The DI Tap Dance

Newsweek has a story in its next edition about the various battles over evolution and ID going on around the country. The DI is sure to go ballistic over it soon, since it actually tells the truth about ID. But there's one passage in it that just leaps off the page. It's this one:

But I.D. has nothing to say on the identity of the designer or how he gets inside the cell to do his work. Does he create new species directly, or meddle with the DNA of living creatures? Behe envisions as one possibility something akin to a computer virus inserted in the genome of the first organism, emerging full-blown millions of generations later. Meyer's view is simply that "we don't know." He declines even to offer an opinion on whether people are descended from apes, on the ground that it's not his specialty.

Meyer is Stephen Meyer, the director of the Center for Science and Culture. Anyone who follows ID closely has to laugh at the disingenuousness implicit in his refusal to take a position on human evolution because it's "not his specialty". Meyer, of course, is the author of the infamous review article in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, in which he pontificates on a vast range of scientific questions that are also not his specialty (the origin of major taxa, Cambrian and Precambrian fossils, the origin of genetic information, and evo-devo, just to name a few). In fact, Meyer is not a scientist but a historian and philosopher of science. There's nothing wrong with that, of course. I'm not a scientist and I often take positions on scientific questions. But if you're going to use the "it's not my specialty" excuse to beg off answering one question, why doesn't that stop you from making claims in all those other non-specialties?

I'll take a guess at explaining the inconsistency. I think it's because he knows that if he says that we are not descended from apes, he's killed his credibility because the evidence is so strongly in favor of that theory, but if he says we are, his target audience - those who pay the bills by donating to the DI or buying their books - will immediately tune him out. It's the same reason why they claim in front of the media that ID has nothing to do with god or religion, then tell their target audience that it's all about restoring the primary role of Christianity in America. It's quite a tap dance. And of course, the moment that inconsistency gets pointed out, they curse and scream about that damn biased media.


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This passage struck me:

"Republican Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who wrote an op-ed article supporting the Dover School Board, says he regards evolution as one of the 'big social issues of our time,' along with abortion and gay marriage."

Immediately, that little song from Sesame Street played in my mind: "one of these things is not like the others..."

Mr. Santorum's type of Christian is obliged to oppose abortion and gay marriage. It seems he'd demand that evolution be added to the list.

But no, this controversy has nothing to do with religion.

I sometimes wonder if the time has come to socialize overt and public ridicule of the kind of puerile conceptions of god that the good Senator holds dear. That's not to say that all forms of religious belief should be tarred with the same brush -- far from it -- but if we're going to have a culture war, maybe the other side should bring its thugs.

Or maybe that's just as bad an idea as treating science as a "social issue."


I meant to say, "bring its thugs, too."

From Meyer's Hopeless Monster:


As mentioned previously, Meyer is the directory the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. Meyer's reported affiliation on the PBSW paper is to Palm Beach Atlantic University, which requires all faculty to affirm the following statement:

To assure the perpetuation of these basic concepts of its founders, it is resolved that all those who become associated with Palm Beach Atlantic as trustees, officers, members of the faculty or of the staff, must believe that man was directly created by God.



For Meyer to affirm that statement and then duck the reporter's question on that topic is an immense act of hypocrisy on Meyer's part.

I remember a particular debate I saw involving Meyer on CSPAN in which he did something similar. A audience member asked him how he reconciles the fossil record with his ID beliefs, and I believe his response was to admit that the fossil record does show progression, but did not actually say whether or not he thought evolution occured.

By Matthew Phillips (not verified) on 02 Feb 2005 #permalink