The Questionable Authority

Very early this morning, the Discovery Institute’s Rob Crowther posted an article over at the DI’s “why’s everyone always picking on us” blog. I’m not exactly sure what inspired Rob to get some work done late on a Saturday night, but the result is an article that’s so chock full of hysterically absurd misrepresentations and bizarre claims that it’s impossible to resist the urge to comment.

The apparent cause for Rob’s rant was his displeasure with an op-ed that was published in the Austin American-Statesman on Friday. The op-ed was written by the past-president, president, and president-elect of The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas, on behalf of the entire Board of Directors of the organization. In the op-ed, they noted that recent events in Texas have caused many scientists in the state to become more concerned about attacks on science education, and stated that the position of their organization is that Intelligent Design is not science, and should not be taught as such. The authors’ position is clearly stated and their tone is reasonable. That’s what I thought when I read it, anyway.

Rob Crowther disagrees. In fact, he thinks that the authors of the op-ed compared the Intelligent Design movement to Nazis. His reasoning is so completely and utterly insane that it defies the imagination.

He begins his loopy chain of reasoning by quoting a paragraph from the op-ed:

The future of the world, our nation and the State of Texas hinges on continued breakthroughs in science, engineering and medicine as we face challenges in providing adequate supplies of energy and water, a clean environment, health care, and economic competitiveness. To meet these challenges, it is necessary to continue to attract the best minds to Texas and to provide our children with rigorous and challenging scientific training. Anything that diminishes the rigor of the education of the youth of Texas or our ability to recruit the best talent creates a great risk to the State and limits our contribution to protecting the nation from the “Gathering Storm”.

That’s the paragraph that, in Crowther’s twisted universe, compares Intelligent Design proponents to Nazis. Really. The message is very clearly there, right in that very paragraph. I’m sure you can see it for yourself, but just in case you’re having a problem locating the reference, Crowther’s done the hard work of inventing finding it for you:

“The Gathering Storm” metaphor, comes from the first volume of Winston Churchill’s history of WWII. The title referred to the rise of National Socialism. Incredibly, leading Texas scientists are now comparing us to Nazis.

There it is, clear as daylight. I can’t believe I didn’t spot that on my own. Churchill used the phrase “gathering storm” as a metaphor for the looming threat presented by Germany and Italy prior to the start of World War II. The authors of the op-ed used the same phrase. Therefore, they have compared Intelligent Design proponents to Nazis. I can’t believe I was too dazed and confused to see that one on my own. Thank goodness that Rob Crowther was here to point it out. If he hadn’t been there to remind us that a two-word metaphor absolutely must refer to the exact same things every single time it’s used, I’d still be lost in the wilderness. Instead, I’m left shocked and awed by the brilliantly subtle way that the Texas Academy folks managed to slip the reference past the editors.

Believe it or not, it actually gets better. Crowther didn’t just have to twist logic, reason, and the English language to claim that IDists were being compared to Nazis. He also had to lie about what the “gathering storm” metaphor was actually referring to. The authors of the op-ed did not consider the Intelligent Design proponents to be the big threat – Crowther’s giving himself way too much credit there. The looming threat that they were actually talking about is the danger of the country not being able to compete if we don’t improve education. This was clearly identified in the paragraph before the one Crowther quoted:

We recently embarked on a project to determine how Texas should respond to the report of the National Academies entitled “Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Future”. The report describes crises in the educational system in the United States, particularly pertaining to science, and their effect on our national competitiveness.

Maybe a different metaphor would make it easier for Rob to understand what the op-ed’s authors were referring to. Instead of calling the threat (a future where the US goes to hell in a handbasket) a storm, let’s call it a fire. The bad future is the big fire. The kids in school are the ones who are going to put out the fire. A good educational system is the road that they need to take to get to the fire. I’m pretty sure I managed to keep the Nazis out of that metaphor. All that’s missing is where Intelligent Design fits in. They’re not the fire. They’re not the people who are going to put it out. They’re certainly not the road.

They’re a just couple of guys armed with a jackhammer and a six-pack.

Comments

  1. #1 Tex
    January 27, 2008

    The intelligent design crowd flatters themselves if they think rational people consider them equivalent to Nazis. Despite all their many faults, at least the Nazis understood science.

  2. #2 Wicked Lad
    January 27, 2008

    The bad future is the big fire. The kids in school are the ones who are going to put out the fire.

    Thats outrageous, comparing cdesign proponentsists to Nazis setting the Reichstag fire!

  3. #3 wright
    January 27, 2008

    I think that’s giving most of the Nazis too much credit, Tex. When their ideology conflicted with science… well, we know how that turned out.

    But I agree the ID advocates / Creationists take too much credit. About everything. And don’t they have to? If they don’t lie, steal and quote-mine, what else do they have?

  4. #4 Siamang
    January 27, 2008

    Wow, they do complain ad-nazium. I don’t know how they’re goering to recover from this. They seem to goe bbelistic every time someone talks about them.

  5. #5 fnxtr
    January 27, 2008

    “Fear and Loathing” is great title for this piece, since Crowther writes like a man on a drug-fueled paranoia rant.

  6. #6 Hank
    January 27, 2008

    The DI people are nazis on a coke binge? No wonder they can’t seem to squeeze any actual research into their busy schedules.

  7. #7 Ahcuah
    January 27, 2008

    Of course, the phrase “gathering storm” long predates Churchill’s use of it. It’s in a Robert Burns poem, “Extemporare in the Court of Session”:

    “Collected, Harry stood a wee,
    Then open’d out his arm, man;
    His Lordship sat wi’ ruefu’ e’e
    And eyed the gathering storm, man.”

    Burns also used it in “Tam O’Shanter”:

    “We think na on the lang Scots miles,
    The mosses, waters, slaps, and styles.
    That lie between us and our hame,
    Whare sits our sulky sullen dame.
    Gathering her brows like gathering storm,
    Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.”

    And of course it was also in Sir Walter Scott’s
    “Marmion”, Canto II, Verse XVI:

    “Such tales had Whitby’s fishers told,
    And said they might his shape behold,
    And hear his anvil sound;
    A deaden’d clang,–a huge dim form,
    Seen but, and heard, when gathering storm
    And night were closing round.
    But this, as tale of idle fame,
    The nuns of Lindisfarne disclaim.”

  8. #8 Paul Burnett
    January 27, 2008

    I have no problem conflating the advent of Nazism with Robert Crowther starring as Joseph Goebbels and a supporting cast including the Dishonesty Institute fulfilling the role of the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda and their brown-shirted thugs in the so-called “Center for Science and Culture” and the storm-troopers-in-training at the Coral Ridge Ministries and all the home-schooled Hitler Youth who have been indoctrinated that “evilution” is the work of Satan and all scientists are minions of Beelzebub…. Wow, this is easier to write than I realized it would be!

    Does anybody else here remember Robert Heinlein’s dystopian
    story, “If This Goes On�”? (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If_This_Goes_On ) Written in 1940(!), it tells of a United States theocracy (with the last Presidential election held in 2012, followed by a dictatorship). It was scary but far-fetched then, and is scarier and less far-fetched now.

  9. #9 John Pieret
    January 27, 2008

    Churchill used the phrase “gathering storm” as a metaphor for the looming threat presented by Germany and Italy prior to the start of World War II. The authors of the op-ed used the same phrase. Therefore, they have compared Intelligent Design proponents to Nazis.

    The exquisite irony is that Crowther then goes on to accuse “Darwinists” of “trying to make something out of nothing.”

  10. #11 waldteufel
    January 27, 2008

    Actually, Paul, DI’s weblog ENV has always reminded me primarily of the Nazi Party’s propaganda machine. They use the same tactics of spin, lying, and just making shit up.

    They write for a very targeted audience: the credulous and bible thumping dumbasses that inhabit the big round churches out on the edge of town.

    To me, Crowther is one of the most unctuous and odious of their posse of poseurs.

  11. #12 Steve Reuland
    January 27, 2008

    …but the result is an article that’s so chock full of hysterically absurd misrepresentations and bizarre claims…

    In other words, normal.

  12. #13 J-Dog
    January 27, 2008

    I have that story as “Revolt In 2100″.

    Excellent, and as you said, much more believable now, then when I read the first time as a kid.

  13. #14 Eamon Knight
    January 28, 2008

    Has ayone notified Orac that the Hitler Zombie is again on the loose? Or is the DI considered unworthy of the Undead Fuhrer’s attentions, and that they just spew this guff without his help?

  14. #15 W. H. Heydt
    January 28, 2008

    Some SF fans have suggested the following bumper sticker…

    Mike Huckabee = Nehemiah Scudder

  15. #16 Rolf Aalberg
    January 28, 2008


    Despite all their many faults, at least the Nazis understood science.

    V-1, V-2, Apollo….

  16. #17 demallien
    January 28, 2008

    Despite all their many faults, at least the Nazis understood science.

    V-1, V-2, Apollo….

    Werner Von Braun was a Nazi????

  17. #18 pwe
    January 28, 2008

    Ummm, I thought it was the Disco Kids that used to call the ‘Darwinists’ Nazis. Has Richard Weikart changed sides or what?

    - pwe

  18. #19 Tardis
    January 28, 2008

    demallien asked – Werner Van Braun was a Nazi????

    This is a joke right? You really know that he was – right?

  19. #20 Michael
    January 28, 2008

    Von Braun’s film biography was entitled, “I Aim for the Stars.” Comedian Mort Shal suggested that it be subtitled, “But Sometimes I Hit London.”

  20. #21 Eamon Knight
    January 28, 2008

    Werner Von Braun was a Nazi????

    Damn youngsters. Does no one remember the classics anymore?
    http://www.stlyrics.com/songs/t/tomlehrer3903/wernhervonbraun185505.html

  21. #22 Pierce R. Butler
    January 28, 2008

    In exactly what way do the future of our world and our nation depending on attracting the best minds to Texas?

    Wouldn’t we all be better off if such minds were located where they could get a good education (with minimal exposure to superstition and general-purpose nuttiness)?

  22. #23 Scott
    January 28, 2008

    The IDists are like Nazis in the sense that they make extensive use of propaganda. For example, the IDists at Discovery Institute ask, “What is the theory of intelligent design?” and then, instead of providing a definition of ID, they state the opinion that ID is the “best” explanation for “certain features of the universe and of living things.”

    The IDists NEVER provide a definition of ID. They just keep hammering away at us with the assertion that ID is the “best” explanation.

    ID is the assertion that an intelligent designer designed and created the universe, including living things. However, the IDists will never admit that this is an accurate definition of ID because, if they did, it would be obvious to intelligent people that ID is a theology, not a scientific theory.

  23. #24 TomS
    January 29, 2008

    I suggest looking at Umberto Eco’s essay from 1995

    Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt

    http://www.themodernword.com/eco/eco_blackshirt.html

    Eco was not speaking of creationism/ID, to be sure. And I will leave it to the reader to see how many of his 14 signature traits of fascism apply.

  24. #25 Rolf Aalberg
    January 29, 2008

    V-1, V-2, Apollo….

    Werner Von Braun was a Nazi????

    No one has suggested the good Werner was a Nazi, his only concern was going to the moon.

    Whether the Nazis understood science or not – they understood that scientists were good for them. I believe all the allied forces occupying Germany scrounged German labs for useful stuff. And found some too!

  25. #26 toni tyler
    January 29, 2008

    CAVEAT #1: AS — CAVEAT#2: Evolve

    Only mankind’s ego could misinterpret 2 Peter 3:8 affixing the number 1,000 to the ratio equivalent in the passage “…day to the (Judeo-Christian) Lord . . .” by leaving out the word ‘As’. This one word by all known logic methodology means the word ‘Day’ in Genesis 1:5 has no fixed equivalent to man’s calculation of time but rather uses 1,000 to emphasize day represents a much longer length of time than man could fathom. If the ratio was intended to be exact then the sentence would have omitted the word As or been translated using only the word Is — “. . . a day is 1,000 years. . , ” if you simply ask a human whose life-span is 76 years then 1,000 is a very large number. Only ego would bind that which is called Creator and not admit that the actual time of this difference or ratio could easily have been 65 billion years (the word billion not yet having appeared in language and not yet fathomed by logicians as infinity.)

    In like manors, only the scientific ego could misinterpret the truth that all earth fossil-life is constituted and reconstituted from the same shale clay. Gasoline engines and plastic sandwich bags are realities from crude, yet, how often has anyone called them relatives or given the word evolve preeminence in scientific discussion, although admittedly they share a few common molecular structures? If we were in fact to claim this information as basis for truth then we must claim the original or 1st Oxygen-based one cell life-form, the euglena (both plant and animal,) as our forefather, having evolved therefrom.
    It is our understanding, our ability to think through, our acquisition tools of discovery, our technology that has evolved. That is to say a thing may be derived from, yet not be evolved from. The discovery of shale-rock and quartz crystals should have eliminated use of the word evolve with regard to organized education.

    My premise is and the assertions are that in the ego’s effort to be right we have generated a division that is false, never existed, and unnecessary with regard to any discussion on teaching (our young) the subject matters of geology, anthropology, paleontology, and/or the recycling nature of Earth-Nature from inception to end.

    These assertions have additional proof:
    1. Scientist agree the Earth began as a void

    2. The continental drift supports the second day

    3. The order of appearance of beasts agrees

    4. Common sense confirms fact that before man is (environs, Genesis day 5) earth must be rid of dinosaurs, change climates, change terrain, be provided with several smaller beast-inhabitants.
    Yes, this is an oversimplification of terminology, but what greater oversimplifications of scientific data than to conclude that because one thing shares similar molecular structures, a few (DNA) strains or that one appeared prior to the other places either in the position of forefather. Likewise what an oversimplification to assume that which is called Intelligent (Creator) has less common sense or can’t tell time or is limited in being the potter molding the shale-clay.

    Our solution is not as daring as an admission the earth is elliptical. The Compromise Textbooks will stop leaving out the word “As” in correlating the scriptural creation time-lines, eliminate the word “Evolve” from science, replacing its bank of information as what it is — the factual detailing of known existence past, present, future, coupled with the detailed descriptions of intra-relationships or interdependencies derived by-way-of logical methods of investigation. This allows the ‘faith-based’ family to assert truth within an intelligent design but does not deny the evidence of how long or the interconnectivity presented. This also frees the scientific community to claim science bares neither responsibility nor need to answer what started the original void, leaving source definition to the trust/faith of each individual query and/or theory.

  26. #27 Pierce R. Butler
    January 29, 2008

    Rolf Aalberg: No one has suggested the good Werner was a Nazi, his only concern was going to the moon.

    Alas, he was more than a passive participant in the Nazi project. His murderous abuse of thousand of slave laborers from the Dora concentration camp in the Mittelwerk V2 factory (under the Hartz mountains, after British bombing destroyed the above-ground facilities near Peenemunde in 1943) has been documented: “… it was really a pretty hellish environment,” said von Braun in a 1971 interview. “The conditions there were absolutely horrible.”

  27. #28 waldteufel
    January 29, 2008

    Rob Crowther, meet toni tyler. Your soul-mate.

  28. #29 Chuck C
    January 30, 2008

    Don’t see what the big deal is if they did compare IDiots to Nazis. The DI folk compare scientists to Nazis all the time.

  29. #30 James Hanley
    January 31, 2008

    I’ll probably get shit on, but…I did immediately notice that “the gathering storm” was an (unintended, I’m sure) Nazi reference. I think it was an unfortunate choice of words.

    Not that the disco kids themselves aren’t a bunch of goose-stepping brownshirts.

  30. #31 mgarelick
    February 4, 2008

    When I read the Crowther piece, I thought he was being a bit hysterical, but it did seem that the op-ed’s use of “Gathering Storm”, with quotation marks and initial caps, was a clear reference to Churchill’s book. Silly me — I relied on Crowther’s rendition of the op-ed piece. Had I known that the op-ed authors had made specific reference to an entirely unrelated document that used the phrase in its title, I would have known that Crowther was not hysterical at all — he was craftily, cynically, dissembling. I don’t know why I keep giving the DI folks the benefit of every doubt — it’s not like they’re my teenage children or anything.