Cause, Effect, and Crying "Poor Me": Day 3 of the Luskin Thing.

We're now into the third day of the brouhaha that was sparked by Casey Luskin's misuse of the "Blogging About Peer-Reviewed Research" icon. Casey posted a few responses to criticisms in the discussion thread over at the BPR3 blog, then packed his bags and went home because Dave Munger didn't delete all of the comments that had said bad things about Casey. It's pretty clear that Casey got what he was fishing for before he left, though: more stories about how poor Intelligent Design proponents are picked on by mean scientists.

They've been playing up that sort of story for a while now, and it's easy to understand why. Stories - even blatantly fictional ones - are a good way to make a point. We use stories to teach our children. More importantly, our parents used stories to teach us. We've been dealing with stories all our life, so we tend to respond when we're given a familiar story. In this case, they're giving us a variant of the "David and Goliath" story, and we all know who to root for when we hear that one, right?

Casey had to work really hard to get that story, but he's pretty sure he managed it:

(1) A large number of the people on this thread continue to oppose approving my request for registration, explicitly admitting that they simply don't want to allow ID proponents to be part of these discussions. If ID proponents aren't even allowed to "officially" blog about peer-reviewed research on the internet, who can say that their research would get a fair hearing from the actual peer-reviewers in the real world of science?

The italics were in the original, and Casey really must have meant it, because he used the same phrase again later on in the comment, replacing the italics with boldface. As arguments go, that one is pretty typical. It sounds nice and reasonable and bears only the faintest resemblance to anything that actually happened.

Go read the discussion thread. A couple of people did suggest that it would be bad to let the Discovery Institute participate at ResearchBlogging, but the reasons given had nothing to do with the Discovery Institute people being "ID proponents". (They had everything to do with the Discovery Institute's long history of trying to undercut good science education.) The vast majority of the people who were arguing that Casey's belated application should be denied actually focused on what Casey wrote in the post in question, and on whether or not his post fit the established guidelines for inclusion.

Casey continued:

(2) It's amazing to me how angry some Darwinists are eager to get over a 117 X 87 pixel graphic that was immediately removed after an ID-proponent learned that he had unknowingly used it -- for only about 2 days -- in an inappropriate fashion. Some might call this sort of thing "reprehensible," but in my view, life's too short-and far too sweet-to engage in personal attacks with other people (or post silly pictures of them) and get angry about such things.

Notice how quickly Casey makes this dispute about labels. It's not Mike Dunford saying that Casey Luskin's behavior was reprehensible. It's "Darwinists" against an "ID-proponent". For the record, Casey, I don't think that your behavior was reprehensible because you happen to be an ID proponent. I think your behavior is reprehensible because I think that you knowingly misused the icon, and because I do not believe the excuses that you've presented. If you want to consider that to be "personal attack", feel free. But it's not a gratuitous attack, and it's not an ad hominem argument.

Sadly, Casey wasn't done yet:

This thread has given another example of the intolerance that ID proponents face in the academy. Some might call this observation of a fact "howling," but others are smart enough to know that intolerance towards ID poses a problem for the pro-Darwin side (even if they think my actions are "reprehensible"). So I reiterate my question to you all:

If ID proponents aren't even allowed to "officially" blog about peer-reviewed research on the internet, who can say that their research would get a fair hearing from the actual peer-reviewers in the real world of science?

Here's where we start to get into cause and effect. The scientific community has precious little tolerance for the Discovery Institute's shenanigans. That is not because the Discovery Institute is full of Intelligent Design proponents who are advocating an idea that goes against the established norms in Biology. That might be what the Discovery Institute believes - and it's certainly what the Discovery Institute wants the world to believe - but it's complete bunk. Science thrives on arguments that challenge the norms. Most of those ideas wind up failing, but the boundaries constantly being pushed outward by scientists who are willing to take a hard look at the edge of the envelope, then put their head down and charge into it at full speed.

The scientific community's distaste for the Discovery Institute isn't caused by intolerance for dissenting views. It's the effect of the years that the Discovery Institute has spent publicly attacking science and scientists. It's a response to watching them attempt to undercut science in the schools in state after state. It comes from reading attacks on evolution that contain more lies than you'd find in a Daytona Beach dive bar on the last night of Spring Break. It's the product of being attacked for showing intolerance when you object to the rest of what they've been doing. And it's enhanced when we read things like this gem from Luskin:

The intolerance expressed here comes as no surprise to any of us. But this incident has given me some valuable anecdotes that I can retell in the future. I wish I did not have these anecdotes and I wish that people acted differently, but it seems I now have these anecdotes nonetheless.

Yes, Casey. If you look hard enough, ignore all of the people who actually addressed the content of your post, and interpret any objection to your own behavior as an attack on an "ID proponent" for daring to be an "ID proponent", you'll get some new "expelled" anecdotes. They'll bear little resemblance to reality, of course, but that's fine. After all, why should they be the first?

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We're now into the third day of the brouhaha that was sparked by Casey Luskin's misuse of the "Blogging About Peer-Reviewed Research" icon...It's pretty clear that Casey got what he was fishing for before he left, though: more stories about how poor Intelligent Design proponents are picked on by mean scientists.

This appears to be a case of evolutionists bullying an I.D. proponent--making a mountain out of a mole hill--and then attempting to milk it for all its worth.

Excellent entry, Mike Dunford--I almost believed for a femto-second that Poland^H^H^H^H^H^H^HCasey Luskin attacked Germany^H^H^H^H^H^H^HMike Dunford et al. Goebbels would be proud.

This appears to be yet another case of Fellows of the Discovery being caught in copyright violation and other lies. This appears to be a case of William Wallace using argumentum ad nazium, and running into Godwin's Law. No one is bullying Casey Luskin, they are saying he is not putting enough effort in his deceit. But since the point of Casey Luskin's deceit is to drive traffic to his site, in a way he has been successful.

I think what William Wallace above is completely missing the poit - Casey Luskin brought this entirely upon himself. He initiated this whole drama (and let's be honest he does seem to attract drama doesn't he?) He is obviously an intelligent person - a qualified lawyer and a possessor of a masters degree in science. I went to the BPR3 web site and within only a couple of minutes I had figured out the "rules" and how to register and how to use the icon. And I don't have any kind of degree - just average intelligence.

All the "poor me" whining from him sounds completely disingenuous and false, particularly given his previous track record of playing similar tricks like this in the part. Given this he should have been doubly-wary in making sure he followed the rules.

He's a smart guy, he could have figured it out. But for whatever reason he didn't. Since he is such a smart person, it is a reasonable assumption to think that maybe his true motive was just to pick a fight.

I must say - good job Mike, Dave, Sister Edith, Zachary, John and Eric. In less than six months you now control who is allowed to "officially" blog about peer-reviewed research on the internet. I didn't realise that you had been granted the exclusive license to draw a line around what it is that constitutes "official" blogging about science. Or is it that because you are all such eminent scholars that no one is willing to challenge you? Or does Sister Edith speak for God?

I love the way the Joe McFaul cast it in terms of "brand identity". You've created a valuable brand. You allow people to use it in a way that enhances the value of the brand. Someone else come along and wants to slap your brand on defective goods. And somehow it's your fault that you won't let him devalue your brand.

No one is stopping the DI from coming up with their own logo. After all, they actually have money to pay people. They could come up with a spiffier logo (BQMR, Blogging on Quote Mined Research), and they could even blog on PCID papers... There are more creationist that there are scientists - they could create their own brand and plaster it over hundred of posts...kinda like WalMart.

Huh... I think that's the first time I've seen a troll beat legitimate commenters to the punch.

For what it's worth, though, if you actually read the discussion, you can see how Luskin tries to argue that objections to his article are simply misunderstandings, and when it's clear that they see through that lie, he goes with the "persecution" route instead. No matter how many people try and point out the obvious using logic and common sense (even the ones that don't directly call him a liar), he remains firm in his own self-righteousness until he finally just decides to take his ball and go home to where nobody can point out the obvious flaws in his arguments (since he doesn't allow comments). Even for a blog post, Luskin makes a mockery of himself in the face of peer review (and of course doesn't change a damn thing about the content of his article).

This is exactly why ID would never be considered real science, either -- while real scientists reevaluate their methods and their hypotheses based on peer review, the Discovery Institute and their ilk remain firmly entrenched in the belief that they are absolutely right no matter how many times the same arguments are proven wrong. Science is by its nature imperfect, being limited by the scope of current knowledge (thus scientists freely admit when they don't yet entirely understand something), but by the same token, it is constantly improving in its explanatory power based on new evidence. ID, on the other hand, is fixed and unchanging, much like the religious beliefs it is based upon.

Scientists willingly submit themselves to endless cycles of Revision Hell in order to make their articles the best they can be, and then take into account others' comments and criticism of the published version. (Though I cannot speak from personal experience, plenty of my professors in college spoke of the "joys" of doing just that.) My guess is that the DI would cry "persecution" and refuse to revise their work at the first rejection, even it was for something trivial like using the wrong format for tables.

By J. Grybowski (not verified) on 06 Feb 2008 #permalink

I should add that, while BPR3 cannot determine who can "officially" blog about peer-reviewed research, they do have every right to make sure that their name isn't being abused and/or misrepresented by those who would seek to use it to give an air of legitimacy to something that doesn't meet the criteria. The fact that Luskin would rather remove the icon than bother trying to meet the standards (which exist so that the icon actually means something), just makes it all the more obvious why he was using it in the first place.

By J. Grybowski (not verified) on 06 Feb 2008 #permalink

This is how a Normal Reasonable Person (NRP) would have dealt with the situation encountered by Mr. Luskin:

1) NRP accidentally misunderstands rules of BPR3 and posts icon prior to being registered
2) BPR3 contacts said NRP and tells NRP and asks them to remove the icon and follow the rules
3) NRP responds by removing icon and a polite "very sorry, I didn't fully understand the rules and posted the icon prematurely"
4) NRP tries to register with BPR3 but has problems. NRP contacts BPR3 who helps NRP get properly registered
5) NRP gets registered and starts happily using BPR3 (just like many other NRPs have done prior to this one)...

Not so hard really, right Casey? Notice that no one in the above exchange did the NRP incite "persecution"...

The curious factor in this affair isn't Luskin's shenanigans but BPR3's reluctance to slap a non-use edict on anti-science organizations or persons. In principle it shouldn't be needed, in practice life is too short to fight the rule twisters that like Luskin have their own agenda apart from reviewing (supporting) science.

In this case it is too late for the convoluted approach, due to the sluggish road taken Luskin very efficiently got the persecution case he was fishing for and all that goes with that. But remaining cranks will always go for the same end game. (I refer to the last step in the Crank HOWTO.)

The method I can see at the moment (ie at my first coffee for the day) to suppress that is to make it a blanket rule for all antiscience cranks. That will remove the support they claim from being considered on an individual case basis. They will still claim persecution, but it's a much weakened claim. (BPR3 can possibly have a list with rejected cranks and why, to recognize 'the persecution' but at the same time further deter cranks.)

I wouldn't presume to recommend BPR3 reading blogs :-P, but denialism has a great discussion on how to deal with cranks.

By Torbj�rn Lar… (not verified) on 06 Feb 2008 #permalink

BPR3 can possibly have a list with rejected cranks and why, to recognize 'the persecution' but at the same time further deter cranks.

Sorry, I'm not thinking clearly. (Did I mention it was my first coffee? :-P) I was thinking of normal persons reactions; but the cranks modus operandi is to thrive on persecution as I was just alluding to.

Scratch that stupid suggestion.

By Torbjörn Larsson, OM (not verified) on 06 Feb 2008 #permalink

Wait.... you mean Luskin threw a childish temper tantrum and cried, "Everybody is picking on me! Nobody likes me!" Who would have expected that?

Oh, right. Everybody.

The little girl got caught dipping into mom's cosmetic after being repeatedly told not to. She got sent to bed with no dessert for it, and now she'll cry herself to sleep over it and, I'm sure, gossip with her friends about what terrible people her parents are. You can bet this will be the hot topic at their next slumber party.

Wait a second, why does he call us "Darwinists", "Evolutionists", "Evolutionismists", or whatever?
Wouldn't "scientists" just be far more accurate?

By Jason Failes (not verified) on 07 Feb 2008 #permalink

Flippancy aside, the part that bugs me most is that these rebranded creationists are delegitimizing real scientists who are searching for external, and even intelligent, causes to life on Earth: people researching panspermia and its more controversial cousin, directed panspermia.
Not that this field has had a great deal of success, but unlike IDers they admit that they have had little success, unlike IDers they try to falsify their hypotheses, and unlike IDers they try to pin down the times, places, and mechanisms by which such a process could have occurred.

By Jason Failes (not verified) on 07 Feb 2008 #permalink

I fully enjoyed reading Casey trying desperately to enforce his own rules onto other people in the case of "personal attacks," loosely defined as "anyone claiming anything bad about Casey Luskin, regardless of the amount of evidence backing up the claim."

I really should sit outside the Discovery Institute (since I work only a few blocks from there) with a camera one afternoon and just take pictures.

If we take the most charitable approach, and take Luskin's words at face value, he appropriated and used somebody else's logo, without ever bothering to check with the originator, even though the originator's address was on the logo, with the obvious implication that whatever is published under that logo is endorsed by the logo's owners--whose web address is, after all, on the logo.

He then shows up, and seems to think that "oops, sorry" is adequate to make amends, and that in spite of this outrageous transgression of the bounds of courtesy, common sense, and copyright law, the owner of the logo is now obliged to accept him into the fold. And then takes offense to discover that some people are, for some incomprehensible reason, still mad at him and are saying mean things about him.

Personally, I don't see any problem if ID/creationists want to participate in blogging about published research. But they'd have to follow the guidelines, which would entail honestly reporting what the actual author's goals and conclusions are, rather than quote-mining the paper to make it appear that the author is endorsing some aspect of ID.

I don't think that it would be unreasonable to respond, "You've already proved yourself to be an irresponsible jerk. We don't trust you. Go away." However, I think that it is good that BPR3 is taking the high road and leaving the door open, if Luskin can show himself to be capable of following the guidelines.