In yesterday’s post, I remarked that the clear loser in yesterday’s debate was the intelligent design crowd. They’ve been trying for years to persuade people that anti-evolutionism has nothing–nothing–to do with blinkered religious obscurantism. And in one widely viewed, widely covered, debate Ken Ham went and messed it all up.
The Discovery Institute seems to agree with my assessment. In a blog post bearing the desperate title, “In the Ham-Nye Debate, Not So Much as a Glove Was Laid on Intelligent Design,” they write:
Here’s an important point to register: Whatever you think of the Ham-Nye debate or the presenters, intelligent design was off-topic.
The debate asked this question: “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era?” Loaded as that question is with philosophical and theological encumbrance, it has nothing to do with intelligent design. Creation (as the word is commonly employed) refers to the Genesis account, which may be read any number of different ways; ID does not. ID is not a “model,” but rather an inference to the best explanation based on uniform experience with the cause-and-effect structure of the world. And ID certainly is widely employed in today’s modern, scientific era, including by scientists who are not associated with “intelligent design.”
Blah blah blah. Sorry guys, the microphones have been turned off. No one is paying attention. Ken Ham is the public face of anti-evolutionism now.
Also at the DI blog, David Klinghoffer calls the debate a fiasco. He writes:
I’m terribly regretful about Tuesday night’s debate pitting creationist Ken Ham against “Science Guy” Bill Nye before as many as 532,000 viewers on YouTube. I say that as someone, an Orthodox Jew, who very much cares that Christians should be strengthened in their own faith. For many who watched, the event was likely corrosive of that faith. That’s what happens when someone challenges you on the evidence before such an audience, and like Ham, you choose not to answer adequately.
Unlike creationism, intelligent design is not apologetics — it’s a no-holds-barred search for truth about origins. But it sure is more persuasive than anything that Ken Ham presented.
Blah blah blah, again. Tell it to the hand, since he’s the only one still listening. Klinghoffer’s post is especially interesting, since he didn’t seem regretful in the run-up to the debate:
OK, I’ll confess. I’m going to watch the debate on February 4 matching creationist Ken Ham versus “Science Guy” Bill Nye. I’ll do so with eagerness and pleasure.
More seriously, I would like the world to get a good look at a genuine creationist: what he says, how he argues, what questions animate him. It’s been among the more dishonest tactics of ID’s critics to paint intelligent design as just another shade of “creationism.” The more people watch Ham debate Nye, the better they will be able to appreciate the stark contrast between advocates of intelligent design and those of creationism.
It doesn’t seem to have worked out that way.
More seriously, I devote a chapter of Among the Creationists to comparing YEC to ID. On the one hand, the cultural differences between them are real. The people I met at ID conferences were nearly always hostile towards YEC. The YEC’s, for their part, were generally ambivalent toward ID. They liked the anti-evolution part, but didn’t like the part where they refused to identify the designer.
But for all of that, Klinghoffer is full of it when he says it’s a dishonest tactic to compare ID to creationism. The proper analogy is that they are different dialects of the same language. As much as they try to be relentlessly on message in their public forums, their isn’t enough slick rhetoric in the world to disguise their religious motivations. This was also manifestly obvious at the ID conferences I attended.
In short, wherever you find anti-evolutionism, you can be sure that religion is not far behind. The main difference between YEC and ID is the honesty of its practitioners in acknowledging that.