Damn! I didn’t win Censor of the Year again

Three years ago the “Center for Science and Culture”(CSC) of the creationist no-think tank Discovery Institute (DI) named me “Censor of the Year,” an award they now confer every Darwin Day, but which started with me. And I was so happy to get it!

The reason for my award? I helped stop the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) at Ball State University (BSU) in Indiana, in courses taught by Eric Hedin. Hedin was pushing Christianity and a religious view of life in a science course at a public university, something that the courts have declared unkosher. Somehow the press got on it, and the President of BSU (who has since left) declared that ID would not be taught at her university. In view of that, Hedin, an assistant professor of astronomy and physics (he’s since got tenure) had to go back to teaching real science. My activities apparently constituted censorship, and so I got the prize.  To quote the DI:

Coyne was pivotal in stampeding Ball State University president Jo Ann Gora to issue a campus-wide gag order on teaching about intelligent design in science classrooms. This involved intimidating and silencing a young Ball State physicist, Eric Hedin. That’s censorship. But something that really stands out about Coyne’s effort is the power differential between himself and his victim.

. . . So we have the powerful, prestigious and above all safe Jerry Coyne, swooping in from the next state to rile up Hedin’s employers, Ball State’s administration. Why? Because Hedin included a bibliography in an interdisciplinary class that listed some books that were favorable to intelligent design (and others that were critical of it).

Coyne was not only successful in shutting down Hedin, and getting intelligent design shut down on the campus as a whole. He was also a bully, exploiting the difference in power to tyrannize and dominate a vulnerable younger scholar.

Oy! All I did was point out the unconstitutional teaching of a religiously-based doctrine to the school and the public; Ball State University did the rest. But I’ll accept the opprobrium in return for such an honor!

censor-of-the-year-6-1

I’ve not-so-secretly hoped that I’d get it again, as a double win would be unprecedented: a Linus-Pauling-like achievement. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. In 2015 the prize went to Neil deGrasse Tyson, but not for any obvious censorship. He just hosted a television series. The DI notes:

Neil deGrasse Tyson, of course, stands out this year for his command of the aptly named Ship of the Imagination, which he piloted through 13 episodes of the revived Carl Sagan science series, Cosmos. As we documented here at ENV and in a book, The Unofficial Guide to Cosmos: Fact and Fiction in Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Landmark Science Series, Cosmos represented a highly imaginative rewrite of the history of science. It was designed to convey an impression that faith was always an obstacle to scientific discovery, that all legitimate scientific controversies are in the past, that skeptics of scientific orthodoxy today are fools or worse.

Censorship can involve implied or explicit threats — that’s Jerry Coyne’s style, not Dr. Tyson’s. The charming, avuncular, facile Neil Tyson is effective, far more so than other nominees this year, because he is so very likable. As a censor, he works with an airbrush. Clearly produced with an audience of impressionable young people in mind, and no doubt on its way to becoming a staple in school science classrooms, Cosmos tells a seductive story that leaves out complications and controversies around science, and casts materialism as the obvious inference from the scientific data.

. . . Tyson broadcast his photoshopped narrative of science to millions. That alone wins him our nod as 2015 Censor of the Year.

Apparently teaching evolution, and not mentioning discredited and erroneous “alternative” theories, constitutes censorship. In that case David Attenborough should be a prime candidate!

What about last year? Hold onto your horses, for the 2016 award went to the Commission on the General Conference of the United Methodist Church. Why? Because they barred the DI from a conference they held:

This choice, however, calls for a necessary clarification. It is unclear who on the Commission participated in deciding to exclude Discovery Institute from the church’s upcoming General Conference, and thereby censor discussion of intelligent design. When we inquired, we were told only that the “leadership” of the Commission made the decision. The UMC — with its motto of “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors” — refuses to disclose who made up this shadowy “leadership” group. So the best we can do is bestow COTY on the Commission.

. . . Why was the UMC Commission the obvious winner? After all, at least in the initial move to bar us, they did not set out to hurt or intimidate any particular scholar or scientist (as past COTY winner Jerry Coyne did) or to mislead the general public (as did Neil deGrasse Tyson). Instead, the Commission stands out by exemplifying what appears to be the culpable ignorance, confusion, and shiftiness of leaders who ought to know better — who should welcome insights revealing the design of life! — but who prefer to clap their hands over their ears. Who knows what these folks really had in mind, but an excessive, fawning concern about what prestige academia thinks of you, combined with intellectual laziness in researching the matter for oneself, are together the typical reasons that clergy go astray on this issue.

The DI really needs to learn what censorship is. There is no “right” for the Discovery Institute to promulgate its nonsense in schools, or even in churches. If a church takes an enlightened stand about science, as the United Methodist Church apparently did, then it’s not “censoring” ID. If there were credible evidence for ID, which its flacks keep promising to provide, then we can talk.  Until then, this is surely the first time that I’ve received an award that a religious body also got.

What about this year? Well, today’s winner is. . . . .

. . . . The Natural History Museum in Stuttgart—our first foreign winner! As Evolution News & Views reports, the Museum harbored one Günter Bechly, former curator of amber and fossil insects. Bechly found himself no longer able to accept the corpus of modern evolutionary theory, and was sympathetic to Intelligent Design. He came out publicly as an ID sympathizer, and the Museum didn’t like that. They cut back his duties, and apparently told him his future at the Museum was in doubt. He quit. As Evolution News and Views reports:

This is how the “consensus” for Darwinian evolution is maintained. Oh, not only or primarily through outright censorship. Vanity is the single most effective tool that ensures uniformity of opinion. Men are monsters of vanity — males especially, but women too. The pressure to be on the prestige side of any significant disagreement is intense, a fact often unacknowledged unless you are pretty honest with yourself. This holds across science, the media, education, politics, religion, and other fields.

Dr. Bechly was among the contingent of ID-friendly scientists present at the Royal Society meeting (“New Trends in Evolutionary Biology“) in London last November. Another scientist on hand, we noted, a senior figure with views on Darwin overlapping with ours but allergic to ID itself, was visibly skittish about even being seen talking with us. So it goes.

Bechly has now become a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s CSC.  Was he censored? I don’t see how, given that he was promulgating erroneous and misleading science as a representative of a big museum. It’s as if someone started promulgating the Biblical Flood theory at the Smithsonian Institution, and is equivalent to Eric Hedin teaching Intelligent Design to his students at Ball State. There is no “right” to promulgate discredited ideas as part of your job as a scientist at a public institution.

At the end of this year’s award piece, author David Klinghoffer did what the DI has always done: told us that the debunking of Darwinism is right around the corner.

Someday, a tipping point will come. Numerous closets will open in a swell of confessions: “I’ve doubted the straight Darwin story for years.” “I’ve long suspected that design or teleology of some kind must have played a role in evolution, but I would never admit it till now.” And at that time we’ll stop giving out Censor of the Year awards. But that day has not yet arrived.

They said this would happen over a decade ago, but it didn’t. I’m sorry to say that, I think, Klinghoffer will go to his Maker (disassociated molecules) before a teleological view of life permeates evolutionary biology.

 

41 Comments

  1. mfdempsey1946
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    This appears to have supplanted Richard Nixon’s Enemies List, inclusion on which was an honor back in the day.

  2. thompjs
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Doc, you should get the lifetime achievement award.

    • Mike
      Posted February 13, 2017 at 7:21 am | Permalink

      He should, he gets a honourable mention in every Censor Award apart from the last one,that must count for something,after all the ID Numpties must view him as their bête noire.

  3. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    As Censor, I think you need to take on some of the duties the Roman Censors had, namely taking names so you should compile a list of naughty people and publish it regularly. It’s only fair since that is your job as Censor. 😀

  4. Roger
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Wait, I thought Intelligent Design was “abandonware”. All the IDers abandoned it because they were tired of looking like fools and/or the money slowed down too much. I guess I was wrong.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted February 12, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      They are like those old inflatable clown toys that rise right back up when you knock them down. Oddly, they consider this character to be a point of pride.

  5. Sastra
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    I wonder if the DI would consider it “censorship ” if a Holocaust denier was forbidden to teach their views in a history class, or if a teacher who rejected the germ theory of disease was rejected from teaching at a medical school. Implicit in their complaints is the assumption that Intelligent Design is either right or so close to right it ought to be treated as legitimate. Otherwise, they got nothing.

    A “research ” program which does nothing but comb other people’s research looking for areas which don’t yet have answers isn’t an example of doing science. When the DI comes out with solid, replicable experiments showing that mental agents can create or move matter around just by wishing real hard, then scientists will note that they’ve finally started working on showing positive evidence for a mechanism FOR ID, instead of just whinging on about evolution not being “enough.” But don’t hold your breath.

    • veroxitatis
      Posted February 12, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      Ah, but I remember asking one creationist to cite articles in internationally respected journals in defence of ID by biologists who were educated to an advanced level in their field. I was told this was impossible because a cabal blocked any such publications and also saw to it that any academics holding such views were banned from posts in all universities.
      You just can’t win with these crazies.

  6. Randy schenck
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Only through something like this DI and their upside down brains can they reason this out. It is probable there is no one on this site who is more free speech than PCC. The institute should spend more time in the dictionary and less time doing, whatever the hell they are doing. Look up censorship and then maybe look up evolution.

  7. veroxitatis
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    I guess you just weren’t sufficiently likeable, Jerry!

  8. Christine Janis
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Does anybody know more about what happened at the Stuttgart Museum with Bechly? Given that creationists can often cohabit fairly well with their academic institutions if they’re established scientists, I’m wondering if there’s more to this than meets the eye.

    And I love the notion that it’s just our “vanity”, wanting to be on the “prestige side”, that keeps us touting evolution. Well, there’s no evidence for ID, so I don’t imagine that any of them imagines that evidence could sway other scientists.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted February 12, 2017 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

      According to these search results, Bechly published a paper with a cow-orker at the Museum in 2016. But without digging further, I don’t know if he (?) was approaching retirement age already.

  9. Posted February 12, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    I am amused by the assertion that there are all these people, hiding in their figurative closets, afraid to express their doubts about evolution. Come on, every five minutes someone claims “Darwin was wrong” and the media loves it.

  10. Posted February 12, 2017 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    My condolences Jerry in your not being selected for the “Censor of the Year” award yet again. You should take solace however in the fact that you face such very formidable competition.

    • nicky
      Posted February 12, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      Exactly.
      Jerry, I do think you deserve another ‘Censor’ award, but there are many others deserving too. Maybe they should give two awards per year?

  11. Rob
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Hasn’t the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History featured a David Koch sponsored exhibit that downplays the dangers climate change?

    • Christine Janis
      Posted February 12, 2017 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      Yes. But they gave them a lot of money.

  12. Posted February 12, 2017 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Something I have wondered. Why do these “pretend science theology” people want to push stuff that is not true, nor verified on to organisations that clearly disagree with them and have the wealth of evidence to show. They would seriously have a problem with people going to church gatherings, church meetings, church schools and insisting on teaching evolution and science based factual information. So why do they insit on going to secual places they they know they are not welcomed or believed? Hugs

  13. bric
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Given their views on freedom for researchers to teach their own views, how many staff at the Discovery Institute are ardent evolutionists?

  14. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    What, no award again for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency for censoring the Flat Earth Society and geocentrism?

  15. Derek Freyberg
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    And, if you’ve ever looked at the websites of the DiscoTute and its branches, you’ll notice that they do not allow comment, unlike every evilutionist site I’ve visited.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted February 12, 2017 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      That, of course, is a well-known fact. Maybe they should give themselves a Censor of the Year award some day!

  16. Posted February 12, 2017 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Sorry for the grammar pedantry, but are phrases like religiously-based or evolutionarily-based grammatically correct?

    Shouldn’t they be religion-based out evolution-based?

  17. docbill1351
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Bechly seems like a perfectly charming creationist. On his blog he writes glowingly about Jerry! Well, except for calling WEIT a “blog.” THAT was uncalled for.

    However, I had some difficulty imagining Bechly’s final remark applied to David Klinkleklankle.

    “I despise the dogmatic and sometimes even fanatical stance of some scientists like P.Z. Myers (Pharyngula blog), Larry Moran (Sandwalk blog), Jeffrey Shallit (Recursivity blog), Jerry Coyne (Why Evolution is True blog), the anonymous coward behind The Sensuous Curmudgeon blog, and other infamous web activists against Intelligent Design and religion. Such anti-ID zealots and “evangelical” New Atheists have become an embarrassment and disgrace for the scientific community with their ill-bred behavior, e.g. regularly insulting scientists, who endorse Intelligent Design as “IDiots”, or the ID think tank Discovery Institute as “Dishonesty Institute” or “Disco’Tute”, or William Dembski as “Bill Dumbski”. I feel personally offended by this, as I know all of the guys from Discovery Institute and the Intelligent Design community as very open-minded and tolerant, highly cultured and competent, sincere, and incredibly warm-hearted people, whom I am proud to rank among my dearest friends.”

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted February 12, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      I perused his blog, and missed that. But what I saw was consistent in that he exemplified the highly educated IDer type: Seemingly very thoughtful, intelligent, and clear on a position that seems arrived at with careful reasoning. But the ‘reasoning’ is some craaaazy stuff.

    • nicky
      Posted February 12, 2017 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      ‘Bill Dumbski’, I like that!
      Nearly as good as the famous Nim Chimpski ☺

  18. Heather Hastie
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    The DI wants the right to lie to students. No. Just no.

  19. Scientist
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Christians have been waiting nearly 2000 years for the return of their king. I suspect the wait for Klinghoffer et al. to provide solid evidence of ID will be just as long. Unless, both happen on the same day.

  20. RPGNo1
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Wow, Stuttgart is in Baden-Württemberg, the same state as my home town. I am so proud, that the museum won the prize. *sniff*
    Thank you, thank you, DI! 😉

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 12, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      Indeed! Yay Stuttgart!

  21. Claudia Baker
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Having a look at Bechly’s site, this is what he says about his “conversion”:

    “My conversion did not involve blind faith in scriptures, but was purely based on reason and a careful and critical evaluation of empirical and historical evidence (e.g. concerning the reliability of the Gospels and the historicity of the resurrection) as well as philosophical arguments.”

    And the first of his stated ‘Priorities and Goals in life’: “raising my children to become good followers of Christ”

    Good grief.

    One of the commenters on his blog said this:

    “You’re a fucking twat afraid of that stark reality.”

    Exactly.

  22. Ken Pidcock
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    …a Linus-Pauling-like achievement.

    Shouldn’t that be a Frederick-Sanger-like achievement?

  23. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    As the United Methodist Church has both given Joni Mitchells last album a great review on tbeir national website and at least one local UMC church has hosted a Joni Mitchell tribute concert, I hereby award to both Jerry Coyne and thd United Methodist chutch the Joni Mitchell Appreciation Award.
    Thats now TWO awards won by both.

  24. Craw
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    “It’s a honor just to be nominated.”

  25. Posted February 12, 2017 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to make a small comment: how is it unconstitutional to teach intelligent design in a class in a public university? You seem to be appealing to the first amendment. But, the first amendment forbids the establishment of a religion. That means it would be unconstitutional to teach intelligent design as true–to indoctrinate people in it. But, the establishment clause would not forbid academics from tslking about it.

    • docbill1351
      Posted February 12, 2017 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

      I am not a lawyer, but I have an elbow and an opinion, both of which are absolutely fascinating.

      Strictly speaking, I think, it would be unconstitutional to teach ID as science in a state university because ID has already been ruled religious by the Kitzmiller decision. It would be no different than broadcasting prayers over loudspeakers on campus, or professors starting class by saying, “Let us pray.”

      However, the brouhaha about ID is more directed at K-12 education that is governed by state and local school boards where students are pretty much captive of the system.

      Universities are self-policing, broadly speaking. The biggest problem with “teaching ID” at a university, IMHO, is that there is nothing to teach. There is no “theory of ID.” No research. No supporting data. No experiments. No nothing. Zippo. It’s simply goddidit. In comparison there is more to teach about Noah’s Flood geology than there is ID. And good luck getting that course in the Geology Department catalog!

  26. keith cook +/-
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    The more winners of this award the better, it shows there are individuals and organizations getting up their collective noses and keeping them hedged in. By all accounts they don’t like it and it won’t change their fuzzy thinking, that said, i think you can give yourself a high five for getting the ball rolling.


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