Everyone has probably heard that the new White House Press Secretary is Tony Snow, formerly a talk show host on Fox News. Those who were paying attention last year may remember that he is also pretty clearly a straight-up creationist, or at least credulously repeats their talking points. See:
Tony Snow (2005). âWhy canât we have a rational debate.â TownHall.com. August 12, 2005
Media Matters (2005). âTony Snowâs evolutionary falsehoods.â Media Matters for America. August 12, 2005.
Media Matters (2005). âThe many falsehoods of Tony Snow.â Media Matters for America. April 19, 2006.
What got Tony Snow writing essays about ID and how hard it was to have a rational debate? I may have had a wee bit to do with that.
Way back on August 6, 2005, I was invited on the Fox News show âWeekend Liveâ with host Tony Snow. ID ringleader Stephen Meyer was the other guest. The show description is still in the Google cache if you search on the rather unique search string âFox News Motzkeâ, since they misspelled my name. President Bush had just made his famous comment about ID and NCSE was getting a flood of media calls.
Anyway, although the odds of communicating much of anything on cable are pretty slim, particularly on Fox where you are likely to be battling both the guest and the host, it is pretty fun to get the free limo ride to downtown San Francisco to the Fox studio to be a guest. From previous experience I knew I would be lucky if I could get one single point across. As it happened, the Buell hearing in the Kitzmiller case had just occurred. At this public hearing in July, plaintiffsâ attorney Eric Rothschild introduced into evidence a partial draft of Of Pandas and People, showing how it was originally a creationist book. We knew this would eventually be huge news and crucial to the Kitzmiller case. So I had a pretty decent single point to go for: ID is creationism relabeled.
Iâm not sure if I successfully communicated this to anyone except Stephen Meyer, but it sure was fun for me personally, especially looking back at the subsequent events of 2005. The Discovery Institute has handily put the recording of the segment online, and I have typed up a transcript of the approximately 90 seconds where they actually let me talk a bit. For posterity I post it below. Note that half the time we were talking over each other, and I have attempted to sort it out, although it is impossible to do perfectly.
Tony Snow began by introducing the show, the guests, etc. He then lobbed a softball question to Stephen Meyer and let him blab his talking points for half the segment:
Tony Snow:.â¦Iâve heard many different descriptions of intelligent designâ¦give me a nutshell description of intelligent design:
Stephen Meyer: Thanks for asking, Tony. [standard ID talking points for half the segment]
Tony Snow: Nick Matzke, lemme ask you. One of the key sticking points has been the theory of evolution, and the one thing thatâs notable about the theory is it is characterized primarily by missing links, rather than real links. Do you think there are weaknesses in the theory of evolution, and do you think it is suseptible at least to the notion that human life was in fact the byproduct of design rather than random accident.
Nick Matzke: Thereâs many misconceptions in what you said. The theory of evolution is simply the idea of common ancestry, and thereâs no real doubt about it in the scientific community. Intelligent design was inventedâ¦
Tony Snow: Wo wo wo wo wo wo wo wo wo wo wo wo wo wo wo wo, wait a minuteâ¦
Nick Matzke: â¦was invented in 1989, itâs just a form of creationism. It was relabeled. They just took the word creationism, and put the words intelligent design into this book [holding up Of Pandas and People] in 1989. And this is a bookâ¦
Tony Snow: Wha wha whaâ¦let me interrupt youâ¦OK, youâve come up with aâ¦
Stephen Meyer: Thatâs wildly innaccurate. I was there when the theory was founded, thatâs wildly innaccurate.
Tony Snow: OK, you two have it out and Iâll listen.
Nick Matzke: Itâs been reported in the newspapers already. Itâs a, been reported in the newspapers, and thatâs just the way it is.
Tony Snow: OK, Iâll tell you what-
Stephen Meyer The news â the newspapers donât report what we tell them.
Nick Matzke: It doesnât matter what you tell them, itâs whatâs come out in court.
Tony Snow: Alright, lemme just very quickly, Mr. Matzke,
Stephen Meyer: Go ahead Tony, sorry.
Tony Snow: Yeah, because weâve just got time for one more question here. So what youâre saying is, that you donât think that thereâs design behind the Universe.
Nick Matzke: I â The question of whether or not thereâs design behind the Universe is a theological and philosophical question.
Tony Snow: No itâs not, itâs a scientific question as well, is it not?
Nick Matzke: What Stephen Meyer is arguing for â what heâs arguing for is divine intervention in the history of life, you know just maybe a million years ago when humans evolved from other species. Thatâs what heâs arguing for.
Stephen Meyer: Actually, Darwinian evolution holds much more than what Nick Matzke is saying. Itâs not just the idea of common ancestry. Itâs the idea that the appearance of design is the result of an undirected process namely natural selection.
Tony Snow: OKâ¦
Stephen Meyer: There is a raft of scientific literature about the inadequacy of natural selection to produce these complex systems â
Nick Matzke: There is a raft of scientific literature â¦
Tony Snow: OK, Gentleman, Gentleman, Gentleman, Gentleman, Gentleman, Gentlemanâ¦
Nick Matzke: â¦against your view.
Tony Snow: I hate to do this - Gentlemanâ¦youâre talking past each other anyway. Weâll try to figure out some way to get a direct conflict in the future, but I thank you both for joining us.
I may not have gotten the most talking time, I might have only gotten in a few complete sentences â and afterwards, I was advised that saying basically that the host was wrong about everything was perhaps not the best way to start off a reply (but man, that was one loaded question from Tony Snow) â but I must say that I told Stephen Meyer what was coming. He certainly canât say he was surprised by subsequent events. And I did kind of get the last word there. If not profound, it was at least satisfying to say.
So anyway, that was my encounter with the guy who now the spokesman for the leader of the free world. Iâm sure we can expect the same straight talking from him on other issues as he gave his viewers on âintelligent design.â FYI.