On Civility

Just under a year ago, I quoted and endorsed Stephen Post's argument that lack of civility isn't the problem we face in society, that incivility is a symptom, not an end unto itself.

Civility matters, and there are good reasons to urge people to be more civil in their interactions, and to model that behavior ourselves. It's no accident that many uncivil styles of discourse are also informal logical errors. And there's a reason that deliberative venues - like the Senate floor - impose a standard of decorum and civility. Uncivil discourse often replaces substantive exchanges about ideas with personal reflections or even outright attacks, and that serves no one. As Post argues, incivility often reflects "a vicious ingroup-outgroup demonization that is entirely dysfunctional."

I'm reminded of that post because Casey Luskin - a staffer at the ID creationist Discovery Institute - has used the company blog to launch one of his periodic tirades about the supposed incivility of "Darwinists."
It's not always clear what code of civility is he's trying to enforce, or even if there is any clear standard at all. His public silence about the abusive, slanderous, malicious, and misleading language used by fellow staffers at the Discovery Institute undercuts any claim that this is simply an effort to elevate the entire debate. Rather, I think Casey's goal is to weaponize civility, to use these charges of incivility to silence criticism of his ideas. In his multi-post series, Casey attacks people by name for expressing ideas with which he disagrees. At times, he engages with the underlying substance of the claims (alas, getting it wrong, as we'll see below), but for the most part, he's simply trying to shame people into not saying mean-but-true things about the Discovery Institute or creationism.

I would argue that people are inherently worthy of respect and of being treated civilly (though they can lose that respect with concerted effort). With apologies to Mitt Romney, corporations like the Disco. 'tute are not people, and deserve no inherent respect or civility (though they can earn respect, and civility should be the default behavior); even if the Disco. 'tute did deserve respect at one time, they forfeited that respect long ago. Ideas (e.g. creationism) do not deserve inherent respect either, though certainly the people who hold those ideas do. An idea either proves itself useful or it falls by the wayside. Various scholarly and lay communities have developed tools for evaluating ideas and separating the wheat from the chaff: unbiased peer review and testability play key roles in the process used in the sciences.

In treating criticism of his corporate master and his pseudoscientific pseudotheology as "uncivil," Casey essentially tries to shortcircuit the normal processes by which we evaluate ideas and institutions. And in targeting a few of his critics by name and trying to use their allegedly uncivil behavior as an argument against evolution in general, he actually commits the uncivil acts which he wrongly accuses others of.

Let's talk specifics, particularly his post attacking me. In that case, the personal attacks begin in the title: "Josh Rosenau's 'Potemkin' arguments." He's replying to a paragraph I wrote 6 months ago, in which I was arguing against analogies some people were drawing between the Discovery Institute's pernicious effect on science and the effects they claim the John Templeton Foundation has had. Ophelia Benson had written: "one can see Templeton as in fact interfering with science just as the Discovery Institute does, but in a more subtle fashion." I responded:

There's no question that the Discovery Institute is ideologically driven, that their fellowships are wingnut welfare, a way to employ creationists and give them the gloss of respectability. Disco. 'Tute fellows seem to have lifetime appointments, while [Chris] Mooney's [journalism] fellowship from Templeton was a single event - a financial award and a series of lectures and discussion which, once ended, entail no ongoing obligation. That's not how DI fellowships work.

The DI does not fund external research. They have a Potemkin laboratory, and a house journal dedicated to publishing their own staff's "research." All of this is oriented towards creating a pseudoscientific infrastructure, the semblance of an active research program and academic community, so that they can convince schools to teach claptrap and can interfere with the administration of colleges and universities, the content of textbooks, and by such means to advance a narrow version of Christianity. Their fellows are chosen because of their support for this ideological agenda, just as papers in their pseudo-journal are selected for their adherence to the Disco. 'Tute agenda, and so forth.

By contrast, Templeton doesn't run its own journals. They do help fund societies which run journals, but no one has given any evidence of Templeton interfering in the editorial independence of those journals. They fund research projects, but no one has shown any evidence that they interfere with the research or the researchers' interpretation of it. While the Templeton folks did provide some funding for IDC-related work, they did so at a time in the 1990s when quite a few people held out hope that there might be some real research program spawned by the movement. In time, they learned better

At the time, I didn't bother filling those paragraphs with links because my point wasn't about the DI, it was about Templeton. Folks making an analogy between the Templeton Foundation and Discovery Institute generally already know that background, so I didn't feel the need to substantiate the claims there.

In Casey's eye, this post about the John Templeton Foundation was written because I "apparently felt the need ... to deal with the fact that Discovery Institute is funding scientific research that challenges neo-Darwinism, and is being published in peer-reviewed scientific journals." He claims I "suddenly became so concerned about this only in 2011 when he blogged about it." Both claims are false, the first from the context of the blog post Casey is addressing and quoting, and the second from his own knowledge of my work.

You see, in late 2009, Casey and I took part in a symposium on Intelligent Design and the Law. We both presented our papers at the University of St. Thomas Law School, and we both published papers in their law review. In my law review article, published almost 2 years ago, I wrote about the claimed scientific research from the DI, and even used the same "Potemkin" language (citations omitted here, but you can find them all in the PDF):

Intelligent Design advocates have struggled without success to achieve academic acceptance as scientists. For example, some attempts have been made to create ID-specific journals comparable to those of creation scientists, but they have all become moribund, and an academic society dedicated to ID is similarly defunct. Major academic ID goals set in a fundraising document in 1998 have gone unachieved, such as the promise of a major monograph by Discovery Institute fellow Paul Nelson, which has been reported as nearly ready to print for over a decade. The proceedings of a Discovery Institute conference held in the summer of 2007, supposedly highlighting "the very kind of research our critics say we don't sponsor," remain unpublished. William Dembski, once heralded on a book jacket as "the Isaac Newton of Information Theory," has been reduced to rewriting and analyzing toy computer programs originally written for a TV series and popular books in the 1980s by biologist Richard Dawkins as trivial demonstrations of the power of selection. Dembski explained his poor record of publication in peer-reviewed scientific literature by saying, "I've just gotten kind of blaseÌ about submitting things to journals where you often wait two years to get things into print. And I find I can actually get the turnaround faster by writing a book and getting the ideas expressed there. My books sell well." Alas, they don't convince mathematicians of his mathematical arguments, prompting Dembski to reply to one critic: "I'm not and never have been in the business of offering a strict mathematical proof for the inability of material mechanisms to generate specified complexity." This, despite his claim to have developed a "Law of Conservation of Information" about which he states in one book: "The crucial point of the Law of Conservation of Information is that natural causes can at best preserve CSI..., may degrade it, but cannot generate it."

In 1998, the Discovery Institute explained to its donors that research was crucial stating, "Phase I [described as 'Research, Writing and Publication'] is the essential component of everything that comes afterward. Without solid scholarship, research and argument, the project would be just another attempt to indoctrinate instead of persuade." Judges and others seeking to assess the merits of ID going forward need issue no harsher judgment than the Discovery Institute has presented here. By its own standards, ID is intellectually stagnant, and must be regarded as "just another attempt to indoctrinate instead of persuade," in line with previous creationist movements.

The Kitzmiller ruling cited as "[a] final indicator of how ID has failed to demonstrate scientific warrant... the complete absence of peer-reviewed publications supporting the theory." The movement, however, did not take this as a call to return to the labs and produce novel results in readiness for future legal challenges [fn: Discovery Institute did create what amounts to a Potemkin laboratory - the Biologic Institute. ... Attempts to view the lab spaces or examine their research have been blocked. See Celeste Biever, Intelligent design: The God Lab, THE NEW SCIENTIST, Dec. 15 2006, at 8-11. According to one report, the only research finding offered by Biologic actually contradicts a central claim of ID. ..."We shuffled off for a coffee break with the admission hanging in the air that natural processes could not only produce new information, they could produce beneficial new information").]. Instead, the movement has produced a the third edition of Pandas (renamed Design of Life and no longer aimed at high schools) and a successor to Pandas, called Explore Evolution, which contains even less substance and scientific accuracy than its predecessor. The Intelligent Design documentary, Expelled!: No intelligence Allowed mangled interviews and the history of the Holocaust, and has been called "one of the sleaziest documentaries to arrive in a very long time." In addition, Michael Behe published a successor to Darwin's Black Box, The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism, while still failing to address criticism leveled at the earlier work, even those he himself acknowledged.

I specifically considered a document drafted by Casey, claiming to show the strength of pro-ID peer reviewed scientific papers:

To understand a theory's impact and scientific validity, it is necessary to review how it fares when later researchers examine its claims, and how much new research is generated by insights from a given line of thinking. In the case of those few papers claimed as peer-reviewed defenses of ID, none has met any favorable response, or been cited as generating successful predictions for future researchers.* By contrast, the number of papers building on evolutionary theory and deepening our knowledge of the field has grown rapidly in recent years, due in part to the theory's ability to generate new insights into the burgeoning fields of molecular biology, genomics, and developmental genetics. This reflects a community-wide consensus among relevant scientists on the merits of evolution, a consensus further strengthened by assessments of scientific bodies. Groups including the National Academy of Sciences and its international counterparts, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and professional societies representing groups with special knowledge of evolution, including biologists of many sorts, geologists, physicists, historians, philosophers, and many others, have issued statements representing their members' agreement that evolution is foundational to modern biology, is well-supported, and belongs in science classes.

* DISCOVERY INST. THE COLLEGE STUDENT'S BACK TO SCHOOL GUIDE TO INTELLIGENT DESIGN (2009), available at http://www.evolutionnews.org/BacktoSchoolGuide_Sept2009 _FN.pdf. The pamphlet states, "Criticss [sic] often claim that intelligent design proponents do not publish peer-reviewed scientific papers or that they do not do scientific research." To rebut this claim, 6 papers are cited, none from later than 2004. One of those was discussed at length in testimony by Kitzmiller defense witnesses, with the court describing that paper as "The one article referenced [by defense's scientific witnesses]... as supporting ID .... A review of the article indicates that it does not mention ... ID. In fact, Professor Behe admitted that the study which forms the basis for the article did not rule out many known evolutionary mechanisms and that the research actually might support evolutionary pathways if a biologically realistic population size were used." Another proffered article was repudiated by the journal which published it, with the editors noting that it "represents a significant departure from the nearly purely taxonomic content for which this journal has been known throughout its 124-year history. ... We have met and determined that all of us would have deemed this paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings." A review of the other papers listed by the Discovery Institute in Science Citation Index finds two of the papers have no citations at all, and the few citations garnered by the remainder are either self-citation by the same ideologically driven group of authors, or are citations rejecting the paper's findings. For context, the 254 papers turned up in a search for the narrow topic "evolutionary developmental biology" published in 2004 have been cited an average of 13 times, compared to an average 7 citations for ID's top papers, some of which have had many more years to accumulate citations. The marketplace of ideas has spoken.

If Casey had read my paper (or paid attention during the symposium, when I read that last passage), he'd know that my interest in the purportedly pro-ID research literature far predates the blog post he cites.

I lay this out at length only to note that from Casey's first paragraph, he's trying to make this not about the substance of what I said or the merits of my case, but about whether or not I'm a good and nice person. And to paint as grim a portrait as possible, he's misstating obvious facts, and is imputing motives to me that are false and which he could have known were false by a) reading the blog post he was responding to, and b) familiarizing himself with the contents of a volume he himself contributed to. That isn't a pattern that speaks well of Casey's own civility.

Casey's submission to the law review ultimately bore the innocuous title "The Constitutionality and Pedagogical Benefits of Teaching Evolution Scientifically." We can certainly dispute that Casey's ideas of how evolution should be taught would be scientific, let alone pedagogically or constitutionally appropriate. But instead, I'll note that the working title for this paper was the rather spicier "Bluffed Into Dogmatism: How the Evolution Lobby Seeks to Block Perfectly Legal and Beneficial Policy Proposals to Teach Neo-Darwinism Scientifically." Civil? No!

While Casey did catch that title before it went out to the wider world, he did publish a paper with the uncivil, and inaccurate title, "Zeal for Darwin's House Consumes Them: How Supporters of Evolution Encourage Violations of the Establishment Clause." That's a reference to Psalms 69:9, a charge that "supporters of evolution" are idolators, worshipping Darwin (or maybe Down House), and falsely claiming that these groups advocate unconstitutional policies. Regular followers of the creationism/evolution battle know that Casey works for the only side which has actually found its policies declared unconstitutional in courts.

After his ironically uncivil opening, Casey attempts a substantive defense of Disco., of their purported research wing the Biologic Institute, and of their supposedly scientific journal BIO-complexity.

First, Discovery Institute does fund research conducted by people external to Discovery Institute. It funds research by Christians and non-Christians alike.

It's impossible to review every penny the DI has ever spent, but the Center for Renewal of Science and Culture does not advertise any program for merit-based grants. In official IRS filings, the CRSC's activities are described as "Production of public service reports, legislative testimony, articles, public conferences and debates, plus media coverage and the Institute's own publications in the field of Science and Culture." Nothing about research funding there.

According to DI's most recently published 990 form (an IRS form which nonprofits file, explaining where their money came from and how they spent it), the Discovery Institute spent about $17,000 on 10 of its fellows in 2009, and they itemize $274,000 in grants for "scientific research" to Biologic, and $11,592 in grants to Grove City College, home of DI Fellow and Biologic staffer Guillermo Gonzalez.

I don't think that the fellowships (or other funding of fellows) count as "external grants." Almost all DI fellows and senior fellows have held that status since the founding of the CRSC within the Disco. 'tute in the 1990s. While various of these fellows work outside DI's offices, many of their long-term activities were cited in a founding fundraising memo (the famous Wedge Document) as important DI activities, and DI fellows function in public like DI employees. And the Biologic Institute is almost entirely funded by DI (in 2009, their total intake was $317,770, of which $274,000 came from DI, $20,983 came from "rental income" and the remainder came in grants from unspecified sources), and DI staff serve on the Biologic Institute's board of directors, making it hard to claim that they're a truly external organization.

If the Discovery Institute funds truly external research, there's no evidence of it.

Casey adds, regarding Biologic:

Rosenau's attempt to ridicule the Biologic Institute laboratory as "Potemkin" of course intends to suggest the laboratory is fake. How, then, does Mr. Rosenau explain the multiple scientific papers published by Biologic scientists in the past few years that report research conducted at the lab? (Here's an impressive recent example.)

The "impressive recent example" is published in the Biologic house journal, BIO-complexity. If my contention is correct that this journal is "pseudoscientific infrastructure," then the example is irrelevant. Casey offers no other basis for judging Biologic's merits.

I referred to the Biologic Institute as "Potemkin" partly because if the difficulties Celeste Biever had in 2006 simply getting access to Biologic or anyone who worked there. When I was in Seattle a few years back, I also swung by the publicly listed address for the Institute, and found a few rented rooms in an office building, with the lights off and the windows shut in the middle of a work day. From outside, I saw an empty meeting room, but nothing resembling scientific laboratories, nor did anyone answer the door. Their online list of research publications lists nothing at all after 2008, which may reflect poor web management, but could also indicate a lack of productivity.

Certainly that list omits any of the publications in the house journal BIO-complexity. I don't emphasize that it is a house journal to disparage BIO-complexity, just to put it in context. NCSE has a house journal, too, and I think it's pretty darn good. But if I thought I had a paper that would revolutionize science, I wouldn't publish it in RNCSE, because an independent publisher would be a more trusted outlet than a journal run by my own employer.

Anyway, here's what Casey says about BIO-complexity in reply to my earlier post:

the journal Rosenau refers to, BIO-Complexity, is anything but "Potemkin." It has an editorial board with over two dozen PhD scientists and scholars in fields such as biochemistry, evolutionary computing, evolutionary biology, microbiology, cladistics, and physics, from respected academic institutions around the world. Yes Discovery Institute has obvious connections to the journal -- some of those members of the editorial board are also our fellows. But many of the editorial board members have no affiliations with Discovery Institute, though they share with us a common conviction that the debate over ID and neo-Darwinism needs to be fostered at the high level of peer-reviewed scientific journals. Thus, the journal invites submissions from both ID proponents and ID-critics, and isn't committed to publishing papers that only express one viewpoint. Whether affiliated with Discovery Institute or not, BIO-Complexity has an impressive body of scientists that run that show, and they impose high quality peer-review quality control.

First, note that I applied the adjective "Potemkin" not to the journal, but to Biologic itself. Casey didn't address that charge, instead misreading and misrepresenting my argument.

Second, he's not actually defending the content of the journal, merely arguing that because people with doctoral degrees are on the editorial board, it must be a legitimate journal. That makes no sense.

Third, the journal makes it clear that they do not "impose high quality peer-review quality control." Their website's "Peer Review Process" section explains:

The goal of pre-publication peer review should ... be to decide whether the work in question merits the attention of experts, rather than to predict the final result of that attention. BIO-Complexity uses an innovative approach to pre-publication peer-review in order to achieve this goal.

Basically, reviewers and editors are not asked whether the results are right, but whether others "would benefit from considering both the merits and the limitations" of a paper, a much lower standard than generally employed by science journals. There are legitimate reasons to prefer this laxer form of peer review, but Casey's claim that it's a rigorous sort of peer review is contrary to the journal's own stated policies.

Fourth, whether or not they "invite[] submissions" from opponents of creationism, they haven't published such papers. And it is far from clear that their editors could give pro-evolution (or anti-creationist) articles a fair shake. As Glenn Branch noted in 2010 in NCSE's house journal, all but two of the editorial board members have long histories of anti-evolution and creationist advocacy (including advocacy for intelligent design). A third pro-evolution scientist was offered a position on the board, but refused, explaining:

Publishing on this subject in mainstream journals is also better for ... the credibility of the eventual answer to this question, as well as for the integrity of the scientific process in general.

Fifth, the content of the journal more than justifies these concerns. In the 2 years the journal has existed, they've published exactly 7 papers, with 15 authors listed in the journal's archive. But Douglas Axe constitutes 3 of those 15 authors, since the editorial board's rigor apparently didn't extend to ensuring that author's names were entered consistently.

Analyzing each of the 7 papers is hardly worth it. Two of the 7 are "critical reviews," not meant to communicate new research results. Others appear to be minor contributions from graduate students and undergrads associated with Biologic Institute staff and fellows. Every paper has at least one author who is funded at least in part by Biologic or Disco.

I'll just dig into one of the papers, to point out that these papers are inadequate even by the authors' own standards. The paper in question is by Ann Gauger, Stephanie Ebnet, Pamela Fahey, and Ralph Seelke, and describes some experiments Seelke described in his testimony to the Kansas Board of Education in 2005.

John Calvert asked: "Can you describe to me a-- in more detail a campaign of unsuccessful evolution?" and Seelke replied:

Well, one of the things I'm doing now is one of the-- one of my other heroes is Michael Behe. And Behe said that if you have multiple independent events that have to take place you will simply not be able to observe evolution.

And so at this-- last year at this time I was a visiting scholar at Stanford University and I basically built some molecules. I made some changes in a gene and I put in one mutation, two mutations, three mutations, and four mutations all in different types of that gene. All mutations inactuate the gene. And so if this-- and then-- and now I'm in the process-- I only have ten-- I only have ten billion cells that I'm looking at which is whoosy in this field. I wouldn't publish this until I had probably 10 to 100 trillion, but-- so then I can take-- I can take these mutants that I know exactly what they need to do to evolve and I can ask them to evolve and put them in a medium where if they do evolve I would know overnight. Because the selective advantage of being able to make, in this case, the amino acid triptyline [sic, probably tryptophan] is so enormous that I would find that out overnight if that happens.

And so I can ask, what happens when you need two mutations and only get an advantage when you have both. At this point the answer is nothing. And that is actually supported by the literature. What's different about this is I am specifically asking these questions. Most cases people-- these are things that people discover are kind of on the side. You know, you don't do experiments to test the limits of evolution and particularly my work is designed to actually test that.

Emphasis added. As far as Seelke of 2005 was concerned, anything less than 10-100 trillion cells was "whoosy" and not worth publishing. Guess how many cells his BIO-complexity paper reports?

About 1 trillion. That's about a tenth of the lower limit Seelke set in 2005. Not only did Seelke of 2010 think it was worth submitting this "whoosy" research to BIO-complexity, but BIO-complexity's supposedly awesome editorial board agreed to publish this "whoosy" research. (All of this sets aside the fact that the premise of the research is fatally flawed, embodying a trivial misunderstanding of how evolution works, and what it takes to properly test the powers and limits of evolution.)

In short, BIO-complexity shows every sign of being exactly the sort of pseudoscientific apparatus that I said it was. As far as I know, it is now the only venue in which DI and Biologic Institute staff currently publish their supposedly pro-ID research, and it was the only evidence Casey offered for the existence of any research program at Biologic or the Disco. 'tute. His claims about the journal's quality control are falsified by simple reference to the journal's own stated policies, not to mention a look at the journal's minimal content and the poor quality of the content - poor qulity by the authors' own standards.

Casey's attacks on me - failed attempts to divine my "design," false charges of inaccuracy, personal attacks charging incivility, etc. - all fail, and do so in ways that highlight Casey's incivility, and the underlying problem in Casey's view of the world.

Stephen Post talked about incivility arising from "a vicious ingroup-outgroup demonization." Casey certainly sees that distinction, speaking of his critics as if they formed some unified "Darwin lobby." This lobby, to his eyes, is a unified group who he seems to think worship Charles Darwin, and who he holds responsible en masse for the "incivility" of anyone he chooses to place into that outgroup. It's a view that's incoherent on its own terms, but that justifies him in these sort of pettifogging attacks. If he can paint all ID's critics as part of an organized "lobby," then he can write off that entire lobby by saying they're rude, and therefore unworthy of "dignifying ... with an evidential rebuttal."

Casey's goal here is not to elucidate the strengths of ID, and expresses a strong preference for addressing the motives, tone, and character of its critics instead of even try responding substantively. That's uncivil. Tone matters, civility matters, and indeed, character matters.

But which is less civil: saying mean things about the Discovery Institute, or creating a pseudoscientific apparatus so that one can subvert scientific norms and indoctrinate students?

I say "indoctrinate," because in 1998, the Discovery Institute stated that their first priority had to be research, because:

Without solid scholarship, research and argument, the project would be just another attempt to indoctrinate instead of persuade.

Since then, they've produced nothing of substance. But when people point that out, all we hear in response are accusations of incivility.


More like this

re: 39: Your statement was

If there is anyone to blame for the association of evolution with atheism it is the group of early supporters of Darwin who almost immediately began to use it as an attack on religion. The "X-Club", Thomas Huxley, Francis Galton, Haeckel. Without their activities the side that used religion to attack science would have had a far harder time making it stick, which it apparently has.

In light of that history and after watching contemporary atheists stupidly continuing to provide the opponents of science with as much help as they can in the form of more of the same and the resultant decrease in support for evolution and related topics I'm not expecting things to get better any time soon.


Solely blaming the atheists.


If you'd blamed both, that would have been different.

what a &$#*ing long post!



ps, did you know that "civility" in as much as we mean it when we expect people to refrain from "cussing" has to do with the destruction of the meaning of the 3rd Commandment

think this way - we don't call it "cussing" so much as we call it "swearing"

but traditionally "swearing" was the act of declaring truth before a court of Law

so now we admonish anyone who "cusses" accusing them of "swearing"

the Bible was pretty clear - it is the "swearing" that is the sin - the assertion of truth:

"i swear to God that i am telling the truth"

ie telling lies

so now we let the lies go freely - it is almost accepted as normal - politicians lie but so what?

instead we demand civility

what sadness - that we allow the 3rd Commandment to be flung down and smeared while focusing so much wasted time on proper speech and manners

the very sign of the corrupt

the method of the ruling classes

what do i say to that?




Excellent take down, Josh. I wasn't aware of how little effort the ID industry was putting into the con job.

Peak Oil Poet, I believe you've missed a crucial point re swearing oaths. You're not to swear at all but to let you yes mean yes and your no mean no. In other words, tell the plain truth whether or not you've gone through the pose of allegedly making it mandatory through an oath. If you didn't catch it in Matthew you could pick it up in James.

Without offering an opposing view, schools are brainwashing students with the tenets of Atheism, which is both unconstitutional to be state sponsored, and evil.

The evolution theory is an irrational falsehood, zealously embraced by atheists, that is a phony conclusion of the 600+ million fossil record. There is no âvalid supporting dataâ for evolution. In a court of law, or in a public forum, the same evidence that evolutionists would use to try to âproveâ the validity of that theory, I can utilize to reveal the truth of Genesis. In order to believe in evolution, you have to purposely ignore certain facts of reality. For example, when you see illustrations of primates being pictured as evolving into humans, it can be shown in a court of law that such a premise is impossible, because certain human and primate traits are different, and could not have ever been shared. The only âcommon ancestorâ that humans and primates share is God Himself.

The "Observations of Moses" is the (only) correct rendition of Genesis chapter one, and explains both the geologic and fossil records of Earthâs ancient past.

Herman Cummings

By Herman Cummings (not verified) on 04 Dec 2011 #permalink

> Without offering an opposing view, schools are brainwashing students with the tenets of Atheism

And if they tell children that sex is the cause of pregnancy, they're brainwashing students by refusing to teach the "Stork theory" of childbirth...

I consider the civility an intended consequence of irrationalists like creationists or denialists.

Why else repeat again and again and again the same tired, cracked and worthless arguments, and NEVER answering questions or (in many cases), even making a coherent statement (see, for example, the multitudinous climate denier myths that are inconsistent but NEVER brought up by the "holders" of these ideas themselves as being in conflict.

Just crowdsource a lot of ignorant posters, tell them what to say, and get them to just repeat it endlessly.

After finding that discourse on the topic doesn't shift them and that no query or evidence will ever cause one iota of change, the response is either to abandon the thread, ceding the last word and proof to the deniers, or get frustrated and angry.

Not generally a problem for the idiocracy since they

a) just get a throwaway account and can't be thrown out for incivility (and refused as ever occurring by their compatriots)

b) don't care about it, therefore can reject without qualm anything thrown their way

One reason why incivility appears is because moderation doesn't throw out repeated zombie arguments because the "brights" thing that it's necessary to protect free speech.

But many ideological contrarians don't care about free speech and therefore either have no way to post on their site (reducing the number of incivil posts to nil), or are absolutely happy deleting comments for badthoughts not promoting goodfact, again reducing the incivil posts by ensuring no uncomfortable statements that could inflame the religious populace of posters.

Since ID is just creationism and the DI's real purpose is to create a sciencey sounding smoke screen for the god of the bible, it's no wonder they are uncivil to their critics. In their view criticism of their "science" is an attack on their religion, since their "science" is thinly disguised religion, a religion that needs to be treated with deference.

Luskin crying fowl serves the purpose (intentionally or not) of reinforcing the myth of christian persecution persecution by the "darwin lobby" to rally DI supporters and insulate them against criticism of ID. I say intentionally or not because titles like "Bluffed Into Dogmatism: How the Evolution Lobby Seeks to Block Perfectly Legal and Beneficial Policy Proposals to Teach Neo-Darwinism Scientifically." for a presumably neutral law review and "Zeal for Darwin's House Consumes Them" and show a profound lack of awareness of his audience or inability to keep his contempt for evolution from showing. Presuming of course his audience is more than hardcore creationists.

I came across this piece because Google is set to notify to me to any mention of "Intelligent Design" The vast majority of postings come the Disco'tute

Let's conduct an experiment. For one week all scientifically literate bloggers (including P.Z.) will refrain from writing the words "Intelligent Design". We will then be able to document that the ONLY folks who still lend any credence to this dead philosophy are the ID creationists themsleves.

Let's pick the week of the 6th anniversary of Dover to conduct this trial.

By Mark Farmer (not verified) on 05 Dec 2011 #permalink

When response #3 uses words like:
are these marks of incivility?

No! Because they're being used to attack rationality, you see!

The rational person sees that if the same wording is uncivil when used to attack Christianity, then they are also uncivil when used against atheists. The irrational don't see it as incivility because they're irrational.

Not only did Seelke of 2010 think it was worth submitting this "whoosy" research to BIO-complexity ... - poor qulity by the authors' own standards.

This ties in with something observed in the utterances of other modern American conservative types: the inability to recall their previous utterances and apparent belief that nobody ever records what they say. If it didn't seem so unlikely on its surface, I'd think this was due to some memory defect in such people, but I suspect it is due to the echo chamber effect where the only folk such 'conservatives' trust are the folk who would never point out to them their previous inconsistent statements.

By Mike from Ottawa (not verified) on 06 Dec 2011 #permalink

"and apparent belief that nobody ever records what they say"

I'm not so sure this is correct. They know that their core audience won't remember what they said earlier unless and until that becomes convenient to make them *right*.

They also rely on their bully tactics and the current yellow colouration of the press to ensure that nobody asks them inconvenient queries about their earlier statements.

So far they have proven correct in their assumption.

If there is anyone to blame for the association of evolution with atheism it is the group of early supporters of Darwin who almost immediately began to use it as an attack on religion. The "X-Club", Thomas Huxley, Francis Galton, Haeckel. Without their activities the side that used religion to attack science would have had a far harder time making it stick, which it apparently has.

In light of that history and after watching contemporary atheists stupidly continuing to provide the opponents of science with as much help as they can in the form of more of the same and the resultant decrease in support for evolution and related topics I'm not expecting things to get better any time soon.

Ah, the religionists continual need to rewrite history.


But I guess the religionists often NEED to be persecuted: it's how they "earn" their entry into whatever they consider heaven to be.

Wow, anyone who wants to read the writings of T. Huxley, Haeckel, Galton, or many of the other prominent associates of Charles Darwin (though, not to my knowledge, Darwin himself) can see for themselves the use they made of evolution to attack religion. Huxley, especially, made a specialty of it. That's the actual history of it. Whatever you believe is, apparently, unsupported by the evidence. If they hadn't given the fundamentalists so much to work with their attack on science wouldn't have been nearly as successful as it's been.

It's been more than a quarter of a century that Dawkins, Dennett and others have been reproducing their losing strategy to much the same effect. There's a reason that the side with the facts, the pro-evolution side, loses to the side without the facts, the scriptural fundamentalists. Atheists have been firing evolution at religion for more than a hundred fifty years and have produced nothing but skepticism about evolution. Eventually the only sane thing is to face that it's always been an unscientific, ideological use of science that has damaged science. But sanity apparently isn't the goal.

Nope, religionists were attacking Darwin's work because it stopped the need for their God existing: "how else did all this variety come about?".

They didn't accept it because they wanted God to be the reason.

Meanwhile, Huxley, who had been told he was wrong because "how else did all this variety come about" pointed to Darwin's work as to why he wasn't wrong.

This wasn't attacking religion, it was defending him from religionistas telling him he was wrong.

As I said, sanity isn't the goal, evidence isn't, either. The historical record left by Huxley, Galton, Leonard Darwin, etc. is there, it is in their own words, it used to not be denied by their admirers.

And so is the historical record left by, among many many others (the xtian fundies had the majority position in those days):

The Revd. Adam Sedgwick

The Bishop of Oxford Samuel Wilberforce

Richard Owen

The vatican

The Anglican establishmen

A council of the German Catholic bishops

And so many "man in the street" people slagging him off as "only a monkey himself".

And newspapers got into the act too:


Pretty nasty, these creationists.

Your laundry list needs laundering.

I was raised Catholic and was never taught anything except that evolution was a fact, by nuns wearing full habits in the 1950s, by my parents who never believed that Genesis was a science or history text book.

The majority of people who accept the reality of evolution, today and in the past, are religious. If evolutionary science depended on atheists it would be in real trouble because there just aren't that many atheists.

You seem to be ignoring the fact that the implications of evolution contradict the bible and alot of theology, especially concerning humanity's nature and place in the universe making controversy unavoidable. Since the beginning of the enlightenment new ideas have constantly been equated with atheism or unbelief, so why would evolution be exempted from that charge? Even if the people you mention did exacerbate the situation that doesn't justify the behavior of creationists past or present.

robertm, you seem to be ignoring that biblical fundamentalism is not a universal dogma to all of religion, not even all of Christianity. The Bible, theology, those are the product of people and people don't have absolute knowledge on any topic.

From the beginning of evolution in science, which predates Charles Darwin, the idea has been accepted by religious people, the idea wasn't and isn't incompatible with religion, in general. That is simply a fact, one that was known to Charles Darwin, as, for example, Asa Grey was a early supporter of his ideas.

Science was invented by people who were religious, Galileo, Bacon, Newton, Priestley, Faraday, etc. religious people have been among the foremost scientists in each period of science. That is a fact, as much a fact as anything discovered in science.

You mistake what I said as an attempt to justify creationists when I'm opposing aiding them by belittling the character of the large majority of human beings. The history of the atheist appropriation of science for their ideological purposes shows that fundamentalists have been the primary beneficiaries of that effort.

"robertm, you seem to be ignoring that biblical fundamentalism is not a universal dogma to all of religion, not even all of Christianity."

Where did I say that? A literal interpretation of genesis conflicts with the idea of common descent, that doesn't mean all religion accepts that a literal interpretation of genesis. How did you read that into what I wrote? Nor does the lack of absolute knowledge by humans prevent people from believe they have it, especially if they believe a book was written by god. You may be surprised to find some religious people believe that, both today and in the past.

"If there is anyone to blame for the association of evolution with atheism it is the group of early supporters of Darwin who almost immediately began to use it as an attack on religion."

"If they hadn't given the fundamentalists so much to work with their attack on science wouldn't have been nearly as successful as it's been."

I doubt that, as you point out atheists are and have been small in number. The idea that evolution and christianity are incompatible has been widespread among religious fundamentalists since Darwin's time. Fundamentalist religious leaders have had more access, credibility, and influence with the vast majority people than the people you cite. Yet you lay the blame on proponents of evolution, even accusing them of belittling the character of most of humanity. In case your unaware, creationists lie in order to advance their cause, perhaps you've heard examples where they quotemine Steven Jay Gould in regards to transistional fossils, or Darwin in regards to the evolution of the eye. Why would they need facts to make their case when they have been doing so with them?

"that doesn't mean all religion accepts that a literal interpretation of genesis. How did you read that into what I wrote?"

Because he can't refute your statements unless he "re-phrases" them into some caricature that he can refute.

Done by people with no morals whose only goal is to prove themselves right.

"Your laundry list needs laundering."


There were widespread attacks against the theory of evolution by natural selection and against Darwin and his supporters.

However, this doesn't fit in with your persecution complex, so therefore you deny it. It's much more comfortable for you to live in your imaginary world where you're persecuted and therefore a martyr to the cause, like any good fundamentalist.

Wow, there were widespread attacks against natural selection from other scientists. Is that an indictment of all of science? I don't think that what scientists mean by "natural selection" when they say it today is an exact match for what Darwin meant by it. This isn't any great shock as even Darwin's supporters wren't of one mind about it. Thomas Huxley and Darwin weren't in total agreement about it and related matters.

I have answered robertm and you but Josh has not chosen to let those comments pass through, as is his right. Neither of you has refuted my points but have just repeated the same old new atheist lore.


And there's nothing stopping christians becoming scientists (especially in those days). Additionally, there were christians supporting Darwin.

The point being that your rewriting of history is bunkum, purely a figment of your need to be persecuted and slag off anyone not deluded like yourself.

I haven't rewritten history, I read it. Go look at Thomas Huxley and his X Club, even online. Go look at his and C. Darwin's disagreements (especially on gradual as opposed to rapid change in evolution) ....

I've often been struck at how extremely ignorant of the record the Charles Darwin fan club are about the actual history and literature of the events they're always going on about. Primary sources tell a far different story from the BBC, Discovery, Darwin Industry propaganda. That stuff is as phony as the Creationist Industry stuff.

Me, I've always advocated the advocacy of science move on instead of remaining stuck in the 1860s.

The idea that creationists are major proponents of the idea that evolution is incompatible with religion and would do so regardless is "new atheist lore"? The idea that a few intellectuals in the 19th century, rather than numerous preachers in the 20th and 21st are responsible for present rejection of evolution on religious grounds is laughable.

Modern creationism is a part of evangelical political and social movements, as illustrated by the DI's wedge document. No Huxley quote, no matter how 'mean' it is, will demonstrate that he and others are responsible for the idea evolution is against christianity. As you point out the idea of theistic evolution goes back to Darwin's time. The idea that most people would have accepted it until they heard from mean ol' mister Huxley and friends is absurd and misplaces responsibility.

Personally I try not hold grudges from (or project them back to) the 1860's.

robertm, call me old fashioned but I did assume an ability to, at least, google on the part of people using the internet. I'd suggest "Huxley X Club" would be a place to start. The intention of Huxley and his buddies to use science to attack religion was explicit, I've read two volumes of Huxley's collected attacks on both Judaism and Christianity, it wasn't an inconsiderable part of his production. That helped set the tone for the next hundred fifty years.

I'm not going to apologize for having looked into the fuller records of the major figures from that period in evolution than you'll get from the propaganda of ideologues, I was surprised to find out how far from the propaganda that record is when I first looked. That Darwin's bulldog had some major misgivings about the details of Darwin's work was fascinating, as well as that Huxley began as a skeptic of the idea of evolution. His interactions with Owen and Owens' actual scientific competence, as opposed to the characterization of him I'd read before, is especially interesting. I hadn't, for example, known it was Owen who first identified dinosaurs and called them that.

Today the would-be intellectual descendants of Darwin's inner circle are some of the most prominent figures in the new atheism fad, something that has been going on long enough so the evidence of its being a counterproductive misuse of science is obvious. I think it's probably going to turn out to have led some parts of science down a seriously dead dead end, as a similar ideology has the so-called social sciences.

Any ideology that depends on telling more than 80% of the population that they are stupid is bound to be a political failure. That that could be a novel idea to the side that congratulates itself on its rationality and wisdom is moderately amusing in an unpleasant way.

Just because Huxley criticized religion it doesn't follow that he bears responsibility for religious opposition to evolution. Denying that is not denying what he wrote, it's denying a connection you made between his writings and 150 years of religious attitudes and movements. That is an inference you made projecting your issues with new atheists into the past, and it's ridiculous to try to claim anyone who denies the truth according to Anthony McCarthy is ignorant of history or even google.

I have in fact been reading up on the early days darwinian evolution throughout the discussion. It seems to me that your focused on a small group of people to the exclusion of broader context in that time, obscuring whether or not their actions were the cause of backlash against evolution and if such backlash was justified. I disagree the writings of Huxley and the X Club had a large effect on the rejection of evolution, and its association with atheism by the public at large. As I have stated the disagreements between evolutionary theory and the bible are the cause of certain religious groups rejecting evolution, and has become more vehement and organized with the growth of christian identity politics.

robertm, Huxley's the the others was more of a campaign than a mere critique as is that of their would be successors in neo-atheism. It extended far beyond a mere defense of Darwin and his ideas, then, as now it was a campaign to promote the idea that you couldn't think scientifically and be religious at the same time, an idea which is an absolute absurdity when compared with the history of science, certainly modern science extending from Copernicus, a priest and through a host of overtly religious scientists, more than a few of them also members of the clergy.

The fact is that most of the people who have accepted the reality of evolution have been religious, that is still the case today.

The ideological atheist involvement in the Darwin wars is one of the most striking examples of the self-defined smart guys being quite unwise in recent history. I think their materialism and their use of natural selection as an ideology, to create the simulation of evidence instead of as a means of understanding actual evidence, has probably damaged science far more than the ID industry has managed to. I don't think their position in the new atheism is unrelated to that attempt.

"Just because Huxley criticized religion it doesn't follow that he bears responsibility for religious opposition to evolution."

It would also require that there be some time-travellers as well, since the idea had been pootled about for some centuries. Every single one decried as a way to turn man from God.

Wow, I think you will find that there was probably as much scientific resistance to the idea of evolution in the pre-OoS period and probably for the rest of Darwin's life. I'm struck at how hostile the ultra-Darwinists are to any idea generated in science that challenges THEIR version of natural selection and how readily they assert the truth of their version based in things other than physical evidence.


Resistance wasn't your contention.

"supporters of X who almost immediately began to use it as an attack on Y"

You posited solely that Darwinists attacked Religion.

Yet Huxley was attacking and attacked by religion long before Darwin.

Yet religion attacked Darwin (and science) before Huxley's letters in the 1860's.

Now you're waffling on about resistance?

Wow, I certainly didn't deny that religious fundamentalists have attacked religion in this thread. @ 12 I said:

"Without their activities the side that used religion to attack science would have had a far harder time making it stick, which it apparently has."

As soon as @2 I said:

"Excellent take down, Josh. I wasn't aware of how little effort the ID industry was putting into the con job."

Remedial reading could probably do a lot to dispel the new atheism, though it's possible it's simply a case of intellectual dishonesty, in which case learning to read all the words won't help.

Yup, you've said that it was fine because "they started it".

Oddly enough, science has been persecuted for centuries earlier than Darwin.

"you've said it was fine because "they started it".

You not only have a gift for not reading what was written but also for reading things that aren't written. You remind me very much of someone I used to know at another blog.

Well, you never wrote about the religionists who attacked Darwin.

So when I point it out, of course I'm reading things you never wrote.

But never written?


Wow, I gave you two instances in which I did. Do they have remedial reading help for people in your age cohort where you live?

As for Charles Darwin, he wasn't and isn't above criticism. At least not among people interested in reality instead of hagiography.

Anthony McCarthy, Wow: Guys, you guys have a habit of getting rowdy and carrying your battles on from thread to thread. I've asked you to cool off, and it still happens. So I'll be holding your posts up for moderation. Stuff that's on-topic will go up fairly quickly, but not the tit-for-tat insults.

I am a creationist and I know that carries a lot of negative connotations especially around here. I appreciate when civility is used. If we cannot dialogue while respecting other's right to opinion then we have nothing to discuss.