Mis-citation in ID post

On the Thoughts from Kansas blog, Josh Rosenau calls attention to a post in which the Discovery Institutes’ Robert Crowther complains about a New York Times article by Cornelia Dean.

In his post, Crowther supports his argument by quoting

Dr. Phillip Skell of the NAS, who has written on this subject extensively. Here’s what he wrote in the New Scientist last year in an essay titled “Why Do We Invoke Darwin? Evolutionary theory contributes little to experimental biology”:

I am a subscriber to the New Scientist magazine, and I get their news feed on my home page; so I was interested in their publication of the Skell’s essay. Crowther does not link to the essay at the magazine, but where DI has posted it on the DI’s own site. When you find the essay, Skell (Philip, not Phillip) is identified as an emeritus professor whose “research has included work on reactive intermediates in chemistry, free-atom reactions, and reactions of free carbonium ions.” So he is not a biologist.

Cover of The Scientist, Oct. 2006

But you won’t find the essay at New Scientist, since that is not where it was published, despite Crowther’s citation.

Skell’s article was actually published in The Scientist (29 August 2005), which is a rather different publication. Composition of The Scientist editorial advisory board suggests a more industrial, rather than academic, orientation.

(Access to content is free right now to non-subscribers, although this looks like it might be for a limited-time anniversary promotion.)

The current issue leads with articles on this theme:

Is the 43rd President of the United States really science’s worst-ever enemy? News editor ALISON MCCOOK consulted more than a dozen sources to find out. The answer may surprise you.

The magazine’s own editorial concludes:

There are clear cases of abuse of science by the Bush administration. . . . But, deplorable as these abuses are, there is no evidence that they are part of a coordinated onslaught against science. In fact, in most respects the administration has been neutral in its treatment of science. And in some cases, especially where industry is involved, it has been somewhat positive, for example, the FDA’s Critical Path Initiative.


  1. Posted October 29, 2006 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    Might we chalk this up to simple typographical error? I suspect the fingers did the talking, and there was no intent to mislead.

    Have they corrected it yet?

  2. Posted October 30, 2006 at 2:28 am | Permalink

    I’m interested in seeing how long it takes for a correction, if that happens.

    I expect it’s not deliberate deception. However, I think it still does exhibit an indifference to the difference between industrial “scientists” and academic “scientists” — which is just one instance of a more general obtuse (I mean that in a literal, rather than rhetorical sense) idea of what is “science,” which is near the core of the problem here.

    You’re right that what I’m pointing to in this post is not that significant. I think it is symptomatic, though, of something more significant, which I have not had time to write about yet. Just as a suggestion: Skell’s question hypothetically asked “would your research be different if Darwin was wrong?” Is that the right question? A good question? How about analyzing the extent to which their research depends on concepts derived from theoretical frameworks that depend on evolutionary theory?

    I probably should not post like this when it is this late and I’m preparing for tomorrow’s class and I’ve been drinking to help me quickly get to sleep.

    Thanks for your comment, though; I think your point is correct, but that there’s still more to the story.

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