Stephen Dilley’s new book, Darwinian Evolution And Classical Liberalism: Theories in Tension, is now available, at least on Kindle. Chapter 12 is by me; it’s entitled, somehwat dully, “Classical Liberalism And Evolution.” In it, I argue that evolution, far from undercutting the premises of classical liberalism, is at least compatible with them, and, as I think, provides a stronger foundation for them than any variety of creationism. But, as I contend at the outset, it doesn’t much matter, because evolution is true. So if it’s incompatible with libertarianism, then so much the worse for libertarianism.
Recently in Religion and Politics Category
Update, January 27: Phil Plait reports here that the bill almost certainly will not make it out of committee.
Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy reports here on the latest creationism bill in Colorado. As always, the bill is disguised as an academic freedom bill but, as Plait says, questions evolution, cloning, and global warming and omits, say, religion and literature:
If this were really about academic freedom, why is it so specific? Why not include all fields of science, instead of just those three? In fact, why not include all academic fields? I’d be fascinated to see literature, art, and math added to that. Or religious study…how about supplementary texts that show the contradictions in the Bible? I wonder how that would go over. [Ellipsis in original.]
Me? I do not wonder at all.
Acknowledgement. Thanks to Mike Klymkowsky and James DeGregori for the link.
Well, this is interesting! Pseudo-historian David Barton, whom we last heard from here on the Thumb declaring that America’s Founding Fathers had considered evolution, and rejected it for creationism, has had his newest book examined and rejected by a group of conservative authors headed by the Discovery Institute’s Jay W. Richards.
Last month the History News Network voted David Barton’s book “The Jefferson Lies” the “least credible history book in print.” Now the book’s publisher, Thomas Nelson, has decided to stop publishing and distributing it.
The book, which argues that Thomas Jefferson was an enthusiastic orthodox Christian who saw no need for a wall of separation between church and state, has attracted plenty of criticism since it appeared in April, with an introduction by Glenn Beck. But the death knell came after Jay W. Richards, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and the author, with James Robison, of “Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family and Freedom Before It’s Too Late,” began to have doubts and started an investigation.
The Times blog refers to a detailed August 7th, 2012 article by Thomas Kidd at World Magazine, which notes
Richards says in recent months he has grown increasingly troubled about Barton’s writings, so he asked 10 conservative Christian professors to assess Barton’s work.
Their response was negative. Some examples: Glenn Moots of Northwood University wrote that Barton in The Jefferson Lies is so eager to portray Jefferson as sympathetic to Christianity that he misses or omits obvious signs that Jefferson stood outside “orthodox, creedal, confessional Christianity.”
More on the story in an August 10th report by Tim Murphy of Mother Jones, “The Right’s Favorite Historian Comes Apart at the Seams” :
Barton has turned the study of America’s Christian roots into a lucrative business, hawking books and video sermons, speaking at churches and political confabs, and scoring a fawning New York Times profile and interviews on the Daily Show. He’s got friends in high places: “I almost wish that there would be like a simultaneous telecast and all Americans would be forced–at gunpoint no less–to listen to every David Barton message,” Mike Huckabee told an Evangelical audience in March of 2011. “I never listen to David Barton without learning a whole lot of new things,” Newt Gingrich told conservatives in Iowa that same month.
That’s probably because much of what David Barton writes seems to have originated in David Barton’s head.
On Thursday, Barton’s publisher announced that it was recalling Barton’s newest book, The Jefferson Lies, from stores and suspending publication because it had “lost confidence” in the book’s accuracy. That came one day after NPR published a scathing fact-check of Barton’s work, specifically his claim that passages of the Constitution were lifted verbatim from the Bible.
Wow. We know how much the Discovery Institute needs to feed on disinformation and polemics. That one of their leaders had to reject Barton’s book is a strong indication that the book must be really, really, really bad!
As predictable as the sunrise, creationists are launching another round of the disgusting practice of trying to tie every mass murderer to Darwin and evolution, self-consistency and logic be damned. This time it’s about Brevik, the bomber and shooter in last Friday’s killings. We saw this at Uncommon Descent on Sunday (“Norway shooter a Darwinian terrorist?”) – itself relying on an article from the fundamentalist WorldNetDaily (“Terrorist proclaimed himself ‘Darwinian,’ not ‘Christian’”), and today from alleged scholar John West at the Discovery Institute (“Fundamentalist Christian or Deranged Social Darwinist?”).
West does the usual thing, word-searching Brevik’s 1500-page screed for the few references to Darwin, and brazenly playing down the hundreds of references to Christianity and God and the Templars and Christian holy war against Islam. These are just brushed off by West. West pretends that Brevik calls himself a “Christian atheist” through pretty optimistic (optimistic from West’s perspective) readings of some Brevik passages, which completely ignores the various quite direct references that Brevik makes towards his own belief in God. Here’s West:
The New Scientist reported yesterday that U. S. Muslim clergy have signed an Imam Letter to the effect that evolution is compatible with their Muslim beliefs. I cannot find any information yet as to the number of signatories, but they will join approximately 13,000 Christian clerics, 500 rabbis, and 250 Unitarian-Universalist clerics when they affirm
that the timeless truths of the Qur’an may comfortably coexist with the discoveries of modern science. As Imams we urge public school boards to affirm their commitment to the teaching of the science of evolution. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth
Apropos of Matt’s post just below, in a post titled “NCSE becomes BioLogos” Jerry Coyne has thrown a hissy fit over NCSE noting the upcoming Webcast on ‘Evolving Christianity’ featuring a number of theists of varying stripes speaking on how they accommodate their theism and science in general and evolution in particular.
I commented on Coyne’s site more than five hours ago but my comment is still labeled (after hard refreshes) as “Awaiting moderation” while several comments posted later than mine have appeared. So I’ll reproduce my comment below the fold, warts and all.
The Austin American-Statesman reports that Thomas Ratliff has narrowly defeated Don McLeroy in the Republican primary race for Texas State Board of Education. McLeroy is the right-wing extremist who wants to doctor the state science standards so they reflect his own disbelief in the theory of evolution. Since there is no Democratic candidate, Ratliff will automatically assume McLeroy’s seat.
The Dallas Morning News reports that Ratliff had received the support of “mainstream public education groups” and quotes him as saying, “I want to take politics out of our public schools,” and added that Ratliff
told gatherings across the district that Texans are tired of political posturing on the board as the social conservative [sic] bloc – led by McLeroy – tries to impose its views in history, science and other areas of the curriculum.
“Our kids don’t go to red schools. They don’t go to blue schools. They go to local schools,” he said, also criticizing attempts by some board members to inject their religious beliefs into what children are taught.
The News reports further that McLeroy was “unapologetic about the actions of the social conservatives” and bragged about the “incredible accomplishments that will help our children.”
Thanks to a commenter known to me only as Aagcobb for the tip.
This is slightly off-topic and will reveal that I sometimes read Parade magazine, but readers of Parade recently voted “No” by a ratio of approximately 4 to1.
Writing in Christian Today, Tony Campolo unloads the familiar creationist cliches about what a big racist Charles Darwin was.
Campolo is something of a celebrity on the evangelical left, you might recall that he was a spiritual advisor to President Clinton, which makes this essay especially disappointing. In the past I have tended to view him as an island of reason in what often seems like an ocean of evangelical narrow-mindedness. To see him casually repeat a pile of hoary old smears and vile falsehoods about Darwin and his work is rather depressing, to put it mildly.
Anyway, I ponder the grim details over at EvolutionBlog. Comments may be left there.
As everyone knows by now, President-Elect Barack Obama has chosen his “friend” Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. Mr. Warren is not just opposed to marriage between homosexuals, but is also an evolution denier. According to The New York Times, Mr. Obama defended his choice with these words:
That’s part of the magic of this country, is [sic] that we are diverse and noisy and opinionated [sic]. That’s hopefully going to be a spirit that carries over into my administration.
Mr. Warren’s position on marriage between homosexuals is now widely known, but according to Sarah Posner, writing in The Nation magazine, Warren is also a creationist:
Warren, a creationist, believes that homosexuality disproves evolution; he told CNN’s Larry King in 2005, “If Darwin was right, which is survival of the fittest[,] then homosexuality would be a recessive gene because it doesn’t reproduce and you would think that over thousands of years that [sic] homosexuality would work itself out of the gene pool.”
Sic, sic, sic. I’ll grant that appointing a creationist to give the invocation is not exactly the same as appointing him science adviser, but if it represents the “spirit” of Mr. Obama’s administration, then I am not, shall we say, optimistic that Mr. Obama is truly the agent for change that he purports to be. His science appointments, I thought, have mostly been good ones, but I am utterly appalled by his inviting a homophobic creationist to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.
This article is for people who think that “Darwinists” were responsible for the Holocaust. Yesterday, presumably because I am listed as a scientist in support of the Clergy Letter Project, I received an e-mail from a Christian clergyman, Steven D. Martin, who has this to say:
I am a United Methodist pastor who has turned to filmmaking as an extension of my ministry. While my films are not directly related to your work in the field of evolution, perhaps they might be interesting as a way of illustrating the importance of constantly working to have a constructive conversation between science and religion.
My web site, http://www.vitalvisuals.com, is full of resources for the church and university classroom that might help you. “Theologians Under Hitler” is a film about three major Protestant theologians who supported Hitler during the Third Reich. This film is a good resource for helping Christians understand the importance of keeping nationalism at bay. I think this relates directly to the debate over evolution, where a false science is being promoted for nationalistic/religious purposes.
Still think ID takes no stand on the identity of the designer? Then check out the latest musings from William Dembski. He writes:
Colorado Governor Bill Ritter’s signing of a transgender anti-discrimination bill points up the lunacy that ensues in a world without design
Worry over the possibility that transgendered people will be treated with respect and dignity is one of the more bizarre concerns of the ID crowd. Phillip Johnson, afer all, devoted a whole chapter to the issue in his book The Right Questions. I offer some thoughts on the matter in this post. Comments may be left there.
In the Economist, an article explores how scientists are trying to explain religion. In a project titled “explaining religion” that involves scholars from 14 universities, researchers from many different disciplines are attempting to unravel the biological explanation for religion. The project receives funding from the “New and Emerging Science and Technology” programme of the European Union. The same programme also organizes the Tackling complexity in Science project and I noticed the absence of any ID relevant proposals.
The UK based “International Society for Science and Religion”, which “was established in 2002 for the purpose of the promotion of education through the support of inter-disciplinary learning and research in the fields of science and religion conducted where possible in an international and multi-faith context”, has released a statement on Intelligent Design:
The International Society for Science and Religion (ISSR) says that “intelligent design” is neither sound science nor good theology. Intelligent Design theorists do not have proper research programmes to make their points. In fact, what they believe is against science, according to the seven scientists who prepared the statement for the ISSR, a scholarly body devoted to dialogue between science and world faiths.
The whole of the society’s membership, many of whom are Christian, were involved in a consultation about the statement. The ISSR says it “greatly values modern science, while deploring efforts to drive a wedge between science and religion.”
The ISSR statement said Darwinian natural history did pre-empt some accounts of creation. “However,” say the scientists, “in most instances biology and religion operate at different and non-competing levels.” Intelligent Design is not science and science should not try to elevate itself into a comprehensive worldview.”
On Friday, Florida State Senator Ronda Storms introduced an anti-evolution bill to the legislature. She did so quietly, and without fanfare. No press release was issued, and so far the legislation has not received any attention in the press. It also doesn’t seem to have attracted any attention from the Discovery Institute or any of the other major anti-evolution websites, either. That’s actually a bit of a surprise, since the bill in question is remarkably similar to a “Model Academic Freedom Statute” that the Discovery Institute posted on a website that they (and a media company) set up to promote a movie.
This whole thing raises so many issues that it’s hard to decide where to start. There’s the Orwellian language of the act itself. There’s the egregious misunderstanding of the concept of academic freedom that’s contained in the bill. There’s the remarkable similarity between the bill before the Florida legislature and the Discovery Institute’s “model statute.” There’s the narrow focus of the law. There’s the lack of concern shown for “academic freedom” as it relates to anything but teachers and students who want to stick their heads in the sand and pretend that evolution’s not a real, solid scientific concept. And that’s just scratching the surface. There’s just no way that I can address all of this in a single post. Fortunately, I’m confident that between the comments section for this post and whatever other bloggers may decide to write on this topic, most of the things I miss will be covered in short order.
Right now, I’m going to focus on the mockery that the circumstances surrounding this bill make of the Discovery Institute’s frequent assertions that religious beliefs have absolutely nothing to do with this sort of thing. (Yes, I know it’s hard to make a mockery of a mockery, but they’ve managed it. Again.)
William Dembski and Jonathan Wells authored the successor to “Of Pandas and People”, titled “The Design of Life”. The Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE) released the book on November 19th. Since then, Dembski has made a point of bragging about five-star reviews on the The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence In Biological Systems Amazon.com website.
But that’s not all that the IDC advocates are doing concerning Amazon. They managed, for a time, to suppress a critical review by a Top 50 Amazon.com reviewer, John Kwok. For those who gave credence to the notion that IDC advocates were serious when they said that they wished to foster discussion and “teach the controversy”, this should be a reminder that actions do sometimes speak louder than words. Abbie Smith at ERV wrote an entertaining treatment of a number of issues involved here.
I’ve published book reviews before, primarily concerning things in the evolution/creation socio-political controversy. My review of Dembski’s “The Design Inference” back in 1999 even got notice in some of the antievolution venues as a serious review.
So on December 6th, I emailed the contact address for the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE) and requested a review copy of the new book by William Dembski and Jonathan Wells, “The Design of Life”. I provided my work address at Michigan State University for shipping. So far, neither a review copy of the book nor any correspondence concerning my request has appeared there, nor even a note in email.
But apparently FTE does have a message for those it believes will provide critical reviews of their book: ‘Buy it yourself.’
Of course, not all of the reviews posted in the first month have been as exuberant as those above; some are venomous. We are receiving numerous requests for review copies from people we know intend to try to destroy it. (We do not intentionally send complimentary review copies to these people.) But we are greatly encouraged and delighted by the extremely positive reviews and accolades coming in from highly respected research scientists and science teachers across the country and from overseas.
I will be discussing the book’s contents in the future, probably on a shorter time-frame than Michael Behe’s prospective perspective on being a co-author on the book (testifying to that effect in 2005). But for now, I will just take up the ethical dimension of FTE’s actions here.