Discovery Institute: “Students should ask questions, but not the wrong questions” – or – Of students, sadness and ice cream

You know, this has been happening for a while, but I just didn’t notice it. It took another post by intelligent design proponent David Klinghoffer for me to make the connections – was I oblivious before because I’m a lowly undergraduate? Hah.

The Discovery Institute has a strange relationship with online criticism. On one hand they hate it, because – naturally – it shows how wrong they are about most things. On the other, they love it, because they can derive thousands and thousands of blogged words enthusing their support base by showing that some scientists are actually taking their criticisms of “Darwinism” seriously, even if the other 99.95% of biologists have better things to do, like actual science and advancing our understanding of life and its place in the world. If a scientist critiques your position, that must mean she’s threatened by it, right?

But note that this doesn’t hold for criticism coming from students. I mean, who cares if some snotty-nosed kid, fresh out of high school (or even still in high school) thinks you’re wrong? They’re no scientist! Beat it, kid.

This can be seen quite obviously in the recent back-and-forth between Discovery Institute fellows Ann Gauger, Casey Luskin, Douglas Axe and, most obviously, the aforementioned Klinghoffer, and New Zealand PhD student Paul McBride, who criticised the DI’s new book Science and Human Origins in 6-part review on his blog. Klinghoffer refers to McBride as “a previously unknown New Zealand grad student”, “obscure”, having a “blog that no one before ever heard of”, his criticism as “one guy’s review on his personal website”, and – his words dripping with sarcasm – as a “hero and defender” of Darwinian thought. The phrase “grad student” is continuously mentioned, as if it’s something to be ashamed of. Yeah.

Turns out yours truly gets the same treatment, albeit in passing: apparently I’ve been “falling into ecstasies” over Carl Zimmer’s recent demolition act on Science and Human Origins‘s chromosome 2 fusion denial. Students need big, strong heroes to save them from the scary ID proponents who are trying get them to think for themselves! Luckily, Klinghoffer doesn’t out me as an “undergrad student” – but I feel he looks down on my continuing education with little more than a sneer.

(At this point, David Klinghoffer is most likely imagining me getting more and more upset that no one is paying attention to me.)

Nearly every other time I’ve been mentioned on Evolution News and Views, it’s been through posting on The Panda’s Thumb, where my status as a student is not mentioned and my age is never brought up. However, whenever they randomly stumble upon one of my numerous posts about them on Homologous Legs, suddenly I’m talked down to. This one’s a classic, from earlier this year:

Credit where credit is due. Probably, unlike some of his more senior colleagues in the world of academic Darwin defenders, gents like Francisco Ayala, Scalan [sic] won’t pretend to have read the book when he hasn’t, or pretend there’s nothing there to review. Yet we also expect that when he’s mature and full of years, if not wisdom like ENV, he’ll still be threatening to read Signature in the Cell.

Eh. Maybe I’m reading subtext that doesn’t exist.

(I paw at a tear welling in my eye.) 

It’s curious though, that the Discovery Institute is fine with deep thoughts from students – just only when they already agree with them. Regular ENV blogger Jonathan McLatchie has only just finished a Masters degree, and began blogging for the DI back in June 2010, when he was still an undergraduate student. No mentions were made of his age or his ability to critique the mainstream consensus of evolutionary biologists.

(My face is a hot, quivering mask of jealousy.)

I only rate a mention on ENV when I say something adorable or anything that can be spun into a rhetorical weapon. Never has a single, serious critique of ID that I’ve posted – both here and on The Panda’s Thumb – ever attracted any attention. My direct challenge to the DI last week was published before the post in which my seizure-inducing lust for Carl Zimmer was stated, so no doubt it was seen and subsequently ignored.

(I start eating ice cream directly from the tub.)

Moving on, the annual DI Summer Seminars are designed for students (in fact, McLatchie attended one in the last few years), but they only accept those who already believe the party line:

Admission Requirements: You must be currently enrolled in a college or university as a junior, senior, or graduate student. Required application materials include (1) a resume/cv, (2) a copy of your academic transcript, (3) a short statement of your interest in intelligent design and its perceived relationship to your career plans and field of study, and (4) either a letter of recommendation from a professor who knows your work and is friendly toward ID, or a phone interview with the seminar director.

Students are free to critically examine science and philosophy of science, but only when the Discovery Institute says it’s alright. No doubt if one of the students from this year’s Summer Seminars program started a pro-ID blog, ENV would be linking to it night and day, showing that even fledgling scientists know that “Darwinism” is flawed.

(“Bastards,” I whimper around my spoon. A mixture of chocolate sauce and melted ice cream leaks slowly down my chin. I don’t notice.)

But when a student of a similar age and education level writes hundreds of posts over years finding things wrong with your arguments? He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

(I finish the ice cream, and with a sob, flop into my bed and start watching reruns of Friends while crying into my pillow. No one understands me!)

If anyone from the Discovery Institute is reading this – and I know you at the very least check posts that link to you – engage with something I’ve written. I suggest my posts on the “Bad Design Paradox” – simply because you’ve never acknowledged this contradiction in your pro-ID argumentation.

(I need a hug.)

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