Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

The Art of Literature Bluffing


In a UD post below, Salvador comments on Ken Miller and his reference to a paper in Science. Ken is a master of the art of literature bluffing, and you’ll be seeing a lot of this from Darwinists concerning Behe’s The Edge Of Evolution. It works like this: Claim that “such and so has been conclusively refuted…” or “the author ignores research that has demonstrated…” or “this issue was addressed and resolved long ago…” and then cite a publication.

Those using this tactic know that very few people will actually check out the references. However, in cases like that of hostile reviews of Behe’s new book, it would be wise to do so. You will most likely discover that the “refutations, demonstrations and resolutions” are nothing of the kind, but are fanciful storytelling, speculation, misrepresentation, or wildly imaginative extrapolation from the trivially obvious.

Behe, on his Amazon blog, makes the following comments concerning Sean Carroll’s review of The Edge:

In fact, if one takes the trouble to look up the references Carroll cites, one sees that a short amino acid motif is not enough for function in a cell.


…Carroll seems unable to separate Darwinian theory from data. He writes that “what [Behe] alleges to be beyond the limits of Darwinian evolution falls well within its demonstrated [my emphasis] powers”, and “Indeed, it has been demonstrated [my emphasis] that new protein interactions (10) and protein networks (11) can evolve fairly rapidly and are thus well within the limits of evolution.”

Yet if one looks up the papers he cites, one finds no “demonstration” at all.

It should be an illuminating enterprise to track down all the literature bluffs in upcoming reviews of Behe’s new book. What this will demonstrate is that Darwinists are desperate to discredit Behe by any means available. Alas, these critics appear to have no choice in the matter, because Behe is right and they are wrong. The facts and data speak for themselves.

Mark Farmer, Omitting something is not literature bluffing. Literature bluffing is citing literature that is not relevant to the question being considered. Your example is something Behe should haved considered if the article has relevance. Why not send him an email about it. It would be interesting to see his answer. jerry
From the Discovery Institute website: "Literature bluffing is the indiscriminate citation of scientific papers and articles whose titles or abstracts may seem germane to the problem at hand, but which on careful reading prove not to settle the issue, or even not to have any relevance to it. Like a squid spewing out ink to confuse a pursuer, or a fighter jet dispensing chaff to deflect incoming missiles, a literature bluffer floods the discussion with citations to distract attention from the real issues." I hardly think that my pointing out that Behe's omission of the Briggs et al. 2004 paper constitute's "literature bluffing" (the supposed topic of this thread). In the Edge of Evolution Behe wrote "It is clear from careful experimental work with all ciliated cells that have been examined, from alga to mice, that a functioning cilium requires a working IFT." But Briggs and co-workers demonstrated that this is NOT true, and they did it three years before the publication of Behe's latest book. So the question is did Dr. Behe never see this paper during all his careful research on the topic, or did he ignore it? -Mark Farmer mafarmerga
Hermagoras, that's the address I used. I also tried posting via IE to your site w/no luck. I can't imagine Comcast being filtered from your site so we have a mystery. When I get to a different computer I'll try again. tribune7
--I was able to post on hermagoras’s site using Safari on the Mac and using the anonymous option. That's what I did. Maybe it's my ISP (Comcast). Or maybe it will remain a mystery. I sent him an email. He hasn't posted it. tribune7
I was able to post on hermagoras's site using Safari on the Mac and using the anonymous option. It didn't work with Firefox but it did with Safari. Hermagoras has a history of belittling Dembski on his site which may be part of the reason he was banned. jerry
Posts still not appearing on your blog Hermagoras. I'm using Safari on a Mac. Could that be the issue? H -- I'd first have to be willing to admit that (ID is) science. . . .But ID poses a much larger shift it asks that we introduce non-materialist explanations into science. Are you willing to admit that ID can offer non-materialist explanations? tribune7
I tried posting to Hermagoras' site but it didn't seem to take. Anyway, since my opinion seems important to him this is what I said:
Hiya Hermagoras To have a real argument, in rhetorical terms, you have to be willing to admit that the other side may be right. So you are willing to admit I.D. may be right? And, I'm glad it is dawning on you as to why the phrase "literature bluffing" was "invented" by the I.D. community. And, I am sorry you got the boot. A little, anyway. You did sound a bit full of yourself at times. Tribune7
Of course Dawkins isn't going to do debates or actually go into a lab and do science. Like Miller, he'd just rather sell books to the ignorant. rrf
that the term “literature bluff” was invented, and is used, almost exclusively by the ID community. And the mother of invention is . . . ? And would our Ph. d. writing teacher be able to answer if he had not been booted from the building? tribune7
Hermagoras said (comment #7) --
Jehu, I’m a Ph.D.-holding college writing teacher, the director of a university writing program, and a published scholar in the rhetoric of science. The term “literature bluffing” was invented, as far as I can tell, by the Discovery Institute here. It is not found in rhetoric generally or the rhetoric of science specifically.
So? Wikipedia says about the term "quote mining,"
The phrase originated in the mid-1990s. It is commonly used by non-creationists, who complain that creationists support their arguments by reference to "quote mines" of nuanced statements which, out of context, appear to undercut evolution. It may not be widely used or understood in other contexts.
Also, there are equivalent expressions for "quote mining" -- "quoting out of context" and "cherry-picking quotes" -- but I am not aware of any equivalent expression for "literature bluffing." There is nothing wrong with coining new terms and expressions -- all common terms and expressions got their start somewhere. I like to coin my own -- e.g., substituting "Charlie McCarthyism" for "sockpuppetry" and "BVD-clad blogger" for "pajama-clad blogger." Larry Fafarman
The 59 books and articles piled on the witness stand in front of Behe at Dover comes to mind as a classic example. DG
Thank you, Bork. Charlie
Charlie: www.tinyurl.com/yoabfd That should work. bork
Hey Sal, broken link on Boteach vs. Dawkins. Charlie
Dawkins and Maynard-Smith were defeated in debate by Berlinski, PhD and Wilder-Smith, PhD PhD PhD about 20 years ago. (That's right, Wilder-Smith has 3 PhD in science, including one from Oxford). The intellectual firepower Dawkins faced was too much for him. Dawkins has never debated the science live ever since. Think upon it, if he were succesful at debate (as his supporters say) then the best thing he could do is to keep debating. I have an audio tape of the debate, but haven't listened to it yet. It turns out, Dawkins was recently defeated in debate by a Rabbi who wisely focused on the science issues. See: Boteach vs. Dawkins. Dawkins was a sore loser. hehehe. scordova
[...] Recent Comments Rude: Having just read Rabbi Berel Wein’s ... jerry: This is a little bit off target since it doesn't involve Mil... PaV: Duesberg's views on HIV/AIDS may seem strange, but he is a v... PaV: "Neither of these hypotheses is incompatible with Darwini... IDist: Personally, I’d like to see Behe and Meyer aga... kairosfocus: H'mm: First, I am very glad to see Prof Behe taking up a... LeeBowman: "In live debate he’s masterful at theatrics, equivocati... scordova: Here was Behe calling Miller on some more distortions a whil... IDist: Any idea when will "The Design of life" get published?... deric davidson: Literature bluffing is obviously a form of "fraud". Its use... feed » [...] Do The Facts Speak For Themselves? | Uncommon Descent
Personally, I’d like to see Behe and Meyer against Miller and Dawkins, for example. Well I can dream, can’t I?
Meyer is a great speaker! Dawkins will never debate darwinism. He might accept participating in a debate about God and religion, but not darwinism. The official reason is that he doesn't want to give "creationists" credibility, but I think he's afraid of being soundly defeated. IDist
H'mm: First, I am very glad to see Prof Behe taking up a blog over at Amazon to take the fight back to the "critics" and "reviewers." In part, of course that requires addressing "literature bluffing." Perhaps, even, the classic one-sided simplistic summary and piling up of alleged authorities on of a controversial issue as if that says all there is to say, aka "elephant hurling." [Mutually reinforcing fallacies are often more persuasive by the impact of pernicious synergy.] But there is a key issue, well-raised above by Innerbling in 20 and by others: are all lit bluffers outright dishonest or just plain too "stupid" to see the point of arguments they disagree with? I don't think so. --> First, a note: our prof of rhetoric above misses the point: if the prime target of a tactic names the fallacy being routinely used against him, that does not mean that such a fallacy is "therefore" not a fallacy: an argument that is persuasive but misleading or deceptive. Obviously, lit bluff as so aptly defined is just that. --> Now, too, while there are incompetent lit bluffers, and there are consciously dishonest ones, IMHCO much of the time what is happening is the problem of thinking in a mutually reinforcing but misleading circle. --> E.g. NDT advocates are often utterly convinced that they are right. So, they think restating the "consensus" model or speculation on the point s-l-o-w-l-y and s-i-m-p-l-y is enough to "prove" it. --> Missing in action: as IB said in 20, they have not paused to seriously look at the actual question of what is, without imposing question-begging assumptions, the best current explanation of the credible and material facts. [Behe is an expert on marshalling inconvenient facts!!!] --> So, I am of the opinion that many lit bluffers are first of all self-deceived and/or careless, not calculatedly diabolical. Negligence rather than explicit deceptive intent, in short. (Too many then compound the error by closed-minded hostility and arrogance, sadly.) --> Unfortunately, and as noted above, some bluffers are indeed calculatedly deceptive. --> And if one is sufficiently prideful, the attempted defence of a mistake can lead one into being and after the fact intentional deceiver. (Prof Miller for one IMHCO, owes us some big explanations and apologies. Perhaps a reminder should be made: metanoia -- Gk for repentance, the very first step into "the Kingdom" -- is "to change one's mind.") GEM of TKI kairosfocus
"In live debate he’s masterful at theatrics, equivocation, and supreme confidence ..." scordova I've watched many of his lectures, and I agree that he comes across as dynamic, sure of himself, and with strategically injected humor. Once you've seen one or two, you'll know in advance, watching others, the points he's about to make, which slides are about to pop up, and when his audience will chuckle, gasp, or just smile. His favorites are the flagellum/ type III ss topic, the human/ chimp chromosome 2 congruencies, the jawbone to middle ear bones evolution, and others, all answerable in debate as specious, or at least conjectural, regarding irrefutable arguments for ND. Although his timing and theatrics win hearts in his 'canned' talks, he would not fare as well in a live debate over the current 'hot' issues. I especially liked the Meyer Ward debate (4/26/06, Seattle, hosted by David Posman, Seattle Times). The audience seemed pro Peter Ward, but Meyers, sans any theatrics or reaching out to the audience for support as Ward did, maintained a level headed, dialectic based approach which won hands down. For the 1:40 minute debate, scroll to 'meyer' http://www.seattlechannel.org/videos/watchVideos.asp?program=townHall Personally, I'd like to see Behe and Meyer against Miller and Dawkins, for example. Well I can dream, can't I? LeeBowman
Literature bluffing is obviously a form of "fraud". Its use in debates relating to matters of science surely makes it a form of "scientific fraud". If Darwinists use this form of fraud in debate where else do they apply a fraudulent approach in order to promote their credo? deric davidson
In live debate he's masterful at theatrics, equivocation, and supreme confidence where he doesn't list the specific titles as he did in the review in Nature. I seriously doubt any ID proponent would look forward to sharing the stage with him for an hour. In that regard he is the supreme master of bluffing. On the other hand it's another story when he has something in print. This last round was colossally funny. He was accusing Behe of ignoring articles when these same articles were even mentioned in Behe's book or studies Behe has already publicly commented on! It was a different story with Shallit and Elsberry. Even with the internet, I had to dig for 6 months to a year uncoil their nonsense, and I'm still not done. The area the wrote their paper on is obscure and technically challenging. It was a 60 page monstrosity that was well-crafted by Dembski's former teacher Shallit. For the record, as I don't know where else to say this, if an ID proponent shared the stage with Miller, this would be one time, given his history of misrepresentation, that I would focus half on science, and the focus the rest on his misrepresentations under oath in Dover and his repeated false accusations. And I wouldn't be cordial about it either. "Miller that's an equivocation, you offered that same falsehood under oath in Dover and you're repeating that falsehood again after you've been told several times...." No need to be angry in the delivery of the reprimand. The goal is to inspire a little outrage at his conduct to wipe that snotty smile off his face. I wouldn't be polite about it either. If that goes over well with the audience, try it again. At best, the ID proponents have scored draws with the polite approach. Time to try something new. In thinking who I'd pick to duel with Miller: Berlinski, Wells, and Luskin. It would take 3 of our best against Mr. Slick on stage. He's that good. scordova
Hermagoras noted the huge use of the term 'death throes' - Yes, a whopping 8 times out several 1000 articles! One of those times is in reference to dying stars! And another is a quote about protestantism in Europe. So we have a grand total of 6 refs.! Ha! Talk about carping! Darwinists are infamous for quibbling, or in the terms of the wisest man that ever lived, "filtering out gnats and swallowing camels". Quibbling: 1. Evade the truth of a point or question by raising irrelevant objections 2. Argue over petty things Yep, that pretty much describes the Darwinist debate technique in general. Just add some elephant hurling, a couple of pretty just-so stories, add lots of hot air and you've got their recipe for 'proof' down pat. But we don't want to overuse the term. So perhaps 'death throes' ought to be changed for 'mortification' (as per the term used in Darwinist run Holland for killing unfit, i.e. unwanted, persons). Or maybe just plain old 'croaking' - like a frog. Borne
Miller was so careless that he bluffed with citations that Behe has already publicly commented on (available for free online even) or even had mentioned excplicitly in his book!
My bad. I said that Ken is a master of the art of literature bluffing. However, as you point out, he's a rank amateur, and is counting on the fact that his dead-tree readership will never actually reference the references, or even think objectively about the data. GilDodgen
what is the person thinking about when they do it
They are thinking "survival of the cleverest". There is no moral or ethical framework within their computation. The goal is to score points at whatever cost. The one with the most points wins. It's as simple as that. EndoplasmicMessenger
The difficulty is that the debater might not realize error in his/her part at all. The other party doesn't realizes irrelevance of the article cited, because she/he misunderstood the writers hypothesis or just so story in the article for actual data. I don't think most of the Darwinists are actually lying on purpose they just lack the will to critically analyze the presuppositions and logic they are using. When they read an article about evolution the words supposedly, might etc. disappear and the hypothesis or the just so story becomes a fact in their minds. Wishful thinking of a worst sort. I think this is especially true if one has strong feelings for or against the subject. Innerbling
Hermagoras is no longer with us.
Bummer. The moderation policy says, in part:
Thou shalt not be boring, and the person you least want to bore is me. In particular, I’ve been at this game for about fifteen years now, so I’ve seen most of the objections. Don’t repeat what I likely have already seen (for an overview of the sorts of objections I’ve seen and handled, consult my book The Design Revolution).
I know I’ll likely get booted for saying it, but it seems more and more that only "me too" comments are permissible. The irony of course is that such homogeneous conversations are really not very interesting because they are by definition a repetition of that already seen. One thing that may be worth considering is the fact that most visitors to the site haven’t been at this for fifteen+ years, and that people like Hermagoras if allowed to stay and, yes, vent a little, might be exposed to arguments they won’t see anywhere else—least of all that the university he works for (assuming he is who he said he is). Yes, his tone was a little snide, but not more so than many ID supporters who routinely post here--even in the current thread. A notable counterexample was scordova, who responded with grace and apparently saw the situation as an opportunity to educate. Kudos to him. -sb SteveB
Whenever I hear the term "literature bluff", I'm reminded of a tactic used in the practice of law. If you want to bog down your opponent to buy time or increase their legal expenses, you send them the documents they have requested during discovery, but include with the important stuff boxes and boxes of marginally relevent documents so that the lawyers must waste time and money sifting through it all. Its about wearing out your opponent, not winning on the facts. russ
I find the most interesting thing about the literature bluffing or the obscure and irrelvant arguments that Darwinists use is what is the person thinking about when they do it. They must know what they are proposing is irrelevant or doesn't really answer the question or is only meant to deflect from the real discussion. Is it just a parlor game to see who is the most clever? Do they really think we are that stupid? Or is a deeper feeling that what the person is opposing is so wrong that it will excuse anything that they do in the cause to rid the world or what they consider dangerous. I read some of the threads on ARN and it seems the main objective there is to put the other person down in any way possible as opposed to develop a dialog. jerry
Hermagoras is no longer with us. A few years back I wrote a piece titled "Evolutionary Logic." It is available here: www.designinference.com/documents/2002.09.evologic.htm The arguments from obscrue, irrelevant, and nonexistent reference are relevant to this discussion. William Dembski
Here is how that article you cite defines literature bluffing, Heramgoras,
I’m a Ph.D.-holding college writing teacher, the director of a university writing program, and a published scholar in the rhetoric of science. The term “literature bluffing” was invented, as far as I can tell, by the Discovery Institute here. It is not found in rhetoric generally or the rhetoric of science specifically.
Thank you for the etymology. Regardless of where the phrase comes from, the thing it defines is very real and was not invented by the DI. Here is how the article you cite defines literature bluffing. "Literature bluffing is the indiscriminate citation of scientific papers and articles whose titles or abstracts may seem germane to the problem at hand, but which on careful reading prove not to settle the issue, or even not to have any relevance to it. Since Darwinists constantly rely on this cheap rhetorical trick, it doesn't suprise me the term "literature bluff" is used mostly in the ID community. Jehu

Leave a Reply