A smackdown to be enjoyed

Science blogger PZ Myers at Pharyngula has taken Hindrocket of the very popular conservative blog Powerline to task for his rather silly statements regarding evolution from a couple of years ago.

Money quote from Hindrocket that raised PZ's ire:
Professor Volokh seemed to assume that someone who doesn’t believe in evolution is a harmless crank, who should not on that account be barred from pursuing a career in, say, medicine. My own view is different. I think that Darwin’s theory of macroevolution is plainly wrong, on strictly scientific grounds. So to bar a student from progressing in his career because he refuses to sign on to what is, in my view, a rather obvious fraud, which cannot withstand the mildest scrutiny, is really an outrage. It is no different from the practice in Soviet Russia of promoting only biologists who believed (or pretended to believe) in the theories of Lamarck, who argued that acquired traits could be inherited. But Darwinism is the official religion of the biological (and more generally, the scientific) establishment, and as such is rigorously enforced.
Yikes. I haven't seen such a bunch of grossly ignorant statements on evolution in, oh, say, a day.

And I used to kind of like Powerline. It's even on my sidebar. I must have somehow missed such idiotic posts about something they clearly know nothing about (evolution). It's downright mortifying and embarrassing to those of us who are scientists and tend towards the right side of the spectrum in our politics.

Well, wouldn't you know, but Powerline actually noticed PZ and Deacon, another member of the blog, responded, leading to PZ's rejoinder, which further led to a large number of rather heated comments at Pharyngula. Now, I fully understand that PZ is not necessarily the most subtle or forgiving of commentator, particularly when it comes to dealing with creationists (in fact, he can be downright nasty at times), but the Powerline boys are big blog boys. You'd think they'd have a thicker skin when it comes to being challenged, but apparently they don't.

From the reaction to PZ's comments I've learned a couple of things:
  1. Powerline is a bit further out on the fringe than I had previously realized. Given my emphasis on skepticism, science, and critical thinking. I'm now debating whether to remove it permanently from my sidebar. I may leave it there, however, because, like it or not, it is an important conservative blog.
  2. Taking on a big blogger like Hindrocket is liable to be more trouble than it's worth. PZ reports attempted DDoS attacks and foul, profanity-laced e-mails from Powerline readers.
  3. People like Hindrocket, who clearly have little or no understanding of evolution, should avoid shooting their mouths off on the issue (and making pronouncements about it with such utter certainty) and stick to areas that they are more knowledgeable about. Either that, or they should exercise a little humility when commenting on areas about which they are not experts. Actually, that goes for me, too, which is why I tend to stick to what I know on Respectful Insolence, rather than venturing too far afield. (Of course, occasionally, I can't resist, occasionally to my embarrassment.) This is one of the reasons I rarely, if ever, comment on global warming, for example. I just don't know enough about it to comment in much depth. When and if I do comment on it, you can be sure I will make my readers aware of the limits of my knowledge.
In any case, it's a blog smackdown to be enjoyed. The big science dog PZ is taking on the humongous dog Powerline. Even given the size differential, I wouldn't necessarily bet against PZ.


  1. that was quite an entertaining exchange. thanks for the links!


  2. The problem isn't that
    "thin-skinned people of faith like the Powerline crew will never allow actual logic to alter their views"

    Faith is not necessarily logical, and logic cannot dissuade true faith ...the problem comes in when the 'thin skin' comes in.

    You cannot offend my sense of faith by disagreeing with me, or by telling me your point of view, your belief system, or your stand of what you believe to be fact.

    (Now, if you set out to offend me, purposely setting out to offend, calling me names, using disparraging terms, instead of intelligent conversations that come from a point of "this is my point of view, help me to understand yours" ... you might offend me)

    If someone else doesn't agree with you, that should be cause for time of education, not cause for offense!
    I haven't gone and checked it out, not because I'm afraid I'm going to be offended by those that I disagree with, but I'm afraid I'm going to be offended by those I DO agree with acting childish!

  3. No, I wasn't expecting this from Powerline either. This particular catfight reminds me that, despite everything, the Darwin vs Creationism is still very much the frontline for those of us of a rational persuasion. It didn't have to be that way. I'm reading A.N. Wilson's excellent "God's Funeral" at the moment, a history of 19th Century disbelief. It's interesting to remember how many Christian believers took what Darwin had to say on board in full, yet found their faith quite undisturbed.

  4. The funny thing about the Powerline post is that it accuses Myers of a circumstantial fallacy (namely suggesting that Hindrocket doesn't know about politics because of his ignorance about biology). However, Myers did no such thing in his original post. Myers just said that Hindrocket was ignorant of biology and was generally a "doofus" for providing weak (or no) arguments for his position on the evolution/creationism debate. There was absolutely no mention of Hindrocket's knowledge of political theory, policy, etc until the Powerline post. However, later Myers did note that inability to consider one area rationally and make groundless arguments is indicative of general idiocy but that was in reply to Powerline's counter. The fact that Powerline responded to a criticism that wasn't made initially suggests to me that they are in fact doofuses and perhaps you should remove them from your sidebar. You guys on the right already have a hard enough time being taken seriously by the left. If I were you I would distance myself from Powerline (as I distance myself and my more lefty views from kooks like Michael Moore).

  5. errr.... I noticed a typo after I already submitted my previous post there should be an "ad hominem" were the "fallacy" is in the second line. Sorry about that.

  6. I just noticed another boo-boo in Hindrocket's post. I think he meant Lysenko instead of Lamarck. Lamarck was wrong about the inheritance of acquired traits and characters. However, he was French not Soviet Russian. Lysenko on the otherhand pushed the notion of Marxist evolution that was taught in Soviet universities. I guess people like Hindrocket don't distinguish the difference between France and the old USSR, given that they both hate freedom and all....

  7. P.S. I just realized that I should note that I'm aware that Lysenko holds some Lamarckian views, but he also added a lot of mumbo-jumbo to them as well. As such it is inaccurate to say that biology in Soviet Russia (prior to Kruschev) followed a Lamarckian paradigm. It followed a Lysenkoist paradigm, which made some similar claims to Lamarck's views.


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