The Discovery Institute: a shambling, sneering concern troll (1)

Imagine a highly intelligent alien species landing on Earth and immediately availing itself of the knowledge humanity has acquired about how it and other organisms have, in biological terms, come to occupy their present niches in Earth’s various ecosystems. These aliens, armed with knowledge about earthly living cells and how information is chemically encoded therein, would quickly assimilate everything that has been proposed, tested, accepted, and rejected about evolution and evolution-like impostors (e.g., Lamarckism), and would surely be satisfied that evolution and its chief tenets (common descent with modification and natural selection acting on the substrate of genetic mutations) is sufficient–and even necessary–to explain the diversity of life on the third planet from what we call the Sun.
Given this, the aliens–who know nothing of religious thought–might be surprised to learn that a great many people are unhappy with this eminently satisfactory set of explanatory mechanisms, and are allegedly proposing alternatives. When informed of the movement known as “Intelligent Design,” they would no doubt peruse the writings put forth by the chief proponents of this alternative idea. Were they to visit Evolution News & Views, they would, availed of the Discovery Institute’s tireless insistence that evolution is a lie, have every reason to expect a compelling assembly of data- and experiment-driven presentations serving to build and bolster the case for ID. When, instead, they found not one example such a thing, only found page after page of hollow complaints about evolution unaccompanied by specifics about its alleged shortcomings, they would probably lose interest in our lowly species and toss a few supernukes over their shoulders as they sped off so as to guarantee that the worst of Earth’s poor thinking could never survive to infect faraway life forms who were themselves in the process of struggling to reach levels of genuine understanding about the world.
This is a long means of reiterating what most here already know: that the DI makes no pretense about trying to support its own “theory.” It never really did, but the bottom has really fallen out, for if you go to the EN&V site now and do a text search of the home page, the only mention of ID you will find is the hacks who contribute to this ongoing joke complaining perfunctorily that its critics just don’t get it. It’s quite blatant, but when attempting to stand by a dead ally, what can anyone do other than wail about those who desecrate the body?
Well, there’s the obvious–they can keep complaining about the unfair dominance of evolution, and so they do. But with the happenings in Texas in recent days, there’s a somewhat new twist: The DI is trying to portray itself as a champion of sound science and in the process making a heroic effort to keep a collective straight face. What its flacks are doing is nothing more than a clumsy rendition of the time-honored wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing gambit. Specifically, they are fixating on the amendment to the educational standards approved by the Texas State Board of Education that includes this language:

[Students must] analyze, evaluate and critique scientific explanations in all fields of science by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations so as to encourage critical thinking by the student.

I’ll get to the problems with this, and how the DI lampoons itself in attempting to portray itself as an ally of science, in a post later today or tomorrow.

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  1. #1 by Dave W. on March 28, 2009 - 3:05 pm

    Kevin wrote:

    …in a past later today or tomorrow.

    I don’t usually point out typos, but this one seems to indicate that you have the ability to travel through time.

  2. #2 by Kevin Beck on March 28, 2009 - 3:09 pm

    Fixed, thanks. That’s pretty funny. The “o” is nowhere near the “a,” so that wasn’t a typo, it was a brain cramp.

  3. #3 by Spirula on March 28, 2009 - 4:46 pm

    Bravo! Well done.
    they would probably lose interest in our lowly species and toss a few supernukes over their shoulders
    Or, realizing they have stumbled upon a planet infested with sluggish, obese, and stupified bipedal cattle, throw an interglactic kegger and spit-roast the lot of us.
    (Addendum: To their great fortune, they create a franchise, “Long John Silver’s…the meat you were always expecting”.)

  4. #4 by Dave W. on March 29, 2009 - 2:42 am

    Kevin wrote:

    …it was a brain cramp.

    I would call it a vowel movement.

  5. #5 by Dave W. on March 29, 2009 - 2:42 am

    Kevin wrote:

    …it was a brain cramp.

    I would call it a vowel movement.

  6. #6 by James P on March 29, 2009 - 2:58 pm

    I dunno. The whole aliens nuking us casually sounds far more our speed than that of a species capable of travel between the stars. Besides, it reflects badly on people like us. Those so inclined (politically motivated) will say, “Of course they envision the aliens murdering over six billion people!” Orders of magnitude notwithstanding, it’s an invite to Godwin the conversation.
    We have other and more interesting examples in the Vorlons and Shadows of Babylon 5, or in our own envisioning of Star Trek’s Prime Directive, or in the Revelation Space universe of Alastair Reynolds, not to mention the frakkin’ beautiful Battlestar Galactica series.
    Point being, I think it’s an unfortunate mistake to postulate a species of aliens so careless, so callous, so cruel, and then compare them with those of us who support the life sciences in opposition to the cdesign proponentsists.

  7. #7 by RBH on March 29, 2009 - 3:05 pm

    Spirula wrote

    Or, realizing they have stumbled upon a planet infested with sluggish, obese, and stupified bipedal cattle, throw an interglactic kegger and spit-roast the lot of us.

    To Serve Man. :)

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