Criticisms vs. Attacks: Where's the line?

Christy has addressed her specific situation well, and I too was wavering between laughter and being appalled by that paragraph, and just wanted to comment on the average EC’s situation. If they are actively involved in science, they are often ostracized at work for being Christian. They then go to church and frequently are looked at as damaged goods for accepting evolution by many in the congregation. It can be painful. Many here, perhaps most, check their evolutionary views at the door when they go into church if they attend a typical conservative leaning denomination.
I would hesitate to call it persecution as that would demean those who truly suffer, but it is uncomfortable, so your discomfort of not being accepted is certainly shared by many if not most here.


I wonder which is worse… enduring invective being called a pseudoscientist by fellow scientists for one’s ID beliefs, or enduring invective being called a pseudoChristian by fellow brothers and sisters in Christ for one’s EC beliefs?

Thank goodness it’s not a competition!


I moved this discussion over to a different thread because the other one was getting clogged up with multiple simultaneous topics of conversation.

This conversation reminds me of the fantastic article by Andy Crouch that we recently published:

Near the top of the essay, he talks about a “history shaped by scorn.” He insightfully points out that the origins debate is carried out by various people who feel scorned and rejected by others. And those opposed to the scientific mainstream feel this very acutely. This thread illustrates Crouch’s point very well.

I’ve noticed a couple of things about the way scorn influences our conversations:

  1. It makes us very, very good (perhaps too good) at identifying the “scorn” shown to our position by others
  2. It makes us very, very bad at identifying when we ourselves are scorning others
  3. It makes it very, very hard to tell the difference between disagreement and scorn

The challenge we have, especially among Christians, is to figure out how to openly and honestly pursue truth together without collapsing into resentment and finger-pointing. As Christy has very wisely pointed out, an important step towards this goal is to distinguish between criticisms of ideas and people. “This is a misleading presentation of the scientific evidence” is not the same as “You are a liar.” Similarly, “your biblical analysis is wrong” does not mean “you are a heretic.” “Your understanding of this subject is incomplete” is not the same as “you are stupid and ignorant.” Honestly, I think we need to give people the benefit of the doubt more often that they are not intending to attack someone’s character.


Then please explain how anyone could read Yohn et al. (2005) and claim that there are 12 PTERV1 insertions that violate the expected nested hierarchy with 1 base resolution. I don’t see how that could be done when the authors make this statement:

“Although the status of the remaining overlapping sites is unknown, these data resolve four additional sites as independent insertion events and suggest that the remainder may similarly be non-orthologous.”

They were unable to find a single unambiguous orthologous PTERV1 insertion that violated the expected nested hierarchy, and yet the author quote mined that article to make it appear as if they did.[quote=“littledoweknow, post:1, topic:36875”]
It’s fine to disagree with ID people, but why the need to make it so personal and ad hominem? Why not just state your reasons and evidence for disagreeing and leave it there? Why the need to constantly attack people personally? Why not just say “I think they’re wrong for X, Y, and Z” and stop there?

I think it is important to point out dishonesty when it occurs. It happens all of the time in the sciences.[quote=“littledoweknow, post:1, topic:36875”]
Hmmm—I read Yohn et al. 2005 and came to a very different conclusion, which I will back below with multiple quotes from the paper. Looking at the paper, it quite clearly explains that the ERV (PTERV1) distribution data they examined “is inconsistent with the generally accepted phylogeny of catarrhine primates”. (Catarrhine primates are old world monkeys and great apes, including humans.)

Here are some choice quotes from the paper on this point—all emphasis added:

The glaring obvious clue is in the very part you quoted:

“If these sites were truly orthologous and, thus, ancestral in the human/ape ancestor, it would require that at least six of these sites were deleted in the human lineage.”

They did a Southern blot using BAC clones which can only narrow down the insertion to within 100,000 bases or so. The test they used could not determine if they were truly orthologous at the resolution of a single base. Of the possible orthologous insertions that they could narrow down to a single base, none were truly orthologous. It’s all right there in the paper. Furthermore, from the paper:

"Within the limits of this BAC-based end-sequencing mapping approach, 24 sites mapped to similar regions of the human reference genome (approximately 160 kb) and could not be definitively resolved as orthologous or non-orthologous (Table S3). "

It states clearly that the BAC-based end-sequencing mapping approach could not resolve these insertions as being orthologous or non-orthologous.

The parts you quoted were setting up further questions, asking the question of “what if they really are orthologous?”. To quote the question as if it was the final conclusion is quote mining. In the end, they were unable to find any PTERV1 insertions that violated the expected phylogeny.

Added in edit:

Just to make this crystal clear I thought I would briefly describe the BAC-based end-sequencing method. What they did was break up the genomes into large chunks, anywhere from 10’s of thousands to hundreds of thousands of bases long. Those chunks are put into a plasmid and maintained in E. coli who faithfully copy and replicate the large chunk of DNA. Using known sequence from the plasmid they inserted into they can sequence the ends (about 1,000 bases) of the large chunk of DNA. With that information they can determine where that large chunk fits into the larger genome, but they can’t determine where in that large chunk of DNA that the retrovirus inserted into. It would be equivalent to someone saying that John Smith and Susy Jones are both in Texas, but they can’t say if they are in the same city.

Of the 299 insertions they mapped with the method they were able to determine that 275 of them weren’t even in the same large chunk of DNA. There were 24 that did map to the same large chunk of DNA, but as stated before, this doesn’t allow them to determine if they really are at the same base which is needed to determine orthology and to further demonstrate a violation of the expected phylogeny.

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Well I’m not surprised. Years ago when I heard about mitichondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam, I heard about them first from ID sources, and I was extremely excited about them because I was told this was scientific evidence for the existence of a historical Adam and Eve. Then later I discovered (from secular sources), that they weren’t remotely what they had been represented (I hadn’t even been told that there’s no evidence they met and were unlikely to have been contemporaries, nor was I told that they were only “most recent common” ancestors rather than the universal ancesstors), and I felt not only disappointed but also irritated at the misrepresentation. It eroded my confidence in ID sources, and made me suspect that they were not trustworthy. So I totally support Venema on this point.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Dover trial and Wedge Strategy totally destroyed the credibility of the Discovery Institute and its fellows, as far as I was concerned. Their own behavior discredited them; note that, not what other people were saying, but their own behavior and statements.


Granted, I haven’t been martyred yet. But the kind of stuff I’ve seen goes beyond vile sometimes. If you are game for just some offensive material, here are some the greatest character assassinations, plus my responses. No need to read. I’ve just put it here for documentation. :smile:

The Green Screen Flap:

and the Wistar II coverup:

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And after the pro-science side won at kitzmiller, the Discovery Institute released a video mocking the victors, complete with fart noises. (The sound effects were later removed.)

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I agree. Those types of attacks have no place in these discussions. Criticisms need to be focused on the science, not on pictures in brochures. In fact, legal teams will suggest using stock footage for liability and PR issues, such as someone pointing out safety violations in the background or a employee in a brochure being convicted of crimes at a later date. The possible legal, regulatory, and PR entanglements that scientists can find themselves in have risen to ridiculous levels in recent years.

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Well that’s classy.

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But just to clarify, “they started it” is a lame excuse for being a jerk, and one that won’t work here. Just for the record. :smile_cat: So fart noise in some video are pretty irrelevant to the topic at hand, which is how to have cordial discussions on this forum.

And after the pro-science side won at kitzmiller, the Discovery Institute released a video mocking the victors, complete with fart noises. (The sound effects were later removed.)

I seriously doubt this, unless you can prove it. The Discovery Institute is too astute to do something so crass.

Could you be more specific on this point? Are we or are we not allowed to include fart noises in our posts?


It’s a hard no on the fart noises, Steve. Blowing raspberry noises or “na-na-na-na boo-boo” taunts will be evaluated on a case by case basis.


They once posted a “transcript” of an alleged interview with Barbara Forrest, which was actually a completely fictional parody of her, giving her the name “Dr. Barking Forrest”. So they’re clearly capable of sinking to pretty benthic depths.

Criticisms need to be focused on the science, not on pictures in brochures.

Thanks for the comment. Did you take a look at the second set? These were worse in my opinion, first because it was a gross misrepresentation and second because I was accused of something that is just about the worst thing a scientist can be accused of–hiding or falsifying data that disproved your hypothesis. BTW I never received any email inviting me to respond. I posted in 2012 was because of a public harrassment (I don’t actually know what term to use it was so bad) that occurred at a museum event, when I was repeatedly called a liar and a fraud, even after I explained what had really happened. In my published rebuttal I laid out all the facts (not the misrepresentations of David Brooks). But it has had no effect on any detractors.

When was this?

In 2005, before the Dover Trial. They were subjecting Forrest to public ridicule because they knew she was a witness. They had the fictional interviewer repeatedly get her name wrong, and Barbara attempting to correct it, until she was eventually called “Dr. Barking Forrest” despite all her previous corrections. Originally the article did not contain any advisory that it was an actual parody. Later a note was added saying it was a parody.

In 2005, before the Dover Trial,

Can you give me a little more so I can verify this? If true, such juvenile behavior is inexcusible.

Sure, how about the actual page itself, which is still online?

MW Where talking with Dr. Bark Forrest about intelligent design …

BF That’s Dr. BARBARA Forrest, Marv …

MW Oh, I do apologize. In our studios today is Dr. Barb Forrest –

BF Ph.D.

MW Right, Dr. Barking Forrest Ph.D, and we’re talking about intelligent design. Now let me ask you, Doc, just what’s wrong with intelligent design?

It had no effect on your detractors because what you described was a beneficial mutation. Just because it didn’t produce the activity you were looking for does not exclude it from being a beneficial mutation. Beneficial mutations are permanent changes in DNA sequence that allow the carrier to outcompete others in the population, and that is exactly what appeared to have happened.

A criticism I have (not an attack) is that the definition for “genetic information” or whatever moniker is being used by ID researchers is entirely meaningless. Whenever I see the goal move from “beneficial mutation” to “gain of information” you know something is up. I would strongly suspect that if an ID research tested every mutation that has happened in the lineage leading to humans since the common ancestor of tetrapods that they would define each and every one of them as a loss in information. A gain in information is nothing more than Lucy pulling the football away as Charlie Brown goes to kick it.


“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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