Creationists create mimetic “Science Friday” show; real one files lawsuit against them

November 19, 2012 • 3:20 am

I’ve often posted about “Batesian mimicry,” the phenomenon whereby a palatable species (often an insect hunted by birds), evolves to resemble an unpalatable or toxic “model” species that is brightly colored and that predators have learned to avoid.  Before we go on, here’s a great picture of a Batesian mimic: a moth that mimics a paper wasp. Can you believe this is a moth? If you saw one in your house, you’d be fooled, too! (Image from The Grackle.)

But its curled mouthparts give it away as a lepidopteran:

By the way, there’s are several evolutionary predictions that can be made from seeing such species: if they evolved (rather than were created), one would predict that either now or in the recent past, you will find a model species of real wasp living in the same area as the mimic (predators need to learn to avoid the real “model” wasp to provide the selective pressure that causes the mimic to evolve resemblance), that there was a predator that occasionally tried to eat wasps, and that you could demonstrate that such aversion could either be learned by that predator or had actually evolved in predator. (There are cases in which aversion to brightly colored “warning patterns” has actually evolved as a hard-wired rather than learned behavior, for individuals with an innate aversion to stinging or poisonous prey would have a reproductive advantage.)

This is just one other case where the evolutionary hypothesis makes testable predictions. And, by the way, these have been tested and substantiated.

This is all a roundabout way of introducing a case of what I’ll call cultural reverse Batesian mimicry, in which we find a distasteful and poisonous phenomenon mimicking a a palatable model phenomenon.  The model, in this case, is the estimable NPR show Science Friday, which is very good. (I was honored to be on it once.)

The mimic is a duplicitous website and podcast called Real Science Friday, a creationist operation that apes (forgive the pun) the NPR show, and is run by a shady minister named Bob Enyart who’s been convicted of misdemeanor child abuse and involved, as both target and instigator, in various internet conspiracy theory disputes.  The mimicry is so precise that the NPR show has filed suit against Enyart.

As reported by Saturday’s ars technica:

Earlier this month the people behind NPR’s Science Friday radio show took some time to have a Legal Friday. On that day, they filed a suit against a minister/broadcaster named Bob Enyart for calling his Colorado-based radio program “Real Science Friday.”

NPR’s Science Friday is a multimedia machine with radio broadcasts on NPR, podcasts, online content, and more. It’s backed by the Science Friday Initiative, which performs additional outreach intended to help give the public access to the latest in science.

Enyart’s program also has all of the above (the radio program, the podcasts, the YouTube videos). But it lacks the backing of a foundation—and the science part. His “Real Science Friday” website(Tagline: “Don’t Be Fooled by NPR’s parody titled Science Friday ;)”) contains a variety of standard creationist material, much of it attacking evolution, but some of it arguing for a Universe that’s only a few thousand years old as well.

. . . The suit notes that Science Friday has five registered trademarks and claims that the creationist group is diluting them and confusing consumers. Science Friday says that in iTunes, the creationist podcast shows up in searches and in the “Listeners also subscribed to” section. On Google, it lands on top of the second page of results ahead of several legitimate web pages. (As of this writing, both of those facts stand.)

The suit demands a variety of relief for the NPR program, asking that the creationists be made to stop using the logo in electronic form, turn over the Internet domain, and hand over any physical materials (like CDs) that bear the logo.

Just to help you out, here’s a field guide:

The nutritious model:

The noxious mimic (two views):

And a screenshot, in which the duplicity is revealed only by the fake “winking” icon ( 😉 ):

If you want to see an example of how “Real Science Friday” (RSF) operates, just go over and read Enyart’s “Darwin was wrong about the tree of life” article to see how many mistakes, deliberate or otherwise, you can find. Here’s one: it was evolutionists and not creationists who exposed the problems of considering the Darwinius masillae fossil as a missing link between two groups of primates (see here, here, and here, for example).

And RSF recycles the old New Scientist “Darwin was wrong” cover, the stupidest thing that the journal ever did. Darwin’s supposed “error” was to suggest there was a branching tree of life, a conclusion that, claimed New Scientist, was destroyed by horizontal gene transfer (the movement of DNA between distantly related species by vectors like viruses or direct ingestion). But such transfer is common only in bacteria, and if you analyze the total DNA of non-bacterial species, not just an occasional odd gene horizontally transferred from, say, fungi to rotifers, you will still find the tree of life branching in a nice Darwinian way.

But creationists are devious liars, and, as we see, will not only distort the evidence, but will parasitize a real science website attempting to draw attention to specious creationist claims.

These people will never give up until religion goes away, at which time, along with all the other benefits of secularism, we will hear no more from liars like Bob Enyart.

52 thoughts on “Creationists create mimetic “Science Friday” show; real one files lawsuit against them

  1. Not sure if it’s Greg, Jerry or Matthew posting.
    You’re saying that they’re misrepresenting the opinions and editorial decisions of the staff of ‘New Scientist’ in a manner likely to damage their reputation. And this website is accessible to people in Britain? (Yes, it is, specifically here.)
    Britain’s libel laws can be a frightening thing to be up against. This could get interesting. I’ll contact NS immediately.

    1. (contact sent)
      I do see Lou’s point below about parody, which I’ve incorporated into my comment to NS, that it may be appropriate for their lawyers OR their parodyists. I’m not quite sure who’d be scarier.

  2. I’ve seen Enyart’s website without realizing the NPR connection (we don’t get NPR in Ecuador). It’s nasty but I think he should have the freedom to parody. In fact I’m impressed he had the sense of humor to add that tagline.

    1. I think an important distnction is whether a site is actually trying to fool people into thinking it is another site. There is no danger of that at Bob Enyart’s site. which lays its cards on the table right up front. If we object to this, should we not also object to the website, which is a response to Should somebody sue the hilarious Landover Baptist Church website ( because it spoofs the Westboro Baptist Church ? Should we sue the Onion for its frequent imitations of other news sources? I don’t think these kinds of legal actions represent a healthy trend.

    2. I wouldn’t attribute it to a sense of humor (having encountered Enyart in other situations around the web), but to knowing the law well enough that he can claim parody in the event that the real science people take a notice and decide to sue.

      It’s an underhanded, sleazy, and totally par for the course ploy.

      1. The site designs have nothing in common, and he is completely upfront about what he is doing. I just don’t see anything sleazy about the fact that the program name is a take-off on the NPR program name. There is plenty of intellectually sleazy content, but that is not the issue here.

        Do you really think that he made that joke specifically to deflect lawsuits?

        Our side does this kind of thing all the time. It will be a sad day for freedom of speech when people get sued for stuff like this.

        1. Just to clarify, by “our side does this kind of thing all the time” I meant we often spoof people or sites that we think are wrong. I didn’t mean that we often sue people or sites who spoof us.

        2. Do you really think that he made that joke specifically to deflect lawsuits?

          If you ever are unfortunate enough to engage him on the web, you will indeed find that idea more than plausible.

      2. (having encountered Enyart in other situations around the web

        oh yeah.

        been there, done that. man is as intractable and intellectually dishonest as they come.

        evil, evil bastard.

        do. not. want.

  3. Speaking of mimicry, yesterday my yard was full of honeybees visiting a flowering shrub, and mixed with them was one individual of a mimetic fly which looked and acted just like the bees. First I thought “Great mimic!” Then it dawned on me that the bees have only been in South America less than 500 yrs. I don’t see any native bees that look like this. Could this be a case of hyperfast evolution? I took some pictures yesterday of model and mimic on the same flowers; I will send them to you (though I realize you probably won’t be able to look at them while you are away).

    Enjoy the jams and the wonderful intelligence and “down-to-earthiness” of the British!

  4. Reflecting on the ~5yrs he taught HS English before WWII, my father used to say of his Superintendent of Schools, “he couldn’t tell the truth even if he didn’t have to tell a lie.” Sounds like a good description of Enyart.

  5. It is after all the only way pseudo-scientific and religious outfits can aspire to even just a small degree of respectability, that is to say by aping (as you aptly put it) real science, real museums, and real popular science programs such as NPR’s. They know that if they were to simply present their ideas without disguising them to look sciencey, most people would simply ignore them or, more likely, laugh at them. That they are so desperate to bask in the reflected prestige of science is a good sign, I think it shows that they are aware that their ideas are already sitting on the compost heap of history, and that the worms are on their way.

  6. These people will never give up until religion goes away, at which time, along with all the other benefits of secularism, we will hear no more from liars like Bob Enyart.

    These are shameless conmen getting a free ride off of the more “respectable” con of religion. Were religion to go away, these cons would simply switch scams.


    1. Yes you’re right…Bob Enyart is a shamless liar for Jesus…and criminal connman who has been running an organized child murder ring for decades. Google “Bob Enyart JonBenet Ransom Note” to learn more about wwhy Bob is scared to death.

      1. There’s no evidence from reliable sources to sustain that accusation. There are plenty of weird things both by and about Enyart on the web, and WEIT is not the place to explore them.


    1. It would depend on the thoroughness of your search.

      You can be very confident that there are no live mature bull sperm whales in the room with you right now. You can be reasonably confident that there aren’t any cockroaches in the room with you, but not absolutely certain. You could however, reasonably perform a search sufficient to establish confidence on a par with that of the whale.

      It’s also very likely that there aren’t any E. coli in the room capable of metabolizing citrate…but performing an exhaustive enough sweep to come to that conclusion might not be practical.

      In the case of the wasps and moths, it’s entirely possible — not all that unlikely, indeed — that the model wasp or its predator went extinct a century ago, for example. If that’s the case, even an inordinately thorough search wouldn’t necessarily turn up the predicted evidence. However, since the search couldn’t possibly be truly exhaustive, absence of evidence in this case would be considered unfortunate, not evidence of absence.

      However, I’d be willing to bet a nice dinner that a suitably-qualified and equipped naturalist would find the wasp and predator in relatively short order. As predictions go, this one is very reasonable.



    2. So if I looked for, but couldn’t find, the model wasp and aversion-inhibited wasp predator, to what conclusion would I be drawn?”

      Clearly, to the conclusion that Jesus was the son of God and rose from the dead. There simply is no other answer that makes sense.

      1. I understand that illustrated moth was used only as an introduction to the main point of the original post and that in this case a possible model species has been identified and that (according to the Grackle) “the moth is surely protected from predators”. However, I wanted to look at the assertion that the general case of a palatable mimic/unpalatable model/aversion-inhibited predator triad “is just one other case where the evolutionary hypothesis makes testable predictions”, and specifically in the context of these predictions being supportive of evolution rather than creation.

        To me, if something is tested, it can either pass or fail the test and there are distinct consequences either way. So, if certain predictions are supposed to underpin our confidence in evolution when they come to pass, then our confidence in evolution ought to become more precarious if they don’t. Is that what actually happens?

        Well, we don’t have an example of a supposed mimic lacking identified model and predator species right in front of us, but if “prediction” means prediction rather than post hoc self-congratulation, then the possibility of such a circumstance arising in the future has to be accepted. In such a case, what would be the consequences of the prediction failing? Can it fail?

        Obviously, failure to find something doesn’t prove that it doesn’t exist. But equally, if finding it is supposed to be proof of something beyond the mere fact of finding it, then we can’t go on citing that truism forever.

        Or can we? If the required degree of confidence in the negative is not stated in advance, then there is a positive embarrassment of get-outs we can use to assert that failure to find is not failure of the prediction. These include the examples already given here: not searching for long enough; not searching thoroughly enough; not searching expertly enough; sought species died out.

        If those don’t convince, there‘s always bluster (“I’d be willing to bet a nice dinner…”); assumed air of authority (“As predictions go, this one is very reasonable”) and appeals to the audience’s paranoia (reactive mention of religious mythology).

        While this type of prediction is formally testable, all this leaves me wondering if talk of “testable predictions” really means anything in practice here. And of they’re not testable in practice, why were they held up as an example of something that should favour the evolutionary hypothesis over any alternative?

      2. Hmm, there must be something I’m not understanding. I thought the conclusion would be that there is no god but allah, and that mohammed is his prophet. Either that, or that it’s turtles all the way down.

  7. Is it bad that I got more interested in the biology than in the anti-science? (Having read and commented the Ars article didn’t help, naturally.)

    But such transfer is common only in bacteria, and if you analyze the total DNA of non-bacterial species, not just an occasional odd gene horizontally transferred from, say, fungi to rotifers, you will still find the tree of life branching in a nice Darwinian way.

    Several points:

    – I keep forgetting the suggested numbers, but I thought HGT was about the same rate per gene between all types of cells?

    At least it happens in eukaryotes as well. For example, eukaryote nuclei has received a lot of genes from endosymbionts. Or if you wish, the resulting (but still branching!) chimera has retained some of the endosymbiont genes.

    – More as a heads up perhaps, rotifers may be a bad example of occasional HGT, seeing how up to 10 % of active genes in bdelloid rotifers may be HGT derived in the last 80 Ma:

    “Strangely, however, these other organisms were often not animals, but simple microbes. This means that bdelloids have genes that are not present in other animals, but have been acquired from micro-organisms and adapted for use in the rotifer.”

    The press release is but 2-3 days old.

    – Obviously viruses do HGT as well as cells, but at least some of them tree well with cells when using the same methods.

    [“Giant viruses coexisted with the cellular ancestors and represent a distinct supergroup along with superkingdoms Archaea, Bacteria and Eukarya“, Nasir et al, BMC Evolutionary Biology 2012, 12:156.]

    So ToL FTW I would say here, regardless how well the idea of dsDNA viruses treeing in with cells will be accepted as such.

    there’s are several evolutionary predictions that can be made from seeing such species

    That included some coarse grained dynamics (absence or presence et cetera).

    The list is long enough, certainly. But, out of curiosity, can’t we say anything about the fine grain dynamics too?

    I imagine the mimic would have had or would eventually get some variation of traits that would mean some degree of mimicry. In which case I hope the mimicry would go after the sometimes moving target (trait changes visible for the mimicry) with some delay, et cetera.

  8. From the first paragraph of the first article on the RSF site:

    …talking about the amazing planet of Mercury and how, for such a small planet, it’s causing such a load of trouble for the evolutionists.

    Well now, that’s a massive fail. I don’t believe Darwin had a thing to say about Mercury. (Yeah, I know what they’re “thinking”. I don’t care. Words have meanings.)

  9. So this is less like a harmless moth that imitates a dangerous wasp and more like a parasitic fish that imitates a cleaner wrasse in order to sneak close enough to an unsuspecting grouper to eat its scales.

  10. And RSF recycles the old New Scientist ”Darwin was wrong” cover, the stupidest thing that the journal ever did.

    Again, why? Because it was distorted by creationists? Currently, ASM is promoting a book entitled Microbes and Evolution: The World That Darwin Never Saw. Covers some of the same ground, but nobody finds it stupid.

    With all due respect, I continue to remember that incident not for the stupidity of the cover, but for the heavy-handedness of the dissenters.

  11. Regardless of the accuracy/inaccuracy of the content on their website, I don’t think you can sue people because they have a higher search position than you.

    1. But when you’re protecting a well-established trademark for which you’ve spent 20+ years creating a reputation from a group of sleazebags who will happily utilize that mark in an effort to undermine everything your own work stands for…I’d say suing people is the way to go.

      BTW the sleazy infringers DON’T have a higher search position than the actual SciFri folks, they just appear alongside in a variety of searches in a way that is clearly intended to confuse potential audiences and dilute the value of the trademark, which is pretty much the textbook definition of infringement.

      1. Look at the site in question. There is no attempt to mimic the NPR site or fool people about whose site it is. If this were infringement, then virtually every site whose name makes reference to another site would be sued. Earlier I gave some examples of atheist sites which do the same thing as Enyart. Why are you so quick to take such a repressive position on this issue? I bet I could find at least one post title on this website that is a take-off on some other person’s website or book title. Should that person sue Jerry? This is ridiculous.

        1. But this is pretty clearly not parody. And frankly, it is clearly infringement and not parody precisely because it’s not mimicking NPR SciFri’s site design or style. Parody is imitative or derivative. This is not. This is merely a case of some people helping themselves to a previously established brand as a means of furthering their own agenda. This work doesn’t mock or comment in any meaningful way on Flatow & Co.’s show – it just uses a title that already has recognition value as a tool to advance their own rather skewed view of science. In short, this isn’t about parody, it’s about trademark infringement.

          What Weird Al Yankovic does is parody. And although he generally secures permission from the artists whose work he parodies, that’s nothing more than a courtesy. Parody is fair use and he’s generally on pretty solid ground, legally speaking, with or without the artists’ permission. But when Weird Al records and releases “Perform This Way,” he makes no claim to be Lady Gaga, he doesn’t bill himself in such a way that could potentially make music buyers believe that he is Lady Gaga, and his parody doesn’t present any threat to Lady Gaga’s sales of “Born This Way” or any of her established brand identity.

          NPR’s lawyers obviously believe that they can demonstrate that the existence of this so-called “Real Science Friday” does harm to NPR’s trademark by creating confusion in the marketplace and leading consumers to believe that “Real Science Friday” is part of their own brand when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, because they believe this to be the case, as US intellectual property law stands, they are obligated to make every effort to defend their trademark. NPR holds a trademark on the term “Science Friday” as applied to radio shows, podcasts and probably any other broadcasting media as well. If they want to maintain that trademark, they have to defend it by showing that anyone else using it is doing harm to the value of it. If they didn’t believe they could demonstrate harm, they sure as heck wouldn’t be filing a suit.

          1. “…when Weird Al records and releases “Perform This Way,” he makes no claim to be Lady Gaga, he doesn’t bill himself in such a way that could potentially make music buyers believe that he is Lady Gaga, and his parody doesn’t present any threat to Lady Gaga’s sales of “Born This Way” or any of her established brand identity.”

            We both agree that Enyart is not claiming to be NPR. Looking at his website, there is no way anyone could potentially believe he is NPR. It is just like having a “noanswersingenesis” website addressing I am surprised to find myself defending Enyart in this (I agree with you that intellectual honesty is completely absent from the man) but this is an over-agressive trademark defense by NPR, and if they win, it will set a chilling precedent, and hurt us and the world at large much more than it will hurt Bob Enyart.

          2. I just think it’s funny how one of the complaints is that RSF appears in the Listeners also subscribed to section, as if that’s a valid reason to sue, and then it says RSF puts forth their own views and news articles they feel represent their ideas, how dare they. Freedom of speech only for those that agree with you. No person with the ability to perform the simple task of navigating the internet would be simple enough to confuse RSF to be the same site as NPR’s.

          3. This is absolutely, unequivocally and in no way, shape or form a free speech issue. Not even remotely. Science Friday, Inc. is making absolutely no attempt whatsoever to silence Enyart et al. or prevent them in any way from disseminating their lunatic and ill-informed notion of what qualifies as “science.” None whatsoever. They’re merely trying to prevent these charlatans from disseminating their views in such a way that trades on SciFri’s trademarks.

            I don’t think I was clear enough in my previous post – it’s not JUST about whether their site or radio program could be taken as the same site or as an official production of Science Friday. It’s about not letting other people use the brand that they’ve worked for 20+ years to establish.

            Let’s say I create and sell a soft drink. It’s artificial grape flavor, non-carbonated and comes in gallon jugs rather than cans and 2-liter bottles. Let’s say I decide to call my soft drink “SuperDuper Coca-Cola” and I print in large letters on my product’s label, “Not a product of the Coca-Cola Company.” No persone with the ability to perform the simple task of navigating grocery store aisles would be simple enough to confuse my SuperDuper Coca-Cola with actual Coca-Cola. And yet, if I tried this, how many days–hell, how many hours–after it hit store shelves do you think it would take for Coca-Cola’s lawyers to contact me?

            And let’s be perfectly clear, SciFri would just as vigorously be going after a group that was creating a program called “Real Science Friday” if they were talking about real science rather than creationist nonsense.

            Lou Jost – this isn’t over-aggressive trademark defense. This is standard trademark defense. This is how it works. You don’t have to like it, but this is how it works.

          4. Well, since you brought it up, there are actually plenty of generic sodas that do word play/mimic their name brand counterparts, they don’t put “not a product of coca cola” on them because they don’t have to, they are legally allowed to sell their product, insinuating that it tastes the same as “Coca Cola” as long as they are not trying to make the consumer believe it is actually Coca Cola, it is considered competition, even if Coca Cola came up with the formula first. To prove copyright/trademark infringement, you must prove the competition is trying to make the consumer believe they are you. It is very hard to trademark the words real, science, or, friday. Having someone argue against your
            website, parody it, or show conflucting views and actively engaging in refuting

          5. They want to take away his domain and turn over all physical archives that contain the domain name (I assume that would be all the archives).

            So you are saying that “noanswersingenesis” also infringes a trademark and could be dismantled, along with any other site that includes the name of another site in its name. Science magazine could sue Science Friday for attempting to cash in on the prestige of their product. Where does this end?

          6. Lisa O said: “there are actually plenty of generic sodas that do word play/mimic their name brand counterparts”

            I would ask for examples.

            While it would be difficult to trademark the words “real”, “science”, or, “Friday” individually, sets of words together are easily trademarked. Put these together, create an transportation company, and see how far you get: “Ford Motor Company”.

          7. Here are just a few examples of sodas that use word play association in their names, in all these sodas the drink actually is the same flavor as the name brand counterpart.
            Mountain Dew (name brand)
            Mountain Holler
            Mountain Mellow
            Mountain Drops
            You’ll notice that the mountain mellow is actually copying Mellow Yellow at the same time.
            Dr. Pepper (name brand)
            Dr. Thunder
            Dr. Topper
            Dr. wells
            With the Dr. Pepper examples they all use the same color can as Dr. Pepper as well as the Dr. name. Usually with the Mountain Dew examples they try to use a citrus color theme, green and yellow, sometimes mixed with orange.
            Now I am not trying to defend this guy Enyart or whatever his name is, I looked him up and he does seem like a jerk, but that is not the point. I also looked up trademark infringement, dilution law and it is as I thought, the standard is “confusion” and intent to confuse. For dilution it’s a little more laxed and easier to prove, however parody and first amendment are defenses often used successfully to defend against the accusation of dilution.
            Now first amendment is a freedom of speech issue is it not?
            By the way I did not just pull the above soda comment out of my you know what, I actually knew this before I commented on it. I also knew a little about trademark law, but it differs from state to state and of course case to case, it will come down to making their case and it looks like RSF has a pretty good defense available, but like I said, it will be interesting to see if NPR can make it stick.

  12. I think I’d be a bit more sympathetic to NPR if Ira Flatow hadn’t sounded quite so disengaged the last few times I’ve caught Sci Fri. He often leaves me with the impression that his mind is off somewhere else, and some of his questions/comments seem very unfocused. I just read with surprise (on Wikipedia) that he’s 63, and has been doing science reporting at NPR for over 40 years. Maybe he needs to take a break!

    All that said, kudos to NPR for having any kind of regular science show, and there have been some interesting segments on Sci Fri (plus they air the Ignobles, which is usually good for a grin).

  13. Sorry, my above comment was incomplete, duplicated and misspelled, I hate typing comments on this nook, I can’t edit them, anyway, maybe we need to look up what trademark defense law actually states, it will be interesting to see how this law suit plays out.

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