A Science Professor’s Awesome Email Exchange with the Discovery Institute

Professor Callan Bentley has a habit of taking awesome pictures and posting them on his website. Like this one of Emerald Lake and the Burgess Shale:

That picture recently drew the interest of an author at the Intelligent-design-promoting Discovery Institute and his assistant sent Bentley a letter:

My boss Dr. Stephen C. Meyer at the Discovery Institute is finishing up a book that discusses various attempts to explain the Cambrian Explosion. It is called Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosion of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design.

I’d like to offer you $100 and a complimentary copy of the book in return for permission to use the photo. The book will be published in June 2013 by HarperOne Publishers San Francisco. If you agree to do this, can you please forward me a high-res version of the photo and your preferred wording for credit?

Bentley wasn’t about to let his image get used by people who don’t understand science yet promote their false beliefs anyway. So he wrote back to the assistant and didn’t hold back:

Hello Andrew,

Thanks for your interest.

I hold the Discovery Institute in the lowest regard, and it sounds like the new book will be a further perversion of reason in the name of pseudoscience. As a science educator, I could never support such an effort! I will not grant reproduction rights to any of my photos or drawings to any creationist effort such as the one you describe here.

Best wishes for your good health, and the speedy demise of the sham institution that employs you.

Callan Bentley

*Slow clap*

And that’s only the beginning of their conversation. You can check out the rest of it here :)

(Thanks to @LynnFDR for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Jessica

    Well I just found my new email signature.

  • Rain

    “My boss Dr. Stephen C. Meyer at the Discovery Institute is finishing up a book that discusses various attempts to explain the Cambrian Explosion. It is called Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosion of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design Hello This Is My Next Fleecing Of The Flocks.”

    There. fixed…

  • Randomfactor

    I’m surprised he didn’t reply to the “scales falling from your eyes” comment with “Matthew, 7:4.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Evans/1017276335 John Evans

    Just got back from reading the full article. And the comments. “Every time we present evidence you explain it away.” I have no face, for it is entirely palmed.

    • cipher

      I say it all the time; fundamentalists have no sense of irony.

  • baal

    I read the page on the link to the science profs. blog. The Discovery Institute asked for use of an image. They were told ‘no’. They then decided to send a few follow ups that insult the person who told them ‘no’. This helps the Discovery Institute how? They wanted something and follow up insults won’t help them get it.

    Note that the scientist isn’t open to the same criticism since his only goal was to tell the DI what science is and how they aren’t doing it. Also note how bland understatement (simply conveying your opponents message) can be an effective rip on the ‘baddie’ (if that’s your goal) “Students, please note that the Discovery Institute feels sorry for you.”

    • icecreamassassin

      In DI’s defense (*shudder*), they weren’t exactly only told ‘no’. They were also told that they are a sham institution.

      And yes, the facts indicate that DI pretty much *is* a sham institution, but, sham or no, I can understand them feeling a little insulted by it and attempting to respond in kind. Just because a statement is true doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt a little.

      I’m not saying their response is helpful at all or appropriate, but I understand the inclination.

      • BeasKnees

        “I will not grant reproduction rights to any of my photos or drawings to any creationist effort such as the one you describe here.”

        Sounds like a ‘no’ to me.

        • icecreamassassin

          Yeah, that’s kind of why I included the word ‘only’ in my comment…

      • Glasofruix

        I think he was quite a gentleman when he pointed at the general direction he’d like them to fuck.

      • coyotenose

        He was explaining why he would not do business with them and simultaneously making it clear that he couldn’t be courted or cajoled into changing his mind*, and he did so in remarkably few words. And he didn’t insult the correspondent himself (although without consideration, it would be easy to take that as a personal insult.)

        What’s amazing, if not really surprising in hindsight, is how McDiarmid slid right into conspiracy theories and dishonest claims without a second to breathe or think. His brain is loaded to provide knee-jerk reactions even in a medium where one has tremendous time to consider responses and consequences. So much for “media relations specialist”.

        *Given how religionists work, and that they were clearly looking to grab some names to add a veneer of legitimacy to their work, I consider it a given that they needed to be told “No” in such a way as to cut them off early. They also needed to be preemptively robbed of any way to spin the refusal, e.g. by implying that Bentley was pressured into declining.

        That nobody would like such a response doesn’t mean it wasn’t the appropriate one to give in that situation.

        • cipher

          They’re operating at the developmental level of children – and not particularly bright children at that.

          Of course, there is no way in which this can be explained to them.

      • AntonioPeYangIII

        //They were also told that they are a sham institution.//

        So, is that a “no”?

  • http://twitter.com/ylaenna M. Elaine

    I learned a word: gallimaufry.

    • Bdole

      Me too!
      Now, I can use something besides “farrago.”

      • http://twitter.com/ylaenna M. Elaine

        I learned two words today. :D

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

          As did I, though I’m not sure I can work these into my vocabulary.

  • David

    Back 20-25 years ago the oil and gas company that I work for did a field trip out the the quarry at the Burgess Shale. At the same time another group was visiting the Burgess Shale to see where the finger of God had touched the earth. I think our group had a good laugh.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Unfortunately Dr. Bentley skipped an important missing link:

    God, a Creator, cdesigner, an Intelligent Designer

    (http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Cdesign_proponentsists)

  • Jordan Sugarman

    I liken them to school children who want to join an in-progress game of baseball, but they don’t understand the rules. They want the score set back to zero, and think anyone on their team who manages to get on base should automatically score. Then they complain to the principal that the other kids won’t let them play baseball.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chengis-Khan/100003317165064 Chengis Khan

    Just for that letter, NVCC should consider it a publication of value and give him a pay raise.

  • Rev. Red Mage

    Here I was thinking that the DI has been unequivocally trounced since their embarrassment back in ’05.
    It’s like they didn’t learn a damn thing.

    • coyotenose

      It seems that the majority of Creationists abandoned ID after Dover, but there’s still room for a relatively few people to earn a living off of it. This is doubly true when you consider that entire careers are invested in “proving” it.

      • cipher

        It seems that the majority of Creationists abandoned ID after Dover

        You really think so? It certainly hasn’t seemed that way to me. If anything, it’s seemed they’ve increased their efforts in an attempt to prove they were right all along – you know, Dunning Kruger and all.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    that was hilarious. i left my standard “but why your god, and not one of the 0000s of others?” comment over there.

    science is cool. religion is dumb.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    TBH, I couldn’t get past the photo — it’s pure Scenery Porn, and I love it.


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