Saturday, April 22, 2006
Greasing Up the Truth
McKnight begins by recounting the actions of the SSHRC:
In its terse rejection letter, the SSHRC said "the proposal did not adequately substantiate the premise that the popularizing of Intelligent Design Theory had detrimental effects" and there was inadequate "justification for the assumption in the proposal that the theory of Evolution, and not Intelligent Design Theory, was correct."
Now those reasons would be laughable if they weren't so pathetic. First, Alters's reference to the detrimental effects of popularizing intelligent design isn't a premise, but a hypothesis. This is what the study was designed to test, so it's a bit much to expect Alters to have the evidence in hand prior to conducting the study. Indeed, were he already in possession of the evidence, there'd be no need to conduct the research.
But as it turns out, the panel's second reason for rejecting funding provided exactly the evidence Alters was looking for. That a committee of "experts" could suggest that ID and evolution are equally plausible theories reveals just how great the detrimental effects of popularizing ID have been.
. . . I think Felt's comments reveal what's really going on here. The SSHRC, it seems, has adopted wholesale the postmodern epistemological relativism that has for years been promoted in many university humanities and social science faculties.
Central to the project of epistemological relativism is the notion that, contrary to popular belief, science doesn't occupy a privileged position, that it doesn't have any special claim to truth. Rather, science maintains its authority through power rather than truth -- through carefully controlling access to resources and bullying its opponents into submission. ...
For the postmodernists, then, all truth is relative, and all attempts at finding it ought to be equally valued. This fits in nicely with the lefty postmodernists' warm-and-fuzzy egalitarianism.
. . . more than a little ironic, since the religious right was once the main critic of leftist relativism, and ID godfather Phillip Johnson specifically promoted ID as an alternative to the relativism he wrongly believed stemmed from Darwinism.
. . . Arizona Sen. John McCain, who I long thought was the only hope to rescue the Republican party from the talons of the theocrats, says that all points of view should be represented. The postmodern left couldn't have said it any better.
By learning to speak the language of postmodernism, the religious right has therefore succeeded in gaining a foothold in the academy, and in influencing funding decisions in the social sciences and humanities. But it has paid a great price, a price that involves denying the existence of absolute truth.
"Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows," wrote William Shakespeare, and nowhere is the truth of that nugget more in evidence than in the unhappy marriage of the postmodern left and the premodern right, a marriage made not in heaven, but consummated by the parties' mutual commitment to the relativity of truth.