Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Reasons Not to Believe - Part 1

I had an interesting email a few years ago from a collaborator who had recently co-authored the first paper to come out of my postdoctoral research. He had Googled himself, and our paper had cropped up in some unexpected places. As well as apparently being proof that retroviruses from space are reprogramming our genome, our research had also been co-opted by Reasons to Believe (RTB), a group calling themselves “the Premiere Science-Faith Think Tank” who claim to provide “Powerful New Reasons from Science to Believe in Christ”. My precious paper, the culmination of more than a year of hard work, was part of number 7 on their list of the “Top 10 Scientific Discoveries of 2003 that Support RTB's Testable Creation Model”.

I have to admit that my first reaction was amusement. As a new British immigrant to Canada, I felt very secure in a secular society and dismissed creationism and intelligent design as primarily American problems. Look at these idiots, thinking that my paper supports their crackpot theories! I got on with my work and didn't let the crazy website people bother me.

Over the last year or so, I've become much more aware of what some people call the culture wars in the United States. Science is under attack, and this is no longer an American problem. Creation “museums” exist in Canada and the UK, prominent European politicians support creationism, and a group called Truth in Science is threatening science education throughout the UK.

I eventually decided to reclaim my research from the people who have consistently tried to distort the science to support their own agenda. I checked a few months ago and found my paper in the RTB archives. I emailed the website's creators, explained that they had misunderstood the meaning of my paper, that it actually provided evidence in support of evolution, and politely asked if they could please remove it from their site. I repeated my request a couple of times. I never received more than a bland message in reply saying that they would look into it.

Now here's the thing – my wonderful former room mate decided to shut down the email account that he'd set up for me without giving me a hint of warning. So I lost all my correspondence with RTB, and never heard from them again. It's possible that they tried to contact me and had their message bounce back (although if they'd really wanted to reach me, they could have found me through the contact information within the paper in question). All I know is that my paper's still on their website, and I want it removed.

So here is my public statement: my research that is cited on the RTB website actually supports evolution (the details are in a separate post due to length. I got a bit carried away).

I plan to send this link to the RTB website, explain what happened with my email account, and ask them to respond. I'll post any correspondence here. I will also start to contact other authors whose work is cited in the RTB archives and try to solicit some similar statements refuting the use of their work to support creationism. If anyone reading this has also had a paper misused by RTB or any similar group, please let me know and I'll be in touch.

If you have a website of your own, a link to this post would be much appreciated - it would be great if Google searches for RTB would bring up statements like this one somewhere near the top!

Don't believe in lies and misinformation!


  1. Well said.

    Those of us who live in the reality based community need more people like your self to speak up.

  2. Hej CAD. I know exactly how you feel. I have two articles this totally dishonest group reference. Apparently a simulation I made of the RNA World was a reason to believe on

    July 31st, 2003.
    It most certainly isn't!
    They cite another article that I played a small part in :

    Moulton et al.
    Again, they totally miss the point of our argument!
    I haven't had the energy to do anything about this (much to the chagrin of my more militant colleagues). I assumed RTB would give me the run around, much as they have done to you. But maybe the blogosphere is a good forum to vent. If you want support and another name to add to complaints I'm happy to provide one.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. a link to this post would be much appreciated
    Happy to oblige:

  5. Exactly right!

    The more authors who protest the misuse of their research, the more apparent it will become that creationist IDiots are intellectually dishonest at best and more likely liars.

    You'll never convince these nutbunnies, of course, but what you can do is make it harder for them to mislead others.

    BTW: It's worth noting that you almost certainly have a cause of legal action against these clowns, at least in the United States. Given the pro-bono (free) services of a sympathetic lawyer, and a couple of nasty letters, it should be fairly easy to force these clowns to not only take down your paper, but to substitute a statement that they lied about its implications.

    Good luck!

    --Rick Cook

  6. Thanks again to everyone who's taken the time to give feedback and support! A Pharyngula link is a powerful thing... As I said in the comments on the ERV thread, I'm more concerned about reaching potential RTB readers than filing any kind of law suit. I'm open to discussion though and I'd be interested to hear whether it would be a viable option - maybe a class-action kinda thing?

  7. I'm glad to see you're doing this. Even if they find another paper to replace yours on their list, at least your reputation will be righted and the questionable integrity of this group will documented.


I promise to respond to all respectful non-spam comments! Don't be shy! Oh, and please don't type my surname in your comments; I know you all know what it is, but I'd prefer Google to rank other pages before this blog.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.