One of their favorite tricks is to lift quotations out of context and present them in a way that makes it look like famous scientists are supporting Intelligent Design Creationism—or, at least, supporting the idea that evolution is flawed.
The tactic is so widespread and despicable that it led to formation of The Quote Mine Project
Or, Lies, Damned Lies and Quote Mines. That project ran out of steam about eight years ago because the authors just couldn't keep up with all the misinformation coming out of books, lectures, and articles from leading members of the Discovery Institute.
Stephen Meyer is a expert at this. Here are a couple of examples from his book Darwin's Doubt (2013).
Because despite the widespread impression to the contrary—conveyed by textbooks, the popular media, and spokespersons for official science—the orthodox neo-Darwinian theory of biological evolution has reached an impasse nearly as acute as the one faced by chemical evolutionary theory. Leading figures in several subdisciplines of biology—cell biology, developmental biology, molecular biology, paleontology, and even evolutionary biology—now openly criticze key tenets of the modern version of Darwinian theory in the peer-reviewed technical literature. Sinec 1980, when Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould declared that neo-Darwinism "is effectively dead, despite its persistence as textbook orthodoxy," the weight of ctirical opinion in biology has grown steadily with each passing year. (p. ix)See how it works? Meyer is pretending to be an "insider" on the subject of evolutionary theory. He's familiar with the views of the "leading figures" and he's revealing to his readers the fact that evolution is in trouble even though scientists are trying to cover it up.
He quotes a 34 year old article by Gould to back up his case. Gould wasn't talking about the modern version of evolutionary theory—the one that incorporates Neutral Theory and population genetics. He was talking about the hardened version of synthetic theory ("Modern Synthesis") as described by Ernst Mayr back in the 1960s. In his 1980 article Gould said, "... if Mayr's characterization of synthetic theory is accurate, then that theory, as a general proposition, is effectively dead ...."
Lots has been written about this quote, including a lengthy discussion in Gould's last book, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory [Is the "Modern Synthesis" effectively dead?]. Stephen Meyer should be aware of the context and meaning but that doesn't stop him from quote mining to misrepresent the views of 21st century evolutionary biologists.
Just as the molecular data do not point unequivocally to a single date for the last common ancestor of all the Cambrian animals (the point of deep divergence), they do not point unequivocally to a single coherent tree depicting the evolution of animals in the Precambrian. Numerous papers have noted the prevalence of contradictory trees based on evidence from molecular genetics. A 2009 paper in Trends in Ecology and Evolution notes that "evolutionary trees from different genes often have conflicting branching patterns." Likewise, a 2012 paper in Biological Reviews notes that "phylogenetic conflict is common, and frequently the norm rather than the exception." Echoing these views, a January 2009 cover story and review article in New Scientist observed that today the tree-of-life project "lies in tatters, torn to pieces by an onslaught of negative evidence." As the article explains, "Many biologists now argue that the tree concept is obsolete and needs to be discarded," because the evidence suggests that "the evolution of animals and plants isn't exactly tree-like."None of those papers, articles, and quotes have anything to do with whether molecular data refute the claim that Cambrian animals sprang into existence in a geological instant [see Darwin Was Wrong?] [Stephen Meyer's Errors]. But Meyer makes it look like he's on top of the scientific literature and it shows that molecular phylogenies cannot be trusted.
In Debates over Cosmic and Biological Origins, Here's the "My Good Friend" Meme. He quotes a reader named "Ryan" who says ...
It seems clear to me that this tactic is an act of desperation. It's not simply an attempt to improperly discredit some piece of evidence used by their opponents without having to produce any actual counterevidence or argument. Even more than this, it's a psychological tactic intended to manipulate the audience, painting themselves as being within the real scientific community, and therefore "in-the-know," while their debate opponent, ... is outside the real scientific community, guilty of the worst of all possible crimes: not being one of the cool kids.That's exactly right and Ryan deserves credit for recognizing the fallacy.
David Klinghoffer, to his credit as well, reinforces the point and says that such tactics are childish.1
On the other hand, let's cut these guys some slack. Invoking buddies in the audience, on a screen, or by quoting (and misreprsenting) their email correspondence is a cheap trick to pull, cashing in social status in a way that's straight out of junior high school.
1. I'm well aware of the fact that I'm quote mining. Ryan and David Klinghoffer don't really criticize Intelligent Design Creationists, their attack is aimed at scientists. Their attack is ironical, Mine is cynical, skeptical, and deliberate.
Gould, S.J. (1980) Is a new and general theory of evolution emerging? Paleobiology 6:119-130. [PDF]