Respectful Insolence

i-e7a12c3d2598161273c9ed31d61fe694-ClassicInsolence.jpgWhile I am on vacation, I’m reprinting a number of “Classic Insolence” posts to keep the blog active while I’m gone. (It also has the salutory effect of allowing me to move some of my favorite posts from the old blog over to the new blog, and I’m guessing that quite a few of my readers have probably never seen many of these old posts.) These will appear at least twice a day while I’m gone (and that will probably leave some leftover for Christmas vacation, even). Enjoy, and please feel free to comment. I will be checking in from time to time when I have Internet access to see if the reaction to these old posts here on ScienceBlogs is any different from what it was when they originally appeared, and, blogging addict that I am, I’ll probably even put up fresh material once or twice.

Creationists have the Wedge Document. Now, thanks to The Commissar, one of my favorite conservative bloggers, a man after my own heart who leans right (albeit a bit farther right than I do) but doesn’t buy into the fundamentalism of the Christian right that has infested the Republican Party, we now have the Wedgie Document, a guide to arguing with creationists on the Internet.

One phenomenon The Commissar mentions that hit close to home is the “not a creationist” creationist, a phenomenon, I would point out, that is not limited to just one variety of crank. Back in my days on alt.revisionism, we had to deal with a similar sort of person, the “not a denier” Holocaust denier. We regulars could spot them right away. Usually, it would start with a newbie entering the newsgroup. They would then express innocent-sounding “doubts” about some aspect of the Holocaust or other. A little questioning would usually be all that it would take to reveal their true agenda and that their “doubts” came straight from the standard list of denier canards. I usually tried to give them the benefit of the doubt, at least initially, in case they were just someone ignorant about history who had stumbled onto neo-Nazi or Holocaust denier websites. I soon learned I was wasting my time and became a lot faster to realize that, when it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.

I can well understand why Holocaust deniers would want to try to hide their true agendas or beliefs. Most people consider Holocaust deniers to be despicable–and rightly so–because it is virtually always anti-Semitism that drives their Holocaust denial. As I have said before, although I leave open the possibility that there is a Holocaust denier out there who isn’t either a neo-Nazi, an anti-Semite, or both, I have yet to encounter one. (Indeed, every Holocaust denier that I’ve ever encountered will, with a little questioning, reveal anti-Semitic and/or neo-Nazi sympathies.) On the other hand, I have a harder time understanding why creationists would go so far to deny that they are creationists. There is no real perjorative implication to being labeled a creationist in large swaths of the country, certainly nothing as bad as being labeled a Holocaust denier. Creationists tend to confuse religion with science, and they really only become a problem when they try to pressure gullible school boards to put the imprimatur of the state behind their beliefs and require their teaching in public schools. I suspect that their reluctance to reveal themselves is because, for some reason, creationists seem to crave the mantle and authority of science. They’re desperate to be taken seriously outside of the context of their religion, which is odd, given the contempt many of them seem to have for science. Such a desire will drive “intelligent design” creationist “luminaries” like William Dembski to say with a straight face during a CNN debate with Michael Shermer that “intelligent design” doesn’t require the “designer” to be God (and could even be aliens or some sort of Gaia-like intelligence). Of course, he will then turn around and say in essence to evangelical audiences that of course the “designer” must be God. Because they either know they are peddling religion or are too ignorant of science to realize that ID is not science, creationists can’t admit that ID is religion-based in secular settings. They realize that doing so would endanger their strategy to get ID taught in public school classrooms as an “alternative” to evolution by explicitly running afoul of the Establishment Clause.

So, if I may be so bold, I’d like to suggest to the Commissar another variety of ID creationist: the “my religious beliefs have nothing to do with my support of ID” variety, a variant of the “not a creationist” creationist. And, in The Commissar’s spirit of going on the attack, I’d like to adapt an earlier challenge to a different variety of crank. The next time you see an ID apologist claiming that religion or God has nothing to do with ID, lay this challenge on them:

Where are all the “intelligent design” advocates who are atheists (or even just agnostics)?

It’s a fair question. After all, how can ID advocates hope to be taken seriously if they all have such apparent biases, agendas and axes to grind? If, as its advocates claim, “intelligent design” is strictly about science, evidence, and experimentation and has nothing to do with a belief in God, then it is not unreasonable to expect that there should be some atheists out there who accept ID as science.

In a particularly telling contrast, there are plenty of “evolutionists” out there who believe in God, refuting the oft-voiced claim by some creationists that “evolution=atheism.” There is clearly no inherent conflict between belief in God and acceptance of the science of evolution. So, if ID is science, as its adherents claim, then why shouldn’t we also expect there to be some atheists out there who, without a belief in God (or any religious beliefs at all) have come to accept “intelligent design”?

So, then, if “intelligent design” is an intellectually honest scientific endeavor, where are the ID advocates who are atheists (or even agnostics)? You’d think that after many months of my looking for one, at least one ID advocate who is an atheist or agnostic would have come forward and said “Here I am!”

But, no. It appears that there just aren’t any such ID advocates around.

I plan on posting this challenge every so often. I encourage readers to do the same. Unfortunately, even though it should be, simply emphasizing and explaining the mountain of evidence for evolution and contrasting it with the zero credible scientific evidence for ID creationism isn’t enough. We have to frame the debate in its true terms: adherents of ID trying to have their religious views taught as science. And it’s not just any religion or even Christianity in general, but a small fundamentalist subset of Christians and other religions, including Muslims and Jews. Most mainstream religions accept evolution as settled science and as being in no conflict with their beliefs. That point needs to be hammered home again and again and again, and my little challenge is just one way of doing it. Coming from a Roman Catholic background, I have no problem with religion or a belief in God, as long as it is not forced upon children in state-run schools. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what teaching creationism, whether of the ID variety or otherwise, in public schools would be.

Comments

  1. #1 Greg P
    August 29, 2006

    A truly insolent response:
    Why not just stop blogging while you’re on vacation and skip the reruns.
    We can always find blogs with fresh postings.

  2. #2 Orac
    August 30, 2006

    Greg,

    Here’s an even more truly insolent response:

    Because it’s my blog, and I feel like using the opportunity of my vacation to move a bunch of posts from the old blog over to the new blog, at the same time exposing newer readers to some classic old insolence. No other explanation is necessary. No one’s forcing you to read the repeats.

    And I plan on doing it again when I take a week off around Christmas, too–and possibly even in mid-September when I have to go to a rather intense workshop for a few days.

  3. #3 James
    August 30, 2006

    For those of us who are new to this blog, its quite interesting. Trawling the archives would be far too time consuming.

  4. #4 samantha Vimes
    August 30, 2006

    I’m enjoying it.

  5. #5 Prup aka Jim Benton
    August 30, 2006

    Greg, insolence is one thing, but stupidity is another. Orac is reposting material from the old blog. He labels them. If you want to read them, great. If not, don’t. (The same thing can be said about his, or anybody’s, new posts.) But how would having nothing posted for a week be an advantage over some posts that some people have missed? If you haven’t read it, it’s new to you.

    Orac, there is a difference between Muslims and the others here. While some Muslims ARE evolutionists, unlike Christianity and Judaism who may take their sacred texts as ‘man’s work inspired by God’, the inerrancy and ‘divine authorship’ of the Qur’an is the basic belief of Islam (the way the divinity and resurrection of Christ is of Christianity). Therefore, the proportion of Muslims who can work evolution into this framework is much smaller, and the proportion of ‘fundamentalists’ in Islam — not radicals, not violent terrorists, just people who believe the Qur’an is literally true, is much higher in Islam.

    For a fascinating example of an attempt to reconcile Islam with modern science — along with a rather absurd attempt to claim that the Qur’an anticipates modern scientific discoveries — see
    http://www.sultan.org/articles/QScience.html

    The Bucaille work that the article rewrites, and that is completely referenced at the end, is a very common one for young Muslims to read.

    For a more ‘orthodox’ Islamic Creationism, this site is very valuable, as well as frequently hilarious — but is probably a bit more logical than your average Christian Creationist site:

    http://harunyahya.com/

    I have to give one quote from the front page:
    “In order to create, God has no need to design
    It’s important that the word “design” be properly understood. That God has created a flawless design does not mean that He first made a plan and then followed it. God, the Lord of the Earth and the heavens, needs no “designs” in order to create. God is exalted above all such deficiencies. His planning and creation take place at the same instant.
    Whenever God wills a thing to come about, it is enough for Him just to say, “Be!”
    As verses of the Qur’an tell us:
    His command when He desires a thing is just to say to it, “Be!” and it is. (Qur’an, 36: 82)
    [God is] the Originator of the heavens and Earth.
    When He decides on something, He just says to it, “Be!” and it is. (Qur’an, 2: 117)”

    The site, which is a remarkably attractive one, includes the following articles — among many more, these are listed under ‘hot news’

    The Evolutionist claim of a transition from water to land is a lie.
    Tiktaalik Roseae: Another missing link myth >>
    The Darwinist Snare Exposed >>
    Muslim, Christian and Jewish believers, Let’s Act All Together for Love, Peace and Brotherhood and Respect th Faiths. >>
    The Importance of the Intellectual Struggle Against Darwinism >>

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