Monday, March 17, 2014

James Tour and Intelligent Design's Fairy Tales of "Persecution" of Creationists

Prof. James Tour is one of the few real scientists who signed the Discovery Institute's anti-evolution petition "A Dissent from Darwinism." He is a professor of Chemistry, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Rice University in Texas. The DI's anti-evolution petition currently has about ~851 names, not all of them scientists (they let in medical doctors, philosophers like Stephen Meyer, and mathematicians like David Berlinski and Granville Sewell), but Tour is a real scientist. The DI name list grows at a rate of about one dozen names a year. (For comparison, the competing pro-evolution petition is called "Project Steve"; it is limited to real Ph.D.s in hard sciences or life sciences who must be named "Steve", which is about 1% of the general population. It now has 1,300 names and grows at a rate of about 60+ per year. Without the "Steve" limitation, it would likely have 130,000 names and grow at 6,000 names per year, compared to a dozen for the creationist petition. Note that creationists and ID proponents universally assert that "more and more" scientists or "an increasing number" are embracing creationism, but their rate of growth is at best 500 times slower (=6,000 / 12) than the growth rate of pro-evolution scientists.)

On his website, Tour wrote an anti-evolution piece called "Layman’s Reflections on Evolution and Creation. An Insider’s View of the Academy" which attempts to explain why he signed the creationist petition. This piece has been trumpeted at the obnoxious anti-science ID website Uncommon Descent. At no point in his piece does Tour present actual evidence against the theory of evolution, but he does shovel up the creationists' favorite evidence-substitute: vague claims that "the Academy" persecutes (in unspecified ways) creationist scientists, whom he tells us he will never, never name. The claim that unnamed scientists persecute unnamed creationists at unknown places at unspecified times serves as their substitute for evidence, by explaining their total absence of evidence against evolution: instead of "the dog ate my homework", the excuse is, "the National Academy of Science ate my homework." You see, creationists really would like to present the evidence against evolution, gosh, they would like to-- but it's kept somewhere far away, buried in a wooden casket under the sand of an island somewhere in the South Pacific, location unknown. The far-away casket is carefully guarded by unnamed "creation scientists", but none are permitted to dig up the box and show us what's in it. Evil evolutionists would destroy their careers if they did that. Meanwhile, teach the controversy!

So Tour serves up another Christian martyrbation fantasy, full of the turn-ons of being tortured and dominated, like 50 Shades of Grey for the pseudoscience set, but his piece unusual in its vagueness. Christians nowadays are full of fake stories of their own martyrdom, to deflect blame from themselves for persecuting Galileo, inventing anti-black racism and anti-Semitism in the Middle Ages, the Crusades, the Conquistadores, extermination of Native Americans, trans-Atlantic slave trade, the Confederacy, the Nazi Holocaust, etc., so they have to flip the frame to where they're the victim. To be fair, sometimes Christians really are victims (in Muslim countries), but in the USA the number of real victims is outstripped by the exponentially expanding Death Star of bullshit martyrbation fantasies. We should call bullshit on fake stories of persecution, a very recent example being pseudo-historian "Professor" David Barton's bogus claim that more Christians were killed to death for their faith in 2013 than in all the previous 2,000 years.

Here's Tour's. Let's choke on the irony:

Tour: "When the power-holders [scientists] permit no contrary discussion, can a vibrant academy be maintained?"

Riiight. Permit no contrary discussion... he says, at an ID blog that permits no comments and forbids contrary discussion. The pro-ID website that trumpeted James Tour's piece, Uncommon Descent, is infamous for banning many dozens of commenters for even the mildest criticisms of Intelligent Design: their first moderator banned dozens of people in 2007, the moderator was himself banned in 2009, the next moderator freaked out and banned dozens more in 2012, and there is actually a whole blog for all the people banned from UD. The most mainstream ID website run by the Discovery Institute, Evolution News and Views, permits no comments nor criticism, and demands that climate scientists and those who know them should be rounded up and imprisoned en masse: "Criminal prosecution of scientists... would be a good start," but not the end, according to the Discovery Institute.  The DI demands that scientists be permanently silenced through massive, ideologically targeted firings and defunding of research, telling us explicitly what should be done to scientists:

"There's a simple solution. Defund these credentialed losers who hide behind... worthless 'science'... take their money away." [Discovery Institute, Evolution News and Views]

Why? Because the DI calls science

[Science is] "ninety-five percent...garbage, the rest of it is irreproducible..."

(When asked to back up these claims with evidence, the DI refuses to provide a source for such figures, endlessly repeating their demand for politically targeted firings, defunding research, and the destruction of scientific institutions.) Above,  James Tour says he wants a "vibrant academy." If Intelligent Design extremists win, would any "vibrant" research be permitted besides Christian theology? Would any Academy exist, vibrant or otherwise?

Back to James Tour, who mildly asserts he wants "discussion." He claims no scientists anywhere understands macroevolution, though we know many sophomores who do; but Tour politely claims he'd like to have lunch with someone who could explain evolution to him. We know his offer is bullshit, because some years back, anti-creationist Dr. Nick Matzke took him up on his lunch offer and Tour chickened out.

So no, he's not interested in discussion. The real point is the martyrbation fantasies.

Tour: "In the last few years... I have witnessed unfair treatment upon scientists that do not accept macroevolutionary arguments and for their having signed the above-referenced statement [Dissent from Darwinism]."

Witnessed, have you? Witnessed. Uh huh... OK, give us their names and emails; let us find out if they really were "scientists", as you claim, and see how "unfair" their treatment was. Perhaps they tried some "there are no beneficial mutations" bullshit and they got schooled by a geneticist? What do you call "unfair"? Let us check your stories of persecution. But no, Tour announces:

"I will comment no further regarding the specifics of the actions taken upon the skeptics..."

Oh. I'm shocked. Wow. Didn't see that one coming. 

I could have a heart attack from that surprise.

So you will never produce one jot of evidence to support your most crucial evidence-substitute (I imagine the phrase 'evidence substitute' pronounced with a French accent.) So we will not be presented with evidence against evolution, which ought to be falsifiable, nor will we be provide even with the evidence substitute.

'Gee, teacher, the same dog that ate my homework also ate my homework substitute!' Is your claim of persecution important or is it not? If it is, cough up evidence or GTFO.

Why, oh why, are you shirking a scientists' duty to present evidence. He asked dryly.

Tour: "I love and honor my colleagues too much for that."

Oh. So you're not just a story-teller, but you're a self-congratulatory story-teller. You have failed as a scientist to present evidence; and not presented an evidence substitute; and now you compound it by blathering egotistically about how you wuv, truly wuv your friends, possibly imaginary.

Anyway, if any professor was unfairly fired-- and the ID creationists have been looking for a decade for a non-bullshit story about a creationist professor fired for his creationist beliefs-- if he was discriminated against, we can find a paper trail, right? Get some real evidence, right?

Tour: "...the unfair treatment upon the skeptics of macroevolution has not come from the administration level."

Oh. So there will never be a paper trail, and Tour will never be presenting his evidence-substitute.

Strangely, I, unlike Tour, can easily list, name, and document many examples of real scientists and professors fired for their stance on evolution... fired because they supported evolutionary theory, that is.

Christian colleges have fired and continue to fire numerous professors and scientists for teaching theistic evolution, or for supporting evolution outside the classroom. In past decades, fired evolutionist professors included Daniel Wonderly, P. Edgar Hare, Richard M. Ritland, Harold E. James Jr., Edward N. Lugenbeal, and Howard Van Till. In more recent years, La Sierra University fired Prof. Lee Greer and three trustees, and Shorter University fired Prof. Richard Pirkle and 60 (that's 6 times 10) faculty and administrators either for believing in evolution or for not being sufficiently intolerant towards homosexuality. Reformed Theological Seminary fired Bruce Waltke; Calvin College fired Prof. John Schneider and investigated Daniel Harlow. Olivet Nazarene University banned Prof. Richard Colling from teaching evolution, and banned his textbook, and then eventually forced him out of his job. Eastern Nazarene College fired Prof. Karl Giberson. Bryan College closed Todd Wood's research center (Wood is a creationist but admitted there was evidence for evolution.)

[EDIT: Below, a source called "Bible and Science Forum", presumably a religious source, comments that Todd Wood was not fired per se, but rather "The entire institution [Bryan College] had major budget problems and revenue shortfalls. If Wood had found enough private donors, he would have remained there. No need to concoct an alleged firing which never happened. There are dozens of REAL "YEC political correctness" at dozens of fundamentalist schools." They did not support this claim with evidence, but I know of no contravening evidence, so I copy it here for your consideration.]

Bryan College then forced all their faculty to sign a statement committing them to Biblical creationism and a literal Adam and Eve, presumably at the expense of their jobs if they didn't.

The reaction of Intelligent Design proponents is to support freedom of belief. Ha ha, I'm kidding. They'd never support that.

In fact the Discovery Institute supports the widespread firing of scientists who believe in evolution. The Discovery Institute declares that firing, censoring, and gagging scientists who believe in evolution is "inevitable", because any religious college or university

"inevitably draws lines... If you want to retain the mission, you can't at the same time tell faculty that 'Anything goes.'" [Discovery Institute, 2014]

By "draws lines", the DI author, Klinghoffer, means fire those evolutionist professors. Gag them! But the fired science faculty didn't teach "Anything goes"; they were science faculty applying the scientific method.

The Young Earth creationists at Answers in Genesis stood up for freedom of belief and and opposed the firing of evolutionist profs and said "teach the controversy." Ha ha, I'm kidding again.

In fact, AIG's chief imam, Ken Ham, criticized the "Biblical literalism" statement that Bryan College forced all profs to sign, because it was too darn tolerant and permitted too much freedom of belief; it might possibly allow some "wiggle room" where life is young but the Universe is old, etc.:

Ken Ham: "Also, I need to state that even if a college takes a stand on a literal Adam and Eve, that does not necessarily mean they also stand on six literal days of creation, a young earth (and universe), or stand against evolution of the various kinds of animals and plants." ["Did Adam and Eve Come from An Ape-Woman?", Ken Ham, AIG, April 21, 2014]

Meanwhile, ID proponents individually do everything they can to mess up scientists: IDer William Dembski reported Prof. Eric Pianka to the Department of Homeland Security as a terrorist, and DI founder Phillip Johnson tried (but failed) to get Nancey Murphy fired.

Now it was pretty easy for me to draw up that list of scientists fired for supporting evolution. The IDers' stories about scientists being fired for opposing evolution are either impossibly vague, or, upon investigation, turn out to be bullshit, like the fake stories in the movie Expelled which claimed that Richard Sternberg was fired from the Smithsonian-- an Institution where he never worked in a paid position; he was the equivalent of the patron of a library. Back to Tour:

Tour: "For the United States, I pray that the scientific community and the National Academy in particular will investigate the disenfranchisement that is manifest upon some of their own"

How the $#!@ can the NAS or anyone else "investigate the disenfranchisement" when you creationists never give accurate facts or details? All we get from James Tour is a long string of insinuations and excuses for not presenting facts.

Do you really want the NAS to investigate your stories, Tour? What would you say if they investigated you? Do you think "The dog ate my homework" is a good start for an investigation? This claim cannot be taken seriously; if the NAS really investigated such stories, Tour has already claimed he'll tell them nothing. No names, no dates, no places, no quotes.

I wonder if James Tour would support an NAS investigation into all the colleges who fired or silenced the real professors, listed above, for supporting evolutionary theory?

Tour goes on at some length about his faith, Jesus and the Bible and he's going to Heaven. It's nice that he's honest about his faith (so many IDers are sneaky weasels about it), but scientifically it's irrelevant.

The only "evidence" that Tour presents against evolution are the common creationist old wives' tales about how in private unnamed scientists admit there's really no evidence for evolution. The "in private" part is crucial because he's winking at us to signal he'll never accept any burden of evidence.

Tour: "Present day scientists that expose their thoughts on this become ever so timid when they talk with me privately. I simply can not understand the source of their confidence when addressing their positions publicly."

The word "privately" tips us off that he'll never present evidence. Sorry Dr. Tour, scientists have the responsibility of presenting evidence for their position.

Tour: "Furthermore, when I, a non-conformist, ask proponents for clarification, they get flustered in public and confessional in private wherein they sheepishly confess that they really don’t understand [macroevolution] either."

Why don't you pony up some names of these "present day scientists" whom you accuse of dishonesty-- you say they say one thing in public and another in private-- so let's hear their side of these alleged "private conversations." What were their names-- Professor Santa Claus, and his post-doc, Dr. Easter Bunny? 

Does Tour think his story is new? This particular fake story from creationists-- unnamed scientist admits in private that there's no evidence for evolution-- is about 100 years old or more. I've never, ever, observed scientists behave in the way he describes; but I have read dozens of creationist books, which often contain fantasies like this, of anonymous "atheist scientists" who admit in private, in whispered tones, that there's no evidence for evolution, but are scared to say so in public! Such stories began appearing in the 1920's.

Compare Tour's story with this creationist gem, which you might have heard: NASA scientists, using computers, discover by astronomical calculations that there was a "missing day" sometime in the last 3,000 years, and then some creationist explains to them that it was the day that Joshua in the Bible commanded the sun to stand still. This story was invented wholecloth by creationist Harry Rimmer in the 1920's. In the 1960's, creationist Harold Hill updated Rimmer's story, making it faker and more modern by adding NASA and the computers. It was always 100% bullshit.

These creationist fairy tales, like Harry Rimmer's story of "atheist scientists discover Joshua's missing day" and James Tour's fantasies of professors secretly admitting in private they know no evidence for evolution, always follow the same pattern: an always-anonymous "atheist professor" admits privately that there's evidence against evolution, but is too timid to say it in public, thus explaining why there's no evidence the whole thing ever happened. As the Church Lady would say, "How convenient." No evidence and not even an evidence substitute.

It's possible that Tour's religious imagination has caused him to start hearing things or actually seeing the stories he read about in the creationist books where he learned biology. But scientists care about reproducible EVIDENCE, not the imagination and rich fantasy life of creationists.

The cliche of the scientist who whispers in private that there's no evidence for evolution-- but he has to believe it, 'cause he's atheist-- was an old story before Tour was born, and he's not young. It's as eternal as the infamous "Lady Hope" fairy tale where Darwin repents and converts to Christianity on his deathbed, or the one where the evolutionist Ernst Haeckel gets convicted in a trial for scientific fraud-- one of those creationist stories that's a century old and never dies.

A more popular example of the fake story comes from the evangelical Christian rap group, Insane Clown Posse:

"Water, fire, air and dirt.
Fuckin’ magnets. How do they work? 
And I don’t wanna talk to a scientist. 
Y’all motherfuckers lyin’ and gettin’ me pissed."
[Insane Clown Posse, "Miracles"] 

Tour's essay can be similarly summarized:

"Fuckin’ macroevolution. How does it work?
And I don’t wanna talk to a scientist. 
Y’all motherfuckers lyin’ and gettin’ me pissed."

Actually, all physicists know just about everything about how magnets work (at room temperature anyway), and evolutionary biologists know a lot about how macroevolution works.

The real Tour: "I never thought that science would have evolved like this...."

It didn't. I think you're lying.

The point of fake creo stories is to inoculate non-scientists against all possible evidence for evolution: the natural history museum may have a bunch of transitional fossils in it, yes, but ignore 'em. Geneticists may observe lots of beneficial mutations or evolved gains in complexity, but ignore 'em-- them scientists be lyin' and gettin' me pissed. More and more creationists and ID proponents (William Dembski, John Oller, Vox Day, Kent Hovind, etc.) oppose vaccinating kids against diseases like measles, polio, rubella, but they totally believe in vaccinating students against evidence.


  1. Considering that facts are important: Bryan College did NOT simply "close down" Dr. Todd Wood's research center. The entire institution had major budget problems and revenue shortfalls. If Wood had found enough private donors, he would have remained there. No need to concoct an alleged firing which never happened. There are dozens of REAL "YEC political correctness" at dozens of fundamentalist schools.

    Very few Christian colleges and graduate schools can support non-teaching faculty. That's why the teaching loads are often crippling. Wood's research position was exceptional only in that it lasted as long as it did, especially for an institution as small and under-endowed as Bryan College.

    1. I have added a comment in-text to reflect your points.

  2. Irony: didn't Dembski himself, no less, run into real trouble at Southwestern Baptist for not being creationist enough?

  3. This is quite an in depth analysis of the situation , thanks for sharing!