Creationist Hack Gets Pwned


A professor at the University of Vermont, Nicholas Gotelli, got an invitation to debate one of the clowns at the Discovery Institute. Here’s what they wrote.

Dear Professor Gotelli,

I saw your op-ed in the Burlington Free Press and appreciated your support of free speech at UVM. In light of that, I wonder if you would be open to finding a way to provide a campus forum for a debate about evolutionary science and intelligent design. The Discovery Institute, where I work, has a local sponsor in Burlington who is enthusiastic to find a way to make this happen. But we need a partner on campus. If not the biology department, then perhaps you can suggest an alternative.

Ben Stein may not be the best person to single-handedly represent the ID side. As you’re aware, he’s known mainly as an entertainer. A more appropriate alternative or addition might be our senior fellows David Berlinski or Stephen Meyer, respectively a mathematician and a philosopher of science. I’ll copy links to their bios below. Wherever one comes down in the Darwin debate, I think we can all agree that it is healthy for students to be exposed to different views–in precisely the spirit of inviting controversial speakers to campus, as you write in your op-ed.

I’m hoping that you would be willing to give a critique of ID at such an event, and participate in the debate in whatever role you feel comfortable with.

A good scientific backdrop to the discussion might be Dr. Meyer’s book that comes out in June from HarperCollins, “Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design.”

On the other hand, Dr. Belinski may be a good choice since he is a critic of both ID and Darwinian theory.

Would it be possible for us to talk more about this by phone sometime soon?

With best wishes,
David Klinghoffer
Discovery Institute

You’ll enjoy Dr Gotelli’s response.

Dear Dr. Klinghoffer:

Thank you for this interesting and courteous invitation to set up a debate about evolution and creationism (which includes its more recent relabeling as “intelligent design”) with a speaker from the Discovery Institute. Your invitation is quite surprising, given the sneering coverage of my recent newspaper editorial that you yourself posted on the Discovery Institute’s website:

However, this kind of two-faced dishonesty is what the scientific community has come to expect from the creationists.

Academic debate on controversial topics is fine, but those topics need to have a basis in reality. I would not invite a creationist to a debate on campus for the same reason that I would not invite an alchemist, a flat-earther, an astrologer, a psychic, or a Holocaust revisionist. These ideas have no scientific support, and that is why they have all been discarded by credible scholars. Creationism is in the same category.

Instead of spending time on public debates, why aren’t members of your institute publishing their ideas in prominent peer-reviewed journals such as Science, Nature, or the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences? If you want to be taken seriously by scientists and scholars, this is where you need to publish. Academic publishing is an intellectual free market, where ideas that have credible empirical support are carefully and thoroughly explored. Nothing could possibly be more exciting and electrifying to biology than scientific disproof of evolutionary theory or scientific proof of the existence of a god. That would be Nobel Prize winning work, and it would be eagerly published by any of the prominent mainstream journals.

“Conspiracy” is the predictable response by Ben Stein and the frustrated creationists. But conspiracy theories are a joke, because science places a high premium on intellectual honesty and on new empirical studies that overturn previously established principles. Creationism doesn’t live up to these standards, so its proponents are relegated to the sidelines, publishing in books, blogs, websites, and obscure journals that don’t maintain scientific standards.

Finally, isn’t it sort of pathetic that your large, well-funded institute must scrape around, panhandling for a seminar invitation at a little university in northern New England? Practicing scientists receive frequent invitations to speak in science departments around the world, often on controversial and novel topics. If creationists actually published some legitimate science, they would receive such invitations as well.

So, I hope you understand why I am declining your offer. I will wait patiently to read about the work of creationists in the pages of Nature and Science. But until it appears there, it isn’t science and doesn’t merit an invitation.

In closing, I do want to thank you sincerely for this invitation and for your posting on the Discovery Institute Website. As an evolutionary biologist, I can’t tell you what a badge of honor this is. My colleagues will be envious.

Sincerely yours,

Nick Gotelli

P.S. I hope you will forgive me if I do not respond to any further e-mails from you or from the Discovery Institute. This has been entertaining, but it interferes with my research and teaching.


14 Responses

  1. I liked Mr Gotelli’s statement “until it appears there, it isn’t science”. So narrowed minded.

    Mr Gotelli definitely represents the mainstream Darwinists in avoiding the debate now, knowing how they look during the ones that they have participated in… childish. “If I don’t recognize it as science it’s not science.”

    • Not at all. It is not merely Gotelli who does not recognize ID charlatanry as science, it is the method itself.
      In the absence of RESEARCH, EXPERIMENTATION, FALSIFIABILITY and, frankly, ANY evidence whatsoever, it is not a matter for debate. The creationists – you – have nothing but myth, fantasy and faith. No one ought to be bothered debating leprechauns and unicorns with imbeciles who insist the magic book says it is so.
      You’re welcome to it, but you aren’t entitled to debate any more than those who assert the stars affect our personalities.
      Grotelli is not narrow minded. The problem is you – either willfully blind or stubbornly ignorant.
      “Mainstream Darwinists”?…as opposed to what? The extreme Darwinists?
      You toss around the term as if you knew what it meant, yet your post reveals you. Really…how very sad.

  2. I like this post Avi- And while I might believe in some kind of god/motivating/binding/loving/interconnecting force thingy, that still doesn’t mean it should be discussed as a scientific possibility without testable evidence IN A SCIENCE CLASS. Clearly this debate belongs in the realm of philosophers, theologians and personal trainers.

    • I’ve always been willing to grant you the broadly defined god of Spinoza and Einstein.
      There were other, far more troubling assumptions – that evolution was somehow directed to consciousness and intelligence with nothing more than the same fantastic assumptions as the theists for “evidence”…some odd ‘it must be so because that would make me happier with the state of things’ reasoning. “It would be prettier that way” is not a valid argument. Or necessary. Or necessarily prettier – see Murray Gell-Mann. It is precisely fabulous because it doesn’t require “something more.” It is that amazing in and of itself. And thus to Spinoza again.

    • And, post script, we have weak enough measures for both consciousness (to the degree such a thing is understood) and intelligence (to the degree that our measure for this most nebulous of attributes is utterly anthropomorphic – who’s to say with any confidence that on some hypothetically arbitrary scale, botulism, wolverines, ants, dolphins or little white lab rats are not more intelligent?) that the very idea of suggesting that either were, in any fashion, a directed or inevitable “goal” is just silly.
      It is nothing more than, “We must have been designed, after all here we are!”
      What we call intelligence, and what we call consciousness, are not together evidence that they were the ends to which the means of evolutionary history aimed. It did not aim. It was a mechanism and chance. There is no need for anything more.

  3. why do you have to high-horse it too far?! I was agreeing with you and then you took the argument out of the science classroom and into the philosophy class. Your 2nd last sentence gives away your bias. You don’t KNOW what it WAS and what it IS, you can only describe that it has reliably always been so, since life’s inception which is, in itself, a mystery, in a universe whose first state is unknown, neverminding WHY it exists. You were doing so well and being so humble, as a scientist should be. Come on! Yes science is a great tool, but a healthy recognition that, being in the petrie dish we don’t know what’s outside of it, or why there’s a dish at all, is warranted.

    • The “What’s outside it?” question can be answered.
      The “Why is there a petrie dish?” question, except in the most mechanical sense, is beyond the realm of scientific inquiry.
      There is a difference between an explanation for abiogenesis and the diversification of species. That does not mean the current absence of a perfectly cogent biochemical explanation for abiogenesis is any sort of proof for alternative, fantastic, no evidence whatsoever explanations.
      Nevertheless, only one model holds out the possibility of truth. The rest of it is incense chanting foolishness with only the most remote infinite roulette wheel chance of accuracy.
      If you think repeating, “Yeah…but WHY?” is any sort of legitimate counterpoint or argument, there’s nowhere to go. You render progress impossible in much the same way as a precocious three-year-old.

  4. Precocious three-year old eh? Well, you’re a know-it all, or even better, a know-it-ain’t, as in you don’t know what it is, but you know with faithlike certainty what it ain’t.

  5. Faithlike?
    Next you’ll claim that bald is a hair colour.

  6. thought you might like this…


    Jules: Man, I just been sitting here thinking.

    Vincent: About what?

    Jules: About the miracle we just witnessed.

    Vincent: The miracle you witnessed. I witnessed a freak occurrence.

    Jules: What is a miracle, Vincent?

    Vincent: An act of God.

    Jules: And what’s an act of God?

    Vincent: When, um … God makes the impossible possible … but this morning
    I don’t think qualifies.

    Jules: Hey, Vincent, don’t you see? That shit don’t matter. You’re judging
    this shit the wrong way. I mean, it could be that God stopped the bullets, or
    He changed Coke to Pepsi, or He found my fucking car keys. You don’t judge shit
    like this based on merit. Now, whether or not what we experienced was an
    “according to Hoyle” miracle is insignificant. What is significant is that
    I felt the touch of God. God got involved.

    Vincent: But why?

    Jules: Well, that’s what’s fucking with me. I don’t know why, but I can’t go back to sleep.

  7. People always say things like that – you can’t judge matters of faith.
    It’s perfectly fine to hold any other assertion up to critical examination: Ghosts, leprechauns, unicorns, transchanneling the spirits of the dead…but as soon as someone invokes a god, it’s “OH NOES! You may not hold that claim up to scrutiny or critique!”
    Well, horseshit. Of course you can, and any refusal to do so is a sign of spinelessness, insanity or both.
    “I felt the hand of God” is not evidence that advances the truth of the proposition in the slightest.
    In fact, given the widely divergent instructions that purportedly emanate from the mouth of Jesus, either God is fucking nuts or his believers are. In either case, giving a proposition a pass because some nitwit “felt the hand of God” is a rather pathetic set of criteria, from any perspective.

  8. “mcoville”,

    I’ve been in several debates and panels with “intelligent design” creationism advocates, and I’ll stand by my record of decorum while demolishing the IDC arguments.

    There’s video online of a 2001 outing where William Dembski and I discussed his “explanatory filter” idea. See the links at the end of this post:

  9. @ Wesley R. Elsberry (which reminds me of a guy I knew in college…Warrington Endicott III…somehow the name, all by itself, implies a smoking jacket, an ascot and an accent not unlike William F. Buckley Jr. I digress).

    FUCK decorum. Being polite and tolerant of these imbeciles is getting us nowhere. Make your case, but when they haul out Ray Comfort’s banana argument, or some twisted misapprehension of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, fuck it…it’s time to get all stabby.
    “Pray to your interventionist God now, you stupid twat…maybe He can stop the spurting arterial blood.”

    PS. Stop back anytime. Folks who drop self-links to bright information are always welcome (and frankly rather too rare) around the internets.
    Thanks for visiting, Wesley.

  10. Creationism is a bad joke and its disgusting that children (and really stupid adults) are taught to believe in it. If you do not understand how the scientific method works yet go back to middle school. Believe what you want but don’t call it science! What you are teaching our children could prevent them from becoming the next great scientist who discovers a cure for HIV or MD. Instead they will believe the world is a lie and all the answers can be found in a violent, hateful, poorly written book called The Bible. To you Flinstones is historically acurate and if the Bible is accurate the world has already ended. Quit harrassing intellegent people and go watch Veggie Tales!

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