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A Partisan Affair (Part 3): Biased Treatment of Ad Hominem Attacks in Edward Humes' Pseudo-History of Kitzmiller, "Monkey Girl"

[Editor's Note: For a full and comprehensive review and response to Edward Humes' book, Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, and the Battle for America's Soul, please see A Partisan Affair: A Response to Edward Humes' Inaccurate History of Kitzmiller v. Dover and Intelligent Design, "Monkey Girl.]

For someone who boasts a Pulitzer Prize (for a work other than Monkey Girl) and claims to be objective and neutral journalist, Edward Humes' book Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America's Soul is an incredibly partisan and inaccurate portrayal of the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial. At many points it simply parrots Darwinist talking points and retells many of their patently false urban legends about the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, leaving out crucial facts which contradict common Darwinist claims. Humes says in his book, "if the evolution wars are to continue, let the combatants be armed with facts, not fiction." (pg. viii.) That sounds good to me. But Humes' book comes off more like advocacy than an objective evaluation of the facts. Humes' intent to write Monkey Girl as a polemic against intelligent design (ID) and ID proponents is especially seen in...

Humes' One-Sided Attacks and Double-Standard Used against ID proponents Regarding Name-Calling:
Humes tries to paint the Darwinists as if they are the only ones who are victims of personal attacks in the debate over ID and evolution. Anyone who even remotely follows this issue on the internet realizes that namecalling can be a problem on both sides, but that Darwinists are the ones who overwhelmingly participate in personal attacks against ID proponents.

Humes quotes a couple ID proponents who apparently said nasty things about Darwinists, such as one legislator who apparently "offered a chilling comment likening anyone who thought differently to the murderous terrorists of 9/11." (pg. 207) While it is terrible, to be sure, when anyone engages in such personal attacks, Humes fails to observe the fact that ID proponents are subjected to personal attacks that vastly outweigh those received by Darwinists. In fact, ID proponents are also regularly compared to terrorists, or the "Taliban," by Darwinists who make such comparisons with a straight face. Such comparisons come not just from hyperbolic politicians with an agenda (like the example Humes gives) but from serious academics and journalists. Even a front page New York Times article in 2005 acknowledged that Discovery Institute "is also fending off attacks from the left, as critics liken it to... the Taliban." The article had good reason for making that claim, because many ID critics compare ID proponents to terrorists or the Taliban:

  • University of Texas law and philosophy professor Brian Leiter calls Darwin-skeptics on the Texas State Board of Education the "Texas Taliban" who are "committed to making the law of (their) God the law of the land."

  • On PandasThumb, University of Minnesota, Morris biologist P.Z. Myers (whose book endorsement Humes once boasted about on the Monkey Girl website) calls the current head of the Texas State Board of Education, Don McLeroy, a "deranged creationist" with a URL that reads "fire-don-mclero." This led to outcries among readers that McLeroy is part of the "Texas Taliban theocrats in action ... the difference between the Texas crowd and the Afghani Taliban or the Ayatollohs of Iraq, Sudan, or Saudi Arabia is...not much. They haven't beheaded anyone in Texas. Yet. The first one will be either a biology teacher or a lawyer from the ACLU."

  • Austin Cline of About.com follows Leiter's lead, asking, "Texas Taliban Becoming a Role Model?"

  • Perhaps nowhere, however, have the terrorist and Taliban comparisons been more common than in the battle over the 2005 Kansas Science Standards that critiqued evolution. A user at the Physorg, a prominent physics news website, warned that "[t]he American Taliban is on the march in Kansas and if the scientific community does nothing they will take over our childrens education." Similarly, at the popular science website Bad Astronomy, one user rejoiced, "In a week, the Kansas Science Taliban loses its majority on the State Board of Education, and life will return to something like normalcy." A commenter at Newscloud.com stated, "American taliban on Kansas school board pushed out in elections." Another blogger discussing Kansas' evolution education said, "The know-nothings are really on the march, in so many ways.... but that doesn't mean deliberately turning our schools into another arm of the American Taliban's war on reality."

  • Ohio Citizens for Science, a pro-Darwin-only activist group in Ohio, boasts a letter from Reverend Mark Belletini of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus where he states that critical analysis of evolution is "quasi-religious pap that legalized church terrorism conducted by leaders of our local Ohio 'Taliban' permits teachers to teach." He argues that those who supported Ohio's critical analysis policy are "religious terrorists."

  • A Slate.com reporter commenting on the Ohio evolution debate even noted that, "According to scientists, teachers, and civil libertarians, the Taliban has invaded Ohio."

  • When there was a political battle over teaching evolution in South Carolina, an award-winning blogger stated, "The American Taliban is at it again, pressuring lawmakers to teach creationism alongside bona fide, indisputable, solid science." Similarly, a commenter at Pandasthumb said that intelligent design is "the American version of the Taliban in action." Another commenter said that the only difference between Osama Bin Laden and a creationist is that "Osama is relatively honest." Another commenter called ID proponent Howard Ahmanson "a mentally ill bigot who was born with a $300 million platinum spoon in his mouth" and "a religious lunatic of the sort that would make Osama bin Laden look reasonable."

    Many of these examples come from PandasThumb, and it should be noted that on his Monkey Girl website, Humes recommends PandasThumb as "The leading evolution (and Intelligent Design criticism) blog."

    On a personal note, I am familiar with these kinds of attacks. In one single forum at Antievolution.org, created and owned by a former National Center for Science Education staff member, I have been called no less than "Bizarre ignoramus," "retarded," "suck-up," "Pathetic Loser," "attack mouse, gerbil, rat, or clockwork powered plush toy," "an orc," "Annoying," "a miserable loser with no life," "an idiot," "dishonest," "ignorant cheap poxied floozie," "fanatic and lunatic," "A proven liar," "incompetent," and many other far more colorful attacks which are probably best left unprinted here on Evolution News and Views.

    I don't list this example to complain -- I happily forgive those who have attacked me, and in fact my main response to this behavior is sadness for how it brings the ID-evolution debate down into the gutter. Rather, I mention this example to point out that this example alone finds no counterpart anywhere in the ways that ID proponents have treated Darwinists. The internet Darwinist track record of name-calling against ID proponents speaks for itself, and Humes has portrayed the general nature of personal and ad hominem attacks in this issue exactly backwards from reality.

    It is a travesty when anyone -- whether a supporter of evolution or ID -- is attacked in a mean-spirited fashion in this debate. Humes aims to shock his readers with how evolutionists are treated, while taking no interest in reporting how ID proponents are treated--which is dramatically worse than the treatment of Darwinists. This shows his partisan bias against ID proponents.

    Hypocritically, Humes himself engages in much mud-slinging against ID proponents and Discovery Institute, calling them "combativ[e], "running scared," "angry," "cocky," "co[y]," and "masters of anti-evolution spin." In particular, Humes engages in name-calling in response to Traipsing Into Evolution, our rebuttal to the Kitzmiller v. Dover ruling, calling it the "rant of a sore loser" and claiming it was an "an adaptation of angry Internet postings" where we "just made [things] up" and engaged in "complete fabrication." (He never identifies the "angry Internet postings," so it's hard to take this attack seriously, and it seems that he makes this claim to gloss over Traipsing's scholarly nature, with 50+ citations to legal cases, 30+ citations to pro-ID scientific references, 25+ citations to non-ID scientific references, and about 30 citations to transcripts and briefs related to Kitzmiller.) Another false claim was Humes' statement that our book says that "[Judge] Jones has an oversize ego." Where did we say this in our book? We made no such claim. My next post in this series will further explore Humes' false attacks upon Traipsing Into Evolution.

    For a very small sampling of just some of the attacks we at Discovery Institute received post-Kitzmiller, see "For Many Darwinists, It's Always Winter and Never Christmas."