From Our Friends at the Discovery Institute

Man, I just arrived in Seattle and had scarcely gotten a nap in when I woke up to find this:

SEATTLE -- In his book The Republican War on Science, Chris Mooney declares war on intelligent design, calling it a "reactionary crusade" promoted by "[s]cience abusers." Discovery Institute now responds to Mooney's war on intelligent design (ID) by publishing a detailed report, "Whose War Is It, Anyway? Exposing Chris Mooney's Attack on Intelligent Design," documenting 14 major errors Mooney makes when writing about ID in his book. The report will be available online on Friday, Sept. 15.

"Why do so many people eagerly listen to a journalist with neither scientific nor legal training discuss a complex scientific and legal issue like intelligent design?" asks Casey Luskin, an attorney with a science background, working with Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture (CSC).

Uh oh, looks they are going credentialist on me....a strategy also tried by Jim Gibbons, and look where that got him. And there is apparently more to come from the DI, just in time for my debate tomorrow with Jonathan Wells.

Let no one say that I was the one trying to publicize this event.....


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... a complex scientific and legal issue like intelligent design

Because the origin of species ... is all about the law???

I could see their point if they were talking about Einstein's General Relativity, which takes considerable training to master .

But ID? Ha. There's nothing to it (quite literally).

Besides, as Richard Feynman once pointed out, in science it is the argument (logic, whether it fits the facts, etc) that counts and not the person behind the argument. If the argument makes logical sense and is uspported by the facts, it matters not one iota whether the person who came up with it has any credentials whatsoever.

By Dark Tent (not verified) on 14 Sep 2006 #permalink

Even people normally against allowing views on religion into the classroom are sometimes capable of minimizing the dangers involved when they imagine that the classroom materials and discussion really will support their own personal views. If you want to get any real attention from the average Christian, it may be necessary to somehow remind us of the fact that any introduction of an intelligent designer into classroom teaching could in some cases result in a very non-Christian view of the designer.

For example, "an unknown intelligence" is more likely to remind students of the X-Men or other science fiction than of the Christian God. Maybe there's some way you could point out that ID in the high school classroom could open the door to an actual discussion of the nature of the designer, a discussion led by a teacher who could have any religion or none. Many Christians are amazed to hear that an ID advocate has indicated the designer could be an alien, that the ID-related definition of science includes astrology, and that legislation permitting the teaching of ID would make it difficult if not impossible to tell students that paganism and witchcraft are not valid scientific explanations for nature.

An effort to introduce "critically analyze" language into evolution school standards failed here, with a conservative Christian on the committee saying [very rough paraphrase] that he wanted his child taught his own religion in his own church and not possibly have some science teacher in the classroom exposing the child to the teachings of Satanism.

Intelligent Design is a legal issue? Am I missing something here?

Likely referring to the various attempts to get ID into schools and the resulting lawsuits - all of which ID lost. They're still smarting from that, though they prefer to think that the losses are a result of Bush appointing "activist" judges, or some sort. I don't know; I'm not a lawyer.

First, I think the ID people are talking about the Law of God when they say it is a legal issue.

SEcond, how convenient for Discovery Institute to just happen to come out with their 14 major errors in time for (but presumably not before) the debate with Wells. They say on their web site that they will post the paper discussing the so-called errors tomorrow.

The people at Discovery are pathetic. They are so afraid of losing (again, since they already lost big time in the Dover law suit) that they will not give Chris the chance to look at what they are going to throw at him ahead of time in any detail.

They did give a hint of one of their peeves, however: that ID scientists have published in the peer-reviewed journals. They provide a list of papers.

Among them is one by Wells:

Jonathan Wells, "Do Centrioles Generate a Polar Ejection Force?," Rivista di Biologia/Biology Forum 98 (2005): 37-62.

""From an intelligent design (ID) perspective, centrioles may have no evolutionary intermediates because they are irreducibly complex." -- from Discovery Institute site


"In this paper, Wells assumes that centrioles are designed to function as the tiny turbines they appear to be, rather than being accidental by-products of Darwinian evolution. He then formulates a testable hypothesis about centriole function and behavior that--if corroborated by experiment could have important implications for our understanding of cell division and cancer. " -- from Discovery Institute site

It is noteworthy that Wells merely assumes centrioles were designed and that a "testable hypothesis about centriole function and behavior" is not the same as a testable (falsifiable) hypothesis about ID itself.

"Wells thus makes a case for ID by showing its strong heuristic value in biology. That is, he uses the theory of intelligent design to make new discoveries in biology." -- from Discovery Institute site

No so. This is a slight of hand. Obtaining knowledge of the function and "behavior" of centrioles (through experiment) could have value for understanding and treating cancer and pave the way for making new discoveries, but this is quite independent of the origin of centrioles.

Understanding how they work could have important implications for biology and medicine -- whether centrioles arose through evolution or design,

By Dark Tent (not verified) on 14 Sep 2006 #permalink

Welcome to Seattle, Chris. I'm not surprised the Discovery Institute (home of bad science and religion) is trying the old swift boat approach. Just play it straight up like you always do, and they'll slink back to their lairs. Have fun tomorrow.

By Brad Hudson (not verified) on 14 Sep 2006 #permalink

They want it to be seen as a legal issue. They'll call it anything they think will lead to victory. I jammed into an earlier Intersection my take on the legal fine print.

By SkookumPlanet (not verified) on 14 Sep 2006 #permalink

P.S. I'm sorry I had to miss your Bay Area appearance.

By SkookumPlanet (not verified) on 14 Sep 2006 #permalink

With regard to Luskin, his bio states "Casey has published in Journal of Church and State; Research News and Opportunities in Science and Theology; Geochemistry, Geophysics, and Geosystems; and Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design."

A search of the Web of Science for "Luskin C*" produces one hit:

Paleomagnetic results from the Snake River Plain: Contribution to the time-averaged field global database
Tauxe L, Luskin C, Selkin P, Gans P, Calvert A

Abstract: [1] This study presents paleomagnetic results from the Snake River Plain (SRP) in southern Idaho as a contribution to the time-averaged field global database. Paleomagnetic samples were measured from 26 sites, 23 of which (13 normal, 10 reverse) yielded site mean directions meeting our criteria for acceptable paleomagnetic data. Flow ages (on 21 sites) range from 5 ka to 5.6 Ma on the basis of Ar-40/Ar-39 dating methods. The age and polarity for the 21 dated sites are consistent with the Geomagnetic Reversal Time Scale except for a single reversely magnetized site dated at 0.39 Ma. This is apparently the first documented excursion associated with a period of low paleointensity detected in both sedimentary and igneous records. Combining the new data from the SRP with data published from the northwest United States between the latitudes of 40degrees and 50degreesN, there are 183 sites in all that meet minimum acceptability criteria for legacy and new data. The overall mean direction of 173 normally magnetized sites has a declination of 2.3degrees, inclination of 61.4degrees, a Fisher concentration parameter (kappa) of 58, and a radius of 95% confidence (alpha(95)) of 1.4degrees. Reverse sites have a mean direction of 182.4degrees declination, -58.6degrees inclination, kappa of 50, and alpha(95) of 6.9degrees. Normal and reversed mean directions are antipodal and indistinguishable from a geocentric axial dipole field at the 95% confidence level. Virtual geomagnetic pole dispersion was found to be circularly symmetric, while the directional data were elongate north-south. An updated and corrected database for the northwestern U. S. region has been contributed to the Magnetics Information Consortium (MagIC) database at
Author Keywords: gyromagnetic remanent magnetization; paleointensity; paleosecular variation; Snake River Plain; time-averaged geomagnetic field
Addresses: Univ Calif San Diego, Scripps Inst Oceanog, La Jolla, CA 92093 USA
Univ Calif San Diego, Scripps Inst Oceanog, La Jolla, CA 92093 USA
Univ Calif Santa Barbara, Dept Geol Sci, Santa Barbara, CA 93106 USA

He was a paleomagnetist? I'm doubly ashamed. Although that paper is probably just a write-up of lab work he did for his masters; the fact he seems to have got through the whole process without picking up much in the way of scientific nous indicates that he just ran the samples without once stopping to think what they mean.

I've met Lisa Tauxe (the first author) once - I wonder if she knows what one of he former students is up to?


Why should you feel shame for Luskin? Luskin does not reflect on anyone but himself and Discovery Institute.

One scientist certainly does not mean anything about the field they got their PhD in. Look at Wells as another example. He has a PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology from Berekely. How many of these believe in ID? I bet you could count them on one hand.

By Dark Tent (not verified) on 15 Sep 2006 #permalink

Dark Tent - it's not shame so much I suppose, more distress that someone can get a science masters without apparently picking up anything in the way of critical thinking skills. Doubly distressing is how someone can study geology, which is all about how we are only a recent and very short chapter in the mind-bogglingly long and wonderful history of this planet, and not think twice about adhering to the self-centred nothingness that is ID.

Wells, at least, had decided beforehand to 'destroy Darwinism' from within.