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A Week Of Anti-Science Nutjobs


  09:26:39 pm, by Nimble   , 1021 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Common Sense, Ethics, Religion, Science

A Week Of Anti-Science Nutjobs

Wow, it's been a banner week so far, and it's only half over!

In recent news...

Adnan Oktar, the nut behind the pen name Harun Yahya, distributor of glossy, expensive textbooks full of creationist fantasy, got the Turkish courts to have the entirety of WordPress blocked off from access in Turkey, unless they take down sites that Adnan Oktar deems slanderous (without, from what I can tell, those sites having been proven slanderous in court)

Stuart Pivar, the nut who produces the book Lifecode, sent it to a developmental biologist, and since said biologist rightly cackled and pointed out that, although pretty, Pivar's magnificent morphing doughnuts are pseudoscience and don't even resemble the way embryos actually grow, he is suing the biologist and Seed magazine for $15 million.

Last but not least, we have the illustrious and gullible Ben Stein partaking in an astoundingly anti-science, anti-evolution movie documentary called Expelled, that from the looks of one of their press releases takes as truth the so-called 'persecution' of Richard Sternberg and Gonzales Guillermo.

I'll spend a little time on this last one...

Richard Sternberg is painted up in the press release this way:

For example, Stein meets Richard Sternberg, a double PhD biologist who allowed a peer-reviewed research paper describing the evidence for intelligence in the universe to be published in the scientific journal Proceedings. Not long after publication, officials from the National Center for Science Education and the Smithsonian Institution where Sternberg was a research fellow began a coordinated smear and intimidation campaign to get the promising young scientist expelled from his position. This attack on scientific freedom was so egregious that it prompted a congressional investigation.

In a last act during his editorship of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, he inserted a paper that would otherwise never have passed legitimate peer review. See a capsule review of the peer review controversy.

The follow-up hyped controversy pursued by Rick Santorum, Mark Souder and the OSC, makes some damning statements in their report that certainly was pursued in vigor despite the OSC not having jurisdiction. The separate appendix, however, paints a somewhat different picture.

The story of Gonzales Guillermo is that "discrimination" for his views happened in denying him tenure, as though tenure is something professors have a right to expect at an institute. From the press release:

On his journey, Stein meets other scientists such as astrobiologist Guillermo Gonzalez, who was denied tenure at Iowa State University in spite of his extraordinary record of achievement.

Extraordinary record of achievement? Really?

From Iowa state's published statements on the matter:

Because the issue of tenure is a personnel matter, I am not able to share the detailed rationale for the decision, although that has been provided to Dr. Gonzalez. But I can outline the areas of focus of my review where I gave special attention to his overall record of scientific accomplishment while an assistant professor at Iowa State, since that gives the best indication of future achievement. I specifically considered refereed publications, his level of success in attracting research funding and grants, the amount of telescope observing time he had been granted, the number of graduate students he had supervised, and most importantly, the overall evidence of future career promise in the field of astronomy.


The tenure review process at a university like Iowa State must be handled with great care, because granting tenure guarantees a lifetime appointment to the faculty member who receives it. That's why the standards for tenure are very high. Before tenure is awarded, the university must be extremely confident that the faculty member will continue to achieve at a high level of excellence and with significant impact in his/her research specialty. In conducting that evaluation, we carefully examine the candidate's record of accomplishment, with a primary focus on what the candidate has accomplished during his/her appointment as an independent faculty member at Iowa State, since that gives the best indication of the candidate's future success. Over the past 10 years, four of the 12 candidates who came up for review in the physics and astronomy department were not granted tenure.

Grants were likely one of the sticking issues. According to the Des Moines Register (article no longer available):

The Des Moines Register reported Thursday that university records showed that Gonzalez had raised significantly less research and grant money than his peers in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Iowa State has sponsored $22,661 in outside grant money for Gonzalez since July 2001, records show. In that same time period, Gonzalez’s peers in physics and astronomy secured an average of $1.3 million by the time they were granted tenure.

Oh boy, and there's going to be Caroline Crocker, who has the bloody nerve to do things like say the famed peppered moth experiment was faked because the moths were glued to the trees... which they were for the illustration and not the data, on top of any number of creationist fallacies. From the Washington Post:

While such small changes are well established, Crocker said, they are quite different from macroevolution. No one has ever seen a dog turn into a cat in a laboratory.

Claiming that a dog-to-cat transformation in the lab is required for evolution to be true is the height of professional incompetence. One just shivers in the corner waiting for her to utter the likes of "if we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?", but I can probably just stop at what she did say.

I'm sure the movie will just get better and more truthful from there

How many times have I said it: if you are in possession of the truth, you should not need to constantly promulgate lies.

One more note on the movie. It stars one of the aforementioned biologists, the one under threat of suit by Pivar. Well, it came as a bit of a surprise, since the interview that was granted was strongly implied for use in a more two-sided science and religion documentary. Oh well, as people have noted, since Stein was in a movie with Kevin Bacon, that reduces said biologist's Bacon number to 2.

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