Desperate, the Discovery Institute begs my readers to ask me to debate intelligent design and the Hedin case

June 26, 2013 • 10:45 am

A while back the Discovery Institute invited me to come to their  Evolution News and Views website to debate the Hedin case, intelligent design in general, and Stephen Meyer’s new creationist book on the Cambrian Explosion. They would then, they said, respond to me on that site.

Now why on earth would I do that? I can discuss ID and the Hedin case right here, and, unlike the DI, I allow readers to comment.

My response to the DI’s “invitation” is the same as that given by ecologist Bob May when asked to debate a creationist:

“That would look great on your CV, not so good on mine.”

As for rehashing my views on ID, I’ve done that at length in two essays in The New Republic, “The faith that dare not speak its name” (2005) and “The great mutator” (2007; both free online). And I’ll leave the assessment of the Meyer book to the paleobiology pros, as I have my own book to write.

But the DI persists, and is so desperate to engage me in their pages that they’ve posted an appeal to my readers—that’s right, folks, to YOU—asking you to importune me to debate them on their site.

The inimitable David Klinghoffer sounds this note of desperation at Evilution News and Views in “An appeal to Jerry Coyne’s readers“:

That’s why I turn to [Coyne’s] readers. I suppose the leading Darwin defenders in the academic world have a professional stake in seeing lively, informed, critical discussion of their crippled theory muffled. I can also see why some angry, resentful folks among the Darwinist rank-and-file likewise only want to see competing theories squelched, not debated — theories that are friendly, perhaps, to worldviews they have rejected for private, personal reasons of their own.

But the average reader who enjoys Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True for its spritely, pugilistic tone? I’m talking to you. Surely you would enjoy seeing your hero come over and teach us a lesson about “good science” by trouncing us on the actual merit of our ideas, or lack of it? The author of Why Evolution Is True has never done that. Rather than bluffing like Nick Matzke, give us the real goods — the details please — on why ID fails as science.

Or how about you other pro-Darwin bloggers. What about your own readers? I trust that some of you, for goodness sake, would enjoy seeing a champion of the Darwin community like Coyne, having read Darwin’s Doubt, come over here and trounce us? So let Jerry Coyne know your feelings.

Sometimes I’ve wondered if Darwinists really are completely united in a wish to run from any fair fight. Am I wrong to wonder? At least show me that. Go back over to Why Evolution Is True now and tell Coyne you want to see him take us apart, on our home turf. Go on, what are you waiting for?

Now somehow I feel that most of my readers aren’t going to urge me to engage in a debate that is, after all, just putting my regular posts on the DI site instead of here. That would do nothing but get them the traffic they desperately want. And I can tell you that I am not going to engage in that debate. I have the purity of my c.v. to worry about.

But if you want to importune me, or respond to Klinghoffer’s desperate plea, feel free to do so in the comments below. After all, he’s talking to you, but you can’t respond over there.

You ID advocates can also make your case, but the website rules are that we can then ask, before you post further, about your evidence for God The Intelligent Designer.

This is the last time I’ll be engaging the Discovery Institute directly on these issues. DIers are not scientists but religious zealots concealing clerical collars beneath threadbare lab coats. I will debate real scientific issues with other scientists, but not creationism with creationists who pretend to be scientists. After all, real scientists are open to reason, and don’t spend their time making up evidence to buttress a priori emotional commitments.

209 thoughts on “Desperate, the Discovery Institute begs my readers to ask me to debate intelligent design and the Hedin case

  1. How about you email them the links to the posts here which most clearly set out your position on ID, which they can use as a “post” there?

    1. Better still, I think they could come and search the site. And if they don’t like that, they could send a raft of questions to the good professor

    2. Better yet, how about JAC doesn’t waste one second more on the Discovery ‘Institute.’ They’re not interested in learning anything about science, they’re interested in increasing their traffic and pumping up their own egos. Any outcome of any debate will be twisted to the point that they won it.

      It would be a useless gesture to a hapless organization.

    3. Maybe after they unmask their “intelligent designer”. It could be the Flying Spaghetti Monster but there is no reason to think that any other potential designer would qualify.

  2. Personally I don’t think anyone who has any respect for freedom of expression should be participating at the DI’s site or the odious Uncommon Descent. They have every right to run their sites as they wish, but censoring and disabling comments shows the lack of confidence they have in their own positions.

    There are plenty of venues where Klinghoffer and his ilk are welcome to comment. He should come here if he has a point to make. That he chooses not to says a great deal about his character.

  3. Agree, don’t waste your time “debating” them. It will do no good and just waste your valuable time. And give them a chance to be insulting. Unlike true scientists, those faithiness sorts are locked in to a closed mind. If they are to find the courage to live with uncertainty and discard woo, I doubt if it will be a sudden eureka moment on stage in a “debate”.

  4. There are plenty of purveyors of nonsense out there. How would you choose one over the other? Ignoring ignorance is the path to enlightenment.

  5. I personally can’t respond to their appeal, because obviously I’m not the intended target, i.e. a “reader who enjoys Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True for its spritely, pugilistic [??] tone”. Neither am I an “angry, resentful person among the Darwinist rank-and-file”. I am simply a scientist who understands what a valid scientific theory is and what distinguishes it from pseudoscientific nonsense. And I suspect there are quite a lot of people like me among the readers of this website.

    Dr. Coyne, don’t even think about dignifying pseudoscience with a debate (not that there is any real danger of that).

    1. I know – if they wanted Jerry’s commenters to consider their request, they should have at least referred accurately as “gorgeous and intelligent” 🙂

        1. Dont’t worry, Diana – I understood right away that “gorgeous and intelligent” applied to us.

  6. “God did it” is a competing theory? Why didn’t I get the memo?

    Dinosaurs did indeed live alongside humanity. Klinghoffer is living proof.

    Stay well away from the crazy people and just let them wibble away to themselves. Eventually they’ll just die out – hopefully within my lifetime.

  7. Klinghoffer’s words are nothing but a desperate child’s attempt at looking for validation.

    Jerry, thanks for allowing me to laugh at the DI’s gross incompetence.

    1. ain’t that the truth. We get poor Dave desperate for attention. I wish I was an artist so I could do a lovely cartoon with poor Dave and the DIers sitting at the little kids table and blubbering.

  8. It’s obvious to us that you’re not going to get a balanced debate over there. The only thing you will do is give them good advertising, make them appear to be respectable or credible scientists, not the sleazy politicians and journalists they act like and waste all our time.

    The only way to have a “lively, informed, critical discussion” is to keep doing what you are doing. Here you can keep a record of everything that has been said, there is no way to trust them. They are acting like children or Alex Jones trying to start a fight, “come over here and say that” types, calling you our hero (maybe if you grew a beard?) and appealing to your ego. Adults, especially respectable scientists, dont do that.

  9. Sometimes I’ve wondered if Darwinists really are completely united in a wish to run from any fair fight.

    I’d say give ’em credit for recognizing when the fight isn’t fair. (Under honest rules, Coyne would likely win. Under cheater rules, probably not so much.)


    1. Exactly so. The “fight” isn’t even a “fight” to begin with.

      When you actually have — oh — EVIDENCE, bring it.

      Me, I’ve got other things to do.

  10. Mr. Klinghoffer, no one here has the least bit of respect for either you or the Discovery Institute. You’re sadly mistaken if you think you’re going to change that with your childish attempt at goading.

  11. This

    I suppose the leading Darwin defenders in the academic world have a professional stake in seeing lively, informed, critical discussion of their crippled theory muffled

    is rich since debate is really the last thing Klinghoffer & his ilk really want. Not only do they close their site for comment but they also interrupt guests on talk shows and when the guest leaves, they talk behind his back both in print and on the talk shows when he can’t respond.

    Non sequiter: I did enjoy the characterization of this site as “spritely” and immediately I thought of Shakespeare’s comedies.

    I’m sure Klinghoffer et al. will designate anyone here who agrees that you do should not debate those who don’t really want a debate as members of your choir or as zealots and to that I say: meh.

    1. “Non sequiter: I did enjoy the characterization of this site as “spritely” and immediately I thought of Shakespeare’s comedies.”

      While I, the lowbrow, was wondering if that was better or worse than coke-ly.

      1. Ha ha, I thought of that a bit after and no, spritely is NEVER better than cokely. Cokely rocks.

  12. It seems to me that they are attempting to legitimize an argument/position that is (at every turn)being exposed as fallacious and increasingly vague. By attempting to persuade Mr. Coyne to participate, they are trying to attach his involvement in the debate to the claim that it is a legitimate debate to be having.

    If the flat earth society was continually asking NASA to come debate them would NASA give them the time of day? No! The facts are well established, and it is a waste of NASA’s time to engage such behavior. On the other side the flat earters could claim “see we are debating the experts, that means we have a good enough point to draw in the big guns”.

    The DI arguments haven’t gotten any more persuasive over the years, only more cryptic and evasive as all evidence to arise continues to support evolution by natural selection, and offers no evidence for a created universe/earth/etc.

    The Dover case pretty much but the DI to bed as far as any real arguments that thought that they might have had. Mr. Coyne’s time, in my opinion, would be better spent elsewhere.

    1. Lots of scientists have critiqued their ideas and their ‘evidence’, and they have responded by … just repeating the same old ideas. Will they ever, for example, precisely define ‘specified information’? They know the critiques, and yet do not respond to them. What on Earth is the point of debating such people?

    2. Things aren’t going well for your ideas when the best you can do for them is ask people who are going to tear them apart to speak on your site.

  13. The debate was pretty well decided in the 1860s’
    “Life is too short to occupy oneself with the slaying of the slain more than once.”
    — Thomas Huxley

  14. The DI must be in a very desperate situation to make a strange appeal like this to the readers of this blog.

    Did they seriously think we would urge you to join them in a debate on their website? What an incredible miscalculation. Maybe not so incredible when you consider the source.

    This is what they have been reduced to: playing macho headgames. No doubt they will interpret your refusal to “debate” them on their turf as being due to “cowardice”. It’s a damned if you do or damned if you don’t situation(from their view), and they’ve got nothing to lose.

  15. Dr. Coyne, if you do it, you know you’ll end up as fodder for some Ben Stein junk documentary….

    A real catch you would be.

  16. Tell them that if they want a debate, they can repost your articles in their entirety (no editing) that apply directly to their interests, UNDER THE CONDITION that they open up comments on all of the articles. You’ve already said your piece, give everyone else a change to rip them to shreds.

    That is what they are really afraid of. Actual discussion. They need absolute editorial control in order to make themselves look credible.

    1. What you said.

      They want a debate, all they have to do is to turn on their comments function, the big babies.

      They want a debate, they can send THEIR heroes (not that they have any) over here, the big babies.


    2. This nails it.

      Do they really not understand how bad not having open comments makes them (and their kindred spirit, Ken Ham at AiG) look?

      PT, here, Pharyngula, the Sensuous Curmudgeon, and many others I’m sure, all have open comments. We get drive-by creationists, various crazies, and few, if any serious defenders of ID. Why not? Maybe because they know that the well-educated will not buy their gerin oil?

      Mr. Klinghoffer, if you’re reading this: Look just above, at the last sentence of Mr. Houser’s post: “That is what they are really afraid of. Actual discussion. They need absolute editorial control in order to make themselves look credible.” Now I think you know that real science is carried out in peer-reviewed journals. That is, ideas are put out there to see if they hold water, and are subjected to the scrutiny of the most knowledgeable people in the field–not the religious rank and file who will be buying Meyer’s latest book. If the DI is science, not religion, why do they not play by these rules, which are accepted by all?

      And please read this entire comment thread; it will enable you to understand why you did not get any response from Dr. Coyne, and why you will get none from us.

      1. I’m sure they do realize. But they also realize the even harsher consequences of free discussion on their sites.

  17. I would say that unless and until the DI can present, for peer review, their evidence for ID they are nothing but another political lobby group.

    First they should identify the “designer”…. oh! sorry Demski already did, it’s the Christian God.

  18. Love the way he slipped ‘competing theories’ in there. At least he hasn’t lost sight of the Wedge Strategy of conning the American public into thinking biblical creationism is a valid scientific theory to soften them up for removal of the Establishment Clause prior to installing a fundamentalist Christian Taliban-style theocracy in America.

  19. Surely you would enjoy seeing your hero come over and teach us a lesson about “good science” by trouncing us on the actual merit of our ideas, or lack of it?

    I get the feeling that most people who gravitate here do so because of the high quality of content posted, and the elevated level of discourse, honesty and civility which is the norm here.

    Why anyone would want to grace a den of liars and ignoramuses — like those running “Evolution News and Views” — with so much as a page hit, is beyond me. Assuming you DI types are reading these comments, you could do well to actually pull your fingers out of your ears, and actually do some real work to try to answer your critics (instead of merely repeating your thoroughly-debunked tripe). In doing so, there is a tiny chance that some of you might better understand why you are so roundly criticized and completely unpublished.

    1. I actually visit their site quite often. what can I say, their frequent whining about how mean Darwinists are… amuses me 🙂

  20. I suggest you pugilistically ignore them.

    Also, as a WEIT reader, I’m insulted that anyone thinks we can be played like that.

  21. Make a trade. You debate the DI and they allow unmoderated comments on their blog for now on? I think your readers (along with several other prominent sites) would love to have the ability to comment on the DI

  22. Dr. Coyne,

    Can’t wait for the results. I’d love to have the opportunity, as a biology dilettante armed only with reason and the wonderful information contained in your book. I would be extremely confident in myself. For me the answer lies in the idea that science seeks natural explanations and rejects supernatural, witness testimony, anectotal, divine revelation type evidence. So, sceintifically the design must be due to natural causes and religious texts are entirely discluded as evidence. It’s a simple as that. My focus would be establishing agreement that evolution happened, i.e., there was a time when bacteria existence and no birds, reptiles, a time when no primates existed but trilobytes did, etc, etc. If that is not agreed upon then I would ask for scientific evidence that humans lived in the silurian, or whales in the devonian, etc, etc. If the agreement is made then I’d ask how I can observe the designer in action because I would like to go home and bone my wife and watch the designer design the zygote or the sperm or whatever.

  23. I can’t believe no one has yet made the obvious reference: the Black Knight from Monty Python & the Holy Grail. DI, ID, creationism, all got trounced ages ago, and now wiggle about bleeding from the severed stumps of their limbs, while science goes on its way, ignoring them.

    1. My first thought was the “debate” on Monty Python where dead historical dictators, bodies sprawled in chairs, were asked questions by the live moderator.

      That’s what the DI group want: appearances.

      1. Appearances are all the DI has: the appearance of scientific explanations for the appearance of design, the appearance of lively debate between actual science and IDiot science, the appearance of real controversy in evolution.

        And, as usual and just like their Young-Earth brethren, they want the appearance of legitimacy-by-association.

    2. Exactly, it’s a matter of whether they will honor the rules of real debate. Richard Dawkins brought up the Monty Python scenario in an article in Free Inquiry nearly 15 years ago, and added the crucial detail that the Black Knight !*claims*! victory after each limb is cut off.

      Another widely circulating analogy is that debating a creationist is like playing chess with a pigeon. It knocks over the pieces, poops on the board, flies off and claims victory.

  24. Intelligent Design is stalled at the starting line, how strange of them to call it a “competing theory.”

    A better venue for scientific debate is in peer-reveiwed journals. Sorry DI, the price of admission is intellectual honesty. I think the first step for you along that path is to get the quote-mining of Creationists under control.

    Jerry, as the Hedin case proves, they cannot quote you accurately. Don’t put source material under their control.

  25. I would remark (if in Jerry’s shoes) that I don’t agree to appear in events where participants are mentally ill. And, there is ample evidence that people subscribing to the tenets of the Discovery Institute have an acute mental illness.

    Ophidiophobia has a firm basis in human evolution, but a person who is non-functional from this fear is certainly not a person to employ as a snake handler at a science museum. In the same vein, the innate fear of losing eternal life after death is what motivates DI people.

    Just say they have a mental phobia, cannot engage such people.

    1. You do a disservice to all the people suffering from real mental illness when you invent your own, apply it to the vast majority of humanity (religious believers), and thereby turn them into patients with an illness rather than ignorant fools and deceptive manipulators. Being religious is stupid, but it is not a mental illness. And saying it is in the comments of every post here will not make it true. It is frankly insulting to everyone (patients, doctors, researchers, etc.) who deals with real mental illness.

          1. I think it should be repeated as long as this individual keeps bruiting this silly idea as he has for the past couple of weeks.

  26. aw, poor Dave K. I do love how he simply lies and attempts to claim that the nonsense that DI has spewed hasn’t already been destroyed by Dr. Coyne et al. Sorry, Dave, no need to watch your humiliation again and again. I have some paint to watch dry.

  27. I think that sense in participation in debate depends strongly on audience that would listen to the exchange. If it there are any persons on the fence – it might make sense get bit dirty just to get some converts from superstition.
    I highly appreciate your debate with John Haught, the exposition and demolishing of “sophisticated theology”. It was well worth the effort event if Haught’s ideas were nuts. I am not sure that DI can be demolished further. It all depends who will listen to that and the target. It is better to hit biggest apple on this tree, i.e. Meyers.

    1. Once you’re there, you’ve joined the “crazy club”. You aren’t converting one person. Not one.

      Your misstep, Stan Pak, is thinking that observers might change their mind. Anyone observing such a debate, taking the time to observe such a debate, a priori knows what is “true”.

      It simply is a 100% loss for evolution, to even show up. The debate is really, “What is normal thinking, and what thinking is so far off, that it is mental illness?”

      Think of this example: You have a one-foot tall NCAA championship trophy from your college days. Your brother, who lives in the back building behind your house, is working on his car, and in a moment of haste, =borrows= your trophy to use to prop up the car. Of course the trophy gets dented. You look at the trophy after the event, and confront him about the damage.

      A normal, mentally-fit person would own up to the damage, say it was a “dumb” thing to do, “stupid”, but in haste, saw the trophy, used it inappropriately.

      A mentally-ill person from the Discovery Institute would deny that anything was wrong, that they borrowed it because “many trophies around the world have been used in automotive repairs.” And if he insisted you were in the wrong, and then suggested a debate about “the use of NCAA trophies” with his experts, against you……

      …what could you possibly gain from such a debate? The only interested observers would be other people who misused trophies!!

      This illustrates the difference between “normal” and “mentally ill”.

      1. Mentally ill folks deserve better than to be used in comparisons with intelligent design advocates.

      2. But I do not mean convincing anyone from Discovery mental Institute. That is practically impossible, since they are to entrenched. If any debate was recorded and then published (independently and not by DI proponents only), then it could reach people who were giving credence to DI and help them see through its flaws.

        It all depends on audience, subject and opponent.

        Take example of Dawkins. He does not deal with creationists on their terms, but he can face them ion public forum, like TV show, as he did in Australia with one local cardinal. He aims at large diverse audience and high apples on this tree. The cardinal was clearly full of sh*t and Dawkins used the opportunity to wipe the opponent against the floor in large public. It is also clear that Dawkins talks to public and not the opponent. Exactly as Sam Harris debated odious W L Craig. He was talking to audience and YouTube.

  28. There is absolutely no point in an honest debate about ID. If you bring honesty into it then you have to admit that the hypothesis is not worthy of debate because there is precisely zero evidence to support it, and there are mountains of evidence that refute it. For examples see The Wedge Document and all of the scientific discipline of biology.

    It is even more obvious that there is no point in having a dishonest debate about ID.

    The only reasonable response to ID at this point is mockery.

  29. I commend you for your decision. Going would be like responding to the “flat earth society” or the ” gravity deniers” and that would be absolutely ridiculous.

  30. Rather than bluffing like Nick Matzke, give us the real goods…

    When did the show that he was bluffing? The last I heard, someone at the DI was complaining that Matzke’s negative review of Stephen Meyer’s latest lie was too long and detailed, and used words of more than one syllable.

  31. Give them what they deserve…absolutely nothing. Of course, you already know that, and said as much. Just thought it was worth repeating.

    Can’t help but notice no pro ID comments yet. I thought they wanted some open discussion? What better place than here? I have popcorn and everything.

    Typical creationist bluster, all blow and no show.

  32. No one at the “Discovery Institute” has ever discovered anything and no one there will ever discover anything and it is an organization dedicated to denigration and denial of real, legitimate scientific discoveries! Don’t dignify their sleazy organization by participating in a “debate” of matters about which legitimste debate ended long ago.

    1. No one at the “Discovery Institute” has ever discovered anything…

      Exactly – I expected someone would have already mentioned that. Similarly, their website, Evolution News, is another calculated lie. Same formula they’ve been using since at least the days of “Creation Science”. Whatever it is, claim it’s the opposite.

      It’s really insulting that nearly 90yrs after Scopes (=roughly since the dawn of commercial aviation, to put another perspective on it) these types are still out there.

  33. What’s stopping you IDiots from coming here and commenting on Jerry’s posts? At least he allows comments. That would be debating wouldn’t it? Come if you think you’re hard enough.

    1. What’s stopping them are the policies of the web site: they are soon asked to provide evidence for their claptrap other than “goddidit”, er, “thedesigneddidit” and then they go away.

      1. Well, they can provide the evidence that goddidit…and then they’d be welcomed with open arms.

        Wouldn’t we all welcome evidence of that sort? Overturning the very foundations of biology, geology, paleontology and just about every other oloy there is going.

        There wouldn’t be enough Nobel Prizes to go around. They’d have to just stop giving the awards.

        But when you ask them just one measly little request — they run from the room.

  34. If they want a ‘Darwinist’, I suggest they go find one and invite him/her to their site. As far as I know, there aren’t any here.

  35. I can’t participate in this because I have never been “average” in anything. My mother said so.

  36. Really science is solved by debates? Not carefully run experiments and publications in real journals? Where your peers then set out to destroy or falsify your work?

    I’d suggest instead of having a debate, go to a nice restaurant, wearing some nice foot wear, reading a nice science article and draw a nice cat on the menu. This would be far more entertaining and interesting plus a more worthwhile use of yours and our time than having anything to do with a debate with DI.

    I also think they claim copy right to anything published or even emailed to them.

  37. I don’t know what the ID theory is. Is there one? How does it work? Does it make any testable predictions? What work has been done in the field or the lab? What does the data show? What is there for Jerry Coyne, or anyone, to discuss?

    1. It’s pretty simple. When you don’t understand something you say “God must have done it.” It doesn’t have any predictive power but does free one from thinking so that there is more time to gorge on barbecue.

  38. When they actually publish some academic papers, go talk with them. Until then, they should grow up and shut up.

    Jeez, morons.

  39. “… give us the real goods —the details please — on why ID fails as science.”

    Are any ID claims testable? No? DONE.

  40. Klinghoffer gives up the game with this: “…teach us a lesson about ‘good science’ by trouncing us on the actual merit of our ideas, or lack of it? The author of Why Evolution Is True has never done that. Rather than bluffing like Nick Matzke, give us the real goods — the details please — on why ID fails as science.”

    He’s just lying. He knows damn well that you have trounced them on the “actual merit” of their ideas, and that Matzke gave them “the real goods” (with details) on “why ID fails as science.” Matzke’s bluffing? What does that even mean in this context – he wrote a long and technically detailed analysis. If the stuff that has already been written, by Coyne, Matzke, and others is not enough to satisfy Klinghoffer, then nothing will be. There’s really nothing more to say on the subject. And by pretending that he doesn’t understand this, Klinghoffer’s lost any last shred of credibility he might have had.

    1. Heh. Klinghofer scores an “own goal” by mentioning WEIT right in his post.

      Um…David…er…I think the entire BOOK schools you.

      “Why Evolution is True”.

      You might want to read it. And many others like it. Instead of praying to Jeebus to protect you from the bad scientismists.

  41. Because debates have solved so many controversies, like, uh . . .

    Oh yeah, nothing.

    Debates just give people with meritless ideas a chance to Gish gallop and ad hominem their way into being persuasive. Try some actual evidence and competent peer review, then go where that leads instead of whining about participation in ludicrous grandstanding popularity contests.

  42. Dr Coyne wrote: “DIers are not scientists but religious zealots concealing clerical collars beneath threadbare lab coats.”

    Now why would their lab coats be threadbare? Isn’t that what happens from spending time in a lab? Perhaps their lab coats are intelligently designed to appear threadbare. Sadly, I could believe that.

      1. That is giving them too much credit. They got their lab coats from the cheap Halloween costume shop in the mall. On clearance.

      2. Oh. I thought that maybe they’d green-screened the lab coats to go with Gauger’s green-screened lab.

  43. I think debating him could go either way, depending how much foolishness he plays. But I am not a fan of internet debates. Ether way this guy needs to be called to task. HOWEVER, I can see how you could see that scenario as a liability, that you condescended to debate a non-scientist about science. Either way, non debating, internet debating, or in live debate, you will in some ways legitimized him, even if you destroyed him.

  44. “I can also see why some angry, resentful folks among the Darwinist rank-and-file likewise only want to see competing theories squelched, not debated — theories that are friendly, perhaps, to worldviews they have rejected for private, personal reasons of their own.”

    Since when was “God of the gaps” considered scientific theory? Theories are derived from fact, not nothing. How many times must it be said that their hypothesis is not rejected on personal grounds, but on a lack-of-any-sort-of-explanatory-power grounds. You’re right on refusing to rehash what’s been said time and time again.

    Although, it is sad to hear that this will be your last time directly addressing the DI institute, for it makes a wonderful read.

  45. Not to debate might mean a missed opportunity when you are in such a strong position allowing you to make certain demands.

    For example, the typical debate structure of opening statements followed by exchanges of rebuttals should be rejected.

    Richard Dawkins has rightly identified this as the fatal flaw of debating God botherers who are characterized by their intellectual dishonesty. It allows them to go on a Gish Gallop inundating the stage with every form of fallacious reasoning under the sun not to mention outright lies, presentations of long debunked positions as unrefuted, non-sequiturs, wrong facts. So no matter what you present in your rebuttal you’re always outgunned because you can’t possibly refute it all. This is then seen by the uninitiated (those not leaning either way) public at best as an undecided outcome or as you having lost the debate. Which is what happened to none lesser than Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens when they debated William Lane -Kalām cosmological argument- Craig the master of the bullet point Gish Gallop.

    The antidote would be to demand an interrogation type set up where you get to question your opponent without interruption for, say, 20-30 minutes. Assisted by 1. A neutral fact checker with access to a mutually agreed to reputable reference source.
    and 2. a neutral scorekeeper who tallies up the occurrences of fallacies, lies, presenting long debunked positions as unrefuted, non-sequiturs, wrong facts, etc.

    The debater with the lowest total would be the winner and the Discovery Institute would be contractually obligated to publicly announce him as such.

  46. I don’t know how to post links here, but if you Google Carl Zimmer and Intelligent design, you will find an account of his online Gish Galloping Goose Chase. Maybe all ID and Creationist ‘debate’ requests could simply be answered with a link to Zimmer’s story. That way, people “on the sidelines” who are merely curious about ID would read it, too.

    1. Just go ahead and post the URL (I’d like to see it too). If it’s a video, it will appear, but that’s okay in this case. I haven’t heard of Zimmer’s Galloping Goose chase.

        1. Yeah, that’s great. Thanks for reminding me about it. It’s well worth re-reading, especially now. Everyone else here who has any doubt about the emptiness of “ID theory” should read it.

  47. I think something interesting is happening on Google news today.

    Every day for the past couple of years, I have searched google news for articles using the search word “evolution”.

    The tripe from the Discovery Institute is always near the top every day. The rest of the search is littered with other creationist blog posts and editorials from creationists.

    Today for the first time all that nonsense is gone from at least the first 50 entries.

    Has Google changed their algorithm?

        1. Very interesting! My cynical self says that they are interested in keeping people within the comfortable confines of their confirmation bias, almost certainly because it is more profitable.

          1. Yep. Give us what we “want” so they can sell us what we didn’t know we wanted and really don’t need!

  48. “Sometimes I’ve wondered if Darwinists really are completely united in a wish to run from any fair fight. Am I wrong to wonder? At least show me that.”

    Ever read any scientific journals? That’s where we argue our position with evidence, feel free to come over with yours and we’ll discuss.

        1. I’m in New Orleans. Several Brits live in my neighborhood, though.

          I call them on their little tactic… otherwise, they go on to say things like ‘Godless Darwinists’ or ‘Hard-Core Darwinists’, etc. ‘Godless Biologists,’ or ‘Hard-Core Paleontologists’ sound silly, so no propaganda value. In my case, it’s even worse… ‘Oppressive Art Director’? Heh!

  49. Dear Discovery Institute – Intelligent Design and Creationism has already been debated and resolved. The scientific community and the courts have given their decision, and you have lost. What will it take for you to admit you are wrong? What is the sense in rehashing this issue, or whether the earth is flat and the moon is made out of Green cheese?

    What would a debate resolve? Is there any possibility that the DI would admit it was mistaken and stop pushing Creationism and Intelligent Design? All the facts have long been presented and ignored and denied by the DI. And, why should anyone bother debating the DI? What good would it do? We already know the DI will not accept any fact and any evidence that does not agree with biblical text.

    If the above questions are answered honestly and intelligently, perhaps someone will agree to debate with you.

  50. OMG, the time wasted debating these ID “scientist” could be spent eating, smelling flowers, petting a cat, or touring the Art Institute (my fav, BTW). Forget them.

  51. Well, I have mixed feelings. While I don’t like this specific idea, I am all for adding a Jerry’s Readers Implore Him To Do Things section. I, for one, would like a wacky hat day, where we beg you to pose with various hilarious headwear on throughout the week. Giant mug of beer hat! Hot dog hat! I love Intelligent Design hat… waaait a minute, which one of you wacky Creationists slipped that in there!? Tsk. Also, I am still bothered by your lack of cat ownership and would like a forum to express my complex emotions and general angst regarding this issue.

    1. Okay that will just get dangerous. Any of my friends will tell you that I often try to get them to do things. I often hear, “stop trying to get me to do things; stop trying to get me in trouble”. The only time I’m really successful though is when the funny is too much for them to resist or they’re drunk.

  52. I’ve seen Darwin’s Dilemma, that was enough of being open minded for this chick. I don’t need to hear more debates or sermons about evolution. It may not have occurred to Stephen Myers but some of us are not lacking in education and have evolved to make these choices.

  53. Creationists and ID’ists appear to think that truth is arrived at by lengthy discussions and debates and musings and polls; scientists have discovered that the way to truth is to observe, test, replicate, confirm/falsify – and, crucially, to adjust/discard theories given new/more complete data.

    So let’s propose this to the DI:

    As soon as the DI engages in something actually approaching science and conducts a single, replicable experiment (based on a falsifiable hypothesis) designed to investigate the presence of Intelligent Design and has the results published in an actual, non-vanity-press scientific journal, “we” will send a scientist to debate them.

    Basically: you humour us; we’ll humour you.

    You want to challenge science, do so using science. Then we’ll challenge Deisign.

    OR: just open the comments at the DI.

    Once that happens I can practically guarantee a “lively debate”. Then again, the fact that the DI appears to believe that truth is arrived at by force of numbers may well be reason enough to compel them to keep comments closed.

    1. Great post.

      I want to add the following to it; it comes from pages 115-116 of the updated paperback edition of Forrest & Gross’ book Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design and seems à propos in light of their non-response to Nick Matzke’s post demolishing Meyer’s new book (see also PZ yesterday at

      “How then do the ID theorists respond to the strong professional criticism? They continue to publish and confer and advise all the more frenetically, although never yet in the appropriate place: the scientific journals. Nearly all of Dembski’s and Behe’s fusillades are fired from their own websites, or from other sites committed to religious apologetics, or via books issued (with a few exceptions) by religiously committed presses. Dembski boasts of the advantage of going straight to the popular audience rather than running the gauntlet of legitimate scientific peer review: “I’ve just gotten kind of blase about submitting things to journals where you can often wait two years to get things into print…And I find I can actually get the turnaround faster by writing a book and getting the ideas expressed there. My books sell well. I get a royalty. And the material gets read more” (citation below). Clearly, then, avoiding the scientific venues is a deliberate strategy.”

      Citation to Dembski’s quote: Beth McMurtrie, “Darwinism Under Attack,” Chronicle of Higher Education 48:17, accessible (for subscribers only) at

      1. It does seem somewhat deliberate (and also inevitable) as ID is political more than anything else and going to the people is a good way to get political changes and to sneak your stuff into established institutions where it normally would not go.

  54. LOL! It is stinking of desperation to get a web presence that counts.

    And I will naturally importune Coyne to not debate what was soundly rejected over a century ago. Does astronomy debate astrology? Does physics debate aetherists? Does medicine debate homeopathy? Does biology debate religion?

    It is less than meaningless, it lends authority to those who have none.

    their crippled theory

    Grandeur of delusions, I see. That, or using Goebbels’s maxim:

    “The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.”

  55. If peer reviewed papers dealing with ID were accepted for publication by reputable scientific journals it would be possible for ID proponents to claim that there was some science to debate.

    That hasn’t happened.

    The current position is as if Young Earth creationists insisted that a senior member of the American Geological justify in debate the ridiculous proposition that the earth is older than 6,000 years.

    Or for David Miscavige to insist that a senior representative of the American Psychiatric debate him about the existence of engrams.

  56. I would like to see a debate that allows neither the use of biblical passages as “evidence” of creationism, nor the poking holes in the mountains of current evidence.

    If they could come to the table with actual scientific peer reviewed evidence FOR the case of creationism, that would be the only time they would (maybe) be worth the time to debate. But, we all know that’s not going to happen.

  57. I could not possibly support anything that would take Jerry’s precious time away from US!! The very idea! The book is acceptable because I intend to read it. Foreign web-sites are an appalling suggestion. RELIGIOUS web-sites are completely unacceptable. Poor Jerry would be sucked into a miasma of stupid that he’d struggle to find his way out of, it would be too ghastly for words.

    Laurence Krauss is debating William Lane Craig in Melbourne soon and I’m torn, I want to see Laurence but I don’t wish to have to listen to Craig. What do?

    1. Ha ha, do what I do & if you’re watching a recording, fast forward past those bits or if it’s live just put on earphones and listen to something else for his part 😉

  58. DI does not need more debate, it needs some facts. It could punch a great big hole in “Darwinism” simply by discovering a contradictory fact.

    What are they, the Discovery Institute or the Debate Institute?

    1. People would pay attention if they actually published something useful/insightful. At that point they wouldn’t even care about debating, they could fun an entire city with their ID theory.

  59. “Sometimes I’ve wondered if Darwinists really are completely united in a wish to run from any fair fight.”
    When I want to enjoy a fair fight I watch football/soccer.
    When I pursue knowledge I rely on the scientific method and not on the logical fallacies of creacrappers like the people from DI. Knowledge has nothing to do with fairness.
    Any evolutionary biologist should only debate creacrappers if and only if:
    1. he/she enjoys it;
    2. he/she is good at it;
    3. there is some chance that (parts of) the audience might learn something.

    Obviously these conditions are not fulfilled.

  60. Mr. Klinghoffer:

    I’m sorry no one wants to debate you. I want to, but the comments on your blog are disabled. I hope you won’t mind if I start it here. I’ve got two or three questions in which I’m interested, but I’ll only pose one of them now.

    It seems self-evident that a theory of Intelligent Design presupposes an Intelligent Designer. Please provide the details of how your specific theory of Intelligent Design defines and describes the designer, along with the appropriate experiments showing that (1) this designer really exists (I trust you’ll indulge me far enough to accept my assertion that the existence of such a designer, while conceivable, is not self-evident); (2) that this designer is indeed the Intelligent Designer of life on earth, as opposed to some other conceivable designer (see, for example, David Brin’s list of conceivable designers at; and (3) the mechanisms and a brief, outline history of the designer’s designing of life on earth. I’m presuming that these mechanisms and history would look very different from those of unintelligent random mutations and natural selection, played out over the last approximately 3.8 billion years, according to the general scheme given in, say, Futuyma’s textbook on evolution, but I may be wrong, and I look forward to your disquisition.


    Mark Joseph

    1. Oh, don’t I feel stupid now! Of course he would go with the “fear” response, instead of responding to the apt description of ‘gravity deniers’. I should have guessed that.

      This is too LOLzy though:

      Note well: he [Coyne] wrote a book defending an idea the criticism of which he had already ceased paying serious attention to some five years earlier.

      As if a physicist writing a book on why relativity is true (as opposed to a century ago abandoned aether ideas, say) would be accused of “defending an idea the criticism of which he had already ceased paying serious attention to”.

      To pay serious attention to an idea, it needs to be serious in the first place. IDiots espouse magical thinking, so no serious attention will ever be paid to them.

      And really, what new, accepted results have they published in 5 years? In 10? Zip.

      OK, having read an icky religious piece for the first time in many years I seriously need to go wash my brain now.

      1. “To pay serious attention to an idea”. I meant to criticism.

        But the same goes for that. Instead of publishing on their IDeas, they published evolution denial in the form of “Darwin’s Doubt” et cetera. And it got soundly rejected in short time by Matzke among others, I’m sure, who works with paleontology.

  61. I too would urge Jerry to NOT debate these IDiots.

    A “debate,” as I understand the word, is a form of dialectic involving two opposing points of view *that are (more or less) equally likely to be true.*

    One cannot “debate” a question like “Is the Earth flat?” because we already know the answer.

    Similarly, to “debate” an IDiot is to admit that their position is at least as meritorious as a position rooted in science and reason. And that is entirely absurd.

    I personally am in favour of just calling out all forms of irrationality and WooWoo, of proving them wrong – repeatedly if necessary – without ever engaging with them directly. They have not earned our respect and certainly do not deserve our time in “debates.”

  62. Surely you would enjoy seeing your hero come over and teach us a lesson about “good science” by trouncing us on the actual merit of our ideas, or lack of it?

    I would! Of course, the “actual merit” of scientific ideas are published in peer review journals, not on web pages. I look forward greatly to JAC’s review of the publication of the first experimental test of a well-defined and testable ID hypothesis in a peer review journal.

    But I won’t be holding my breath.

  63. Tell them to come back when they have some actual evidence, instead of just strained and tiresome rhetoric.

  64. Well, it seems to me that part of the job of the scientific community is to debate and defend its research, hypotheses, theories, and laws. Why not debate them as they are saying you are a coward? If not, the controversy will continue to grow and swell and with it others will be carried away, as their PhD’s are out there explaining their side, and if you don’t show up to defend and refute, who will?

    1. You sort of answered your own question when you mentioned scientific community. The DI aren’t in the scientific community. Also, who cares if they call Jerry a coward. There opinion doesn’t matter. Again I say, meh.

      1. But the Discovery Inst is convincing many people and making their case and why not silence them? I mean, can’t the evidence speak for itself, if thrown in their faces? Intelligent Design is gaining ground, especially with Shapiro’s comments against natural selection and now Harvard’s Dr. Geo. Church against evolution of the ribosome. And who is Dr. Stanley Salthe, who is on Discovery’s website saying he is an evolutionary apostate? Do we have good evidence to present?

        1. Mountains of evidence has been presented in books and on websites. The little that they’ve presented has been refuted; the steaming mounds of covert theology they spew forth has been ignored. Their ignorance and arrogance has been thrown in their faces. They are not listening. In other words, it is a waste of time to debate them. Read this comment thread all the way through; you’ll see that one common comment is something to the effect that “when they open their blog for comments, we will ask questions and present evidence there.” Check out my letter to Mr. Klinghoffer above, or the post by hank_says at #71, Jonathan Houser’s comment at #23 and Adrian’s at #24, or Dr. Coyne’s spot-on response in his original posting. And, as gbjames mentioned in his response to you, “Controversy? There is no controversy.” Until they explain who the designer is, and how it designed life on earth, there is only a “manufacturoversy”.

          In short, we have lives to live.

        2. Where did Dr. Church come out against the evolution of the ribosome?

          Stanley Salthe is old news.

          1. Here is the comment by Dr. Church:

            The ribosome, both looking at the past and at the future, is a very significant structure — it’s the most complicated thing that is present in all organisms. Craig does comparative genomics, and you find that almost the only thing that’s in common across all organisms is the ribosome. And it’s recognizable; it’s highly conserved. So the question is, how did that thing come to be? And if I were to be an intelligent design defender, that’s what I would focus on; how did the ribosome come to be? – See more at:

            Plus Dr. Church endorsed their book and has a quote on the dust jacket, according to their website.

        3. Why not silence them? I mean, can’t the evidence speak for itself, if thrown in their faces?

          I kind-of hate to pile on here, but I cannot help it. Do you actually think that silencing the ID advocates is a part of the game they are playing? That they would recognize and (this is important) *properly interpret* evidence if it was presented? Have you ANY idea how they operate?

          You really think they haven’t seen the evidence, and this is what their problem is?You think they haven’t read WEIT (among other takedowns of their silliness)?

          Really? Or are you trolling?

          1. Well, in reading the intro of “Why Evolution is True” the statistics show me that more dialogue is needed, not less, because if the evolution side is silent, creation/id’ers are literally shouting from the housetops. They want a debate and if we do not debate, it will be interpreted as if we are contemptuous of them, which is true without apology, but what is bad is that they may also think we do not have all our ducks in a row and are afraid of losing the debate. This is being said – Jerry Coyne – full of fear and trembling, won’t debate. The 06 survey mentioned in the book intro states that 39% of Americans reject evolution with 21% undecided. In Turkey only 25% accept evolution and 75% reject. Nearly 2/3’s of Americans feel if evolution is taught in school, creationism should be too. And nearly 1 in 6 teachers believes in humans being created in their present form within the last 10,000 years. I just think there is widespread misunderstanding that only informed biologists can explain clearly and comprehensively in a debate. But whatever. I’m not a troll.

            1. Oh good grief.

              The evolution side is *not* silent. They are, as you noted, writing *books* in which “informed biologists can explain clearly and comprehensively” — like the one you cite (another such is Dawkins’ The Greatest Show On Earth”, published about the same time). And writing websites (this is only one of many). And supporting organizations like the National Council on Science Education (not to mention the many general-skepticism groups).

              So the evolution side is available all over the internet and in print for anyone who cares to look; the rebuttals have been made and made again. The ID/creationists are arguing in bad faith when they so much as claim that there is still a serious debate to be had — as far as the subject matter is concerned, they *lost*, years ago. There is no “dialogue” to be had with liars and fools, and no one should feel compelled to enter into one, on their turf, on their terms.

              1. ….as well as all the work being done by various individuals and groups to keep ID out of schools. Dialogue is not what is needed, education is what is needed. There is nothing productive to come out of a discussion with people who will distort anything that is said.

              2. Hear, hear!

                The debate format is a lousy one for presenting science; so much of its successes depend on charisma, question-dodging, glibness, etc. The only way to “debate” science is to announce you’re unable to replicate results or to propose an evidence-based theory that other scientists can test.

        4. “Intelligent Design is gaining ground, especially with Shapiro’s comments against natural selection and now Harvard’s Dr. Geo. Church against evolution of the ribosome.”

          In you dreams. (Aka lacks references. And what would a geologist (?) know of biology?)

          Also, since I’m interested in astrobiology, I can see scores of results on the evolution of the ribosome especially since it is so old.

          More interestingly, since it is part of the bottleneck situation where metabolism and RNA passed into cooperation, the constraints allow for selecting most likely pathways. The shortest, and therefore more likeliest, pathway I know of is producing initially random proteins. It turns out the triplet code is the smallest possible brownian ratchet that RNA can evolve for assured unidirectional strand separation.

          And that is what seems tested in protein fold phylogenies! The oldest folds are, without exception I think, also the ones that drags around most random sequences between active parts. Meaning the proteins slowly evolved to be adapted for function, say by recycling them instead of having to export messy random gunk.

          Similarly, the generic promiscuous nature of the earliest proteins likely show that they weren’t initially vital for specific functions.

          I think the evolution of the ribosome is destined to become one of the more shining examples of biology.

          1. Yes, what they all said 🙂 & “debating” something where as others have said there is no debate and there is no controversy because this has already been put to rest by evidence, just adds credence to long ago discredited ideas.

        5. “Harvard’s Dr. Geo. Church”.

          Ah, it may be the geneticist George Church. What an odd attribution, like Alicia doesn’t know what she is talking about.

          I think this may go back to a, now dated, Edge discussion from -07 where ID happened to be mentioned. It has the suspects Church and Shapiro, but in that case Venter’s, Lloyd’s and Freeman’s contributions are cherry-picked away in the IDiotic way.

          At a guess, this is a cherry-pick that has festered among the creationists since then.

          Never mind that we now know a lot more about the ribosome specifically, or abiogenesis in general. Lane & Martin’s homology discovery between early autotroph metabolism and alkaline hydrothermal vents must be grappled with now, and it is still fully open whether it all happened pre-ribosome. We have very much moved beyond the ribosome as far as origin of cells is concerned.

          So this is now the new “flagella” of IDiots? What a creative concept, reuse something (‘irreducible complexity’) that didn’t work the first time either.

        6. Intelligent Design is not gaining ground at all – at least not scientifically, which is really the only ground that matters in this case. Why have they not gained ground? Because they perform no research and can point to no data to back up their claims that life was designed, apart from waving at particular biological mechanisms or structures and asserting “That’s too complex to have evolved!” That they continue to do this, even when their favourite structures or mechanisms are explained to them in detail, reveals them as dishonest and not interested at all in actual science.

          ID is not only not science – it’s not even a testable hypothesis.

          The only reason ID has gained any ground at all is because of the tireless PR efforts of the DI to ignorantly attempt to poke holes in evolutionary theory – and the general gullibility of certain types of American Christian. You’ll notice that in the rest of the developed world ID barely rates a mention as anything other than a curiosity, because 1) most other first-world nations are less overtly religious than the US and 2) they know that ID is vacuous non-science and a transparently religious attempt to attack evolution and support creationism. ID is little more than a creationist in a lab coat saying “I aint no monkey” but using more syllables (and sometimes fancy-looking but ultimately useless mathematics).

  65. I agree with you Jerry. There are more pressing matters than debating them on their terms, like the impending science textbook selection by the Texas State Board of Education. Public hearings could begin as soon as July, although probably not until September. I plan to attend and speak up for real science and against junk science like ID. Are there any other Texas readers willing to collaborate on a presentation?

    1. They do have a theory; it was most concisely explicated by The Sensuous Curmudgeon at

      “An unknown intelligence (whether it’s a solitary creature or a vast swarm is never addressed), with utterly unknown characteristics (mortal or immortal, sexual or asexual, plant or animal, physical or spiritual), whose home base is unknown, and whose ultimate origin is a mystery (evolved, created, or eternal), arrived on earth somehow (in a flying saucer, perhaps), at some unspecified time (or several times), and then in some unspecified way (technological or magical), for unspecified reasons (boredom, or maybe cosmic fulfillment), did something (or maybe several things) to influence the genetic characteristics of some (but maybe not all) of the creatures on earth.”

      Debate that! 😉

  66. I agree with you Jerry. There are more pressing matters than debating them, like the impending science textbook selection by the Texas State Board of Education. Public hearings could begin as soon as July, although probably not until September. I plan to attend and speak up for real science and against junk science like ID. Are there any other Texas readers willing to collaborate on a presentation?

  67. DI is a black hole of stupid whose only purpose is to absorb all available attention. It’s like the Kardashians of pseudo-science.

  68. The Discovery Institute sounds remarkably like it’s in third grade. No, don’t waste your time.

  69. “Sometimes I’ve wondered if Darwinists really are completely united in a wish to run from any fair fight. ”

    This from a sleazy character assassin that routinely blocks any and all comments on his disinformation cheer leading hit pieces and won’t post his ignorant invective ANYWHERE but access-controlled right-wing creationist blogs?

    Simply amazing.

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