PZ Myers posted Entry 1960 on February 1, 2006 08:19 AM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1955

Here's a fascinating glimpse of history for those involved in the creation wars: the Seattle Weekly has published scans of the original Wedge document from the Discovery Institute. Now you too can see it in it's original cheap-ass photocopied glory, and also learn who leaked the documents…two people to whom we owe a debt of gratitude.

Continue reading "The True History of the Wedge" (on Pharyngula)


I much prefer reading these things as pdfs, so I've converted it. Here you go, download your very own copy of the Wedge document (540KB pdf).

Commenters are responsible for the content of comments. The opinions expressed in articles, linked materials, and comments are not necessarily those of PandasThumb.org. See our full disclaimer.

Comment #76716

Posted by Mr Christopher on February 1, 2006 8:36 AM (e)

That wedge document part of the article is minor to the whole. But I can see why there is such fascination about the wedge document. And I had no idea the culture “jammers” were behind it. Those guys do some goofy stuff at times but they scored on this one.

Be sure and read the whole article, there is some good Bruce Chapman and Disco history as well.

Comment #76717

Posted by PvM on February 1, 2006 8:41 AM (e)

Other good news: The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and others may be reducing or eliminating their contributions to the DI.

And: The fellows are too busy to talk to the journalists (of course they are not too busy to whine about journalists ‘getting it wrong’:-)

My question: Are they too busy because they are doing fundamental research relevant to ID or what…

Comment #76724

Posted by Russell on February 1, 2006 9:14 AM (e)

Interesting. I’ve wondered about that leak for a long time, thinking it was some DI insider with a conscience. But no, it was the mail room guy.

Still, I hold out hope that someone among the DI insiders will be tomorrow’s David Brock: he (I guess I don’t need the customary he/she in this case) will wake up and say “What the hell are we doing???” and reveal discussions, plans and documents the DI doesn’t want us to know about.

Comment #76726

Posted by Lou FCD on February 1, 2006 9:24 AM (e)

One can only hope,Russell.

I find it interesting, enlightening even, that there even ARE “documents they don’t want us to know about,” like the Wedge. Seems to me, whenever a real scientist discovers anything of any note, the first thing they want to do is tell the whole world.

I’m not a scientist, philosopher, or historian, that’s just the view from a Carpenter’s son.

Comment #76738

Posted by JAllen on February 1, 2006 10:20 AM (e)

From Discovery’s Creation

Seattle Weekly wrote:

…the Discovery Institute’s overall budget has never much exceeded $4 million annually, and much of an increase in recent years is due to a near–$10 million grant to study local transportation issues, not biology or education.

That sounds like taxpayer money. If so, I would like to see an audit.

Seattle Weekly wrote:

So well was the campaign going that in 2004, some of the original antimaterialism advocates were confident enough of eventual triumph to predict in detail a complete meltdown of Darwinian science by 2025—the 100th anniversary of the notorious “Monkey Trial” of 1925.

Does anybody have a link for this? I vaguely remember a group of “essays” from IDists projecting into the future. They were back-patting each other for their successes and accepting apologies and concessions from folks like Dawkins and Miller. Can anyone corroborate my memory, or have I just read too much crap on the internet?

Comment #76746

Posted by Sam on February 1, 2006 10:33 AM (e)

What I find hilarious is that the document would never have been ‘leaked’ if the institute had simply turned the document in to be photocopied like any other. No, they had to print ‘Top Secret’, of course it is then going to garner extra interest that way.

Comment #76751

Posted by Arden Chatfield on February 1, 2006 10:57 AM (e)

Splendid picture of Duss and Rhodes, BTW. I wonder if it was their own idea to make the fake devil horns? :-)

Comment #76753

Posted by Ginger Yellow on February 1, 2006 11:08 AM (e)

“…the Discovery Institute’s overall budget has never much exceeded $4 million annually”

For an institution that doesn’t actually do any research, that’s quite a lot.

Comment #76754

Posted by Mr Christopher on February 1, 2006 11:22 AM (e)

Read the Disco’s 2003 official response (“The Wedge Document: So What?” in pdf) to the Wedge Document here

Given that the document was marked “top secret” and “not for distribution” makes looking back on what the Disco had to say about it in 2003 especially hilarious.

Odd that they chose today to put a link to the “So what?” document on the front page of their website.

Coincidence or a sign of intelligent design? You be the judge.

After reading the article that spawned this thread I cannot express how happy I am that there was no room for Bruce Chapman at the Bush White House. Imagine Bruce Chapman with executive branch power/support and authority. Frightening.

Comment #76759

Posted by 2hulls on February 1, 2006 11:35 AM (e)

My first post here. Have been lurking since Kitzmiller.

RE: the Wedgie rebuttal from the DI

“Dubbed the “Wedge Document,” this fundraising proposal….”

OK, which is worse. The “Wedgie” at face value revealing a plan to take over the nation, or as a “fundraising proposal” to fleece the gullible?

2hulls

Comment #76763

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on February 1, 2006 11:56 AM (e)

and much of an increase in recent years is due to a near–$10 million grant to study local transportation issues, not biology or education.

That sounds like taxpayer money. If so, I would like to see an audit.

No, that’s the Gates Foundation money. So you paid for it through your software purchases, not your taxes.

Interesting article, they brought up a lot of things that don’t get much press. They didn’t nail down all the corners though.

The Wedge leakers - whose copy did they leak? Did they technically break any laws? Did they suffer any repercussions? If I want to send them a check, where do I send it?

Howard Ahmanson Jr. - they mention him, but they don’t mention just how extreme his views have been.

In retrospect, the successful campaign to disseminate intelligent-design theory is all the more astonishing because it was achieved with remarkably modest resources and promoted by a tiny cadre. The American scientific establishment has billions of dollars annually to promote programs; the Discovery Institute’s overall budget has never much exceeded $4 million annually, and much of an increase in recent years is due to a near–$10 million grant to study local transportation issues, not biology or education.

Ah, but all those scientists are paid to do actual science, whereas the Discovery Institute has been doing Public Relations. If you work it out as $/peer-reviewed scientific publication, they’re not doing so well.

Comment #76769

Posted by Tice with a J on February 1, 2006 12:31 PM (e)

JAllen wrote:

Does anybody have a link for this? I vaguely remember a group of “essays” from IDists projecting into the future. They were back-patting each other for their successes and accepting apologies and concessions from folks like Dawkins and Miller. Can anyone corroborate my memory, or have I just read too much crap on the internet?

I can’t speak to how much intarcrack you’ve been taking, but the essays you speak of are real and available online. A few proponents of Insidious Deceit Intelligent Design were given time by World Magazine to imagine a future - specifically, 2025 - in which Darwinism had finally been defeated. I give you:

The demise of naturalism by Phillip Johnson

Whatever happened to evolutionary theory? by Jonathan Wells

Mind transcending matter by Jeffrey Schwartz

And finally:
The new age of information by William Dembski

Read those, and before long you’ll be saying ID stands for ‘Imagination Deficit’ instead of ‘Intelligent Design’.

These articles have already been addressed by our own PZ Meyers in posts like this one, but unfortunately the links in that post are broken. Could you fix those links?

Comment #76781

Posted by Raging Bee on February 1, 2006 1:09 PM (e)

If you work it out as $/peer-reviewed scientific publication, they’re not doing so well.

Are you kidding? They’re doing FABULOUSLY! $4 million / 0 peer-reviewed papers = infinite amounts of money on each ID research paper.

Either that, or they all disappear into a singularity where the Sun don’t shine…

Comment #76801

Posted by Tiax on February 1, 2006 2:06 PM (e)

I showed these scans to a friend of mine, and he said “I think I remember these arguments from something else you showed me.”

I had to think for a while on what else that could be, but then I remembered showing him a series of powerpoint slides from AiG. Looking back at the two, they really are exactly the same arguments with a cosmetically different strategy behind them.

Comment #76817

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on February 1, 2006 3:07 PM (e)

tiax:
I showed these scans to a friend of mine, and he said “I think I remember these arguments from something else you showed me.”

I had to think for a while on what else that could be, but then I remembered showing him a series of powerpoint slides from AiG. Looking back at the two, they really are exactly the same arguments with a cosmetically different strategy behind them.

Tiax:
Exactly what slides are these? Do you have a link, or a downloaded ppt file to share?

Comment #76819

Posted by Steve on February 1, 2006 3:10 PM (e)

As I read through the “The demise of naturalism by Phillip Johnson” I was struck by the utter sadness of the whole thing. The dawning of a new dark age, and a future so utterly bleak, and devoid of any hope.

From this point forward, there will be no new views of the universe. The ultimate answer from this point forward will be “We don’t understand, so it must be something that God intended.”

Sounds like something the Taliban would have loved.

Comment #76820

Posted by Philip T on February 1, 2006 3:11 PM (e)

“I find it interesting, enlightening even, that there even ARE “documents they don’t want us to know about,” like the Wedge. Seems to me, whenever a real scientist discovers anything of any note, the first thing they want to do is tell the whole world.

I’m not a scientist, philosopher, or historian, that’s just the view from a Carpenter’s son.”

And I’m not religious. But I’m pretty sure some carpenter’s son whose was well know in the religious world was not big on bearing false witness.

Comment #76823

Posted by PaulC on February 1, 2006 3:34 PM (e)

Anyone know how many of the PR milestones they hit? The five year plan for getting on the cover of a major news magazine, etc. seems, sadly, to have been effective. They definitely got their share of favorable op-eds. I don’t think they suckered PBS into presenting ID as science, but I guess you could say Nova covered them “fairly” (i.e. not at all as far as I can tell).

I’m not sure about 100 papers. I doubt it, but it depends on what you count. The funny thing is that 100 peer reviewed papers in five years is nothing for a single hot topic in a small subfield of some academic discipline. If they ever thought ID could be real live science, then boy were they setting their sights low.

Finally, I had to laugh at this one (from Phase I):

A lesson we have learned from the history of science is that it is unnecessary to outnumber the opposing establishment.

A lesson they failed to learn was that it is almost always necessary to have ideas that correspond in some fashion to reality. I’m tempted to remove “almost” but in the case of someone like Lysenko, you can get pretty far just by having Stalin there to do your heavy lifting. Mostly, though, the “opposing establishment” is undermined by new ideas that work better, not old ideas that were tried long ago and failed.

Comment #76826

Posted by Lou FCD on February 1, 2006 3:42 PM (e)

PaulC,

If I may just for a moment paraphrase one of my favorite PT posters, The Reverend Doctor Lenny points out that there have been exactly ZERO peer-reviewed papers that substantiate or support in any way, shape, or form the Intelligent Design Creationism Hoax. None, zip, nada. Behe admitted as much on the stand in Dover, and Judge Jones made sure to point that out in his decision. As far as I can tell, they are all three correct.

Just the view from a Carpenter’s son.

Comment #76839

Posted by Julie Stahlhut on February 1, 2006 4:32 PM (e)

Reading through those “2025” papers pushed my “Say what?” meter off the scale. For instance: Who would imagine that “materialist” geneticists or evolutionary biologists don’t do any research involving noncoding DNA?

Oh, wait. Jonathan Wells. Never mind.

Comment #76859

Posted by Tiax on February 1, 2006 5:43 PM (e)

http://www.answersingenesis.org/Home/Area/overheads/TOC.asp

A few interesting ones are:

“Adding millions of years to the bible” and
“Evolutionary termintes”

There’s really the same sense that science leads to abandoning religion leads to moral relativism leads to societal collapse.

Comment #76862

Posted by ben on February 1, 2006 5:55 PM (e)

OT, but what does the “FCD” after many posters’ name mean?

Comment #76864

Posted by El Brujo on February 1, 2006 6:03 PM (e)

ben wrote:

OT, but what does the “FCD” after many posters’ name mean?

Friend of Charles Darwin.

Comment #76866

Posted by Lou FCD on February 1, 2006 6:06 PM (e)

Hey Ben,

FCD means “Friends of Charles Darwin”. It’s free and you get to put little letters after your name and impress all your friends. Here’s a link to the Frequently Asked Questions.

http://www.gruts.com/darwin/join.php

Comment #76870

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on February 1, 2006 6:32 PM (e)

Dudes, I rhereby raise a bottle of Viking Piss in toast to Matt Duss and Tim Rhodes.

They did far more to protect democracy than they ever could have realized at the time.

I salute them.

Comment #76903

Posted by Cate's debate on February 1, 2006 9:32 PM (e)

Listen, ladies and gentlemen, we can play “gotcha” with the wedge document or we can learn from it.

The move to garb ones self in science-speak was not made wantonly. It indicates that they have taken the people that they are trying to bring into the fold seriously. Who are they? Well, first, this audience takes the abstract notion of “science” seriously. Like the president last night, they agree that science is a good thing but don’t have a background in it themselves and have a tendency to be a bit intimidated by it up close.

For the audience being carved out by the Discovery Institute, science is a litmus test and nothing more. As long as both sides have lab coats, the “scientific” merit is basically even on both sides.

What to do? Better education and increased science literacy is of course the long term ideal goal, but we need some short-term solutions.

Let me offer a bit of a manifesto, and then sit back and see what you think.

The ‘we’re more scientific than you’ move is played out. The facts are simply NOT speaking for themselves. A wise pair of scholars once argued that “facts” only function as “truth” if they jive with a person’s world-view–otherwise ‘facts’ become controvertible.

We’ve got the people whose world-views are compatible on line. Now we have to step away from the “shoving facts down throats” direction and start asking what it is about the world-view of other people that would make these facts suddenly not sync up with the (anti)Gospel truth. One possibility: People who feel uncomfortable with science are comforted with the notion of a gap in a theory. It decreases the power of Science (the big S is important here) as the cold mechanism that describes and determines all existence. If science was uniformly benevolent to the audience that remains undecided on the issue, or could be converted, then ID would not have a foothold. It plays with the allure of science and the scary underside as well.

This distrust cuts in two different ways: with those untrained in science as explained above, and with those trained in the social study of science. There are a lot of bright and decent people who question the way that the voice of the expert consistently drowns out other perspectives. Steve Fuller is one such example, who I don’t think deserves the poor treatment he has received. Even Bruno Latour found himself “burned” by the way the Luntz climate memo used Latour’s precise critique of scientific hegemony to discount global warming. (Check out Latour’s discussion of certainty at http://www.uchicago.edu/research/jnl-crit-inq/issues/v30/30n2.Latour.html )

If we count out the secretly science-phobic and the well-meaning postmodernists (for lack of a better term), we are writing off a large population of believers and we’re giving some unwilling (well educated and articulate) allies to the ID camp. This is not good strategy.

So what to do? Start with the audience, just like the Wedge document does. Figure out who is still on the fence. For the community I described above, instead of attempting the “we’re smarter than you” move, reinforce that their spiritual beliefs don’t have to conflict with science (the Vatican handed us a victory in that corner). What about the allure of “gaps in the theory?” Attempt to use the icons of successful science to draw analogies to evolution. Build off of “truths” that are already accepted (maybe iconic medicines) and show how there was uncertainty there as well. Invite PRODUCTIVE discussion of these spaces, showing that one can debate without turning to God.

And this points to the most important part: Deal with the fact that science generally and evolution studies in particular are not infallible. Every time we try to out-science ID and claim to be the big T Truth of the origin of life, we play their game. We cannot portray evolution as a perfect scientific answer to the question of the origin of life, because if we set up the standard for judgment as “100% certainty” all they have to do is pry open a crack to prove that evolution is not a one-hundred-percent closed discussion.

So there I am. I would welcome any response–particularly on the question of what the persuadable audience should look like.

Comment #76906

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on February 1, 2006 9:53 PM (e)

The ‘we’re more scientific than you’ move is played out.

And it worked spectacularly. Just read the Dover decision.

Comment #76921

Posted by B. Spitzer on February 1, 2006 11:03 PM (e)

Cate’s Debate:

I agree wholeheartedly that the scientific community needs to be more proactive and persuasive to the average American. They are our constituency, and frankly I think we’re obligated to serve the public.

IMHO, a lot of distrust on the part of average folks comes because:

1) They don’t understand what science is. Most non-scientists see science as a vaguely mystical activity, but cold, ambitious, and opposed to a lot of the things that they value, such as a traditional religious perspective. If people understood that science is a way of asking questions– not a movement or cabal with cultural aspirations, not an attempt to undercut or take the place of traditional religion– they would be much less threatened by it.

2) A lot of high-profile scientists try, or have tried, to enlist science as a weapon against religion. That not only misrepresents the basic nature of science in the public eye, but it sours well-meaning people on the whole scientific enterprise and everything that comes out of it. Richard Dawkins is an extremely successful recruiter for creationism.

Both of these problems could be fixed with humble, honest education about what science is. Personally, I’d love to see every biology prof in this country give a talk to concerned parents about exactly what their kids’ biology textbooks say about evolution, and what that does and doesn’t mean. We’ve got to stop coming across as elitist, and remember that, ultimately, science is something that depends on public support.

(whew! that’s my qouta of ranting for the night…)

Comment #76927

Posted by PZ Myers on February 1, 2006 11:12 PM (e)

Richard Dawkins is an extremely successful recruiter for creationism.

I’ll call you on that. Name one person who has become a creationist because of Richard Dawkins. Show me some statistics to back that up.

Comment #76928

Posted by Lixivium on February 1, 2006 11:13 PM (e)

cate's Debate wrote:

We’ve got the people whose world-views are compatible on line. Now we have to step away from the “shoving facts down throats” direction and start asking what it is about the world-view of other people that would make these facts suddenly not sync up with the (anti)Gospel truth. One possibility: People who feel uncomfortable with science are comforted with the notion of a gap in a theory. It decreases the power of Science (the big S is important here) as the cold mechanism that describes and determines all existence. If science was uniformly benevolent to the audience that remains undecided on the issue, or could be converted, then ID would not have a foothold. It plays with the allure of science and the scary underside as well.

Sorry, but many religious “truths” about the natural world and its history simply fly in the face of all logic and evidence. There is simply no getting around some facts contradicting the Gospel truth. Science is what it is; it can’t become more “benevolent” just to try to bring a few more people into the fold.

Comment #76933

Posted by Caledonian on February 1, 2006 11:43 PM (e)

Constituency? I don’t think that word means what you think it means. Politicians have constituents. Scientists do not.

Here’s a little reality check: scientists are not obligated to drag people kicking and screaming into the light of sanity and reason. They are not obligated to educate. They are not obligated to oppose unreason and madness.

Scientists seek the facts. They seek ways of explaining those facts. And they seek new facts which old theories cannot explain. If in addition they choose to try to prevent the societies in which they live from being consumed by irrational beliefs and pointless superstitions, you should be grateful. It isn’t their job - nor is it their duty. If we’re not very careful, they’re going to give up on this society and go work in those that value knowledge and free thought.

Comment #76942

Posted by cate's debate on February 2, 2006 12:15 AM (e)

I am intrigued by Caledonian’s response…though I am unsure about its tenability.

It is difficult for me to imagine a world in which a scientist does not have an audience to worry about. Science is awfully expensive stuff, for one thing, and not the sort of enterprise that is self-sustaining and profitable. So, we have testimony before Congress, and grants are handed out, and all of that boring stuff. Then we have the cultural milieu that “makes” science, from the excitement during the Sputnik days that filled physics departments with bright-eyed young men and women, to the more dangerous sides of the Cold War that spawned debates over nuclear technology and recombinant DNA.

But I would certainly like to hear your take on what the water-cooler conversations would be once scientists (and perhaps the whole of Science) left for greener pastures. In this place, would there still be need for argument? Is it possible that the population of scientists would still run afoul of one another because they simply assumed their view of the world was shared by everyone instead of being very particularly shaped?

In other words, in the land of Science without politicians or IDers, would argument simply disappear?

And if not, don’t you think that honing your argument would still be a worth-while skill?

I’m sorry if I sound a bit flip…I honestly am interested in hearing your opinion.

Comment #76946

Posted by PvM on February 2, 2006 12:33 AM (e)

Correction to the article:

Meyer is described at passing his time at the

Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Chaplain Services at Whitworth College in Spokane

but he recently moved to “Palm Beach Atlantic University, a Christian University, where he teaches a course on Christian apologetics in its School of Ministry.”

Comment #76950

Posted by B. Spitzer on February 2, 2006 12:51 AM (e)

PZ Myers, re: Dawkins as a recruiter for creationism:

Phil Johnson cites The Blind Watchmaker as inspiring him to start the ID movement. To hear Johnson tell it, the ID movement might never have existed if reading that book hadn’t lit the fuse.

IIRC, at least one of the other bigwigs at the DI has said much the same thing: that they got involved in this largely because Dawkins made them madder than hell.

I just finished teaching a class on evolution and creationism to a group of students, mostly religious kids, but not die-hard creationists. I assigned them a chapter from The Selfish Gene, because Dawkins does an excellent job of explaining the gene’s-eye view of the world. There were a couple of comments about religion in that chapter, just in passing. If you aren’t religious, you might not notice them. But believe me, the religious students in my class sure did. And it didn’t help them learn the biology.

I don’t think you need statistics to recognize that, if you insult someone’s faith, they aren’t going to be very receptive to anything you say after that. Expecting the average Joe to separate Dawkins’ science from his evangelical version of atheism isn’t realistic.

from Caledonian:

Constituency? I don’t think that word means what you think it means. Politicians have constituents. Scientists do not.

Here’s a little reality check: scientists are not obligated to drag people kicking and screaming into the light of sanity and reason. They are not obligated to educate. They are not obligated to oppose unreason and madness.

In case it wasn’t clear in my original post, I am one of the biology profs who I feel are obligated to do outreach. I used the word “constituents” precisely because of what it means. I believe that, as scientists, we are obligated to educate. And, frankly, I think we wouldn’t be in as much of a mess if, as a whole, scientists were more aware that we’ve got obligations to society as well as to science.

Comment #76952

Posted by Caledonian on February 2, 2006 12:57 AM (e)

I doubt very much that argument would disappear. Argument with people who aren’t interesting in thinking about the debate would be mostly eliminated, though.

The American populace is not overwhelmingly grossly ignorant about evolutionary biology because we didn’t experience a strong treatment of it in school, or because scientists don’t reach out to us, or because the system has failed. The American populace *doesn’t want to understand* in the first place.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

Comment #76953

Posted by Bob O'H on February 2, 2006 1:00 AM (e)

FCD means “Friends of Charles Darwin”. It’s free and you get to put little letters after your name and impress all your friends. Here’s a link to the Frequently Asked Questions.

http://www.gruts.com/darwin/join.php

356 friends, but only 5 Steves (or 6 if you count surnames).

Bob

Comment #76955

Posted by Caledonian on February 2, 2006 1:11 AM (e)

B. Spitzer wrote:

I used the word “constituents” precisely because of what it means.

“Residents of a district or members of a group represented by an elected official”.

Maybe society underwent some kind of phase change while I wasn’t paying attention, but the last time I checked we don’t elect biologists, and they don’t really represent anyone. Perhaps you’re using a strange new meaning of the word that I wasn’t previously aware of.

I believe that, as scientists, we are obligated to educate.

That’s nice. But it’s not part of your job description. Charity work is entirely up to you.

And, frankly, I think we wouldn’t be in as much of a mess if, as a whole, scientists were more aware that we’ve got obligations to society as well as to science.

Even if you willingly accept the obligation to lead society to the water, you can’t make it drink. Society has obligations, too - and it’s not fulfilling them.

Comment #76969

Posted by blipey on February 2, 2006 2:28 AM (e)

I find Caledonian’s comments strange when taken I think about the forum in which I read them. If scientists don’t have an obligation to teach (and I’m okay with this notion), what are sites and forums such as PT for?

It would seem to me that many scientists do feel an obligation to teach and better the world in which they live. Otherwise, why even have this discussion? If scientists don’t need the world, why worry about trying to explain it to others? Or, is it your feeling that this “personal” (for lack of me coming up with a better term) aspect of science should be taken on strictly by engineers, professors, and others who might make practical what scientists work out?

Someone here (sorry, can’t remember who), the other day, said, “as a scientist, I would rather be right.” Well, I would like to be right, also, and even more, I would like others to be right as well. The best way for that to occur can sometimes be me teaching what I know. Or, informing the student where to look if I am out of my element. Of course, the tacit understanding there is that the source I send them to will take the time to help them.

Comment #77000

Posted by Patrick on February 2, 2006 7:06 AM (e)

If scientists don’t have an obligation to teach (and I’m okay with this notion), what are sites and forums such as PT for?

Just because you have no obligation to do something doesn’t mean you can’t do it anyway if you want.

Comment #77010

Posted by Cate's debate on February 2, 2006 8:47 AM (e)

Let me explain my perspective first–I teach argument and coach debate at a major university, and while I’m in the humanities, my research focuses on the social studies of science.

So, my concern with saying that the anti-ID movement should worry only about the truth and certainty of science is that it does not invite in people who do not have a background in science, or who feel uncomfortable with it.

The students in my argument class are not hopeless morons or fundamentalists, but they also don’t have Ph.Ds in biology. They need accessible literature and advocactes for evolution that are interested in engaging them.

The Wedge Document indicates that the ID movement is looking to appeal to these totally reasonable and bright people by combining cultural beliefs with (pseudo)science. By highlighting that this is an issue “normal” people have a right to discuss, they offer an invitation.

I think that the anti-ID movement can do the same thing. This is why my first post refers to moments where science has become part of American culture. Using metaphors or analogies, or coming up with other strategies that don’t misrepresent the science but make it more approachable will act as that sort of invitation.

I don’t want to suggest that the scientific backbone of evolution should be jettisoned–it’s the foundation for the argument. But the WAY in which we talk about it has a lot to do with how it will be received.

An as a final point, I don’t like a world in which culture moots science, but I also don’t like a world in which science moots culture. The two are interlinked–let’s look for a middle path

Comment #77012

Posted by Keith Douglas on February 2, 2006 9:03 AM (e)

Cate’s debate, I have the impression (reading Latour, Fuller, and many other postmodernist critics of science) that they aren’t well-meaning, at least all the time. In many cases they have not done the most elementary of investigations into the content of the science they are writing or presenting on. For example (amd there are many more like this), I heard once a talk by H. Collins where he suggested that textbooks give a misleading picture about the history of relativity, and in particular the constant speed of light issue and hence give students a “whig” or “perfectionist” history of science, whereas “real science is messy”. He made it sound as if, “well, maybe this scientific change just happened because of persuasion by Einstein” or whatnot. (I am not clear on the positive thesis.) The thing is, Maxwell’s equations, verified by Hertz 20 odd years before predict electromagnetic waves with constant velocity of propagation, etc. (One would need to discuss this in more detail.) But the point is that this aspect of the problem was completely ignored by Collins.

Caledonian: While I agree scientists are not obligated to drag anyone anywhere, don’t you think that they have a responsibility to society (which, after all, should be funding them, since pure research is seldom profitable)? I agree that determining what form this should take is difficult, and each specific scientist need not spent her time writing popularizations. But doing other communty things (helping in science fairs, for example) do help with the public understanding and appreciation of science.

Comment #77016

Posted by Russell on February 2, 2006 9:30 AM (e)

Brian Spitzer wrote:

There were a couple of comments about religion in that chapter [in Dawkins’s “Selfish Gene”], just in passing. If you aren’t religious, you might not notice them.

I suspect you’re right. I’m always trying to figure out what it is that Dawkins says that people think is so reprehensible, but since I pretty much share his views, quite possibly I don’t even notice when he writes something provocative. Can you give quotes in this particular case?

Comment #77017

Posted by Caledonian on February 2, 2006 9:31 AM (e)

Cate's debate wrote:

I find Caledonian’s comments strange when taken I think about the forum in which I read them. If scientists don’t have an obligation to teach (and I’m okay with this notion), what are sites and forums such as PT for?

They’re put up by scientists who choose to teach.

You’re confusing “obligation to teach” and “right to teach”. Everyone who posts articles to The Panda’s Thumb chooses to do so in the hopes of enlightening others - they are not obligated to do so.

Comment #77022

Posted by JAllen on February 2, 2006 10:11 AM (e)

My thanks to Tice with a J for those links. Weird, wild stuff.

Comment #77037

Posted by Ed Darrell on February 2, 2006 11:05 AM (e)

In retrospect, the successful campaign to disseminate intelligent-design theory is all the more astonishing because it was achieved with remarkably modest resources and promoted by a tiny cadre. The American scientific establishment has billions of dollars annually to promote programs; the Discovery Institute’s overall budget has never much exceeded $4 million annually, and much of an increase in recent years is due to a near–$10 million grant to study local transportation issues, not biology or education.

“Modest resources?” If DI really spent $2 million a year in their PR campaign, they spent more than the tobacco industry spent annually trying to stop new cigarette warning labels – and I’ll bet it was more adjusted for inflation.

And on the other side, that $2 million is a multiple of the budget for NCSE, the only evolution-promoting organization even close.

See if you can get into the research projects at almost any major research university. Or check out PubMed for a year with one university. You’ll generally find dozens of evolution-based, evolution-related and evolution-supporting research projects, with real results. Then see if you can find a press release for any of them.

Nature and Science occasionally put out a release touting an article in their publications, but even in the high-visibility world they move in, most articles go into the library without any press release and with less press notice.

From my experience in government and political campaigns, I’d say the DI’s $2 million budget is about the same as the entire PR budget for the U.S. Department of Education. It was larger than the entire budget I had to promote the Center for Education Statistics, all the research done in the department, the ERIC library system, the Departmental Library (with more than 10,000 historical texts dating back to the 17th century), the technology demonstration center, and other various projects. At the time we spent $7 million annually for all the operations of the ERIC system, with 16 research centers. The P.R. budget was way, way under $100,000 for that work.

The sad part is this: There is much good research that could have been done with the $10 million or so they’ve spent over the past half-decade, even research that they would have liked to have done to evidence ID. They didn’t even take care of their own research needs.

Comment #77041

Posted by steve s on February 2, 2006 11:40 AM (e)

I just finished teaching a class on evolution and creationism to a group of students, mostly religious kids, but not die-hard creationists. I assigned them a chapter from The Selfish Gene, because Dawkins does an excellent job of explaining the gene’s-eye view of the world. There were a couple of comments about religion in that chapter, just in passing. If you aren’t religious, you might not notice them. But believe me, the religious students in my class sure did. And it didn’t help them learn the biology.

After a catholic guy I knew asked a few confused questions about evolution, I gave him a copy of The Selfish Gene. After reading a few pages he hit one of those comments and gave the book back.

Comment #77060

Posted by Tyrannosaurus on February 2, 2006 1:39 PM (e)

I find it interesting, enlightening even, that there even ARE “documents they don’t want us to know about,” like the Wedge. Seems to me, whenever a real scientist discovers anything of any note, the first thing they want to do is tell the whole world.

I’m not a scientist, philosopher, or historian, that’s just the view from a Carpenter’s son.

And that carpenter son famous in the religious circles demonstrated to have a stronger grasp on logic and reasoning that those “IDiots” followers of Dumpski pushing their false religion.

Comment #77062

Posted by blipey on February 2, 2006 1:40 PM (e)

Actually, Caledonian:

I wrote that I thought your statement was strange given the forum we are in, not Cates debate. Just in the interest of accuracy, but I am very sympathetic to her view.

I do not think I am confusing the “obligation to teach” with the “right to teach.” I’ll explain why. First of all, in the snippet you quoted, I said I was fine with the concept that scientists don’t have to teach–it certainly is not in their job description. However, (and please correct me if I am wrong–certainly happens more than I would like) it seems to be your disposition that scientists shouldn’t interact with the public.

It is in this vein that I find the comments in PT weird. If it is truly extra-career to inform the public, then why even try with PT? There must be some value in having the public know the science? If there is value in it, why is it not science’s responsibility to provide the public’s education? Where else are they going to get it?

Now, if there is no value in the public knowing science, PT should just be shut down and there will be harm done, and all of the brilliant people here can spend a little more time doing research. I am not being facetious, here; I have learned a lot on PT–things I might not have learned in other places just because I never asked those particular questions. This is a great place; it does good; why should it not be a part of the scientific community’s work? Notice, I am talking about the scientific community and not individual scientists.

Perhaps the difference between our stances–individual vs. community?

Comment #77085

Posted by AC on February 2, 2006 3:25 PM (e)

Regarding the anecdotes of B. Spitzer and Steve S, I will merely add the following:

Ken Miller’s recent presentation at Case Western began with a prayer. I found this mildly irritating, mostly since it was extraneous, but also because it is, in my opinion, silly. But I certainly didn’t stop the video in a snit and ignore what he had to say. In fact, I found his presentation to be excellent.

However, I was already familiar with the topics of his presentation. I really can’t say how I would have reacted if I were unfamiliar with them, or if I were also a Catholic. I certainly hope I would have done nothing different.

Comment #77091

Posted by Henry J on February 2, 2006 3:52 PM (e)

Re “This is a great place; it does good; why should it not be a part of the scientific community’s work? Notice, I am talking about the scientific community and not individual scientists.”

But, the “scientific community” is not an entity that can be given responsibilities.

Henry

Comment #77113

Posted by blipey on February 2, 2006 5:11 PM (e)

Henry:

But, the “scientific community” is not an entity that can be given responsibilities.

Hmmm. This is a very interesting statement. I would like to hear some argument on why or why not. I would think that in as far as the “scientific community” can be defined as an entity, it certainly could be given responsibilities–any body of people can be given responsibility for something.

Granted, as an actor and acting teacher, I may be biased in my stance that it is incumbent on those of us who know something to pass it on to those who don’t. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that society (read: those who do not know a thing) is off the hook; certainly the student has just as much obligation in a student / teacher relationship as the teacher.

My main contention is that I believe all disciplines (not just science) have an obligation to actively present truth. Yes, science does nothing but this…however, I think it is a valid point to ask who we are presenting this truth to. Without going back to school, I am easily lost in the nuts and bolts of biology. This is not because I am stupid, but because I pursued other disciplines in my life: aerospace engineering, then later acting and directing.

It is not my contention that scientists should all drop what they’re researching and try to educate everyone else to masters degree competency. This is obviously undoable. I see no reason, however, that basic scientific knowledge in all fields can’t be a societal norm. I think we would all agree that this would be a fine thing. If this basic acceptance of scientific knowledge is to come about, who is to provide it? There is ample evidence that School Boards, Governors, the PTA, etc will not necessarily provide this if left to there own devices.

If science would like to be a part of the world (as practical application) instead of just describing the world, would it not be better served by actively educating not only those who are curious, but demonstrating, at least to a lesser degree, its place in the average joe’s life?

Comment #77121

Posted by Henry J on February 2, 2006 5:42 PM (e)

Re “I would think that in as far as the “scientific community” can be defined as an entity, it certainly could be given responsibilities—any body of people can be given responsibility for something.”

But that’s the point - it’s not an entity. When one assigns responsibilities, they have to go to specific people or organizations, and “science” as such is neither.

Henry

Comment #77275

Posted by blipey on February 3, 2006 9:51 AM (e)

I don’t know the inner working of scientific societies such as those that publish journals (The Society of _______________, et al). I always assumed that these were communities of scientists who had come together for a purpose. Now, this purpose may not be to educate the layman, but is it not a purpose nonetheless?

If it is, why can they not also adopt the purpose of educating the public or better representing science to the public? Or, better, if this is a “scientific community”, why cannot science as a whole be seen in this same light?

There are probably perfectly valid reasons for science not taking this role upon itself, but I guess I find them short-sighted or selfish. I don’t know that this is necessarily wrong, but it rings false for me personally.

Comment #77329

Posted by GvlGeologist, FCD on February 3, 2006 3:08 PM (e)

With the possible exception of industrial research scientists who have to keep their knowledge hidden, I maintain that in fact it is a duty of scientists to teach, both in the societal sense and as part of our profession:

Almost all scientists who are faculty members are paid in part or (like me, at a community college) wholly, to teach, majors and non-majors, grad students and undergrads.

Virtually all scientists in an academic setting have to “publish or perish” - those papers are intended to teach the larger community of scientists about the most recent discoveries.

Anyone who is a member of a scientific society joins a like-minded group of people who are trying to advance their science, and that advocacy generally includes an educational component. Even a political component. Witness the statements by many, many scientific organizations supporting the pro-evolution side of this controversy. That is a form of teaching, as far as I’m concerned.

Caledonian believes that we shouldn’t be “obligated to drag people kicking and screaming into the light of sanity and reason”. Isn’t that what scientists DO? We lift the scales of ignorance by doing research, by learning about the world around us, and BY LETTING OTHERS KNOW ABOUT IT. Granted, it can be frustrating and difficult to teach those who come to our classes or our society with biases that disagree with what we have learned. And it is incredibly frustrating when our words are deliberately misinterpreted or ignored. But this is really the only way that we will help others dig out of the depths of their own ignorance.

Most scientists have what I honestly consider to be a great job - we do what we love. Few of us do it simply for a paycheck. If we want to maintain that, it behooves us to educate those who don’t understand - by teaching classes, writing research papers, writing letters to the editor, and countering any anti-science statements whenever we see them.

We may not be able to convince everyone… OK, we can’t convince those with extreme biases. But unless we want to slit our own financial throats, unless we want to give up our jobs, unless we want to give up on the role of science in our society, we had better do our damnedest to educate the public about what and what isn’t science. If we don’t, others will - and we might not like what they say.

Comment #77523

Posted by Tim Rhodes on February 4, 2006 8:09 PM (e)

Thanks for the kind words everyone!

We here at Rhodes Labs are more than happy to Stick It To The Man whenever possible. It’s just nice to see that now, seven years later, the press has found an interest as well.

Arden Chatfield wrote:

Splendid picture of Duss and Rhodes, BTW. I wonder if it was their own idea to make the fake devil horns? :-)

Duss’ idea – an allusion to a famous picture Charlie Chaplin posed for when vilified by Hitler.

Bayesian Bouffant wrote:

The Wedge leakers - whose copy did they leak?

Duss may know the answer to that one. (See his blog WhatIsTheWar.)

Did they technically break any laws?

None I’m aware of. (Questionable behavior, ethically, perhaps.) Even if we had I think the statute of limitations would have passed on it by now.

Did they suffer any repercussions?

None so far…
(Although I may never be able to run for office on the Republican ticket now! ;)

If I want to send them a check, where do I send it?

As much as I’d truly love any supplements to my meager income, I think a better idea would be to make a generous donation in our names to the ACLU, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, or other, similar non-profit.

Keep up the good fight! And remember, never accept “irreducible complexity” as an answer to ANY question – EVER!

-Tim Rhodes

Comment #77530

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on February 4, 2006 9:53 PM (e)

Keep up the good fight! And remember, never accept “irreducible complexity” as an answer to ANY question — EVER!

Dude, any time you are in the Tampa Bay area, the beer is on me.

:)

Comment #77540

Posted by XOVER on February 5, 2006 1:16 AM (e)

I actually read all 4 of the “2025” articles.

I don’t know whether to thank Tice for putting up the link as I had not read such hubris in my life, or upbraid Tice for putting up an “utter vacuousness” warning because I wound up wasting 30 minutes of my life reading that inanity.

ID is downright dangerous, and must be attacked vigorously everywhere it espouses its destructive memes.

Comment #77885

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on February 6, 2006 2:09 PM (e)

Keep up the good fight! And remember, never accept “irreducible complexity” as an answer to ANY question — EVER!

Which Michael Behe concept and phrase did the prosecution make mincemeat out of during the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial?

Comment #77946

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on February 6, 2006 7:10 PM (e)

Which Michael Behe concept and phrase did the prosecution make mincemeat out of during the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial?

ALL of them. (grin)