Getting to the Crux of the matter

| 68 Comments
While wandering the web the other day, I noticed Crux Magazine - "determined to supply a high-quality alternative to the principle tastemakers of our target demographic, young adults aged 25 to 45 ... a creative and trailblazing entity in our own right, the embodiment of a fresh and radical perspective on culture that is gaining adherents by the day, [with the aim of] redeeming the times and redirecting the prevailing orthodoxy of our age." Stirring stuff. At the site you can read a plug for Priviledged Planet [link] and By Design or By Chance? [link].

Things get interesting when you look at the Editorial Advisory Board. There we see Beckwith, Budziszewski, Dembski, Johnson, Meyer, Moreland, Nelson, Reynolds, Richards, and West - a veritable cluster of Discovery Fellows and fellow travellers. Also on the list are Norm Geisler and Hugh Ross.

Only Crux is solely committed to exposing the pernicious ideologies that have degraded the American mind. Only Crux is open-minded enough to look beyond popular assumptions and locate insights that have been buried by the mainstream media. Only Crux is giving a voice to those on the margins, to the academics, scientists, celebrities, and artists who simply will not kowtow to convention or the party line.

Another front in the Wedge strategy, methinks.

68 Comments

I have always been curious about the tendency of evolution opponents - religious or otherwise - to characterize their ‘adversaries’ as monolithic; essentially an organized conspiracy.

Is this simply a propaganda ploy? Or do they really believe that if their position is not accepted, that there must be some kind of organized resistance to it?

Is this HIV -> AIDS denial?

The medical literature spells it out differently—quite differently. The journals that review HIV tests, drugs, and patients, as well as the instructional material from medical schools, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and HIV test manufacturers, will agree with the public perception in the large print. But when you get past the titles, they’ll tell you, unabashedly, that HIV tests are not standardized; that they’re arbitrarily interpreted; that HIV is not required for AIDS; and, finally, that the term HIV does not describe a single entity but a collection of non-specific, cross-reactive cellular material.

More HIV talk.

From the Editor’s Letter: Enter CRUX, a new quarterly resource for the systematic exposure of all the double talk, circular reasoning, shoddy scholarship, and logical sleights of hand that have transformed reality into a hall of funhouse mirrors.

Oh, irony of ironies.

Unless I missed it, their website’s “by the numbers” box doesn’t provide a source. It’s just standard practice to document sources, even if one is graced with special divine dispensations. God that’s irritating.

That laundry list reminds me of an old fantasy short story I read once, entitled “The Pawns of Crux.”

So how many people on the editorial board are between the ages of 25 and 45?

crux Wrote:

… the embodiment of a fresh and radical perspective on culture that is gaining adherents by the day.

They misspelled “stale and reactionary.”

I’ve really got nothing against them pushing their old-fashioned morality, but they could at least call it what it is instead of trying to dress it up as something new and exciting. Returning society to a mythical past a la Leave it to Beaver is neither fresh nor radical.

“So how many people on the editorial board are between the ages of 25 and 45?” None, or they wouldn’t have put in “pernicious ideologies.” They almost pull off a decent job of mimicry, but that just throws the whole tone off …

Having misspelled it as “mimicracy” at first, I realize I’ve hit upon a new word to explain the modern political/cultural landscape … they may *look* like politicians, scientists, or popstars … but no.

None, or they wouldn’t have put in “pernicious ideologies.”  They almost pull off a decent job of mimicry, but that just throws the whole tone off …

To be fair, there do seem to be a few of them that are in their early to mid 40s. I would guess though that both the average and median ages are well over 45, which means that they know diddly-squat about the youth culture they hate so much.

I find it hard to believe that anyone could read their articles and not know instantly that their “fresh and radical” posturing is absurd. You can only get through so many anti-gay, anti-pron, anti-abortion, and anti-evolution articles before you realize that it’s just another right-wing culture warrior prop. A hip-looking facade stolen from Maxim and Spin isn’t going to change that.

Note to Crux editorial board: the 25-45 year old demographic, having grown up bombarded by slick marketing campaigns, is quite cynical and adept at spotting poseurs. You just might, however, fool the under 12 demographic. Check out Boys’ Life for some radical and fresh ideas on cover art.

Principle tastemakers? Stale and reactionary aren’t the only words they can’t spell. Wears there proofreeder?

I was also fascinated by the opening line of the editorial, “Where Truth Meets Fiction”:

Do you believe in absolute truth? If you are like 87% of young adults, you probably don’t. It’s easy to see why.

The clear implication of the editorial is that you should believe in absolute truth. It seems to me that the only people who believe in absolute truth are black-and-white thinkers operating at a very low intellectual level. At the institution where I teach, we hope our students will learn to live with ambiguity by the time they graduate (if they can’t already). If they enter as black-and-white thinkers, we hope they will not leave as such. People who peddle absolute truths will only make our jobs harder.

Matt Young Wrote:

The clear implication of the editorial is that you should believe in absolute truth.  It seems to me that the only people who believe in absolute truth are black-and-white thinkers operating at a very low intellectual level.

In my experience, those who preach moral absolutism never actually believe in it. They abandon it as soon as it’s convenient, never able to see the contradiction. Abortion: always wrong. Killing adults: only wrong some of the time. Gambling: always wrong for other people, but okay for me as long as I don’t bet the “milk money”. The examples are endless.

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Mr. Reuland makes a good point. But no one is wholly consistent, not even a black-and-white thinker.

It still seems to me that people who profess belief in any absolute truth - whether religious, political, atheist (God-denier, not nonbeliever) - are almost by necessity thinking on a B&W level. Think, for example, of people who say that you have to accept the Bible in its entirety or conclude that it’s a bunch of baloney. You will get that statement both from fundamentalists and from anti-religious people. It never occurs to either of them that the Bible might be a complex book that consists of truth, fiction, poetry, history, allegory - and ambiguity.

The only absolute truth I know of is that, if there is an absolute truth, you don’t know what it is.

Matt

If they enter as black-and-white thinkers, we hope they will not leave as such. People who peddle absolute truths will only make our jobs harder.

I agree.

Do you believe mutation/selection is the absolute truth to the origin of life and diversity?

That’s a rhetorical question. Think about it outside the box you were taught to think in.

Do you believe mutation/selection is the absolute truth to the origin of life and diversity?

No.

Dave Scot Wrote:

Do you believe mutation/selection is the absolute truth to the origin of life and diversity?

That’s a rhetorical question.  Think about it outside the box you were taught to think in.

I don’t know of a single person at this sight who has ever professed to believe such a thing.

You’ve indicated quite clearly that your purpose in being here is to troll. Please take it elsewhere.

DaveScot asked: “Do you believe mutation/selection is the absolute truth to the origin of life and diversity? That’s a rhetorical question.  Think about it outside the box you were taught to think in.”

Rhetorical or not, the answer of any scientist is ‘no’. And if you have to ask, it shows your utter lack of ignorance on scientific subjects, once more. Evolution (the theory, not the fact) is the explanaition that best fits the data without adding unnecesary complexity. I.e. while your unknowable aliens explains everything, evolution explains much less, but all of what we have seen so far. By Occam’s razor, it is much better. Faced with Genetic Algortihms, you say “God did it”. I, being a proper Computer Scientists, can see that there was no design and that it works much better than anything we could’ve designed. And they developed on their own, using only selection and random mutation.

DaveScot, you have been asked great many questions about your beliefs. You claim that they’re proper scientific theories, but they remain beliefs until you provide answer to such questions as: how can we know if something is designed? (is a logic board circuit that distinguishes between 1000 Hz and 10000 Hz designed?) or: what is a falsifiable test of a designer? (what could I possibly find in the universe that would be proof of the nonexistance of a designer?)

Until you’re ready to answer those easy questions (evolution has answered them extensivelly, and continues to do so daily), please do us all a favor and a) admit that you’re just a troll or b) stand mute and do some science for a change.

Hope that helps,

Grey Wolf

Reed - I think it’s definately HIV->AIDS denial. Of the worst sort, too:

If commerce laws were applied equally, the “knowing is beautiful” ads for HIV testing would have to bear a disclaimer, just like cigarettes:

“Warning: This test will not tell you if you’re infected with a virus. It may confirm that you are pregnant or have used drugs or alcohol, or that you’ve been vaccinated; that you have a cold, liver disease, arthritis, or are stressed, poor, hungry, or tired. Or that you’re African. It will not tell you if you’re going to live or die; in fact, we really don’t know what testing positive or negative means at all.”

That’s not just “skepticism” - that’s actively discouraging HIV testing in a publication aimed at young people. I can’t comprehend that well enough to condemn it. It’s just insane.

Do you believe mutation/selection is the absolute truth to the origin of life and diversity?

No.

Think about it outside the box you were taught to think in.

What box?

Below is an excerpt from an article in “Crux”:

Denyse O'Leary Wrote:

So Evolution Means What? Evolution is the theory that all life forms are descended from one or several common ancestors that were present on the early earth, three to four billion years ago. It includes the process by which one species is transformed into another, for example a dinosaur species into a bird species. There have been a number of models of how evolution works, including models that assume divine guidance or perhaps divine intervention at various points along the way.

At this point the article could have easily gone in the direction of “ID is simply another theory of evolution.” O’Leary in fact said elsewhere in the article one of the most honest statements I have heard from an IDer about how many “evolutionists” are devoutly religious (not as in “devoutly atheistic”) and that many anti-evolutionists are atheists or agnostics. And she acknowledges the 14 billion year old universe without any indication that it could be off by 13,999,994,000 or so years. So, even though ID is not a theory, this article could have at least stopped short of misrepresenting evolution. This could have been a first for ID. Alas, in the very next paragraph …

Denyse O'Leary Wrote:

So Darwinism Means Exactly What?

The rest of the article ignores evolution, and concentrates on the stale old attacks on a caricature of “Darwinism.”

Some articles slated for publication in upcoming issues of Crux magazine:

Sasquatch Prayer Rituals

The Secret to Seeing Jesus in Your Ice Cream

How the Gay Community Drives the Evolution Debate

High Priest Ashcroft: How YOU Can Make it Happen

10 Sexy Secrets About Abstinence

Crucilicks: Stryper Still Rockin’ for the J-Man

Trolling Evolution Blogs: Tips for Beginners

What Wheaton’s Straightest Students are Saying about Phil Johnson’s Latest Creationist Script

Dissembling: Evolution of the Art Form

Yep, that is straight-up HIV-AIDS denial right there.

For a rather amazing amount of evidence contradicting the HIV-AIDS deniers, see this NIH page.

Let me offer Wesley’s Maxim of Coolness: If you have to say that you are cool, you are not cool.

That’s to go with my Maxim of Minimal Musical Merit: Any group that uses piano can’t be all bad.

Wesley

To DaveScot and others sympathetic to the ID crowd.

I’d like to clear up a confusion ya’ll are having about “believing in” versus “knowing that” and it’s not just an issue of semantics.

Unlike religion, science is not and never has been a “belief system.” I don’t “believe in” science or the knowledge it produces in the way I “believe in” love, goodness, justice, etc. Science at its most basic level is simply a method of inquiry, a way of investigating the world around us. That which derives from this method is always tentative and subject to revision given new evidence. Religious belief is never tentative and subject to such revisions. You either believe or disbelieve in your particular divine being; evidence has nothing to do with why you “believe in” god x, y or z (by the way, if you claim that the reasons why you “believe in” God are based on scientific evidence, you’re simply lying and you know it.).

Anyway, you can certainly conjure up any number of arguments (moral, philosophical, logical, etc.) that make a convincing case for having a set of religious beliefs, but such supporting arguments are not evidential in nature. For example, I love my wife not because the available evidence suggests that I do so, but because I just do. Moreover, I don’t “believe in” my wife because she’s sitting on the couch next to me. Rather, I “know that” she exists because she’s sitting next to me and I can touch here and see her – the evidence is pretty strong to support this knowledge claim. Can you see the difference here?

There was a great line from Matthew McConaughey in the movie Contact - he and Jodie Foster are discussing the proof (evidence) for God’s existence, and he says to Foster: “Did you love your father?” Foster appears flustered at first but answers “Yes” and then McConaughey retorts with what is supposed to be a gotcha moment and says “prove it!”

When I first saw Contact, I was waiting for Foster to bury McConaughey with the simple reply of: “I don’t doubt that you love God, I just don’t believe in your object of affection because there’s no evidence that it even exists.” But of course in Hollywood’s shallow wisdom they left that scene with the question hanging. I was so pissed, I blurted out “You can’t be serious!” in the theater.

When I “tuned in” to their website, the masthead was flashing the slogan “Where truth meets fiction.’ Me thinks truer words were never written. Do they even understand what they write? Also consider their choice of Crux for their title/name. We all know what the word means in common usage—the central issue, an unresolved question of import, the essential kernel of an idea—but consider its Latin root and meaning. Are they trying to say something while being a few marbles short of subtle?

Given that the website masthead and name for the Discovery Institute and its illegititimate offspring, the Center for, etc., have evolved rather rapidly, anyone wish to predict the evolution and life span of this new species?

The Senior Editor is listed as Bobby Maddex (yes, it’s spelled with an ‘e’) with an address in Georgetown, Texas, a suburb north of Austin, but not far from Waco. Who is he? Well I googled him and he turns up variously as the Circulation Manager for Touchstone magazine (a Christian journal that promotes Crux on its website!), a staff writer (writing about the band U2) for Gadfly magazine (now defunct), and a contributor to an assortment of other sites, some religious and some relating to art (in one he offers a brief discourse on Picasso).

And their “lead” article on Bob Dylan, who is old hat to anyone under 45, their “target demographic”, is a reprint from the July 1984, Sunday Times (London). It briefly touches on Dylan’s conversion from Judaism to Christianity, but otherwise seems wholly irrelevant to their aim.

Incidentally, the founder and Editorial Director of Crux is a Dentist in Culver City, California.

From the web pages: “The most surprising thing about AZT is that it doesn’t even claim to work: “Retrovir is not a cure for HIV infection …”

What a load of crap. AZT, in combination with other therapies has been shown to extend lives in numerous trials.

In the Crux article “BY DESIGN OR BY CHANCE”:

Denyse O'Leary Wrote:

It may not be apparent at first glance, but the concept of the universe as an endless lottery of meaningless events actually shaped the “modern” culture of our society, from about the 1850s on. Modern culture, better known as “modernism,” was the culture created by the theories of Darwin, Marx, and Freud. We humans were believed to be just an accident, living on a mediocre planet, circling a suburban star, in an irrelevantly repetitious universe. For culture, that means, among other things, “no God,” “no meaning,” “no purpose,” and “no rules!” Not surprisingly, we have all heard these themes sounded every day from every source.

I have seen essentially these same claims stated in a number of articles by conservative belivers. I must say it is extremly tiresome to see these rediculous statements repeated endlessly. As usual to deconstruct these absurdities fully would take many more words than were required to state them.

It makes me want to climb on my rooftop and shout to the world that, although I am an atheist, MY LIFE HAS MEANING (in fact TOO much, since I do not have time to do everything I would like that gives my life meaning), I DO HAVE PURPOSE (I contributed to society through my career, I support my friends, and so on), and I HAVE A CONSCIENCE (murder is wrong, we shoud all be civil to each other, and so on).

Ah, now I feel better. Please forgive my rant.

The Senior Editor is listed as Bobby Maddex (yes, it’s spelled with an ‘e’) with an address in Georgetown, Texas, a suburb north of Austin, but not far from Waco. Who is he?

DaveScot’s neighbor, sounds like.

Note that at the following websites

http://www.salon.com/books/it/col/p[…]T/print.html http://66.102.7.104/search?q=cache:wScnWwC–gUJ:www.jobriath.org/paglia/chrono.html+%22robert+maddex%22+alison&hl=en&client=firefox-a

Robert Maddex, author, is described as the father of Alison Maddex, the partner of Camille Paglia, and director of the Museum of Sex in NYC.

I’m spending too much time with this, and as much as I enjoy sparring with ya’ll, I’ve got to get some real work done. So, in anticipation of another objection or two, I’ll end with this for the moment:

We’re not talking about the sociological and/or psychological reasons why people believe in x, y, or z, which is an interesting subject that I spend a lot of time with. We’re talking about the truth conditional reasons why people believe in x, y, or z. In other words, what reasons would they give for believing in x, y, or z; what justifications would they give to support why they believe x, y, or z to be true. Now certainly, to believe something is true based on the fact that other people believe it to be true or that “we’ve always believed it to be true thus it must be true” (beliefs based on tradition) is quite common, but this is about as far away from a scientific justification as you can get.

Narrowing the scope here, Evangelical Christians do not believe in their Lord Jesus Christ because “empirical evidence” persuaded them to do so. They may make claims for “evidence” in support of their belief, but any such evidence neither provides the foundation for their religious belief nor provides basis for their continued belief. It’s a theological and not a scientific issue.

The evidence they point to is almost always textual and historical, the former being the New Testament and their primary source. The external historical evidence is very scant – Josephus and Tacitus primarily – and much of this is simply passing references to the fact that Jesus was executed. I’ll let ya’ll argue about the objective independence of the New Testament as a reliable historical account.

Mike S. wrote: I don’t know whether this has any truth to it, but I think the main motivation for the HIV/AIDS denial ‘movement’, such as it is, is primarily related to the cultural issues, which obviously is a concern for the ID movement.

I wasn’t referring to the denialist movement in general. As a group, denialists are a bit hard to characterize. There’s a lot of fringe stuff that isn’t terribly cohesive or easy to characterize. For example, many have strong anticonspiracy bent; a general distrust of consensus science and, in particular, a fear of a corrupt, big-budget, biomedical “establishment”. Some may be driven by cultural issues but given that AIDS is a disease that could be readily contained by changing some behaviors, I just don’t see how such issues would be a primary driver for most denialists. AIDS caused by HIV transmission through sex or by poppers: It’s pretty much the same thing to people that want an axe to grind in the “culture wars”. Either works for them.

Johnson, however, may be another story. Because he was already in “Don Quixote mode” with his anti-evolutionary/ “mainstream scientists are brainwashed” crusade, perhaps this was just another windmill at which to tilt. It certainly helped that another befuddled, “lone voice under fire” like Duesberg was in the vicinity. But still, I can see how the HIV denialist position could be thought a useful springboard for someone seeking to establish his credentials as a “powerful thinker” and critic of mainstream science… Assuming the HIV/AIDS link would eventually falter… which it didn’t (Oops!). I’m not suggesting this could be his only reason for joining with HIV denialists (who is that one-dimensional?), but it was quite convenient and the timing fits.

Professor Emeritus Harry Rubin was another UC Berkeley oddball riding on the Duesberg train, as I recall.

Tara Smith Wrote:

It’s the “goo to you” evolution that they deny is possible, and specifically the development of complex structures by “chance.”

Amazing then, how they have no problem with an instantaneous “dust to you” process. At least “goo to you” evolution has multiple lines of independent evidence to support it; the “dust” hypothesis has none. Note, however, that many of the ones who deny the development of complex structures by “chance”, e.g. Michael Behe, nevertheless agree that it is a 4 billion year “goo to you” process, common descent and all. As you probably know, evolution does not say that complex structures arise by “chance,” especially using the nonstandard definitions used by Behe, other IDers and classic creationists. If it did, Behe would be on to something. Creationists, however, especially YECs, would still be dead wrong.

Jeff Wrote:

Rational argumentation doesn’t constitute scientific argumentation.

I wasn’t trying to equate the two. Generally speaking, scientific arguments are rational, however. (Sometimes they are persuasive, or based on a hunch, but as you say, they are always ultimately dependent upon the available evidence). You don’t see scientists trying to explain disparate pieces of evidence using irrational arguments (for example, by transposing cause and effect).

You certainly aren’t suggesting that religious beliefs are true because it can be empirically demonstrated that the vast majority of human beings believe and/or the path to believing is often due to the example of another believer?! The “empirical evidence” to which you are referring is not religious but sociological in nature.

I don’t think we have any great disagreements, if we disagree at all. I definitely was not trying to claim that a) the kind of evidence that supports religious belief is the same as that that supports science, or that b) science and religion have equal dependence upon empirical evidence. I also was not trying to address the truth of any particular religious beliefs or claims. My point was that religious belief is usually not completely blind - it depends upon some evidence (the Raelians notwithstanding). The New Testament is a good example - as you say, there is not a lot of evidence to support its claims in a scientific manner. But it is a (purported) eyewitness account, with some independent corroboration. Christians didn’t just make up claims about Jesus out of thin air - there isn’t much doubt that he was a historical figure, for example. Whether one believes that he was who he said he was is a matter of faith, but his existence as a man has some empirical support. That’s all I was trying to say.

Thanks Mike. Yes, I think we agree more than we disagree. My bottom line is that the relative success of ID masquerading itself as an alternative scientific approach speaks to a disturbing lack of basic scientific aptitude in this country. We (educators) have provided the vacuum that these charlatans presently occupy, and while there’s much blame to go around, a large portion of it lies at the feet of higher education.

I really think the primary reason (not the only reason) why ID has been able to get a foothold is that science education at all levels has failed to do its job. The academy no longer takes teaching seriously and we’re just beginning to see the fruits of this pedagogical disaster. The present battles over evolution are symptoms of a larger problem.

I really think the primary reason (not the only reason) why ID has been able to get a foothold is that science education at all levels has failed to do its job. The academy no longer takes teaching seriously and we’re just beginning to see the fruits of this pedagogical disaster. The present battles over evolution are symptoms of a larger problem.

Can I get an amen, brother! ;)

There are plenty of scientists and professors who take educating people (students and the general public) about science seriously (e.g. most of the PT contributors). But overall, the culture in research universities denigrates teaching. And there is generally very little support in colleges and univsersities for people who want to get trained in math or science and then teach high school or grade school. If you have the attitude that only people who “can’t hack it” in a science major or in research teach, then you can’t really complain about the poor scientific literacy of the students that come through the system, can you?

I agree that the evolution battles are just one high-profile aspect of the larger problem.

Jeff Wrote:

I really think the primary reason (not the only reason) why ID has been able to get a foothold is that science education at all levels has failed to do its job. The academy no longer takes teaching seriously and we’re just beginning to see the fruits of this pedagogical disaster. The present battles over evolution are symptoms of a larger problem.

Another “Amen!”

For evolution specifically, the job is ominous, as it has to overcome not only science-phobia and science-antagonism, but all sorts of prior misconceptions about evolution that have been indoctrinated into students before high school. So I sympathize with biology teachers, if not the educational bureaucracy whose interest is anything but teaching.

The whiners who advocate misleading “disclaimer” stickers and “teach the controversy” approaches that only misrepresent evolution conveniently “forget” that ~90% of students already believe in God, and ~50% will probably never believe mainstream science’s account of natural history no matter how “dogmatically” it is taught.

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This page contains a single entry by John M. Lynch published on January 17, 2005 2:11 PM.

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