I debated about whether or not I should write this post. But as you can see, in the
end, I overcame my better judgement, and so he we are.
Over the weekend, PZ wrote a Pharyngula post about the reaction people have had to Mitt
Romney’s statement about evolution. He was pissed. And I agree with his initial reaction.
What we have is a politician basically saying “Yes, I agree with the facts”. And somehow,
that’s been taken by a seemingly huge number of people as something brave and bold,
something that should impress us. Nope, sorry folks: acknowledging that facts are facts is
not brave. I’m no more impressed with him for saying that evolution is true than
I’d be if he got up and said “I admit it: I believe that 2+2=4.”
But typically, when discussing anything that involves religion, PZ went overboard. And
it ticked me off.
As I’ve mentioned numerous times, I’m a Reconstructionist Jew. Yes, I’m a
theist. My reasons for belief are purely subjective, and I don’t expect them to be convincing to anyone but me. It has nothing to do with some kind of “gaps”. I’m not a
closet IDer: I don’t believe that we’re going to find some miraculous hallmark of design that couldn’t possibly exist without divine intervention. (In fact, for my own belief system, finding such a thing would be damaging to my belief, not supportive.) I don’t believe that there will ever be a proof of the existence of God. I don’t believe that there’s anything about the world that requires God.
But as usual, when PZ gets going on a rant, he lumps together everyone who disagrees with him into one big old strawman, so that he can dismiss the whole thing at once. It’s exactly the same kind of tactic that obnoxious religious people use against
atheists: pick some stupid/obnoxious/evil belief or behavior of some member(s) of the group you want to demonize; assert that all members of the target group are the same as the objectionable individual(s); and use that assertion to justify why all members of your target group are stupid/obnoxious/evil. It’s a bad, sloppy argument when it’s used by someone like Michael Egnor to tar all non-creationists as amoral eugenicists, and it’s a bad, sloppy argument when it’s used by someone like PZ to tar all non-atheists as closet IDers.
PZs argument is framed in terms of the next ID trial. That is, what’s going to happen the next time someone like the DI pumps out some crappy book intended to distort science in order to support their nonsense? If they dilute the religion to the point where you can’t identify it, and you can’t distinguish between the texts written by theistic evolutionists and IDists on the basis of religious content, then how are we going to keep the ID books out of the school?
I think that there’s a remarkably easy answer to that. If you cut out all of the explicit religion, and reduce it all down to two books of science: one of which contains the crappy, sloppy, distorted science of the IDists; and one of which contains solid science, how do you distinguish them? By the science. IDist science is incredibly sloppy stuff – obviously sloppy stuff. The only that makes it credible to anyone is the obvious religious subtext. Take that away – take an argument like Behe’s stupid IC, and completely eliminate any mention of a creator – and it’s pretty damned obvious what a shoddy, empty husk of a theory it is. Take out the facile “goddidit” garbage, and do the IDists have anything that looks remotely credible on a scientific footing?
I think that that’s a description of where we actually want the argument to be. Where the religion is out of the picture, and we can critique them purely on their dreadful science. Take the religion out of the text, and the IDists lose: it’s the only thing they have going for them.