Bad Science and Persecution Complexes

Disingenuous efforts by creationists to portray themselves as persecuted in mainstream academia for their anti-evolution beliefs are getting a boost from a Texas lawmaker. State Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, has filed legislation in the Texas House of Representatives that would make a mockery of the terms “higher education” and “research.” From his House Bill 2454:

“PROHIBITION OF DISCRIMINATION BASED ON RESEARCH RELATED TO INTELLIGENT DESIGN. An institution of higher education may not discriminate against or penalize in any manner, especially with regard to employment or academic support, a faculty member or student based on the faculty member’s or student’s conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms.”

The implications of such a law are alarming. Would, for example, a university be forced to support (financially or otherwise) “research” into junk science attacking evolution? Would a biology professor be forced to look the other way when a creationist student presents work that simply ignores (or distorts) the overwhelming evidence supporting evolutionary science?

Our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) track anti-evolution legislation in states across the country. They note that HB 2454 follows the strategy by creationists/”intelligent design” proponents to portray themselves as martyrs. Ben Stein pushed this meme in his propaganda film Expelled, which NCSE masterfully debunks here.

The bottom line for us? Institutions of higher education should — and do — protect academic freedom. Rep. Zedler’s bill would instead require our colleges and universities to aid and protect academic fraud. But with the State Board of Education promoting anti-science propaganda in public schools, we shouldn’t be surprised that higher education is increasingly a target as well.

32 thoughts on “Bad Science and Persecution Complexes

  1. The truely ignorant have no shame about doing stuff like this because they don’t know how ignorant theyreally are (and look).

    Ignorance is bliss…and it just might get another vote at election time.

  2. What next? Protection for astronomers that believe in a Sun centered solar system or a flat earth. All those satellite photos of earth were faked, right. How about medical types that believe in teaching faith healing in medical school. Or geologists that believe in “the Flood” as an explaination for the earth’s geology. And on and on and on…………..

  3. It is my hope that there are enough wise people in the Texas Legislature to kill this bill and give it a decent burial. To assume there are any testable hypotheses that can be formulated to determine any validity for Intelligent Design is purely ludicrous.

  4. Doctoral student in life sciences, here. It’s a good thing that funding agencies (private and public) have structure in place to prevent this kind of stuff. As many of you know, major funders (NIH, NSF, DoD) evaluate research grant proposals from university investigators using rigorous peer review (by qualified scientists). Since big money is required to sustain research output, most of these investigators will find themselves broke (this is the current state of things, thankfully), and unable to publish in meaningful journals. On the back end, the journals screen submitted findings for both significance and scientific consistency. Under this law, universities would not be able to discriminate on the basis of a faculty applicant’s research interests, but could certainly discriminate based on the quality and frequency of the applicant’s publications. Quality and frequency of publication is THE performance metric by which researchers are discriminated. I cannot think of many university science departments that would look favorably upon a CV from a faculty applicant who had only published in creation-science periodicals. The trajectory of a research career has many more checks and balances than the university hiring decision.
    Of course, there will be a lucky few that can get private finding from creationist groups. Their work will, as usual, be widely panned.

  5. This is political grandstanding at it’s best! All the issues we have in Texas and this moron is yakking to his trailer park constituency. Well, good for him, bad for the rest of us.

  6. Evolution has been a theory for for over 150 years. Name one example of a species developing an entirely new function due to evolutionary pressure? I’m not talking about paleontology, but actual real life species changing significantly due to evolutionary pressure
    I’m talking something on the order fin into foot, feeler into eye.
    Read Michael Behe’s “Darwin’s Black Box” and irreducible complexity.

    1. Is one example enough? How about bacteria that have evolved to metabolize nylon byproducts. This has been observed both in the lab and in ponds:

      As a counterpoint to your statement, Intelligent Design also posits that evolution occurs, but that it is directed by a supernatural power. Therefore, not observing adaptations arising would be an argument against both theories.

  7. I have a theory too. I call it the Theory of Infinitely Reducible Ignorance. Once ignorance gets started, there is no limit to how low it can go.

  8. To Nick: check earlier posts on some of that.
    You want real world examples:
    What about microorganisms developing resistance against certain chemicals (including but not limited artificial antibiotics)?
    Or others that, by selective processes not involving genetic manipulation, could be made to digest and live on chlorinated hydrocarbons? That’s like a human developing the ability to breathe chlorine or hydrogen cyanide inszead of oxygen
    Too small? There have been at least two indpendent examples of species of mammals losing their tail after the introduction of selective hunting (rewards were paid for each tail, over a few generations tails diminished then disappeared). That’s no automatism though. Rathunts are rewarded traditionally that way and the sqeakers still kept it.

  9. I’ve read Behe and irreducible complexity is a reasonable question to evolution but it in no way supports ID. There is no basis that the most basic flagellum can’t be simpler. Archaeopteryx is an example of what happens when dinasours get feathers, they begin to fly.

  10. There is no “theory of intelligent design”. It’s not even close to being a valid scientific theory.

    Sometimes, I wish scientists had invented new words instead of giving different meanings to existing ones like hypothesis, theory and fact. It only helps these ignorant morons.

  11. In reply to Nic about reading Behe’s book, you only have to read the transcript at the Dover, PA trial over “intelligent design and irreducible complexity”, to realize that Behe was destroyed on the stand. ID is not science, but a reinvented version of creationism, a Republican judge appointed by George H. W. Bush said so. A fin to a foot does not happen overnight, but we have seen new species evolve in shorter periods of time than we might have originally thought. There is no way to really test “intelligent design.” and “irreducible complexity” is not the way to support it. Every time the “irreducible complexity” of something is debunked, they just say that something else is to complex to understand. And when that is debunked, they say that another thing is to complex. Get it. There is no end to it. Just because something is complex doesn’t mean that we can’t figure it out. And we have many times. None of Behe’s examples stood up to cross-examination in Dover.

  12. Be careful with your interpretations, kind people.
    1.The mystifying bit about complex structures is that often, we misinterpret them (like Dr. Behe) to not exist on a continuum of usefulness and complexity. Take the eye, for example. Just because the mammalian eye (and others) is a highly complicated piece of machinery, does not mean that less complex versions have no use to their owner. The “eyespot” employed by some single-celled critters can sense light intensity to direct swimming patterns. There are no muscles, no focusing, no resolution, no higher brain to interpret complex images. But, it is a rudimentary light-sensing device, functioning perfectly fine without all of our higher-ordered “irreducible complexity.”
    2. It’s just not appropriate to interpret evolution as a process of one organism transforming into another. Often (with many exceptions), similarities between organisms are interpreted to be evidence of a common ancestor, not that “organism A has become organism B”. This abstraction actually is easy to see on the level of gene sequence differences. With all of the parameters offered by gene sequence data and timescale, evolution is actually tractable on the level of hard numerical data. Numbers don’t lie.

  13. Ok, so we won’t discriminate against someone who wants to do ‘research’ into ID, but can we just laugh in their face?

  14. Here’s theory that is now over 20 years old, which did NOT come from the Discovery Institute and may already be in a school near you because of US education law requiring students to know about these things:


    The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause whereby an intelligent entity is emergent from another intelligent entity in multiple levels of unique organization who sum to produce an emergent self-similar biological entity behaviorally in their own image/likeness. Nonrandom behavior of matter is here the “behavioral cause” of molecular intelligence, which is in turn the “intelligent cause” of cellular intelligence, which is in turn the intelligent cause of multicellular intelligence, which is in turn the intelligent cause of collective intelligence. In this way human male and female gender itself has an “intelligent cause” from a simpler cellular male and female gender, which has an intelligent cause from an even simpler two-allele molecular replication process which has a “behavioral cause” from matter which we are ultimately an expression of.

    The biological operational definition of intelligence (where at all levels intelligence comes from) is an autonomous sensory-feedback (confidence) controlled sensory-addressed memory system that through trial-and-error learns new successful actions to be taken in response to environmental conditions. At the cellular level our cells can sense what is needed thus differentiated into muscle cells and neurons to control them which behaviorally combined to produce a moving organism with muscle organs made of many cells pulling and brain organ that intelligently coordinates their motion. At all levels entities who do not serve a useful purpose in their society do poorly among those who can connect together a certain way so that the needs of each are being met. Whether created from molecules or cells or organs or organisms, intelligence must on their own find a place where they serve a useful purpose in their collective society.

    Computer models show this common to all levels intelligence mechanism reduces to four necessary requirements. (1) Something for intelligence to control (motors, muscles, metabolic cycle). (2) Sensory addressable memory to store successful motor actions to be taken in response to sensed environmental conditions. (3) Sensory feedback to gauge failure or success in actions taken here called “confidence”. (4) A guess mechanism to try a new action. Good guesses as in crossover exchange safely controls variation to produce offspring each different from each other (not clones) and gene level recombination of small conserved domains which are the nuts and bolts and motor parts of complex molecular machinery that all together keep living things alive.

    MS Word file of Theory:

  15. Sigh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. What are you people afraid of? Intelligent design or creationism is what worries you? They’ve been around for thousands of years since people lived together with the mighty leviathan. If Darwin had a more powerful microscope and was able to study the DNA, he would’ve probably come up with a different theory. I see evolutionism’s effect upon humans, Nick, and it must be true since people dehumanized. I mean evolved so much for the past 150 years. Why not live and think like some less evolved species or not yet evolved ones? In fact aren’t they our true ancestors? Why bother since ID is not even a “scientific theory”? You ideologists out there, haven’t you heard that “at the bases of progress there is the contradiction”? All those ” progressive theories” need to be equally compared with the contradictory ones, older than your great grandparents and even older than the pyramids. Only then we can assume fairness or equal opportunity to all students or researchers who want to bring light into the darkness. Fear that some researchers would bring some new believable evidence to ID or prove you wrong doesn’t give anyone the right to discriminate. Are you afraid that some day students in school will have a wider view than the” tunnel vision” and be able to make their own choices based on more than one offered alternative? And you, the ID proponents, what are you worried about? Creationism doesn’t need to be defended! It stood firm for thousands of years, because it is not a theory; it is the “absolute truth” and those “Creationists” from Texas are asking that their rights be equally respected.

  17. Wow!! In just two paragraphs of hate-filled, extremely biased ranting you completely proved the point of this legislation. “Junk science?” Your ignorance is staggering — or perhaps it cannot be called ignorance if you are so vehemently intent on maintaining it. Creation Science is science. Moreover, unlike Evolutionary “science” and the humanistic religion that drives it, Creationism does not ignore the first two laws of thermodynamics, nor does it cling to the extremely primative notion of spontaneous generation. For the evolutionist, Time is god. A puddle of goo, given sufficient time, can become trees and animals and people. And yet you have the arrogance to call Creationists nuts?

  18. A quick note from the moderators:
    We’re pretty lenient about our comments rules, but we’ve rejected some comments the last few days because we thought they crossed the line on personal attacks. Admittedly, it’s a subjective line, but we have to draw it somewhere. Also, we rejected some because we thought the username (on a different thread) would be insulting to almost anyone. We encourage a lively exchange of opinions, but let’s all try to keep the discussion as civil as possible. (If your comment was not approved, you’re welcome to revise and repost. Just leave out personal attacks.)

  19. This is nothing but another attempt by religious extremists to entrench bad science into schools. Sorry, you can’t teach your myths about how your gods created the world in government funded schools no matter how colorful the stories are. Personally, I like the one from India about the world growing out of a god’s belly button, but that’s just me. You pick your own fantastic story, but stop poisoning the minds of kids who need to learn science.

  20. @Gleno – Pulling out the nonsense about thermodynamics immediately tells us two things. First, you obviously haven’t gotten the memo from your fellow creationists to stop using the thermodynamics argument. The reason you shouldn’t use it is because of the 2nd thing you’ve told us about yourself, which is that you have absolutely no clue about thermodynamics.

    The laws you refer to govern closed systems, which are isolated from other systems. Perhaps you’ve been outside and seen a bright, yellowish object in the sky? Perhaps you’ve even felt the warmth it gives off? It’s called the sun and it’s system that is separate from, and independent of the Earth, but supplies the Earth with enormous amounts of energy. Energy that heats inanimate objects and can be used by living organisms, with absolutely no violation of the laws of thermodynamics. Even within a closed system energy can flow from one part of the system to the other. That’s why putting ice in your koolaid can make it colder, also without violating the laws of thermodynamics.

    Your post is a stereotypical example of why so many of us laugh at the arguments proffered by creationists. The only argument you offer is complete and utter nonsense that conclusively demonstrates your ignorance. Some creationists do better than others, but in arguing against evolution they invariably reveal that they don’t understand the science behind it.

  21. The theory of evolution is supported by evidence but we mustn’t forget that the evidence exists only to an extent and deals primarily within species. It is this mistake that many make: to presume that a reasonable part of evolution further justifies all extents of the theory as reasonable, despite their presupposed foundation. The theory is at large funded on presuppositions upon more presuppositions. And scientists continue to fill in the gaps with more hypothesis, further giving them reliable-sounding scientific names, and teaching them to all students an inappropriate amount of confidence toward their validity.

    I’ve found that many evolution scientists bash ID so firmly without a propper glance because it is in their best interest to presume no other reason to doubt the validity of their ideas. Its personal. Bashing the alternatives out the door due to fixed athiestic beliefs is ignorance in itself. It is this dangerous amount of confidence that ID does not exist, despite the fact that ID cannot be disproven, which leads to their assumed evolutionary foundations.

    Florian has made good points as well. We’ve seen what full-blown evolutionary theory implications have in combination with athiestic beliefs. It provides us with an absence of a moral foundation, leading to relativism. And we have seen through history as well as today the extent that humanity can go with challenging moral relativism to the point of utter dehumanization.

    In a society that seems to be promoting tolerence, I am disappointed in the amount of discrimination that is out their agianst digging deeper into ID. I don’t quiet understand, why are people afraid of digging into evidence promoting the existence of a grand designer? This generation and the generations to come have the right to study the full spectrum of scientific evidence that is out there.

    1. I am firmly convinced of the validity of the theory of evolution. However, I think the above post illustrates something that scientists should take into consideration when dealing with the public at large.

      To biologists, the mechanisms of evolution are important. However, to most people these are simply academic. What matters more to a large proportion of the population are the implications of evolution to their self-worth and existence. You can imagine what someone raised in a religious family might be asking themselves in a biology class: how can an non-directed process give rise to a meaningful life, at what point did the human soul evolve, if God was not involved in our generation then who is to say he cares about man? Here is an interesting illustration:

      If you want to convince some people of the validity of evolution, you cannot simply show them facts. You need to accompany facts with some sort of existential lifeboat. Highlight how amazing the complexity of life is, how intellectually unique we as a species are, etc. Remember that you are trying to persuade another human being.

  22. People like Rynk have been repeating the same old tired creationist arguments since Darwin’s time. It’s so lame and pitiful, it’s almost embarrassing. Almost. The following answers are from (, and are reiterated in a lot of other places.

    Rynk said: “The theory of evolution is supported by evidence but we mustn’t forget that the evidence exists only to an extent and deals primarily within species. It is this mistake that many make: to presume that a reasonable part of evolution further justifies all extents of the theory as reasonable, despite their presupposed foundation. The theory is at large funded on presuppositions upon more presuppositions. And scientists continue to fill in the gaps with more hypothesis, further giving them reliable-sounding scientific names, and teaching them to all students an inappropriate amount of confidence toward their validity. I’ve found that many evolution scientists bash ID so firmly without a propper glance because it is in their best interest to presume no other reason to doubt the validity of their ideas.”


    The conclusions of scientists are based on evidence, and the evidence remains for all to see. Scientists know that their ideas must stand the scrutiny of other scientists, who may not share their preconceptions. The best way to do this is to make the case strong enough on the basis of the evidence so that preconceptions do not matter. And scientists themselves condemn preconceptions when they see them. (Stephen J. Gould, the most vocal recent crusader against preconceptions in science, was vehemently anticreationism.)

    The history of science is filled with scientists accepting ideas contrary to their preconceptions. Examples include the reality of extinctions, the reality of meteors, meteors as causes of mass extinctions, ice ages, continental drift, transposons, bacteria as the cause of ulcers, the nature of prions, and, of course, evolution itself. Scientists are not immune to being sidetracked by their preconceptions, but they ultimately go where the evidence leads.

    Scientists make deliberate efforts to remove subjective influences from their evaluation of conclusions; they do a good job, on the whole, of reducing bias. They do such a good job, in fact, that what creationists really object to is the fact that scientists do not interpret evidence according to certain religious preconceptions.
    The hypocrisy of this charge cannot be overstressed. Creationists state outright that they accept only what they already assume. Consider part of Answers in Genesis’ Statement of Faith: “By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record” (AIG n.d.). The Institute for Creation Research has a similar statement of faith (ICR 2000). Creationists admit up front that their preconceptions, in the form of religious convictions, determine their conclusions.

    Rynk said: “We’ve seen what full-blown evolutionary theory implications have in combination with athiestic beliefs. It provides us with an absence of a moral foundation, leading to relativism. And we have seen through history as well as today the extent that humanity can go with challenging moral relativism to the point of utter dehumanization.”


    Evolution is descriptive. It can be immoral only if attempting to accurately describe nature is immoral.
    Any morals derived from evolution would have to recognize the fact that humans have evolved to be social animals. In a social setting, cooperation and even altruism lead to better fitness (Wedekind and Milinski 2000). The process of evolution leads naturally to social animals such as humans developing ethical principles such as the Golden Rule.
    Some bad morals, such as eugenics and social Darwinism, are based on misunderstandings of evolution. Therefore, it is important that evolution be taught well to negate such misunderstandings.
    Despite claims otherwise, creationism has its own problems. For one thing, it is founded on religious bigotry, so the foundation of creationism, by most standards, is immoral.
    Probably the most effective weapon against bad morals is exposure and publicity. Evolution (and science in general) is based on a culture of making information public.
    Scientists are their own harshest critics. They have developed codes of ethical behavior for several circumstances, and they have begun to talk about a general ethics (Rotblat 1999). Creationists have nothing similar.
    Some people feel better about themselves by demonizing others. Those people who are truly interested in morals begin by looking for immorality within themselves, not others.

    Rynk said: “In a society that seems to be promoting tolerence, I am disappointed in the amount of discrimination that is out their agianst digging deeper into ID. I don’t quiet understand, why are people afraid of digging into evidence promoting the existence of a grand designer? This generation and the generations to come have the right to study the full spectrum of scientific evidence that is out there.”


    On the fundamental issues of the theory of evolution, such as the facts of common descent and natural selection, there is no scientific controversy. The “teach the controversy” campaign is an attempt to get pseudoscience taught in classrooms. Lessons about the sociological issues of the evolution-creation controversy may be appropriate in history or other nonscience classes.

    If the object is to keep bad science from the classroom, the same standards should be applied to the counterarguments from creationists, which are all bad science.
    There are controversies over details of evolutionary theory, such as the relative contributions of sympatric versus allopatric speciation. These controversies require a great deal of background in biology even to understand what they are about. They should not be taught to beginning students. They should be taught to graduate-level students in biology, and they are.
    Evolution is almost certainly the most hated scientific theory in history. Many people think it threatens morals, civilization, and their very souls, and virtually nobody wants it to be true. Starting from the first day that Origin of Species was published, it has faced constant challenges from some of the most powerful politicians and religious leaders, not to mention incessant disapproval and attacks from the general public. The only thing evolution has going for it is the evidence. If that evidence were not extremely strong, evolution would have been torn to irreparable shreds decades ago.

    Like all theories, evolution is subject to scientific attack, too. Achieving a major revision of established theory is something that many scientists dream of. Plus, many scientists feel the same emotional opposition to it that so many non-scientists do. If a credible alternative to evolution appeared, biologists would race to publish it. Indeed, scientists have made some significant revisions of details to the theory of evolution, but there has been no such race to overthrow the basic theory.

    The theory of evolution is stronger than ever, accepted around the world without a hint of informed scientific challenge to the basic theory. The controversy surrounding evolution has made it one of the most scrutinized theories of all time, and evolution has withstood that scrutiny with flying colors.
    Should teaching the controversy be expanded to include so-called alternatives to evolution? There are many mutually contradictory creationist positions, with disagreement on such fundamental issues as how old the universe is and which religion’s book best describes the creator. Since the basis for creationism is its emotional religious appeal, and since such attraction varies between cultures and individuals, creationism will always be hopelessly controversial. Surely any lesson on the controversy should include the whole controversy.

    Give it up, Rynk. Your grandpa probably used the same arguments.

  23. Piedmont, Biokid, Wen, and others express great ALARM with any alternative theory. Is evolution that fragile like an authoritarian style of government, which cannot tolerate descent or free speech and survive? If Darwinian Evolution is such a slam dunk and the weaknesses of ID so obvious as they purport, then I would expect an exuberant welcome of debate to demonstrate to even more youths why ID should obviously be abandoned. Instead, we get an emotional reaction similar to Herod when he learned of the star of a new born king; destroy all children that threaten my rule!!!

  24. Roger, why would you post on this long-dead thread instead of a newer one?

    Nobody here is expressing alarm about any alternative theory, we’re expressing alarm about dishonesty. You are guilty of it, too. There is no alternative theory. You don’t appear to understand what “theory” means in a scientific context. Quit being dishonest. But that’s what creationists do. They whine. They bitch. They moan. But they never—never—produce any evidence to support their hypothesis, because there is no evidence to be had.

    “If Darwinian Evolution is such a slam dunk”

    It’s the most well-founded theory in all of science. If it contradicts your religious beliefs, well, that’s unfortunate for you, isn’t it?

  25. Ben: “…there is no evidence [for creationism]…”
    “The foundations of scientific materialism are in the process of crumbling. In ‘Signature in the Cell’, philosopher of science Stephen C. Meyer shows how the digital code in DNA points powerfully to a designing intelligence behind the origin of life…In his theory of evolution, Charles Darwin never sought to unravel the mystery of where biological information comes from.”
    “Human DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created.” Bill Gates
    Ben: “There is no alternative theory.”
    Unfortunately Ben, most Americans do not agree with you that our distant relative was a fish. lol.

  26. Re: countering the religious right
    I am currently on page 132 of Stephen C. Meyer’s 600-page book “Signature in the Cell”. Meyer has a very impressive book which raises serious questions on how cells got here in the first place. After reading about the astounding amount of complexity, multiple inter-dependent systems, & DNA digital code that accounts for this massive amount of infrastructure, the idea that this could have come into existence by chance or a combination of matter-governing laws seem absurd. The DNA code for life isn’t the type of order that one would encounter in crystals or other such repetitive structures. What’s sad is that legislation is being enacted that prevents one from even discussing this important & touchy matter that carries philosophical & religious implications. During the cold-war era when I was a young university student, I never would have believed that America would follow the same path as the Soviets where the government became thought police over science dialog. If a theory can’t stand on its own two feet, then not even the government will be able to rescue it as history has revealed.

    “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” — Max Planck

    “According to everything taught by the exact sciences about the immense realm of nature, a certain order prevails—one independent of the human mind… this order can be formulated in terms of purposeful activity. There is evidence of an intelligent order of the universe to which both man and nature are subservient.” — Max Planck

  27. Ben: “There is no alternative theory… [Darwinian evolution is] the most well-founded theory in all of science”

    Sadly, Ben’s stance reminds me of a nut-job Jesuit priest:

    “Is evolution a theory, a system, or hypothesis? It is much more: it is a general condition to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must bow and which they must satisfy henceforward if they are to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve all lines must follow.” — Pierre Teilhard