February 04, 2008

Casey Luskin Demonstrates that ID Stands for Insidious Deception

As readers may have noticed, I contribute every once in awhile to a relatively new science blogging project, ResearchBlogging.org. It's a marvelous resource for those who want to keep up with the ever-changing world of scientific inquiry. The premise is simple enough; scientists and students of science register their blogs and write entries in them about peer-reviewed articles. The original reviews contain a bit of code that an aggregator finds and those entries are then aggregated on the ResearchBlogging site. It's all intended to facilitate discussion between scientists and academics and also to make science just a little more accessible for those who may not have a substantial background themselves. I wholeheartedly encourage folks to use it. I know I spend a lot more time reading what others have written than trying to write for it myself though, as I said, I do try to contribute something when I can.

There are just a few rules involved in publishing to ResearchBlogging and so being allowed to use the ResearchBlogging icon; those rules are openly available here. They're well-considered items that allow for discretion and provide a mechanism for filtering out crankery, thereby keeping the resource useful for anyone with legitimate interests in everything from philosophy to biology.

Still, it was only a matter of time before some crackpot got wind of the project and tried to damage it somehow, and in this case it's one of the most cracked crackpots on the net, Casey Luskin. Luskin is neither a scientist nor a student of science but marginally a lawyer (he passed the California bar; what he's done as a lawyer since then is anyone's guess) and a fellow of the Discovery Institute, an infamous group of science deniers and general mental cases that mainly exists to whine about how real scientists and science educators consider their pet speculation, Intelligent Design Creationism (IDC), a pile of meritless manure. Nonetheless, they do want to play with the big boys, as it were, so there was only one thing to do.

Research? No, not research. None of them would ever deign to get their hands dirty actually testing a hypothesis.

No, instead Casey Luskin decided to misappropriate the ResearchBlogging icon while simply ignoring the rules governing its use. He simply copied the icon and stuck it into the beginning of an entry he wrote about an essay — not a peer-reviewed article, but an essay. Moreover, he exhibited no understanding of the material, instead choosing to quote-mine it in order that he could assert that it backs up a god-of-the-gaps argument. This isn't implicit, of course, in the essay itself. Luskin quotes bits and pieces, stringing together sentences that are paragraphs apart in order to make his case — a typically dishonest tactic employed by a typically dishonest Creationist.

The rules for use of the icon also state that the reviewer must provide a link to the original document or a DOI at the very least. Again, Luskin doesn't bother with that. He's not interested in having anyone read the essay, after all, only in having them read his twisting of what it actually says.

In fact, Luskin doesn't even link the icon back to ResearchBlogging.org or include the code necessary for its aggregator to pick it up. The forum in which he wrote his piece of utter garbage, in fact, doesn't even allow for comments. In other words, Luskin stole the icon (in violation of copyright laws) and didn't want anyone to find out about what he'd written who wasn't already a reader of his tripe. If his "review" had been aggregated, it would have been immediately picked to pieces by actual scientists and, in any case, Luskin's violation of the terms of usage would have gotten him excluded from future aggregation, anyhow. What he wanted to do was impress his sycophants; he's not interested in exposing himself to critical analysis and the kind of discussion that actually goes on amongst real scientists.

And therein lies the irony. It has been my experience that scientists love to argue, debate, converse and communicate with one another, by and large. It can be a rather intimidating process, and it should be. New ideas should be subject to intense, even uncomfortable, scrutiny. Luskin wants to play with the "big boys," but in doing what he's done, he's revealed himself to be a frightened little girl playing dress-up with mommy's cosmetics. His insidious deception demonstrates perfectly that he lacks both the balls and the brains to ever be a real scientist.

If Luskin had the slightest shred of integrity, he'd remove the icon from his entry. Of course, if Luskin had a shred of integrity, he wouldn't have stolen it in the first place. Then again, if he had a shred of integrity, he wouldn't be a fellow of the Disinformation Institute. As they demonstrated during the Dover trial, the first requirement for fellowship there is that one checks both balls and integrity at the door. How many of them testified again?

Oh yeah. None.

[Note to female readers: use of "big boys" and "balls" above are metaphors and not intended in the least to imply that women can't be great scientists. Indeed, I know of more than a few females of the species whose balls are as big as any males! I needed something to contrast Luskin's cowardly, childish act with those of a responsible adult. I hope you understand.]

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