As a follow up on that absurd video of Casey Luskin and the DI making a big deal out of Haeckel’s embryos in the movie Flock of Dodos, PZ Myers has been doing a terrific job of ripping their arguments apart and showing how the DI is not only lying about what the movie says, but still lying about the Haeckel drawings in modern textbooks (see here, here and here). Now here’s the funny part: Wells’ response, such as it is. I’ll post the full text of Wells’ response to PZ below the fold:
One more thing. Olson’s comments the day after showing his film in Seattle were posted on a blog maintained by University of Minnesota biologist P.Z. Myers, who declared in 2005 that it’s time “for scientists to break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, and get out there and hammer” on those who criticize Darwinism. Just before Olson posted his comment, Myers wrote on his blog that the point of Haeckel’s embryo drawings “is still valid; there is an interesting phenomenon going on in development, in which there is a period during which the body plan of vertebrates is roughly laid out.”
Is that really what biology textbooks are saying with Haeckel’s fraudulent drawings? Of course not. In fact, if Olson objects to trivia, it’s hard to imagine a more trivial statement than “there is a period during which the body plan of vertebrates is roughly laid out.” Since animals aren’t born as fully formed adults, but develop from single egg cells, this statement is about as meaningful as “the sky is above us” or “the future lies ahead.”
Myers’s statement reminds me of a bait-and-switch advocated by National Center for Science Education Director Eugenie Scott (whom Olson in his blog post praises along with Myers). Scott recommends peddling Darwinian evolution to unsuspecting students by telling them that evolution is “the way we try to understand change through time. The present is different from the past.” After she gets them nodding in agreement to something so trivially obvious that no sane person would deny it, she gradually introduces them to “The Big Idea” – Darwinism.
This is not science, but a con game, and “Flock of Dodos” is part of it.
Notice something important? Like the fact that he didn’t actually respond to any of PZ’s substantive arguments about why his claims about the Haeckel drawings in modern textbooks are false? Flock of Dodos and Myers both point out a very important fact, that even in those few textbooks that reproduce his famous drawings they are presented not as evidence for recapitulation, an idea that has been discredited for over a century, but only as a matter of historical interest to show the historical development of modern theories of developmental biology as it relates to evolutionary history.
The DI wants you to believe that the mere mention of Haeckel or his drawings in a textbook is evidence of fraud. They further want you to believe that because Haeckel’s recapitulation idea isn’t true then embryology has nothing to tell us about evolutionary history at all. Both of those are absolutely false. That’s why they only tell you that a given textbook mentions the drawings, without telling you what they say about them. And that’s why they ignore all of the findings in developmental biology for the last century.
Notice also that Wells engages in not one but two ad hominen arguments. Not insults; ad hominems are not necessarily insults at all, contrary to popular belief. An ad hominem is an argument that says someone else’s argument is false because of an irrelevant personal trait of the person making the argument. Wells uses two such arguments here. The first is his quote of Myers from 2005 about breaking out the steel-toed boots and the brass knuckles.
Now, I think that was a dumb thing to say and it has certainly given the IDers lots of ammunition, not only against Myers but against our side in general. But it has nothing at all to do with any of the substantive claims in his posts on this subject. He might say intemperate things, but he’s dead right on this issue. Wells is using this for one reason and one reason only: it makes his followers tune him out. This fallacy also goes by the name of poisoning the well. It’s a way of making one’s followers disregard the arguments being made without having to actually engage them on the substance of those arguments.
And he attempts to poison the well with a second ad hominem by bringing in Eugenie Scott and an alleged “bait and switch” that completely distorts what she said. And he then invokes the infamous term “Darwinism”, a completely meaningless buzzword that they use for “the bad guys.” None of this does anything at all to answer Myers’ arguments, and that is exactly the point; he can’t answer them, so he is forced to wave his hands and distract attention from them.
This is what I mean when I say that some ignorance actually must be acquired. This type of ignorance is not merely the lack of knowledge, it is the systematic and deliberate inculcation of falsehoods and myths in the minds of their followers, who simply do not have the base of knowledge from which to evaluate their claims.