Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Discovery Institute: thieves and liars

by Goldy, CitizenSteve 11/26/2007, 10:31 AM

In talking about congestion pricing on my show Saturday night, I couldn’t contain a brief outburst over how our local media and political elite continue to take seriously the Discovery Institute’s transportation proposals in light of its embarrassing role in promoting Creationism Intelligent Design. My frustration stems not simply from the fact that Intelligent Design is ridiculous anti-science, or that it is part of a well planned and executed multi-year campaign to undermine science education in the US at a time we face growing global economic competition… but that it has been promoted in such a shamelessly dishonest manner.

The Discovery Institute has proven again and again that it makes no distinction between scholarship and propaganda, and that there is no ethical boundary it will not cross in the interest of foisting its Christianist agenda on the American people. This blatant disregard for the most basic rigors of academia — or even fair play — was highlighted recently by a virologist/blogger who discovered that DI fellows had stolen and manipulated a Harvard University/XVIVO video for use in their own presentations, without attribution, permission or license.

Here is the original Harvard/XVIVO video, “The inner life of a cell”, with its scientifically accurate narration intact:

And here is a clip from a Discovery Institute presentation that features an excerpt of the video, now redubbed and retitled “The Cell as an Automated City.” Notice how the presenter describes the video as “state of the art computer animation,” implying that it is somehow the work of the institute:

As ERV points out in his her post, this isn’t just a naive case of copyright infringement. The Discovery Institute has plenty of lawyers on staff and on retainer, so they sure as hell know that scrubbing the Harvard/XVIVO copyright and credits off the video is not only dishonest, but illegal.

Maybe they think it is ‘okay’ because they gave the animation a new title (’Inner life of a cell’ became ‘The cell as an automated city’) and an extraordinarily unprofessional new narration (alternate alternate title– ‘ Big Gay Al takes a tour of a cell!’). Harvard/XVIVOs narration, all of the science, is whisked away and replaced with a ’surrealistic lilliputian realm’– ‘robots’, ‘manufacturing’, ‘circuitry’, ‘nano moters’, ‘UPS labels’. Maybe they think it is ‘okay’ because they turned all of Harvards science into ‘MAGIC!’

Hmm. From my point of view, as a virologist and former teaching assistant, this isn’t just copyright infringement. This is theft and plagiarism. Taking someone else’s work without their consent, manipulating it without their consent, pretending it supports ID Creationists distorted views of reality, and presenting it as DI’s work.

ERV further points out that if the DI fellows responsible for this were at his her university, they would be expelled for their plagiarism.

But this is just business as usual at the Discovery Institute, and it raises a question: if the Discovery Institute can’t be trusted to produce independent academic scholarship on its signature issue, Intelligent Design, how can its Cascadia Center be trusted to produce independent academic scholarship on regional transportation planning? Of course, it can’t, and the media, business and political elites who ignore the institute’s established track record of distorting scholarship and science in the single-minded pursuit of its own private agenda, are little more than willful dupes.

Our region’s transportation planning is too important to be trusted to a faux “think tank” with such a shameful and embarrassing record, and every time one of our local media outlets unskeptically cites one of its reports or recommendations, it grants the Discovery Institute credibility it simply does not deserve. Unlike a real think tank, the Discovery Institute produces “scholarship” to support its existing agenda, not the other way around, and thus it cannot and should not be considered a trusted partner in planning our region’s transportation future.


This post contains 13% of your daily recommended dose of irony -


Bill Reiswig said...

This is a ridiculous posting.

I am a progressive, a climate change activist, and involved in working to find sustainable solutions at work and my community.

Yes, the Discovery Institute is very involved pushing Intelligent Design. As a former Biology Teacher I have many problems with this "theory". Primarily, it is not really science an it cannot be tested in any real fashon. Keep in mind however that Intelligent Design is at least an attempt to reconcile aspects of religion and science in a way that does not deny the historical truth/existence of a fossil record.

This posting runs counter to the purposes of NW Citizens coming together on good transit policy however. The merits of proposals of the Discovery Institute should be judged on their merits alone. We are tring to build coalitions here! I feel that their proposal to convert unused rail on the East Side to passenger/commuter use deserves close attention.

I feel that climate change is THE issue of the 21st century. If the religious and evangelicals want to get green, more power to them. Welcome to the tent.

This posting does not really discuss or deal with transportation issues at all and is unproductive.

Bill Reiswig

Brian Grunkemeyer said...

The Cascadia Center seems to be a sane group of people. I was very leary of the Discovery Institute for their intelligent design stuff, but after going to two conferences held by the Cascadia Center on the future of transportation (like this one: http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=270&program=Cascadia&isEvent=true), these local guys working on this particular issue are doing respectable work.

Indirectly attacking any Eastside rail proposal due to one of the messenger's parent organization's wacky views in unrelated areas is not really the best use of our time.

We should be securing the BNSF rail corridor on the Eastside for future Eastside transportation projects. At worst case, when Sound Transit phase 3 or 4 eventually gets designed (maybe 30 years from now) and we get a rail loop going completely around Lake Washington, we'll look back at today's plans to secure the BNSF corridor as the best investment we've made in our future regional transportation system.