Monday, March 24, 2008


Stealing Plays

I was reading Chris Mooney's The Republican War on Science, which reminded me that the Intelligent Design Creationism didn't just borrow their arguments against evolution from "creation scientists." Shortly after the Supreme Court's decision in Edwards v. Aguillard, ruling Louisiana's law mandating "balanced treatment" in the teaching of creationism and the science of evolution in its public schools unconstitutional, Wendell R. Bird, who argued for the law before the Supreme Court and who was a staff attorney for the Institute for Creation Research deeply involved in the drafting of the Louisiana and Arkansas laws, issued a press release on behalf of the Creation Science Legal Defense Fund, stating:

The majority opinion leaves open at least two alternatives to indoctrination in evolution and censorship of scientific alternatives: (1) the right of teachers to teach "a variety of scientific theories" and to bring Scopes-type lawsuits if punished or prohibited, and (2) the right of schools, school districts, and perhaps legislatures to encourage or require teaching of "all scientific theories . . . about origins."
A law encouraging teaching of all scientific theories about origins"? ... Now, where have I heard that before?

Speaking of Mooney, however, of late he and Matt Nisbet have been criticizing PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins for attacking the movie producers of the faux horror flick, Expelled, and religion in general, on the grounds that vocally atheistic proponents of science are bad for the "framing" of the debate. I have to say I fall on the John Wilkins, John Lynch, Sean Carroll and Brian Switek side of this fence. I personally find that PZ, Dawkins and others of the so-called "New Atheists" can sometimes be needlessly provocative. I thought PZ's post on Easter to the effect that it was intended to "celebrate the day they were hoaxed by a gang of Middle Eastern charlatans" was, to say the least, gratuitous. And any suggestion that science and atheism are one and the same thing is wrong.

But when they are themselves involved in displays of disingenuousness and stupidity by creationists, the notion that PZ and Dawkins should "[l]ay low and let others do the talking" is ludicrous. Frankly, anyone who, like the ID crowd, would attempt to lay the Holocaust at the feet of Darwin or science in general deserves just about any verbal treatment they get in my book.

If nothing else, it would be bad "framing" for them to remain quiet. The creationists were quite quick to publicize Dawkins' presence at the event and silence on PZ's and Dawkins' part would have been trumpeted by the IDeologists as a sign of their "guilty consciences" for having "gate crashed" the screening. And if people do go to see the movie because they have heard about the kerfuffle, so what? Most Americans, knowing nothing about the dispute, are in favor, as Americans are wont to be, of allowing "both sides" to be taught. Maybe, primed with what PZ and Dawkins have said about it, they will come away with an appreciation of just how shallow and, when it comes right down to it, dishonest ID and its proponents are.

In the end, I would rather be tied in the public's mind to people who straightforwardly, if abrasively, state their beliefs than with the sneaks making up the "cdesign proponentsists."

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