Invitation accepted

Yesterday morning, I was quickly looking through my e-mail before heading off to clinic, when I noticed a message with a Subject header reading "Invitation to comment." The message was from a "J Bowen," someone of whom I had never heard before.

I should have known better. I really should have. I knew no good could come of it, just as no good can come of clicking on a piece of spam. But I did it anyway. I foolishly clicked on the link to the article about which Mr. Bowen apparently wanted me to comment. I instantly regretted it. Contained in the article was more "intelligent design" apologia, this time in response to Dr. Richard Hoppe's critique of the same mind-numbingly bad "criticism" of evolution written by historian Professor William D. Rubinstein that I myself had critiqued, both in the comments of Professor Rubinstein's original article and right here on Respectful Insolence.

Humble guy that I am, I immediately realized that I was probably not being singled out for the "honor" of being asked to comment on Mr. Bowen's article because he was genuinely interested in my opinion about it. Rather, I'm guessing that I was probably "invited" to comment on his piece because (1) I had commented on Professor Rubinstein's article in similarly unflattering terms as Dr. Hoppe had and (2) because Bowen probably thought (mistakenly, I hope) that I would be an easier mark than either PZ Myers, who had also eviscerated Professor Rubinstein's article twice or Dr. Hoppe, who had posted the original article to Panda's Thumb that had gotten Mr. Bowen all worked up. Although I'm a physician with extensive training in molecular biologist, I'm not an evolutionary biologist. Given the shoddy quality of the "rebuttal" Mr. Bowen posted, I'm not surprised that he would naturally seek out whom he perceived to be the weakest target, rather than simply forwarding his permalink to Dr. Hoppe for comment. However he miscalculated. I'm more than sufficient to take care of ID apologia as poorly constructed as that by Mr. Bowen. And I also called him on it by forwarding his request for comment to the target of his wrath (I had to get to clinic and didn't have time to start to address his post until last night).

So what did I see when I made the mistake of clicking on the link provided? Well, this sure wasn't auspicious:
If you should ever see a jackass wearing a mortarboard exiting a biology department, it might well answer to the name "Hoppe." From a post attacking someone who dares to dissent from evolutionary dogma, quoth Richard Hoppe:
Oh, boy.

Whenever I read or hear anything along the lines of "dissent from evolutionary dogma," I know I'm probably dealing with a hard-core creationist of the "intelligent design" variety. Mr. Bowen is a prime example of the "pot calling the kettle black." He's oh-so-self-righteously upset that anyone would use less than perfect decorum criticising an author who publicly posted something so risible that he utterly deserves being called "pig-ignorant" but then sees no problem calling Dr. Hoppe a "jackass wearing a mortarboard." Mr. Bowen then proceeded to use a time-honored ID technique for attacking evolution: quote-mining. In this case, he carefully selected a few paragraphs from the Talk Origins speciation FAQ that put the topic in context and pointed out a few shortcomings with the presently existing reports of speciation, with the clear intent to make it appear that this FAQ "admits" that there are few examples of speciation. Of course, Mr. Bowen neither linked directly to the FAQ, nor did he bother to mention that the FAQ to which he referred lists at least a couple of dozen more examples of observed instances of speciation. He did mention another FAQ from Talk Origins that lists a few more examples, but then dismissed them blithely as having "their flaws" (without, of course, actually listing what any of those flaws are or why he considers them flaws--surprise, surprise), finally concluding with another fine example of a "pot-kettle-black" attack on Dr. Hoppe:
Spend your time researching instead of defending your faith with content-free invective like Hoppe.
No, Mr. Bowen, I suggest that you spend some time learning some basic evolutionary biology, rather than defending your faith with content-free invective. Good places to start are here, and, for information regarding what you incorrectly label as "missing" fossils, here. I could go on more about Bowen's obvious selective quoting, but why bother? PZ, as usual, has beaten me to it, dismantling Bowen's post in more detail and with more gusto. I don't want to belabor the obvious about this ID apologist and the utter speciousness of his "arguments," other than to point out that he invited me to comment on his article. All I can say now is:
Invitation accepted.
Aren't you glad you invited me? No, no, don' t thank me for my trouble.

It was my pleasure.

ADDENDUM 05/24/2005 11:30 PM: Someone told me that the link to Mr. Bowen's article was broken. I tried to access the article and Mr. Bowen's blog to verify whether or not this was true, and, as of this writing, Mr. Bowen's blog is indeed unavailable, at least from here. I keep getting an error message. Blogger bug? Who knows? Anyway, hopefully his article will be up again soon. Articles like that should be read widely to demonstrate the utter speciousness of the usual "criticisms" of evolution made by self-proclaimed "skeptics," most of whom are ID apologists. Also, whatever nastiness has passed between us, I can't help but feel sympathy for a fellow blogger whose blog may have been sabotaged by Blogger's shortcomings. I've been there myself.


  1. You're telling me PZ "beat you to it"? Interesting. You're the only one I sent an email to, so I figured you kicked it upstairs in the priesthood to PZ.

    People like to see car wrecks, right? In that spirit, I invite more of you to see what I actually posted, so you can see how accurately and honestly Orac characterized it.

    In particular, note the absence of mention of creationism, ID or anything else like that. I'm an agnostic, evaluating EB claims on their own merits.

    And what of alternate theories? I don't know what EB people do, but the rest of us know that you can't demonstrate any evolutionary biology theories by bashing ID or whatever other apostasies there might be.

    So now you have something else to mock. Have a nice day!

  2. Ah, yes, the "I'm not a creationist" defense, most often used by someone who parrots creationist arguments, just like Professor Rubinstein and yourself. And thanks for admitting that I was the only one you e-mailed. I had strongly suspected as much, but wasn't sure. I had hoped you might confirm that for me if I mentioned it, and you fell for it. Really, why contact me, rather than the person whose article you were attacking and whom you were calling a "jackass wearing a mortarboard," rather than Dr. Hoppe, given that he wrote the piece you disagreed with? The answer is obvious: because I'm not an evolutionary biologist and thus not as highly knowledgeable about evolution as Dr. Hoppe.

    In actuality, your choice of the words "car wreck," though obviously intended sarcastically, are a very good characterization of your article. In fact I agree. I highly encourage more people to read what you wrote. They will see that my characterization of your specious "criticisms" of evolutionary biology was quite accurate, as was PZ's. Your piece is an excellent example of very selective quoting, and I don't buy your claims of "agnosticism" (at least with regard to intelligent design) given your sarcastic comment about "dissent from evolutionary dogma" and claims about "faith," a rhetorical device much favored by intelligent design creationists.

    Finally, why so petulant? It was you who so transparently invited me to comment. What's wrong? Didn't think I'd accept your invitation? If you hadn't done so, then I would have remained blissfully unaware of your article and had nothing at all to comment on, much less to "mock." You brought the scorn on yourself, just as Susanna did a couple of weeks ago.

  3. Oh, as Columbo would say, just one more thing:

    It's another "pot-kettle-black" complaint when you say "you can't demonstrate any evolutionary biology theories by bashing ID or whatever other apostasies are out there." Quite true. I would also point out that you can't prove ID or any "alternative" theory by bashing evolution. You need evidence. I have yet to see any, from you or any other ID advocate.

    To overturn evolutionary theory in favor of a new theory will take evidence, and lots and lots of it. If ID advocates spent less time bashing evolution using quote mining, bad biology, and specious arguments, and more time actually doing research, they might be worth taking more seriously. But they don't; so they aren't.

  4. "I invite more of you to see what I actually posted, so you can see how accurately and honestly Orac characterized it."

    I did just that. Actually I think I had assumed that Orac must have been doing a bit of quote mining of his own, but instead he really posted the most substantive part of the post... Overall, vey ho-hum, though scarcely more worthless than Rubinstein's origninal nonsense.

    And what does 'venting my eye' mean? Is this some kind of obscure surgical procedure? Or is it possible you meant 'ire'?

  5. Maybe this is too simple for you, Orac, but let me try to explain the mystery of why I didn't contact Hoppe and contacted you instead.

    Are you ready for this?

    You posted what I was responding to on the Panda's Thumb, where you so proudly referred to the Hoppe screed. There was no contact information for Hoppe, but I knew you had a blog, so it was easy to find you.

    As for your buddy from Podunk State, why on earth would I contact him? I'm ignorant, remember? Why would I have heard of *him*?

    And how much do you want to bet that other biologists haven't heard of him either?

    Yet you, blogging under an alias, had to run off to Daddy for reinforcements? How sad. Then again, given your wrong assumptions about my being a creationist, or ID supporter, or being "petulant", I guess I'd go looking for a guardian too.

    Incidentally, it does not require expertise in EB to conclude that Hoppe is a jackass. Perhaps he just needs some charm lessons - I wonder if Ann Coulter is available?

  6. Touchy, touchy.

    Obviously I hit a nerve. Perhaps you need Ann Coulter for charm lessons far more than PZ, Dr. Hoppe, or I, though. After all, you were the one who decided to leap into the fray, both guns blazing, throwing insults. Now that you've gotten burned, you're all petulant and whiny.

    And, really, you shouldn't request comments on something like this if you aren't ready for what those comments might say about your article. I can only assume you haven't read much of what I've written about evolution and "intelligent design" on this blog. Otherwise, you would have known what what my comment would be. Honestly, what did you expect? I regularly snark ID apologists and you sounded just like one (indeed, aping their "arguments" perfectly), your denial notwithstanding.

    When I criticize someone else's post, I can only contrast my behavior to yours. I usually send that person a link or a Trackback. "Anonymous" or not, I let the person I'm criticizing know what I said about him or her and give him or her a chance to respond if desired.

  7. Actually the only nerve you hit was my funny bone. Having been around the Web a while, I knew what to expect - I just didn't expect such an excellent set of examples. But like you, I thought I'd let you know that I had made comments on your post. And not about you personally, or about what's-his-name from Podunk State.

    And you note that you can only compare your conduct to mine. Please do. In particular note the straw man nonsense where you spend so much time arguing against something I never mentioned - ID. And where you and PZ used names like "moron" or other disparaging characterizations. Is such discussion integral to discussions of EB?

    We can only conclude that you endorse nastiness and nonresponsive arguments, such as those Hoppe offered and you followed up with yourself. Say whatever else you might about ID and creationists, but in my experience they're always pleasant, earnest, polite people.

    Thank you for such little responsiveness as you offered. There will be more on my blog shortly.

  8. Feel free to respond. I'm sure it will amuse me, as your annoyance does. At the very least it will send a few hits my way, and it's almost always a good thing. Also, thanks for admitting that you basically expected the sort of response I gave you. We have a term for such behavior on Usenet. It's called trolling. That may have been my one mistake. I should have realized you were just being a troll and ignored you.

    In any case, if you don't want to be called an "intelligent design" apologist, you really shouldn't parrot their fallacies so well. Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, as they say. You did both.


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