Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The Mote in Casey Luskin’s Eye

Casey Luskin, one of the folks behind the IDEA center, has written what is surely the most absurdly misaimed criticisms I have ever seen with his article, A Holiday Truce: A Holocaust Survivor Speaks Out. The purpose of his article is to point the finger at those of us who have compared those who deny the validity of evolution to those who deny the truth of the holocaust and say “shame, shame”. Says Luskin:

As the debate over intelligent design and Darwinian evolution has become increasingly publicized, some have unfortunately resorted to rhetoric which stirs hateful passions rather than seeking to cooperatively solve problems by focusing on evidence. This tactic has come in the form of broad attacks, such as December, 2004 PandasThumb threads discussing whether or not skeptics of Darwinian evolution should be compared to “Holocaust deniers” (pandasthumb.org/pt-archives/000639.html, pandasthumb.org/pt-archives/00632.html). It has also manifested as specified attacks, such as when one ID proponent was recently called “dishonest” and specifically likened to a “Holocaust denier” on stage by a lawyer from the ACLU on a Legal Education panel for lawyers. Two more distant examples include a comparison made by Michael Shermer, in Scientific American in February, 2002 (“The Gradual Illumination of the Mind” and a 2003 article by Eugenie Scott and Glenn Branch of the NCSE in TREE (“Evolution: What’s wrong with ‘teaching the controversy,'” 18(10):499-502, Oct 2003) where they each attempt to legitimize comparisons between creationists and Holocaust deniers. Finally, Wired Magazine even published a comment by Lawrence Krauss making comparisons of being skeptical of evolution to denying the Holocaust in its October 2004 editorial about intelligent design.

The Holocaust is perhaps the most evil event to take place in human history. It is the massive attempt to exterminate an entire ethnic group, the Jews. History also records that many non-Jews, including Christians, gypsies, homosexuals, and just about anyone caught opposing Hitler’s regime also faced death in the concentration camps. The Holocaust thus represents not just a horrific example of attempted genocide, but also an attempt to stifle freedom of thought through brutality. This holiday season provides an occasion for all of us in this debate to reflect upon difficult lessons learned from history and recognize that this is an event which should not be tossed around lightly in this debate…

My Luskin ancestors were Polish Jews, most of whom remained in Poland at the time Hitler invaded and started carting Polish Jews off to the furnaces. Despite this personal connection, some of my fellow IDEA Center staff members advised that no response on this matter was necessary because reasonable people would see comparisons between skeptics of Darwinian evolution and Holocaust deniers as completely inappropriate. We chose to post this article because we see such accusations as a dangerous corner which has been turned in this debate—not only because it mires the debate in more hateful comparisons which distract from discussions of the evidence, but also because it denigrates important lessons all humanity has learned from the most horrifying event in the human history…

To all of us, the “Holocaust denier” represents the culmination of how ignorance and hate can threaten progress and peace in our civilization. Those who lightly toss about the term “Holocaust denier” appear to inflame a similar unjust hatred against a modern-day scapegoat for intellectuals: skeptics of Darwinian evolution. It is imperative that we all remember the lesson of the Holocaust, and do not exploit the very teacher itself to inflame same sort of discriminatory hate it testifies against from the pages of very recent history.

Hopefully most Darwinists and most ID-proponents alike can agree that it is inappropriate to drag the Holocaust, and insults like “Holocaust denier” into this debate. For those willing, perhaps over agreement upon this one matter, a holiday truce among Darwinists and ID-proponents is indeed possible.

Despite the fact that Luskin says a couple of times that he seeks to address “all sides” in the debate about this, the only examples he cites and the thing he repeats over and over is how terrible it is to compare his side to holocaust deniers. And he points to these as evidence that the evolution/creationism debate has turned a “dangerous corner”. Sorry, Casey, but that corner was turned a long time ago and it was turned by your intellectual heroes. Comparing evolution advocates to the Nazis and Communists in the Soviet Union is a tried and true tactic that your buddies have been using for years. Let me give you a few examples:

My wife and I just returned from a trip to Belgium. We visited Bastogne where a few brave Americans of the 101st Airborne Division were surrounded by the German Army during the battle of the bulge. The German attack was led by a crack SS unit that took no prisoners.

What were we fighting against in Bastogne? We were fighting against a Nazi regime that used the philosophy of Naturalism to justify a eugenics program of terrifying proportions. Naturalism is the belief that all phenomena result only from the laws of chemistry and physics and that teleological or design explanations are not valid. Naturalism is not science. It is a belief system.

In the same manner, the defenders in Pratt are fighting against Naturalism, although they may not realize it. Rather than fighting against science, they are actually fighting for science. They are fighting for science that is driven by logic and critical thinking rather than by a philosophy that teaches to the exclusion of all other teachings that we are the products of only chance and necessity. They are fighting for science that is driven by the scientific method rather than science that is driven by a philosophy of Naturalism…

Rather than using logic and good science to support its assault on the brave contingent in Pratt, the KCFS is using tactics one would expect from those that besieged Bastogne: scare tactics, misinformation and no substantive discussion of the real issues.

John Calvert, founder of IDNet, speaking of Kansas Citizens for Science and comparing them to the Nazis in a letter to the Pratt Tribune in Kansas.

Here’s one from Jonathan Wells, describing how Stephen Meyer compared Ken Miller to a famous Nazi after they both appeared before the Ohio Board of Education:

Another interesting aspect of the press conference was a statement by Ken Miller, featured on the evening news, to the effect that ID advocates are trying to present their views to the public “without the approval of science.” Afterwards, in private, Steve Meyer kept repeating Miller’s pompous declaration with a heavy German accent, sounding for all the world like Heinrich Himmler, Hitler’s propaganda chief.

Here’s Mark Hartwig, who, like Meyer, is quoted in Luskin’s article, criticizing the “intimidation tactics” allegedly used by us evilutionists to the Nazis while occupying Czechoslovakia:

The intimidation tactics, however, signal something important about Darwinists. That “something” was explained in an insightful little piece by one A.J. Obrdlik. Published in 1942, it was a study of “gallows humor” in Czechoslovakia during the Nazi occupation. In that article, Obrdlik made a very keen observation:

Gallows humor is a reliable index of the morale of the oppressed whereas the reaction to it on the part of the oppressors tells a long story about the actual strength of the dictators: If they can afford to ignore it, they are strong; if they react wildly with anger, striking their victims with severe reprisals and punishment, they are not sure of themselves, no matter how much they display their might on the surface.

With the growing success of the Wedge, I’m sure we’re going to see a lot more of this stuff. But Darwinist tactics will become a lot less intimidating as people realize that they signify not strength but panic.

Surely Mr. Luskin would agree that the oppression and destruction wrought by the likes of Stalin in the Soviet Union deserves to be put in the same category as the Holocaust for the sheer inhumanity of it. Let’s take a look at a few quotes from Luskin’s friends comparing evolutionists to the Soviet Union’s strongmen. Here’s Jonathan Wells again, from the same essay in which he admits that he was sent by the Rev. Moon (a theocratic fascist who certainly knows a thing or two about oppression himself, and a guy who has blamed the Jews themselves for the Holocaust) to college in order to “destroy Darwinism”:

But I see the situation as analogous to the last years of Soviet communism. A small, powerful elite controls all the official information outlets while the evidence against the official position swells quietly, like a wave building offshore. Someday soon, to the surprise of many people in academia and the media, the wave will break. I predict that the Darwinist establishment will come apart at the seams, just as the Soviet Empire did in 1990.

Here’s Phillip Johnson from his book Darwin on Trial:

Darwinian evolution with its blind watchmaker thesis makes me think of a great battleship on the ocean of reality. Its sides are heavily armored with philosophical barriers to criticism, and its decks are stacked with big rhetorical guns ready to intimidate any would-be attackers. In appearance, it is as impregnable as the Soviet Union seemed to be only a few years ago.

We could go on all day with such quotes, but I think the point has been made. Surely any sane person would agree that it is far worse to be compared to one who perpetrated the holocaust than one who merely denies that it happened, yet Luskin only appears to be concerned about the latter, while letting the former go by without comment. Not only does he ignore those even worse comparisons when done by his side, he quotes approvingly the very people who have made them. He wraps himself up as the oppressed victim of such comparisons while ignoring the far more insidious comparisons that have been thrown at evolutionists by his colleagues for nearly a decade now. I seem to recall something in the Bible about removing the mote from one’s own eye before pointing to the splinter in someone else’s. It seems appropriate to me.

Comments

  1. #1 Ed Darrell
    January 4, 2005

    Yes, absolutely it is a terrible thing to be compared to Holocaust deniers.

    But on what grounds does Casey complain? He denies simple facts, does he not?

    In California at least, after the Mermelstein triumph over the Holocaust deniers, courts of law may take judicial note that the Holocaust occurred. By law, the Holocaust is so well established that it need not be proven in court any more, the evidence being so overwhelming.

    Creationism was disproven by 1840, more than a century prior to the Holocaust. It’s about time Luskin and his cohorts give up the denial, isn’t it?

  2. #2 Hal
    January 4, 2005

    I had thought Godwin’s law must have been invoked in this mess long ago. Thanks for the quotes.

    Oh, and how unfortunate to have the same surname as Donald Luskin.

  3. #3 Wesley R. Elsberry
    January 5, 2005

    Whenever one wishes to respond to ID advocates complaining about rhetorical excesses in their critics, feel free to raid the [url=http://www.antievolution.org/cgi-bin/ikonboard/ikonboard.cgi?s=41db757d561effff;act=ST;f=9;t=1]”Invidious Comparisons” thread at the AE discussion board[/url].

  4. #4 Wesley R. Elsberry
    January 5, 2005

    Sorry ’bout that. Let me try again:

    Whenever one wishes to respond to ID advocates complaining about rhetorical excesses in their critics, feel free to raid the “Invidious Comparisons” thread at the AE discussion board.

  5. #5 PZ Myers
    January 5, 2005

    It seems to me, too, that the comparison of IDists with holocaust deniers is actually apt. Both are trying to deny well-established facts.

    Their comparison of biologists to Nazis is far less accurate. No one has proposed shipping creationists off to concentration camps.

  6. #6 Ed Brayton
    January 5, 2005

    I fixed it for you, Wesley. Changing back and forth from regular html to Reed’s modified kwikcode format can be tough, eh?

  7. #7 ~DS~
    January 5, 2005

    Yeah I’d say Holocaust denial is damn good fit for the tactics used IDCists and using it as an analogy works well in drawing out other parallels. It obviously struck a nerve also, which is far as I’m concerned, a sign of success.

  8. #8 Joe McFaul
    January 5, 2005

    How about Touchstone magazine, whose Intelligent Design issues July 2004 had a picture of an Auchewitz cremation chamber right next to the title, “Darwinism and the rise of German Eugenics” on page 32.

    How about Jonathan Witt, same magazine page 24: “God of the nazis.”

    And the ever consistent Phillep E. Johnson who observe the Goebbels would be proud” of science’s propaganda machine. Page 12 same issue.

    Casey Luskin is either ignorant or a hypocrite.

  9. #9 Steve Reuland
    January 5, 2005

    I don’t believe anyone has ever claimed that creationists are the moral equlvalent of Holocaust deniers. On the intellectual front, however, there are many similarities between the two. That much is easy to document, and no one can be blamed for pointing it out.

    Furthermore, most of the loaded sound-bites used to favor the teaching of cre/ID would work just as well for the teaching of Holocaust denial. Pointing this out is not the same as saying that the two are one and the same, it only shows that “teach the controversy” and other such claims cannot distinguish between cre/ID and other anti-mainstream subjects that most creationists would surely object to. They need to come up with more compelling reasons that do not rely on mere appeals to fairness or “open-mindedness”.

  10. #10 Ed Brayton
    January 5, 2005

    Excellent examples, Joe. As I said, I could easily have continued on for dozens of examples of ID advocates likening us to Nazis and Commies and other assorted bad guys. And thanks for alerting me to the existence of your new blog. Welcome to the blogosphere.

  11. #11 Troy Britain
    January 5, 2005

    How about this invidious imagery which likens critics of ID proponent William Dembski to a lynch mob.

  12. #12 Orac
    January 5, 2005

    Luskin is being disingenuous. The criticisms leveled against creationists were for using the same sorts of logical, evidentiary, and rhetorical fallacies to “support” their case that Holocaust deniers are wont to use (as are pseudoscientists as well). No one I’ve seen who has used that comparison has likened them to Holocaust deniers. I suspect Luskin understands the difference but intentionally chooses to use the inflammatory interpretation that creationists are being called Holocaust deniers.

  13. #13 ~DS~
    January 5, 2005

    I’d say that’s crystal to clear to him now Orac. Judging by the wording in the e-mails he and I exchanged about this, his inbox is being well stocked with folks drawing out that very point.

  14. #14 Pierce R. Butler
    January 6, 2005

    Someone should inform Jonathan Wells that Heinrich Himmler was not “Hitler’s propaganda chief” – that job was held by one Dr. Joseph Goebbels, while Himmler was Hitler’s _police_ chief.

  15. #15 Wesley R. Elsberry
    January 6, 2005

    Someone should inform Jonathan Wells that Heinrich Himmler was not “Hitler’s propaganda chief” – that job was held by one Dr. Joseph Goebbels, while Himmler was Hitler’s _police_ chief.

    Done.

    See How Intelligent Design advocates turn the sordid lessons from Soviet and Nazi history upside down.

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