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Denying the "Denier" Label

With our friends at the National Center for Saving Evolution Science Education (NCSE), "denialism" is all the rage these days. It's the new label tossed at anyone who criticizes, doubts or questions what they consider to be established scientific orthodoxy. We are "science deniers" or "evolution deniers." Indeed it's undeniable that the "denier" label in all its forms is the most ubiquitous term on the new NCSE blog, the Science League of America.

I first noticed this when NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch blogged about how many "creationists" there might actually be in science. What caught my eye was that the phrase "evolution denial" (it rhymes with "Holocaust denial") was being used as one of the blog's labeling categories or "tags." Those are the words and phrases we attach to articles to make it easier to look up a subject later. The NCSE is so worried about the "deniers" that we get an entire category.

NCSE's Programs and Policy Director, Josh Rosenau, gets in the "denial" mode too. In honoring Labor Day, he wrote about how much evolution indoctrination education owes to labor unions. Says Rosenau: "When a teacher calls NCSE for help fending off pressure from administrators who want to see creationism taught and climate change denied, the first thing we ask is "how's your union?""

There's the "D" word again. A sentence later we have "And even where state policies and other factors weaken the power of unions, knowing that teachers will stand together against improper pressure can be enough to defuse attacks by climate change deniers and creationists." And note the juxtaposition of the "D" word with the "C" word -- "creationists." Maybe we can just call them "C-D's" for short. Of course, in NCSE-speak, the "C" word is code for anyone who criticizes, doubts or questions evolutionary dogma, including those of us who advocate for the non-religious theory of intelligent design. Being a "denier" is a somewhat broader term of abuse.

Thus in another post Rosenau introduces a new "D"-word category: "climate change denial." This too receives its own NCSE blog tag. So now we have "science denial," "evolution denial" and "climate change denial." If you contest these terms you would presumably be a "denial denier." This is going to get unwieldy in a hurry!

Rosenau tries to answer the claim that data on surface temperature change fail to support the concept of global warming. At the end of the blog, Rosenau writes: "I'm sure climate change deniers (and their creationist allies) attacking honest textbooks in Texas will trot out the tired claim that climate change has stopped. Resources like this will help a lot when I go to speak with the state board of education in a couple weeks." There's the "D" word yet again...and as a bonus, the "C" word is tossed in for free. There's no denying that Rosenau wants his readers to connect "creationism" and "denial" in their minds, the better to cast suspicion as broadly as possible on everyone who disagrees with him.

250px-JLofA-1.jpgIn yet another blog under the category of "evolution denial," Rosenau turns to the subject of controversies in Texas over school textbooks. He starts off by whining that "Yesterday, NCSE and the Texas Freedom Network issued a joint press release about internal documents demonstrating how creationists and climate change deniers tried to take over the Texas textbook adoption process." There's the "C-D's" again. A bit later he triumphs, "...here at the Science League of America, we can take on anything the deniers throw at us." Notice how the "deniers" are against the "Science League...", since Rosenau et al. are there to defend "real" science from all the silly "deniers" out there. Perhaps the Science League of America is supposed to make you think of the old comic-book superhero series, the Justice League of America, as the cartoon artwork at the top of the blog might confirm. Well, Rosenau is a real hero, there's no denying it.

Writing again the same day, Rosenau adds another post about whether Kentucky will adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, which we've discussed here. He notes:

In June 2013, the Kentucky board of education voted to approve new statewide science standards. Kentucky was one of 26 states that helped draft the Next Generation Science Standards, so it was little surprise that the board adopted those standards easily. Kansas and Rhode Island had already adopted the same standards, and Vermont, Maryland, and California have all done the same since then. Before long, dozens of states are likely to do the same.

Unfortunately, climate change deniers and creationists in the legislature want a do-over.

"C-D's" yet again!

You get the picture. Anyone who so much as questions what the NCSE has determined to be established science is a "denier." It does not matter how well reasoned or scientifically sound your arguments might be. If they challenge the dogma, then you've made the list, buddy. You're a denier!

Before all this "denial" stuff gets really out of hand, I think we need to make a few clarifications. Contrary to what Rosenau and his buddies at the NCSE write, questioning a scientific finding that was reported in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, if you do so on scientific grounds, is precisely one of the ways that science works. Of course, Rosenau and company would deny that the "deniers" make actual scientific arguments, which is a nice rhetorical trick. But it doesn't change the fact that there are legitimate reasons for questioning dire climate change predictions and Darwinian evolutionary theories. To appreciate the debate on these matters, however, you need to first deny Rosenau et al. the right to define what is and is not scientific. Science is not a handmaiden of philosophical naturalism. It's the pursuit of truth about nature. The study of nature and nature alone will tell us what is valid, defensible science.

On the subject of the Cambrian animals and their enigmatic emergence some 530 million years ago, Stephen C. Meyer has provided an excellent scientific analysis of the state of evolutionary theorizing. In Darwin's Doubt, he shows how scientifically satisfactory Darwinian explanations for the complex specified information we observe in the biological systems of the Cambrian animals are virtually non-existent. Meyer cannot be an "evolution denier" because, so far, there is no real evolutionary explanation to deny. That inconvenient fact notwithstanding, Rosenau and company wouldn't hesitate to label Meyer a "science denier." See how this works?

I'm calling their bluff. Unless and until someone makes the case scientifically (and not theologically, metaphysically or philosophically) that nature is a completely closed system of cause and effect, all these claims of "denial" are mere bluff and bluster. All Rosenau or anyone else at NCSE has to do is provide us a reference to the scientific research study that confirms the hypothesis that nature is such a system.

Then tell us: Who conducted the study? Where was it done? What methods for making the determination were used? Explain in detail how it might be falsified. Until we have answers to all those questions, and until the study is well confirmed by other studies -- you know, real science -- all claims that merely doubting certain findings of science constitutes "science denial" are a sham. I for one deny utterly the denier label and the suppositions on which it is based. I deny conflating philosophical naturalism with science and calling that "science." If that makes me a science denier, then, yes I am one...proudly.

Image source credit: Wikipedia.