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World science journalists’ conference panelists in a snit over “science denial”

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What were we doing last June that we missed this?: At the Eighth World Conference of Science Journalists, Helsinki June 24-28, 2013, a panel fretted,

Denial of the scientific theory of evolution is the granddaddy of organized anti-science movements, cropping up repeatedly under different guises in the United States and in other countries around the world. Despite challenges by scientists, educators, politicians and lawyers, evolution denial hasn’t gone away and won’t go away. Instead it has seeded doubts about science that have spread to other arenas, including denial of global warming science, vaccination, genetically modified foods, and the hazards of second-hand smoke.

Science writers need to be aware of the influence of anti-science efforts on the topics they cover, since science denialism efforts have spread more quickly and widely in recent years, aided by the Internet and social media. Well-organized campaigns linking opposition to evolution to other anti-science efforts, both legal and political, help fuel the digital denialism battles. Denialism has been defined as “choosing to deny reality as a way to avoid an uncomfortable truth”.

Why does science denialism seem to be spreading around the globe? Are there common underlying causes involving religion, political beliefs, economics, education, and human nature itself? What is the history of well-organized attempts to mislead the public about scientific evidence? What challenges does denialism pose to the media in general, and to science journalists in particular, in communicating about controversial scientific issues to the public? More.

What? At a time when even p-value is coming under serious scrutiny, DNA studies are shaking the tree of life, and new human evolution finds are “baffling” and “hard to make sense of” (just to rattle off some stuff that whistled past the desk recently; there was scads of it back last June too), these people imagine that “well-organized campaigns” underlie uncertainty?

But who needs such campaigns? Why bother, when letting people know the facts does the job fine? Heck, you only have to run a blog on a shoestring.  Talk about stuff we should know about here at UD.

There is a simple solution to these science writers’ problem: Lose the pom poms and the loud hailer. Read what you are writing. The rest of us have. The only thing you are justified in being so certain of is your own certainty. And your certainty doesn’t seem to be contagious.

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10 Responses to World science journalists’ conference panelists in a snit over “science denial”

  1. There they go again! its laughable.
    iF you don’t agree with them your a SCIENCE denier.
    Give me a break already.
    We disagree with certain conclusions in certain subjects touching on origin matters. Yes global warming is another myth but thats a trivial matter.
    We are saying they are WRONG and wronger about evolution.
    WE are saying the SCIENCE is poorly done by evolutionists and some of us do BETTER science.
    Your lame and this accusation is a reflection on why you are on the wrong side.
    Your lame in your thinking.
    We ain’t going away and the late debate shows you are.
    The times they are achanginggggg!

  2. I give thanks that there are “science deniers.” Of course, that term is grossly misapplied. We are Darwin Doubters.
    That does not make us science deniers.

    Science is a human endeaver, and the last I checked humans do make mistakes and some do not recognize their own biases or philosophical/political agendas. Some demand that their philosophy of science rule all of science – even if that blinds them from the truth?

    Let us define science as the search for how nature works – no holds barred. Let us recognize that the historical sciences are different from the laboratory sciences with respect to the degree of confidence we can place in results that are found.

    Let us agree to talk to each other cordially and not dogmatically.

  3. From the OP: “…evolution denial hasn’t gone away and won’t go away. Instead it has seeded doubts about science that have spread to other arenas, including denial of global warming science, vaccination, genetically modified foods, and the hazards of second-hand smoke.”

    False dichotomy. Yes, there are those who deny that evolution happened the way Darwin described it. This does not mean that they deny other valid scientific inquiries.

    I’ve never heard of someone denying vaccinations, only questioning their efficacy; I’ve also never heard of people denying GMOs, only questioning their safety. People do not deny that vaccinations occur or that GMOs exist. They ask whether or not they are safe for public consumption. If you as a reporter cannot tell the difference between the two, then save everyone the hassle of reading your poorly thought out words. You’ll only add to the confusion.

  4. The only thing that needs to be ‘denied’ is that evolution even qualifies as a science in the first place! It is all smoke and mirrors. Every bit of it! There is not one piece of evidence that can withstand scrutiny so as to support the grand claims of neo-Darwinists:

    Where’s the substantiating evidence for neo-Darwinism?

    Four decades worth of lab work is surveyed here, and no evidence for neo-Darwinian evolution surfaces:

    “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”: Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain – Michael Behe – December 2010
    Excerpt: In its most recent issue The Quarterly Review of Biology has published a review by myself of laboratory evolution experiments of microbes going back four decades.,,, The gist of the paper is that so far the overwhelming number of adaptive (that is, helpful) mutations seen in laboratory evolution experiments are either loss or modification of function. Of course we had already known that the great majority of mutations that have a visible effect on an organism are deleterious. Now, surprisingly, it seems that even the great majority of helpful mutations degrade the genome to a greater or lesser extent.,,, I dub it “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”: Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain.
    http://behe.uncommondescent.co.....evolution/

    Michael Behe talks about the deep implications of the preceding paper in this following podcast:

    Michael Behe: Challenging Darwin, One Peer-Reviewed Paper at a Time – December 2010
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....3_46-08_00

    How about the oft cited example for neo-Darwinism of antibiotic resistance?

    List Of Degraded Molecular Abilities Of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria:
    Excerpt: Resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobials is often claimed to be a clear demonstration of “evolution in a Petri dish.” ,,, all known examples of antibiotic resistance via mutation are inconsistent with the genetic requirements of evolution. These mutations result in the loss of pre-existing cellular systems/activities, such as porins and other transport systems, regulatory systems, enzyme activity, and protein binding.
    http://www.trueorigin.org/bacteria01.asp

    Well, that doesn’t seem to be helping. How about we look really, really, close at very sensitive growth rates and see if we can catch almighty evolution in action???

    Unexpectedly small effects of mutations in bacteria bring new perspectives – November 2010
    Excerpt: Most mutations in the genes of the Salmonella bacterium have a surprisingly small negative impact on bacterial fitness. And this is the case regardless whether they lead to changes in the bacterial proteins or not.,,, using extremely sensitive growth measurements, doctoral candidate Peter Lind showed that most mutations reduced the rate of growth of bacteria by only 0.500 percent. No mutations completely disabled the function of the proteins, and very few had no impact at all. Even more surprising was the fact that mutations that do not change the protein sequence had negative effects similar to those of mutations that led to substitution of amino acids. A possible explanation is that most mutations may have their negative effect by altering mRNA structure, not proteins, as is commonly assumed.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....teria.html

    Shoot that doesn’t seem to be helping either! How about if we just try to fix a ‘beneficial’ mutation:

    Experimental Evolution in Fruit Flies (35 years of trying to force fruit flies to evolve in the laboratory fails, spectacularly) – October 2010
    Excerpt: “Despite decades of sustained selection in relatively small, sexually reproducing laboratory populations, selection did not lead to the fixation of newly arising unconditionally advantageous alleles.,,, “This research really upends the dominant paradigm about how species evolve,” said ecology and evolutionary biology professor Anthony Long, the primary investigator.
    http://www.arn.org/blogs/index.....ruit_flies

    Well that certainly didn’t help. How about if just try to help evolution out a little and saturate genomes with mutations until we can actually see some ‘evolution’?

    Response to John Wise – October 2010
    Excerpt: A technique called “saturation mutagenesis”1,2 has been used to produce every possible developmental mutation in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster),3,4,5 roundworms (Caenorhabditis elegans),6,7 and zebrafish (Danio rerio),8,9,10 and the same technique is now being applied to mice (Mus musculus).11,12 None of the evidence from these and numerous other studies of developmental mutations supports the neo-Darwinian dogma that DNA mutations can lead to new organs or body plans–because none of the observed developmental mutations benefit the organism.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....38811.html

    Shoot that doesn’t seem to be helping either! Perhaps we just have to give the almighty power of neo-Darwinism ‘room to breathe’? How about we ‘open the floodgates’ to the almighty power of Darwinian Evolution and look at Lenski’s Long Term Evolution Experiment and see what we can find after 50,000 generations, which is equivalent to somewhere around 1,000,000 years of human evolution???

    Richard Lenski’s Long-Term Evolution Experiments with E. coli and the Origin of New Biological Information – September 2011
    Excerpt: The results of future work aside, so far, during the course of the longest, most open-ended, and most extensive laboratory investigation of bacterial evolution, a number of adaptive mutations have been identified that endow the bacterial strain with greater fitness compared to that of the ancestral strain in the particular growth medium. The goal of Lenski’s research was not to analyze adaptive mutations in terms of gain or loss of function, as is the focus here, but rather to address other longstanding evolutionary questions. Nonetheless, all of the mutations identified to date can readily be classified as either modification-of-function or loss-of-FCT.
    (Michael J. Behe, “Experimental Evolution, Loss-of-Function Mutations and ‘The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution’,” Quarterly Review of Biology, Vol. 85(4) (December, 2010).)
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....51051.html

    Lenski’s Long-Term Evolution Experiment: 25 Years and Counting – Michael Behe – November 21, 2013
    Excerpt: Twenty-five years later the culture — a cumulative total of trillions of cells — has been going for an astounding 58,000 generations and counting. As the article points out, that’s equivalent to a million years in the lineage of a large animal such as humans. Combined with an ability to track down the exact identities of bacterial mutations at the DNA level, that makes Lenski’s project the best, most detailed source of information on evolutionary processes available anywhere,,,
    ,,,for proponents of intelligent design the bottom line is that the great majority of even beneficial mutations have turned out to be due to the breaking, degrading, or minor tweaking of pre-existing genes or regulatory regions (Behe 2010). There have been no mutations or series of mutations identified that appear to be on their way to constructing elegant new molecular machinery of the kind that fills every cell. For example, the genes making the bacterial flagellum are consistently turned off by a beneficial mutation (apparently it saves cells energy used in constructing flagella). The suite of genes used to make the sugar ribose is the uniform target of a destructive mutation, which somehow helps the bacterium grow more quickly in the laboratory. Degrading a host of other genes leads to beneficial effects, too.,,, -
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....79401.html

    Now that just can’t be right!?! Man we should really start to be seeing some neo-Darwinian fireworks by 50,000 generations!?! Hey I know what we can do! How about we see what happened when the ‘top five’ mutations from Lenski’s experiment were combined??? Surely now the Darwinian magic will start flowing now!

    Mutations : when benefits level off – June 2011 – (Lenski’s e-coli after 50,000 generations)
    Excerpt: After having identified the first five beneficial mutations combined successively and spontaneously in the bacterial population, the scientists generated, from the ancestral bacterial strain, 32 mutant strains exhibiting all of the possible combinations of each of these five mutations. They then noted that the benefit linked to the simultaneous presence of five mutations was less than the sum of the individual benefits conferred by each mutation individually.
    http://www2.cnrs.fr/en/1867.htm?theme1=7

  5. Now something is going terribly wrong here!?! Tell you what, let’s just forget trying to observe evolution in the lab, I mean it really is kind of cramped in the lab you know, and now let’s REALLY open the floodgates and let’s see what the almighty power of neo-Darwinian evolution can do with the ENTIRE WORLD at its disposal??? Surely now almighty neo-Darwinian evolution will flex its awesomely powerful muscles and forever make those IDiots, who believe in Intelligent Design, cower in terror!!!

    A review of The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism
    The numbers of Plasmodium and HIV in the last 50 years greatly exceeds the total number of mammals since their supposed evolutionary origin (several hundred million years ago), yet little has been achieved by evolution. This suggests that mammals could have “invented” little in their time frame. Behe: ‘Our experience with HIV gives good reason to think that Darwinism doesn’t do much—even with billions of years and all the cells in that world at its disposal’ (p. 155).
    http://creation.com/review-mic.....-evolution

    “The immediate, most important implication is that complexes with more than two different binding sites-ones that require three or more proteins-are beyond the edge of evolution, past what is biologically reasonable to expect Darwinian evolution to have accomplished in all of life in all of the billion-year history of the world. The reasoning is straightforward. The odds of getting two independent things right are the multiple of the odds of getting each right by itself. So, other things being equal, the likelihood of developing two binding sites in a protein complex would be the square of the probability for getting one: a double CCC, 10^20 times 10^20, which is 10^40. There have likely been fewer than 10^40 cells in the world in the last 4 billion years, so the odds are against a single event of this variety in the history of life. It is biologically unreasonable.”
    - Michael Behe – The Edge of Evolution – page 146

    Michael Behe, The Edge of Evolution, pg. 162 Swine Flu, Viruses, and the Edge of Evolution
    “Indeed, the work on malaria and AIDS demonstrates that after all possible unintelligent processes in the cell–both ones we’ve discovered so far and ones we haven’t–at best extremely limited benefit, since no such process was able to do much of anything. It’s critical to notice that no artificial limitations were placed on the kinds of mutations or processes the microorganisms could undergo in nature. Nothing–neither point mutation, deletion, insertion, gene duplication, transposition, genome duplication, self-organization nor any other process yet undiscovered–was of much use.”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....20071.html

    Now, there is something terribly wrong here! After looking high and low and everywhere in between, we can’t seem to find the almighty power of neo-Darwinism anywhere. Shoot we can’t even find ANY power of neo-Darwinism whatsoever! It is as if the whole neo-Darwinian theory, relentlessly sold to the general public as it was the gospel truth, is nothing but a big fat lie!

    Footnote. Besides no empirical support, neither does Darwinism have any rigid mathematical basis to falsify so that it may be considered truly ‘scientific’ in the first place:

    “nobody to date has yet found a demarcation criterion according to which Darwin can be described as scientific”
    – Imre Lakatos (November 9, 1922 – February 2, 1974) a philosopher of mathematics and science, quote as stated in 1973 LSE Scientific Method Lecture

    Oxford University Seeks Mathemagician — May 5th, 2011 by Douglas Axe
    Excerpt: Grand theories in physics are usually expressed in mathematics. Newton’s mechanics and Einstein’s theory of special relativity are essentially equations. Words are needed only to interpret the terms. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection has obstinately remained in words since 1859. …
    http://biologicinstitute.org/2.....emagician/

    “However, mathematical population geneticists mainly deny that natural selection leads to optimization of any useful kind. This fifty-year old schism is intellectually damaging in itself, and has prevented improvements in our concept of what fitness is.” –
    On a 2011 Job Description for a Mathematician, at Oxford, to ‘fix’ the persistent mathematical problems with neo-Darwinism within two years.

    “On the other hand, I disagree that Darwin’s theory is as `solid as any explanation in science.; Disagree? I regard the claim as preposterous. Quantum electrodynamics is accurate to thirteen or so decimal places; so, too, general relativity. A leaf trembling in the wrong way would suffice to shatter either theory. What can Darwinian theory offer in comparison?”
    (Berlinski, D., “A Scientific Scandal?: David Berlinski & Critics,” Commentary, July 8, 2003)

    Active Information in Metabiology – Winston Ewert, William A. Dembski, Robert J. Marks II – 2013
    Except page 9: (Gregory) Chaitin states [3], “For many years I have thought that it is a mathematical scandal that we do not have proof that Darwinian evolution works.” In fact, mathematics has consistently demonstrated that undirected Darwinian evolution does not work.
    http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/.....O-C.2013.4

    “It is our contention that if ‘random’ is given a serious and crucial interpretation from a probabilistic point of view, the randomness postulate is highly implausible and that an adequate scientific theory of evolution must await the discovery and elucidation of new natural laws—physical, physico-chemical, and biological.”
    Murray Eden, “Inadequacies of Neo-Darwinian Evolution as a Scientific Theory,” Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution, editors Paul S. Moorhead and Martin M. Kaplan, June 1967, p. 109.

    Macroevolution, microevolution and chemistry: the devil is in the details – Dr. V. J. Torley – February 27, 2013
    Excerpt: After all, mathematics, scientific laws and observed processes are supposed to form the basis of all scientific explanation. If none of these provides support for Darwinian macroevolution, then why on earth should we accept it? Indeed, why does macroevolution belong in the province of science at all, if its scientific basis cannot be demonstrated?
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....e-details/

    Moreover, as if that were not bad enough, the vast majority of ‘mutations’ to the genome are non-random:

    Revisiting the Central Dogma in the 21st Century – James A. Shapiro – 2009
    Excerpt (Page 12): Underlying the central dogma and conventional views of genome evolution was the idea that the genome is a stable structure that changes rarely and accidentally by chemical fluctuations (106) or replication errors. This view has had to change with the realization that maintenance of genome stability is an active cellular function and the discovery of numerous dedicated biochemical systems for restructuring DNA molecules.(107–110) Genetic change is almost always the result of cellular action on the genome. These natural processes are analogous to human genetic engineering,,, (Page 14) Genome change arises as a consequence of natural genetic engineering, not from accidents. Replication errors and DNA damage are subject to cell surveillance and correction. When DNA damage correction does produce novel genetic structures, natural genetic engineering functions, such as mutator polymerases and nonhomologous end-joining complexes, are involved. Realizing that DNA change is a biochemical process means that it is subject to regulation like other cellular activities. Thus, we expect to see genome change occurring in response to different stimuli (Table 1) and operating nonrandomly throughout the genome, guided by various types of intermolecular contacts (Table 1 of Ref. 112).
    http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.ed.....0Dogma.pdf

    Well so much for Random mutations/variations providing help Darwinian claims! How about Natural Selection? Can Darwinists demonstrated that the second pillar of Darwinian thought is true?

    “Although living things occupy a three-dimensional space, their internal physiology and anatomy operate as if they were four-dimensional. Quarter-power scaling laws are perhaps as universal and as uniquely biological as the biochemical pathways of metabolism, the structure and function of the genetic code and the process of natural selection.,,, The conclusion here is inescapable, that the driving force for these invariant scaling laws cannot have been natural selection.”
    Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini, What Darwin Got Wrong (London: Profile Books, 2010), p. 78-79

    WOW, dimensionally speaking, Natural Selection is not even on the right playing field! The reason why 4-Dimensional things are completely invisible to 3-Dimensional Darwinian processes is best illustrated by ‘flatland’:

    Flatland – 3D to 4D shift – Carl Sagan – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnURElCzGc0

    Moreover, even if Natural Selection were on the right playing field, dimensionally speaking, to be a viable explanation for the internal physiology and anatomy of a creature, Natural Selection would still be hopelessly blind to the subtle changes it is required to select at the molecular level,,

    The GS Principle (The Genetic Selection Principle) – Abel – 2009
    Excerpt: The GS Principle, sometimes called “The 2nd Law of Biology,” states that selection must occur at the molecular/genetic level, not just at the fittest phenotypic/organismic level, to produce and explain life.,,, Natural selection cannot operate at the genetic level.
    http://www.bioscience.org/2009.....lltext.htm

  6. This devastating ‘princess and the pea’ problem for natural selection is pointed out by Dr. John Sanford at the 8:14 minute mark of this following video,,,

    Genetic Entropy – Dr. John Sanford – Evolution vs. Reality – video
    http://vimeo.com/35088933

    All of which begs the question, if showing both of the two primary pillars of Darwinian thought to be false cannot falsify Darwinism, exactly what scientific finding could falsify Darwinism?

    Of related note: Intelligent Design does not suffer from such lack of mathematical rigor:

    Evolutionary Informatics Lab – Main Publications
    http://evoinfo.org/publications/

    Moreover, Intelligent Design can easily be falsified by empirical evidence:

    “Orr maintains that the theory of intelligent design is not falsifiable. He’s wrong. To falsify design theory a scientist need only experimentally demonstrate that a bacterial flagellum, or any other comparably complex system, could arise by natural selection. If that happened I would conclude that neither flagella nor any system of similar or lesser complexity had to have been designed. In short, biochemical design would be neatly disproved.”
    - Dr Behe in 1997

    Michael Behe on Falsifying Intelligent Design – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8jXXJN4o_A

    also see Abel’s Null Hypothesis for functional Information generation by material processes

    Verse and Music:

    John !:1-4
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

    Evanescence – The Other Side (Lyric Video)
    http://www.vevo.com/watch/evan.....tantsearch

  7. You have to feel sorry for them sometimes…

  8. Claiming that doubting evolution leads to denying the usefulness of vaccines (which is unjustifiable) or the reality of global warming is just scare-mongering and a way of demonizing the opponent without having any evidence.

    @ Robert Byers
    Claiming that man-made global warming is false might be correct, but it is a pointless statement. The additional CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere may or may not cause damage to the environment (e.g. acidifying the oceans). But pedantically splitting hairs by raising worthless questions doesn’t change the blatantly obvious fact that fossil fuels are very damaging to the environment. If by denying global warming your point is to claim that e.g carbon taxes are flawed and that we should be doing something else, then say that! But don’t ask useless questions that distract away from obvious problems (man made environmental damage due to fossil fuels among other things). Pretending or implying that we don’t need to change and that the status quo is sustainable is not going to fix anything. Far from it.

  9. “Denial of the scientific theory of evolution is the granddaddy of organized anti-science movements”

    I thought I was a “skeptic”, not a denier. I don’t deny that DNA code mutates. And I don’t deny natural selection weeds out living organisms that are too broke to survive in their environment. But I am extremely skeptical that these two processes of death improve life over time.

  10. Thanks, News, for posting this information. It is troubling that the dissent from Darwinism is treated as anti-science and denialism. I have previously commented a couple times here at UD and at TSZ as Piltdown2, but realize this may leave the impression I’m skeptical of scientific evidence. That’s not the case. I just think it’s important to remember that people in the past have presented false evidence in support of Darwinism, indicating to me that they realized the actual evidence was unconvincing. So for now, I’ll simply be steve4003, a Darwin-dissenter. As you and previous commenters on this post have indicated, there are ample scientific reasons to doubt the ToE without being anti-science.

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