DI Gets It Wrong Yet Again: Definitions v. Behavior, Hallucinating Text, and Impersonating an ESL Student

[Sometimes life slides by for a while. The following text has been languishing in ‘drafts’. I apparently wrote a good chunk of it promptly, like within a day of the article I was responding to, but there were some touch-ups to be done and other things that needed to be accomplished. It’s a weekend now, and with a bit of breathing space, I finished this up and am hitting the ‘Publish’ button. I’m leaving the references to time, erroneous as they now are, because I’m choosing to find them cute.]

I get email alerts on new Discovery Institute C[R]SC propaganda. Usually I look and see the usual carelessness with the truth and denial of reality that has been served up so many times. But this evening there was a more than usually inept swing-and-miss presented in the linked screed, and I thought I’d just point that out to everyone liable to have their eyes glaze over before getting that far.

This instance is due to Sarah Chaffee, who seems to be following in Casey Luskin’s footsteps at the DI C[R]SC. That is, she is serving as a tireless minion churning out content that amounts to an aggrieved, “Is not!”, but delivered in kilowords.

Let’s see what Sarah says about her object of sneeritude for tonight, shall we?

Now as then, Hafer advocates vehemently for dogmatic teaching of evolution. Let’s look at that 2015 article abstract:

Intelligent Design (ID) proposes that biological species were created by an intelligent Designer, and not by evolution. ID’s proponents insist that it is as valid a theory of how biological organisms and species came into existence as evolution by natural selection. They insist, therefore, that ID be taught as science in public schools. These claims were defeated in the Kitzmiller case. However, ID’s proponents are still influential and cannot be considered a spent force. The question addressed here is whether ID’s claim of scientific legitimacy is reinforced by quantified results. That is, do they have any data, or do they just argue? The ID articles that I analyzed claimed to present real science, but they rarely referred to data and never tested a hypothesis. Argumentation, however, was frequent. By contrast, peer-reviewed articles by evolutionary biologists rarely argued but referred frequently to data. The results were statistically significant. These findings negate claims by ID proponents that their articles report rigorous scientific research. Teachers will find this article helpful in defending evolution, distinguishing science from non-science, and discussing the weaknesses of ID.

This statement contains many, many inaccuracies: from the definition of intelligent design, to what major proponents believe should be taught in public schools, to the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, its reasoning and decision, to her method of determining whether ID has data to back it up. […]

Highlighting added.

Uh, Sarah, you do not seem to understand what a definition is, which is odd for a magna cum laude graduate of any college program. The quoted statement does not even attempt to define IDC. It does, however, describe various claims that are a staple of IDC advocates with good accuracy for a synopsis. It’s the difference between trying to say what a concept *is*, and what that concept’s advocates *do*. Hafer sticks to actions that are clearly documented. IDC proponents have claimed that evolutionary processes cannot account for speciation. IDC proponents have insisted that IDC concepts should be taught as if science in science classrooms. Yes, there is a lot of squink generated around acting as if IDC advocates are diffident on that score, but where the rubber has met the road in various places, there have been DI Fellows turning up to urge IDC argumentation be injected into the science curriculum. They might squink that, hey, this is simply arguing against evolutionary science and not making a case for IDC itself, therefore it should go into the science curriculum. But in case after case, including the Kitzmiller v. DASD case, IDC advocates have amply confirmed that they adhere to the “scientific creationist” (SciCre) doctrine of a two-model system, and that evidence *against* evolutionary biology counts as evidence *for* IDC. So even the sort of intrusion that the DI Fellows will swear up and down has nothing to do with IDC is actually the same collection of stale, debunked arguments against evolution that they will privately be happy to claim count as evidence for IDC.

The only thing Hafer claims about the Kitzmiller v. DASD case is that IDC’s claims suffered a defeat there. I’d get out the popcorn in preparation for Sarah’s totally compelling rebuttal of IDC having suffered a defeat there, but my surgeon says I can’t have popcorn. That’s OK, Sarah is probably going to give that a pass anyway, or simply repeat Casey’s amazingly Byzantine methods of straining at gnats and swallowing camels that seemed to be de rigeur for denying that IDC had even a minor setback there, you know, really, actually, when you think about it. I mean, just look at your hands…….

Anyway, that’s my bit for calling out novel risible ineptitude for the day.

Well, I thought I was done, but looking back at Sarah’s article a second time led me to discover yet another “how could she so badly mess that up?” moment.

Sarah said,

Back in August, I reported here on a Massachusetts bill, the state’s House Bill 471. The authors of the legislation explicitly wanted to discourage teaching the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolution.

Hmmm. Makes me wonder just how horrible that bill must be, saying “No teaching of scientific strengths and weaknesses!”

So I looked it up.

Here is the complete, unexpurgated text of Bill 471.

Section 1D of Chapter 69 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting in line 31 after the word “States” the following:-

The standards for the subject of science shall include only peer-reviewed and age-appropriate subject matter; provided, (1) peer-reviewed subject matter shall be defined as conducted in compliance with accepted scientific methods; and (2) age-appropriate shall be defined as topics, messages, and teaching methods suitable to particular ages or age groups of children and adolescents, based on developing cognitive, emotional, and behavioral capacity typical for the age or age group.

Huh. There doesn’t appear to be a thing about “scientific strengths and weaknesses” mentioned in the bill. And even Sarah’s linked text fails to provide any “explicit” quote from the sneer-ees that mentions “strengths” or “weaknesses”.

All the bill says is that if you are going to stick something in the science curriculum, it needs to be *accountable* science. It needs to have passed at least the first hurdle, that of being presented in a peer-reviewed publication. Oh, and that it be “age-appropriate”, which I think may have its own issues, and would be the thing I’d be argumentative about if anything in the text.

How is that objectionable?

If you are going to claim a “scientific weakness”, shouldn’t that be, ahem, documented in the process science has for making intersubjective criticism work?

Ok, one more thing: Sarah could use an editor.

Sarah says,

close-minded thinking

Say what?

The idiom is “closed-minded thinking”, as in someone whose mind is “closed” to consideration of something. It’s the sort of thing an English as a Second Language (ESL) student would mess up, and something you would hope an ESL instructor would not mess up.

Speaking of being closed to possibilities, there is the irony of Sarah baselessly objecting to people correctly trying to make education better. Back at NCSE, our legal advisers were always telling us that *good* science education has no protection in law. It’s about time that changed. It is nowhere near being “closed-minded” to evaluate IDC apologetics and determine it is the most wretched hive of scum and villainy*… hmm, no, let’s just go with it being awash with falsehood and easily detected error, not suitable for the instruction of anyone, much less children with some prospect of not repeating the same old errors stretching back at least to Paley. There is no valid educational purpose for teaching falsehoods as if they were true.

As a best practice when playing “pin the tail on the weasel”, I’ve saved off a PDF of the page as it stands on the DI site now. I guess I’ll see whether they go for the “hey, it is edited now, and you can’t prove that it was ever different” ploy.

*Hey, Casey, remember “Genie Scott is like Darth Vader”? Yeah, so do I.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Data scientist in real estate and econometrics. Blogger. Speaker. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

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