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Feb 15 2013

Nice picture. Even nicer smackdown.

Look, it’s the Burgess Shale!

burgess26

The photograph was taken by Callan Bentley, a geologist who posts lots of lovely images. The Discovery Institute was prowling the web looking for good illustrations for their latest piece-of-crap book by Stephen Meyer, and they asked him if they could use it. He sent them a very civil reply.

Hello Andrew,

Thanks for your interest.

I hold the Discovery Institute in the lowest regard, and it sounds like the new book will be a further perversion of reason in the name of pseudoscience. As a science educator, I could never support such an effort! I will not grant reproduction rights to any of my photos or drawings to any creationist effort such as the one you describe here.

Best wishes for your good health, and the speedy demise of the sham institution that employs you.

Callan Bentley

There were a few more extremely instructive exchanges. The DI lackey dragged out the usual arguments:ID is science, the Galileo gambit, conspiracy theories, etc., but no evidence, which is kind of the minimal expectation we have for something we’re going to call science. It’s a wonderful reply, you should go read it…well, you’ll enjoy reading it, but creationists need to read it. And understand it. Which is probably too much to ask.

By the way, we now learn that the latest effort from hack philosopher Stephen Meyer is going to be called Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosion of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design, and will be the usual nonsense about how a 15 million year long transition in evolutionary history is a problem for evolution. I’m just hoping it’s less padded with fluff and extravagant egotistical back-patting than the last one he wrote.

54 comments

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  1. 1
    Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat)

    @PZ:

    More than likely the book will be about the Cambrian Explosion

  2. 2
    spamamander, internet amphibian

    That response… was beautiful. *wipes a tear*

  3. 3
    dancaban

    Sheer class.

  4. 4
    Argle Bargle

    In regards to the previous discussion on civility, it should be noted that Mr. Bentley’s response was polite but hardly civil. This was an instance where incivility was warranted.

  5. 5
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    It’s been peer-reviewed and rejected. The list of peer-reviewed Intelligent Design papers is a laughable gallimaufry of philosophy papers and theistically-infused re-interpretation of small biochemical features, mixed with pouty critiques of Darwinian evolution. It’s like mice nibbling at the dust around the carcass of a whale: where’s the meat of it? I mean, this is a huge, super duper important idea, right? “God’s fingerprints exist!” For such a profound “truth” about the universe, the articles on offer are pretty thin gruel. There’s no peer-reviewed article that showcases unambiguously the Big Scientific Case for Intelligent Design. I’m talking about a paper in Science or Nature that shows that this profound and previously unnoticed aspect of life, of the utmost importance, is quantitatively demonstrated and worthy of study. Where is that article?

    I’m sure the answer would invoke the vast materialist conspiracy against the real truth.

    heh heh

  6. 6
    Zeno

    So polite! And honest at the same time. Quite lovely!

    P.S.: Any Pharynguloids in the San Francisco Bay Area are invited to my book event at Books Inc. in Opera Plaza tonight at 7:00. Should be fun.

  7. 7
    w00dview

    The DI lackey dragged out the usual arguments:ID is science, the Galileo gambit, conspiracy theories, etc., but no evidence, which is kind of the minimal expectation we have for something we’re going to call science.

    This is a common tactic used by pseudoscientists and science deniers. When asked for evidence, whine that the science establishment is out to get them and is controlled by evolutionists, climate scientists, vaccine producers, etc who want to suppress the “truth”. So even, if they had strong evidence they can’t show it because they will be burned at the stake Galileo style. The Galileo comparison fails for two reasons because 1) Galileo actually produced evidence and worked his ass off to obtain it before publicizing his theories and 2) it was the catholic church not scientists who persecuted him. All it shows is that pseudoscientists are incredible narcissists who are aghast that the science community does not bow down to their wisdom and would rather get fellated by a piranha than ever admit to being wrong in any shape or form. I mean, you have to have a galaxy sized ego to so readily compare your work to Galileo in the first place. They hate actual science because it is humbling not ego massaging.

  8. 8
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    … and will be the usual nonsense about how a 15 million year long transition in evolutionary history is a problem for evolution.

    *headdesk*

    The circumstantial evidence suggests this is a correct conclusion.

    They claim to follow the philosophy and process of science, yet they still have not learned that proving an hypothesis incorrect is not the same as supporting your own alternate hypothesis. Sheesh! How hard is that to grasp? It’s a simple fucking concept.

    It’s nice they still offer the argument from personal incredulity. It’s so cute!

  9. 9
    bradleybetts

    BWAhahaha! While I agree with the arguments currently surround civility and tone-trolling, I find polite snark to be so much more cutting (and thus hilarious when it’s directed at someone else) than aggressive crudity. And that reply was a fine example :)

  10. 10
    borax

    To paraphrase an old quote. “Diplomacy is the art of telling someone ‘to go fuck yourself’ and have them thank you for the privilege.”

  11. 11
    Zeno

    In Phillip E. Johnson’s “Wedge document,” he outlined the intelligent design movement’s 5-year goals, which included “Thirty published books on design and its cultural implications (sex, gender issues, medicine, law, and religion).” In the fourteen years since, generating books is the only thing ID proponents are any good at. Consider the scope of ID’s failure when perusing some of the other points in the Wedge strategy:

    One hundred scientific, academic and technical articles by our fellows
    PBS show such as Nova treating design theory fairly [This has actually happened, but Johnson meant "favorably," not "fairly"!]
    Ten states begin to rectify ideological imbalance in their science curricula & include design theory
    Two universities where design theory has become the dominant view [Bob Jones and Liberty don't qualify]
    Legal reform movements base legislative proposals on design theory [Legal reforms based on god-did-it are a hard sell]

    Their failure is acute.

  12. 12
    Holms

    I’m actually surprised to learn that they bothered to ask for permission first. Have they been stung by an infringement lawsuit lately or something?

  13. 13
    Reginald Selkirk

    The Disclaimery Institute is in Seattle, WA. That is just a day’s srive from the Burgess Shale. They could easily go there and take their own photos. I guess the idea of actually doing something rather than perverting someone else’s work has not occurred to them.

  14. 14
    dean

    I’m actually surprised to learn that they bothered to ask for permission first. Have they been stung by an infringement lawsuit lately or something?

    I don’t know – someone else might. My guess is that they believed that obtaining permission would allow them to tout Bentley as a supporter of their message.

  15. 15
    shouldbeworking

    @13
    IIRC, it is not possible to visit te Burgess Shale by yourself, the sites are protected and access is via licenced guided tours only. And the shale is in a foreign country. Passports would be needed. DI people might be horrified by our godless currency.

  16. 16
    Alverant

    I’m going to say it; I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if DI used the picture anyway.

  17. 17
    No One

    Dear Andrew,

    Get off your ass, climb the mountain and take your own fucking picture. It’ll be a good start for you.

  18. 18
    Donovan

    It’s odd. Not that I’m perfect, but since entering the sciences myself, I’ve come to naturally ask for evidence on most claims. I’m surprised at how much this inflames people, as though the expectation that their claims should align with reality is just too much. They call me stupid for not seeing the logic. I could give a shit about logic. Is it true?

    In many of these cases, it’s not true, and they’re triply pissed when I show the evidence against them.

    I don’t do much talking anymore. I’m sick of getting insulted for not being a gullible dumbshit.

  19. 19
    hypatiasdaughter

    What a nice post to start the morning with! Don’t skip the linked article and comments – it will give you a happy. Several xtian commenters supported Dr Bentley, including this one:

    I’m okay with people honestly saying “hey, I believe in intelligent design in spite of a total lack of evidence; it’s just what I believe.” Because that’s honest! That’s fair! And it admits that it could be proven wrong. It takes guts to believe in that. But the vast majority of Creationists aren’t gutsy enough to believe *in spite* of evidence. No. They have to find ways of dismissing the evidence in order to believe. It’s really rather sad to me.

    I call these CreoID dolts “vandals”. The Vandals who sacked Rome looted the art they liked and destroyed everything that they weren’t interested in looting.
    These “science vandals” have to steal from the scientists who have the dedication and commitment to actually produce scientific results (because the vandals don’t do any themselves), then try to destroy what is of no use to them.

  20. 20
    Gnu Atheist

    Wow, PZ!

    He’s better than you!

    :D

  21. 21
    Alverant

    #18. Donovan
    I know what you mean about asking for proof. I once asked a teabagger to prove his claims about Obama and he threatened to shoot me.

  22. 22
    tfkreference

    The linked post reproduces the brief chain of correspondence. The best part is the DI guy’s telling Dr. Bentley that he has “scales on his eyes,” because he won’t consider an evidence-free theory, yet he himself won’t look at the evidence for evolution.

  23. 23
    A Hermit

    “. My guess is that they believed that obtaining permission would allow them to tout Bentley as a supporter of their message.

    This^. They could easily take their own photos; what they really want is people’s names associated with their work, even in the most tangential fashion, so they can put those names on a list of “scientists who support…”) and pretend that they are being taken seriously.

  24. 24
    bradleybetts

    @hypatiasdaughter

    I call these CreoID dolts “vandals”. The Vandals who sacked Rome looted the art they liked and destroyed everything that they weren’t interested in looting.
    These “science vandals” have to steal from the scientists who have the dedication and commitment to actually produce scientific results (because the vandals don’t do any themselves), then try to destroy what is of no use to them.

    That is such a good analogy. Science vandals. Mind if I borrow it?

  25. 25
    sirbedevere

    By the way, if you’re ever in the area it is possible to visit the Burgess Shale. Call 800-343-3006 to book your tour. Tours are strictly limited and guided and it’s a pretty good hike: 12 miles round trip in the Canadian Rockies, with a 2500 ft climb up to an elevation of 4200 ft — not for those lacking decent fitness. But it’s well worth it. I did it a few years ago and would go again in a heartbeat.

  26. 26
    vaiyt

    The barbarians who sacked Rome were Visigoths, not Vandals, but the analogy remains good regardless. (the Vandals did sack Rome, but only later)

  27. 27
    Zeno

    Dean: My guess is that they believed that obtaining permission would allow them to tout Bentley as a supporter of their message.

    Totally agree. Even if they were not shameless enough to describe Bentley as a “supporter,” they nonetheless crave the opportunity to link up their “work” with his actual scholarly efforts. The DI people lust in their hearts for respectability, even if they have to steal it or borrow it. Real scientists get slimed by association every time they allow the DI folks to snuggle up against them.

  28. 28
    sirbedevere

    Zeno, creationists and other religious zealots seem to have a relationship with science not unlike that of a rebellious teenager with parents: They rant and rail against them furiously while secretly craving their approval more than anything else. Unfortunately, with creationists there appears to be little chance that they’ll “grow up” and realize how right the “parents” were all along.

  29. 29
    Caveat Imperator

    This smackdown is about as good as the one Dr. Gotelli gave the cdesign proponensists years ago.

  30. 30
    Desertphile

    The cult still claims it is doing “science?” Huh? Did they really learn nothing at all at Dover, PA? Every now and then a member of the Discovery Institute Church slips up and uses “creator” and “creation” and “creationism,” after which someone in the cult who has read the memo jumps in and corrects the blunder.

  31. 31
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    The barbarians who sacked Rome were Visigoths

    But the ones who did the real damage were the Invisigoths.

    (Sorry, I couldn’t resist that pun.)

  32. 32
    Captaintripps

    My second-favourite part of this episode is where the creationist shows up in comments to prattle on about giving intelligent design a fair shake. It’s oh so similar to social justice 101 conversations; as if at this point Bentley has never been exposed to the time-wasting debate creationists have insisted on having for the last 150 years. Laughable! Then this same person goes on and on like some fundamentalist droning dildo with the same tired, rehashed, threadbare, and silly so-called counterpoints to the scientific literature. Hey Ikenna, why don’t you take a quick trip down to the sex shop to hang out with all the other mindless blowup dolls.

  33. 33
    qwerty

    For a non-scientist like me, his reply to the IDiots had to be the most concise and well-worded take down of intelligent design creationism that I have read.

    Bravo.

    He even introduced me to a new word for my vocabulary: gallimaufry.

  34. 34
    Worldtraveller

    I’m just hoping it’s less padded with fluff and extravagant egotistical back-patting than the last one he wrote.

    Your breath…I wouldn’t hold it if I were you.

  35. 35
    Anthony K

    The barbarians who sacked Rome were Visigoths

    And yet it took the the Goths until 1985 to organise a concert by The Cure there.

  36. 36
    John Morales

    Ulysses:

    In regards to the previous discussion on civility, it should be noted that Mr. Bentley’s response was polite but hardly civil.

    What was uncivil about it?

  37. 37
    Azuma Hazuki

    What always strikes me about these people, creationists and ID types, is how narrow they are. If the entire fossil record disappeared tomorrow, we’d have plenty of evidence — better, in my opinion, than the fossil record — for evolution, in the form of genetic data.

    In every one of these cases, the opponent can always punt to the Omphalos Hypothesis a.k.a. Last Thursdayism, but that’s basically presuppositional apologetics narrowly aimed at evolution. Yes, Satan (assuming Satan is real) COULD have made the DNA match just so, COULD have stuck ape chromosomes 2q and 2p head to head in human DNA, COULD have buried repeating runs of LINE and SINE for sulfurous shits and giggles…but so could Loki. Or Brahma. Or something we don’t know about which nevertheless exists.

    This entire thing is stupid.

  38. 38
    Amphiox

    Yes, Satan (assuming Satan is real) COULD have made the DNA match just so, COULD have stuck ape chromosomes 2q and 2p head to head in human DNA, COULD have buried repeating runs of LINE and SINE for sulfurous shits and giggles…

    So, Satan has the power to rewrite the genetic code of every living thing, rearrange the very layers of the earth, make the continents themselves appear to move, drain whole oceans, raise up and beat down mountains….

    And God, in return, has the power to…. dictate a book?

    Just think how blasphemous an idea this is….

  39. 39
    Azuma Hazuki

    @38/Amphiox

    Oh but it’s all for the greater glory of God in a world with libertarian free will…or something. Yeah. This is how the maximal number of free-willed beings (whom God predestined in advance to The Elect) will glorify God.

    Best of all possible worlds. Yup. Can’t be otherwise. God doesn’t have a choice, or else we wouldn’t truly have free will, and we all know God never ever interferes with anyone’s free will, not even Pharaoh.

    Seriously: This Is What Presuppositionalist Apologists Actually Believe.

  40. 40
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Seriously: This Is What Presuppositionalist Apologists Actually Believe.

    And their fuckwitted delusions have what to do with reality?

  41. 41
    Azuma Hazuki

    @40/NoR

    Well, as an “exercise to the reader” if nothing else I’d like to see a surefire defeater for them. I believe I have a couple of useful starts but nothing concrete…mostly because as a thought experiment I constructed what seems to be a successful presuppositionalist argument that Sailor Moon is God.

    (Think about it: An all-powerful, all-knowing God has ways of making absolute truth revealed to its creations. The story we received is allegorical but was received by the prophets Takeuchi and Ikuhara. She is outright called Messiah several times in season 3. She spends the last episode wearing nothing but giant angel wings, and defeats the personal embodiment of chaos and evil and pain by loving it, reconciling it to herself and the universe. She resurrects not only herself, but her friends, multiple times. Tsukino Usagi is God!)

  42. 42
    Lynna, OM

    The Discovery Institute does more than publish books full of fluff, they also put their money and their manpower behind political initiates that will degrade education. Sometimes the forces of reason defeat them. For example:

    ..a creationism measure pending in the Colorado state legislature was defeated this week. The proposal had been pushed by the Discovery Institute, which has spent several years crafting proposals intended to undermine belief in modern biology….

    Spawned by the Discovery Institute, the measure is a backdoor creationist scheme intended to suggest that evolution is scientifically controversial and that students should be wary of its central place in biology.

    The Discovery Institute and its allies have religious objections to evolution, and this bill is a “wedge” to get their views into the public school classroom. The federal courts have already headed off a wide variety of other schemes, so Religious Right folks are trying an “academic freedom” maneuver.

    The vote was close, 7 to 6, to defeat the bill.

    https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/discovery-deception-derailed-colorado-lawmakers-scuttle-creationist-bill

  43. 43
    freethinkercro

    My only objection in Dr. Bentley’s post is his description of the Discovery Institute as a “creationist think tank”. A better description is a “creationist belief tank”.

  44. 44
    sadunlap

    less padded with fluff and extravagant egotistical back-patting than the last one he wrote.

    Then what will be left? 10 pages or so, if that much?

  45. 45
    paulburnett

    w00dview (#7) wrote “…they will be burned at the stake Galileo style.”

    Galileo was not burned at the stake – Giordano Bruno was, for (among other things) advocating that the earth went around the sun. There’s a picture of a statue of Bruno at the top of Ed Brayton’s Blog at http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/

  46. 46
    Ichthyic

    A better description is a “creationist belief tank”.

    an even better one is:

    Creationist money tank.

  47. 47
    paulburnett

    Meyer’s latest apologia for intelligent design creationism is available for pre-order order. The cover illustration is a trilobite fossil – see http://www.amazon.com/Darwins-Doubt-Explosive-Origin-Intelligent/dp/0062071475/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1361067109&sr=8-1&keywords=Darwin%27s+Doubt

  48. 48
    paulburnett

    From the Dishonesty Institute flunky: “The book will be published in June 2013 by HarperOne Publishers San Francisco.”

    HarperOne is well-known as a publisher of religious books, not science books! HarperOne was also the publisher of Meyer’s previous anti-science propaganda piece, “Signature In The Cell.” Meyer’s choice of publisher shows once again that intelligent design creationism is religion, not science.

  49. 49
    Ichthyic

    So, I can assume that Amazon reviews can be skewed by the author of the book?

    because Meyer’s last book has almost nothing but positive 4-5 star reviews at this point, and I KNOW that it’s a piece of utter crap.

  50. 50
    paulburnett

    Ichthyic (#49) wrote “So, I can assume that Amazon reviews can be skewed by the author of the book?”

    Whenever a minion of the Dishonesty Institute writes a book, all the rest of them write glowing reviews on Amazon – well-known effect, been happening for years.

  51. 51
    Jafafa Hots

    Amazon reviews are only marginally more trustworthy than those on IMDB (which coincidentally is owned by Amazon.)

    IMDB lets industry flaks who worked on a movie, even its producers, rave about how wonderful that movie is.

    Remember – the purpose of Amazon reviews is NOT to create a community of people informing each other.
    The purpose of Amazon reviews is to enlist millions of unpaid workers to voluntarily create your business’ advertising copy for you while also making them feel invested in your brand so they buy more.

  52. 52
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    It’s not that easy to get to the Burgess Shale. Tours are from Field, BC, during the summer and only about four days a week. A limited number of people can go each day, which involves a ten-hour round hiking trip. The tour operators recommend mountain acclimatization beforehand; however, if our Squidly Overlord can manage the walk I’m sure that a healthy young specimen from the Discovery Institute can, too.

  53. 53
    Ichthyic

    Whenever a minion of the Dishonesty Institute writes a book, all the rest of them write glowing reviews on Amazon – well-known effect, been happening for years.

    for fun, I started baiting a DI shill that’s currently hanging out at the forum for Stephen’s new book:

    http://www.amazon.com/this-book-listed-under-science/forum/Fx1VFQ40OHPGGV3/Tx35KPOH7C0XY4A/1/ref=cm_cd_dp_tp_t?_encoding=UTF8&asin=0062071475

    I don’t see why everyone shouldn’t have fun piling on…

  54. 54
    paulburnett

    Just in case anybody doubts that the Dishonesty Institute folks write rave reviews of their dreck, see the 2009 article “Creationists saturation-bombing Amazon” at http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2009/12/creationists-sa.html

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