Friday, December 11, 2009
Giving Ammunition to Ignoramuses
Brian Leiter tries to separate Thomas Nagel's lips from Stephen Meyer's and the whole of the Undiscovery Institute's collective behind.
For once we get outside our comfy Washington Square apartment, and look at the real world, here's what is going on: the Discovery [sic] Institute and its conmen, with hefty financial support from religious extremists, travel the country badgering school boards made up of laypeople to tinker with public school biology curricula. The Discovery [sic] Institute conmen learned in the 1980s that certain strategies for injecting religious viewpoints into the public school curricula won't pass constitutional muster, so they have shifted their strategy: the goal is not "equal time" for creationism, but rather to inject material into the standard curriculum that would leave high school students--high school students (!) in their first real encounter with biology--with the false impression that there is not a scientific consensus about Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. The laypeople on school boards can as little assess the biology as Thomas Nagel; but unlike Nagel, they do rely on epistemic authorities, but even here they are at a disadvantage in figuring out who those are. The specialty of the Discovery [sic] Institute is to try to create the impression with laypersons on school boards that there is significant dissent among those with the requisite epistemic authority to evaluate the theory of evolution. ...Like John Wilkins, I think Leiter is spot on.
Thus, it is a certainty that the new addition to the ID lobbying arsenal, that will be repeated again and again in the years ahead, will be the fact that "a famous atheist philosopher" endorsed Meyer's book, so earnest school board members really ought to take it seriously, perhaps require that portions of it be assigned, or at least make sure that they only approve textbooks that suggest (falsely) that there is significant skepticism about Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection among biologists. ...
And if Nagel's latest letter is to be believed, the reason he has given ammunition to ignoramuses and know-nothings in their efforts to mislead schoolchildren, is because he thinks Stephen Meyer's book lends support to a paper that Nagel wrote in 1974!
Wouldn't it have been less destructive to just write another paper?