Wednesday, September 14, 2011

#246: Casey Luskin


a.k.a. the Baghdad Bob of creationism


Casey Luskin is a lawyer (and not a scientist, although he seems to be a little confused about what such credentials do or don't mean) and one of the primary spokespeople for the Discovery Institute. Mr. Luskin obtained a Bachelor of Science and a Masters Degree in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, and has as a lawyer published “Intelligent Design Will Survive Kitzmiller v. Dover”, and “Alternative Viewpoints about Biological Origins as Taught in Public Schools” (published in the Journal of Church and State). His work illustrates well the actual goal of the Discovery Institute – to get religion, in the form of intelligent design creationism, into public school curricula (not to do any actual scientific research).


Luskin is by far most notorious for his ability to distort scientific evidence to suggest conclusions completely opposite to what the evidence suggests (and curiously always to fit his preconceived notions of what it ought to show), such as here. An even better example of the distortions and quote mining (to put it mildly) he usually reverts to is perhaps this one (or this one). And if you are feeling particularly sadistic, you can watch Luskin getting completely eviscerated here.


The problem with Luskin and his ilk is that they're ignorant of a topic about which they believe they're experts (see The Dunning-Kruger Effect). Luskin appears to believe he’s an expert with absolute confidence and pride, but to anyone with even a cursory understanding of the fields in question his failings are miserably obvious (see also this). In fact, his misunderstandings of science – and his lack of awareness of his own lack of understanding – often reach epic proportions.


Luskin is also interestingly paranoid, going so far as to claim that published articles on evolution contain “veiled threats” against the creationists and that Nature, for instance, has launched a propaganda war on creationism. Of course, science itself is a threat to creationism; what Luskin fails to grasp is the fact that science is concerned with evidence, not argument and polemics. By failing to see the difference (and furthermore failing to distinguish criticism from personal attacks) he comes to equate scientific evidence against his dogmatic beliefs with personal attacks from the scientists who have discovered the evidence (for more on Luskin’s lack of understanding of how science works, see this).


A good assignment in an introductory critical thinking class is to identify some of the mistakes Luskin makes here (I have used it myself).


Diagnosis: Staggeringly cranky illustration of where Dunning-Kruger, confirmation bias and complete lack of understanding of science can lead you. He is very productive and vociferous, and must be considered rather dangerous to a rationality-based, modern civilization.

9 comments:

  1. Ooh! Careful using his photo without his permission. He also likes to threaten people with baseless lawsuits. Of course, three years on, I'm still waiting for him to sue me... http://sandefur.typepad.com/freespace/2008/01/casey-luskin-ab.html

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  2. This is a pretty good post on Luskin and civility.

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  3. Here's Luskin apparently trying to do science again. Or something. At least he provides yet another piece of evidence (if any was needed) that the Discovery Institute has nothing to do with science.

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  4. Casey Luskin continues, in his spectacular fashion, to give a face to ignorance.

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  5. It appears that the creationists still suffer a little from their inability to control the framing of their brand of creationism.

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  6. Another Orwellian reaction to another defeat for the Discovery Institute. And given the time of the year, it might be worth having a look at Luskin's annual Christmas/Kitzmiller v. Dover rant.

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  7. Casey Luskin continues to produce bullshit at an amazing rate, and there is no way we can keep up. At least you can read about his embrace of martyrdom here. And here is a recent take on junk DNA. He has also not been particularly happy about the recent rebooting of the Cosmos series; and his reaction to episode 6 is a (delusional) case in point.

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  8. Does he post as "Doctor" on Amazon Discussion Groups?

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