by Steven Mahone
Bruce Chapman, the Big Cheese over at the Discovery Institute, is apparently feeling a bit threatened by an interview that Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”) recently did for the Seattle Times. Chapman wrote an article expressing concern that Bill’s straight talk about science literacy might somehow implicate his cherished “Intelligent Design” theory by lumping it in with young earth creationism, thereby leading some to conclude that ID is nothing more than the pseudo-scientific equivalent of those get-rich-working-from-home schemes so ubiquitous on the radio and Internet.
Nye is a respected, reasonable voice who is imploring our educators and politicians to cut to the chase and dispense with the myths and misunderstandings that cloud our public policy and educational system. Otherwise, the challenges set out before us will only be made more difficult to remedy. Nye knows that we have an obligation and a responsibility to leave our descendants with the intellectual insight and courage to take on the universe for what it is; there are no shortcuts, nor are there any get-rich-quick alternatives. How does Chapman react to Nye’s honorable efforts? He accuses him of being the “Red Herring Guy” and essentially calls him a liar. Geez.
The irony of the “Red Herring” claim is that Chapman has burdened Nye with naming a congressional district that has mandated equal time for young earth creationism; yet Nye has never made such a claim and Chapman knows it! The misdirection here is all Chapman’s, who evidently intends that you pay no attention to the Gallup Poll showing that nearly 50% of Americans believe that man was created less than 10,000 years ago. He’s also hoping that you separate his organization from those other creationist Ponzi schemes; all Chapman wants is the academic freedom to present alternatives to well-established scientific principles that have attained expert consensus. That’s not too much to ask, is it? Only if you ignore that pesky Dover trial, which settled this issue years ago. Unfortunately for Chapman, Nye has a pretty good memory.
While we’re at it, here are some of the other typical talking points that Chapman’s organization offers, along with a translation into the vernacular:
“Random mutation and natural selection can’t account for the complexity of the cell!” is equivalent to, “A single mother in Miami is now enjoying a Darwin free life after purchasing the DI’s new best seller on Cambrian explosion!”
The ever popular, “Highly qualified professors are being persecuted by the Darwinian establishment for simply suggesting alternative reading materials for their courses!” is actually, “The Designer still loves you, even if you’re taking a rigorous upper division physics course at a prestigious university run by heartless, amoral liberals.”
And finally, “Intelligent Design makes no claims about who the designer is, nor is it a religious idea!” can be summed up as, “Even though our Fellows at the DI appear on the same Christian programs as Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron, our claims are different and you need not be concerned that we didn’t make the Nobel Prize shortlist!”
Sorry, Mr. Chapman. The jig is up. You know it, Bill Nye knows it, and sooner rather than later, everyday people like me and that single mom in Miami are going to figure out that there’s no substitute for diligence and hard work, especially where the payoff will be long term success for our progeny. My concern now is how you’re going to handle the upcoming remake of Cosmos: A Space-time Odyssey which will be hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson and underwritten by Fox (yes, the same Fox that employs Bill O’Reilly!) My suggestion is that you choose your insults carefully on this one. Remember in the movie “Casablanca” when the character of Rick (Humphrey Bogart) is asked, “You despise me, don’t you, Rick?” Bogart then utters the greatest back-handed slight of all time: “If I gave you any thought I probably would.” I recommend that you not put Dr. Tyson on the spot with a similar question.
Steven Mahone is an Engineer and a founding member of Colorado Citizens for Science.