The Discovery Institute has the reputation of at least aspiring toward rationality in its denial of evolution by natural selection -- to represent the seemingly sober IDeologues rather than the froth-flecked Young Earth Creationists -- and to have a certain measure of integrity in the arguments it offers, no matter how dumbfoundingly wrong they might be.
So I was deeply troubled by their latest "Evolution News and Views" blog entry from Discovery Institute staffer John West. His subject is the recent New York Times article by Leslie Kaufman (in which West himself features) discussing how Creationist pressure groups are attempting to gain traction in their campaign to have the "scientific controversy" over evolution taught in classrooms by tagging onto it an insistence that the similarly spurious "scientific controversy" over anthropogenic global warming also be taught.
Those who know their history will be reminded forcefully of the technique developed a few decades ago by the tobacco companies, eager to reject claims that consuming their product might conceivably be bad for your health. They knew that trying to sow doubts in the community about those scientific conclusions alone would be all too obvious a publicity ruse -- or "lie", as one might alternatively describe it -- and so they (or rather a PR company they employed) devised the stratagem of making the public distrust all science. In particular, they selected the environmental sciences as a companion area to attack alongside the medical evidence of smoking's harmful effects. The legacy of this cynical promotion of false information into the public discourse is a primary reason why in this country we not only have rampant pollution (see here for a recent, extraordinarily vile example) but also must suffer such a proliferation of astonishing bullshit from self-styled "climate skeptics" . . . who pontificate with all the academic rigor you expect from that loud guy in the pub you do your best to avoid, yet demand equal media time with, ya know, qualified climatologists.
Kaufman's piece on the latest development of this severely dishonest technique is perhaps rather too balanced, but anyone with an adequate supply of brain cells will be able to understand what's going on. However, West's summarization of it in his blog . . . well, I'm not sure if it's one of the most deceitful pieces of spin I've recently come across or if he can really be that muddle-headed and stupid. Here's a sample:
Note, for example, the complaint about "contains the usual errors and mischaracterizations one expects from the establishment media" followed just a couple of lines later by the remark concerning "some global warming alarmists’ efforts to push us back to the Stone Age". Could there be a greater mischaracterization of someone else's argument than this? Might West supply us with a list of "global warming alarmists" who're trying "to push us back to the Stone Age"? Indeed, could West supply us with the name of just one?
As for West's accusations of cherry-picking, either that's projection or mendacity -- and I find it hard to believe it's not the latter, because unless he's in a coma he must be aware that this is exactly a technique of which he himself makes extensive use.
What West is keen to obscure is, of course, that there is no "scientific controversy" over what one might loosely call Darwinian evolution, just as there is no "scientific controversy" over AGW. There are, however, political controversies; and it's the prevalent tactic of the "climate skeptics" to confuse the two. Shame on West for promoting this dishonesty.