I’m surprised that I haven’t seen a spate of posts from certain quarters proclaiming that the Lenski-Schlafly dustup is good for creationists. I think the assessment by RationalWiki is right on target:
Mr. Schlafly certainly intended that his letters to Prof. Lenski would have the effect of somehow discrediting his work or discomforting him in some way. In the event the consequences couldn’t have been more different.
*As a result of Mr. Schlafly’s tomfoolery he has raised the status of Prof. Lenski’s evolution-demonstrating paper from the status of “Highly Significant” to “Internet Science-blog Phenomenon”. It is difficult to think of any other action which would have so raised the profile of this research.
*Many non-specialists will no doubt have taken an interest in this exchange. For many, the take-home sound bites will be “Scientist proves Evolution in Lab” and “Religious Fundamentalists don’t Understand Science”. Others may go on to gain a deeper understanding as a consequence.
*Conservapedia has once again become the laughingstock of the Internet. And this time the blame can’t be put on any alleged parodists. Mr. Schlafly personally started the ball rolling, continued with it against the publicly-expressed doubts of his associates, and went back a second time when he felt he didn’t like the first answer.
*By refusing to include the link to RationalWiki in Prof. Lenski’s second reply, Mr. Schlafly has done more than any other individual to raise RationalWiki’s profile on the net. Amazingly, Conservapedia then compounded the error by clumsily attempting to hide its own open correspondence concerning the matter.
In conclusion, it is difficult to imagine a course of action more incredibly, enormously, staggeringly counter-productive to his cause than that undertaken by Mr Schlafly.
Keep in mind that Lenski not only rebutted Schlafly’s arguments (such as they were), he also made it clear that Schlafly should not be taken seriously (from the second response; emphasis in the original):
First, it seems that reading might not be your strongest suit given your initial letter, which showed that you had not read our paper, and given subsequent conversations with your followers, in which you wrote that you still had not bothered to read our paper….
Second, your capacity to misinterpret and/or misrepresent facts is plain in the third request in your first letter…
That’s right: Lenski’s first two points were that i) Schlafly is illiterate; and ii) he’s a delusional liar.
Heavens to Betsy! Someone get me my fainting couch! Actually, this is the approach I’ve advocated around here for quite some time.
But have no doubt, this is somehow good for creationists.
Update, part deux: Martin responds.