Thursday, September 1, 2016

#1713: Mark Hartwig

Mark Hartwig is a Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (CSC), and is known as one of the early organizers of the intelligent design creationist movement (apparently his own background is in educational psychology). At least he used to be managing editor of the (moribund) journal Origins Research and director of CSC’s Access Research Network (with Dennis Wagner, Stephen Meyer and Paul Nelson), which aims to bring creationism to the public, and on the advisory board of the IDEA center, which is … the same (though with an explicitly religious perspective). He was also the author of The Wedge ( Update column and The Intelligent Design FAQ. He has not been involved in relevant research, of course, but intelligent design is about outreach, not science, evidence and research. Hartwig is notably also an employee of Focus on the Family.

Like most intelligent design creationists, Hartwig has worked hard to get creationism – or at least PRATT-style objections to evolution – into public schools and for instance defended the infamous Cobb county requirement that biology textbooks be equipped with a sticker telling students that “Evolution is a theory, not a fact.” According to Hartwig, the theory of evolution is uncertain, as shown by the fact that it is controversial. Of course, the controversy is a controversy among non-scientists, partially due to the obfuscatory efforts of the Discovery Institute; it is not scientifically controversial, but Hartwig pretends not to notice the difference (nor does he seem to understand the science of evolution or how scientific research and publication work). He was also involved in the rather complex creation of Of Pandas and People.

And like so many intelligent design advocates Hartwig likes to compare scientists to Nazis; here, for instance, he draws an analogy between “Darwinists” and the Nazi oppressors of Czechoslovakia. Apparently the “Darwinists” often resort to the oppressive tactic of criticism targeted at the creationists (and sometimes even ridicule when the creationist arguments are particularly daft, which they often are). To Hartwig, that shows that they are afraid, which is evidence that the theory of evolution is in trouble (“[w]ith the growing success of the Wedge, I’m sure we’re going to see a lot more of this stuff,” said Hartwig in 2004; the vindication of intelligent apparently continues to remain just around the corner). Of course, one suspects that if Darwinists had failed to criticize intelligent design and rather ignored it, that would have been taken as evidence against evolution as well. It’s tough to play when your opponents don’t know the rules.

Diagnosis: We haven’t really heard much from or about him the last couple of years, but Hartwig is, or at least used to be, a central character – if not the loudest or most colorful – in the religious fundamentalist anti-science movement.


  1. I always find it amusing when clowns like this bird make the claim that evolution is somehow related to Nazism and/or Communism. Just for the record, Hitler rejected common descent in Mein Kampf and Stalin rejected Mendelism in favor of inheritance of acquired traits (sometimes inaccurately called Lamarckism).

  2. Look up the definition of the word THEORY. Evolution is not a FACT only a THEORY.

    1. Yes, do that. Google gives a fair definition:

      "A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not 'guesses' but reliable accounts of the real world."

      Wikipedia, too, has a good one:
      "A scientific theory is an explanation of an aspect of the natural world that can be repeatedly tested, in accordance with the scientific method, using a predefined protocol of observation and experiment. Established scientific theories have withstood rigorous scrutiny and embody scientific knowledge"

      They even helpfully explain that "[t]he definition of a scientific theory (often contracted to 'theory' for the sake of brevity) as used in the disciplines of science is significantly different from the common vernacular usage of the word 'theory'. In everyday speech, 'theory' can imply that something is an unsubstantiated and speculative guess, the opposite of its meaning in science."

      By the way, saying that "evolution is a theory" is a category mistake (you may look that up). Evolution is a fact. *The theory of evolution*, on the other hand, is a theory. Evolution, the fact, is what the theory of evolution is a theory of.