Bruce Gordon, “Research” Director at the Disco. Inst. has A Few Words about a Long-Winded Breach of Etiquette, his response to Daniel Brooks’s exposé of a Disco.-funded conference.
Gordon complains that Brooks’s account is inaccurate, but never actually says what he got wrong. He complains that Brooks did not “respect the privacy of the conference and the other attendees by refraining from public commentary until such time as the content of the presentations and transcripts of the Q&A periods were made available and could speak for themselves.” But he publishes extensive email communications between various people, without stating of those authors gave permission. The conference was recorded and Gordon insists that the proceedings will be published, which makes his squeamishness about participant privacy laughable.
Gordon insists “The PT assertion that attendees were given the impression that the conference was organized by the Wistar Institute or that it was billed as a Gordon Conference is ridiculous.” As evidence, he points us to the email exchange, during which conference organizer Bruce Weber explains that “they have funding to support a second Wistar conference.” The first Wistar conference was organized by the Wistar Institute as a Gordon Conference, and it wouldn’t be entirely unreasonable to read that passage as implying that this second one (organized by a guy named Gordon) might be arranged similarly.
It wasn’t, of course. John Lynch digs into this issue in more detail.
But, as it says in Brooks’s email signature, “Never offend people with style when you can offend them with substance.” And it is on the substance that Gordon’s quest for smelling salts becomes truly absurd.
Gordon insists, “The conference was representative of the very kind of research our critics say we don’t sponsor, even while they’re actively working to obstruct its occurrence.” No evidence of obstruction by the nefarious Eugenie Scott is offered. The first part of the sentence seems valid, since there is no indication that the research presented is not just as secretive, crappy, unproductive, whiny, and dishonest as this conference.
Of course, there was one bit of research that I’m sure Disco. won’t be trumpeting if they ever publish all the details of this exchange:
[Dr. Ann Gauger, of the Disco.-funded Biologic Institute] was then prompted by one of her colleagues to regale us with some new experimental finds. She gave what amounted to a second presentation, during which she discussed “leaky growth,” in microbial colonies at high densities, leading to horizontal transfer of genetic information, and announced that under such conditions she had actually found a novel variant that seemed to lead to enhanced colony growth. Gunther Wagner said, “So, a beneficial mutation happened right in your lab?” at which point the moderator halted questioning. We shuffled off for a coffee break with the admission hanging in the air that natural processes could not only produce new information, they could produce beneficial new information.
In short, what actual research Disco. has conducted undermines their own claims. And Bruce Gordon has nothing to say about that.