Saturday, October 27, 2007


Of Clowns and Colleges

The other day I quoted from a nice article by Taylor Kessinger, a junior at Arizona University, majoring in math, philosophy and physics, and a columnist for the student newspaper, the Arizona Daily Wildcat. Apparently, it must have stung, because the PR hacks at the Discovery Institute's Media Complaints Division have taken after Mr. Kessinger in a snide and (surprise, surprise!) disingenuous attack.

The DI claims that Kessinger "calls for more academic persecution to rain down upon ID proponents." But the DI flack, Anika Smith, cites the following quote from Kessinger:

On the other hand, does science discriminate against proponents of intelligent design? Well, sure, but only in the same sense that a university discriminates against bad students or the stock market discriminates against people who make poor financial decisions.

If anything, the problem is that there isn't enough discrimination against this idea.
Well, yes ... science does discriminate against ID ... and phlogiston theory, geocentrism, and planetary crystal spheres. The DI hack is playing semantic games by taking advantage of the dual meaning of "discrimination." It not only means "treatment based on class or category rather than individual merit," it also means "discernment" between true and false or fake and real. It was in the latter sense, in context, that Kessinger used the word and, to the extent that we even have to discuss ID being part of science education in this country (other than as an idea from history long discarded), Kessinger is absolutely right ... we aren't showing the discernment between bad and good ideas that is the hallmark of science.

And it is a simple fact of human nature that there are repercussions for any academic who goes around dishonestly claiming ID or phlogiston or the music of the spheres is science, just as there would be if a professor insisted on wearing a big red rubber nose, floppy shoes and a fright wig everywhere he went. Certainly, any university, in this age of spiraling costs and diminishing resources would be reluctant to give tenure -- guaranteed lifetime employment -- to an intellectual Bozo.

The best that the DI flackery can do in the face of that is to refer to pathetic "defenses" they previously gave to the dismantling of ID's claim to be science by Judge Jones.

The DI's article begins: "Sometimes you run across something so head-shakingly wrong that you have to ask yourself, where did they come up with that?" Given that any rational person has that reaction every time they look at Evolution News & Views, the DI can't really be having that much trouble coming up with an answer.

Bravo! For some reason, people have become obsessed with "equal time" and "alternative viewpoints" as if these ideas have a value beyond their ability to help us arrive at the truth! We don't allow equal time for theories that have been clearly disproven the same way businesses don't continue selling products that fail in the market. Too many people allow their own wishful thinking with regards to ID to conflate unfair "discrimination" with the scientific ruthlessness of peer review.
I'd be more sympathetic if I had any reason to believe these people sincerely believed ID is science. But the first thing they do when they are called on their claims is to start a public relations campaign. There is going to be even less tolerance of ID in academia because of this. Administrators are problem-avoiding organisms and they will observe and remember what, for example, Gonzales is doing to Iowa State.

Didn't somebody once say something about reaping what you sow?
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