Sunday, June 15, 2008


Intellectual Welfare

I've already referred to the post on Panda's Thumb about the blurbs to Ken Miller's and Willaim Dembski's new books. "JJ" noted in the comments to that post that Miller, in an interview on NPR's "Science Friday" uses the term, "intellectual welfare" to describe the "academic freedom" laws now being humped by creationists across the nation. (The interview can be heard here, by clicking on "God vs. Science: Keeping Creationism out of School.")

Miller's point is that evolution's "strengths and weakness" these laws all refer to have already been assessed by the scientific community and the "weaknesses" that creationists want taught have all lost in the free market of ideas. Therefore, inserting them by law into K-12 education is nothing more than welfare for ideas that cannot make it on their own.

It is a tough, clear and accurate description that could be effective if used widely. I wonder, though, given the political persuasion of most, if not all, of the supporters of these laws, whether it might sting more if we called it "intellectual affirmative action."

Relevance-challenged concepts?

Consensus-free notions?
I've been referring to it as affirmative action throughout most of my Expelled coverage. It makes it a heck of a lot clearer in general what the issue is: folks who have simply abandoned the idea of demonstrated merit.
Dave S. said...

Affirmative action means to me a redressing of a formerly unfair imbalance by favouring the suppressed entity. In this case, ID was not being treated unfairly. It really is not only not science, but a useless model of any kind for finding out about nature. ID supporters are asking for a free ride, and for it to be excused from the crucible that all scientific ideas must be put - to be either purified and forged by the flames of informed criticism by countering with confirmed testable prediction, or to fail and be burned to ashes and discarded.
Affirmative action means to me a redressing of a formerly unfair imbalance ...

That, of course, was the idea. But conservatives have a different view of it for the most part, calling it "racial discrimination." That's why I qualified my suggestion as playing to the political persuasion of ID supporters. Anyway, welfare wasn't originally intended to be "a free ride" either, but assistance to those who are temporarily disadvantaged due to social circumstances beyond their control.

Both are rhetorical flourishes meant to play on the current understanding of the terms to evoke an analogy.
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