Paul Krugman on ID

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I was wondering when he’d get around to this. Princeton economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman today writes a withering critique of ID, which he ties into other fake academic “controversies” that have been spawned, not within academia, but from without by the use money and politics.

Krugman begins:

I’d like to nominate Irving Kristol, the neoconservative former editor of The Public Interest, as the father of “intelligent design.” No, he didn’t play any role in developing the doctrine. But he is the father of the political strategy that lies behind the intelligent design movement - a strategy that has been used with great success by the economic right and has now been adopted by the religious right.

Here I might actually take exception. Irving Kristol and other neoconservatives probably had a lot more to do with ID than Krugman thinks. See Origin of the Specious for example. But Krugman’s point is that the ID movement is just following a political strategy that’s been successfully applied elsewhere when the science isn’t on your side: Just throw a bunch of money at some pseudo-academic think-tanks (e.g. Discovery Institute), have them spend their time producing sciency sounding stuff that won’t withstand informed scrutiny, yet fools the public, and then have them go on a media blitz promoting their ideas as the next best thing since sliced bread. And, voila!, you’ve got your own tailor-made controversy.

Now the reason why I’ve been wondering when Krugman would get around to addressing ID is that he’s no stranger to evolution. Whatever you think about him, even if you deplore his economics and politics, the fact is that he’s a self-professed “evolution groupie”. As such, he’s probably read more evolutionary biology texts than the whole ID movement put together. (I know, that’s not a very high bar.) Anyway, there are some things he’s written in the past about evolution and economics that are worth reading that I’ll link to on the flip-side…

The Unofficial Paul Krugman Archive contains a fairly good collection of Krugman’s past writings. The best (at least that I’ve found) concerning evolution is WHAT ECONOMISTS CAN LEARN FROM EVOLUTIONARY THEORISTS. Here he delves into how evolutionary biologists ply their trade and how it coincides with what economists do.

Another one is an amusing critique of people who coined some nonsense called “bionomics” that is supposed to be the confluence of biology and economics, but has little to do with either. (Sounds like something that George Gilder would promote.) Anyway, read about THE POWER OF BIOBABBLE.

And finally, Krugman discusses a sort of cultural divide within economics (and academia in general) between those who are mathematically inclined and those who take a more literay approach: ECONOMIC CULTURE WARS. In it, he compares those in the economic field who have eschewed hard mathematical models with those in the evolution field, particularly, Stephen J. Gould:

A similar situation exists in other fields. Consider, for example, evolutionary biology. Like most American intellectuals, I first learned about this subject from the writings of Stephen Jay Gould. But I eventually came to realize that working biologists regard Gould much the same way that economists regard Robert Reich: talented writer, too bad he never gets anything right. Serious evolutionary theorists such as John Maynard Smith or William Hamilton, like serious economists, think largely in terms of mathematical models. Indeed, the introduction to Maynard Smith’s classic tract Evolutionary Genetics flatly declares, “If you can’t stand algebra, stay away from evolutionary biology.”

I like Gould and all, but Krugman has it right: Much of what Gould said was wrong. (And, predictably, has been widely abused by creationists.)

Anyway, feel free to link to any other articles like this that you come across.

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This isn’t helping from Mossback Culture on August 5, 2005 3:50 PM

Partisan hack Paul Krugman attacks the president and the neo-cons on Intelligent Design today, but it’s not going to convince anyone, even with Panda’s Thumb drooling all over it. Krugman is probably the least credible columnist writing i... Read More

127 Comments

Them’s fightin’ words. What exactly did Gould say that was wrong? I’m not claiming that he was infallible, but to claim that much of what he said was wrong is going too far, unless it’s in the same sense that much of what Maynard Smith or Hamilton said was also wrong.

I always loved Gould as a historian of social trends and intellectual movements.

My main beef with popular evolution writers is that they dance around molecular biology. I realize that Gould wasn’t trained in molecular biology, of course. But it seems pretty clear that modern molecular biology is the lynch pin of the theory of evolution. Given what we know about molecular biology and genetics, it’s impossible for life NOT to evolve.

My second beef, and Gould doesn’t do so badly on this score, is that popular writers on evolution invariably seem to try to tie it to unrelated social debates. I happen to agree with Gould, at least in spirit, on political matters, so that may be part of why I perceive him as less annoying in this regard. But a book that JUST explains evolution would also be nice.

PZ Meyers Wrote:

Them’s fightin’ words. What exactly did Gould say that was wrong?

Most of what he wrote in Wonderful Life, for one.

I’m with PZ. If you’re going to criticize S.J. Gould or any other scientist, either be specific in your own criticism, point directly to some other scientist’s detailed criticism, or skip the criticism entirely. Taking broad, unsupported swipes against *scientific* positions with which you disagree smacks of creationist rhetoric rather than honest participation in reasoned argument.

I think a good indicator of the impact of evolutionary theory on economics can be found in books like Game Theory Evolving by Herb Gintis. It is one of the new things in economics. Just showing once more why evolutionary theory is an important concept for students to understand.

I agree with you that the neo-cons’ flirtation with the ID people was silly, but their motivations are poorly understood. Bailey’s article demonstrates a shallow understanding of the issue, but his lack of historical knowledge (or at least not connecting to it in the piece) make it unhelpful.

Bailey has the Strauss and the neo-con (and Platonic, for that matter) attitude toward religion and philosophy precisely backwards. Putting thousands of pages and years in a few sentences: Religion, whether based on truth or illusion, is the collected wisdom of a culture, nation, people, etc.; that is, it is the truth of how their people should live. I.e.: Religion is not the “opiate of the people,” it is the essence of the people. (Actually, Marx’s meaning of ‘Opiate’ was not very far from this. Bailey uses the line incorrectly, but so does almost everybody else.) Philosophy leads to the recognition that at the deepest level, this is arbitrary, which is an extraordinarily dangerous realization. Strauss proposed three reasons for the existence of “secret writing,” and one of them is to ensure that anybody who can puzzle this knowledge out of a text will have to have the wisdom not misuse this knowledge.

But now, everybody knows. When Nietzsche said G-d was dead, he spoke out of fear and despair. Nietzsche wrote philosophy; the 20th century read an instruction manual. The 21st century continues apace. 9/11 was another application. The neo-cons are grasping at anything to try to combat this, mistakenly I believe, but understandably.

Krugman’s piece is childish McCarthyism, intellectually useless and dangerous to anyone who tries to use it against a knowledgeable opponent. I am against use of ID in the classroom, and Krugman’s piece will do nothing but advance the agenda of those who would put it there.

PZ, Krugman–right or wrongly–does offer specifics. In particular, he points out that

1. neither Gould nor Dawkins were heavy on the math side of evolutionary theory; and

2. and that their very public debate could lend itself to the ID/ Creationist/ postmodernist nonsense that Evolutionary Theory is somehow about how to “interpret” Darwin– as if Origin of the Species was scripture or The Scarlet Letter.

Let’s say you find Krugman’s points absolutely unconvincing. Fair enough. I own–and have read–nearly every book SJG published. Great, great stuff.

But I think Krugman’s more general point still holds–and perversely, I blogged on this exactly this Monday in regard to H Allen Orr, whose work I think really should have a wider audience. So I’ll be vulgar and vain and quote myself:

“When we rely too much on an individual scientist, because he or she is an exceptionally gifted communicator, we risk not only misunderstanding the science in question but also the related cultural and policy issues.”

At some point, the law of diminishing returns sets in when the public depends on one or two primary interpreters of science–celebrity scientists.

Putting down SJG is not the answer. But acknowledging to a wider audience, that although his work remains tremendously valuable, one scientist is never the be-all and end-all of his or her profession.

Btw, the same could be said of Krugman & economics for those who agree w/ his politics.

Still, this is an important article–and I thank Panda’s Thumb once again (as always) for being on top of the news and issues.

I’m with PZ. If you’re going to criticize S.J. Gould or any other scientist, either be specific in your own criticism, point directly to some other scientist’s detailed criticism, or skip the criticism entirely.

Oh goodness. Since it wasn’t the point of my post, I’m not going into details – you can find those for yourself, because they’re widespread. The fact that Gould said stuff that leading evolutionary biologists thought was wrong is common knowledge. That would include John Maynard Smith and Ernst Mayr, among others.

Jeff Z Wrote:

Krugman’s piece is childish McCarthyism, intellectually useless and dangerous to anyone who tries to use it against a knowledgeable opponent. I am against use of ID in the classroom, and Krugman’s piece will do nothing but advance the agenda of those who would put it there.

This has to win some sort of award for greatest amount of hyperbole with the least amount of detail.

McCarthyism? Pray tell, where do you get that?

Jeff Z -

“Krugman’s piece is childish McCarthyism, intellectually useless and dangerous to anyone who tries to use it against a knowledgeable opponent. I am against use of ID in the classroom, and Krugman’s piece will do nothing but advance the agenda of those who would put it there.”

I found Krugman’s piece highly accurate, and I must say, I find your use of the term “McCarthyism” grossly inappropriate.

Krugman identified ID as part of a broader trend of privately funded pseudoscience, a phenomenon which arises when scientific advances are regarded as inconvenient by some private parties. To a large extent, this can’t be denied even by the PROPONENTS of ID. They might reject the label “pseudoscience”, but they don’t deny that ID is entirely funded by biased private parties, that it involves no experimental work, that it never even offers alternate testable explanations for the experimental results of others, and that, when pressed, its proponents admit that they can’t really even explain what ID means.

ID is a political and financial movement. It’s political, because its purpose (which it serves rather poorly) is to placate fanatics, and maintain their uneasy alliance with the Republican party. It’s financial because keeping the Republican party in power, which is one major goal of ID, however poorly it may serve that goal - and I certainly don’t dispute that many relatively honest Republicans despise ID and would like to reject the “help” it offers, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is one goal of ID - has massive financial consequences for many people. If you dispute that the Republicrats, as Lenny Flank refers to them, are tied to ID, please explain why all politicians who voice support for it, at all levels from the county school board to the White House, are Republicans.

Krugman points out that other scientists face similar attacks by pseudoscientific propaganda. He mentions climatologists. Another example is the years of attacks on medical epidemiologists by the tobacco industry’s pseudoscience shills.

Concerning comment 41438 by Jeff Z. I didn’t understand your final sentence concerning Krugman’s piece. Are you referring to the “withering critique of ID”? If so could you offer some more detail about why you see it as McCarthyism, and why you think it furthers the cause of ID. It seemed to me he was only pointing out that their strategy was similar to strategy that had proved successful in other instances, and that it could be successful in this case.

You all might want to see http://www.thetablet.co.uk/cgi-bin/[…]tablet-01063, which is a response from the Vatican’s {Jesuit} astronomer to the Archbishop of Vienna’s strange op-ed piece in the New York Times. Seems some Catholic theologians did learn something from the Galileo Affair. The Independent (London) has a story as well. Also see my blog: http://www.cabbageskings.blogspot.org

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Whew. Finally. The administrators of PT are forced to throw wide nets to ban JAD. I was caught in one such net. Haven’t been able to comment for two or three days. It’s good to be able to comment again. I was beginning to feel like the whole site was one big Tim Sandefur thread.

Jeff Z writes: “When Nietzsche said G-d was dead, he spoke out of fear and despair.” Nice to know that telepathy works not only across space but across time so that it is possible to read the mind of a dead philosopher 120 or so years after the fact. If one relies on second best evidence, i.e. what Nietzsche actually wrote, it appears that Nietzsche wasn’t at all unhappy about the Death of God. Indeed, he sounds positively gleeful about it when he doesn’t just treat it as a matter of fact. It isn’t a central part of his philosophy. It’s background.

Believers think that the death of God (or G-d) is a big deal, but to Nietzsche it was something that only out-of-touch old hermits didn’t know. (“Could it be possible? This old saint in the forest has not yet heard anything of this, that God is dead!”)

I have my doubts about the public piety of the Neocons. They may intimate that they are just being Straussian in promoting the holy lie, but they evince an unhealthy fascination with religion. I haven’t done it for a while, but if you read Commentary you will encounter plenty of evidence that various neocons have begun to fall for their own propaganda. Their hypocrisy is not sincere.

Jeff Z. has some illuminating thoughts on the Neocon/ Straussian take on religion. I was, in fact, just wondering about that.

But that last paragraph:

Krugman’s piece is childish McCarthyism, intellectually useless … [etc.]

Where the hell does that come from? That just doesn’t follow. McCarthyism how? Was there anything false or even misleading in what Krugman wrote? Was anyone smeared unfairly? Who? How?

Jeff Z. needs to be more specific, or I’ll just assume that was just another rant from an unobjective devotee of a philosophical cult. We get a lot of that around here.

G Felis Wrote:

I’m with PZ. If you’re going to criticize S.J. Gould or any other scientist, either be specific in your own criticism, point directly to some other scientist’s detailed criticism, or skip the criticism entirely. Taking broad, unsupported swipes against *scientific* positions with which you disagree smacks of creationist rhetoric rather than honest participation in reasoned argument.

Good point. Too bad Gould didn’t agree with it. See his “brick” for his statement that he will not cite Darwin to justify his position that Darwin was “wedded to gradualism”.

I have one minor beef with Gould, which is really a criticism of Michael Shermer. Gould conributed a blurb for the cover of Why People Believe Weird Things, in which Shermer made the mistake of stating that a child gets 25% of his genes from each parent. Did Gould actually read the book first? He may not have been trained in MolBio, but that’s a pretty obvious mistake.

BB Wrote:

[…] Shermer made the mistake of stating that a child gets 25% of his genes from each parent.

Hmmm. A child does get 25% of his/her genes from each parent. And more, even. :-)

Oh, you wanted *precision*.

Either that or Shermer is leading a scientific revolution to reinstate Francis Galton’s notions of inheritance, where 25% would be the precise contribution from each parent.

Paul Krugman is probably the least credible columnist writing in America today. The Lying in Ponds (http://www.lyinginponds.com) website has consistently ranked him number 1 or 2 on their objective partisanship scale. Any column he writes that mentions Bush in connection with any subject at all is properly understood simply as unprincipled Bush-bashing, because that’s the dude’s raison d’etre.

So Krugman beating up on Bush over ID isn’t helpful to those of us who oppose ID. Similarly, Dawkins is getting carried away with his political partisanship, attacking Bush constantly even though he’s not an American. He went so far as to say that all Bush voters are “stupid”. And his work in the ID wars has lately become more and more soft.

The people best situated to attack Bush on ID are those who are generally supportive of Bush on the war, the economy, school choice, and that whole set of issues. And there’s been no shortage of attacks from this sector of the political spectrum (center and right) on the suggestion that ID be taught in biology classes. See Krauthammer for example, or any of the RINO blogs (Balloon Juice, Ace of Spades, Roger Simon, Protein Wisdom, Don Surber, etc.)

The fact is that politics by its very nature is the enemy of science, and neither side of the political spectrum has been immune to the abuse of science in the pursuit of its agenda. The junk social science that’s been churned out of left-leaning universities is a scandal of major proportions, much bigger than funny games with climatology or the work of the tiny little Disco Institute club.

Let me suggest that people who want to take on the cause of fighting ID would do well to check their other partisan beliefs at the door, lest they be confused for Krugmans.

Paul Krugman is probably the least credible columnist writing in America today. The Lying in Ponds (http://www.lyinginponds.com…) website has consistently ranked him number 1 or 2 on their objective partisanship scale. Any column he writes that mentions Bush in connection with any subject at all is properly understood simply as unprincipled Bush-bashing, because that’s the dude’s raison d’etre.

It would be quite possible to Bush-bash and maintain objectivity. The man really deserves to be bashed on a large number of issues, particularly with regard to his faith-based thinking and ignorance of evidence.

Paul Krugman is probably the least credible columnist writing in America today. The Lying in Ponds (http://www.lyinginponds.com) website has consistently ranked him number 1 or 2 on their objective partisanship scale. …

Let me suggest that people who want to take on the cause of fighting ID would do well to check their other partisan beliefs at the door, lest they be confused for Krugmans.

From the Lying in Ponds (great name!) FAQ:

Isn’t a columnist who’s always right but criticizes only one party better than one who is always wrong but attacks both parties equally?

Well sure. The Lying in Ponds rankings are not intended to be a comprehensive evaluation of the pundits; the intention is to carefully analyze only partisanship. A columnist could theoretically be substantive and accurate and and witty and wise, yet highly partisan. I’m very skeptical about that, but anyone is free to argue that a particular columnist is partisan but good.

Either Krugman is right or he’s wrong. In this case, he’s right, and on an important point.

I think you guys get the point.

Now if you want to see a devastating critique of ID, go check Krauthammer’s piece in Time:

This conflict between faith and science had mercifully abated over the past four centuries as each grew to permit the other its own independent sphere. What we are witnessing now is a frontier violation by the forces of religion. This new attack claims that because there are gaps in evolution, they therefore must be filled by a divine intelligent designer. How many times do we have to rerun the Scopes “monkey trial”? There are gaps in science everywhere. Are we to fill them all with divinity? There were gaps in Newton’s universe. They were ultimately filled by Einstein’s revisions. There are gaps in Einstein’s universe, great chasms between it and quantum theory. Perhaps they are filled by God. Perhaps not. But it is certainly not science to merely declare it so. To teach faith as science is to undermine the very idea of science, which is the acquisition of new knowledge through hypothesis, experimentation and evidence. To teach it as science is to encourage the supercilious caricature of America as a nation in the thrall of religious authority. To teach it as science is to discredit the welcome recent advances in permitting the public expression of religion. Faith can and should be proclaimed from every mountaintop and city square. But it has no place in science class. To impose it on the teaching of evolution is not just to invite ridicule but to earn it.

As he’s a right-winger and a Bush supporter, this has the potential to convince some people. Krugman is actually helping the ID’ers.

PZ Myers:

Them’s fightin’ words. What exactly did Gould say that was wrong? I’m not claiming that he was infallible, but to claim that much of what he said was wrong is going too far, unless it’s in the same sense that much of what Maynard Smith or Hamilton said was also wrong.

IMO, Gould always liked to concieve of himself as a paradigm breaking radical. This lead him in almost all his popular works to overstate the claims of his opponents, and to overstate the implications (and the radicalness) of his own views. As such, most of what he wrote was not so much wrong, as overstated - and hence ripe for creationist misquotation.

You can see why Myers is upset that anyone would dare to criticize Gould, since both employ similar rhetorical styles. But it’s true that strawman attacks are ineffective, so it would be good for Myers to learn that even if it’s too late for Gould.

Richard Bennet Wrote:

Paul Krugman is probably the least credible columnist writing in America today. The Lying in Ponds (http://www.lyinginponds.com…) website has consistently ranked him number 1 or 2 on their objective partisanship scale.

Um, so what? Everyone knows that Krugman is a liberal who’s particularly harsh on Bush. He’s also a Ivy league economist who’s done award-winning work on international trade. Neither one has much to do with his credibility on this matter.

If you want to read some of his work that’s decidedly non-partisan, try the stuff he wrote before he became a NYT columnists. The articles I linked to are good examples.

So Krugman beating up on Bush over ID isn’t helpful to those of us who oppose ID.

Except in this column, he didn’t do any Bush bashing at all. He only mentions Bush once, and it’s not even in connection with ID. And the purpose wasn’t to criticize Bush, it was to criticize the media:

Even when reporters do know the difference, the conventions of he-said-she-said journalism get in the way of conveying that knowledge to readers. I once joked that if President Bush said that the Earth was flat, the headlines of news articles would read, “Opinions Differ on Shape of the Earth.”

The people best situated to attack Bush on ID are those who are generally supportive of Bush on the war, the economy, school choice, and that whole set of issues. And there’s been no shortage of attacks from this sector of the political spectrum (center and right) on the suggestion that ID be taught in biology classes. See Krauthammer for example…

We had a post about Krauthammer’s article the day it came out. We link to pundits from all sides of the political spectrum.

The problem with Gould is the same as with other popularizers like Sagan. In order to avoid the detailed technical issues they turn to generalizations, analogies, and arm-waving. The problem is that non-scientists (i.e. most of the population) gets the idea that generalizations, analogies, and arm-waving are the way science is done. As a result, they wind up not being able to distinguish Gish from Gould.

We need to find a way of providing simple, understandable explainations that also give the listener an appreciation of the detailed work upon which the explaination is based.

Except in this column, he didn’t do any Bush bashing at all. He only mentions Bush once, and it’s not even in connection with ID.

Well, what he did was tie ID to the Neo-con movement, the people who tell Bush what to do. So let’s take the column for what it is, an argument that ID should be rejected because it’s neo-con propaganda.

Now I would submit that this is the weakest argument that’s ever been put up about ID, and that it’s easily dismissed on several grounds, such as: 1) the Neo-con movement is not religious; there’s a whole other type of conservatism that is religious, but they’re essentially at war with neo-cons for control of the Republican Party; and 2) Tom DeLay is not a neo-con; and 3) there is no connection between corporate interest and ID; think Genentech or Monsanto.

Krugman hates ID, and he hates neo-cons, so he manufactures a connection that enables him to channel all of his hate into one column. This is retarded.

As Krauthammer (a real neo-con) points out, the ID issue is religion encroaching on the turf of science; so it’s not Republicanism encroaching on science as Krugman maintains.

Now the virtue of Krauthammer’s position is that it allows Republicans and neo-cons can sign up to fight ID; Krugman would reduce the size of the army down to the relatively much smaller number of latte-sipping liberals who see high taxes, gay marriage, and affirmative action as natural consequences of evolution.

Paul Krugman is probably the least credible columnist writing in America today. The Lying in Ponds (http://www.lyinginponds.com…) website has consistently ranked him number 1 or 2 on their objective partisanship scale. Any column he writes that mentions Bush in connection with any subject at all is properly understood simply as unprincipled Bush-bashing, because that’s the dude’s raison d’etre.

Written like a true Kool-Aid drinking neocon who doesn’t feel any need to pay attention to reality because he believes he creates his own reality. Krugman can see throuth the neocon’s self-delusion and his columns have been spot on. Just because Bush & Co. live in a fantasy world does not mean reality is anti-Bush; it means Bush is anti-reality.

Richard Bennet Wrote:

Well, what he did was tie ID to the Neo-con movement, the people who tell Bush what to do.

Actually, that was me who did that, not Krugman. And my source for the ID movement’s connection to the neocons was Reason magazine, which isn’t exactly liberal.

Krugman stated that Kristol wasn’t involved with ID doctrine-wise, only that his idea on how to fund a political movement – which is to spend money not on activism, but on buying intellectual respectability – was adopted wholecloth by the IDists. I don’t think that much is really debatable. Beyond that, Krugman didn’t make any connections between the IDists and the neocons.

Steve Reuland Wrote:

Without a doubt, he’s pointing out that think tanks can distort the true nature of academic discourse by fomenting controversies where none exist — something that I hope would concern everyone, regardless of their politics.

Ah yes, think tanks undermine the authority of politically-correct academics and create an alternate route for advocacy research to enter the public sphere. Academics hate this, but ordinary people cheer it. Our academics have earned themselves the reputation for being narrowly ideological and politically correct to the point of being downright fascist about free speech that expresses non-approved ideas, while at the same time lowering scientific standards for social science. Of course there’s going to be some blow-back from the ideological circle that’s been cut out of the American academy.

Krugman’s whine is transparently narcissistic: he’s mad that he and his can’t control the agenda.

Jeff Z Wrote:

What I’m talking about is learning our opponents’ objections to our position, analyzing where their weaknesses, contradictions, and possible points of ageement, and then acting in the way that best advances our case. Chip and Verdon and Bennett do this—you and everyone else don’t.

Well certainly I and many others don’t use the tactics that you, Verdon, and Bennett do, but you’ve quite mischaracterized it. Your tactic, as I noted, is out of the Ann Coulter play book (“The responses you have received here are a perfect representation of the fanatical viciousness, self-rightousness, inability to learn, inability to respond to argument, etc. of these people. Find another cause to use your education, integrity, and intelligence on. I am.” – those are your words). And if your goal here is to “win” you’re noticeably failing at it, as would be expected of someone trashing nearly everyone in sight and holding himself up as some sort of great intellect of integrity.

Randi Rhodes said on Air America that Bush wants to replace evolutiuon teaching with a creationism-only curriculum. Now that’s shrill.

Like Jim Harrison said, it’s from trash radio that you seem to have learned your politics. So it’s no point against him to note that a trash radio commnetator like Randi Rhodes is shrill.

Richard Bennett Wrote:

Ah yes, think tanks undermine the authority of politically-correct academics and create an alternate route for advocacy research to enter the public sphere. Academics hate this, but ordinary people cheer it.

You could have cut and pasted this little tirade from an ID website. This is exactly the sort of argument that they offer up. The fact that legions of experts are against them is absolute proof that the experts are biased, and that some quasi-academic think tank is necessary to balance them out.

Unfortunately, the IDists are objectively wrong. By peddling their wares through a think tank rather than through traditional academic channels, they’ve pretty well ensured that no matter how wrong they are, they still get their material out. As with many think tanks, their only objective is to advocate their pre-determined viewpoint, and the usual standards of academic integrity and rigor are therefore dispensible.

Luckily, you’re wrong about what ordinary people believe. Most people have faith in America’s institutions of higher learning and generally figure, quite rightly, that academic experts are more likely to know what they’re talking about than some random ideologue. Advocacy based think tanks are specifically designed to mimic legitimate research insitutions because these are sources of academic respectability, which ordinary people admire. Otherwise, there would have been no need to give themselves fancy sounding titles at institutions with benevolent sounding names.

If you want to help the IDists however, and the forces of irrationality in general, keep insisting that academics are all self-interested fools and frauds.

I don’t know if I could have cut-and-pasted my remark from DI or not, because this opinion about the present state of universities isn’t unique. As a stopped clock is right twice a day, it’s possible they could have cut-and-pasted this statement as well.

It is a fact that “the usual standards of academic integrity and rigor” aren’t what they used to be, especially in social science departments where research is outcome-based and qualitative studies substitute for quantitative ones. The standards of integrity and rigor are so bad in psychology and sociology that serious scholars have formed breakaway professional associations, and physical anthropologists are building firewalls from cultural anthropologists. And then there’s Post-Modernism.

Parents with children in college these days know what’s going on, and most of it is anything but the triumph of reason over irrational forces.

The ID’ists are objectively wrong, but you can’t prove that by simply ranting about think tanks - you have to prove it on the merits, not by claiming association with an unsavory (to you) crowd.

The McCarthyite tactics are both predictable and unpersuasive.

Steve Reuland Wrote:

“Air America” liberals, which probably make up a larger fraction of the electorate than evangelical Christains

Steve, the figures I’ve found indicate that the numbers are close, somewhere between 20-25% for self-identifying liberals and the same for self-identifying evangelical Christians. The latter number is probably larger (OTOH, far more Americans are liberal in outlook but not self-identifying with the term). And note that the two groups are by no means mutually exclusive.

you have to prove it on the merits, not by claiming association with an unsavory (to you) crowd

That’s funny coming from someone who not only has produced an ongoing rant based on guilt by association with “liberals”, but who has come right out and said

Politics isn’t simply about facts, Sean, it’s about winning. You may very well be looking for facts, but I’ve already found mine, and I’m looking to share.

In other words, he’s deaf to all argument, regardless of its merits.

The McCarthyite tactics are both predictable and unpersuasive.

Certainly the tactic of accusing others of McCarthyism while practicing it oneself is both predictable and unpersuasive.

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This page contains a single entry by Steve Reuland published on August 5, 2005 10:17 AM.

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