In talking about congestion pricing on my show Saturday night, I couldn’t contain a brief outburst over how our local media and political elite continue to take seriously the Discovery Institute’s transportation proposals in light of its embarrassing role in promoting
Creationism Intelligent Design. My frustration stems not simply from the fact that Intelligent Design is ridiculous anti-science, or that it is part of a well planned and executed multi-year campaign to undermine science education in the US at a time we face growing global economic competition… but that it has been promoted in such a shamelessly dishonest manner.
The Discovery Institute has proven again and again that it makes no distinction between scholarship and propaganda, and that there is no ethical boundary it will not cross in the interest of foisting its Christianist agenda on the American people. This blatant disregard for the most basic rigors of academia — or even fair play — was highlighted recently by a virologist/blogger who discovered that DI fellows had stolen and manipulated a Harvard University/XVIVO video for use in their own presentations, without attribution, permission or license.
Here is the original Harvard/XVIVO video, “The inner life of a cell”, with its scientifically accurate narration intact:
And here is a clip from a Discovery Institute presentation that features an excerpt of the video, now redubbed and retitled “The Cell as an Automated City.” Notice how the presenter describes the video as “state of the art computer animation,” implying that it is somehow the work of the institute:
As ERV points out in
his her post, this isn’t just a naive case of copyright infringement. The Discovery Institute has plenty of lawyers on staff and on retainer, so they sure as hell know that scrubbing the Harvard/XVIVO copyright and credits off the video is not only dishonest, but illegal.
Maybe they think it is ‘okay’ because they gave the animation a new title (‘Inner life of a cell’ became ‘The cell as an automated city’) and an extraordinarily unprofessional new narration (alternate alternate title– ‘ Big Gay Al takes a tour of a cell!’). Harvard/XVIVOs narration, all of the science, is whisked away and replaced with a ‘surrealistic lilliputian realm’– ‘robots’, ‘manufacturing’, ‘circuitry’, ‘nano moters’, ‘UPS labels’. Maybe they think it is ‘okay’ because they turned all of Harvards science into ‘MAGIC!’
Hmm. From my point of view, as a virologist and former teaching assistant, this isn’t just copyright infringement. This is theft and plagiarism. Taking someone else’s work without their consent, manipulating it without their consent, pretending it supports ID Creationists distorted views of reality, and presenting it as DI’s work.
ERV further points out that if the DI fellows responsible for this were at
his her university, they would be expelled for their plagiarism.
But this is just business as usual at the Discovery Institute, and it raises a question: if the Discovery Institute can’t be trusted to produce independent academic scholarship on its signature issue, Intelligent Design, how can its Cascadia Center be trusted to produce independent academic scholarship on regional transportation planning? Of course, it can’t, and the media, business and political elites who ignore the institute’s established track record of distorting scholarship and science in the single-minded pursuit of its own private agenda, are little more than willful dupes.
Our region’s transportation planning is too important to be trusted to a faux “think tank” with such a shameful and embarrassing record, and every time one of our local media outlets unskeptically cites one of its reports or recommendations, it grants the Discovery Institute credibility it simply does not deserve. Unlike a real think tank, the Discovery Institute produces “scholarship” to support its existing agenda, not the other way around, and thus it cannot and should not be considered a trusted partner in planning our region’s transportation future.