missing an opportunity in anger
PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne are very, very upset. New Scientist’s faux controversy about the technical revisions to Darwin’s tree of life and sensationalistic cover are now being used in an ad for the magazine. According to them, creationists who don’t read what the story actually says and the accompanying editorial which pronounces evolution a solid science, are waiving the issue around as supposed proof that evolutionary biology is a lie and has been disproven. Now, they’re calling for a boycott of the publication to show how upset scientists are with their careless attempts to start a storm in a teacup.
Now, as much as I like to grab my torch and pitchfork, I think that people are missing a terrific opportunity to turn creationists’ fervor and cherry-picking against them. Rather than rally the troops for a boycott and write angry posts about New Scientist’s dubious editorial decisions, I would want to highlight the shocking misuse of this cover by creationists. They didn’t even try to read the article and the editorial attached to it! They missed the fact that instead of chopping down Darwin’s tree of life, scientists are just making adjustments to the model because it’s still a viable way to illustrate the history of evolution. And finally, because they refuse to grasp how scientific theories work, they’re to attacking Darwin with no regard for the fact that evolution is a modern theory and it’s based on over a century of evidence that still wouldn’t go away. They saw a cover they liked on a pop sci magazine and started cheering in victory without bothering to find out what the story was actually about.
Yes, for those of us confronted by creationist rhetoric on a daily basis it can be really tempting to issue a tongue-lashing and growl at the editors of New Scientist for encouraging the people who are willing to use even the slightest misquote to drape their religious ideologies in a guise of science. But in doing so, we miss the really important bit. When creationists use a story they don’t understand, haven’t read and know nothing about as legitimate, scientific proof that our very basis of biology is a lie and attack a person who’s insights were helpful guides rather than a gospel, they’re actually showing the world their true colors and setting themselves up as the punchline of a joke. They’re pouring their desperation and showcasing their contempt for both reading and facts while furious creationism-debunking scientists are penning angry polemics and calling for a public rebuke to an editorial policy that’s handing them more ammo to use in their debunking. They shouldn’t get mad. They should use this cover to their advantage.