At the Dangerous Idea site, a commenter called I’m Skeptical writes:
In science, you have to be driven by the evidence. The folks from [Discovery Institute] are driven by their beliefs. They search for evidence to support what they already believe. That’s not scientific method, because it leads them to ignore evidence that doesn’t fit their objective. If you ignore evidence, you can’t hope to move scientific understanding forward.
In this post I hope to disabuse Mr. Skeptical of his naïve assumption that “real scientists” (as opposed, in his view, to the researchers at DI) are always dispassionate, always objective, always striving for the truth even if the data are contrary to their cherished shibboleths (nay, especially if the data are contrary to their cherished shibboleths). A brief quote from Gould should do the trick.
Paleontologists therefore came to view stasis as just another failure to document evolution. Stasis existed in overwhelming abundance, as every paleontologist always knew. But this primary signal of the fossil record, defined as an absence of data for evolution, only highlighted our frustration – and certainly did not represent anything worth publishing. Paleontology therefore fell into a literally absurd vicious circle. No one ventured to document or quantify – indeed, hardly anyone even bothered to mention or publish at all – the most common pattern in the fossil record: the stasis of most morpho-species throughout their geological duration. All paleontologists recognized the phenomenon, but few scientists write papers about failure to document a desired result. As a consequence, most nonpaleontologists never learned about the predominance of stasis, and simply assumed that gradualism must prevail, as illustrated by the exceedingly few cases that became textbook “classics”: the coiling of *Gryphae*, the increasing body size of horses, etc. (Interestingly, nearly all these “classics” have since been disproved, thus providing another testimony for the temporary triumph of hope and expectation over evidence – see Gould, 1972.) Thus, when punctuated equilibrium finally granted theoretical space and importance to stasis, and this fundamental phenomenon finally emerged from the closet, nonpaleontologists were often astounded and incredulous.
Stephen Jay Gould, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2002), 761
Abrupt appearance may record an absence of information but stasis is data. Eldredge and I became so frustrated by the failure of many colleagues to grasp this evident point . . . that we urged the incorporation of this little phrase as a mantra or motto. Say it ten times before breakfast every day for a week, and the argument will surely seep in by osmosis: ‘stasis is data; stasis is data’ . . .