The arrogance of an Ohio creationist

The NY Times is reporting that Ohio scientists are nearly unanimous in mobilizing for the school board election there—and they aren’t on the side of creationists like Deborah Owens Fink. It’s interesting that we’re seeing such activism from scientists; the response from the creationists is also enlightening.

But Dr. Owens Fink, a professor of marketing at the University of Akron, said the curriculum standards she supported did not advocate teaching intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism. Rather, she said, they urge students to subject evolution to critical analysis, something she said scientists should endorse. She said the idea that there was a scientific consensus on evolution was “laughable.”

Note the next bit; the reporter, Cornelia Dean, is one of the better science people at the Times, and this kind of unambiguous statement about the status of evolutionary theory is exactly what the media ought to be saying more often.

Although researchers may argue about its details, the theory of evolution is the foundation for modern biology, and there is no credible scientific challenge to it as an explanation for the diversity and complexity of life on earth. In recent years, with creationist challenges to the teaching of evolution erupting in school districts around the country, groups like the National Academy of Sciences, perhaps the nation’s pre-eminent scientific organization, have repeatedly made this point.

But the academy’s opinion does not matter to Dr. Owens Fink, who said the letter was probably right to say she had dismissed it as “a group of so-called scientists.”

Owens Fink is so wrong on every count that you’d think she ought to be mortified at having her ignorance so boldly displayed in the pages of a major newspaper; I suspect her arrogance is great enough that she’ll be oblivious. There certainly is a consensus in the scientific community favoring evolution. You could argue that a consensus is not a guarantor of truth, but Owens Fink is simply closing her eyes and denying what the practitioners of science, including a majority of the scientists in her own state, are saying.

As for calling the NAS “a group of so-called scientists.”…how clueless can she be? The NAS is the assembly of the elite of American science; admission is selective and only the most prestigious, high-powered big-wigs of the scientific establishment get in. It may be a bit stodgy and conservative, but one thing it is not is a bunch of fake scientists from the fringe—it’s kind of the anti-Discovery Institute. Dismissing it is an amazingly foolish thing for a professor of marketing to do.


  1. MartinM says

    Yeah, but consider her audience. Many will believe her, and who cares what the heathens think?

  2. valhar2000 says

    Well, that is why she is a professor of marketing, and not a professor of something that you cannot make up as you go along.

  3. Dunc says

    You’ve gotta remember that marketers are the Sophists of the age. It’s not that they don’t know the truth, it’s not that they don’t respect the truth – they don’t really seem to think that there is such a thing as truth at all. There are only products to be sold.

    I’m with Bill Hicks when it comes to marketers…

  4. Molly, NYC says

    MartinM’s right. An important point about ID/creationist types is that their arguments are never, ever directed at scientists. That would be a complete waste of time, and they know it. (It also means that purely scientific arguments against them are less valuable than they should be.)

    Y’know, here’s a chunk of the population who as of this week fancy themselves all freaking expert on Parkinson’s disease and stem cell research, having got the word from no less an authority than Rush Limbaugh, Master of Meds.

    They’re the audience for ID. They’re the ones Fink is playing to.

    (It’s like a feedback loop: good science education prevents ID-susceptible twits; ID-susceptible twits prevent good science education.)

  5. says

    I used to know this older guy who came to a lunch group I attended of old state capitol hands. He knew I held degrees in mathematics, but he was more than willing to lecture me on how math (probability, in particular) proved that evolution was impossible. When you know the Truth, the weakness of your arguments doesn’t matter, you know, and not even a person with better qualifications can trip you up. After all, they are Wrong. QED, or something like that.

    It’s frustrating and amazing.

  6. Steve LaBonne says

    Einstein is supposed to have said that only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity- and he wasn’t sure about the universe.

  7. says

    Marketing people have a remarkably inflated sense of their own abilities, intelligence and importance. I know because I used to be one.

    Sadly, what this means is that this professor will never ever allow anyone to convince her that she is wrong. Ever.

  8. says

    Not to detract from the outright creationist tool-itude of our good Dr. Owens Fink, but to be fair, she was not calling the NAS “so-called scientists,” but rather the 75 scientists from Case Western who signed the letter endorsing the candidate challenging her. Still obnoxious, of course.

  9. G. Tingey says

    “A group of so-called scientists” …

    Remids me of the Paxman-Coulter interview, where Coulter was asked if she beleieved that the scientists supporting evolution was a cabal or conspiracy, and she said yes – and Paxman did not challenge this.

    That is what convinces me that Coulter, and this person are actually clinically insane.

    This conspiracy would involve the makor scientific adcadmies of every developed or even half-developed country on the planet! All creeping around to “deny” the “truth” of ID/Cretinism.

    Erm …….

  10. nerf poodles says

    I just get annoyed when they say, “urge students to subject evolution to critical analysis.” Well duh, that SCIENCE. Get a new theory and test it! Oh gee, so evolution is the only one that makes any sense at all. Hmmmm maybe those nutty scientists are right!

  11. George says

    Professor of Marketing. Enough said.

    Hey kids, sell the fantasy. Cars, soap, God and his creation. It’s all about how you pitch it.


  12. Caledonian says

    People whose whole lives are given over to the manipulation of belief cannot comprehend that others might reach a conclusion for reasons besides persuasion, prejudice, or group approval. This possibility is simply beyond their ken – they wear mental blinkers that permits them to focus on interpersonal influences but blinds them to everything else.

  13. Dunc says

    Caledonian – bang on. It’s what Erich Fromm refered to as the “marketing orientation”.

  14. AC says

    Right on. The reporter’s presentation of facts in the second quoted section make plain Fink’s deceit. If only every reporter did so. The only thing I would have added is: “Critical analysis, of course, is an inherent part of the scientific method. A scientific theory prevails because it has best survived critical analysis by scientists – the personal opinions of unqualified agenda-warriors notwithstanding.”

  15. says

    You said it, nerf poodles.

    As Russians have learned from 70+ years of communism to stand in lines (to this day), Americans have learned from 50+ years of mass visual media to confuse being bedazzled with being educated, and to regard their parroting of creationist canards as “critical thinking.” (Ask these people what they really mean by “cambrian explosion” sometime, and see how many think it has something to do with the Big Bang.)

    This whole “critical thinking” hogwag has nothing to do with open-ended inquiry–which, if she were to learn what it was, would horrify Fink (crawdads and cornulites, you’d think that a marketing professor would change that name!)–but with this crossword puzzle, fill-in-the-template, “gotcha!” mentality. This is what they actually think that scientists do.

  16. Kurzleg says

    Yeah, this professor is ignorant, but she’s not stupid. She knows that fundamentally this is a public relations battle. If the GOP can turn “liberal” into a dirty word, then they can do the same with “scientist” and “expert”. They’re trying their hardest to do that right now, and once they do, it’ll mean that the skids are greased for some form of ID “education” in schools.

    To fight this, education alone isn’t going to work. The challenge needs to be met in the arena of public opinion. I’m not sure exactly how this might be done, but I’m sure there are PR folks who do.

  17. says

    How appropriate is it that Fink’s opponent is named “Tom Sawyer”? The only thing that could make it more fun would be if her name was Deborah Injun-Joe. Seriously, with J. Kenneth Blackwell almost a nonfactor as GOP gubernatorial candidate, the RNC virtually conceding DeWine’s Senate seat to Sherrod Brown, and Dr. Victoria Wulsin running dead-even with “Mean” Jean Schmidt- in a frighteningly Republican district, not to mention the well-documented incompetence and corruption of GOP stalwarts like the indicted Gov. Bob Taft, the indicted, and soon to be former, Congressman Bob Ney, and the indicted fundraiser Tom Noe, the political climate in Ohio is decidedly hostile to the Finks of the world. Fingers still crossed, however.

  18. ChaNce says

    Doh!! I’m a Marketing professor. Please don’t generalize her stupidity to others in business academia. I don’t have a single business prof friend who doesn’t accept the tenets of the scientific process, or denies evolution.

    I did a quick lit search on Owens (she goes by Owens on the Akron website) and she has two pubs, both in third tier journals, neither of which is the least bit influential or interesting. I’ve never seen her at any of our conferences, and have never heard of her before.

    She is non-existent in the discipline and doesn’t speak for any marketing prof I know. Most of us are psychology based (social or cog), and most definitely scientists:)

  19. Randy says

    This is the expected change of tactics of ID proponents resulting from the Kitzmiller trial. As if science doesn’t already subject all its ideas to critical analysis. This is just a disingenuous load of you-know-what. And I salute the
    “so-called scientists” for taking a stand against such insidious attempts at undermining science education. It’s about time we started punching back.

  20. J-Dog says

    Where did she get her “Dr”. from? Anybody do any fact checking? Patriot University maybe? Liberty perhaps?

  21. JamesR says

    When I read of Marketing matters like this I’m reminded of Dudly Moore /Darryl Hanna in “Crazy People”.

    Dudley is a marketing genius. He is commited to the Psych ward and asks his fellow inmates, “Who wants to be a firetruck?” All hands go up and they start saying ooh ooh mme me me.
    That is how easily the masses of undereducated and uneducated can be swayed.

  22. TheBlackCat says

    Forget NAS, it just the most selective and prestigious scientific organization in the country. What about AAS? It is the association for all scientists, and has also come out in favor of evolution just as strongly if not moreso. You can dismiss NAS as being selective and arrogant (which is wrong but you might be able to get away with it with laypeople), but how do you dismiss the organization that represents all scientists in the country?

  23. George says

    And she is a board member here:

    The Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions is a nonpartisan research and educational institute devoted to representing the viewpoint of INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY, ECONOMIC FREEDOM, PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY and LIMITED GOVERNMENT in the policy debates about Ohio’s present and future.

    Clearly a tool of the Bourgeoisie.

  24. Brian McEnnis says

    Comstock wrote:

    Not to detract from the outright creationist tool-itude of our good Dr. Owens Fink, but to be fair, she was not calling the NAS “so-called scientists,” but rather the 75 scientists from Case Western who signed the letter endorsing the candidate challenging her.

    Owens-Fink was labelling the NAS (and Ohio Academy of Science) scientists as “so-called scientists.” The quote appeared in an Owens-Fink fundraising letter in August:

    While 82% of Ohioans wanted a more open discussion of evolution, other groups such as the Ohio and National Academy of Science have preferred instead to censor the issue. This group of so-called scientists do not want many of the problems of contemporary evolutionary thought analyzed.

  25. llewelly says

    That is what convinces me that Coulter, and this person are actually clinically insane.
    This conspiracy would involve the makor scientific adcadmies of every developed or even half-developed country on the planet! All creeping around to “deny” the “truth” of ID/Cretinism.

    But with first class perks like opportunities to fly Black Helicopters or play with Soviet Cold War Weather Control Technology (the True Cause of Global Warming), how could any self-respecting scientist not join the conspiracy?

  26. says

    Let’s be clear: Fink is disowning Abraham Lincoln, calling the Nobel science prizes “so-called,” and generally dismissing and “disrespecting” some of the best minds in history. She is calling for ignorance, and she appears to be proud of the fact.

    But disowning Lincoln?

    From the NAS website:

    The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is an honorific society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare.

    The NAS was signed into being by President Abraham Lincoln on March 3, 1863, at the height of the Civil War. As mandated in its Act of Incorporation, the NAS has, since 1863, served to “investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art” whenever called upon to do so by any department of the government. Scientific issues would become even more contentious and complex in the years following the war. To keep pace with the growing roles that science and technology would play in public life, the institution that was founded in 1863 eventually expanded to include the National Research Council in 1916, the National Academy of Engineering in 1964, and the Institute of Medicine in 1970. Collectively, the four organizations are known as the National Academies.

    Since 1863, the nation’s leaders have often turned to the National Academies for advice on the scientific and technological issues that frequently pervade policy decisions. Most of the institution’s science policy and technical work is conducted by its operating arm, the National Research Council, created expressly for this purpose. These non-profit organizations provide a public service by working outside the framework of government to ensure independent advice on matters of science, technology, and medicine. They enlist committees of the nation’s top scientists, engineers, and other experts, all of whom volunteer their time to study specific concerns. The results of their deliberations have inspired some of America’s most significant and lasting efforts to improve the health, education, and welfare of the population. The Academy’s service to government has become so essential that Congress and the White House have issued legislation and executive orders over the years that reaffirm its unique role.

    The Academy membership is comprised of approximately 2,000 members and 350 foreign associates, of whom more than 200 have won Nobel Prizes.

    “Since 1863, the nation’s leaders have often turned to the National Academies for advice.” But not Fink.

    What does that make her? Not much of a leader in the past 144 years, that’s for sure.

  27. says

    There are 15 members of the National Academy of Science from Ohio. Bet Fink doesn’t have the guts to tell any of them they are “so-called scientists” to their face.

    Bet Ohio’s economy depends on their work.

    What do the polls show? What’s next for Fink — claiming Ohio State is a “so-called” football team?

  28. Loren Petrich says

    Which only goes to show how the Republican Party has changed from being the party of Abraham Lincoln to the party of Jefferson Davis; Republican leader Trent Lott once said pretty much that.

  29. miko says

    Coulter (and her ilk) is not insane, and almost certainly does not believe there is a conspiracy of scientists. She is like marketing people… the truth is just not relevant to their goals: the drive to power, the superimposition of your will on others, money, adulation, fame. Taking an extreme position that emotionally revs up stupid people is a fantastic way to do this. If you can get a PhD in this, Karl Rove must have three, plus some honoraries.

    This 3rd-rate creationist maybe does believe what she says, but is really just a sad and ignorant puppet. Just one of the millions in this rich vein of idiots who have their bigotries pandered to by the right in exchange for unquestioning support.

    Democracy is a game, and I mean that in a good way. For a lot of us, the point is to keep the game going, to explore the rules and creatively see where the game can go. For other the point is to win, and to end the game by winning. I can’t remember where I heard it put like that, but it’s an interesting analogy for a lot of things.

  30. TheBlackCat says

    I would not rule out people like Coulter being insane. They certainly do not believe all that they say, and marketing is a big part of it. It may very well be all of it. But just because someone is good at marketing their ideas and may be lieing about some of the stuff he or she says does not mean they are insane. All it means is that they are as insane as they may appear at first glance. Being insane does not mean you can’t also be clever about selling your ideas to sane people. They may be perfectly sane, but whatever is the basis for what these sort of people do is so buried in so many layers of lies, acting, and falsehoods it becomes impossible to separate the lies from any genuine delusions or insanity. If someone insists they are being controlled by pink elephants no matter how hard you try to convince them otherwise, are they insane or just really stubborn liars? What if they have a thousand such delusions? How do you ever tell for sure?

  31. says

    Do trackbacks work on ScienceBlogs? I tried to post a trackback to this entry (from here), and I’ve tried it before, on Pharyngula and on a couple of other SB blogs, and they don’t appear. Might I be doing something wrong, or is it known not to work?

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