The Discovery Institute versus Nick Matzke

Earlier this week, Nick Matzke published an article at Science that uses modern phylogenetics techniques to analyze how creationist (or antievolution, if you prefer) legislation has evolved in the post-Dover era (note: I have not read the paper yet).  This seems to have struck a pretty sensitive nerve over at the Discovery Institute.  On the Evolution News and Views blog, the DI’s John West published an article that all but accuses Matzke of misappropriation of taxpayer funding because he acknowledges funding support from an NSF grant that doesn’t appear to be obviously connected to the content of this particular piece of research.

Needless to say, that accusation is as silly as it is groundless, which Matzke explains here.  Regardless of the merits (or obvious lack thereof) of the allegation, I’m rather curious regarding West’s motivations for making such a claim.  It seems ugly,  intemperate and ill-advised even by the DI’s standards.  Are they upset that creationists are once again getting a black eye in a prominent and respected scientific journal?  Is the fact that the article was written by somebody who was instrumental in the ID movement’s failure during the Dover trial what’s driving this response?  Something else entirely?

Whatever the reason, I view this accusation by West as a particularly egregious example of bad behavior on the part of the DI, and I wanted to bring it up for discussion here.

 

83 thoughts on “The Discovery Institute versus Nick Matzke”

  1. MungMung

    Dave Carlson: I’m curious why you think an attorney would advise Matzke to remain silent.

    Two reasons:

    1. Don’t give ammunition (or potential ammunition) to the enemy.
    2. It’s not worth dignifying it with a response.

  2. Dave CarlsonDave Carlson Post author

    Alan Fox,

    Haha no worries. I may have to step out in a little while too. In any case, I was half expecting my post to be met with nothing but crickets, so I’m pleasantly surprised by the lively discussion.

  3. Dave CarlsonDave Carlson Post author

    Mung: Two reasons:

    1. Don’t give ammunition (or potential ammunition) to the enemy.
    2. It’s not worth dignifying it with a response.

    I could see why those might be good reasons for staying silent. I’m still not clear why Matzke would be consulting a lawyer, though.

  4. PatrickPatrick

    Alan Fox,

    Matzo’s paper

    Is that what the Aussies are using for a nick-name?

    That would be the same spell checker that wants to call walto either “alto” or “waltz”. Sorry, Nick!

  5. keithskeiths

    Mung:

    I don’t see where an accusation that Nick Matzke misappropriated grant money appears in the article.

    Perhaps you should read it.

    The title of the ENV article:

    Did Nick Matzke Misuse National Science Foundation Money Intended to Fund Science Research?

    The third paragraph:

    A more serious issue is whether Matzke misappropriated taxpayer funds in order to write his article. Matzke discloses in the article’s acknowledgements that his research was funded by two National Science Foundation grants. But if you look up those grants, they appear to have nothing to do with the article he published.

    Jesus, Mung.

  6. hotshoe_

    Mung: Does anyone else think it rather odd for Matzke to think that anti-evolution bills, or even pathogens, evolve vertically?
    No.

    Why would it be odd?

  7. ElizabethElizabeth

    Dave Carlson:
    Anyway, does anybody actually think that Matkze inappropriately used public funding?If so, I’d be happy to discuss that issue, especially if it would avoid questions regarding the site’s rules.

    Of course he didn’t. He used public funding to develop software for phylogenetic analysis, then used that software to analyse the phylogeny of antievolution legislation.

  8. hotshoe_

    keiths:

    [Mung sez:]
    I don’t see where an accusation that Nick Matzke misappropriated grant money appears in the article.

    Perhaps you should read it.
    … The third paragraph:

    A more serious issue is whether Matzke misappropriated taxpayer funds in order to write his article. Matzke discloses in the article’s acknowledgements that his research was funded by two National Science Foundation grants. But if you look up those grants, they appear to have nothing to do with the article he published.

    Jesus, Mung.

    Ya’ see, Mung’s loophole is that West doesn’t have the spine to come out right and say J’accuse to Matzke.

    West, being a worse-than-usual-creationist slimeball, has to use underhanded implication to smear Matzke without saying anything actionable.

    But that doesn’t mean his followers don’t get the signal of his filthy dogwhistle.

    I mean, Mung is technically right. It’s a pretty piss-poor kind of right, but … when that’s the only thing one can cling to …

  9. phoodoo

    Mung,

    Well, it is only against the rules if you are not part of the King and her court jesters. Kings don’t care much about rules or decency when their aim is to simply smear another perceived Monarch that won’t let them play.

  10. phoodoo

    Dave Carlson,

    But you hadn’t even read Matzkes paper as you admitted, but you already know it was appropriate use of his funds.

    Welcome to the world of the skeptics. They already know everything without thinking.

  11. MungMung

    hotshoe_: I mean, Mung is technically right. It’s a pretty piss-poor kind of right, but … when that’s the only thing one can cling to …

    Yes, but that cuts both ways. If I am teachnically right then the others who are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill are technically wrong.

    But if that’s the only thing they can cling to …

    Hell, look at the OP, where he says West “all but accuses” and then goes on to elevate that into an actual accusation in the next paragraph.

    And again, in the third paragraph:

    Whatever the reason, I view this accusation by West as a particularly egregious example of bad behavior on the part of the DI, and I wanted to bring it up for discussion here.

    Talk about grasping at straws.

    What is so particularly egregious about this accusation that wasn’t an accusation?

    Poor taste, yes.

    A particularly egregious example of bad behavior?

    Whatever.

  12. Dave CarlsonDave Carlson Post author

    Mung: Yes, but that cuts both ways. If I am teachnically right then the others who are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill are technically wrong.

    But if that’s the only thing they can cling to …

    Hell, look at the OP, where he says West “all but accuses” and then goes on to elevate that into an actual accusation in the next paragraph.

    And again, in the third paragraph:

    Talk about grasping at straws.

    What is so particularly egregious about this accusation that wasn’t an accusation?

    Poor taste, yes.

    A particularly egregious example of bad behavior?

    Whatever.

    If it makes you feel better, please feel free to mentally replace every use of the word “accusation” with “insinuation”.

  13. hotshoe_

    Mung: What is so particularly egregious about this accusation that wasn’t an accusation?

    Poor taste, yes.

    A particularly egregious example of bad behavior?

    Whatever.

    Sure, whatever. West is a petty demagogue, a frustrated Wedge-ist and IDiot in all senses of the word, using a time-honored fascist technique for stirring up the followers. His threat being implicit rather than explicit is not in his moral favor. Nor is it in your moral favor that you accept it as merely in “poor taste”.

    West is not one iota better than a Mafia thug telling Matzke “Nice place you got here. Be a shame if anything happened to it.” If anything, having the Mafia around would be better, because one could probably settle with the Mafia, or else find recourse in law enforcement.

    West has pitched his slime right between overt enough to be harmful, but not overt enough to be illegal. Yay for him!

    Bad for humanity, though.

  14. Robert Byers

    The bigger culture here is that evolutionists say creationism should be banned because of strict state rules against teaching religious conclusions .
    SO if public money is used by someone to attack religious conclusions then likewise they are breaking the law used to force censorship.
    Uts the equation that can’t be beat.
    if the government can’t be involved in pushing for religious conclusions then it can’t push against. A separation of chirch and state if you will.
    No funds to fight creationism are legal. Its fighting religion.
    How about that eh?
    lines of reasoning here.
    I don’t know who is right but i’m just saying there is a instinct here about who gets public money for ehat.

  15. Alan FoxAlan Fox

    @ Mung

    Nick has kindly provided me a copy of the published paper which can be forwarded privately, if you’d also like a copy. PM me.

  16. wd400

    Nick seems to have a really special place in the hearts of some IDists — any time he is mentioned or comments at UD you can guarantee an influx of hate and weird personal attacks. I guess it stems from his his role in uncovering cdesign proponentsists. But it’s really something.

    Alan Fox: Is that what the Aussies are using for a nick-name?

    The all-purpose Australian nickname generating algorithm for blokes is to add “-o” to the end of a name. First name is probably more common, but “matzo” is a definite possibility.

  17. FrankieFrankie

    One other thing worth mentioning- Nick has proven that variations of a common design can lead to tree pattern resembling that of any clade or phylogenetic tree.

    Descent with modification by design (from some original design(s)) explains the data. That the DI missed that tells me their staff isn’t ready for this “war”.

    Just think of the headline they could have had: “ID’s Nemesis Proves the Pattern Supports Evolution by Design”

  18. RichardthughesRichardthughes

    Frankie:
    <a href=”mailto:nickmatzke.ncse@gmail.com”>nickmatzke.ncse@gmail.com</a>,

    Seeing that ID is not anti-evolution I don’t understand the paper. Also are you saying it is bad to question untestable claims?

    Yes, you are confused. The paper is very explicit:

    “This paper reconstructs the “phylogenetic tree,” or “phylogeny,” of the evolution of antievolution legislation in the U.S. from 2004 to the present.

    Like a family tree, it shows the relationships of proposed antievolution bills. In some cases, statistical methods were used to infer which bills were the parents (sources) of later bills.”

    It might help if you read it.

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