The Years of Living Stupidly

Number 14 in a series

Back like 30 years ago Frank Harrold and Ray Eve at the University of Texas at Arlington published research into matters such as religious belief and political affiliation. One point they noted was a strong correlation between religious belief and political conservatism. Conservatives tended to hold belief in biblical inerrancy. That biblical inerrancy defies known science stands out, because there are sincerely religious people who accept scientific findings regarding evolution and the origin of the Earth.

The young Earth creationists, who believe this planet is barely 6000 years old, lost heavily in court cases beginning 40 years ago, and the argument for the scientific validity of creationism shifted to a new breed. These new creationists often concede the age of the Earth and even the common origin of existent species. However, their political affiliation remains strongly linked to conservatism. What is worse, the new creationists appear to be picking up the rhetoric of the worst of today’s conservative block. They are beginning to adopt the language of Donald Trump. Specifically, they now find it useful to employ the term “fake news” when confronted with evidence adverse to their views. A recent item from the Discovery Institute’s Evolution News site illustrates:

Drive Darwinists Nuts with This One Solution to Fake News

John G. West November 19, 2019, 4:15 AM

If you listen to the media, you’d think that science has refuted God, the debate over Darwin is closed, the solution to the origin of life is right around the corner, and humans are no more significant than cockroaches.

If you are as sick of this kind of fake news as I am, I have good news. There is a solution, and you can be a part of it.

The solution is this site — Evolution News & Science Today.

You need to read through this posting by John West. John G. West “is a Senior Fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute (DI), and Associate Director and Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs of its Center for Science and Culture (CSC), which serves as the main hub of the Intelligent design movement.”

It’s hard to miss that the modern creationists have latched onto the alt-right play book. From scant months ago the language has shifted noticeably. In this post West employs the combative style of the current President. He writes:

For example, when the journal Science went after Michael Behe’s blockbuster book Darwin Devolves this year with a sham review, Mike and our other scientists were able to use Evolution News to utterly demolish the journal’s bogus claims.

The gloves are clearly off. All pretense of sincere debate has evaporated. Science and those who espouse it are now the enemy, deplorable to the core.

The reference to the Science review is page 590 of the 7 February 2019 issue:

The end of evolution?

A biochemist’s crusade to overturn evolution misrepresents theory and ignores evidence

By Nathan H. Lents, S. Joshua Swamidass, Richard E. Lenski

West takes a strict adversarial approach, relying upon others for the language of science. He holds a Ph.D. in government and a bachelor’s degree in journalism, and in his most recent post he alludes to the demolition of the Science critique. A search of items posted to Evolution News showes something posted by West four days after the Science critique appeared:

Darwinists Devolve: Review by Swamidass, Lenski, and Lents Borders on Fraud

John G. West February 11, 2019, 11:04 AMJoshua Swamidass, Richard Lenski, and Nathan Lents have published a review in the journal Science critiquing biochemist Michael Behe’s forthcoming book Darwin Devolves. I found their review utterly convincing — although probably not in the way they might hope.

Some background: When I became involved in the intelligent design (ID) movement more than two decades ago, a key reason was because I was intrigued by the scientists who thought they were finding discernible evidence throughout nature of intelligent design. I didn’t know whether these scientists were correct. But I definitely wanted them to have the freedom to articulate their views in the public square without retribution. And I wanted to see how the debate played out.

Attaching the label “fraud” to the Science review requires some heavy lifting. Read West’s entire posting. A pertinent section appears to be this:

The authors first claim that Behe “fails to mention Kenneth Miller’s simple, elegant scheme” for the “stepwise evolution” of the blood-clotting cascade, clearly leaving the impression that Behe hasn’t responded to Miller anywhere, not just in his new book.

The authors not only claim that Behe fails to mention Miller’s scheme, they flat out assert that Behe fails to mention it. Here is the pertinent text from Science:

Behe also ignores the fact that some of his prior arguments have been dismantled (2). He includes a lengthy appendix that argues that the blood-clotting cascade is irreducibly complex, for example, but fails to mention

Kenneth Miller’s simple, elegant scheme for its stepwise evolution (3) or the fact that a progenitor fibrinogen gene has been discovered in echinoderms (4).

Apparently it is up to the reader to jump to the conclusion the authors intended to leave the impression Behe has never responded. For the record, a search of Darwin Devolves finds “Miller” mentioned three times. One time is this:

The paper made a splash. The news blog of the very prestigious journal Science reported the results and asked a few big names for comment. The eminent Michael Lynch (discussed in Chapter 4) remarked that “complexity builds out of simplicity, and [the work of Liu and Ochman] is a well-documented argument for how that can happen.” Brown University cell biologist Kenneth Miller chimed in, “The researchers clearly show these genes were derived from one another through gene duplication.”9

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (p. 291). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

The other two times are in end notes and references. As with ambition, fraud should be made of sterner stuff. The man doth protest too much, methinks.

From first appearances, John West is making arguments against Behe’s critics which amount to so much propaganda. It is the wave of the new conservatism. It is the promise of the coming years of living stupidly.

One thought on “The Years of Living Stupidly

  1. Pingback: Abusing Science | Skeptical Analysis

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