Posted by: Dan | July 27, 2006

Luskin just doesn’t get it

For those who missed it, Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute (who aren’t actually discovering anything), is having a “no-we’re-not” moment over being accused of misrepresenting science over at the Scientific American blog, where John Rennie says “Kansas, Undo the Damage.” Rennie calls on Kansas citizens to:

… vote in the primary election and help to defeat the members of the State Board of Education who have inflicted embarrassing creationist nonsense on your home’s science curriculum standards.

Luskin is laughable in his response. To Rennie’s central point on creationist nonsense, Luskin responds that “the material in the KSS are not simply from ‘creationist’ literature.” Well, what is it then? Irreducible complexity is simply Paley-esque, “I-know-it-when-I-see-it” creationism.

He also notes that much of the claims find support in the scientific literature, but leaves out the sly misuses and distortions of said literature.

Rennie goes into much greater depth with his response to the response, of course, and concludes:

Yes, but as I noted above, this doesn’t prove much because the I.D. movement doesn’t have the intellectual honesty or sincerity to posit an actual theory of intelligent design. The I.D. movement counts itself as winning any time it can simply cast doubt on evolutionary arguments, because as I.D. writers have often suggested, the only alternative to evolution must be some kind of design.

I was content simply to ask Kansas voters to turn out for the primaries before. Still, thank you, Casey, for giving me the opportunity to go into more depth about what is wrong with the standards, why they have been denounced by so many scientific authorities, and how devious the I.D. crowd can be in their ongoing retreat from the truth.

But we’re not done yet – Luskin has another response, going way off the deep end with a whole barrel-full of either dishonesty or ignorance:

Mr. Rennie’s response to my question involved multiple conspiracy theories, but the correct answer to my question is that the Kansas Science Standards state that science must include “testable hypotheses” because they do not try to sanction bringing the supernatural into science because claims about the supernatural are not testable. Mr. Rennie’s conspiracy-theory answer is simply not credible.

Conspiracy theory??? No, Casey, it’s plainly obvious to anyone who understands biology and the philosophy of science that Intelligent Design is absolutely vacuous – no testable hypotheses, no mechanistic explanations, no capacity for progress, no peer-reviewed evidence, … oh, you get the point.

And then he has the audacity to go and misrepresent a broad swath of biology (sadly, a common tactic).

Why do people listen to creationist hacks like Luskin anyway?


  1. Luskin’s numerous scientific and factual blunders reveal a great deal about an organization that would still employ him as a spokesperson. The Discovery Institute is about nothing but propoganda.

    On the latest entry at the Evolution and Design blog, Allen MacNeill says, about Phillip Johnson’s The Wedge of Truth:

    Indeed, one ID supporter stated quite clearly that “this book isn’t ID”, and that the kinds of assertions and polemics that Johnson makes could damage the credibility of ID as a scientific enterprise in the long run.

    *guffaw*. Where is the “real ID” that is being damaged by it? What credibility? That’s all there is, kiddies.

  2. Indeed – the Wedge Document is about as honest as you will find anything within the Intelligent Design Movement.

  3. This PT post is hilarious: DARWINIST GOALPOST-MOVING!!!

  4. I’ve been gone for a couple days, but some interesting ID tidbits:

    John Rennie continues the ID discussion on the SciAm blog with I.D. is Bad Science on Its Own Terms. It’s a good post, and I have to applaud John’s patience in dealing with ID claims. Ignoring the dead-set creationist-types, he’s focusing on explaining the situation to moderate ID apologetics who are simply ignorant about biology.

    On Specified Complexity, Hannah is engaging in an act of pointlessness – she stopped addressing my points on the lack of epistemic weight for Specified Complexity early on in the comment thread (I assume she’s ignoring the obvious, that SC cannot be demonstrated for anything in biology, and is an empty theorem), but continues to discuss the mathematical minutae of Dembski’s arguments.

    And commenter Roger Rabbit keeps coming back on The Design Analogy post now, whining that the creationist perspective deserves consideration in biology. Sorry Roger, but I’m not going to acknowledge Creationists any more than Flat-Earthers.

  5. Jonathan Bartlett makes the argument from good design. Idiot.

    There is a difficulty in challenging him, in that he doesn’t seem to think clearly. A confused claim makes it more difficult to have a focused response.

  6. Ignoring the dead-set creationist-types, he’s focusing on explaining the situation to moderate ID apologetics who are simply ignorant about biology

    I wonder how many of those there are, as compared with bad old-fashioned Creationists who assume the ID robes for political purposes.

  7. I don’t know exactly how prevalent the “apologetics” are, but I’ve met enough of them – even undergrad bio majors – who have told me they found IDer descriptions of biocomplexity persuasive. And it’s quite true – explaining how the signal transduction networks of the eukaryotic cell evolved naturally is a daunting task, much akin to visualizing the wiring of the brain or the size of the Universe…

    And I think this is backed up by the study a while back on the Paltry State of Science Education in America, which found that:

    To measure public acceptance of the concept of evolution, Miller has been asking adults if “human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals” since 1985. He and his colleagues purposefully avoid using the now politically charged word “evolution” in order to determine whether people accept the basics of evolutionary theory. Over the past 20 years, the proportion of Americans who reject this concept has declined (from 48% to 39%), as has the proportion who accept it (45% to 40%). Confusion, on the other hand, has increased considerably, with those expressing uncertainty increasing from 7% in 1985 to 21% in 2005.

    This is the real problem, because as the statistics reveal, the real wackos aren’t gaining in number, they’re just fooling more of the gullible. The wackos themselves will never change – no amount of reason will get through to ~1/4 of Americans who are authoritarian followers (check out John Dean’s new book Conservative’s Without Conscience) – but maybe we can get through to more open-minded folks, through education and advocacy, the media (e.g. Flock of Dodos), and diligence.

    So I think that a fair portion of IDers are just (1) overwhelmed by the complexity of the cell, the brain, etc., and can’t think of evolutionary timescales; and/or (2) soaked in a culture of religious renewal, which reaches deeper than the intellect, to their emotional cores; but not necessarily bible-thumping evangelicals that want to undo the Enlightenment and turn back the clocks some 200 years on the “satanic” progress of science.

  8. Annoyingly, Luskin is still at it with the usual creationist schtick: Darwinists Say: Don’t Ask Tough Questions Because that Will “Disrupt” Evolution Education.

    If Luskin were truly serious about such extreme critical thinking, he’d also be calling for alternative theories to be taught against gravity, continental drift, modern geology (with the Earth being a whopping 4.5 billion years old! – such outrage!), and numerous other pre-eminent theories of science.

    What an idiot.

  9. Luskin’s latest stupidity, whining about letter to Science that wasn’t published. The letter, by David Berlinski and concerning the paper by Miller et al on the public acceptance of evolution by 34 countries, where the US finished a dismal 33rd, goes like this:

    Alarmed by the fact that “one in three American adults firmly rejects the concept of evolution,” Jon D. Miller, Eugenie C. Scott and Shinji Okamoto have suggested that the source of their disbelief may be found in their religious convictions.

    But when the authors pass from the concept of evolution to a specific evolutionary claim, those religiously-based objections seem to reflect nothing more than skeptical good sense.

    This specific evolutionary claim, which “skeptical good sense” should lead us to question, is “Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals.” Berlinski asks “how could anyone regard this claim without the most serious reservations?”

    Clearly, both Luskin and Berlinski are duplicitous morons.

  10. […] Normally I don’t like to follow along with the crowd, but this time it’s well-deserved… Casey Luskin just doesn’t get it, and just loves to add to the standard lies and propoganda coming from the Discovery Institute. Go check out the latest dismissal of his breathless inanity and willful distortions, this time by Carl Zimmer. […]


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