Discovery Institute Face-Plants at FaceBook

For the last week or two, a huge knock-down drag-out Internet free-for-all has erupted between scientists, science writers and Intelligent Design creationists that has spread across several blogs, ID creationist websites, and FaceBook, where the IDologues banned several critics (including myself) from commenting on their page. Commenters at Facebook effectively exposed the dishonesty of the scientific “facts” made up and published by the creationists, so they got banned. Since the purges at FB, the ID creationists have retreated behind the wall of their totalitarian blog-state “Evolution News & Views” where comments are verboten, whence they continue to hurl an endless series of ad hominem attacks, safe from fear of exposure by the sort of pesky scientific facts that would certainly appear in a free comment zone, if creationists ever again permitted free comments.

The initial topic this free-for-all were the claims made in a recently published ID creationist booklet called “Science and Human Origins” which claims to be able to prove that all human beings could have descended from just Adam and Eve, who were not descended from any simpler creatures but “designed separately”– a euphemism meaning “created supernaturally.” Thus, ID has taken an explicitly creationist position. Previously, ID proponents had often pretended that ID was not creationism because, supposedly, in their definition of ID, they asserted “Creationism typically starts with a religious text”. But the new ID book drops the facade and promotes Adam and Eve directly, with chapter titles like “The Science of Adam and Eve.” What’s next– the Geology of Noahs’ Flood, or the Neurology of Balaam’s Talking Donkey?

The book was written by Casey Luskin, a creationist lawyer, and Douglas Axe and Ann Gauger. Axe and Gauger work for the Biologic Institute, the allegedly “experimental” arm of the pro-ID Discovery Institute, though its published experimental output has been modest by the standards of molecular biology labs. Axe and Gauger have modest publishing records, but can actually do simple molecular biology experiments, comparable to what would have been adequate in the 1980’s, although to their target audience it looks like gee-whiz cuttin’ edge science. (The creationist audience, frankly, is impressed by making hydrogen burn, if a fellow creationist lights the match.)

At first the creationists of the DI were furious that no evolutionist paid attention to their new book. Waah! Then they were furious because they got what they asked for: an evolutionist reviewed their book. Waah! Paul McBride, a blogger and grad. student in genetics in New Zealand, published a detailed five-part review of the new book, effectively trashing it by comparing it to scientific facts.

The creationists went ape-shit when they got what they asked for– attention. Denyse O’Leary, the “journalist” who blogs as “News” at Uncommon Descent, implied that McBride was lying about Gauger’s genetical arguments:

If the girl [Ann Gauger] is making some sense, they [McBride] have to make up something she didn’t say, so they don’t have to address what she did say. [O’Leary at UD]

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe “the girl” is pushing 60. Of course, O’Leary did not bother to read McBride’s review before criticizing it.

At “Evolution News and Views”, they unleased the Klinghoffer. David Klinghoffer is a mad non-scientist whose modus operandi is all ad hominems, all the time, and who (like most posters at ENV) never permits free comments that might cause him to be confronted with pesky facts.

Case in point here: Klinghoffer sneeringly calls McBride “Darwinist Hero of the Hour” without fear of contradiction. Then he insinuates the young reviewer never read the book:

“…scientists at reputable universities, shy from actually reading [ID] material… At best, they’ll find someone else who claims to have read it and rely on his say-so…” [Klinghoffer, emphasis added]

Riight. Klinghoffer uses innuendo to suggest McBride only claimed to have read the book that McBride dissected in a five-part review that is 1/3 as long as the book itself. But the real Klinghoffer art, the genius, comes out here:

The reviewer, Paul McBride, writes about the book at his blog that no one before ever heard of…Together they [scientists] lift up the hitherto obscure McBride on their shoulders… [Klinghoffer, links in original]

I see what you did there! To get to McBride’s blog, you have to click on the hyperlinked phrase “no one before ever heard of”. Now that’s classy– that’s the real Klinghoffer art.

Who needs a science degree when you have a doctorate in asshole?

Next he unleashes his inner Hans Landa:

“I find this suspicious.”

I find zees zuspishus! Achtung! Stormtroopers, fire ze machine guns into ze floorboardz!

“They seem to be afraid of directly confronting ID arguments. Why would that be?”

Hm. Creationists like the DK seem to be afraid of confronting McBride’s review. Why would that be?

Again: all of that DK’s posts and most posts at ENV forbid comments. Consequently, Klinghoffer can, and does, write post after post that consist of nothing but infantile ad hominems, science-free, and need never be confronted with pesky contradicting facts.

(So what does McBride say that scares them so much? McBride highlighted critical scientific problems with every major claim made in the book, all of which were invalid. Briefly: there are huge numbers of studies of human genetic diversity that refute
the creationist claims; there is just far too much genetic diversity among humans to permit us all to be descended from only Adam and Eve, even in the last 4 million years; and, as for the fossil record, creationist Luskin labored mightily to re-bury some transitional fossils, at least– yet they keep poking annoyingly out of the ground. Some of the flaws McBride found in their work were disputed by Ann Gauger here and by Doug Axe here. McBride’s response was that their responses do not address the facts that nullify their assertions.)

What Would Happen If Creationists Permitted Comments?

When the FaceBook page for the Biologic Institute made the mistake of opening comments, chaos broke loose. It is rare for any evolutionists to get a chance to directly confront creationists or IDologues anywhere on the Internet– almost all creationist and ID websites have essentially closed comment policies. So many evolutionists are just itching to take a whack at them.

Thus at the BI’s Facebook post, which pointed to Klinghoffer’s promotion of Luskin et al.’s book, evolutionists began posting right in their faces comments full of pesky scientific facts that challenged Luskin’s quote mining and fact-inventing.

Beware actually reading this Facebook thread now– many commenters (including myself) were banned and all their comments deleted, so some of the back-and-forth now appears incoherent.

The remnants still there begin with a back-and-forth in which an anonymous moderator identified only as “Biologic Institute” loses very badly in an argument over the fossil record against evolutionist Nick Matzke. The creationist “Biologic Institute” tries to argue that there are gaps in the hominid fossil record, by quote-mining paleoanthropologist John Hawks from 2000.

Matzke smacks him down by citing the very scientist that “BI” himself cited as an authority– John Hawks– who says that genus Homo could be a direct descendent of Australopithecus, and Matzke conveniently gives us a link to Hawks’ webpage on Homo habilis.

Losing badly infuriates the creationist “Biologic Institute”, so he or she threatens to squash all discussion and run away.

BI: And you [Matzke] haven’t given any evidence for your story either. “could well be due to” is not evidence. I am closing this discussion because we are talking past each other. Our responses will be posted separately at http://www.biologicinstitute.org.

Mathematician Jeff Shallit shows up to kvetch.

Shallit: You’re closing the discussion because you’re losing the argument badly, it seems to me.

BI: No, it’s because I have other work to do, and these comments will be addressed in the other forum.

Shallit: …where comments are not allowed.

[BI Facebook page]

Ooh snap!

It was at about this moment above– when “Biologic Institute” was threatening to silence all discussion– that Carl Zimmer, a science writer and author of Parasite Rex, wandered onto the BI’s facebook page to ask this very easy, very simple question, in a seemingly harmless comment, that would send the ID train completely off the rails.

Biologic Institute vs. Zimmer: Can A Brother Get A Reference?

It was a very simple, very simple, easy, small, seemingly harmless, non-technical question that finally made all ID creationists everywhere go berserk.

Backstory: Carl Zimmer had been puzzled by a post at ENV by Klinghoffer, with the spooky, ooga booga title “A Veil is Drawn Over Our Origin as Human Beings.” Wooooo! That’s the kind of great old pseudo-science ooga booga, like “Ancient Aliens” or “In Search Of”, real “Bermuda Triangle”, old school 1970’s ooga booga.

(Of course, scientifically, saying “A Veil is Drawn Over Our Origin as Human Beings” is like looking at a tree lying on its side in the forest and saying “A Veil is Drawn Over The Cause of the Tree’s Horizontal Posture.”)

Here DK is flogging Luskin et al.’s book, and he presents as a key argument of the book, their claims about human chromosome 2. Fact: humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, several ape species have 24 pairs. Why? If humans evolved from apes, the simplest scenario is that two ape chromosomes got fused end to end.

Fact: human chromosome 2 looks coarsely like two ape chromosomes, fused end to end. Human chromosome 2 has two parts: one part has genes that are homologous with
those on ape chromosomes 2a, arranged in the same order [synteny]
as the ape chromosome 2a; and its second part has genes that are homologous with
those on ape chromosomes 2b, syntenic [in the same order] with 2b. Normal chromosomes are capped with repeating DNA elements called telomeres, and human chromosome 2 has extra telomeric repeats in the middle, between the 2a-like-part and the 2b-like-part, where a fusion would have occurred if they were fused.

Evolutionists point to that as a testable prediction for evolutionary theory: if humans and apes are descended from common ancestors, and if the number of chromosome pairs differs by 1, there should be one human chromosome looking like a fusion of 2 ape chromosomes.

But Klinghoffer disputes this: instead of acknowledging that chromosomal structure supports the evolutionary interpretation, he instead insists the evidence contradicts it. We must be clear on what that DK wrote because the creationists try to take it back later, when it got challenged. DK wrote:

“But the idea of such an event [chromosome 2 fusion] having occurred at all is itself far from sure. The telomeric DNA parked in the middle of chromosome 2 is not a unique phenomenon… there’s much less of it than you would expect from the amalgamation of two telomeres. Finally, it appears in a “degenerate,” “highly diverged” form that should not be the case if the joining happened in the recent past, circa 6 million years ago, as the Darwinian interpretation holds.[Klinghoffer at ENV]

Let us be clear that DK’s two points are:

1. The evidence is against the “Darwinian interpretation” that chromosome fusion happened, and
2. Thus it is “far from sure” that chromosome 2 fusion ever happened.

Both points would be silently revised later when the creationists were challenged.

Seeing that crap, Carl Zimmer wants to know where the words that DK put in quotes, “degenerate,” “highly diverged”, came from. But Klinghoffer’s posts, like most at ENV, forbid comments.

So Zimmer posts his question at the BI’s Facebook page, right at the moment when the moderator “BI” was threatening to ban all further comments.

Zimmer asked where the words “degenerate” and “highly diverged” came from. Who wrote them? Simple question, right? Who wrote those words. It’s not something hard, like explain who created the Intelligent Designer. It’s easy. Where did you get those words from?

Ironically, Zimmer’s original comment asking this question, like many others, was deleted by the Biologic Institute, so you can’t see it at their FB page now. Continuing with that thread:

Bob Bennett: “they plan to shut down the thread” is pretty much the main rhetorical strategy of ID I’ve noticed

BI: Nick, this is not the place for a substantive discussion. But we are open to have the discussion in another arena… many of your criticisms will be addressed in up-coming posts at Biologic’s website and Evolution News and Views…

Zimmer: Where is a place for substantive discussion? You presented a link above to a site [Biologic Institute] that has no comment thread. The writer there [Klinghoffer] makes all sorts of puzzling claims with no evidence. For example, he claims that DNA that is evidence for chromosome fusion “appears in a ‘degenerate,’ ‘highly diverged’ form that should not be the case if the joining happened in the recent past, circa 6 million years ago, as the Darwinian interpretation holds.” Where is the scientific evidence for this? Or is this merely the opinion of the author? If we can’t ask these questions at the site you linked to, then why can’t we find out here?
[BI Facebook page]

The “Biologic Institute” responds by saying the evidence is in the book, and that CZ should buy the book. This exasperates CZ, who points out that such an easy question, regarding references, can be easily and quickly answered, without the need to buy a whole book.

(The book was published by Biologic Institute Press, apparently their in-house publisher, so they’re getting the profits from the sales.)

Zimmer also points out that when people ask him simple, easy questions about the many books he wrote, he just answers the question, without demanding people buy the book. So CZ pleads and begs, but no one at the Discovery Institute will describe the origin of the words they quoted about chromosome 2. CZ tries to shame them into telling him their source: he gets evasion and changing the subject.

Thus the evolutionist Paul McBride, who wrote the 5-part review of the book, looks up the citation and posts a comment with the citation in it, thus finally answering Zimmer’s question.

Can you guess what happens next? “Biologic Institute” deleted McBride’s comment that had the answer to the question in it. The presumed reason is that they set a 100-word limit on comments– just short enough to prevent substantive science from getting in the way.

Our story so far: the Discovery Institute refuses to answer simple, easy questions about the origin of the “facts” claimed in their books. If  an evolutionist answers the question, creationists delete that answer.

The creationist response grew increasingly surreal. Klinghoffer showed up, challenging Zimmer to debate the authors about the “facts” in the book whose origin or source no one at the DI could specify. Zimmer declined to debate about their “facts” of unspecified origin; CZ just wanted to know where the “facts” came from.

So I posted a comment at their Facebook page saying that I would debate them in Zimmer’s stead, on two conditions:

1. All posts at “Evolution News & Views” will be open to comments forevermore. Freedom!

2. No word length limit.

I got this response: <crickets>

(The comment in which I offered to debate the creationists would later be deleted when they banned me.)

Predictably, that DK went off to the ENV website to crow victory: creationists had defeated evolutionists, because they challenged Zimmer to a debate and he turned them down. That proves evolutionists are cowards who run away from debates. Klinghoffer never mentioned me, and still didn’t post the citation Zimmer originally asked for.

Of course, brave DK wrote this courageously at the ENV website which bravely forbids all comments, due to their sheer terror of scientific facts. So the Discovery Institute is metaphorically hurling random shit-balls over the top of a wall.

The creationists at “Biologic Institute” made several accusations that none of the critics had read the book. So I read the book– right there on Facebook– and right on their own Facebook page, I wrote a detailed review of Chapter 4 (the chapter about chromosomal fusion and genetics) complete with scientific references and citations– all that in perhaps ~100 comments, each less than 100 words (because the DI enforced a 100-word limit on evolutionist comments.)

Klinghoffer then posted at ENV announcing that still no “Darwinists” had read Luskin’s book, except McBride, so all “Darwinists” were criticizing that which they had not read. He wrote that after I had demolished every page in chapter 4, dissecting Luskin’s “figures” and citations, logic, etc. That DK implicitly accused me of having not read the book, from which I had provided page numbers, Luskin quotes, etc. and posted them on their own FB page.

Instead the Biologic Institute banned me from their Facebook, and deleted all my comments with scientific references and citations. (I saved them to my own files.) They banned several other people, including Doc Bill and Rando.

When I first got banned, no reason was given. When other commenters complained, they gave the reason that I was “uncivil.”

Biologic Institue: “Insults are removed. Not genuine, civil discussion on the scientific argument. BTW, all posts over 100 words are deleted, friendly or unfriendly.”

Really? Let’s take a look at my last comment before they banned me, and you be the judge whether I was “uncivil.” I was satirizing Klinghoffer’s “A Veil Is Drawn” ooga booga post at ENV.

“A veil is drawn across the origin of the “facts” claimed by Luskin, Axe & Gauger in their book. From what source did the “facts” claimed by Intelligent Design proponents originate? Mankind may never know.”

Guess they can’t handle satire, so they banned me, and deleted all my comments. The trouble here is that for creationists, facts are “uncivil.”

At this point I began to suspect that “Biologic Institute” was in fact David Klinghoffer.

ID proponents consider facts to be insults (which I guess they are in a way, because actual facts reveal how mendacious they are with the quote mines and dishonest paraphrases of sources), and they consider insults to be facts, which is why so many of their posts consist of nothing but ad hominems: as we see in the many posts of Klinghoffer, Denyse O’Leary and Cornelius Hunter.

And now, Cornelius Hunter. Creationist Dr. Cornelius got into the “Zimmer asked a question– attack him!” bandwagon, accusing Zimmer of being a liar and criminal, in a blog post called “Carl Zimmer Doubles Down on Chromosome Two Lies and Misdemeanors.” It is an execrable piece of writing, devoid of science, like much from Dr. Cornelius.

Zimmer asked a simple question which no creationist dared answer. Dr. Cornelius dared not answer Zimmer’s simple, simple question. Klinghoffer’s and Luskin’s sources must be concealed, no matter what. Dr. Cornelius durst not reveal their sources. They’re like King Solomon’s diamond mines.

Instead, Dr. Cornlius accuses Zimmer of lying because

“…he [Zimmer] demanded that skeptics of the chromosome two argument show why the evolutionary fusion hypothesis is not possible…Of course no such claim was made.” [Cornelius Hunter]

Bullshit, Dr. Cornelius. Here’s what Klinghoffer wrote:

“…there’s much less of [telomeric DNA in the middle of chromosome 2] than you would expect from the amalgamation of two telomeres. Finally, it appears in a “degenerate,” “highly diverged” form that should not be the case if the joining happened in the recent past, circa 6 million years ago, as the Darwinian interpretation holds.[Klinghoffer at ENV]

Klinghoffer clearly states that the evidence means chromosomal fusion could not have happened –not that chromosomal fusions never happen, but that it could not have happened in chromosome 2 in the last 6 million years– because 1. there is not enough telomeric DNA, and 2. because it is supposedly “degenerate” and “highly diverged.” Klinghoffer says the evidence precludes chromosomal fusion.

Such a claim was made, and Dr. Cornelius is bullshitting his audience again. (To give Dr. Cornelius credit, he’s the only ID proponent with an open commenting policy, unlike all the other Stalinists.) The rest of Dr. Cornelius’ long, dreary post had no science in it– just the usual psychoanalysis, where Dr. Cornelius changes the subject from genetics (inconvenient for them!) to armchair psychoanalysis of the motivations of those darn atheist Darwinists. Intelligent Design is not a competitor of Darwinism, it’s a competitor of Freudianism– call it Fraudian psychoanalysis. Impugning people’s motives they can do. Copy a citation? Nah.

Five days of insults, accusations and personal attacks were directed at Zimmer, and people were banned and comments were deleted left and right, but no creationist would reveal Luskin’s sources!

Finally Klinghoffer (indirectly) revealed Luskin’s sources. He copied into a post at ENV about one page from Luskin et al.’s book, which indirectly referenced Luskin’s sources (no bibiliography page, alas).This was enough for Zimmer to deduce them.

Thus Zimmer was finally able to compare what the sources said to what Luskin and Klinghoffer said they said. And now we see why their sources had to be concealed like King Solomon’s diamond mines.

In a long and marvelous blog post, Zimmer showed Luskin’s sources on the chromosome 2 telomeric repeats do not say what Luskin said they say. Luskin’s dishonesty was frankly exposed… certainly not the first time.

Luskin’s worst tricks involve his misrepresentation of this 2002 paper by Yuxin Fan et al. Luskin presents the paper as having evidence against the fusion of human chromosome 2 in the eyes of its authors, when the authors in fact present evidence pointing to the opposite conclusion. Luskin employs several tricks to misrepresent Yuxin Fan et al., but I will direct you to Carl Zimmer’s blog post which exposes Luskin’s dishonesty quite neatly.

I will add this to Zimmer’s points: Luskin cites Fairbanks’ book Relics of Eden, which in fact says

“Of the 158 [telomeric] repeats, 44 are perfect copies of TTAGG or CCTAA. In most cases, the remaining repeats differ from the standard sequence by no more than one or two base pairs.”

But Luskin in his book writes this as:

As evolutionary biologist Daniel Fairbanks admits, the location only has 158 repeats, and only “44 are perfect copies” of the sequence. [Luskin et al., Science and Human Origins, pp. 95-96, emphasis added]

Note how cunningly Luskin inserts his word “only”, not in the original, to imply that this number is too low, thus challenging evolution. His source did not say 44 is too low– this is Luskin’s invention.

There are many other tricks employed by the quote miner, neatly dispatched by Zimmer above.

Of course the creationists did not admit defeat. Au contraire, Luskin doubled down. He attempted to defend his quote-mining in this response to Zimmer, where he digs himself in a deeper hole– adding more examples to the list of his dishonest paraphrases of sources, again claiming they said things they did not say.

At Carl Zimmer’s blog I wrote a long comment dissecting Luskin’s doubling down on dishonest quote mines in Luskin’s latest response.

Conclusion

Complete victory for science and reason. Defeat, humiliation and ingnominy for the forces of superstition and endarkelment. Shame on you– shame. Let us now assign credit to the heroes.

First, Paul McBride for writing a detailed review of Luskin’s book.

Second, Carl Zimmer for looking up Luskin’s and Klinghoffer’s sources and comparing the sources to their words thus exposing their dishonesty.

Third, Nick Matzke for kicking the tail of “Biologic Institute” so badly that they threatened to silence all discussion.

Let us assign ignominy to the hissable villains.

First, Casey Luskin. It is exhausting to battle his life-long addiction to quote mines. It is time for his family to arrange an intervention, to sit him down and say, “Casey, this has gone on for years. You must stop quote mining. You must go cold turkey. Just stop.

Casey, do you think dishonest quote mining leads to new scientific discoveries? Can you cure diseases with your quote mines?

Second, David Klinghoffer, who defends quote mining, blames Darwin for Christian evils like Nazism and slavery, and has nothing to offer but ad hominems, while never permitting comments on his posts. It isn’t just that he has nothing to offer but ad hominems– it’s that he accuses scientists of cowardice and of running from a fight– while Klinghoffer himself never permits comments on his posts. Scientists would love to take a whack at that DK if he ever opened comments. He just throws random shit-balls over the wall while hiding at ENV. This is cowardly behavior. Klinghoffer is the ultimate juvenile feline.

Third, Cornelius Hunter. His blog posts are science-free; now they’re just about armchair psychoanalysis. He didn’t even read Klinghoffer’s post before defending it.

Without ad hominems and quote mines, creationist ID proponents have nothing. Nothing.

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3 Responses to Discovery Institute Face-Plants at FaceBook

  1. Well done! I meant to say so before this, but I had trouble logging in.

  2. Christine Janis, says:

    Brilliant!

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