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Nov 22 2013

Bryan Fischer Award Nominee: The Discovery Institute

My dear friend Genie Scott is retiring as the executive director of the National Center for Science Education and the NCSE board named Ann Reid, who looks like she could be Genie’s sister, as her replacement. So the Discovery Institute’s David Klinghoffer put up a snarky post on their blog calling the NCSE a “leading science-denial group.” And heads hit desks everywhere.

In the U.S., the National Center for Science Education heads the science-denial effort that seeks to present Darwinian theory to public school students as uncontested and uncontestable. Now stepping down as NCSE’s executive director, Eugenie Scott has been insisting for 27 years on the non-existence of what is in fact a major debate among mainstream scientists about the evidence for Darwinism, going right down to the foundations of the theory. “I’m a scientist,” says Dr. Scott, referring to her training in anthropology, “I don’t know any evidence against evolution.”…

But of course the NCSE has until this moment stood for the exact opposite of these things: for the concealment of ambiguity and contradictory evidence in the study of evolutionary biology, for an ideological screen placed before students’ eyes to obscure that evidence.

There is no evidence to obscure. What the DI offers as “evidence” is nothing more than — yes — science denial and a God of the gaps position: “Science can’t explain [fill in the blank], therefore God must have done it.” This is, as many people have noted, a science stopper. It accepts ignorance as an explanation rather than as an opportunity for more research and effort to explain it.

And of course, the examples they have offered of structures at the molecular level that science can’t explain have been debunked time and time again. Michael Behe’s own research has disproved his claims of irreducible complexity, as was demonstrated years ago during the Dover trial.

What we have here is a massive case of psychological projection.

9 comments

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  1. 1
    Reginald Selkirk

    what is in fact a major debate among mainstream scientists

    It gets funnier when they intersperse this with their claims that Creationists have been “expelled” and locked out of faculty jobs, journal consideration, etc.

  2. 2
    khms

    What we have here is a massive case of psychological projection.

    You sure it’s not simply an example of a Big Lie?

  3. 3
    lordshipmayhem

    If anyone would know what is a science denialist group, it would be Klinghoffer, from close personal experience (eyeroll).

  4. 4
    dugglebogey

    God only knows how stupid these people are.

  5. 5
    Bronze Dog

    The fun thing about science is that tests tend to be designed in such a way that the conditions for success and failure are clearly defined before the test begins. It often amounts to objective evaluations of quantifiable values produced. “Is this number we got from the results greater than this predetermined number?” That kind of clarity makes it hard to obscure evidence.

    The Disco Institute isn’t interested in hypothesis testing, just after-the-fact cherrypicking and using logical fallacies to spin successes out of nothing.

  6. 6
    holytape

    Later in the press release, the Discovery Institute stated that light bulbs were the leading cause of darkness.

  7. 7
    Gvlgeologist, FCD

    I don’t think for a second that they really believe that. This is a cynical attempt at making sure that their financial backers keep the money rolling in. As long as the little people can comfortably believe that the DI are the good guys, they’ll keep supporting the DI.

  8. 8
    d.c.wilson

    The thing that always struck me about the Discovery Institute is that, for a group that claims to be promoting science and to have numerous scientists in their corner, their members seem completely uninterested in doing any real science. They’ve produced tons of political papers and strategy documents, but not one study that could even rise to the level of “Junk Science.”

  9. 9
    lofgren

    My favorite kind of God-of-the-gaps claim is when the gap isn’t actually a gap, and of these my favorite example is altruism. I once found myself debating whether or not evolution could explain altruism to a new-agey, hippy-dippy type spiritualist in San Francisco in front of an audience of similarly-minded folk. It was surprising that once a simple explanation of how “survival of the fittest” could lead to selection for altruism and symbiosis and other mechanisms to preserve harmony and stability had been laid out, they accepted it fairly readily. Less surprising was how quickly they adapted their position from “you can’t explain X” to “our beliefs are proven by your explanation of X.”

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