Pharyngula

Congratulations to Randy Moore

My colleague at the Twin Cities branch campus of the University of Minnesota, Randy Moore, has won an award from the Discovery Institute: The Award for Most Dogmatic Indoctrinator in an Evolutionary Biology Course. Congratulations to Randy! He won it for this paragraph:

The evidence supporting evolution is overwhelming and comes from diverse disciplines, such as molecular biology, paleontology, comparative anatomy, ethology, and biochemistry. There is no controversy among biologists about whether evolution occurs, nor are there science-based alternative theories. Evolution is a unifying theme in biology; teaching it as such is the best way to show students what biology is about and how they can use evolution as a tool to understand our world. [Evolution] is as important an idea as there is in science – it is a great gift to give to students.

The Discovery Institute claims there are at least four mistakes in that paragraph. Their summary of the “errors” is hilarious, and shows how delusional those guys are.

  • The evidence isn’t overwhelming, because their books, Icons of Evolution and Explore Evolution, say so. Those two books are propaganda pieces put out by the Discovery Institute itself, and they are awful: poor scholarship, sloppy reasoning, and and an abysmal ignorance of the science characterize both. If you want some good popular books on the subject, try The Making of the Fittest(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), Your Inner Fish(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), Why Evolution is True(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), and The Ancestor’s Tale(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), all much better and more informative, and actually representing the evidence accurately.

  • There is too controversy because they have a list of crackpots dissenters from evolution. Any field will have kooks and crackpots on the fringe; compiling a short list of loons is a relatively trivial and entirely meaningless exercise. Even at that, the DI’s list is very short on people who are actually biologists…and the whole petition is misleadingly worded.

  • Evolution is a theory in trouble because some scientists discussed alternative modes of evolution at the Altenberg conference this summer. Science is not fixed, but adapts to the evidence, so it is perfectly normal to have conferences that discuss new ideas. The Altenberg meeting did not challenge the fact of evolution or try to displace known evolutionary mechanisms; it discussed some new findings that might add to the theory. It’s absurd that people are still going on and on about how a small meeting of scientists working on extending some parts evolutionary theory is a strike against evolution. To the contrary, it’s what we expect of good science.

  • There are too science-based alternative theories: Intelligent Design, endosymbiosis, and self-organization. Margulis’s endosymbiotic theory was a natural explanation for eukaryote evolution — it is not an alternative, but a part of evolutionary theory. Similarly, self-organization (as, for example, described by Kauffman) does not oppose evolution at all, but suggests that physical and chemical properties of the universe could facilitate evolution. Like I said above, these are part of the normal process of science, that people propose new explanations and try to back them up with evidence, and they become incorporated into our body of knowledge. Intelligent Design creationism does not qualify. IDists don’t do science, don’t propose testable theories, and don’t have any evidence to back up their claims.

So I hope Randy Moore doesn’t get too cocky here — the award was given by a gang of incompetent judges who don’t know what they are talking about.

Comments

  1. #1 Giford
    October 15, 2008

    Aw, they’re just miffed ‘cos they missed out on an Ig Nobel again!

    Gif

  2. #2 BlueIndependent
    October 15, 2008

    Has the DI won a Darwin award yet?

  3. #3 hinschelwood
    October 15, 2008

    On controversy, Blackadder had it summed up. They were trying to sail around the world, or to France at least, but they were lost. Blackadder thinks that somebody in the crew of the ship might know the way.

    Captain: The crew? What crew?
    Blackadder: I was under the impression that it was common maritime practise for a ship to have a crew.
    Captain: Opinion is divided on the matter. All the other captains say it is, I say it isn’t.

    Teach the controversy…

  4. #4 Glen Davidson
    October 15, 2008

    Evolution is a theory in trouble because some scientists discussed alternative modes of evolution at the Altenberg conference this summer.

    If they didn’t raise questions, and consider changing the theory, evolution would be dogma, and thus not scientific.

    If they do raise questions, and consider changing the theory, evolution is in peril. Of course this gets back to the fact that they want an absolute and unchanging “truth”.

    It’s the same way with genes. If genes which can be co-opted for later evolutionary development were not found in animals that missed out on, say, vertebrate evolution, they’d triumphantly declare that evolution lacks the necessary precursors. When they are found, they declare that it’s “front-loading.”

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  5. #5 Ryan F Stello
    October 15, 2008

    The evidence isn’t overwhelming, because their books, Icons of Evolution and Explore Evolution, say so.

    They keep bringing Icons of Evolution as if was even a partially comprehensive refutation of evolution, when it had, what, three main “refutations” (Miller-Urey, Haeckel and the tree life)?

    ….All of which were addressed by real scientists.

    It’s like watching them take a pin-hammer to a 50-foot tall granite slab.

  6. #6 Larry
    October 15, 2008

    Come on, PZ, admit it.

    You’re jealous. You want one of these awards to hang on your office wall.

  7. #7 Masks of Eris
    October 15, 2008

    “The Award for Most Dogmatic Indoctrinator in an Evolutionary Biology Course”?

    I wonder if he got a diploma of some kind?

    Also, does anyone know if DI intends to give out similar awards to other academic achievers? “The Award for Most Vigorously Attacking All Uses of ‘Proof by Faith’ in a Course of Mathematics”?

  8. #8 Galbinus_Caeli
    October 15, 2008

    Teaching Biology without teaching evolution would be like teaching Mathematics without the number “3″.

  9. #9 Monado
    October 15, 2008

    Maybe they don’t know what they’re talking about, but they know what they don’t like!

    Galbinus_Caeli #8, I think it would be more like teaching math without multiplication.

  10. #10 shonny
    October 15, 2008

    Posted by: Galbinus_Caeli | October 15, 2008 11:35 AM
    Teaching Biology without teaching evolution would be like teaching Mathematics without the number “3″.

    I think you are a bit generous, mate. It would be like teaching mathematics without . . . uh, eh, mathematics.

  11. #11 Masks of Eris
    October 15, 2008

    Mathematics without “3″? That’s easy.

    One, two, lots.

    One won’t get a lot of mathematics from that but, hey, if the number three offends you…

  12. #12 shonny
    October 15, 2008

    Oh, PZ, not IDists, but IDiots!
    Check Urban Dictionary, – an easy mistake to make :^)

  13. #13 Galbinus_Caeli
    October 15, 2008

    #9. Naw, without multiplication you can still do serial addition.

    #10. Without Evolution you can still teach some very limited aspects of Biology. Taxonomy, basically. Pretty much what you can teach to a toddler. “Kitty”, “Doggy”, “Horsey”.

  14. #14 Richard Harris
    October 15, 2008

    Galbinus_Caeli, Teaching Biology without teaching evolution would be like teaching Mathematics without the number “3″.

    I disagree. The number “3″ could be likened to a gene, for instance, so then, teaching Biology without teaching evolution would be like teaching Mathematics without arithmetic.

  15. #15 Michelle
    October 15, 2008

    I wonder, what does that award look like? A big Jesus head?

  16. #16 Janine ID AKA The Lone Drinker
    October 15, 2008

    My four year old nephew has combined biology and mathematics when he started counting bunny one, bunny two, bunny three. You get the idea.

    At least he knows he is being funny.

  17. #17 chaos_engineer
    October 15, 2008

    I’m sorry, but that statement doesn’t qualify for any kind of “Most Dogmatic Indoctrinator” award. There’s nothing at all exceptional about it; most people who teach Evolutionary Biology would agree with it.

    The award should go to someone who said something like, “All valid information about evolution is contained in Darwin’s ‘The Origin of Species’. All other writings about evolution are either redundant or incorrect. Such writings should be ignored, or you can set fire to them if ignoring them is too difficult.”

  18. #18 grolby
    October 15, 2008

    Oh wow. Are they really suggesting that Lynn Margulis’ theory of endosymbiosis is evidence against evolution!? She’s on the faculty at my university, and I’ve had the opportunity to talk to her about this subject before, a couple years ago. If she knows that the DI idiots are suggesting that endosymbiosis is an “alternative” to evolution, then I can guarantee that she will be positively furious about it. It sure takes some chutzpah to make THAT allegation, given her public distaste for these people.

  19. #19 tsg
    October 15, 2008

    The [Discovery Institute] Award for Most Dogmatic Indoctrinator in an Evolutionary Biology Course.

    “Mr. Kettle? There’s a Mr. Pot on line 4. He said something about being black.”

    Somebody owes me a new irony meter.

  20. #20 Tulse
    October 15, 2008

    Without Evolution you can still teach some very limited aspects of Biology. Taxonomy, basically. Pretty much what you can teach to a toddler. “Kitty”, “Doggy”, “Horsey”.

    “But daddy, why are Kitty and Doggy furry, when Fishie and Froggy aren’t?”

  21. #21 Galbinus_Caeli
    October 15, 2008

    #20 Exactly.

  22. #22 pjb
    October 15, 2008

    #5:
    It’s like watching them take a pin-hammer to a 50-foot tall granite slab.
    …and then, upon noticing of a fleck of stone that someone else chipped off, claiming to have demolished it.

  23. #23 BobC
    October 15, 2008

    I just added that paragraph from Randy Moore to my list of favorite quotes.

    I am patiently waiting for President Obama to put the creationist retards of the Discovery Institute in prison for treason.

  24. #24 madder
    October 15, 2008

    @ Masks of Eris #11:

    Mathematics without “3″? That’s easy.

    One, two, lots.

    Reminds me of the joke from my college days:
    Damn, you’re drunk. How many drinks have you had?

    Ummm, lemme see… one, two, many.

  25. #25 BobC
    October 15, 2008

    [Evolution] is as important an idea as there is in science – it is a great gift to give to students.

    And it’s extremely immoral to deny students this gift, which is why I think creationist retards are the most immoral people in human history.

  26. #26 uncle frogy
    October 15, 2008

    what really amazes me is that anyone pays any attention at all to these people and what they say .
    As an old hippie I have met a few cultist and believers in strange things including various conspiracy theorists none of them made any sense, they all seemed a little schizophrenic like they had a bad acid “trip” and got lost in side their heads. the worst of all were the gibbering freaks in rags carrying around raged bibles looking and waiting for “the savior” to let them live for ever and ever.
    they are all lost and smell of fear!
    they are to be pitied.
    I have no pity for the “cult leaders” who exploit their believers need for assurance and fears of death for own benefit.
    life is full of strange things

  27. #27 pough
    October 15, 2008

    dissenters from evolution… misleadingly worded.

    Speaking of which, I thought it was dissenters from Darwin, which is quite a bit different. I would imagine any biologist who remained a strict Darwinist any time in the last 70 years or so would be viewed as just as much of a crackpot as an IDist. That petition always makes me laugh, because it essentially lists nuts who dissent from a view nobody has. What were they hoping for, apart from a smile, a pat on the head and maybe a lollipop?

  28. #28 Mark Stevens
    October 15, 2008

    To contact the Texas State School Board…
    http://www.tea.state.tx.us/tea/contact.html

  29. #29 Christophe Thill
    October 15, 2008

    I thought the Disco ‘Tute (love that nickname, (c) Panda’s Thumb) didn’t oppose evolution per se ?

  30. #30 tsg
    October 15, 2008

    I thought the Disco ‘Tute (love that nickname, (c) Panda’s Thumb) didn’t oppose evolution per se ?

    When you’re entire claim is that life on earth can’t be explained without god[1] an intelligent designer, you don’t have a lot of choice but to attack the thing that, in fact, can explain it.

    [1] Yes, yes, I know. “It doesn’t have to be god.” But just try suggesting it’s something else.

  31. #31 tsg
    October 15, 2008

    When you’re entire claim

    s/you’re/your

    “Spell check is not the same as proofreading. Spell check is not the same as proofreading. Spell check is not the same as proofreading.”

  32. #32 azqaz
    October 15, 2008

    @20

    Well, Tulse, because god made them that way. You can read all about it in your KJV biology text. See, you can tell god loves you because he did all the thinking, so you don’t have to.

  33. #33 QrazyQat
    October 15, 2008

    On behalf of Moores (no relation) everywhere, thank you Randy for upholding our name.

  34. #34 Fatpie42
    October 15, 2008

    I think you might be just a little jealous that YOU didn’t win this award. Am I right?

  35. #35 natural cynic
    October 15, 2008

    @20: “But daddy, why are Kitty and Doggy furry, when Fishie and Froggy aren’t?”

    That’s not taxonomy, that’s comparative anatomy – which demands an understanding of evolution.

  36. #36 Brandonazz
    October 15, 2008

    Tough luck, professor.

    Next year maybe!

  37. #37 liveparadox
    October 15, 2008

    Margulis’s endosymbiotic theory was a natural explanation for eukaryote evolution — it is not an alternative, but a part of evolutionary theory.

    Problem is, she’s taking it so far now that she’s become a crank. I attended a seminar of hers last year at UC Berkeley, and was astounded by the lack of hard data and the just-so stories she came up with. I have to say, though, that she’s a very good speaker, and her ideas are sometimes intriguing, but without data it’s just not very convincing…

  38. #38 Tulse
    October 15, 2008

    That’s not taxonomy, that’s comparative anatomy

    It’s comparative anatomy, but it is also putting individual species into groups, which I think of as taxonomy.

  39. #39 Bort
    October 15, 2008

    I am not really sure how teaching reality would be considered a form of indoctrination. I guess teaching kids 2+2=4 is also indoctrination.

  40. #40 Dennis N
    October 15, 2008

    Well that might contradict the Christians who are trying to indoctrinate their kids that 3=1.

  41. #41 Rey Fox
    October 15, 2008

    “I am patiently waiting for President Obama to put the creationist retards of the Discovery Institute in prison for treason.”

    Good lord, Bob, don’t say that. You might summon Eric Atkinson, or worse yet, Scott from Oregon.

  42. #42 Dale Husband
    October 15, 2008

    Margulis’s endosymbiotic theory was a natural explanation for eukaryote evolution — it is not an alternative, but a part of evolutionary theory.

    Problem is, she’s taking it so far now that she’s become a crank. I attended a seminar of hers last year at UC Berkeley, and was astounded by the lack of hard data and the just-so stories she came up with. I have to say, though, that she’s a very good speaker, and her ideas are sometimes intriguing, but without data it’s just not very convincing…

    I agree, especially after seeing her post on this same blog.
    Look at this:
    http://circleh.wordpress.com/2008/05/31/how-not-to-argue-or-do-research/

  43. #43 erik Remkus
    October 15, 2008

    I think 0 is a slightly more fundamental number than 3. Yeah you really don’t need it to do arithmetic or even basic geometry however you can’t really do anything sophisticated and worth while without it. It fits the analogy better. :)

  44. #44 Peter Ashby
    October 15, 2008

    PZ you didn’t pull Randy Moore up for not putting developmental biology into his list. The amount of stuff from dev biol is mind blowing.

  45. #45 Paper Hand
    October 15, 2008

    #13:

    Without Evolution you can still teach some very limited aspects of Biology. Taxonomy, basically. Pretty much what you can teach to a toddler. “Kitty”, “Doggy”, “Horsey”.

    #20:

    “But daddy, why are Kitty and Doggy furry, when Fishie and Froggy aren’t?”

    To be fair, Linaeus did come before evolutionary theory. He understood that creatures existed in a nested hierarchy. There was also a lot of work on comparative anatomy prior to Darwin (and, indeed, that work provided crucial pieces of evidence for his theory). Without evolution, however, all those facts are isolated from each other, without a framework to make sense of them.

  46. #46 Tim
    October 15, 2008

    If Discovery Institute must torment us with creationism, why can’t they use a more entertaining myth?, like Tolkien’s “Ainulindale”?

  47. #47 Kel
    October 15, 2008

    That’s a pretty damn good award to win. I want that award damnit!

  48. #48 tresmal
    October 15, 2008

    Since there is no Nobel for Biology, this is the next best thing. And PZ? The last line of your post reeks of sore loser.

  49. #49 Alan Conwell
    October 15, 2008

    OK, besides the badge of honor of being called a scumbag by the epitome of scumbag organizations, Randy Moore won a real award for his evolution teaching. See:

    http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2008/US/855_moore_wins_evolution_education_10_14_2008.asp

    for the announcement I first saw. Congrats Dr. Moore, and PZ, don’t get jealous, there’s always next year (for either award or both; besides, can Dr. Moore show how he was Expelled, passing over Richard Dawkins? Hah, you win!)

  50. #50 Velok
    October 16, 2008

    From the “article”: “…if you guessed the infamous PZ Myers, guess again”.
    At least you must have been a close second PZ :)

  51. #51 PZ Myers
    October 16, 2008

    Really, I’m not jealous at all — I’m even having dinner with Randy and Eugenie Scott on Sunday. I won’t be green, I promise.

  52. #52 SC
    October 16, 2008

    I’m even having dinner with Randy and Eugenie Scott on Sunday.

    The Axis of Evol.

  53. #53 tsg
    October 16, 2008

    If Discovery Institute must torment us with creationism, why can’t they use a more entertaining myth?, like Tolkien’s “Ainulindale”?

    The Great Green Arkleseizure.

  54. #54 Janine ID AKA The Lone Drinker
    October 16, 2008

    The Axis of Evol?

    What does Sonic Youth have to do with it?

  55. #55 Steve Peters
    October 16, 2008

    Anyone heard this latest load of rubbish from the clown masquerading as a scientist going by the name of Steve Fuller?
    http://intelligentdesign.podomatic.com/player/web/2008-09-24T16_29_49-07_00

  56. #56 DLC
    October 16, 2008

    PZ Myers : “I won’t be green, I promise.”

    It’s not easy, being green.

    If there was an intelligent designer, why did he screw up the human knee joint so badly ?

    If it’s evolution, it’s because you get what works, not what’s perfect.