June 25, 2001

Scott Blows Smoke in Science


Eugenie Scott is the “police chief” of the Darwinian establishment, charged with the duty of protecting Darwinism from the menace of public opinion. She heads an organization called the National Center for Science Education, which sounds like a government agency but is actually a purely private group, with lots of scientists on the letterhead but with Scott doing almost all the work. She likes to claim that she is a veritable David fighting the Goliath of creationism with limited resources, although of course Darwinism is promoted throughout the educational world with vast sums available from the United States Treasury, from state and local governments, and from private foundations. It’s as if David had not just a sling to fight with but also a few aircraft carriers, some nuclear missiles, and a huge propaganda factory.

This week Scott published a review in the June 22 issue of Science, attacking Jonathan Wells’ famous book Icons of Evolution. As most readers will know, the Wells book is a devastating expose of the errors and frauds that permeate the evolutionary biology textbooks. It has received favorable national publicity in The New York Times and on CNN.

Fraud in the biology textbooks is a particularly serious matter because, as public opinion polls demonstrate, the American public is downright suspicious of the naturalistic creation story that the textbooks promote. If the Darwinists who dominate science education want the public to believe their story, they had better take care not to be caught red-handed purveying bogus data like the fraudulent Haeckel embryo drawings.

So you might think that Science would put up somebody with a big scientific reputation to counter the bad publicity. That they have to rely upon Eugenie Scott indicates that the most prestigious biologists are reluctant to step out in public to defend the icons, for fear that they will damage their own credibility. The line of defense Scott takes is also significant. There is no apology or admission of error. She quibbles over irrelevant details, and brazenly defends the indefensible. Did textbook authors stage the notorious peppered moth photos, gluing moths to the tree trunks to make it appear that they generally rest there when in fact they don’t? Scott straight-facedly explains the awkward facts away. “Researchers glued moths to trees to test whether birds differentially prey upon moths that contrasted against their surface, an experiment necessary to test the hypothesis of bird predation. This is not fraud, it's research.” You can imagine what the Darwinists would say if creationists pulled a stunt like that and called it “research.”

But this stonewalling is mainly a sideshow. Scott’s primary line of defense is that accuracy doesn’t matter, because “evolution does not stand or fall on whether a high school book simplifies an example of natural selection.” She then wraps Darwinism up in the protective cloak of “science,” claiming that to question Darwinism is equivalent to denying that matter is made up of atoms. In other words, whatever is labeled as “science” is beyond criticism, and so it hardly matters whether the examples use in the textbooks are genuine or bogus. Consistent with that theme, she does not urge scientists to make sure that the bogus examples are eliminated from the textbooks. Scott concludes by warning that “scientists should be prepared to respond” to the charges in Icons of Evolution. It seems never to have occurred to her that the best response might be to admit the errors frankly, and then go on to produce honest textbooks.

San Francisco Weekly cover story on ID

When we argue that schools and universities should “teach the controversy,” Eugenie Scott likes to reply that there is no controversy to teach — within science. To keep things that way, the Darwinists exploit the “Inherit the Wind stereotype, using their media influence to keep the public from finding out that there are plenty of informed critics of Darwinism who rely on scientific evidence, not on the book of Genesis. The scientific community may continue to ignore for a while the notorious problems with its fundamental philosophical dogma, but the rest of the culture is beginning to catch on. Even a publication of the lifestyle left, such as the San Francisco Weekly realizes that intelligent design in biology is worth a cover story. The message here is that “Intelligent design theory, however, uses science itself to undercut evolution, and many of its adherents are scholars from leading universities like UC Berkeley. Cal, in fact, has produced several vocal proponents of intelligent design.” The story is basically fair, although it incorporates some silly criticisms such as that ID advocates are “exploiting scientific loopholes by appealing to the general public instead of submitting their research for peer review.” Peer review by people who define “science” as committed to naturalism regardless of the facts? But that is a small complaint, and I loved the conclusion:

Intelligent design believers certainly have faith, not only in their theory but in their eventual vindication. "It happens to be a belief of mine that [intelligent design] is a sure winner once it's on the table," says Phillip Johnson. "The metaphor I use is that the train has left the station and it's on the logical tracks. It's going to the terminus, even if it may take a long time to get there."

Which means Eugenie Scott won't be changing jobs anytime soon. "I joke that every nonprofit director has a goal of eliminating the problem the nonprofit was created to address -- your goal is to put yourself out of business," Scott says. "But damn ... I have a feeling that I'm going to be stuck in this business for a while."

I wouldn’t count on that, Eugenie. When the big shots in science finally realize that the train is picking up speed, they may want to try a different approach. Perhaps they will decide that accuracy does matter after all.

Copyright 2001 Phillip E. Johnson. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
File Date: 6.25.01