Criticisms vs. Attacks: Where's the line?

You forgot the aliens and Trump.


Oh, and I count it successfully derailed.

…or even just restored back to its original topic would be great too. As much as I enjoy being the center of attention, that was a bit much. I guess I asked for it though.

The discussion over what constitutes ad hominem was enlightening I thought. And perhaps it is even more important whether or not something is perceived as ad hominem? After all, being attacked isn’t the only thing that sends a person or group into militant mode. Just thinking you have been attacked suffices. That may send all discussion south with all the same negative results as ad hominem even if ad hominem had not technically been committed.

There is probably no way to avoid this, though, short of shutting up completely. Plenty of prophets through history could probably be accused, whether rightly or wrongly of ad hominem attacks.

I agree. And for some reason I am reminded of this saying of St. John of the Cross:

Never take a man for your example in the tasks you have to perform, however holy he may be, for the devil will set his imperfection before you. But imitate Christ, who is supremely perfect and supremely holy, and you will never err.

I think the problem may arise in the (mis)perception of the one using ad hominem (sensu strictu or not) attacks., and their motivation. Someone who sees what he thinks is a lie may out of indignation call out “Liar!” even when there is no lie. And others may pick up the chant. The victim may or may not be able defend himself.

If the person crying “Liar” does so maliciously, even if it seems to justify his argument, then I submit it should called an ad hominem attack.

In any case, there are ways of saying someone has misrepresented the facts without using inflammatory words.

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Wow, I didn’t expect that my last comment would result in its own thread–I feel honored. Thanks BioLogos!

Also, I apologize for my extended absence from the discussion. I am a scientist myself and labwork is consuming my life at present and I have little time for anything else.

To make some comments, I’m amused by the contradictory nature of the various responses to my comment that apparently launched this thread. I’m not surprised by the contradictory responses, because I’ve seen it many times before when ID-critics are confronted by the persecution of ID proponents:

  • (1) On the one hand, some people continue to deny that ID proponents receive mistreatment, and don’t appreciate the privilege that evolutionists enjoy in this discussion/debate.

  • (2) On the other hand, others are doubling-down on their mistreatment of ID proponents, and are even attempting to justify the mistreatment of ID proponents. This is the ultimate exercise of evolutionist privilege–I get to mistreat you because you deserve it!

  • (Oh yes, there’s also a third option: Some people are doing both 1 and 2.)

This is a typical set of responses.

Meanwhile, Christy writes as if my chief complaint/problem is the mere fact that people disagree with ID, even though I’ve explained over and over again that this is not the least bit the case. I charitably believe that she’s trying to be helpful, but she seriously misunderstands what’s going on inside my head.

Even more incredible: I’m being told that I myself can fix this problem simply by flagging inappropriate posts on this thread of this particular forum. That’s nice, I suppose, but it’s like telling a homeless man, “Have a Big Mac and you and all homeless everywhere never be hungry again.” Clearly some people not understand the magnitude of what I am talking about. I can’t fix this problem. We on this thread can’t fix this problem. This problem can only be fixed by mass changes in the hearts and minds among the masses of people who are causing the problem.

For the record, I’m not upset or trembling in anger or fear because T_aquaticus has been uncivil. Nor does it bother me that he disagrees with ID. He can say whatever he likes—I’m doing just fine whether he agrees or disagrees with ID, and I’m doing just fine whether he expresses his disagreement in a civil or uncivil manner. As I said before, I’ve been around the block many times and I don’t take this stuff personally.

But I am a Christian, and as Christians we should care about the witness that we put forth to the world. This should be true whether you’re an ID-proponent or an ID-skeptic. Now T_aquaticus may not be a Christian. But he’s the one whose incivility is dominating these thread, so I use him as an example.

Anyways, which is it? Are ID proponents not mistreated? Or do they deserve the mistreatment they get?

It’s neither. The truth is that:

  • ID proponents are grossly mistreated in just about any mainstream forum that purports to be intellectual or scientific (this is true whether we’re talking about the academy as a whole, or some science-oriented online discussion forum), and
  • ID proponents cannot in principle do anything do deserve the mistreatment they get, because ad hominem attacks are essentially always inappropriate, and
  • As T_aquaticus’s dialogue with me demonstrates, what one often thinks provides grounds for mistreatment of ID proponents is at worst based upon a false argument, and at best a legitimate scientific disagreement where one ought to just stick to the facts and not make personal attacks.

In this regard, I am very grateful for Jim Stump’s comment:

Among scientists in general, there is no doubt that ID people are treated far worse than evolutionary creationists. Does anybody really doubt this?

I appreciate Jim’s candidness. But doesn’t this comment from a top BioLogos author basically concede the core question I was raising in my favor? I think it does.

I also appreciate Jim’s comment that BioLogos has “a mission” to promote an evolutionary viewpoint, which means some folks will disagree with ID here. As a Christian ID proponent Jim who disagrees with a lot of what BioLogos says, all I can say is more power to you! I believe in freedom of speech, and BioLogos has every right to have a mission and a viewpoint and if it wants to critique ID, I won’t stand in their way. Hence, why I refuse to flag comments that I disagree with or even find morally distasteful.

But not everyone here seems to agree with Jim Stump, so I’ll address those who think ID proponents aren’t mistreated.

I appreciate that the term “evolutionist privilege” made some of you laugh. I must admit, too laughed when I wrote it. I’ll admit that I got the idea from an excellent article in Christianity Today by Andrea Palpant Dilley titled “Let’s Save the University from Secular Privilege” (

The pro-evolution viewpoint dominates the media, the scientific community, the courts, the educational system, and even YouTube. Evolutionists can go on science internet forums and make their arguments with very little fear of condescension or personal attacks. More importantly, they can be open about their views before the scientific community and in the vast majority of the mainstream academy without any fear of retribution. In particular, Christians who support evolution are fawned over by the media and societal elites, because they are seen as the best hope to solving perceived problems caused by America’s supposedly ignorant and backwards religious elements.

This means that BioLogos can easily find scientists and academics to act as their spokespersons and advocates, whereas ID groups know plenty of ID-friendly scientists who are scared to speak out because of their views. They are scared because they fear they might lose their careers. If I had a penny for every ID-friendly scientist I know who has locked themselves into a closet, well, I’d have a lot of pennies.

The vast majority of theistic evolutionists in the scientific community don’t have to worry that their department head, or tenure committee, or thesis committee, or graduate advisor, or funding review board, or project collaborators, or colleagues might do if they find out about their views on origins. Many ID proponents in the academy live in fear of this happening every day, and it severely undercuts their ability to advocate ID to the point that many can never become a public advocate of ID. In short, Christian evolutionists have far more freedom to advocate / teach / discuss/ research their origins views in the academy than Christians do.

Now I understand that sometimes there are atheists who oppose Christians in the scientific community—including those who are theistic evolutionists. And I understand that many Christian who wander into an atheist-dominated internet forum will take some abuse. I appreciate that, and that goes for all of us, whether pro-evolution, pro-ID, etc. And I share sympathies with my theistic evolutionist brothers and sisters who must face such opposition for their faith.

Most typically, the Christian who affirms a mainstream evolutionary viewpoint will find themselves being complimented for being “honest” and “intelligent” for having accepted evolution, while the Christian ID proponent will take all kinds of ADDITIONAL abuse that the Christian evolutionist is spared.

Of course some atheists will still abuse Christian evolutionists like Francis Collins. I have seen how atheists bash Francis Collins and other prominent EC/TEs, and it’s saddening to see this happen.

But bear in mind that Francis Collins was appointed to head the NIH, partly because he’s a great scientist (which he is, of course), but because in the eyes of the world, he’s “got the right stuff”: he’s an outspoken Christian and an outspoken evolutionist. I’m happy for Francis Collins’s success and I wish more power to him. But you’d be very hard pressed to see an ID proponent who was outspoken about origins issues as Francis Collins has been about evolution (and anti-ID) being appointed to head the NIH. Sure, a few atheists grumble, but he comes out the winner, big time. That’s evolutionist privilege at work.

If you don’t think evolutionists have privilege, then as Ann Gauger said, you need to walk for a day in the shoes of an ID proponent. We IDers see the disparity in how we’re treated vs. our theistic evolutionist brothers and sisters every day.

And as would be predicted, most folks who enjoy certain privileges aren’t aware of it. Hence, we see chuckles and denials here. But I assure you, evolutionist privilege is very very real.

Now let’s address those who take approach (2)–to double-down and say that those terrible ID proponents deserve the mistreatment they’re getting.

The main argument to justify abuse given to ID proponents is usually the Dover Trial, and it has been such here. I’m seeing militant comments about how ID deserved the beating it got at Dover, like:

“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.” (Jonathan_Burke)


“And after the pro-science side won at kitzmiller”

That’s a good example of an attempt to enforce “evolutionist privilege” right there—who gets to decide who is “pro-science”? Sure, nobody denies that the consensus in the scientific community is the evolutionary viewpoint. But that doesn’t mean that those who doubt the consensus are not “pro-science.” It doesn’t privilege those who disagree with the consensus to define “pro-science” as being “pro-evolution.”

Discovery Institute people certainly think they are pro-science. BioLogos people think they are pro-science. And there are loads of atheists out there who think that if you believe that God used an evolutionary process to create (as EC’s affirm) then you’re not “pro-science.” So some folks think all us Christians, whether pro-ID or anti-ID, are anti-science.

Probably most of us would agree that those atheists are wrong, but the point is this: labels like that are inappropriate and suppress discussion. When we grant labels like “pro-science” to ID-critics we create an biased atmosphere that intimidates ID proponents from participating.

Unfortunately, even theistic evolutionists often to use the word “anti-science” when describing ID. For example, in a private briefing paper that Darrel Falk (former BioLogos president) prepared for Francis Collins prior to BioLogos’s founding, he called Darwin-skeptics “anti-science” and claimed that “forces of anti-scientism” will hinder the efforts of “pro-science” groups. (See The Adam Quest, page 132.)

Even BioLogos’s questions and answers page once on why you should become an EC stated that “anti-evolution and anti-science attitudes in the church can hinder evangelism to scientists” (

You can find more examples of BioLogos folks calling evolution-skeptics “anti-science” if you do a site specific google search: anti-science - Google Search But the idea that ID proponents and creationists and other skeptics of the evolutionary consensus are “anti-science” seems deeply embedded in BioLogos’s DNA.

If you don’t believe me, ask Karl Giberson (former BioLogos VP) who wrote:

“The evangelical geneticist and head of the Human Genome Project Francis Collins launched the BioLogos Foundation to counter the antiscience message of the creationists and the intelligent design movement” (The Annointed, page 9.)

Yes, evolution is the consensus. But the point is that evolutionists should check their privilege and leave terms like “pro-science” or “anti-science” out of it.

Back to Dover: I’m certainly not going to defend what the Dover School Board did—Judge Jones was probably right to find that they lied in court and had religious motives, etc. etc. But as has been pointed out already, Discovery Institute urged the school board to drop their policy and didn’t support the school board. Discovery Institute and the ID movement are NOT equal to the Dover School Board.

Also, if you look closely at the Dover case you’ll see that Discovery Institute has some very good rebuttals to the accusations against ID made in the Dover Ruling (i.e stuff saying ID isn’t science, or is creationism, or isn’t peer-reviewed, etc.) They posted a nice 10-part series a couple years ago for the 10th anniversary of the Dover Trial, which you can read here:

If you read those articles, you’ll see that Discovery Institute has many ample responses to the charges levied by Judge Jones in the Dover ruling.

But perhaps the best list of problems with the Dover trial comes from this article which states

Judge Jones’s ruling includes numerous false claims about law and science, on top of other deficiencies, that make it a highly inaccurate and unreliable analysis of intelligent design.

For example, Judge Jones:

• Employed a false definition of ID, wrongly holding that it requires “supernatural creation” — a position refuted during the trial by ID proponents who testified and in other evidence given to the judge.
• Ignored the positive case for design and falsely claimed that ID proponents make their case solely by arguing against evolution.
• Used a six-part test for analyzing whether ID is science, yet on each of those parts his analysis was wrong and/or irrelevant. (More on this below.)
• Wrongly claimed ID started with Thomas Aquinas, and derived from Christian fundamentalism.
• Misrepresented the Of Pandas and People textbook as if it supported creationism, when in fact its thesis was fundamentally distinct from creationism.
• Overstepped the bounds of his role as a judge and engaged in judicial activism. Jones found that ID had been refuted when in fact he had been presented with credible scientific witnesses and publications on both sides showing evidence of a scientific debate.
• Blundered in his application of the philosophy of science, presuming that being wrong precludes being scientific, and by applying a false dichotomy where he argued that if something isn’t science then it must be religion.
• Dangerously stifled scientific advance by taking the level of support for a theory as a measure of whether it is scientific or not.
• Blatantly ignored and denied the existence of pro-ID peer-reviewed scientific publications that were documented for him and were even the subject of testimony in his own courtroom.
• Blatantly ignored and denied the existence of pro-ID scientific research and data that was likewise the subject of testimony in his own courtroom.
• Made numerous inaccurate (or at least easily challenged) scientific claims about the evolution of the bacterial flagellum, the blood clotting cascade, and the origin of new genetic information.
• Adopted an unfair double standard of legal analysis where religious implications, beliefs, motives, and affiliations count against ID but never against Darwinism.
• Violated a fundamental rule of constitutional law by declaring a religious belief to be “false” from the bench of a U.S. court.
• Copied 90 percent of his celebrated section on whether ID is science either verbatim or nearly verbatim from an ACLU brief.
• Engaged in further judicial activism by presuming that it is permissible for a federal judge to define science, settle controversial social questions, settle controversial scientific questions, settle issues for parties outside of the case at hand. Jones wrote that his ruling would be “a primer” for people “someplace else.”

Critics sometimes attack ID proponents for calling Judge Jones an “activist,” as if we said that simply because we disagreed with the ruling. But the final bullet-point above explains that Judge Jones’s ruling fits scholarly textbook definitions of judicial activism. As Jones himself admitted, he wanted to influence groups that weren’t party to his case, and tried to settle issues beyond the scope of the judiciary. Even a leading anti-ID legal scholar, Boston University law professor Jay Wexler, argues that Judge Jones’s ruling on whether ID is science goes beyond appropriate judicial inquiry:

The part of Kitzmiller that finds ID not to be science is unnecessary, unconvincing, not particularly suited to the judicial role, and even perhaps dangerous both to science and to freedom of religion.
(Jay D. Wexler, “Kitzmiller and the ‘Is It Science?’ Question,” 5 First Amendment Law Review 90, 93 (2006) (emphasis added).)

What exactly was so wrong with Judge Jones’s section on ID and science? As I’ve already noted, he used a six-part test for analyzing whether ID is science, but each of the criteria he listed was wrongly applied, irrelevant, or both. Here’s what Judge Jones wrote:

(1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980’s; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community … [4] ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, [5] it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor [6] has it been the subject of testing and research.

Again, each of those six criteria are irrelevant to a determination of whether ID is science and/or Judge Jones’s analysis of that criterion was flat wrong. Let’s consider each of these separately.

• Criterion 1 — ID and the Supernatural: Judge Jones’s analysis was wrong because ID does not invoke supernatural creation, and whether ID permits it is irrelevant to determining whether ID is science. (See here for a more detailed analysis.)
• Criterion 2 — Negative Arguments Against Evolution: Judge Jones’s analysis is wrong because ID — including its arguments from irreducible complexity — in fact offers a strong positive argument. Jones ignored this. His analysis is also irrelevant to determining whether ID is science because scientists often use negative arguments. (See here for a more detailed analysis.)
• Criterion 3 — ID and Scientific Disproof: Judge Jones’s analysis is wrong. He was presented with evidence of a scientific debate, not one side refuting the other. (In fact, many of Judge Jones’s scientific claims are flat out wrong.) Moreover, this analysis is irrelevant because even if he were correct that ID has been refuted, an idea can be mistaken yet still scientific. (See here, here, here, and here, for more detailed analyses.)
• Criterion 4 — ID and Acceptance in the Scientific Community: Judge Jones’s analysis is wrong because there are credible scientists who support ID. His analysis is also irrelevant because the U.S. Supreme Court has expressly rejected the view that the degree of support for an idea determines whether it is scientific. (See here for a more detailed analysis.)
• Criterion 5 — ID and Peer-Review: Judge Jones’s analysis is wrong because ID has generated peer-reviewed publications. It is also irrelevant to determining whether ID is science. (See here for a more detailed analysis.)
• Criterion 6 — ID and Research: Judge Jones’s analysis is wrong because such research indeed existsand was the subject of testimony in his courtroom. It is also irrelevant to determining whether ID Is science. (See here for a more detailed analysis.)

So if we look carefully at the Dover ruling, there are lots of reasons to not consider it the devastating refutation that many people consider it to be. It misrepresented intelligent design and did not actually end this debate.

Another response I’m seeing here, it seems, is that Discovery Institute deserves some abuse because it is extremely uncivil as well. So we should also address this.

In Discovery Institute’s 25+ year history, I see exactly 2 things being cited on this thread as uncivil:

  • A fart video about Judge Jones
  • Attacking “Barking Forrest.”

Let me state unequivocally that I agree with Ann Gauger that these things were completely uncalled for and wrong. They have no place in this debate. But I didn’t do any of those things, and if you think that somehow they constitute a counter-argument to what I’m saying, then you misunderstand what I’m saying.

Both Ann Gauger and I have acknowledged that ID proponents make mistakes sometimes too. I’m not surprised you found a couple. But if your response is to call up 2 incidents that were done 10+ years ago then I’m not impressed by your response. If you have nothing to cite from Discovery Institute that isn’t over 10 years old, perhaps they’re a lot more civil than you’re trying to paint them as.

Also, we have to ask how they responded to these wrongdoings. I remember the “Fart Video” incident, and we should note that it was NOT done by Discovery Institute. It was done independently by one of their fellows, Dembski, not in cooperation with Discovery Institute. Thus, it was discussed on then-Dembski’s blog, UncommonDescent, at:

Dembski noted that they removed the farts because they recognized the farts were offensive.

As for the “Barking Forrest” example, this was unfortunately done by Discovery Institute. It used to be at:

It seem that that page appears to no longer be there. That’s good to see.

What I can’t help but notice about these incidents is they are “Remember the time that happened?” arguments. Yes, as Ann Gauger and I have both acknowledged, these were wrong, and ID proponents make mistakes too. But that doesn’t mean there’s a balance when it comes to incivility and mudslinging.

Yes, we can gleefully recall or woefully lament the times that Discovery Institute (or one of its affiliates) did wrong. But that doesn’t mean that on average, Discovery Institute acts like this or that there’s a balance of uncivil rhetoric in this debate.

I tell you the truth, these inappropriate incidents included, Discovery Institute is still one of the most civil players in this debate. It’s probably more civil than just about any major evolutionist organization, theistic or otherwise.

I don’t want to get into the “If you show me your evidence I’ll show you mine” game on this issue, but if you want more, there’s an endless supply of anti-ID incivility on the internet. For the sake of this forum, let’s restrict it to incivility from those involved with BioLogos:

BioLogos’s main paleoanthropology writer, Dr. James Kidder (James Kidder - BioLogos), has a personal blog where he writes extremely uncivil material towards ID proponents and creationists very frequently. Here’s some examples that are unfortunately very typical:

Ironically, he makes accusations like this all the time and has been saying this kind of stuff for years:

  • “What I find more of a problem rather than the slick one-liners is the persistent use of the “repeat a lie often enough and people will start to believe it” tactic. One example of this is when ID supporters characterize the fossil record when they argue that lineages appear fully formed, when in fact, they do not. Witness Stephen Meyer’s recent book on the Cambrian explosion, in which he claims that this period is too short for evolution to have occurred and that the biotic proliferation is best explained by intelligent design processes. As Don Prothero notes, the only reason Meyer comes to this conclusion is that he completely mischaracterizes the fossil record of the Cambrian.” (Science and Religion: A View from an Evolutionary Creationist: Thoughts On Jared Diamond, Creationism and Lies)

I already pointed out that Prothero’s ad-hominem-filled accusations against Meyer’s book were false.

Secondly, does the content of the film belong in a science center? Biologist John Humphreys has a somewhat lengthy review of the film here. Here is what he thought of it:

To draw this novel length critique of Darwin’s Dilemma to a close, let me re-emphasize that although lacking historical accuracy, scientific legitimacy and professional integrity the film’s production value and underlying truth-manipulating strategy make it a dangerous opponent to education and reason. The people behind the film are dishonest, unethical and immoral; they lie, doctor evidence and misrepresent science as a whole. In the process of attacking evolution, they falsify history and tear down the sciences of geology and chemistry.

Though they are fundamentalists and propagandists, they are also cunning and well funded… Take caution.

Read the entire review. He is quite specific and quite damning in his charges.** And they all stick like glue. Putting the theory of evolution to scrutiny is one thing. Distorting and lying about it (there are no transitional fossils, evolution can come up with no new information) is something else. Even without the contractual problems, such a film doesn’t belong in a “science center.” Reasoned discourse is perfectly fine but not when one side continually lies about the evidence. (Science and Religion: A View from an Evolutionary Creationist: The Nexus of Politics and Science)

There are many similar examples like this on Dr. Kidder’s blog. And he is BioLogos’s main writer on paleoanthropology. If you care about the way that your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are treated, even by fellow Christian evolutionists who are credible and well-qualified scientists, you should find Dr. Kidder’s behavior troubling.

And again, none of this is to comment on the merits of his critiques of ID and creationism. He has every right to critique ID and creationism, and I have no doubt that sometimes he makes valid points—that’s not the issue here. The issue is how he constantly attacks the morality and character of other Christians whom he disagrees with. Again, if you care about how your fellow Christians are treated, you should find Dr. James Kidder’s behavior shocking.

Now there are some folks that blog at BioLogos who are extremely civil. Ted Davis (who explained at the prior thread that he maintains good relations with some ID people) is VERY civil. But others are not.

Another example is Steve Matheson, a BioLogos writer (Stephen Matheson - BioLogos) who uses similar rhetoric to James Kidder on his personal blog:

  • "The point is this: yes, of course, I disagree with RTB, and with Answers in Genesis, and with the Discovery Institute. But my most serious criticism of these outfits will be questions about their integrity. … Sadly, though, Rana engages in some truly inexplicable behavior that looks for all the world like full-blown dishonesty. I’ve already mentioned Rana’s sickeningly inaccurate portrayal of evolutionary theory on the comment-free RTB “blog.” I think this indicates that Rana is willing to write things he knows to be false in defense of his peculiar natural theology. " (Quintessence of Dust: When it's not just a disagreement)

  • " Some folk science is almost certainly deliberately dishonest. For example, earlier this year David Menton of Answers in Genesis wrote a blurb about the famous transitional fossil Tiktaalik, in which he made claims that seem to be clear fabrications. His work is pure folk science, but it appears also to be disgracefully dishonest. Here, the folk science context provides explanation for his behavior, but of course does nothing to excuse it." (Quintessence of Dust: On folks science and lies: feedback and further thoughts)

  • “And so, last week, some of my friends from BioLogos and Calvin College participated in this Vibrant Dance thing. These are people I hold in very high regard, people pursuing goals that I consider to be among the most important projects a Christian scientist can tackle. But mistakes are being made, and in a previous post I pointed to one of the biggest ones: overemphasizing “Christian unity” in an environment of rampant dishonesty, an environment poisoned by apologetic propaganda.” (Quintessence of Dust: Biologos and Christian unity: mission accomplished?)

(FYI, the “Vibrant Dance” was a conference where both ID proponents from Discovery Institute and EC’s from BioLogos shared the stage and had friendly dialogue.)

Now Matheson may not write for BioLogos anymore (as some may recall, sadly he said earlier this year that he’s no longer a Christian), but all of these things were written BEFORE he started blogging for BioLogos. He was apparently invited to blog at BioLogos after all of these things were part of his public discourse.

Even some of those who partake in telling me that ID doesn’t face persecution have made uncivil comments questioning moral integrity of creationists and ID proponents:

Commenting on BioLogos Jon Garvey explained he was “struck … that every single contribution contained at least some degree of ad hominem attack,” and concluded: “I cannot commit myself to the BioLogos viewpoint, even as a theistic evolutionist. Darwin is not that sacred to me.” (Signature in the BioLogos | The Hump of the Camel)

Now despite these problems, BioLogos has shown a desire to change, and has made commendable progress in recent years towards removing incivility from its articles. The personalized manner of attacks in Adam and the Genome shows that there’s still a ways to go. But I recognize the improvement.

The main point is that incivility against ID is rampant, even here among Christians. I’m not upset about it. But I hope that you all will take time to reflect on your discourse and the obstacles that ID proponents face in the wake of evolutionist privilege.

OK, let’s close by returning to T_aquaticus’s continued substantive claims that Yohn et al. 2005 did not find data that contradict the standard catarrhine phylogeny. To keep it simple, T_aquaticus claimed no “honest” person would conclude:

“there were no PtERV1 insertions that violated a nested hierarchy in the Yohn et al. (2005) paper”

That wasn’t exactly what the ENV author concluded. The ENV author concluded that the PtERV data didn’t fit with the standard phylogeny of higher primates. Recall again the words of the paper:

  • We found that the distribution is inconsistent with the generally accepted phylogeny of catarrhine primates”
  • “the retroviral phylogeny is inconsistent with the generally accepted primate species tree based on molecular data”
  • “the PTERV1 phylogenetic tree is inconsistent with the generally accepted species tree for primates”

Seems pretty clear cut to me: The paper said that the data was inconsistent with the standard catarrhine phylogeny. Thus, the paper infers independent insertions into hotspot mutation loci. But the ENV author was right to cite this paper as an example of ERVs that don’t fit the standard phylogeny.

T_aquaticus later writes about Gauger and Axe’s research:

“They found no such thing. The evolutionary model uses the ancestral sequence, not the derived sequences found in the two modern species. If you are going to claim that the new protein function could not evolve then you need to start with the protein that evolved, not the derived cousins.”

So at least now you concede that Axe and Gauger didn’t think that they were testing an ancestor-descendant pathway. Earlier you made it sound like they didn’t know what they were doing.

But obviously if you don’t have the ancestral sequence then it’s very hard to test such models. So that’s why evolutionists often use “proof of concept” arguments, trying to show that proteins can be easily converted to do something new. For example, see Carneiro and Hartl 2010 which states: “For every realized evolutionary path in sequence space there are other roads not taken.” ( They then try to show that many roads are takeable.

And Harms and Thornton 2010 note that the kind of approach taken by Axe and Gauger is a common one. They write (emphasis added):

“To identify the key amino acid changes that differentiate one family member from another, most studies have taken a ‘horizontal’ approach, swapping candidate residues between present-day family members.” (Analyzing protein structure and function using ancestral gene reconstruction - PubMed)

Harms and Thorton of course then try to test an ancestor-descendant model, and good for them. But ancestors can’t always be reconstructed, and thus the fact two experts in the field admit that “most studies” take the precisely the “horizontal” approach that Gauger and Axe used means that your criticisms that Gauger and Axe are way off in left field are simply wrong.

In fact, taking “a ‘horizontal’ approach, swapping candidate residues between present-day family members” is a perfect description of Axe and Gauger’s research. Yet Harms and Thornton state that “most studies” in the field do this. I think it’s clear that Axe and Gauger didn’t do anything wrong or weird or deserving of the abuse that their research is taking from T_aquaticus. But ID proponents are very used to this kind of thing: We take abuse all the time, only to be proven right (or at least not crazy!)

Don’t know if/when I’ll be able to return as I have to present my research at the end of next week and it’s going to be a long string of long lab/prep days between now and then. In fact, my sample material is sitting about 20 feet away from me waiting to be measured. Say a prayer for me, if anyone feels so inclined.

Thanks for reading folks, and thanks again for highlighting my comments. God bless you all for taking the time to hear me out. Whether we agree or disagree on ID, I feel a kinship in Christ with all of you.

You’re right Ann. It wasn’t Discovery Institute that did this. It was some people at Uncommon Descent (including Bill Dembski, but others were involved as well). For those who are not aware, Uncommon Descent is not operated or controlled by Discovery Institute. The same could definitely be said for Bill Dembski, although he has a long history of being very friendly with Discovery Institute. But it would be completely wrong to say that everything he does, even ID-related, is Discovery Institute.

That doesn’t say anything about whether they deserved it. What it describes is how the Dover trial and Wedge Strategy totally destroyed the credibility of the Discovery Institute and its fellows, as far as I was concerned. And as I said, it was their own behavior which discredited them in my view, “not what other people were saying, but their own behavior and statements”. Not even anything to do with the court judgment, but their own behavior at that trial.

You still don’t seem to be acknowledging that Christian evolution proponents also fear they might lose their jobs, and in some cases do. Just ask Jim or Bruce Watlke about what their publishing here cost them employment-wise. The privilege you talk about is totally relevant to the circles you operate in.

I’m sorry, but ID proponents aren’t some special oppressed class. In my line of work, academics routinely question our ability to do proper linguistics because we work for a faith-based NGO and also support Bible translation. And some of the Evangelical Christian groups we work with question our faith because we interface with the Catholic Church and secular institutions and, perhaps some of us even talk linguistics and education with communists. Anyone who operates in two worlds where boundary lines are fiercely defended (and academics and the church would be two of those areas) is going to face problems fitting in with both tribes. It’s not a unique situation to ID folks.


Those are clear cut examples of quote mines. The authors were unable to find a single orthologous PtERV1 insertion meaning that there were no observed violations of the expected phylogeny. I even quoted the paper saying as much. From the paper:

“We performed two analyses to determine whether these 12 shared map intervals might indeed be orthologous. First, we examined the distribution of shared sites between species (Table S3). We found that the distribution is inconsistent with the generally accepted phylogeny of catarrhine primates [5]. This is particularly relevant for the human/great ape lineage. For example, only one interval is shared by gorilla and chimpanzee; however, two intervals are shared by gorilla and baboon; while three intervals are apparently shared by macaque and chimpanzee. Our Southern analysis shows that human and orangutan completely lack PTERV1 sequence (see Figure 2A). 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. Moreover, the same exact six sites would also have had to have been deleted in the orangutan lineage if the generally accepted phylogeny is correct. Such a series of independent deletion events at the same precise locations in the genome is unlikely (Figure S3).”

So where they truly orthologous and therefore not truly fit the expected phylogeny? NO!!

" 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. This apparent independent clustering of retroviral insertions at similar locations may be a consequence of preferential integration bias or the effect of selection pressure against gene regions, limiting the number of effective sites that are tolerated for fixation."

You are twisting the words of the authors to mean the opposite of what they concluded.

[deleted by moderator][quote=“littledoweknow, post:63, topic:36875”]
So at least now you concede that Axe and Gauger didn’t think that they were testing an ancestor-descendant pathway. Earlier you made it sound like they didn’t know what they were doing.

But obviously if you don’t have the ancestral sequence then it’s very hard to test such models.

The problem is that they claimed to have tested the viability of evolutionary pathways even though they didn’t have the ancestral sequence. In order to claim that an evolutionary pathway is not viable you need to start with the ancestral sequence which can be determined through phylogenetic means.

@T_aquaticus is a former Christian, but from what I have observed in another thread, he and @agauger now seem to be having a perfectly civil dialogue (although the subject is mostly soaring above my head). It works that way quite often, if both persons are willing to listen to the other instead of accusing and lecturing. I’m afraid you’re beating a dead horse.

On a positive note, you beat it with great style and enthusiasm!


I’m going to have to disagree with you here, @littledoweknow. The climate has gotten so bad that I know of several examples where student or postdocs either lost their jobs or were threatened with it simply for being Christian. I would agree however, that ID is completely toxic to many academics. That may be why Christians in general can face opposition now-- a sort of backlash. But that is no reason to heap scorn on ID. The science and the arguments need to be judged fairly and dispassionately on their merits

I don’t know how many receive compliments for being Christian and accepting evolution.

Let’s not make this a competition to see who is the most abused. Any discrimination based on a person’s
scientific position or religious belief is wrong.[quote=“littledoweknow, post:63, topic:36875”]
Let me state unequivocally that I agree with Ann Gauger that these things were completely uncalled for and wrong. They have no place in this debate. But I didn’t do any of those things, and if you think that somehow they constitute a counter-argument to what I’m saying, then you misunderstand what I’m saying.

BTW I have been assured this video will be taken down. If it is DI’s. Someone posted the link earlier–if you can repost it that would be a help.

The rhetoric used against ID proponents can be harsh, especially terms that imply dishonesty, deception, lack of integrity, or a desire to deceive. Those terms all imply a knowledge of motive, and an expression of ill will. I can guarantee that nothing I have ever said or done was from a desire to deceive or suppress the truth. And the same is true for all the people I know at DI. You may disagree with us, as you do, and you may say we are mistaken or poorly informed, or even ignorant, but to call us dishonest is an entirely different thing.

There may be individuals who call themselves ID proponents whose behavior has been questionable. I don’t know. The same may be true of people at BioLogos. But it is not appropriate or just to tar everyone with the same brush.

I especially find it rich the charge that we are being made rich by donations from gullible supporters. We would be grateful to have even a portion of the money Biologos receives. If you’d care to donate (:slight_smile:) to the cause of moderation of the ENV site so it could be opened for comments, then we could hire someone to do it.

All this is written with good will and a desire to clarify, at least from my point of view, what is most harmful and what would be helpful in our debate.

I assume your phrase “than Christians do” at the end of this quote was intended to mean “ID advocates” right? You weren’t suggesting that Christian evolutionists are not really Christians, I hope.

But then, I’m sorry, but this claim just isn’t true, unless you mean to exclude the explicitly Christian colleges in the US from the academy. These are professors with PhDs from major research universities in the sciences, philosophy, and Bible/theology (and other disciplines too), who teach at accredited, faith-based institutions. If they are friendly to evolution, their jobs are in jeopardy. (I know this one personally.) We heard from a professor yesterday who was told by his administration that he shouldn’t even do an interview with us because of fear of what their constituents would think.

So this is my point again about context. Perhaps it feels like ID is under-represented and discriminated against in this forum, but that has to be (at least in part) because we’re the only one of the four big origins organizations that has a comments section where people can say such things. This is not a representative sample of what people in America think about evolution and Intelligent Design, and even less a representative sample of what Christians think.


In the name of accuracy and transparency: I’m not the accountant around here, but I can’t find a year in the publicly accessible records in which BioLogos received more money than the Discovery Institute (that includes grant money).

@Christy @Casper_Hesp and @jpm might be interested to learn there are places where their services are paid for. If anyone using this site thinks the work they do should be rewarded monetarily, we’d be happy to accept donations for that too! :slight_smile:


I see it as ministry- some days more than others. At times reading posts gets to be a chore, especially when it is something that has been commented to death, but overall it is a a pleasure to interact with the others on the forum, and is its own reward.

This thread for instance has been enlightening in seeing how others see themselves, which is sometimes different from how I have seen them, and I am sure the same goes the other way as well.
Regarding criticisms and attacks, I think we have done a poor job in the Christian community of holding each other accountable to the detriment of the gospel , and while we should be certain to speak truth, we should not shy away from bringing those things that are not true and good to light. I guess the difficulty comes in determining what indeed is truth vs. opinion.


My apologies. You have had some large grants from Templeton but I see they are multi-year.

You are lucky to have four people of discretion who volunteer in the job (plus editors) to do your moderating; we would need someone to do it full time, at least. I know, because of what happened to me on Facebook when we first opened the Biologic Institute page. I had to spend all my time responding to or blocking hostile commenters–couldn’t get anything else done! For some it was a badge of honor under how many pseudonyms they could be blocked.

We do get questions asked on the DI facebook page that we try to respond to on a case by case basis.

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This is a very sensitive subject. I agree that we can serve as a source of light for each other, but it must be without heat. Brotherly or sisterly correction must only be offered only after ascertaining the truth, as much as possible, from the point of view of the one being charged with wrong-doing. Taking as reliable sources those known to be biased only leads to more misunderstanding and division. And inflammatory language should be avoided.

We know from the history of the Church that this is a near impossible task, given human nature. So I submit that our attitude should be one of seeking understanding first, before trying to hold others accountable. In order to hold someone accountable, one must first look for the log in one’s own eye.



There are many counterexamples, such as Scott Minnich and Francis Collins (who currently heads the NIH). It would be interesting to hear @DennisVenema and Joshua @Swamidass chime in on their experience in academia and elsewhere.

It also doesn’t help when people overplay their hand. For example, the whole Guillermo Gonzalez affair. In that case, he had only graduated one student (poorly), he didn’t have any grants going, and his research had ground to a halt. At a university looking for active researchers this was ample reason to deny tenure, and yet it was made to look like the only reason he was denied tenure was because of his ID leanings. The Sternberg affair had a lot of the same.

I firmly believe that no scientist should be discriminated against because of their religious beliefs, and I will speak vociferously in their defense. Personally, I have never seen any type of discrimination based on religion, but I am only tangentially associated with academia. In fact, I have trained many Mormon and Protestant students and have seen some of them move on to graduate school. There has also been an influx of foreign students over the last 15 years comprised of a whole array of religious beliefs. Perhaps these types of problems are endemic to specific institutions.


Francis Collins was savagely attacked by both creationists and atheists when he was appointed to head the NIH. And Ken Miller is routinely criticized by ID people and by TE people, even here. But they are strong people and can take the heat. Science doesn’t award prizes for participating.

Oh come on. You know that he was one of the biggest stars of ID.