Dispatches from the Creation Wars

MikeGene’s response to me on his typology of ID critics had two parts. I thought the part about Dawkins and coercion deserved its own post and I didn’t want to dilute my complete rejection of the petition that Dawkins has chosen to endorse (Update: this appeared true when I wrote it, but it turns out not to be; Prof. Dawkins has repudiated that petition and explained his position, which does not in any way endorse such coercion, for which I am greatly relieved). I would now like to address the second part. He writes:

But for now, I can simply point out that while I am willing to make a distinction between someone like Ed Brayton and Richard Dawkins, Ed apparently wants to lump me with Duane Gish and Philip Johnson, where, I suppose, the TT contributors are all nothing more than players in a “PR campaign to place a thin veneer of scientific-sounding terminology over good old-fashioned religious anti-evolutionism.”

Will the critics of ID ever break free of their stereotypes and realize that not all proponents of ID can be painted with the same broad brush?


But in fact I do not lump MIkeGene, or Krauze, in with either Duane Gish or Phillip Johnson. I know absolutely nothing about their religious views, but I’m not aware of either of them engaging in the kind of doubletalk that Johnson does (or Dembski, or Behe, or Wells, etc) on ID and religion. It is entirely possible that both of them fall into that group that I referred to in my response to him. of people who have sincere doubts about evolution but are not pushing a religious agenda and are not part of the PR apparatus of the ID movement.

t’s also possible that they are involved in that; I simply don’t have any evidence of it, and both of them certainly do seem to take a more reasoned and moderate position than those involved with the DI and the more prominent ID advocates. But I do recognize that there are distinctions here. But here’s the thing: I don’t see Krauze or MikeGene lobbying school boards to get ID into science classrooms either, and to that extent they simply don’t matter much to me on this issue. They are not really the ones I’m fighting against. The larger ID movement, which they may stand with to some lesser degree, clearly fits the description I gave based on the evidence I gave, and much more.

Comments

  1. #1 Kevin
    December 31, 2006

    Hate to go back to something that seemingly won’t end, but if you really accepted Dawkins apology and understood his mistake, shouldn’t it read “the petition that Dawkins had mistakenly endorsed” or something of that nature. The above reading leaves the impression that Dawkins actually does support a totalitarian removal of religion, something that he was clear to say he was against. “has chosen to endorse” just ignores the whole retraction and you should realize that this does nothing but strengthen PZ’s position on the whole matter.

  2. #2 Ed Brayton
    December 31, 2006

    Oops. I actually wrote this response to MikeGene prior to Prof. Dawkins’ retraction (indeed, prior to almost all of the reaction to my post on that subject), and in the midst of everything else it never occured to me when scheduling it to post this morning that I should read it over on that account. I will edit it immediately. Thank you for catching that.

  3. #3 Kevin
    December 31, 2006

    Glad to see the correction. This should avoid any more needless blog wars.

  4. #4 Joe Shelby
    December 31, 2006

    Yeah, I was getting tired of having Dan Ackroyd’s “I hate Americans Fighting Americans” speech from Speilberg’s 1941 running through my head every hour. :)

  5. #5 plunge
    December 31, 2006

    MikeGene may be cordial himself, but he spends his time defending the ideas of those who aren’t. I’ve seen nothing from him and Telic Thoughts that isn’t just an additional re-hashing of all the same tactics and attacks you’ll find in spades on uncommon descent: they just don’t censor critical comments as quickly, and of course no one can top DaveScot for pure unadultered BS.

  6. #6 slpage
    December 31, 2006

    This whole ‘Mike Gene isn’t as bad as Wells etc.’ schtick has, I hope, run its course. As plunge indicates,’Gene’ may be a tad more polite than the DaveScots and Bill Dembskis of the world, but he is no less self-righteous and he certainly has nothing better than gussied up Paley-esque arguments to offer.

    This whole episode reminds me of a fellow I encountered about 8 years ago on the old CARM board, one Darrel E. ‘Sonny’ Craig. Sonny is what he calls a “presuppositional creationist”, that he, he assumes YECism is correct out of the gate, makes no pretentions at having scientific evidence supportive of his position – just Scripture. He admitted outright that the evidence indicates an old earth and evolution, but he rejects it because it is at odds with his literalism.
    He also had a tendency to tell people to get under his kilt and say hello to his one-eyed caber; used to brag about having sex with his mail-order Ukrainian bride; tell people to ‘plant a wet one’ on his glutes; etc., yet if you dared write ‘ass’ or ‘damn’, he went off the deep end, declaring you a blasphemer and of being profane, declared you scum of the earth, proclaimed your arguments irrelevant because of your ‘foul mouth’, etc.

    Seems, in a tangential way, analogous to the ”Mike Gene’ v. ID critic’ routine we’ve been seeing of late and which in reality has been going on for years.

  7. #7 Salvador T. Cordova
    December 31, 2006

    I don’t see Krauze or MikeGene lobbying school boards to get ID into science classrooms either, and to that extent they simply don’t matter much to me on this issue. They are not really the ones I’m fighting against.

    In addition to Mike and Krauze, you don’t see me or most of the unseen core of the movement — you don’t see this core trying to get ID legislated into the science classrooms of public schools because that is not our principle aim. You tend to generalize the actions of rogue creationists like those in Dover to the entire movement. That is highly inaccurate.

    In some respects, you and I and a lot of ID proponents really have fewer qualms about public policy than you imagine.

    You seem to believe the ID movement has a very large stake in the public school science classroom issue, yet even one person on your side, Lauren Sandler correctly points out the public school policy battles is not where the action really is. Where the action really is is underneath the radar of courtrooms, school boards, and the mass media. That is borne out empirically by the fact that such a large amount of the general population are sympathetic to ID to this day, years after Edwards vs. Aguillard.

    If my side prevailed in Dover or Cobb county, that would have only been icing on the cake, but the fundamental cultural infrastructures through which Darwinian evolution is being challenged — the fundamental infrastructures are intact and growing. You may boast of electoral victories, but the electoral reaction might not be quite the way you interpret it. Time will tell, of course. For example, at least in regard to Dover, had I been in the Dover district, I would have voted against the bonehead creationists on that school board too….The dynamics of what is happening may not be quite so cut and dry as you picture.

    You can see the sentiment to outlaw religion and infringe on 1st amendment rights by people on your side. I suspect they feel they must resort to this because they cannot compete with the cultural infrastructure which will continue challenging atheism and Darwinism. And there are demographic and sociological indicators this infrastructure is solidifying and growing. This infrastructure is outside the control of government, and that’s what they resent, and they resent you for advocating for the 1st amendment protection of this infrastructure.

    I thank you for your stand on 1st amendment issues, and if you would not have been so insulted, I would have nominated you to be an honorary creationist. Since you would find that insulting, I simply salute you as a defender of religious freedoms and express my gratitude for that. Because of your stand on the 1st amendment freedoms which are helping move forward the ID movement outside of government channels and peer-review committees, you will be seen by the likes of some on your side as part of the problem.

    Mike and Krauze represent exactly where the ID debates are really taking place. It’s taking place among people who are interested in the topic and who are not part of PR or political advocacy of ID.

    You do not see the core of the movement who are composed of seekers from all walks of life, from housewives, high school students to scientists at secular universities. What you see are the headlines, and headlines are not the whole story.

    In any case, though you may look at me and my gang as the bad guy, to a great extent, lots of us look to you as a friend.

    Happy New Year,
    Sal

  8. #8 plunge
    December 31, 2006

    Sal, you’re basically boasting that you guys have a broad base of people who buy the general gist of your arguments without having much knowledge at all about evolution… or even your arguments for ID. They just like the conclusion and vaguely think they know who the good guys and bad guys are based on the outcomes they like.

    I’m not sure it’s really particularly seemly for you to be excited by that. It’s certainly not anything to crow about as an intellectual achievement or of anything other than basic PR… and not even requiring much effort at that.

    “You can see the sentiment to outlaw religion and infringe on 1st amendment rights by people on your side.”

    While this latter sentiment is there in some, it by and large is a hoax from your side and a continual misrepresentation of the issues and principles of groups like the ACLU, AU, and others. The former sentiment is even more silly. Who is planning on outlawing religion exactly? Please cite some of these people: the few you might be able to will only prove the point of how silly this allegation is.

    Your accusations are particularly silly in that you imply that there is a plausibly possible, let alone exiting widely at all, push to stop you guys from saying anything you darn well please. Are even the most extreme voices clamoring for you guys to have your blogs shut down?

    “I thank you for your stand on 1st amendment issues, and if you would not have been so insulted, I would have nominated you to be an honorary creationist. Since you would find that insulting,”

    Um, forget insulting: wouldn’t it just be plain dishonest. Having values and principles of free inquiry has nothing to do with being a creationist. If Ed defends the right of NAMBLA to speak, should they nominate him as an honorary NAMBLA member?

    “You do not see the core of the movement who are composed of seekers from all walks of life, from housewives, high school students to scientists at secular universities. What you see are the headlines, and headlines are not the whole story.”

    Fair enough, but I think by and large, most of us don’t really care very much, or at least aren’t particularly excited about these sorts of debates and inquiries. We have no problem with these people talking and debating and thinking about them at all, and so have no reason to speak about them or against them happening. We don’t think the ID position has much actual merit at present, or reason to think that it is likely to in the future, and are far more concerned with other scientific inquires or political debates that have far more promising claims on our attention. It’s only when ID tries to jump ahead of the line in some debate or public claim that we have cause to re-examine it once again.

  9. #9 Salvador T. Cordova
    December 31, 2006

    Sal, you’re basically boasting that you guys have a broad base of people who buy the general gist of your arguments without having much knowledge at all about evolution…

    Heck, most scientists have little knowledge of evolution. See American Naturalist

    evolutionary biology does not yet command a priority in educational curricula or in research funding.

    In many or most colleges and universities, a course on evolution is an elective, taken by a minority of biology majors, most of whom do not think it relevant to their medical or other careers. The majority of biology majors may have little exposure to evolution beyond a few weeks (or less) in an introductory biology course.

    Don’t be so quick to blame the ignorance about evolution on the state of the general population. It’s ignored because it is un-useful. To quote Allen Orr:

    biochemistry and cell biology get Junior into med school, evolution doesn’t. Consequently, many professional scientists know surprisingly little about evolution.

    As far as those intent on crimping 1st amendment rights, I HOPE I’m wrong, but reading the speculations on this weblogs by people like Jason, one has to wonder how much sentiment there is out there to infringe on first amendment rights.

    In any case, many of you fail to see the importance of persuading ordinary people vs. peer-review committees. And that is fine with me. Ordinary people have families from where the next generation of scientists and citizens of society will come. And these will sit on the chairs of the peer-review committees in the future.

    Ed tends to see things a particular way. For example, with Krauze and Mike Gene: “they simply don’t matter much to me on this issue”. Ed is focused on the ones in the limelight. Nothing wrong with that. He might think the whole ID movement tracks what goes on in the Discovery Institute. I believe the Discovery Institute has served as a catalyst to a large amount of reactants. The reactants are the real story, the catalyst is only a small part of the story.

    That’s fine. I posted to enlighten Ed that maybe his view of the ID movement is restricted. I am however grateful for his defending IDers and Creationists from the PZ Myers and Larry Moran’s of the world, and standing up for our rights as human beings even though in Ed’s eyes we’re a thorn in his side. Kudos to him all the more.

  10. #10 Coin
    December 31, 2006

    the TT contributors are all nothing more than players in a “PR campaign to place a thin veneer of scientific-sounding terminology over good old-fashioned religious anti-evolutionism.”

    I agree 100% with this statement

  11. #11 Ed Brayton
    December 31, 2006

    Sal wrote:

    Ed tends to see things a particular way. For example, with Krauze and Mike Gene: “they simply don’t matter much to me on this issue”. Ed is focused on the ones in the limelight. Nothing wrong with that. He might think the whole ID movement tracks what goes on in the Discovery Institute. I believe the Discovery Institute has served as a catalyst to a large amount of reactants. The reactants are the real story, the catalyst is only a small part of the story.

    It has nothing at all to do with who’s “in the limelight”; it has only to do with the ones who are actively trying to get their bad arguments and religious beliefs into public school science classrooms. I simply couldn’t care less what anyone chooses to believe personally if they’re not working to undermine science education. I’d love to be able to spend my time reading and evaluating ID research but there simply is none. The few bits of research that the ID movement claims support ID, like Axe (2000) and Behe and Snoke (2004) are absolutely laughable; in reality, both papers actually argue against ID, not for it, their pretensions notwithstanding. As soon as ID advocates produce some scientific research, or at least come up with a positive model with the ability to spawn such research, then it can be dealt with on that level; as it stands now it can only be evaluated as what it is, a PR campaign.

  12. #12 plunge
    December 31, 2006

    There you go again Sal, trying a rather tired tu-quoque quote mine instead of addressing the subject. One could always argue that even among scientists, evolutionary education could be better, and no, not everyone needs to understand evolutionary biology to push painkillers. So? What does that have to do with the reality that the vast number of people you claim who are predisposed towards ID probably can’t even state what evolutionary theory is, much less have grounds to think that ID is even better. YOU were the one who claimed that this was some great achievement of the ID movement. But hey: a pretty huge chunk of those people believe in all sorts of flat out YEC flood geology, so its not like you had to work hard to get there.

    “I HOPE I’m wrong, but reading the speculations on this weblogs by people like Jason, one has to wonder how much sentiment there is out there to infringe on first amendment rights.”

    As I said, even a cursory list at the people who suggest such things shows how hysterical the idea is.

    “In any case, many of you fail to see the importance of persuading ordinary people vs. peer-review committees.”

    To some extent, this is true. But how are we supposed to better persuade people when most high schools won’t even spend more than a year on biology at most, much less on evolution in particular?

    We’ve got all the arguments we need to persuade. The problem is that they are scientific arguments and evidence, which aren’t only for peer-review people, but which do require a lot of time and energy to follow that most people aren’t willing to put in. Against slick, fancy populist sounding quips, which are fast easy and as appealing as fast food, its not surprising that most people don’t bother. And I don’t really begrudge them that either. Not everyone needs to be an biologist or even care about biology. If everyone did that, who would write our tedious inane literary theory?

    “And that is fine with me. Ordinary people have families from where the next generation of scientists and citizens of society will come. And these will sit on the chairs of the peer-review committees in the future.”

    Shrug. They will ONLY if they become informed about the relevant subjects. I don’t think I have much to fear from that. The evidence is always going to win out over the pat empty answer in the long run, regardless of what the evidence ultimately says.

    “Ed is focused on the ones in the limelight.”

    I don’t think you read my post because this is exactly what I addressed. People like Ed and myself focus on those who come into the public square and make demands and claims we think are misleading and unwarranted or demand policy changes we think are unjustified or unjust.

    You say we should focus on the quieter less demanding ID discussions. Well, why?

    I’ve looked into what those debates involve. I don’t find anything particularly convincing or worthy of constant debate. They may not all be DI sponsored, but I’ve heard most of the arguments ID proponents are making DI and otherwise, and however sincere, I’ve found them to be generally poor to awful and unconvincing in conclusion. So I don’t really think it’s something that demands constant engagement with until something new crops up, and I think most biologists feel the same way, which is why most of them never even bother with this debate. I’ve said my piece on those arguments and until something new comes along, I’m fine with not actively searching people out in order to have them again (they can come to me, certainly). I think Ed feels pretty much the same way from his post.

  13. #13 JimV
    December 31, 2006

    ” Ordinary people have families from where the next generation of scientists and citizens of society will come. And these will sit on the chairs of the peer-review committees in the future.”

    Further to plunge’s points (with which I agree), the current generation of scientists and peer-reviewers also came from “ordinary” families (except those who came from extraordinary families) and yet, like Judge Jones, are able to examine the evidence and reach reasonable conclusions. Why would future generations be any less able? Something in their water?

  14. #14 dogscratcher
    January 1, 2007

    “Why would future generations be any less able?”

    Ideology driven thinking rather than evidence driven?

  15. #15 MarkP
    January 1, 2007

    “In any case, many of you fail to see the importance of persuading ordinary people vs. peer-review committees.”

    I guess it never occurred to you that persuading the janitor to believe ID is easy precisely because it doesn’t make any difference, to his life or anyone else’s, whether what he thinks on that subject is accurate. He probably believes in astrology too. You have a harder time with the biologists and geologists (ie people who actually know something about the subject), because the reality is staring them in the face every day. Go figure.

  16. #16 Salvador T. Cordova
    January 1, 2007

    I guess it never occurred to you that persuading the janitor to believe ID is easy precisely because it doesn’t make any difference, to his life or anyone else’s, whether what he thinks on that subject is accurate.

    And it’s exactly that snotty attude that help’s contribute to the general disgust with your side. That janitor might be helping put his kid through school or raising a family. He may be an immigrant and his kids may one day work out of their poverty to be highly respected citizens of society. These individuals come to churches and places where they are valued as people. They take their kids to sunday school. And even if one janitor learing that the world was designed doesn’t spark a scientific revolution, the fact one person comes to realize that his life was not the product of blind purposeless forces is still important enough. Certainly it’s imporatant to me and many in the unseen core of the ID movement. Apparently to you, what they think about the topic is irrelevant, and yet your side wonders why their ideas are received with disgust by large numbers of the American populace?

  17. #17 George
    January 1, 2007

    I see a group of ID apologetics that hold their view not becuase evolution has any deficiencies what so ever, but rather because their religous views are so strong that they believe god had a hand no matter what the science might say. This view can cover most ID’ists. a) those who do not challenge science because they see the follishness, but still believe in gods hand through some mystery. b) those that grasp for some science to show that there are gaps where god could have acted because this makes them more comfortable with their religous beliefs. c) those that are fanatic about needing to disprove science to allow space in their feable minds for god to have acted.

    These are broad groupings but most any religous person can be fitted in this classification scheme; from Ken Miller and my mother to the extreme of Sal, Dembski, et al.

  18. #18 MarkP
    January 1, 2007

    It’s not snotty at all, it’s a simple raw fact: what janitors believe about ID/evolution doesn’t make any difference, just like what they believe the Cowboys should have done last Sunday doesn’t make any difference either. The world will continue on it’s previous path regardless. It has nothing to do with their value as a person, or their achievements in their life, which most all of us respect.

    Of course indoctrinating people that don’t know any better is important to you and your ilk Sal, because that’s all you have left. You guys have had your asses handed to you in every arena where people actually know what’s going on. All that’s left to you is the ignorant, and your own inability to discern reality from fantasy. To wit:

    Apparently to you, what they think about the topic is irrelevant, and yet your side wonders why their ideas are received with disgust by large numbers of the American populace?

    It’s not a “to you” issue Sal. Reality is not altered by your emotional reaction to it. You can get all the double-digit IQers singing “hallelujah!” and raising their hands in worship to their mythical designer all you like. The scientists will keep doing the productive work they do within the evolutionary framework regardless. They couldn’t give a rats ass if ignorant fools look at their ideas with a disgusted “I ain’t come from no monkey”. Oh yeah, we should care about that.

    You simply don’t matter to anyone who does. But keep pretending you do, and keep pretending you are winning. Pretending, after all, is what you do best.

  19. #19 plunge
    January 1, 2007

    Sal, can the phony populism before someone tries to nominate you for sainthood. It’s sad to see you seize so desperately on this sort of canned emotional appeal instead of responding to any of the requests for experiments, evidence, or anything else.

    No one is denigrating this imaginary janitor as a person, and your ridiculously self-serving paean to his humble life is completely beside the point. The point is that what the janitor believes is his own right and concern (and he’s welcome to it) and it doesn’t affect or trouble the actual scientific debate, which is about what evidence is and can show, not how many people believe whatever. You continually show your hand with your obsession with winning PR victories. Informing the public about science is of course a concern for most of us, but because we know that the evidence is the ultimate thing of importance, I guess we don’t share your obsession with amassing followers by deceiving them or exploiting their religious beliefs.

    As far as I’m concerned, the janitor is going to believe what he wants and seek out and learn information if he’s interested, and unlike you, I’m not particularly eager to try and butt into his life out of the blue and demand that he bone up on primate genetics journals. I’d rather just read them, discuss the subject with those who have, and if our hypothetical janitor is interested, he’s welcome to do so too. But if he isn’t interested, and if he wants to believe that the earth is 6000 years old or that there is a useful formal mathematical definition of specified complexity, I’m not going to pester him about it just so I can put a feather in my cap.

  20. Tying Up Loose Ends
    by MikeGene

    Ed Brayton has a brief follow-up reply to me. It is great to see that Ed does indeed make distinctions and does not lump us with the ID movement. He notes it is possible that we are pushing a religious agenda and are part of the PR apparatus of the ID movement, but acknowledges there is no evidence of this. The reason there is no evidence of this is because we are not pushing a religious agenda and are not part of the PR apparatus of the ID movement. He further notes that he does not see us “lobbying school boards to get ID into science classrooms either” and again, this is because we don’t. In fact, years ago, I argued strongly against introducing ID into the science classrooms.

    http://telicthoughts.com/?p=1157

  21. #21 plunge
    January 1, 2007

    “The time might even come when they will try to provoke a big site like UD to get some traffic.”

    Careful guys, if you keep patting each other on the back so hard, people might start to think you had actually accomplished something other than… well, patting each other on the back.

  22. #22 John
    January 2, 2007

    Sal wrote:
    “Mike and Krauze represent exactly where the ID debates are really taking place. It’s taking place among people who are interested in the topic and who are not part of PR or political advocacy of ID.”

    If they are so interested in the topic, why are they (and you) unable to publish a single new datum from tests of ID hypotheses? We real scientists realize that hypotheses are useful tools, even if they are wrong; however, they are useless if you are too cowardly to test them.

    “You do not see the core of the movement who are composed of seekers from all walks of life, from housewives, high school students to scientists at secular universities.”

    Why haven’t those scientists produced a single new datum from a test of an ID hypothesis?

    “Heck, most scientists have little knowledge of evolution.”

    Most SCIENTISTS, yes. Most BIOLOGISTS, no.

    “See American Naturalist…evolutionary biology does not yet command a priority in educational curricula or in research funding. … In many or most colleges and universities, a course on evolution is an elective, taken by a minority of biology majors, most of whom do not think it relevant to their medical or other careers.”

    But not taking a course on evolution doesn’t preclude evolutionary biology from permeating everything else, Sal.

    “Don’t be so quick to blame the ignorance about evolution on the state of the general population. It’s ignored because it is un-useful. To quote Allen Orr:

    biochemistry and cell biology get Junior into med school, evolution doesn’t. Consequently, many professional scientists know surprisingly little about evolution.”

    Again, you’re glossing over the important distinction between scientists and the subset of scientists that are biologists.

    “In any case, many of you fail to see the importance of persuading ordinary people vs. peer-review committees. And that is fine with me. Ordinary people have families from where the next generation of scientists and citizens of society will come. And these will sit on the chairs of the peer-review committees in the future.”

    The people chairing peer-review committees will be those who have a record of producing and publishing new data, Sal. That’s why Behe (who hasn’t published anything but a computer simulation since embracing ID) and Minnich aren’t chairing any committees.

  23. #23 jb
    January 3, 2007

    Huh. One might be tempted to wonder why, if what Janitor Joe believes is so unimportant, so many participants on this side of the ‘culture war’ spend so much time and effort trying to make him believe what they believe. Seems a bit inconsistent to me.