By Russell Durbin
Veteran politician turned science expert Bruce Chapman, founder and president of the Discovery Institute (strategic command center of the “intelligent design” creationism movement), has written an essay that showcases the propaganda techniques of the IDC movement. Herewith a line by line analysis.
First they said that only ignorant rubes doubted Darwin. One was meant to recall the mob scene in the film of “Inherit the Wind.” The image is trite, but it works. However, when Phillip Johnson, a distinguished professor of legal evidence at Berkeley, came along with Darwin on Trial, they changed their line and said that, while he is an intellectual, he is not qualified to speak because he is not a scientist.
You know you’re in for a strawman argument when it starts out with “they said”. Who are “they”? Why not let “them” speak for “them”selves? There is a larger issue here, though, in which DI propaganda is creepily reminiscent of the Soviet style: Chapman tells you what “they” say, and why “they” say it, even what “they” are going to say next. But, as in so many DI disinformation dumps, no links or references are provided to let readers judge for themselves. Only links and references to other DI propaganda pieces are supplied, thus making for a hermetically sealed world of misinformation, unconstrained by any need to compare notes with the reality-based community.
The image Chapman seems to be conjuring here is that “they” continuously change “their” line because the creationists–excuse me, Darwin skeptics–keep proving “them” wrong. (It’s not hard to imagine that the original draft of this piece included moustachio-twirling and “Curses! Foiled again!” quotes.) It may be a great tool for arming the troops with a Kevlar shield of smugness, but it lacks any connection to the real world. The tactic is trite, but it works - if the goal is cheerleading rather than edification.
In fact, there is no shortage of evidence to support the notion that “doubting Darwin” does correlate inversely with education. There is also abundant evidence that Phillip Johnson, just as his lack of any scientific training and credentials suggest, is eminently unqualified to speak on subjects scientific.