A critique of Himmelfarb’s scientific views

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There has been an interesting dustup at NRO's Corner, with several of the conservatives at that site arguing pro and con about evolution. The action was precipitated by John Derbyshire, who posted a critique of the scientific views of one of the leading lights of the neocon movement, Gertrude Himmelfarb.

Himmelfarb's views on Darwinism came up. I took issue with them. A reader with some expertise took the trouble to go to his college library, read 'em up, and send me a long email about them. (And about Strauss's, which he found much better informed.) I posted an edited version of his email, making my own lack of acquaintance with Himmelfarb's work very plain, and urged curious readers to go to the source, which my reader had carefully listed.

(There are many other comments on this issue at the Corner; you'll have to scroll around the page to find them.)

I've been in contact with that anonymous reader, who gave me permission to post the unedited version of that email here. It's a solidly documented critique of some very poor arguments by Himmelfarb, arguments that are little more than rehashed creationism. The whole thing is included below the fold.

The Closing of the Neocon Mind

Political columnist George F. Will said that the two most important moves in the nation's history were in 1790 when Jefferson and Hamilton agreed to move the capital south from New York, and in 1987 when Bea and Irving Kristol followed the same path. This acknowledges the intellectual success and influence of the power couple founders of the neoconservative movement: Irving is regarded to be the neocon's epicenter, and his wife Bea is a famous and distinguished literary historian who writes under the name Gertrude Himmelfarb.

The neoconservative movement is small and tightly knit. Its chief intellectual influence is the political scientist Leo Strauss, known mainly for his scholarship on Machiavelli, and the force behind his student's Allan Bloom's surprisingly popular book The Closing of the American Mind. Strauss' insight was that great philosophical and literary works must be read ironically searching for hidden meanings because their authors were constrained in what could be said by various necessities. Harvey C. Mansfield's superb work Machiavelli's Virtue illustrates this principle perfectly, and who can disagree with Aristotle's observation (advice?) that "what a man says, he does not necessarily believe." George Will's professor was Harry Jaffa, an influential student of Strauss. The Kristol's son William, founding editor of the Murdoch-owned Weekly Standard (that recently published a pro-ID article filled with appallingly bad arguments that have already been debunked ad nauseum), studied under Mansfield. Straussians are not of one mind, and engage each other and others in important and substantive debate.

What has this to due with evolution?

Some Straussians/neocons don't like evolution—they inveigh against it. Irving Kristol said that "all I want to do is break the bonds of Darwinian materialism which at the moment restrict our imagination. For the moment that's enough"—a quote that supports Paul Krugman's assertion that Mr. Kristol should be regarded as "the father of 'intelligent design.'" Harvey Mansfield delivered a hilarious "sermon" at Harvard's Memorial Church in which he proposes that "science" should submit as a "captive woman of religion." On the centennial of Darwin's Origin in 1959, Gertrude Himmelfarb wrote a highly critical history of Darwinism that seriously misunderstands or misrepresents basic facts of science—it contains many false claims that are indistinguishable from creationist distortions of evolution. This explains why a brief web search reveals that it is widely cited by creationists, such as Phillip Johnson in his book Darwin on Trial. The Kristol's themselves are supporters of intelligent design creationism, and their son William Kristol remarked on television that teaching creationism was understandable enough.

Leo Strauss himself saw no incompatibility between the fact of evolution and religious faith. In his extensive philosophical works, he invokes Darwin just once:

one could grant to science and history everything they seem to teach regarding the age of the world, the origin of man, the impossibility of miracles, the impossibility of the immortality of the soul, and of the resurrection of the body, the Jahvist, the Elohist, the third Isaah, and so on, without abandoning one iota of the substance of the Jewish faith.

—Leo Strauss, Liberalism Ancient and Modern, U. Chicago Press, 1968, p. 231; from the Preface to Spinoza's Critique of Religion

So if Strauss wasn't the inspiration for the neocon's opposition to evolution, who is? A sympathetic view would be to interpret Irving Kristol's opposition to "materialism" as opposition to Marxist ideology (to say nothing of Marx's crackpotism), a position with which I am strongly aligned. And though Himmelfarb is an acclaimed historian, she would not be the first person on the humanities side of the "two cultures" divide to be seriously confused about science. If so, brief memo to neocons: proven materialistic explanations of nature like evolution don't equate with dangerous crackpot philosophies like Marxism.

Contrast Leo Strauss' views on the scientific fact of evolution with those of Irving Kristol and Gertrude Himmelfarb. To see which anti-evolution arguments are considered intellectually meritorious by the nation's leading neoconservatives, consider these passages from Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution (from the 1967 edition published by Peter Smith, Gloucester, MA). For those of you familiar with the history of the anti-evolution movement, all the howlers are there: the "impossibility" of the evolution of the eye, even auguring Michael Behe's debunked irreducible complexity arguments about biochemistry, the tautology of survival, the improbability of "nature working blindly and by chance" could create anything, legitimate scientists reject evolution, and so forth. And I didn't cherry pick these passages—nonsense like this is suffused throughout the book. Judge for yourselves:

  • "…the principle of survival of the fittest is questionable, or at most meaningful in the tautological sense that the survivors, having survived, are thence judges to be the fittest." [Chap. 15, p. 316; see creationist claim CA500]
  • "Natural selection, in fact, has become the deus ex machina rescuing nature from the impossible situation in which the Darwinians had put her. Long before Darwin, men had recognized the improbability that nature, working blindly and by chance, could have evolved the universe as we know it. The triumphant discovery of the neo-Darwinians is, after all, only a feeble echo of an ancient cry. The laborious calculations of probability,—the number represented by an infinity of noughts, the monkey pecking out the works of Shakespeare—are at least as much an argument in favor of the creationist theory as of natural selection, insofar as they can said to be an argument in favor of anything." [Chap. 15, p. 330; see creationist claim CB010]
  • "The eye, as one of the most complex organs, has been the symbol and archetype of [Darwin's] dilemma. Since the eye is obviously of no use at all except in its final, complete form, how could natural selection have functioned in those initial stages of its evolution when the variations had no possible survival value? No single variation, indeed no single part, being of any use without every other, and natural selection presuming no knowledge of the ultimate end or purpose of the organ, the criterion of utility, or survival, would seem to be irrelevant. And there are other equally provoking examples of organs and processes which seem to defy natural selection. Biochemistry provides the case of chemical synthesis built up in several stages, of which the intermediate substance formed at any one stage is of no value at all, and only the end product, the final elaborate and delicate machinery, is useful—and not only useful but vital to life. How can selection, knowing nothing of the end or final purpose of this process, function when the only test is precisely that end or final purpose?" [Chap. 16, pp. 337-338; see creationist claim CB301]
  • "From the "preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life," it was a short step to the preservation of favoured individuals, classes, or nations--and from their preservation to their glorification. Social Darwinism has often been understood in this sense: as a philosophy, exalting competition, power and violence over convention, ethics, and religion. Thus it has become a portmanteau of nationalism, imperialism, militarism, and dictatorship, of the cults of the hero, the superman, and the master race. The hero or superman, most recent translated as Fuhrer, is assumed to be the epitome of the fittest, the best specimen of his breed, the natural ruler who exercises his rule by right of might." [Chap. 18, p. 416; see creationist claims CA006.1, CA001, CA002, and CA005]
  • "The new orthodoxy, however, quite so secure as its proponents thought. In each generation a small number of reputable scientists revived the ``antiquarian'' controversy, reminding their colleagues about Huxley's warning about truths that begin as heresies and end up as superstitions. Some of these dissidents also echoes Huxley's early judgment that natural selection was not an established theory but a tentative hypothesis" [Chap. 18, pp. 442-443; see creationist claims CA110, CA111, and CA112. One can find on the web references to an earlier edition quoting Himmelfarb asserting that "A growing number of scientists have come to question the truth and adequacy of natural selection", though I was unable to find this quote in the edition I used.]

The eye is an intellectually serious neocon argument against evolution?!!!

This just makes me shake my head. You'd think that of all people the Straussians would comprehend that "in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king." If this isn't a good enough refutation for this wrong, tiresome, and stupid argument, please read Ernst Mayr's book What Evolution Is, wherein he provides a terrific story of the eye and the Pax 6 regulatory gene, and explains its evolution thus:

The simplest and most primitive stage of the series leading to an eye is a light-sensitive spot on the epidermis. Such a spot is of a selective advantage from the very beginning, and any additional modification of the phenotype that enhances the functioning of this light sensitive spot will be favored by selection. … Photosensitive, eyelike organs have developed in the animal series independently at least 40 times, and all the steps from a light-sensitive to the elaborate eyes of vertebrates, cephalopods, and insects are still found in the living species of various taxa (Fig. 10.2). They include intermediate stages and refute the claim that the gradual evolution of a complex eye is unthinkable (Salvini and Mayr 1977).

The thing that so confuses me about the neocon position on evolution is that rejecting scientific facts is so obviously contrary to the advice of Machiavelli, and one need go no further than this. As Mansfield himself obliquely observes (ibid., p. 39), "just once in The Prince and The Discourses on Livy does Machiavelli speak of `science'…(Discourses, Book 3, Chapter 39)". And what is this solitary bit of scientific advice given us by Machiavelli? This occurs in the chapter titled "That a General ought to be acquainted with the Lie of the Land", and says

"[A]ll sciences require practice if we desire to attain perfection in them … this practice and detailed knowledge [of terrain] is acquired more by hunting than by any other exercises."

There is no clearer justification for a modern technological society's expenditure on scientific research than this. We neither know the terrain or provenance of future military threats—our only choice in a technological age is by the practice of science to hunt for them. And though our knowledge is imperfect, we have already entered an age of bioweaponry and bioterrorism, and live in a time when understanding biology is necessary for defense. Whom do you want to defend you against biological weapons? Intelligent design creationists, or scientists that accept the fact of evolution, like the origin and evolution of the Marburg virus? Which one of those kids that the neocons wish to miseducate with intelligent design creationism will fail to achieve some important new discovery or breakthrough that will aid future defense? No one can say.

What can we suppose of Machiavelli's view of the neocon's position on science? Mansfield's translation of The Prince reads:

I judge those capable of ruling by themselves who can, by abundance of either men or money, put together an adequate army and fight a battle against whoever comes to attack them; and I judge as well that those who have necessity of others who cannot appear in the field against an enemy, but are compelled of necessity to take refuge behind walls and to guard them. [Chapter 10]

On the field of biotechnology, what adequate defense can be mustered by any country that rejects evolution and takes refuge behind a wall of creationism? Science is a woman who, like fortune, "lets herself be won" by those who command her. She is certainly not a woman who bears unmanly rejection of the sort that some Straussians suggest, for if scorned, will direct her attention and pleasures to others more virtuous. The first duty of a ruler is defense, and in a modern technological world, ignoring basic facts of science is dangerous and disgraceful.

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The firmly scientific PZ Myers has been on a bit of a humanities kick this last few days. This time he posts about neoconservative influences on creationism, providing us a long email he received on the subject of Leo Strauss, Read More

Neo-Conservatives and Evolution from Dispatches from the Culture Wars on December 7, 2005 1:41 PM

There is quite an interesting little battle going on among the folks at the National Review. It began when John Derbyshire posted this item on The Corner about the views of Gertrude Himmelfarb on evolution. If you don't know who... Read More

49 Comments

Irving Kristol said that “all I want to do is break the bonds of Darwinian materialism which at the moment restrict our imagination.

Whenever someone says something like this I’m reminded of the chain of a bicycle. Surely that that chain is attached to sprockets on the rear wheel restricts the free motion of the pedals. If only we were to remove the chain…think of how much freer those pedals would turn!

Of course, we wouldn’t then get anywhere.

Thus it is so with Intelligent Design.

Maybe some day Mr. Kristol or some like thinker will show us how this new imaginative way of doing science works in practice, instead of simply complaining that it’s not being done.

Irving Kristol said that “all I want to do is break the bonds of Darwinian materialism which at the moment restrict our imagination.

Whenever someone says something like this I’m reminded of the chain of a bicycle. Surely that that chain is attached to sprockets on the rear wheel restricts the free motion of the pedals. If only we were to remove the chain…think of how much freer those pedals would turn!

Of course, we wouldn’t then get anywhere.

Thus it is so with Intelligent Design.

Maybe some day Mr. Kristol or some like thinker will show us how this new imaginative way of doing science works in practice, instead of simply complaining that it’s not being done. Unless they are afraid of falling off the bike.

oops…sorry for double post.

An echo of Irving Kristol’s phrase:

“all I want to do is break the bonds of Darwinian materialism which at the moment restrict our imagination.”

is apparent in the motto of Dembski’s ISCID:

“Retraining the Scientific Imagination to see Purpose in Nature”

I’d say Krugman’s claim that Kristol is the true parent of ID is spot on.

the monkey pecking out the works of Shakespeare

that’s all i need to hear and i’m convinced.

those mischievous monkeys!

Neocons only care about science that can design bombs which they can then go and drop on other countries.

Hypocrites.

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Ah Miguelito, that’s not true. Neocons also love science when they can make huge profit margins off of it.

Once again I have to wonder at a political philospher who thinks he or she knows more about biology than the thousands of biologists who have spent their lives studying and researching their field. Perhaps people who believe like the Kristols could turn their intellect toward debunking those pesky physical laws that prevent perpetual motion machines.

Let creationism be the gallows that they build, and let “Intelligent Design” be the noose in which the neocons finally hang themselves.

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The 1959 New Yorker review of Himmelfarb’s Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution:

an advanced case of Darwinitis, a complaint that afflicts those of a literary bent and strong attachments to pre-scientific culture, who find in the theory of evolution a disturbing and mysterious challenge to their values

More Irving Kristol anti-evolution nonsense here (TRB book review):

Kristol suggested that evolution was only, after all, a hypothesis–indeed, one with lots of problems–and therefore, “As things now stand, the religious fundamentalists are not far off the mark when they assert that evolution, as generally taught, has an unwarranted anti-religious edge to it.” In other words, in the debate over creationism and evolution, it was biology teachers who had a lot of apologizing to do.

And here (Christian magazine Awake! invoking Kristol’s NYT article):

On September 30, 1986, The New York Times published an article by a New York University professor, Irving Kristol. His contention is that if evolution were taught in the public schools as the theory it is rather than as the fact it isn’t, there would not be the controversy that now rages between evolution and creationism. Kristol stated: “There is also little doubt that it is this pseudoscientific dogmatism that has provoked the current religious reaction.”

And here (Phillip Johnson’s LeaderU article invoking the same article):

When social theorist Irving Kristol published a New York Times column in 1986 accusing Darwinists of manifesting a doctrinaire antitheism, for example, Stephen Jay Gould responded in Discover magazine with a masterpiece of misdirection.

Does anyone have a copy of Kristol’s 1986 NYT article to post? It’s clearly been very influential among Christian conservatives.

Jason Rosenhouse takes down Tom Bethell’s awfully stupid National Review article Don’t Fear the Designer.

And Ed Brayton does the same with Muslim creationist Mustafa Akyol, who published Under God or Under Darwin? in National Review.

What, is National Review having an ignorance contest with The Weekly Standard?

improvius wrote:

Let creationism be the gallows that they build, and let “Intelligent Design” be the noose in which the neocons finally hang themselves.

It now looks like they might be doing that considering what happened to Paul Mirecki, the Kansas University professor who got beat up by fundies because he called them fundies.

It seems they might be resorting to the same tactics they used with abortion doctors.

Anthony, that is rich.

Don’t forget that for followers of Strauss “There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people” (as Kristol says).

They don’t care about getting the truth out there. I think ID is just a useful lie for them tell their creationist constituents.

Another poster already posted this Reason magazine article on the Neocons:

http://reason.com/9707/fe.bailey.shtml

I cannot recommend it more. Absolutely everyone must read it. It is by far the best article on this phenomenon I have ever read.

“Kristol agrees with this view. “There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people,” he says in an interview. “There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn’t work.””

The Straussians are absolutely vile. I think that the most important political task that American must undertake is to purge our government, adademia, and even corporate America of them completely. The advocacy of Straussian ideas should be immediate cause for the opposition of any political candidate regardless of political party or other considerations. Our physical safety depends on this. Their ideas reek of gas chambers.

When social theorist Irving Kristol published a New York Times column in 1986 accusing Darwinists of manifesting a doctrinaire antitheism

But ID is SCIENCE, and doesn’t have ANY theistic or religious goals. No sirree Bob. No religious aims, goals or purpose here. Not a one. And those people who say there are, well, they’re just atheist liars.

(sigh)

No WONDER the Dover judge is about to hand them their gonads.

Let creationism be the gallows that they build, and let “Intelligent Design” be the noose in which the neocons finally hang themselves.

Well, I think “Iraq” is already the self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head that will prove fatal to the neocons.

“Manage the world”? Pfffft. They can’t even manage the occupation of a Third World country.

I’ll say this about PZ Myers and Panda’s Thumb. Posting something from a NeoCon a far cry from Dembski’s spirit of censorship, where any and every comment questioning his words are deleted from his blog.

“Once again I have to wonder at a political philospher who thinks he or she knows more about biology than the thousands of biologists who have spent their lives studying and researching their field.”

Ah, but this tendency is simply of a piece with the larger NeoCon tendency to think that those intiated into the mysteries of Power through ironic Straussian readings of Machiavelli and Plato are the final authority on everything. Why listen to the generals when you plan a war? Why listen to the engineers and emergency response professionals when facing Hurricane Katrina? Why listen to the doctors when dispensing advice on contraception or sex ed? NeoCons already know it all! Neoconservatism has a lot wrong with it, but its blinkered amateurism may go down in history as its most destructive quality.

Kristol agrees with this view. “There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people,” he says in an interview. “There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn’t work.”

And, of course, these are the same people who get all bent out of shape over the “moral relativism” of those who don’t share their worldviews.

Good heavens! Himmelfarb is reviewing From So Simple a Beginning: The Four Great Books of Charles Darwin Edited, by Edward O. Wilson over at New Republic!

That magazine used to be reliable, and left-of-center …

Posted on behalf of the author, whose ISP is apparently blocked by PT’s blacklist:

===================

The anonymous writer –and all of us– need to be more careful when scampering around the anti-Darwinian landscape. Lots of evolutionists have been opposed to giving NS as central a role as it took on in the Modern Synthesis. Lots of people in the past 150 years did not have access to literature on the pax-6 gene or even to well-prepared specimens of invertebrates.

It has been several years since I last looked at Himmelfarb’s book on Darwin, but it seems unlikely that she was much influenced by the American creationist movement. The quotes above seem to be not so much anti-evolution, but in favor of a kind of orthogenesis (which can be entirely materialist). And she (and Kristol) seem very disturbed by “Social Darwinism”. I can understand that. SD disturbs me too.

Writing 6 years after the structure of DNA was discovered, it is perhaps understandable (though not to say entirely forgivable) that a historian would not be completely up-to-date on theoretical biology.

As for the flow going the other way, it is entirely possible that the DI et al have drawn on her book as the most likely way toward some semblance of academic respectability. But they have also clearly drawn on YEC & other strains of creationism that have never garnered respect in the academy. The ID movement makes a lot of hay by jumping back & forth between real scientific, philosophical, historical & theological arguments on the one hand and the ludicrous creationist smear campaign on the other.

In thinking recently about what direction ID is likely to take next, I come back again & again to orthogenesis & vitalism. Here they could produce a great deal of mischief by quote-mining the scientific & philosophical literature of the 20s & 30s. Of course this territory has been trodden by various creos before, but ID is really in a pickle right now & might grasp at any straw.

Patricia Princehouse

And, of course, these are the same people who get all bent out of shape over the “moral relativism” of those who don’t share their worldviews.

That’s one of the “truths” for the “uneducated.” See how their “philosophy” works now?

Shamelessly quoting a couple of paragraphs I wrote last year:

Irving Kristol, one of the founders of the Neoconservative movement, famously asserted “There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn’t work.” I am not interested in trying to refute this notion—to claim that public truth telling is feasible or philosophically unproblematic would be to practice a different sort of hypocrisy—but I do think it is important to bring out one unspoken assumption of the rhetoric. The premise of the Neocons is that they represent the “highly educated adults” in the quote, that they are an august elite of philosopher kings and not simply a claque of geeks doing P.R. for billionaires.

Here’s what got me thinking about this issue. I most recently ran across the Kristol quote in an article on right wing attitudes towards Darwin. Although traditional Creationism is a bit low brow for these middle brow people who think they are high brow, the Intelligent Design movement appeals to them. Of course it may be the case that the various anti-evolutionist writers in Commentary are just practicing programmatic untruthfulness on this issue, but you get the impression that they really don’t know that the debate about evolution has been over for 120 years or so and that Anti-Darwinism only makes sense as part of a cynical culture war or as sheer wish fulfillment. Now I assume that Stalin actually thought Lysenko was right, and I expect Irving Kristol, Leon Kass, and Robert Bork have a similarly misplaced faith in Behe, Berlinski, and Dembski. If so, they reveal themselves to be liberal arts idiots of the first water.

The Straussians are absolutely vile. I think that the most important political task that American must undertake is to purge our government, adademia, and even corporate America of them completely.

Why don’t you listen to yourselves? And you accuse–with no proof–that those who favor ID are trying to “impose” religion; yet no one talks like that, except materialists. Here’s living proof.

Blast:

Here’s living proof.

With a single datum, no less.

Incidentally, I think that all British politics should be purged of fascists and neoNazis. I think we should do this by exposing their beliefs to the public and by voting against them, in some vilely democratic attempt to favour one way to run the country over another. This is equivalent to trying to religiously indoctrinate children in state schools.

I do however agree that there’s no proof of Intelligent Design proponents constantly letting the ball drop and admitting to being religiously motivated or admitting that they’re attempting to undermine science education with metaphysics.

-The Rev. Schmitt.

Ed Darrell: I’ve read Himmelfarb’s review in TNR and didn’t come away with the impression that she was ‘anti-Darwinian’ at all, but rather that there is nothing in natural selection that is inherently anti-theist. Also that she strongly mistrusts Wilson’s sociobiology as an overly reductionist and mechanistic approach to human behavior. I have a background in Cultural Anth and I’ve read part of Sociobiology. Wilson’s very clear about methodology and he’s very…organized, which is why my professor assigned him, but I have the same problems with him that Himmelfarb does. So, er, yes, what the far more informed Patricia Princehouse said.

As for the Straussians, I’m not very informed on the subject, but it seems to me that ‘following Strauss’ is a big tent that can include quite a broad range of views. I would recommend reading this liberal Straussian’s explanation and in fact the rest of his blog before condemning them out of hand.

AARRGH, url vs a tags…

Anyway, to begin again…

Ed Darrell, I read the Himmelfarb review in TNR and have to say it seems to me to fit in with what Patricia Princehouse said about her work. There was nothing anti-Darwinian about that review. She did make a point of saying that Darwin was a theist for much of his life and there is nothing inherently anti-theistic about natural selection. She also slagged off Wilson and Watson for being so vehemently anti-religious and Wilson’s sociobiology for taking a dubiously reductionist and mechanistic approach to human behavior. I’ve read Sociobiology–well, parts of it–and have to say that I have the same problems with it, given the breadth of human behavior revealed in my ethnographic reading.

And to whoever wants to launch a crusade against Straussians, I don’t know much about Leo Strauss’ writings, but I’ve read an explanation of them by a liberal Straussian and I think it might be a good idea to learn a little more about the subject before condemning Straussians out of hand. ‘Straussian’ seems to be a broad tent that can accommodate a range of political views.

Leslie Friedman Goldstein, professor at University of Delaware who studied with Strauss Wrote:

“So what unifies ‘Straussians’? They are unified by a belief about reading and a belief about the value of political philosophy. They share the view that reading texts closely is a wise approach, that trying to discern the view of the author as the author understood him- or herself is the best starting point for understanding a text, and that authors may have more than one message intended for more than one level of anticipated reader.”

“They also share the view that the belief that social science can and should be value-free is problematic and many levels. A subspecies of this value-free social science was the approach dominant in the fifties and sixties in many philosophy departments that limited moral or political philosophy to language analysis: instead of asking, ‘What is justice?’, scholars of this approach reduced the horizon to their questioning to, ‘What do people mean by “justice” or by “rights”?’ Leo Strauss urged students to attempt to recapture the power of the original question by reading with an open mind philosophers of the past from periods in which these questions were deemed, in principle, answerable. Consequently, Straussians are at least willing to entertain seriously the possibility that there might be a human nature, and to ponder what that nature might entail.”

BlastfromthePast Wrote:

Why don’t you listen to yourselves? And you accuse—with no proof—that those who favor ID are trying to “impose” religion; yet no one talks like that, except materialists. Here’s living proof.

The Straussians are fascists.

Give me that old time religion any day over these guys.

Different “truths” for different people means a rigidly caste-based society in which lies are told to everyone except the wealthy and the connected and people are manipulated like livestock. I stand by my belief that anyone who believes such a thing is unfit to hold public office in a free republic and should be opposed at every turn. For the record, I think that all people deserve to know all things that are known.

This “different truths for different people” thing is also blasphemous from a religious point of view. What disturbs me more than a religious fundamentalist? Answer: a neofascist who likes to pretend to be a fundie or pretend to support fundies because they think that those ideas are ok for the “little people.” I’d take an honest fundamentalist over these guys any day. At least I’d know what I’m dealing with. With these guys, you have no idea what they believe or what they want to do. They might just be telling you one of their lies for the “little people.” I actually feel sorry for honest religious folk who actually think Kristol and his contemporaries give a damn about them. Sorry. You are (like me) little people to these guys. You exist to support and to die in the wars of the philosopher kings, poor peasant.

I feel the need to clarify a bit more.

When a religious fundamentalist says that all truth is in the Bible, I disagree. However, I can read the Bible. Thus, even if all truth were in the Bible, it is still available to me. Furthermore, the religious fundamentalist does not tell me that all truths are in the Bible and then turn around and tell a wealthier or more powerful person something else. Someone who is honestly a religious fundamentalist is honest.

I disagree with that point of view, but I would not use words like “purge” or have that emotional of a reaction to it.

However, if someone said that all truths were in the Bible and then said that I should not be allowed to read a Bible because I’m not fit to know the truth, or because it might scare me, I would:

a) Attempt to get a Bible any way I could.

b) Have an extremely emotional reaction to such a person and write things about them that used strong language like what you saw above.

c) Oppose their ascendancy to a position of power under any circumstances.

I believe that I am entirely justified in doing so. For the record, I don’t think that religious fundamentalists should be “purged” from public office except by democratic means. However, if Irving Kristol were preseident I would believe strongly that he should be impeached for that remark and removed from office. If Bush or Clinton or anyone else said “hey, I think that we should just lie to the American people! it’s good for them!” I would advocate their impeachment as well.

Irving Kristol would be unfit to hold public office unless he disavows that remark and repudiates the philosophy on which it is based. Any philosophy that postulates hierarchical truth is for sociopaths.

By the way, I do try to understand people that I disagree with:

http://www.greythumb.org/blog/index[…]-theory.html

I do not try to understand neofascists.

“Writing 6 years after the structure of DNA was discovered, it is perhaps understandable (though not to say entirely forgivable) that a historian would not be completely up-to-date on theoretical biology.”

What does that have to do with being a creationist in the late 20th Century? There was plentiful evidence of evolution long before the structure of DNA was discovered. It took willful ignorance to ignore it then, just as it does today.

I don’t know much about Leo Strauss’ writings, but I’ve read an explanation of them by a liberal Straussian and I think it might be a good idea to learn a little more about the subject before condemning Straussians out of hand. ‘Straussian’ seems to be a broad tent that can accommodate a range of political views.

Strauss is an elitist and panders to the rich who, as a group, heavily trend towards bigotry and totalitarianism to preserve their way of life. It doesn’t necessarily follow he’s a fascist, but his ideas are amenable to any totalitarian system, and, to a great extent, can even be applied through a campaign of dis-information to influence a democratic society.

That anyone who calls him/her self a “liberal Straussian” makes me wonder what kind of “liberal” they really are… I tend to classify most of those, not as ‘liberals’ but as ‘want-to-be petty nobility’ and the processes by which they kid themselves into being liberals is more along the lines of ‘noblesse oblige’ rather than any sort of meritocratic-equality philosophy they may spout.

Comment #61778

Posted by Antiquated Tory on December 7, 2005 05:59 AM (e) (s)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag ‘a’

These ugly comments litter Panda’s Thumb. Why couldn’t they replace that with a meaningful message like

Comment #61778

Posted by Antiquated Tory on December 7, 2005 05:59 AM (e) (s)

There was a typing error in this comment, so the software threw the whole thing away. Maybe the next release will be created by professional programmers. Until then.

Adam Ierymenko:I do not try to understand neofascists.

There are a lot of them around, and they have serious, and seriously harmful, sociopolitical influence. If unopposed, there will be more of them, doing even worse things.

Study them, or expect to find yourself flailing as blindly as a naive scientist being trampled by a professional creationist debater, or as, say, Paul Bremer in Iraq.

As to Machiavelli, the neocons, and ID, I think there is no enfilading position to be found there.

A neocon would just be happy that the elite cadre engaging in weapons research would have the full set of knowledge & tools they need, while the proles would be happy in the belief-system that mankind is created in God’s image, there is an afterlife, etc.

My Mom and sister are fundies, and it’s tough to find in materialism a better life narrative than evangelical Christianity for them. I’ve basically given up trying to educate them on the sublime implications of evolutionary ideas; they want to believe life is a miracle, not the product of billions of mistakes. I don’t see the big loss to them, though this wish-fulfillment thinking does have other repercussions, eg. blindly voting (R) since they are more publically pious than the (D)s.

I see Blast o’ Hot Air is here again.

If people want to believe that they are special, that GOD created them directly and cares deeply about their welfare, and indeed cares if the team they favour wins the game, then its OK with me for them to believe that.

What I don’t want is them teaching that to my kids in school.

Irving Kristol: “There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn’t work.”

So *who gets to decide* which truths are appropriate for whom, in this kind of distorted world? Gee, could it possibly be Kristol and his ilk?

Sounds disturbingly like Mein Kampf…

Is this ever making the blog circuit!

Now it’s on Vanity Fair‘s James Wolcott’s page, and a whole bunch of other blogs:

http://jameswolcott.com/archives/20[…]gent_des.php elementropy.blogspot.com/2005/12/intelligent-design-fueled-by.html www.balloon-juice.com/?p=6228 larison.org/archives/000425.php adaptivecomplexity.blogspot.com/2005/12/evolutionary-biologists-arent.html positiveliberty.com/2005/12/neo-conservatives-and-evolution.html lightseekinglight.blogspot.com/2005/12/science-and-scientism.html

Himmelfarb’s TNR review of E.O. Wilson and James Watson is online.

On the very first page, she calls Watson “the co-discoverer of the DNA molecule.”

What. an. idiot.

I mean, this is something that takes 2 seconds to look up on Wikipedia—Friedrich Miescher discovered DNA in 1869; James Watson and Francis Crick discovered its structure with the unacknowledged help of Rosalind Franklin’s X-ray diffraction image.

Why didn’t TNR‘s editors catch this? Why did they ask this nincompoop to review a subject she obviously knows nothing about? They must be idiots too!

Here’s more:

Gertrude Himmelfarb Wrote:

In 1958, at a cocktail party in London, I was introduced to Sir Julian Huxley, one of England’s most eminent scientists. (He had just been knighted.) My hostess, seeking, in good English fashion, to establish some common denominator between her two guests, told him that I was writing a book on Darwin, and then, perhaps to provoke him, went on to say that the book might put evolution in a new light. “New!” Huxley protested. “There is nothing new to say about evolution. Everything that needs saying has already been said. The theory is incontrovertible.” That was the end of that conversation, Huxley promptly going off to find a more congenial drawing-room partner.

No shit.

Someone stop this woman before she writes again.

Madam Pomfrey Wrote:

Sounds disturbingly like Mein Kampf…

Well, not really. I called it fascism, and I think I was correct in doing so. Fascism can be thought of as “industrial feudalism.” In other words, it’s an attempt to bring back feudal order in an industrial or post-industrial setting. In fascism, corporations take the place of feudal lords and the state takes the place of the monarchy. The only missing piece is the universal religion. I think they’re building up evangelical Christianity (of the McMegachurch variety especially) in America to serve as the feudal religion for the peasants. Note the whole emphasis on transcending sectarian bounds. They’re trying to glom Christians together under one umbrella here.

But it’s not really Mein Kampf per se. American neofascism has more in common with Italian “third way” fascism as well as with post-war fascist ideology than it does with German fascism. The racialist component of German fascism is not essential to fascism and is mostly missing in the American version. I think this makes it more dangerous. Generations of Americans have been taught that fascism is equated with gas chambers, when that is not essential to it. Thus, Americans don’t know it when they see it cause they are looking for the death camps which IMHO will never happen here.

Side-note: Fascism’s economics is a form of collectivist command economics. It is true that there is private property, but corporations and private businessmen must serve the state. Fascist economies are essentially paramilitary in their organization. One way of thinking about fascism is that fascism is what you get when everyone is more or less de-facto drafted into the military. It is certainly not free-enterprise of the libertarian variety– anyone can’t just do anything they want business-wise in a fascist state… unless they pay their protection money of course.

This is why a lot of the most vocal critics of the neocons are libertarian capitalists. Reason magazine is a libertarian journal. When fascism’s critics on the left call it ‘capitalism,’ IMHO they are getting it wrong and alienating potential allies. I think we’re in political emergency territory here where it’s important for liberals, *real* conservatives, libertarians, and pretty much anyone else who is not a fascist to join forces to stop the rise of neofascism in America. We all at least have common interest in not being fascists. Once we defeat this threat, we can then return to our political identities and resume sane debate about the future of the country.

When Mussolini said that fascism was the ‘corporate state,’ this is usually misunderstood by Americans. What he really meant was that fascism is the union of all institutions under the state. Business institutions, churches, universities, community organizations, etc. are all included.

Adam I: “I think they’re building up evangelical Christianity (of the McMegachurch variety especially) in America to serve as the feudal religion for the peasants. Note the whole emphasis on transcending sectarian bounds. They’re trying to glom Christians together under one umbrella here.”

Yes, and they’ve begun using “Christian” as a code word for that brand of megachurch evangelicalism. You used to hear them say “X was a Catholic and became a Christian,” and now that’s been extended as far as “X was a Lutheran/Episcopalian and became a Christian.” Of course the other implication here is that only evangelical fundamentalism is real Christianity.

“But it’s not really Mein Kampf per se”

You’re quite right. I didn’t mean to imply that the neocon agenda is identical to what Hitler set forth in Mein Kampf, just that that particular quote from Kristol reminded me of things Hitler said in Mein Kampf pertaining to the idiocy of the “feminine” masses and how they can’t handle certain types of truths, and have to be fed simplified, filtered ideology by the state.

Actually, the comparison goes further.

I have heard some historians describe at least some of European fascism as a “Marxist heresy.” The intellectual pedigree of many European fascists goes like this: they started off as revolutionary Marxists, and later become disillusioned with the failure of revolutionary Marxism to get the proletariat to rise up. From this failure they deduced that the masses just didn’t know what was good for them, and so they had to be lead by other means. Because, after all, you can’t actually question your own ideas. Not when you are a supremely enlightened philosopher king!

So, the result was… well… the same. The whole gambit about the importance of mythology to the masses, the need for the masses to be led, the importance of nationalism and national myths, the importance of religion for the “little people,” etc.

This “Marxist heresy” aspect to fascism was far more apparent in Italian fascism. German fascism had more complex roots including roots in what today might be called the new age movement. That’s where all the wierd mystical/occult and racial destiny stuff came from. However, there was a more Italian/ex-Marxist faction in the Nazi party. It was called the Strasserite wing if my memory serves correctly, and was associated with the lower-class manifestations of Nazism a.k.a. the “brown shirts.”

I would say that the neocons are essentially doctrinaire Strasser/Mussolini type fascists. They share the same background, followed the same path of intellectual development, and reached the same conclusions.

Of course there are those who say that if you scratch the surface of American neofascism you also find a bit of really wierd mystical stuff under there as well. Google “red heifer” and “reverend moon” for example, or look into the wierd crossover between the american far right and UFO cults. I think Kristol is just a plain old vanilla pompous intellectual fascist but there are some very far-out weirdos circulating in the same circles as well.

The BBC documentary series “Crazy Rulers of the World” gets into some of this. It doesn’t deal exclusively with neocons/neofascists but it does plumb the depths of high lunacy within the American military and government. The first episode entitled “The Men who Stare at Goats” is hilarious, but the second and third episode of the series show you the dark side. I highly recommend it along with “The Power of Nightmares,” another BBC documentary that more closely examines the neocons and Strauss.

The scary thing to me about the neocons is that they are (or were) utopians. Utopianism is pure evil, as history clearly demonstrates. Utopia means “a state in which all those who do not fit into a predefined mold are marginalized, deported, or killed.”

I don’t think Leo Strauss was a great political philosopher, but I’ve got to protest the practice of blaiming dead intellectuals for what their followers eventually do in their name. Strauss certainly wasn’t a fascist; and if he were brought back to life, he would probably strike contemporary rightists as a liberal.

About the hearts and minds of the people. I’ve noticed on certain book-sales web sites, that if a review says, “This is a bad book because evolution is all nonsense,” it gets about 10% “this review was helpful,” whereas if it says, “this is a great book that explains some aspect of evolution,” it gets about 90% “this review was helpful.”

Whether that translates into political action to keep mysticism out of the classroom, I don’t know.

Now Beckwith has deleted the rest of the comments from his blog.

What an a$$hole.

But they’re still on Google cache.

What a stupid a$$hole.

Comments

Wow, Frank, _this_ is how I can tell that I haven’t been paying very close attention to what has been going on surrounding ID–I hadn’t heard about this flap at all until I read this post.

What a bunch of baloney. There is a “stop at nothing” feeling about these folks. Sorry you’ve been witch-hunted. Hopefully the new Baylor administration will leave things to the academic department, which sounds like it wants to keep you on your academic merits. Posted by: Lydia at May 26, 2005 07:19 AM

Mr Beckwith, You went about it all wrong. You should have stressed you’re 1/16th Indian,handed out condoms to twelve yr olds and cited Bush as a war criminal with Rumsfeld to be tried by an international court. A few encomiums about Fidel Castro and loud approval of gay marriage would have clinched it. It’s never too late to learn. I almost left out the most important thing,continually bleat about the open mind,diversity on campus,the academic pursuit of truth wherever it might lead,and toleration of opinions no matter how outrageous. You got that? Posted by: johnt at May 26, 2005 09:22 AM

Hi Frank.

You say “I stand by my work on intelligent design,” but when challenged on this subject quite recently, you said that “my views on ID are not fully formed.”

Which is it? Why do you stand by work based on your “not fully formed” ideas?

Do you have any evidence for ID now, beyond the nonsense you already showed that appears in an index of creationist claims?

ID is pseudoscientific claptrap, useful only to ideologues who want to see religion taught in public schools.

That’s what this criticism is about, not your academic freedom that Forrest and Branch expressly defended. Posted by: Steven Thomas Smith at May 26, 2005 02:40 PM

Steven,

If you’d slow down and read rather than jumping to conclusions, you’d see that there’s no discrepancy in Dr. Beckwith’s statements. In your hurry to score rhetorical points, you’ve failed to master even the basic point of Beckwith’s squib.

Dr. Beckwith’s book is called Law, Darwinism, and Education. His interest (and his work), as he’s clearly stated, are on the legal aspects of the teaching of ID, rather than the theory itself. In fact, if you had taken more than five seconds to read what he wrote in your rush to bloviate about “psuedoscientific claptrap,” you’d notice that he even pointed out that not an intelligent design advocate.

His point is a legal one–that it is Constitutionally permissible to teach ID in the schools, and this is the work he says he “stand(s) by.” Or, to put it another way (as my kids would), “duh.” If you wish to dispute Beckwith’s legal argument, fine. But you haven’t even attempted to make a legal argument. You don’t even seem to understand that it’s a legal argument. Indeed, you would actually have to have some knowledge on the subject beyond a few perjoratives to have figured that out, which perhaps is why you’re forced to substitute ad hominem for substance.

If this is the kind of thinking prevalent among the supposedly scientifically-minded, we’re in more trouble than any of us realized. Failure to grasp basic points of logic and language in the rush to label and marginalize is the very point to begin with. Thank you for offering us such a pristine example.

Meanwhile, how about showing us your thesis for the Washington University law school? Posted by: John R. at May 26, 2005 04:46 PM

John is perfectly correct. My views on the scientific merits of the ID case are not fully formed. If some of the ID arguments do not work, I won’t lose any sleep. So, I am not an ID advocate.

However, as a trained philosopher, I am interested in the philosophical questions raised by certain ID advocates that challenge demarcation theories, philosophical materialism, and narrow foundationalism (in epistemology). I think here is where the ID guys have an important point to make. Regardless of whether Behe’s or Dembski’s arguments work, I think the case against materialism as a worldview is strong. That is, there’s much more to anti-materialist philosophy than ID proper, and I make that point in my book.

Having said that, John is correct that my book and law review articles explore a particular niche in this debate, a legal one. If you take the time to read the book, you will see that my presentation of ID in chapter 3 is mostly philosophical, dealing as much with demarcation theories and philosophy of science as with the standard ID stuff.

I hope that I’ve made myself clear.

BTW, my letter to the editor concerned an injustice committed against me by Steve’s allies. Now, if I were given to committing the guilt by association fallacy, I would have interpreted Steve’s silence in addressing this injustice as tacit endorsement of it. But I’m not a practitioner of the fallacy. I prefer to practice the principle of charity. Thus, I interpret Steve’s silence as tacit condemnation of this disreputable tactic, since he chose not to support it. Posted by: Francis Beckwith at May 26, 2005 06:05 PM

I’m looking in vain for anything resembling an argument in Mr Smith’s post, and am not finding anything. Is the mere assertion that something is claptrap an argument? Posted by: Eric Vestrup at May 26, 2005 06:21 PM

I’ve got a quick question that touches on the ID issue. I haven’t thought about this a too much. But, it seems to me that there might be a lot of things that aren’t taught in high schools, but that might be constitutional to teach in high schools (e.g. comparative religion, philosophy). So, why all the support for intelligent design being included in science classes, rather than these other alternatives? As any good Christian knows, just because it is legal doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea.

Over and over again I hear ID protagonists claiming that students should be taught to critically examine the claims of science, materialism, evolutionary theory, etc. Okay, all of this can be taught without talking about ID, right? It isn’t necessary to talk about ID to talk about demarcation because you can just use astrology as an example. It seems to me that there are lots of open questions here regarding whether or not ID should be taught in manner that tends to be proposed by the ID movement. Posted by: philosopundit at May 26, 2005 07:11 PM

Spot on, philosopundit. I’m all for philosohpy being taught in schools. And for ID to be discussed in this context makes perfect sense. On the other hand, I’d strongly suggest it shouldn’t be taught as part of a science programme. Because at heart it’s a metaphysical rather than a scientific theory. Posted by: rob stowell at May 26, 2005 08:45 PM

“…holding “challenge conferences in significant academic settings” in order to “draw scientific materialists into open debate with design theorists.”

Watch out! It’s a conspiracy to have an open debate!

Of course, one might want to have things like evidence and facts and research to support them in such a debate.

It is sad that Dr. Beckworth is being unfairly persecuted for providing only a tangential support to this theory. Posted by: Step2 at May 26, 2005 10:43 PM

I think the case against materialism as a worldview is strong. That is, there’s much more to anti-materialist philosophy than ID proper,

My apologies if this seems like nit-picking, but I just wanted to make sure it was noted that anti-materialism doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with ID. That is to say, you can reject materialism without accepting anything like ID.

I consider myself to be in the tradition of anti-materialists like Nietzsche and Chomsky–i.e., scientific naturalists who nonetheless reject the claim that the world can be entirely captured in materialistic terms. Posted by: Dadahead at May 27, 2005 05:30 AM

Whoo boy! A tempest in a teapot. Francis is the en passant subject of two factual sentences in a very lengthy article and now he’s being “persecuted”?

Francis, did members of the Dawson family complain about your appointment? Yes, they did, quite publicly in an open letter, as documented here: http://www.baptiststandard.com/post[…]&print=1

Are you affiliated with the Discovery Institute? Of course you are. You’re a Fellow of the CSC of the DI. Hardly the detached relationship you attempt to portray.

The article questions Baylor’s motives in hiring you, not your credentials. So what is this really about? Posted by: wai at May 27, 2005 01:26 PM

I was under the impression that hiring people based on credentials was legitimate. The article you link to includes comments from my press release in which I directly address the completely stupid guilt-by-association “Discovery Institute” tactic offered by my persecutors. So, instead of just linking to it, why don’t you quote from it in which I address your-already answered-18-months-ago question. Actually, don’t bother, here it is:

Beckwith, who in addition to his administrative position is associate professor of church-state studies, affirms the principles championed by the Dawson Institute, he said.

“I am a strong proponent of the separation of church and state as well as religious liberty, though in a free society such as ours, citizens of goodwill will differ on how to understand these principles in the 21st century, an era nearly a half-century removed from the time J.M. Dawson published the bulk of his work,” he said.

“For example, my scholarship on law, Darwinism and public education explores a new, important and fascinating question …: Would certain critiques of Darwinism, including intelligent design theory, pass constitutional muster if subjected to standard judicial tests?”

Beckwith’s affiliations with think-tanks such as the Discovery Institute are merely affiliations, he stressed. “Think-tanks are not churches or lodges; there are no oaths or statements of faith that one must sign. …

“My work is my own, and I stand by it. However, it is inappropriate and not in the spirit of J.M. Dawson’s philosophy for his descendants or any members of the Baylor community to blacklist faculty because they receive funding, however modest, from think-tanks and foundations with which other members of the academic community disagree.”

Why don’t you ask Baylor why they hired me instead of making cloaked insinuations? In fact, why don’t you quote from my colleague who specifically addresses it in the article to which you link but from which you do not quote:

Hankins also debunked what he called rumors that have surfaced since Beckwith arrived at Baylor.

“It is simply not true that Frank was forced on the department by the administration,” Hankins insisted. “He was the best qualified person for the job and in my view strengthens the department, both because of his credentials as a scholar and because of his views on various church-state matters.

“There are faculty at Baylor who believe Frank should not have been hired because of his work on intelligent design or because he could be called a ‘cultural conservative.’ I believe the academic enterprise is strengthened when a variety of views are represented in institutes and departments where complex and controversial issues are to be debated. We are in the business of educating, not indoctrinating.”

I applied for a job that I saw in an advertisement in Chronicle; I was interviewed; I was offered it. And then, oddly enough, I accepted it. What did you expect me to do, consult Baylor alumni and ask their permission as to whether I should take this great job? Please, give me a break.

You have no idea the emotional pain and hurt inflicted on me and my wife when we arrived in Waco. Do you know how it is to open the morning paper, see your face on the front page above a story about people wanting you “reassigned,” employing tactics honed by Senator McCarthy in the 1950s. Yes, I was persecuted, big time. But, of course, Forrest and Branch are on a witch hunt and they do not give a damn about the damage they do to people’s lives and families when they present their “facts” in a way that distorts the truth. Forrest and Branch should be ashamed of themselves. Serious critics of ID, if they have any self-respect, should condemn their disreputable tactics, tactics that say that scholars with religious motivations or beliefs should not be accorded the respect of having their arguments assessed on their merits, but rather, should be dismissed, ridiculed, and called names because of these beliefs. Last time I checked, we called this “bigotry.” Posted by: Francis Beckwith at May 27, 2005 03:04 PM

Frank,

Two quick points in response, one about ID, and one about you.

Intelligent Design has no intellectual or scientific merit whatsoever. Its arguments have been thoroughly debunked. Borrowing from Monty Python, ID is off the twig, kicked the bucket, shuffled off the mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible.

Now about you. What’s your beef with methodological materialism? How do you think that you’re able to fly around the country or operate your computer? Computer pixies? How do you think that you’re able to think? Brain pixies?

You know that I haven’t been silent in my criticism of your association with the Discovery Institute. In its “Wedge Document,” the DI says:

> “Design theory promises to reverse the stifling > dominance of the materialist worldview, and to > replace it with a science consonant with > Christian and theistic convictions”

The same document lists as a five-year goal “legal reform movements.” You’re a DI Fellow actively arguing a legal point for teaching Intelligent Design creationism as science in public schools.

Why would not a reasonable person link your work with the DI goals of replacing materialistic science “with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions”?

Guilt by association is only a fallacy if it’s a fallacy, and it’s tough to see how it is in your case.

FYI Frank, I’m running out the door to enjoy the long weekend in spite of our crappy New England weather. I’ll be able to pick this up Tuesday at the earliest. I hope that you and your wife have a pleasant weekend yourselves.

Steve Posted by: Steven Thomas Smith at May 27, 2005 04:39 PM

****Quote from Smith to Beckwith*** Now about you. What’s your beef with methodological materialism? How do you think that you’re able to fly around the country or operate your computer? Computer pixies? How do you think that you’re able to think? Brain pixies? ****End Quote****

Let me make sure I understand the winning syllogism that is implicit in the above rhetoric:

Some things work [in a certain sense] relative to Mr Smith’s views on MN.

Therefore, MN is the sole proper view for answering questions.

Maybe I wasn’t paying attention in logic class, but I don’t remember that argument form, though I can assert that it has the same shallowness as does Bultmann’s famous claim regarding the incompatibility of holding a supernaturalist worldview in light of the use of electricity. Posted by: Eric Vestrup at May 27, 2005 09:32 PM

I thnk that professor Beckwith’s computer and airplane both work because they were not produced by non-directed causes. Nice design argument, Steve.

Here’s my suggestion: take the time to read books on this subject, such as J P Moreland’s CHRISTIANITY AND THE NATURE OF SCIENCE. Moreland deals with this subject in great detail.

Also, ponder this: if agents are necessary conditions to produce computers and planes, then MN is impotent in accounting for the very objects you offer as analogies.

Of course, if human agents are purely material beings, your problem gets even murkier. Now, you have to account for something–agency–that seems to be actualized in ways not accountable to non-rational material causes. However, if you in fact say that agency is the result of such causes, now your entire view is imperiled by an appaling loop of irrational causes that cannot account for the scientists who draw inferences based on data.

What’s wrong with MN? It account for itself or the reason necessary to arrive at it. In other words, it sucks to methodological naturalism. Posted by: Chuckie Darwin at May 27, 2005 10:18 PM

Oops. Too many typos in previous post. Here’s a revised version.

I thnk that professor Beckwith’s computer and airplane both work because they were not produced by non-directed causes. Nice design argument, Steve.

Here’s my suggestion: take the time to read books on this subject, such as J P Moreland’s CHRISTIANITY AND THE NATURE OF SCIENCE. Moreland deals with this subject in great detail.

Also, ponder this: if agents are necessary conditions to produce computers and planes, then MN is impotent in accounting for the very objects you offer as analogies.

Of course, if human agents are purely material beings, your problem gets even murkier. Now, you have to account for something–agency–that seems to be actualized in ways not accountable by non-rational material causes. However, if you in fact say that agency is the result of such causes, now your entire view is imperiled by an appalling loop of irrational causes that cannot account for the scientists who draw inferences based on data.

What’s wrong with MN? It cannot account for itself or the reason necessary to arrive at it. In other words, it sucks to be methodological naturalism. Posted by: Chuckie Darwin at May 27, 2005 10:21 PM

Picture on the front page of the local newspaper??

I’ve gotta say, Frank, there’s something very odd about Baylor. It sounds like the whole school is a war zone. I try to imagine similar hysteria attending your appointment at a secular university and fail. People just have better things to do with their time. I guess there’s something to be said for a big, anonymous university with no “identity.” Then there’s no war for the school’s identity!

Mind you, you might not have _been_ hired at a secular university. The black-listing probably would have taken place more quietly by the department itself, and for the same silly reasons you are getting grief for here. But if the department wanted you, I suspect everybody else would just shrug.

I loved that bit about people’s objecting to you on the grounds that you’re a cultural conservative. Don’t they have any of those at Baylor besides you? Or are they just blocked from making any new hires from such a rad group? Posted by: Lydia at May 28, 2005 09:07 AM

“I’ve gotta say, Frank, there’s something very odd about Baylor. It sounds like the whole school is a war zone.”

Lydia is on to something here, I think. Another dimension is added to Dr. Beckwith’s situation when we consider the context at Baylor.

Baylor’s on a mission, headed up by Sloan, to become a top-notch research institution and strengthen its Christian identity at the same time is the source of controvery at Baylor that ranges from worries about the financial management of the university to worries about fundamentalsts taking the place over from the inside. Being associated with the ID movement isn’t helping the aim of becoming a top-notch research institution because it is precisely the academic merits of ID that are open to question. Providing a forum for the ID movement on campus might promote the Christian identity of the university, but not in a good way. Given the bigger issues at Baylor it is unsurprising that there are controversies over ID at Baylor since it stands at the crossroads of the two prongs of the university’s mission to be a Baptist version of Notre Damn. Posted by: philosopundit at May 28, 2005 11:18 AM

Philosopundit: Did you know Pres. Sloan’s been fired? They’ve got a new guy as president. I don’t want to start a debate on abortion, but he’s supposedly a big Planned Parenthood supporter. In other words, the antithesis of Sloan.

I didn’t make my comment with any intent to _excuse_ the behavior of those criticizing Frank’s appointment. On the contrary, I think they are over the top and need to chill out big time. They are trying to be “more Catholic than the Pope,” as it were–“more virulently anti-ID than the secular institutions.” I sense a kind of hysterical fear on the part of the anti-ID people at Baylor lest they be looked down upon by anti-ID people outside of Baylor. It ends up almost looking pathetic. I can’t help thinking that biologists (for example) at a secular university, however low their opinion of ID, would not feel they had to prove themselves by this kind of wild opposition to an appointment in another department. I think any naturalist at Baylor is insecure if he thinks he needs to scream this loudly about Frank’s appointment and get opposition to Frank put into the local _newspaper_, for heavens’ sake! Posted by: Lydia at May 28, 2005 11:43 AM

Ah, yes, Barbara Forrest, the pseudo-scientist who dishonestly claimed the following (in an op-ed piece co-authored with Gross):

“Evolution, on the other hand, is at the center of all life science, much physical science (as in geology), and applied fields such as medicine and agriculture.”

Evolution does not inform geology or any other physical science. Forrest tried to hoodwink readers by conflating biological evolution and geological “evolution” (i.e., uniformitarianism and plate tectonics) because biology suffers from an inferior evidentiary threshold and epistemological footing.

Forrest has no credibility and no business speaking on matters on science. Posted by: Robert O’Brien at May 28, 2005 12:08 PM

Mr. Vestrup:

Are you the same Eric Vestrup who authored a text on measure theory that I plan on adding to my library? Posted by: Robert O’Brien at May 28, 2005 12:31 PM

Lydia,

I did hear that Sloan is out (I’m an alum), and that the new guy is different. But, did Sloan get fired or did he step down, technically?

I agree that the ID issue at Baylor has many sides to it, and many of them are no doubt pathetic. Yeah, there’s probably a little hysteria among some of the anti-ID crowd at Baylor. But, given that the academic merits and the political aspects of the ID movement are at least open to a good deal of debate there is probably some justification to worry that if the school is associated with ID they’ll look like crazy fundamentalists to the rest of the academic community and not be taken seriously. I don’t think it is all hysteria because no doubt to many outside Baylor the place will indeed look like it is run by fundamentalists if it is associated with ID. Of course, I don’t want to give anybody a pass for violating academic freedom either. Although to be completely honest, since the academic merits of ID are in question I find it a little troubling that much of the ID debate is framed in terms of an academic freedom issue. I’m just saying that it is a difficult issue, given the nature of the debates around ID and the culture at Baylor. It is almost as if the circumstances at Baylor and the issues with the ID movement have led to the paradoxical situation in which Baylor is threatening academic freedom (Beckwirth’s appointment) in order to save its academic reputation in the eyes of those outside the “Baylor bubble.” What a mess! Posted by: philosopundit at May 28, 2005 12:37 PM

Dr. Sloan did step down. He was not fired. What makes my case particularly odd is that my work on ID–as I stress in my letter–makes up a small portion of my work in social and political philosophy. Most of my work has been in applied ethics and philosophy of religion. My interest in ID and public education has much to do with my fascination with the way in which many of the questions in philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, and jurisprudence overlap. For example, Rawls’ call to state neutrality on issues metaphysical has much in common with the claim that science is apparently neutral on ultimate questions as well. I just find this stuff incredibly interesting.

A Christian university ought to be a place where a Christian philosopher of law should be able to explore these interesting questions with the support and encouragement of his peers, even if those peers are skeptical of the project. I fully understand why some of my colleagues at Baylor are uneasy about ID. But most of these guys are scientists and they are, frankly, not trained to deal with the philosophical questions that percolate beneath these debates. For this reason, they have no category for someone like me. I am not a fundamentalist, and never even flirted with creationism (though she did give me her number, but that’s another story. ;-)). In any event, as a Christian who believes that my theology is part of a knowledge tradition, I am interested in better understanding how that tradition intersects, and may conflict with, the deliverances of our leading academic disciplines. Because I think materialism as a worldview if false, and because I believe that things like souls, moral properties, minds, and numbers have ontological standing, it is important that I carry my epistemic weight and offer to those who are skeptical of my point of view a conceptual framework on how Christian theism fits in with the academic enterprise. Some of my brethren come to different conclusions than I do, and there some conclusions I don’t feel comfortable announcing because I have not even convinced myself. So, on the question of Darwinism and Chrsitian faith, I can live with theistic evolution in John Paul II’s sense (that is, God has explanatory power in the theory). However, on matters concerning the ulitmate nature of things, materialism is not very good at accounting for much of anything important, such as free agency, moral properties, personal continuity over time, intrinsic human dignity, purpose in life, etc.

When I came to Baylor, I wish people had just asked me to my face what I thought about these matters instead of trying to hurt and punish me for what they believe were past injustices committed against them.

I love Baylor. I’m in a great department. And things have been wonderful after the dust settled when I first arrived. I think the folks that wanted me reassigned are not bad people, but well-meaning alumni who are not accustomed to people like me who did not fit the Baptist-Bible-war paradigm. I am a half-Sicilian, Yankee, Brooklyn-born, Jesuit-trained, olive-skinned, evangelical, baptised-Catholic, Vegas-raised philosopher who went to law school. I am not your typical Central Texas resident.

I sort of regret posting my AAUP letter on Right Reason, since the events of Fall 2003 seem more like a distant dream than a present reality. But I thought that posting an easily accessible public record was in order. So, this is all I will say about this.

Peace.

Frank Posted by: Francis Beckwith at May 28, 2005 01:48 PM

Perhaps now would be a good time for me to ask about a hunch I have concerning materialism and ID. Maybe Dr. Beckwith can point me in the right direction or tell me if I’m on to something or not since he’s more familiar with ID than I am.

My main area of research is in recent European philosophy (esp. ethics, political philosophy), phenomenology and post-structuralism. Some of my work in this area has recently led me to complexity theory. I’ll spare you the whole story, but the short of it is that Deleuze and Guattari draw on complexity theory and the notion of self-organizing matter/energy in order to avoid determinism and vitalism while at the same time remaining materialists. It looks to me, primia facia, that this kind of perspective goes a long way towards agreeing with the ID protagonist that traditional accounts of materialism can’t account for the stuff it must, but that does not lead us to the conclusion that irreducilbe complexity is evidence of a design. It would just be evidence of self-organizing matter/energy. Does ID reject the possibility that self-organization is an inherent capacity of matter and energy? If so, how? I’m really new to the complexity theory stuff, and I don’t have a handle on anywhere close to all of it. But, it looks to me as if complexity theory answers the ID criticisms of materialism and shows that positing a designer is to overstep the evidence. Any help with this query would be greatly appreciated. I’d like to know ASAP if I’m chasing a rabbit with this line of thinking. Posted by: philosopundit at May 28, 2005 02:55 PM

Mr. O’Brien:

I am the same person who authored the Wiley text on measure theory, and I have the grey hairs, bleary eyes, and expanded waistline to show for it!

I’m not sure if Forrest claimed that evolutionary theory is the center of measure and integration theory, but I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody as incompetent as her made such a triumphalistic comment. I for one do not use Darwinism nor methodological naturalism in the textbook. =D

If you purchase the book, I hope it serves you well and is found to be clearly written. On the other hand, if you have any questions about the book before buying, you’re welcome to email me. Posted by: Eric Vestrup at May 28, 2005 04:57 PM

Dr. Beckwith,

Alas for your congenial academe illusion, you offered opinions favoring the legality of teaching what the courts have said is illegal to teach. Alas for you, it appears, you’re the closest thing to a real lawyer the ID folks have to make that erroneous argument.

I regret you did not realize the depths to which ID advocates would sink, that they’d have to put you up front as the key legal mind in their argumentative front.

If you wish to extract yourself, you could do it neatly by publishing a letter noting that all of your opinions are premised on the notion that there is, indeed, science to be found in “intelligent design” that would meet the court definitions of science, and that nothing you have said is operative until such a time as several courts agree that there is science there.

I would also advise you to stay away from testifying on things you now seem to say you don’t understand, before official bodies. Your testimony to the Texas State Board of Education was not billed by your friends as simply the rambling ideas of a gentleman philosopher who had no Earthly idea about the scientific veracity of intelligent design.

Otherwise, yeah, it’s hot in the kitchen. Your testimony has been used to try to destroy the science education of my kids, and I’m pretty hot about it. If that’s not your intent, get your spoon out of the crock and retreat to the dining room, or library.

>From those who are given great gifts are expected great contributions. If you don’t want to contribute, don’t clog up the hall. Posted by: Ed Darrell at May 31, 2005 03:18 PM

On the “legal aspects” of ID: Under well established law, it is illegal to teach stuff that is grounded primarily in religion, as science, in science classes. Until such time as ID produces serious science output, in science, that is accepted by most scientists in the field and which also meets the courts’ definitions of what is science, rather than junk science, it is illegal to teach ID in science classes.

It ain’t science if no one’s doing research. Can anyone show us the photos of the ID labs? Is there any output of science from any of these places?

No. So it ain’t science, and it’s not legal to teach it as science. Consequently, any school board that tried to do order its teaching would be subject to litigation, and would lose.

No attorney should advise a client any differently. No philosopher should pretend to offer different legal advice. Posted by: Ed Darrell at May 31, 2005 03:23 PM

Evolution doesn’t inform other sciences? Well, Mr. O’Brien, would you care to take Lord Kelvin’s position on the age of the Sun as calculated from its color, or Darwin’s position, as calculated from the present state of life on the planet?

Here’s a clue: See Rutherford’s biography, and the graceful way he let Lord Kelvin down. Posted by: Ed Darrell at May 31, 2005 04:25 PM

Ah, my regional Lex Luther, Ed Darrell, makes his appearance on Right Reason. He writes: “From those who are given great gifts are expected great contributions. If you don’t want to contribute, don’t clog up the hall.” Two observations. First, I am flattered that he would imply that I have great gifts. Does that mean that there is a great gift giver that I should thank? :-) Second, he seems to be saying that people with great gifts function properly when they use their gifts to make great contributions. But proper function is design language. I’m going tell Pandas Thumb on you. :-)

Ed, seriously, calm down. I have this image of you as Madilyn Murray O’Hare in drag. Please disabuse me of this disturbing mental picture.

Cheers, Frank Posted by: Francis Beckwith at May 31, 2005 06:59 PM

If it disturbs you, Frank, why would I want to disabuse you?

Yes, of course you have gifts – many and great. Thank the great gift giver, and quit trying to disclaim the great gift giver’s creation just because it doesn’t show the science you prefer. It wasn’t your turn to choose.

Okay, I’ll disabuse you. I’m not Lex Luther – I’ve no designs on evil empires, and you’re not Superman. Nor do I have as much in common with the late O’Hair as perhaps you do. You’re a lot closer to her haunts. I start from an assumption that God created the universe, and you’re stuck on the side that is promoting godless creationism – perhaps it is you who is doing the drag O’Hair?

Design is design. The question is whether the design needs constant shoring up from a sloppy or careless designer, or whether the design is robust enough that it can function on its own. We choose robust – that’s the evidence Darwin found. You argue for constant shoring up, but you can’t find any instances to illustrate your case.

Philosophy is one thing. Evidence is more stubborn. There are more things on heaven and Earth than are dreamed of in philosophy, and most of them testify to evolution. Posted by: Ed Darrell at May 31, 2005 09:05 PM

Frank,

You are young and talented, but it doesn’t matter where your gifts came from if you waste them campaigning for pseudoscience.

If theists are right and your talents are God-given then you’re wasting your God-given talents. If atheists are right, then you’re wasting a precious part of the one life you have on bullshit.

Either way, please stop.

It’s not clear to me how you got yourself into this mess – I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that your religious and philosophical predispositions led you to trust people who lied to you and let you down.

It’s tough to be wrong and easy to be in denial about it. My advice is to face up to the truth sooner, not later. You are obviously a sincere Christian, and should consider seriously the caution that Alan Orr delivers to the devout:

> Dembski, Behe and associates may in the end prove a thorn in the side > of not only biologists but also the devout. By promising devastating > objections to evolution but delivering half-baked technobabble that > disintegrates upon close inspection, they subject certain religious > persons to unnecessary and traumatic cycles of expectation and dashed > hope. The point is that all skirmishes involve risk of friendly fire > and the faithful will, sooner or later, have to ask who poses the > greater actual danger: those who merely suggest that life evolves or > those who routinely announce �proofs� of the handiwork of an > interventionist Designer�proofs that have, so far, been fantastically > flawed, noisily imploding almost immediately after their much > publicized debuts.

Ed Darrell suggests one face-saving exit for you that seems reasonable. Why not take it?

After that, anyone that criticizes you for a mistake you admit and disown really is on a witch hunt and deserves criticism.

Until then, you deserve criticism for promoting creationist nonsense. Posted by: Steven Thomas Smith at June 1, 2005 09:15 AM

I appreciate your concern for me. However, I am not going to pretend that I do not find this entire discussion–and its implications for questions of knowledge and law–fascinating and intriguing.

Steve: what is nonsense is to call anyone a creationist who harbors thoughtful doubts about philosophical and/or methodological naturalism. If that is what you are claiming, then anyone who believes that he or she has good reasons to believe that he or she knows that there exist nonmaterial entities is a “creationist?” This is an attempt to win an argument by ridicule rather than by reason. It is just as bad as those Christians who say that belief in evolution is equivalent to atheism. That is nonsense as well.

I have never promoted creationism, unless you define creationism as belief that God created the universe. But that would make all theists of whatever stripe “creationists,” including Ed Darrell and Ken Miller as well as folks like Polkinghorne and Owen Gingrich. Either creationism means something or it doesn’t. It can’t include everything remotely theistic without devolving into mere name-calling.

The term “witch hunt” is appropriate for all the reasons I outlined in my letter: the self-serving selection of facts, the insinuated, though not outright stated, claim that discretion rather than desert was the basis for my hiring, and so forth.

My work on ID, as I have stated ad infinitum, is very narrow and deals with a particular legal question that I find fascinating since it overlaps many of my philosophical interests: law, religion, politics. The fact that my conclusions are inconsistent with your cultural project is not my concern. The proper response is to offer counter-arguments to my legal case. Calling me a “creationist’ and trying to drive a wedge between me and my friends will not work.

Ed: I’m Clark Kent, not Superman. And my wife is kryptonite.

Frank Posted by: Francis Beckwith at June 1, 2005 10:24 AM

Frank,

With my own eyes I’ve seen you campaign for teaching creationism as science in public schools by citing widely debunked “evidence” for Intelligent Design creationism.

Whether or not you are actually a creationist or not matters little.

I expect that people on this board really like C.S. Lewis’s false trichotomy about Jesus – I’ve been trying hard to avoid applying Dawkins’ false trichotomy of “ignorant, stupid, insane (or wicked)” for people who disbelieve in evolution and allow for the possibility that you’re wrong but in denial.

Now that you’ve closed that alternative to me, what am I left to conclude? Would you please tell me exactly why you disbelieve in evolution?

Do you have any evidence for ID now, beyond the nonsense you already showed that appears in an index of creationist claims?

How did that make you feel when your foolish and pathetically bogus claims supporting ID, supplied to you by your “friends,” were identified publicly as fraudulent? Did you feel betrayed because you did not know that they are fraudulent, or did you know, but present them anyway?

Can you cite any evidence falsifying evolution?

Any at all?

Can you understand why it’s difficult to believe a person who says that their interest in ID is merely philosophical, but is an active member in an organization dedicated to “replacing” science with a “science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions�?

Are you even able to answer one of these questions directly?

Steve Posted by: Steven Thomas Smith at June 1, 2005 12:56 PM

But Steve, my worry is this: Most of us Christians view science as simple observation of God’s creation. What creation shows, is the truth.

When ID advocates talka about “replacing science” with something “consonant with Christian and theistic convictions,” I gotta worry about their premises. Evolution IS consonant with Christianity. What faith are they really talking about? Posted by: Ed Darrell at June 1, 2005 05:09 PM

“With my own eyes I’ve seen you campaign for teaching creationism as science in public schools by citing widely debunked “evidence” for Intelligent Design creationism.”

Steve, I was at the same event at which you heard me speak, and what you state is completely false. What I did was present the arguments offered by ID advocates with the disclaimer that I was not advancing or defending them, but simply showing what sorts of arguments are out there.

BTW, I have offered a detailed argument in my book and articles as to why ID is not creationism. In fact, at the even you attended, I did the same. Respond to those arguments instead of merely asserting your position.

Admittedly, design is a necessary condition for creationism, but not a sufficient one. So, every creationist believes in design, but not every ID advocate is a creationist. For example, Tiellard de Chardin held that the universe was intelligently designed to evolve, but he was no creationist.

Much of my case, as you recall, dealt with questions of philosophy of science and the nature of knowledge. In fact, a specific example I used was from the philosophy of mind, comparing two different arguments: one that attempts to show that mind is merely brain (and thus under some accounts “science”) and another that attempts to show that mind is immaterial (and thus under some accounts “religion”). What I argued is that if the argument for the latter is stronger than the former, does not it mean that we have a reasonable defeater to a materialist account of science and that the latter should not be dismissed because it is inconsistent with some metaphysical litmus test? That was my core illustration to show why trying to distinguishing science from non-science is a waste of time if the whole thing is a matter of arguments anyways. After all, what would we gain in saying materialist views of mind are science but not as rational to believe in than immaterialist views?

Steve, you listened to me with a cluster of prejudices. You did not listen with an open mind or an intent to learn something. Posted by: Francis Beckwith at June 1, 2005 10:01 PM

Frank,

Got it. No direct answer to any of these questions. And if you mean that I’m prejudiced against transparent, crank-headed absurdities, yes I am – you really got me there.

In my “prejudiced cultural project”, the United States ought not to base its education in competitive fields like science that affect our well-being and national defense on debunked chicanery like Intelligent Design creationism. But it’s a free country, and you may disagree with my wild-eyed ideas about basing our judgments on objective realities like the fact of evolution.

Your faulty style of argumentation is so common it even has a fancy Latin name attached to it: Ignoratio elenchi (also a favorite of Aristotle!).

Your MO is to run through a laundry list of fraudulent nonsense supporting ID, carefully ascribing the nonsense to selected “others”, then conclude that if the fraudulent nonsense is true, then it’s Constitutional to teach ID as science in public schools.

That’s exactly what you did in the presentation I saw, and that’s the truth. Your premises are false, and so is your conclusion.

On top of that, you expect me to believe that you’re just dealing with “questions of philosophy of science and the nature of knowledge” and hector me saying that an idea “should not be dismissed because it is inconsistent with some metaphysical litmus test”.

Give me a break. ID is dismissed because it fails to stand up to really simple logical and physical litmus tests, not because it may touch on the immaterial.

Show me the money. Do you have any evidence for ID now, beyond the fraudulent nonsense you already presented that appears in an index of creationist claims?

Intelligent Design really is creationism in a cheap tuxedo. Your fellow epistler Walter Bradley co-authored the 1984 creationist book _The Mystery of Life’s Origin_, and his creationist paper “The trustworthiness of scripture in areas relating to natural science” is online. Because creationism is not supported by any evidence at all (not too mention being downright absurd) as is religiously motivated, it was declared unconstitutional. So the creationist movement regrouped and rejiggered the words to eliminate mention of religion in the hope of sidestepping this constitutional roadblock. But the motivation for ID is entirely religious (e.g., the “wedge” document), and the evidence for ID is as equally vacant as that for creationism.

It just doesn’t sound as silly to lay-people to hold forth on absurdities like the “law of conservation of information” as does a 6,000 year-old-earth with people and dinosaurs running around together.

Your job in the wedge is to hold up the legal end. In spite of your effective and successful PR campaign, the truth will out, and your efforts are doomed to fail and are already turning to dust before your eyes. You could send your critics packing by citing any plausible evidence for ID, or falsifying evolution. But you can’t, so you just retreat to philosophical mumbo-jumbo.

Which gets me back to my questions:

How did that make you feel when your foolish and pathetically bogus claims supporting ID, supplied to you by your “friends,” were identified publicly as fraudulent? Did you feel betrayed because you did not know that they are fraudulent, or did you know, but present them anyway?

Can you cite any evidence for ID or falsifying evolution?

Any at all?

I’m looking forward to hear you answer just one of these questions.

Steve Posted by: Steven Thomas Smith at June 2, 2005 12:50 PM

Sigh.… Posted by: Francis J. Beckwith at June 2, 2005 02:26 PM

Frank, what is the philosophical justification for teaching junk to kids? Sure, one can make a case that some junk is constitutional to teach – but is there not a moral case to be made against it? Posted by: Ed Darrell at June 2, 2005 03:37 PM

I’m against teaching junk to kids. As a result of that, I am against begging the question and poisoning the wells, both of which are junky ways of reasoning. Posted by: Francis Beckwith at June 2, 2005 08:19 PM

In a few weeks, we will see what becomes of Beckwith’s, uh, legal argument. (shrug)

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on December 6, 2005 2:29 PM.

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