I read a little more and discovered that the entire purpose of the corona virus hoax is the destruction of religion. OK, going to get some coffee now (via the bathroom)

  15. @CMJ, you forgot the evolution hoax, the climate change hoax, and the destruction of the American economy. DI collaborate closely with Heartland on climate change, and have a standard technique for denying the existence of significance of scientific consensus. See e.g. https://evolutionnews.org/2017/04/heading-into-todays-march-heres-when-to-doubt-a-scientific-consensus/ Heading into Today’s March [for Science], Here’s When to Doubt a Scientific “Consensus”.

  16. Charley Horse X

    Trump and Meyer are closely depicted by the parents in the video linked below. I don’t know if this blog has mentioned the video before but it is one of the best on “teach the controversy” and “teach both sides”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zh3Yz3PiXZw&feature=youtu.be

  17. @CharleyHX: I’ve seen that video and it’s very funny. Unfortunately I can’t remember how I found it. Anyhow, anyone should check. If you haven’t seen it yet you’re in for something.

  18. Why insist that the team with the highest score in baseball and football is the winner? In golf and in track, the lowest score is the winner. Let the controversy be open for consideration.

  19. docbill1351

    @Christine After you’ve taken a dose of Dramamine, read about but definitely don’t watch, the interview with Eric Trump, aka mini-moron, and the perpetually hysterical Jeanine Pirro on Faux where Eric opines that the virus is a plot to prevent Maxi Moron from holding campaign rallies, and that the hoax will simply disappear on November 4th. Like majick!

  20. Christine Marie Janis

    Yea, docbill, I did read about that. Why is it that Amurrikans don’t realise that such things also happen outside of their own country

  21. Michael Fugate

    History informs us what happens when ideology replaces science – and it is not pretty.

  22. T o put things in perspective —

    in the US, covid-19 is killing 1700 -2000 people EVERY DAY. That’s a full 9-11 every two days!

    In two months, covid-19 has killed more than twice as many as die on US highways in an entire year, three times as many as die from gunfire in a year, and if the “herd immunity” crazies get their way, we could have 2,000,000 die from covid-19 before we get there. Again for perspective – the annual deaths in US from all causes is ~2,000,000. So we would double our annual death rate.

    At any rate, Derek Freyberg got it right in the first comment above –
    Trump already has the “Red Team” in his head. It’s a vast agglomeration of conspiracy theories, magical thinking, falsehoods, mistruths, and anything he can grab onto that he thinks will help his re-election chances. It’s ALL about him – the welfare of the American public be damned.

  23. Laurette McGovern

    Ah, The Controversy. I will agree with that once churches, mosques, temples, etc., do the same. Was Jesus really the Son of God? Maybe Yes, maybe No. The Trinity? Lets look at both sides. Was Muhammend really holy? We must examine both sides. Is the Pope infallible? Some Catholics say Yes, some say No. It must be debated!

    I am waiting . . . .

  24. Michael Fugate

    Narcissism- selfishness, involving a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy, and a need for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.

  25. @Laurette McGovern
    I agree with your point, but I am concerned that it would be taken by the creationists as equating science with religion.

  26. @TomS – re: creationists equating science with religion –

    Exactly right — there is absolutely no way to equate science with religion. Religion is based on total, non-questioning, blind faith belief; science is the diametric opposite – it’s entirely based on skepticism. Accept only that which is supported by all available evidence, and always keep your mind open to new evidence that could totally change our understanding.

    Some examples of new evidence totally changing our concepts —
    1. Darwin’s work with evolution.
    2. The discovery that the so-called “spiral nebulae” were actually separate galaxies like our Milky Way.
    3. The discovery that the universe is expanding.
    4. The discovery of radioactivity, and how it generates heat within the earth’s core, which in turn causes convection currents within the mantle – providing the forces causing plate tectonics.
    5. Plate tectonics itself, which explains mountain formation, volcanos, earthquakes, and how fossils of marine animals wind up atop mountain ranges.
    6. to 10,000. — Nominate your suggestions here.

    On the other hand, religion is static, unchanging. Any newly discovered evidence refuting religious belief is rejected.

  27. Actually religion is not static at all. Especially christianity is famous for its ability to adapt to all kind of circumstances. Titus Brandsma, an antinazi, and Jozef Tiso, the collaborating marionette-president of Slovakia, belonged both to the RCC.

  28. Karl Goldsmith

    Hold on, isn’t competing views why the US has a president suggesting injecting bleach, and shoving a uv bulb up your arse?

  29. @retiredsciguy, “radioactivity, and how it generates heat within the earth’s core, which in turn causes convection currents within the mantle”. Such is the general understanding, which I have often propounded. It’s wrong. Kelvin’s cooling rate argument looked at the thermal gradient at the Earth’s surface, the rate of heat loss, and the amount of heat that would have been lost by conduction in order to lead to the observed thermal gradient. His error here was to ignore the possibility of convection, which is much more efficient at transporting heat over long distances, leading to a major increase in the estimated amount of heat that had been lost from Earth since its formation, and therefore allowing a much increased estimate of its age. More at https://paulbraterman.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/kelvin-rutherford-and-the-age-of-the-earth-i-the-myth/

  30. @Karl Goldsmith
    You are trying to interpret what he said as if it had some coherent content. That would be uncharacteristic for his speech.


    “But we wonder, would they ever say there was something that was known with certitude — that should be taught without controversy? Well, there’s the wickedness of Darwin, of course. But other than that, is there anything at all?”

    ‘Course there is: GAAAAAAD! How do we know? Well… well… look, we just do, OK? Now, moving swiftly on…

  32. @Paul Braterman:
    The two main points I was making was the importance of the discovery of radiation, and the fact that convection currents within the mantle are the driving force powering plate tectonics.

    Be that as it may, in order to get convection currents in the mantle, we have to have something in the core that is generating new heat, not heat left over from the earth’s formation. The prime suspect for that source of heat energy would be radioactive decay. After all, uranium is one of the heaviest elements, so we would expect most of the earth’s uranium to be in the core. The heat from its decay would then power the convection currents in the mantle, no?

    I wasn’t making the statement to disprove Kelvin; it was merely to show how science is dynamic — changing to fit new evidence. But now that you mention it, Kelvin would have had no reason to suspect convection in the mantle. He would have known that in order to have convection, you need a source to generate new heat energy, but at the time Kelvin did his age of the earth calculations, radioactivity had not yet been discovered.

    Here’s an interesting clip from Wikipedia:
    Although his former assistant John Perry published a paper in 1895 challenging Kelvin’s assumption of low thermal conductivity inside the Earth, and thus showing a much greater age,[64] this had little immediate impact. The discovery in 1903 that radioactive decay releases heat led to Kelvin’s estimate being challenged, and Ernest Rutherford famously made the argument in a lecture attended by Kelvin that this provided the unknown energy source Kelvin had suggested, but the estimate was not overturned until the development in 1907 of radiometric dating of rocks.[55]

    It was widely believed that the discovery of radioactivity had invalidated Thomson’s estimate of the age of the Earth. Thomson himself never publicly acknowledged this because he thought he had a much stronger argument restricting the age of the Sun to no more than 20 million years. Without sunlight, there could be no explanation for the sediment record on the Earth’s surface. At the time, the only known source for the solar power output was gravitational collapse. It was only when thermonuclear fusion was recognised in the 1930s that Thomson’s age paradox was truly resolved.[65]

    ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Thomson,_1st_Baron_Kelvin )

  33. @retiredsciguy, “in order to get convection currents in the mantle, we have to have something in the core that is generating new heat, not heat left over from the earth’s formation.” Why? All you need to drive a convection current is a thermal gradient, which will only cease when all the primaeval heat has been carried away. I discuss this in the blog post that I linked to.

    “Ernest Rutherford famously made the argument in a lecture attended by Kelvin that this provided the unknown energy source Kelvin had suggested, but the estimate was not overturned until the development in 1907 of radiometric dating of rocks.”

    That last bit must be wrong. Assuming that Rutherford’s recollection is accurate, and I would be surprised if it is not on such a crucial point, then Rutherford already had his 500 million year date for the Cambrian at the time of this conversation, even though it had not been published.

    But that’s peripheral. The Wikipedia reference 55, to a paper by England et al., is good on the convection and heat issues, and what I used in my blog post

  34. Btw, one fact relevant to the understanding of hydrogen fusion being responsible for solar energy is the abundance of hydrogen in the Sun. We all today are so familiar with that fact, yet it was established only by Cecelia Payne-Gaposchkin in 1925.
    So much basic astronomy has been discovered in the last 100 years!

  35. @TomS, yet another woman who should have got the Nobel Prize