Planet Earth

Literature Check

The LoomBy Carl ZimmerMar 17, 2004 5:45 PM

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In one of the weirdest attempts to pretend that creationism is a real science, a student at Harvard Law School wrote a favorable review in the Harvard Law Review of a book about Intelligent Design. You'd think that this would be so irrelevant that it would vanish off the cultural radar in a flash. But it has ballooned into something of a blogospheric hurricane, mainly because the National Review Online wants to pretend that criticism of the review is an Inquisition-style persecution. It's a cute way to distract attention from the basic issue of whether creationism in any of its manifestations has scientific merit, which it doesn't. I only have one thing to add to the discussion (which has been ably handled by the likes of Brian Leiter, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, and Chris Mooney). It's an observation about the way creationists ornament themselves with references to peer-reviewed scientific papers that they claim support Intelligent Design, a great flood, whatever. In the course of interviewing scientists for articles or books, I will sometimes mention to them that they have been invoked in this way. Now, you'd think that if their work really did support creationism, they'd be delighted. Of course, the opposite is true: usually I hear a groan of someone being hideously misrepresented. Here's an example that was fortunately preserved in print. (Follow-up here) It frustrates scientists to no end that research that can take years to bring to fruition can be misused so swiftly. Next time you encounter creationists trying to create an aura of respectability with a scientific citation and a few words quoted out of context, ask them what the authors of the paper think of creationism.

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