Pharyngula

No more coffee for Mr Witt

Jonathan Witt of the Discovery Institute has lost it. The string of defeats for the cause of Intelligent Design creationism has had its toll, first Dover and now the Ohio ID lesson plan, and the poor man is clearly suffering from the strain, as you can tell from his latest hysterical screed.

First we get evolution compared to Castro’s newspapers, with no criticism allowed; then the defense for including ID in Ohio is that there is a 3:1 margin of popular support. Two fallacies in one paragraph! Sorry, Jonathan, hyperbolic comparisons to communism and an appeal to popular opinion on matters of fact do not a defense of ID make.

Then he gets confused.

In Dover, they insisted that physical evidence presented against their theory wasn’t an argument for intelligent design. Darwinist Kenneth Miller made this argument on the stand and the judge concurred. But in Ohio they wanted to scare people into thinking that simply teaching students the scientific evidence for and against Darwinism was somehow legally dangerous. Since it isn’t, the Darwinists had to get creative, had to change their story. So now they asserted that simply exposing students to the evidence against Darwinism constitutes the teaching of intelligent design. Thus, their Ohio position flatly contradicts their Dover position.

There’s a serious problem in the logic of his argument, in that a key piece is missing. He keeps talking about the evidence against evolution presented by his side; where is it? If we were trying to silence the expression of some significant piece of evidence against the scientific position, Witt would have a point. Of course, he doesn’t have any such thing. There are missing pieces of the story, there are real controversies within biology, but nope…there ain’t nothing out there that is against the principles of common descent, natural selection, etc., all those incredibly useful pieces of the biologist’s toolkit.

What we are shutting down is a phony PR campaign to prop up a bogus hypothesis.

So far, this was just the usual indignant claptrap we get from the DI…but then Witt runs of the rails and starts inventing absurd scenarios.

Why stop at expunging from Ohio’s biology curricula any mention of the weaknesses in modern evolutionary theory? No, it’s time for them to go after all of those mainstream biologists and their impermissible facts that have infiltrated the peer reviewed literature.

It’s the mainstream biologists who are complaining about the DI’s mangling of the facts and who are publishing critical evaluations of ideas, and ummm…this is evidence that mainstream biologists are suppressing the facts, and next they’re going to go gunning after themselves? This makes no sense.

Take one particularly frustrating example. Evolutionists routinely appeal to a peppered moth experiment as evidence for Darwinian evolution. But then further investigations by mainstream scientists revealed that, in all likelihood, the experimental results were propped up by fudged photographs.

No, the experimental results are sound. That an investigator would take a photo of what an animal and its environment looks like is nothing new; a photo of a moth on a tree trunk is not the evidence that was analyzed in the peppered moth work. This is a perfect example, though, of how creationists distort and misrepresent research to generate a false impression, and is exactly why they are unreliable sources of information for our schoolkids.

And here’s another typical misrepresentation:

Of course, that’s just the beginning. Darwinists routinely use examples of microevolution (change within species) as supposed knockdown evidence for macroevolution (the evolution of fundamentally new body plans). But the peer-reviewed literature is filled with mainstream scientists who question whether evidence for microevolution can be extrapolated to provide strong support for macroevolution.

Yes, scientists argue about these things; I’m one who thinks macroevolution represents a different class of phenomena from microevolution. That does not mean I’m in the ID camp (hah!). We also don’t argue that because Mendel, therefore Evo-Devo—macroevolution is a fact that has to be explained, not an inference derived from theoretical considerations of population genetics.

It gets weirder. Because we think the unqualified lawyers, philosophers, bibliolaters, and kooks of the Discovery Institute deserve no place in the curriculum, we must also be planning to snuff out other unconventional thinkers.

Those articles will need to be gotten rid of, too. For that matter, something will have to be done about all of those evolutionists with the cheek to point out such things. No problem there. According to the Darwinists’ Ohio logic, scientists who merely point out weaknesses in Darwinism (Stephen Jay Gould, Franklin Harold, Stuart Kauffman, etc., etc.), are arguing for intelligent design, are card-carrying design theorists. That means they’re fair game: break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles.

I know of the work of Gould, Harold, and Kauffman, and you are no Gould, Harold, or Kauffman, Mr Witt. They are competent scholars who have done good work within the framework of science—they are not quacks operating out of think-tanks trying to foist ridiculous ideas on the public by way of PR campaigns, enforcement by law, or demagoguery. They did not and do not have the goal of legitimating supernatural excuses in science.

Now Witt is just making up crap about people, but then he crosses the line and lies about something much more precious than mere personalities in science: he makes ridiculous claims about the data. Now this is heresy.

After that the real work begins. I’m talking about all those uncooperative fossils, the great quarries in Canada and China that show how most of the major groups of animals appeared in a geologically brief period of time during the Cambrian explosion, contradicting Darwin’s gradually branching tree of life. Those fossils can’t just be left sitting around. They too will have to be gotten rid of.

Jonathan Witt is nuts. Read the science journals, read the textbooks, read great volumes like Valentine’s On the Origin of Phyla(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll)—he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Biologists embrace the Cambrian. There is a wealth of wonderful information there, extensively discussed and written about, and we simply love this stuff.

Get rid of the Cambrian fossils? That statement alone is enough to qualify the man as certifiable.

Comments

  1. #1 Kristine
    March 30, 2006

    “Self-righteousness is a loud din raised to drown the voice of guilt within us.” –Eric Hoffer, The True Believer

    Here’s a gentle answer, since I’m getting a rep as a “radical” atheist: No one knows better than me how painful and terrifying it is to let go of religious beliefs. I look forward to the day when Witt and his colleagues (particularly Dembski, who made a personal statement of such startling self-loathing, linked to on my site, that it frightened me, but it sure explains a lot of his antics), can let go of their unnecessary burden of fear–for that it what it is. That is all that this is about. When I watched Dawkins interview in “Root?” the psychiatrist who counsels former fanatics, and she choked up because even she still has those fears, I was on the verge of tears myself. And to think that I came into this discussion because I initially thought that there could actually be something to I.D., since it had been so cleverly packaged as purely secular–and it’s a hollow farce. Look at what it does to people.

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