All You Can Eat--Just be Grateful
Crosscut.com today carries my thoughts about the quiet food revolution--improved quantity, variety and quality--available to the contemporary American.
Crosscut.com today carries my thoughts about the quiet food revolution--improved quantity, variety and quality--available to the contemporary American.
Richard Dawkins, probably the world's leading Darwin defender, is also a defender of "mild pedophilia", it appears. A recent interview has him rationalizing the dear old teacher who liked to molest little boys from time to time. Nothing too wrong with that, right?
This is the moral universe of Richard Dawkins.
The radical edge of the environmental movement somehow always identifies people as a curse on the planet, and they aren't kidding.
Today a film, The War on Humans, has been released by Dr. John West of Discovery Institute, based on the work of Wesley J. Smith, director of Discovery's Center on Human Exceptionalism.
So are humans just another animal in the forest--the bad boy of the forest, indeed? Or something exceptional in nature? What a difference that makes!
The 30 minute video can be opened directly from the link above.
The advent of Rodney Stark's book, How the West Won, and a prominent renewal of interest in the perspectives on art by Sir Kenneth Clark, give one fresh reasons for hope. Both projects have to do with culture and both have more consequences than one might think at first.
Only a few years ago it seemed necessary to explain that the the word "culture" embraces more than art. It is also the ethos or society-binding fabric of a people. "Free speech," one could say, for example, is an expression of the cultural ideals of America.
But the old concept of culture as art in its myriad forms--as an esthetic sensibility that advances, sorts and judges ideas and images--is also worthy. That more traditional meaning of culture now, ironically, needs retrieving and emphasizing. Maybe it can be revived. If you care about the effects that music, novels, higher forms of journalism, painting, the "plastic arts" (e.g., sculpture), architecture, dance, poetry, movies, plays and even what shows up on the TV or internet have on the mores of the times, then you will agree that the old concept of culture must be revived. As is, it is in danger of being drowned in a lake of sociology and relativism.
Did I just pick yet another fight? Well, culture--as art's interpretation of life--is something to fight over, and for the last couple of hundred years it has been. Before then art had to do with the expression of beauty and truth in forms that allowed people to hold them up and apart from quotidian existence and shine back on that existence. The arts expanded sympathies and inspired hope. They often had religious significance, and, I would argue, they still do. However, art's "religion" since the modern era has often been a bitter statement of anti-religion, a rage against bourgeois morality, an expression of despair, of lack of faith in transcendence. If the Church dominated art in the Middle Ages and commerce and a revival of classical visions of human beauty became common in the 16th and 17th centuries, the anxieties and numb brutalities of the 20th century found a resonance--and a source of divination--in art that disintegrated previous ideals of form and shocked people with daring moral departures. At some point, for some artists, shocking people indeed replaced the value of inspiring insights into beauty and truth. The old culture had a muse, the more recent culture an incubus. (I'm not claiming credit for this observation, only noting it.)
The old culture also explicitly or implicitly conceived of human beings as creatures made in the image of God. The new culture, post-Darwin, sees man as the product of a mindless, amoral universe run by chance and necessity. (Happily, as Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture continues to explore and explain, the "mindless" trope is failing.)
But I digress. There are two ingredients needed in a revival of the old concept of culture: an appreciation for the ideals that made Western Civilization exceptional, and the expression of those ideals that are found in the accomplishments of the art of the West.
The negative cast of contemporary politics is displayed nowhere so much as in the debates over the environment. In capitalist U.S. rivers have been cleaned up, air quality in big cities greatly improved and energy conservation achieved even as relatively cheap and abundant energy is available. The key word is "abundant".
Meanwhile, in big cities in Communist China the air is so foul that tourists are beginning to avoid most of the year.
The Small is Beautiful movement came about in the 1970s, not coincidentally, perhaps, after the U.S. gave up the Vietnam War and anti-war protestors, missing the old spirit, sought out a new secular millenarian cause. The 1973 book by E. F. Schumacher was snapped up by young people for more than a generation. The good side of the cause was the effort to humanize life with small scale, local farming, a return to craftsmanship in wood products and many "artisanal" (as they came to be known) food products.
The bad side was the Luddite effort to halt almost all development and to imagine that the U.S. was leading the world to sick and ultimately fatal ecological diseases.
It's a long story and it doesn't get told much in the major media. Matt Ridley has a fine piece along these lines, though, in the Wall Street Journal.
Somehow, the key experts who decide that the climate change argument is exaggerated get pushed away. Funny thing. Well, the "overwhelming evidence" (as always) is on the other side.
Until you examine the evidence.
James Lovelock, an early guru on climate change, shocked a BBC TV audience recently with the blunt statement that "nobody knows" much anymore about global warming. The UN Panel on climate change, he says, "just guess. And a whole group of them meet together and encourage each other's guesses."
Supposedly serious newspapers and magazines are featuring books and reports that suggest (once more!) that the existence of human beings in large numbers is responsible for ruining the environment. From that analysis spring all manner of new proposals for government economic dictates and constrictions on abundance.The cure for this kind of thinking is our Senior Fellow Wesley J. Smith's new book, The War on Humans.
It already is receiving an unusual amount of attention and praise. Much of it, in turn, can be followed at Discovery's Evolution News and Views.
As the Daily Mail and others are reporting, a geneticist in Georgia contends as a scientific proposition that man descended from pigs as well as chimp-like apes ("Humans evolved after a female chimpanzee mated with a pig': Extraordinary claim made by American geneticist"). Since his is only a variation on Darwinian theory, not a repudiation of it, Dr. Eugene McCarthy's notion is to be treated with professional respect. His work is to be covered seriously.
Now, if his speculation were deeper and dealt with the increasingly daunting problems with Darwinian theory and with the growing evidence of intelligent design, he would have to be ignored or attacked for positions he does not hold.
Chalk up another one for the hidden hand of Discovery Institute. Through a pernicious web of connections in Indiana, including the Eli Lilly Foundation, we apparently persuaded the trustees of Ball State University in Muncie to show the door to President Jo Ann Gora. At least that is the fear of Professor Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago, noted blogologist and rather-less-noted biologist.
The retirement of Dr. Gora has just been announced. Maybe she was pressured by the Trustees, who were pressured in turn by "donors," as Coyne suggests; but that seems unlikely. The 67-year-old administrator who decided recently that Ball State professors may not mention intelligent design (at least not favorably) has completed ten years at the university, accumulated a large salary (approaching a million dollars, all benefits included), and with winter coming, she may just want to join the other wealthy Hoosiers in Florida.
But Coyne, like Ernst Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice -- stroking his famous cat -- is suspicious. Didn't Bruce Chapman, founder of Discovery Institute, serve as a fellow of Hudson Institute (then in Indiana) less than 25 years ago? And wasn't the Eli Lilly Foundation a major funder of Hudson? Haven't Discovery fellows appeared at Hudson events and vice versa? Didn't Discovery foreign policy fellow John Wohlstetter serve on Hudson's board at one time? Doesn't Lilly, which gives grants to Ball State, have a program supporting various "religious" studies?
Image source: Wikipedia.
Image source: Wikipedia.
"Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there
He wasn't there again today
I wish, I wish he'd go away..."
The child's poem by Hughes Mearns comes to mind as I follow the effort of Darwinians to wish away Darwin's doubt about the Cambrian Explosion--and therefore get rid of Darwin's Doubt, the book by Steve Meyer.
One shrugs on seeing a New York Times story about the Texas Board of Education and its science standards that support "critical thinking." Mustn't have any critical thinking in public schools, especially on science!
There are loving pictures of costumed members of the ACLU and the Sierra Club and the misnamed Texas Freedom Network. Still, it is worth recalling that the New York Times openly admits its unwillingness to cover this kind of story by what normally are considered fair standards.
Over lunch recently an influential friend in the media mused that there was "nothing new" in the debate over intelligent design. The arguments have been known for years.
So he was asked what he thought about the news from the Encode project, among other places, that the Darwinians' assertion that "Junk DNA" constitutes the vast majority of the human genome--and the contrary prediction of ID scientists that the "junk" would turn out to have functionality--has now been settled. The ID side won.
Activists frustrated by representative democracy seek ways to circumvent the public and impose their will. One way is to try to shape public opinion by agenda-driven journalism--the kind that slants the news. Another is to seek jobs in the bureaucracy--the permanent government. Biased bureaucrats, as we have seen with Lois Lerner at the IRS, raise particularly pernicious problems. Laws that create regulations tend to attract enforcers who come to their job with a sense of ideological mission. You get a lot of that in many affirmative action enforcement programs. The offices tend to be staffed by people with a chip on their shoulder.
You often get these kangaroo courts in environmental enforcement, too, of course. What kinds of people do you think join such staffs, cause-oriented environmentalists or disinterested people who try to apply the regulations with an understanding of all the interests involved? Only a few such bodies try to work out settlements to the benefit of all involved.
Yet another way for an ideologue to employ unelected power is to volunteer for special purpose committees of professional associations--say, legal societies or academic boards. If they are willing to go to a lot of boring meetings and eat lots of hotel food they can get on the committees that announce the professional organization's stands on all kinds of controversial issues. Having seen this up close, I assure you that most of the time such committees don't know what they are signing onto. The activists just roll them.
But one of the best ways an activist can try to lead the public is by presenting himself as an expert on some tedious-seeming panel that, somehow, comes out with sensational findings of what is called "science".
by Jonathan Witt
(Dr. Witt is a Fellow of Discovery Institute and of Acton Institute)
Summary:Derek Abbott's "Is Mathematics Invented or Discovered?" asks why mathematics is so effective in describing our universe, and ultimately reduces the debate to a simplistic binary of mathematics as wholly created (Abbott's position) versus the neo-Platonic idea that mathematical models can perfectly and exhaustively describe nature. Abbott overlooks the view that drove the founders of modern science: the cosmos is the product of an extraordinary mathematician but one not restricted to the mathematical. Moreover, because the founders of modern science had theological reasons for emphasizing not only the cosmic designer's surpassing intellect and freedom but also human fallibility, they emphasized the need to test their ideas empirically. In these and other ways, Judeo-Christian theism matured Platonism and, in the process, sparked the scientific revolution.
Derek Abbott's recent piece in The Huffington Post, "Is Mathematics Invented or Discovered?", offers a thoughtful taxonomy of views on an issue with important metaphysical implications, but a crucial alternative possibility goes unexplored in the essay. Since Ben Wiker and I explore these issues in our book, A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature, I'd like to summarize what I find useful in Abbott's piece and what I find incomplete.
The Abbott essay boils down to an effort to answer a question that thinkers have wrestled with for centuries and that was nicely expressed by Albert Einstein in this way: "How can it be that mathematics, being after all a product of human thought which is independent of experience, is so admirably appropriate to the objects of reality?" Abbott says there is no consensus among mathematicians and scientists, but highlights four common answers:
A thorough review of Darwin's Doubt in The American Spectator by Tom Bethell stares down the prejudices of Darwinists and explains why intelligent design not only is true--but also it's good science. (Believe it or not, there actually have been articles saying that ID might be true, but that that didn't matter because it is "not science".)
Writes Bethell, "In the third part of his book, Meyer outlines his positive case for intelligent design. Ironically, here he uses the same principle of scientific reasoning that Darwin used in the Origin. Darwin subscribed to a principle of scientific reasoning known as the Vera Causa principle. This asserts that scientists should seek to explain events in the remote past by causes 'now in operation.' Meyer applies this to the question of the origin of the information necessary to produce new forms of animal life. He argues that the only known cause of the origin of the kind of digital information that arises in the Cambrian explosion is intelligent activity. He quotes the information theorist Henry Quastler who stated that 'the creation of information is habitually associated with conscious activity.' Thus, he concludes, using Darwin's principle, that intelligent design provides the best explanation for the Cambrian information explosion."
It was on this date (yesterday, actually) that the Englishman John Harvard died 375 years ago, leaving most of his fortune to the new College at Cambridge, MA. To listen to Harvard Prof. Stephen Pinker, it would be inappropriate in the current era to have so much as an undergraduate course requirement on "Reason and Faith"--with various course offerings--at the school named for John Harvard. Pinker's passion on the subject persuaded his fellow faculty to drop the idea a few years ago.
This surely is one of history's classic cases of violating "donor intent".
Written by: Donald McLaughlin
Tonight, Discovery Institute's Dr. Stephen Meyer was the guest speaker at the Socrates in the City gathering held at the venerable Union League Club in New York City. The event, hosted by writer and speaker Eric Metaxas, focused on Dr. Meyer and his current book, Darwin's Doubt. To an enthusiastic, sold-out and standing-room-only crowd (always a good thing in New York), Metaxas used an interview format with Meyer who was able to present the main concepts from the book in an engaging manner punctuated by Metaxas's humor and clear grasp of the material. Throughout the interview, it was clear that the crowd was thoroughly engaged.
The ice cap in the Arctic is 60 percent bigger than this time last year, scientists say. A new era of cooling may be underway.
I hereby again establish the term "Scientists Say" as a category of media hype that keeps the credulous public in a state of constant and unnecessary alarm. Why? "Because," as folks used to say, "it sells papers."
Nonetheless, the climate change community (nee, global warming community) is in a dither, according to the London Telegraph. Documents leaked to another British paper, the London Mail, from the UN International Panel on Climate indicate that governments that finance the UN studies are demanding 1,500 changes in the preliminary report.
Only a couple of weeks ago an earlier leak from different sources (presumably) anticipated a UNIPCC report that confirmed human-caused global warming.
Now we have some scientists predicting a decade or more of cooling. Therefore earlier reported IPCC assertions of growing confidence levels in a warming trend (95%, no less) are looking as mushy as a melting snowman.
Until some other scientist comes up with another news peg.
How about a story: "Scientists Don't Have a Clue About How Life Began on Earth, Scientists Say."
By the way, how did life get to Mars?
Wouldn't this be a propitious moment for members of Congress to debate the question of global warming? There is so much obfuscation and confusion on this topic that the right solution is clearly public debate. Since that is not allowed in most of the media or universities these days, it should be taken up in the people's forum: Congress.
This just in (for example): Arctic ice overall is not melting.
Yes, we just had the ballyhooed latest leaked draft of a UN report on the certainty of global warming; er, make that climate change. Many editorials and Gore-y warnings followed.
But then came reports that the US had fewer hot days this year than in a century of past summers. Also, there were fewer August hurricanes than in years. Hot weather events or hurricanes neither confirm nor deny global warming, but don't tell that to the Left when we have a heat wave or storm. It's when we don't have hot weather or hurricanes that we suddenly get common sense demurrals from them on such topics.
Same with arctic ice. The dangers were dire.
But now: Ice in the Arctic is surprisingly large this summer. It's not what global warming warners expected. In some sense, they must be disappointed, especially with winter coming on.
Interfaith Radio has a debate running on NPR stations this weekend--featuring Discovery Sr. Fellow (and author of Darwin's Doubt) versus Michael Ruse. You can follow it here (27 minutes).
Some of the best lines, as usual, got cut, but it is still worth your time!
Maybe I am being too harsh, but science writer and sometime TV star Bill Nye has a lot to answer for. When a person sets himself up as a spokesman for something abstract called "science", he should act responsibly. Imagine someone called "The Democracy Guy" or "The Medicine Guy" who rendered judgements on a subject he hadn't fairly studied and does not accurately represent. How could you trust him?
The star of the former PBS show, "Bill Nye, the Science Guy," the one time engineer and comic writer, now believes he has found a role in combating the politicization of science. In a hagiographic profile from Nicole Brodeur of the Seattle Times that found its way to RealClearScience today, Nye makes the kind of straw man argument that exemplifies the very thing he claims to oppose: politics posing as science.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), the group that has been trying to intimidate Ball State University in Indiana over a course on the interface of science and religion, has a new cause. It is calling for removal of a Star of David in a holocaust memorial at the state capitol in Ohio.
The remarkable thing is not that such a public, tax-exempt foundation exists, but that it attracts such credulous acceptance in the progressive media and in academia. All by itself it has caused the Ball State administration in Muncie, IN to take seriously--and over agonizing months--an attempted assault on the academic freedom of one of its professors. (The professor's crime is including some papers on intelligent design in his reading list.) You would think the the FFRF was some sort of respected legal watchdog group concerned to protect civil liberties. In reality, it is an aggressively atheist lobby bent on extirpating any positive reference to religion in the public square.
Whether the subject is evolution or climate change, there is an iron-clad, non-violable "scientific consensus". Don't dare question it, even if you are a scientist.
But then, from time to time, the scientific consensus just quietly evaporates. Perhaps that is because in some cases the monied and left-wing lobbies (National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health) are not engaged.
So, it turns out that salt is not bad for your health. All that scolding from "scientists"?
Green innovations have become the tattoos of the energy economy. Tattoos look good at first and people complement you on how "awesome" you've become, even if hardly anyone gets close enough to study the clever etchings on your body parts. Then you wish you hadn't. And one fair day, after another embarrassing swim in the neighborhood pool, you start figuring how to make them go away.
There is still a business etching the torsos of the young and guileless and printing indelible roses on the ankles of just-divorced matrons. But fashion changes, and there already is a big business in removing the magenta signs of disillusionment.
So it goes with windmills for generating electricity. It was only yesterday that they were the dazzling promise on the horizon. All you had to do was burn railroad loads of coal and oil, and mine vast pits of ore, to have them manufactured and erected above the mere human scale environment of the countryside. Then off they went, making their unearthly whooshing sounds, flap-flapping the heads off migrating endangered species birds, and slightly denting the peak energy needs of power companies whose corporate enthusiasm had been greased by crony government subsidies. But nowadays the controversy is less how to build them, more about how to tear them out.
Over the weekend we learned that both the New York Times and Publishers' Weekly have Steve Meyer's Darwin's Doubt on their respective Best Sellers Lists for the coming week. The book is number seven on the NYT and number ten on Publishers' Weekly.
This success testifies to the growing audience for intelligent design and scientific criticism of Darwinian theory. All our previous books and films, especially Steve's Signature in the Cell, have helped us to circumvent the mainstream media and develop what might be considered a counter-culture appetite. We have always known that there is a public sympathy for our position, but now we see developing a population of scores of thousands who not only identify with ID, but also understand and support it. That audience follows the topic now and, obviously, will welcome the new book.
Richard Dawkins, you are too cool for school! Imagine appearing in Cannes in an Aloha shirt; people don't expect that from Oxfordshire!
See it right here on our stage: the world's most famous evolutionary biologist discovers the overhead shots of old Busby Berkeley and Ziegfeld Follies movies, bringing them forward a whole couple of decades with psychedelics and The Doors ("Break on through to the other side!") and the Beatles' Yellow Submarine. He ranges all the way from "23 skidoo!" to "Groovy!"
Here in one talk The Selfish Gene meets the Manic Meme (starting five minutes in) and you have encapsulated the latest thinking and animation of the 1930s-60s.
Oh, Dickie, you belong in a new release of Gold Diggers of 1933!
Dennis Prager is in for it now.
He has a fine column at National Review on intelligent design and why many scientists now accept its validity (though not as many as see the increasing flimsiness of Darwinian theory).
As usual, however, some of the comments are telling. Darwinists apparently can't abandon a silly argument, even when it is refuted again and again. And they often propose it as if the thought was brilliantly original to them. Thus we have the assertion that design can't be true, because (drum roll, please) what kind of designer would be so incompetent that he would create a world where little babies die, animals eat other alive, and my back gives me pain?
Fifteen years ago Discovery Institute and its fellows were part of the national debate over regulation of telecommunications. The pro-regulation crowd thought the government was needed to spread the new benefits of broadband. But here has what has happened in just the past few years (hat tip to C. L. Hoewing of Verizon):
THE STATE OF BROADBAND BY THE NUMBERS
*In the year 2000, 4.4% of American households had a home connection to broadband; by 2010 that number had jumped to 68%.
*Broadband networks at a baseline speed of >10 megabits per second now reach more than 94% of U.S. homes.
*Overall, average delivered broadband speeds have doubled since 2009. In 2012, North America's average mobile data connection speed was 2.6 Mbps, the fastest in the world, nearly twice that available in Western Europe, and over five times the global average.
Slowly it is dawning on people that the borders of "science" are not hard; they bleed into other fields and cannot be construed as fixed, in any event. The increasing debate over neo-Darwinism is an example. So, too, is psychiatry. An article on psychiatry at EvolutionNews is attracting increased attention. And today we have David Brooks in his column explaining the reality that this very valuable field of knowledge is perhaps "semi-science", in contrast, for example, to cosmology. Actually, cosmology itself is a field in the throes of definitional quarrels, since multi-verse theory is largely a parable.
Maybe we should compare psychiatry instead to mathematics, the hardest science there is. Except, of course, the more mathematicians cogitate, the more even they conjecture and conjure.
James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal "Best of the Web" column (subscription only) has skewered the pomposities of liberal legal commentators who seek not only to disagree with, and misrepresent, conservatives on the subject of ObamaCare, but also would have the reader think that everyone who is the least bit smart agrees with the liberal evaluation. If they don't agree, then, that just shows that they are not smart. A wise managing editor would not allow such impishness to see print.
Taranto's target today is Dahlia Lithwick (Newsweek and Slate), who writes that the case before the Supreme Court is "uncontroversial" because it's obvious that the law is constitutional. The only question is whether a majority of justices will agree, or instead will stoop to invidious politics.
"The second proposition, however, disproves Lithwick's claim that the first proposition is uncontroversial," Taronto points out. "Indeed, the very fact that there is a controversy before the court is sufficient to disprove the claim that the constitutionality of ObamaCare is uncontroversial. Lithwick seems to mistake the absence of doubt in her own mind for an absence of controversy. It's narcissism as legal analysis."
A bird of similar feather to Lithwick is Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times. She explains that it isn't necessary to give respectful treatment to critics of ObamaCare because they are beyond the pale of sensible opinion. Yesterday, Taranto quoted Greenhouse on her standards:
"'Journalistic convention requires that when there are two identifiable sides to a story, each side gets its say, in neutral fashion, without the writer's thumb on the scale. This rule presents a challenge when one side of a controversy obviously lacks merit. But mainstream journalism has learned to navigate those challenges, choosing evolution over 'intelligent design,' for example, and treating climate change naysayers as cranks.'"
Get that? You don't have to think about intelligent design, nor do you have to treat critics of climate change as anything other than cranks.
Indeed, there is a whole list of cranks who don't deserve to be taken seriously. Opponents of embryonic stem cell research would be in that category. So would people who are alarmed by the increase in government sanctioned euthanasia or assisted suicide for newly born infants and seriously ill adults. Tea Party protests against runaway public spending.
Every dictator and every dictatorial mass movement attempts to demonize and degrade its opponents this way. It is why liberalism in the classic style came about in the first place. However, much of the left decided to become illiberal a generation ago (a la Herbert Marcuse). Real public dialogue can't take place in such an environment or propagandizing. No wonder incivility and crudeness reign.
by Rob Crowther
We just learned that Discovery Senior Fellow Jay Richard's book, Indivisible
UPDATE: Indivisible is number two on the Wall Street Journal list for non-fiction! Paper comes out tomorrow, but the list is available now.
The two and a half million Christians in Syria are afraid that the civil war there will result in their being forced to emigrate or face death. That was the choice for a large share of Christians in Iraq, some of whom (ironically) wound up in Syria. However bad Assad is, he does not especially persecute Christians. That will not be the case if and when Al Qaida and other Islamist extremists in the opposition start feeling powerful. Though the fanatics are not the majority within the opposition, the fog of war is likely to provide cover for anti-Christian attacks. Again, that happened in Iraq and has happened also in Pakistan, Nigeria, and, of course, Egypt.
Indeed, Western media--who tend to be secular and even anti-religious--show little interest in the peril of Christian minorities in Muslim lands. The US Government, at least publicly, is not much more solicitous. It would be a positive development now to include protection of the Christians in any discussions our government is having with the anti-Assad rebels.
Christians have been in the Middle East, obviously, for two thousand years. We should not allow them to be pushed out now.
Senior Fellow Jay Richards' new book Indivisible, co-authored with James Robison and released just this past Monday (February 20th), is already topping the best-seller lists! In its first week in release, the book is appearing in the #1 slot for all books on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee calls the book "a must-needed game changer for America" while American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks states: "Indivisible defines the right role of government (and) explains why social and fiscal conservatives should embrace the morality of markets."
Dr. Richards, Director of Discovery Institute's new Center on Wealth, Poverty and Morality, is currently on a bus tour promoting Indivisible. He will appear, along with Senior Fellow George Gilder, at an event in Seattle on Tuesday, March 13th. Please consider joining us!
"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!" Or Richard Dawkins' English Inquisition, either.
The Spanish Inquisition was about testing the sincerity of people's Christianity. Now we have Richard Dawkins in England aiming to test the sincerity of Christians there. The difference is that he wants to get rid of the idea that England is a Christian country.
There are several funny things about the interview Dawkins gave the BBC to describe his new "scientific" survey (it must be true, it's "science"). One is that Dawkins thinks that the ignorance and non-practice of self-identified Christians--about half the population of nominal Christians in the U.K.--is evidence of actual non-belief. But is failure, for example, to know the name of the first book of the New Testament a good test? He was asked as a comparable matter if he, as the world's most famous Darwinist/evolutionist, knew the subtitle of Darwin's great book on evolution. He said, rather peevishly, that he did. But when pressed, he didn't. (It's "by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life").
He was uncomfortable having the spotlight turned on himself, of course. But as a thought experiment, let's follow up and suppose a survey that asked people if they accept the "theory of evolution". Of those saying yes, ask them the name of the famous book by Charles Darwin on the subject (not the subtitle, the actual title). How many people do you think would get the title, and get it right (On the Origin of Species). Then ask how many had read it? Rather a smaller percentage, I suspect, than those self-identified Christians who have read the Bible in full or in part.
A nice follow-up question would be to ask those who "accept the theory of evolution" if they can say what that theory is. You would get quite a collection of responses, many contradictory, I think. Ask them further if evolution was the result entirely of natural causes or if God had a role in it, and see the spectrum of concepts there. In other words, if you think Christians are ignorant, try talking to evolutionists.
A more trivial question of my youth was, "What is the longest word in the English language?" The answer (at least back then) was "antidisestablishmentarianism," which is merely the historic position of those who opposed efforts to remove the Church of England as the established church of the realm. This whole issue seems rather arcane, doesn't it? Except that for Richard Dawkins, the cause he cares about most is opposing religion--especially Christianity-- and that makes him a passionate modern advocate of disestablishmentarianism. His heart is much more in anti-Christianity than in any scientific case for Darwin's theory of evolution.
It probably is a mistake for those who want to expose children to the Christian faith to keep trying to do so in old ways at public schools. The case law against it goes back to the 1940s and today the pressure of public opinion and the bureaucracy militate against overt religious expression. Parents determined to have "Christmas Pageants" at school may be disappointed.
However, while the current liberal zeitgeist does not approve of religion, it does approve of "culture". Therefore, the way to present a pageant around the Christmas story might be to showcase it in a general music and drama program for "winter break". The story of Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus is part of Western civilization. The songs around it bespeak the traditions of England, Italy, Germany and, say, African Americans. All of that is safe to bring forward. In other words, what is not acceptable in school when presented as religion is welcome as culture. Even some atheists want their children exposed to the legacy of our civilization and they know very well that that includes Handel's Messiah and the spiritual, "Go Tell it on a Mountain."
In a similar fashion, Christians can promote classes that teach the Bible as history. Many secular groups, and outright atheists, support this aim under the same rubric that the Bible is an important part of our cultural heritage. So let the Bible be taught as literature and history. Christians will find that without any editorial support, the scriptures will speak for themselves. Let those that have ears, listen. Regardless, the students will have a greater appreciation for the Bible.
There was a poll not long ago showing that most people think a "socialist" is someone who likes to get together with friends and party. Therefore, calling someone or something "socialist" may not carry quite the wallop some conservatives imagine. What to do, except educate?
It takes a while, but education works. Early in the campaign season last year in Washington State voters reportedly were supportive of an income tax on "the rich" until they were persuaded (with reason) that any such tax would soon devolve to them. Taxes have a way of doing that, as citizens in states with income taxes can attest. When people realize, similarly, that "social justice" really means higher taxes, more regulations and runaway welfare, they may not think it sounds like so much fun.
Jonathan Witt, now at Acton Institute (and still a Discovery fellow, too), has written a piece for The American Spectator that examines several words of this sort. He also makes a kind reference to another colleague, George Gilder.
Just before they were burned at the stake at Oxford in 1555, Hugh Latimer famously said to Nicholas Ridley, "Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out."
It would be nice to imagine that the auto de fe no longer occurs in university towns, but it does when someone dares challenge Darwinian evolution. And it does so on that topic more than any other--including global warming. Two writers in the Wall Street Journal, Raymond Tallis and Matt Ridley, show how hard it is for even fair-minded intellectuals to own up to the reality.
David Klinghoffer, Discovery sr. fellow, enjoyed the same insightful article by Raymond Tallis that I read in the weekend Journal--a review of books on the subject of brain vs mind. David also came to the same conclusion: Raymond Tallis endorses Darwinian evolution only because he has to in today's PC climate before he can proceed to assail its works. (Dr. Tallis is himself the author of Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity.)
NBC has shown a valuable program on eugenics and the price paid by women, many young and completely unaware, who were sterilized by the state.
The story is playing out as a racial issue, though there were many white victims, as well as blacks. What is not mentioned is the Darwinian theory that made eugenics a popular cause in the first place. Darwinians would like to ignore this past, but it is unavoidable....except, apparently, on network TV. Here it is a morality tale seemingly without a moral.
Tertullian wrote that "The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church." If so, Iran is about to become a well-publicized seed bed with the judicial murder of a Christian for the sin of apostasy. The idea is that once someone becomes a Muslim he can never become something else or he can (should) be killed. Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani became a Christian as a teen-ager. Not only is he slated for execution, but his attorney has been put on trial, too. (Thanks to Nina Shea of National Review Online, who in turn got this story from human rights activist Paul Marshall.)
Iran today is the North Korea of Islam. The country's reformers demonstrated a couple of years before the "Arab Spring," but were put down ruthlessly and, it seems, successfully. An account by Reuters' Parisa Hafezi says, "With mounting international pressure over Iran's disputed nuclear program, rising prices, long queues of jobless and investors keeping a tight hold on their purses, analysts say the establishment ultimately needs to give limited freedoms.
"The high oil price is helping the establishment," said economist Reza Hazegh. "But the government, dependent on petrodollars to run the country, may face domestic tension in the long term if the price of oil drops."
"Science" has now become another term of political correctness, subject to routine ideological censorship. So it is that a peer-reviewed paper critical of computer models used to predict global warming has led to the resignation of the journal editor of Remote Science who approved the publication of the paper. Dr. Wolfgang Wagner of Vienna has even agreed to denounce himself as part of a process by which, in time, he presumably can be "rehabilitated" by the "scientific community."
"Community" as a term for a demographic or occupational category of people is another Orwellian term. It is a way of saying, "this whole group of people can be assumed to hold a certain opinion and, as such, it cannot be challenged."
US scientists Ray Spencer and William Braswell wrote in their paper that cloud cover was not taken into account adequately in global warming projections based on computer models. That may or may not be the case, but the attack on the paper seems to have been entirely an attack on the authors, not their argument. In the BBC story, there isn't even any effort to dispute the facts or analysis, other than to say someone thinks it's wrong.
Dr. Wagner "did the right thing" by resigning, an observer comments. That doesn't sound as if he was given a choice.
Reason TV has just put up its Nick Gillespie interview of George Gilder from the recent Freedomfest in Las Vegas, and, as usual, George is entertaining and provocative.
Gilder thinks President Obama is a "hard leftist" by background who has done more damage to America's economy than a "nuclear bomb". He would take any of the Republican alternatives, but when asked who would be best, he says, "Newt Gingrich, if he weren't such a jerk."
But mainly the 21 minute program is a tour of Gilder's works over 40 years and his efforts to link supply side economics with technology futurism and social conservatism.
(Also at Freedomfest, Gilder "debated" Peter Thiel on whether the future of technology is bright or dark. See Richard Rahn's article in The Washington Times.)
Free speech to most of the establishment means free speech for unpopular liberal causes. The position of the left is that conservative positions--especially on cultural issues--do not deserve to be heard on their own terms. Their advocates do not get to speak on the record; they only are spoken about.
So the just-announced $100,000 settlement of a First Amendment case against the publicly-supported California Science Center in Los Angeles is an important breakthrough in establishing the right of Darwin-doubters to air their views in public museums and universities. In this instance, the controversy was over the museum's decision, under pressure, to cancel the airing of a documentary film, Darwin's Dilemma, that was to be followed by a discussion led by Dr. David Berlinski.
The sad thing is, most media, including some political pundits, don't bother to study the issue because they think they already understand it. They are like some scholar in the Middle Ages who thought he could understand a banned book by reading what someone who prepared the Index had to say about it.
Congratulations to Avi Davis and American Freedom Alliance that brought the suit against the California Science Center, The Rutherford Institute that financed much of the legal challenge and Bill Becker, attorney.
Climate heat on Earth is mostly controlled by cosmic rays and the Sun, says a prestigious article by an international scientific team, published (reluctantly, it seems) in Nature. In other words, the shrillness on the subject of global warming that one hears from Al Gore and The New York Times, and, for that matter, the "consensus of Science", is becoming less credible and more annoying.
David Brooks of the New York Times--erstwhile conservative--last week espied great danger in the mindset of the Right: doubting global warming, evolution and Obama's birth in America. Putting all of these together was a way of stigmatizing those who, with reason, doubt global warming and/or Darwin's unguided process of evolution. The birth issue is something else altogether.
Gore might like to have polite society rule skepticism about man-made global warming out of order, but he's not succeeding. In similar fashion, misrepresenting and then assailing critics of Darwinism is bound to deteriorate as an ideological strategy.
Are you lazy? Well, little darlings, it may not be your fault. It is probably your parents' fault. That is the latest insight from genetic determinism--Darwinian theory applied to practically everything.
The ABA Journal is very interested in this issue. Someone may get sued. Operating principle: What can be imagined can be litigated.
Until someone figures out how to put one's ancestors in the dock, however, the only solution for the laziness gene is a big federal program funded through the next federal stimulus program--the one we get once taxes are raised.
I'd put that program together myself, but it's mid-afternoon and time for my nap.
Ann Coulter is so funny that people fail to notice the well read public intellectual behind the laughing smile and endless blonde tresses. In this piece in Human Events she reminds us (she is not shy) that she had produced a No. 1 bestseller on the evolution topic (Godless: The church of Liberalism)--even though the New York Times, the top of whose list she graced, did not bother to review it.
She jokes of Chris Matthews, who plainly has not had a bestseller or any-seller on evolution, and yet thinks he is an expert, "The definition of hell is being condescended to by idiots. It will probably be MSNBC's Chris Matthews and Contessa Brewer sneering at you for all of eternity for not believing in evolution."
Matthews, as Coulter notes, likes to nag presidential aspirants with a have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife question on evolution. I would like to ask Matthews if he believes in asking intelligent questions and allowing guests to give a full answer before interrupting them.
Britons are trying to understand what would cause people to riot. It hardly seems to be about police relations (that choice old political excuse everywhere) or even government budget cutbacks. All kinds of people joined in. Unlike justifiable protests in Syria, for example, these demonstrations were opportunistic and cynical.
What the Cameron government proposes to do, inter alia, is punish those convicted rioters who are on the dole by slashing their benefits. That will show them! The Government also is going to look at other programs of the state that might be leveraged to encourage lawfulness.
How about looking at the materialism of English culture that has been cut off from religious roots and is mired in consumerism? Materialism of the philosophical and scientific sort--the sort advanced by Richard Dawkins and celebrated on the BBC and the pages of British papers and magazines--is echoed in the consumerism promoted on TV and the Internet, on bus cards and billboards. If there is nothing to life but one's possessions and no morality but what one wants and can get away with, why not take a jolly good chance to loot?
Vancouver, BC recently was humiliated by burning and looting after the season's hockey championship game. Vancouver lost to Boston that night, but even if it had won, anarchists and looters were prepared for action. They gleefully took advantage.
The void is not in the law, but in the culture. The morally disabled are trying to fill the hole in their lives--with action and things. Did people riot like this 100 years ago?
David Berlinski's new book, One, Two, Three is on the desks of several of my colleagues this week. David Klinghoffer has read it, and offers a reflective review.
Science is science, you see, so once a "consensus" is achieved on a subject like, say, global warming, the media should not feel obliged to present any dissenting views. Moreover, perfectly ordinary events--like a heat wave in July, if you even can imagine such a thing!--are perfectly suited to science lessons that make a didactic political point.
So it was that Scott Simon, whose charm and intelligence on NPR's Weekend Edition make him the best possible teacher of inconvenient truths, had Dr. Martin Hoerling of Boulder, CO and NOAA, explaining recent weather events in light of climate change.
It was all very reasonable sounding. No, of course, says Dr. Hoerling, global warming cannot explain specific heat waves, tornados or floods--not yet, anyhow. for science right now, that's a "great challenge". But these rare events today demonstrate what may become commonplace in years to come.
And they also may not. But Scott Simon and NPR's Weekend Edition don't bother examining that side.
A new peer reviewed paper by Dr. Roy Spencer at the University of Alabama indicates that the computer models the are the basis of much of the climate change campaign are exaggerating the effects of global heat and underestimating the heat that escapes into space. Therefore, global warming will not follow the alarmist trajectory.
Mr. Simon, you grew up in the great journalism town of Chicago. You know what it means to hear from dissidents. You know how to detect mistakes in computer models that are used to simulate actual evidence. Why don't you interview Dr. Spencer now?
The National Center for Science Education has no problem with religious argumentation when it supports neo Darwinism and opposes human exceptionalism.
The Anthem Film Festival, held in conjunction with the annual libertarian festival "Freedomfest" tonight presented two surprise awards, including "Best Narrative Drama", to Alleged, a film on the Scopes Trial. Producer Fred Foote accepted the awards. Discovery Sr. Fellow John West was a consultant on the film. Brian Dennehy plays Clarence Darrow in the drama, while former Sen. Fred Thompson plays William Jennings Bryan.
Tyranny, except in war, is almost never introduced quickly. It almost always comes in little steps that seem manageable or even justifiable at the time. Thus, it is gratifying to see the public outrage at a Harvard professor's proposal to take obese children away from the parents.
Harvard University, my alma mater, has a lot to answer for. Professors at the onetime Puritan seminary increasingly come up with proposals to undermine traditional understanding of human responsibility. Harvard, you might say, cannot be held responsible for its professors. Academic freedom, and all that.
Of course. But it can be held responsible for the fact that there is so little ideological diversity at the school.
Classically, parrhesia is the willingness to speak one's mind freely, regardless of group pressures to conform. Since the Enlightenment, we all favor it, but in practice few are prepared to risk ostracism from the tribe by openly doubting the tribal religion. We're all for change, once we can see others changing.
Darwinism is the tribal religion of the modern elites, presided over by The New York Times, NPR/PBS and even The Wall Street Journal.
Hundreds of scientists have dared to criticize Darwin's theory, only to suffer attack. Get back in line or you'll get no more grants from NIH, no promotions, no tenure, no parking spot close to the lab. But what do you do to stigmatize rogue artists, especially if they expressly toe the party line on other issues? It's hard to fire an artist, especially a celebrity artist.
Parrhesia happened to Kurt Vonnegut, the writer (Slaughterhouse-Five, among others), when he was interviewed by Steve Inskeep of NPR in 2006. He was complaining about tribal behavior:
Mr. VONNEGUT: Where you can see tribal behavior now is in this business about teaching evolution in a science class and intelligent design. It's the scientists themselves are behaving tribally.
INSKEEP: How are the scientists behaving tribally?
Mr. VONNEGUT: They say, you know, about evolution, it surely happened because their fossil record shows that. But look, my body and your body are miracles of design. Scientists are pretending they have the answer as how we got this way when natural selection couldn't possibly have produced such machines.
He goes on, not seeming to fear retribution.
Now we discover in a neglected last interview that John Lennon, who once wrote the apparently atheist anthem, "Imagine", also doubted Darwinism. Lennon told a Playboy interviewer,
Two kinds of issues are tough to handle in politics: ones where people use the same words to mean different things and ones where there are issues wrapped within issues. Evolution is both of those things, and also can be emotional--rather than logical--for both atheists and theists alike. (See previous post.)
Today's American Spectator contains a column by Jay Richards and David Klinghoffer on "the speed trap" of presidential politics. Their advice is sympathetic and sound.
Problem one: reporters like Juan Williams, wittingly or not, use "creationism" so loosely it can mean anything--from a religious representation of the first chapters of Genesis as a science text to a strictly scientific view that evidence increasingly contradicts Darwin's now 150 year old theory. And everything in between. Darwinists happen to like and to promote the confusion of terms. It allows them to stigmatize the unwary. But there is no reason for candidates (in this case Gov. Pawlenty) to buy into the confusion or the premise behind the question Gov. Pawlenty got.
There also are other issues within the evolution issue: from academic freedom within science faculties to the moral implications of Darwinism for social issues, such as euthanasia and assisted suicide, animal rights, and on and on. That is why the subject doesn't lend itself to tidy 30 second political soundbites.
The presidential candidate has to answer carefully because the subject is truly important and because people truly care about it. However, Richards and Klinghoffer explain how a responsible politician can zip through the sped trap undeterred and be on his or her way.
Everyone knows about the struggle between Darwinists and their critics--especially the intelligent design advocates. What is less well known is that there is a rift among conservatives over the issue, with libertarians tending to side with Darwinism and traditionalists tending to back ID (or even creationism). There is also a rift among Christians, especially among the numerous population of evangelicals. Many embrace criticism of Darwinism, but others are put off. They don't want to be isolated from their academic and church peers who are more liberal.
That is why the new issue of World Magazine, an orthodox evangelical news weekly edited by Marvin Olasky, is such a revelation. World's "Books of the Year" showcases in the latest issue two critiques of Darwinism in its theistic evolution (TE) guise--the position that says you logically can embrace both God and (Darwinian) evolution. The two books are Discovery Institute Press' God and Evolution: Protestants, Catholics and Jews Explore Darwin's Challenge to Faith, edited by Jay W. Richards and Should Christians Embrace Evolution?, by Norman Nevin, a British medical geneticist.
There are a couple of fascinating things about this prominent magazine notice: 1) World, by highlighting these books, rescues them from the shunning accorded critics of Darwinism by the mainstream press, including the religious mainstream press. 2) It asks Christians finally to take account of TE's heterodox religious views. 3) It examines for the first time the influence of the billion dollar Templeton Foundation, which has been wielded explicitly to promote "research academics who are critical of the anti-evolution intelligent design position."
As for the "Best Books" pick of World, I especially recommend God and Evolution for anyone who thinks he already knows what this whole debate is about. Reading about Protestant, Catholic and Jewish efforts to make Darwinism compatible with faith will reveal a great deal the reader did not know, I promise.
The significance of the World award is further highlighted on Evolution News in a recent post.
Pity the lovely contestants for the Miss USA title when they learned they should have an opinion on the propriety of teaching evolution in schools. They should have recognized it at once as a political litmus test. This contest is organized by the same gang that sandbagged a young woman a couple of years ago for a "wrong" answer on same sex marriage.
This time, at least a couple of the young women had the sense to give the politically correct answer: why, of course, "evolution" (undefined) should be taught in schools! Those two just happened to come in first and runner-up in the contest. All the others wasted their time, talent and beauty by failing to adapt to the contest supervisors' prejudices.
Survival of the fittest, ladies.
Evolution should, indeed, be taught in schools--including the increasing evidence that the standard neo-Darwinian model of evolution is flawed. Just don't try explaining that to the Miss USA organizers. From now on, expect similar political screens for "beauty in the eye of the beholder."
At first I didn't understand how Tree of Life, the film by Terrence Malick, could be getting such lavishly favorable reviews in the establishment media when it supposedly is a "spiritual" work. So I saw it.
I now understand it to be a work of highly original cinematic art informed by a Christian sensibility. Maybe (as some tell it) Terrence Malick, the son of an Assyrian Christian immigrant, is not religious. Regardless, his work speaks for itself.
But, everyone is free to draw his own conclusions. Roger Ebert, famous critic from the Chicago Sun-Times, in the course of an ecstatic review, somehow concludes that the movie is about--ahem--evolution.
Each year the Intercollegiate Studies Institute gives three 'Templeton Enterprise Awards' for the best new books on enterprise, one of the themes close to the heart of the late Sir John Templeton, the investment entrepreneur. Yesterday, the Templeton "Silver Award" was announced for Money, Greed and God (HarperOne), by Dr. Jay Richards, Sr. Fellow of Discovery Institute and Co-Director (with George Gilder) of Discovery's new Center on Wealth, Poverty and Morality.
Presenting the award at a ceremony in suburban Philadelphia was Dr. John (Jack) Templeton, president of the Templeton Foundation. In his remarks, Dr. Templeton spoke on the relevance of personal character and the recognition of absolute truth, in contrast to relativism.
The "Gold" book award went to Dr. Ryan Hanley, for Adam Smith and the Character of Virtue. Hanley is an accomplished Adam Smith scholar at Marquette University and head of the International Adam Smith Society.
The third winner is Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute, for her book, After the Fall: Saving Capitalism from Wall Street and Washington.
Richards' award comes with a $7,500 prize. Dr. Richards began work on his book several years ago at Discovery Institute, but completed it at Acton Institute in Grand Rapids. He is back at Discovery Institute now, and, among other things, is co-authoring a book on the interaction of economic issues and social issues.
Tim Goeglein of Focus on the Family reports that 40% of all children in U.S. are born out of wedlock these days; 29% of whites, 52% of Hispanics, 73% of African Americans. Part of the problem is fathers not taking real responsibility for their children.
But even married fathers often seem so busy at work that they cannot relate well to their kids. Courageous, a new film on the subject, is beginning to get private screenings, and is slated to appear in late September.
Pope Benedict XVI, in an Easter vigil message at St. Peter's in the Vatican, made his strongest statement yet in defense of the Christian faith's inalterable insistence on the role of creation in the origin of the world and the development of mankind. The Holy Father's homily is sure to be welcomed by orthodox Catholics and other Christians, and especially by Christian proponents of "intelligent design", stressing as it does the theological imperative on a subject where intelligent design scientists and other scholars emphasize scientific evidence.
"If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature," the pontiff said. "But no, Reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine Reason."
Christian accomodationists who want to avoid a conflict with Darwinism will not be so pleased.
The emphatic statement of the Pope expressly does not endorse "creationism", a literal reading of Genesis, nor does it deny any role for evolution--broadly defined--in the development of life on Earth. But it does seem to repudiate the notion that has gained currency in certain circles of the Catholic Church and its universities, as well as in some evangelical centers, that an unguided process of evolution like Darwinian theory is compatible with Christian faith.
Reports the Zenit news service from Rome: "The world is a product of the Word," Benedict XVI stated, "of the Logos, as St. John expresses it. [...] 'Logos' means 'reason,' 'sense,' 'word.' It is not reason pure and simple, but creative Reason, that speaks and communicates itself. It is Reason that both is and creates sense."
Such language resonates with intelligent design arguments based on information theory and new understandings of DNA. It shows also that the scientific case for intelligent design is fully congruent with a theological case for creative reason, whereas the accomodationist, "theistic evolutionist" viewpoint is not.
Indeed, the modernist, materialist project that deforms culture and intellect is grounded largely in a denial of purpose, reason and design in nature. If that denial were valid, there was no possible original Adam, therefore no second Adam incarnated as Jesus Christ, no resurrection, no salvation. However, many heterodox Christians and even some gullible orthodox Christians have been seduced by the fashionability of Darwinism and have turned a cold shoulder to challenges to purposeless, unguided evolution. Like "anti-anti-Communists" of yore, they have become "anti-anti-Darwinists."
Unfortunately, the Pope's views have not filtered down to all Catholic parishes, let alone universities and Catholic publications. There are even some confused souls loosely connected with the Vatican (the Pontifical Council on Culture, and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, for two examples). But Pope Benedict XVI is not confused at all.
The best book you can read on the subject this spring is God and Evolution, a series of provocative and clear essays edited by Dr. Jay Richards. The theological case against unguided evolution (Darwinism) and for design is explained in terms of contemporary Catholic, Protestant and Jewish scholarship. It couldn't be more timely.
by David DeWolf
A decision issued today by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals at first seemed like a mostly unalloyed victory for free speech in academia. But it contained some bad news for Mike Adams along with the good. Adams is the controversial (because he is conservative and religious) University of North Carolina professor being squeezed by liberal faculty and administrators.
The good news was that the appeals court reversed that part of the trial court 's decision that held that Adams was not entitled to first amendment protections because he was a public employee. The trial court had relied upon Garcetti v. Ceballos, in which the Supreme Court rejected a first amendment claim by a prosecuting attorney that he had been punished for criticizing the issuance of a warrant in a criminal case. Garcetti limited the rights of public employees to speak their mind if they are speaking on behalf of the government. The trial court in Mike Adams' case thought that a similar rule applied to university professors. But the appeals court disagreed, finding that the scholarly publications of a faculty member are not subject to the limiting principle in Garcetti.
That was the good news. The bad news was that in reinstating Adams' case, the appeals court affirmed the findings by the trial court that Adams had not been the victim of religious discrimination or a violation of the equal protection clause. This leaves him to return to the district court to demonstrate that the committee that rejected his application for promotion engaged in viewpoint discrimination or retaliated against him because of his exercise of his first amendment rights. This will require the trial court to distinguish viewpoint discrimination (for example, treating people differently because they are conservative) from judging Adams' scholarship to be inadequate because it isn't sufficiently novel, or significant, or insightful. The appeals court seemed to adopt the traditionally deferential approach to tenure and promotion decisions by university committees, permitting them to be their own judges of what sorts of scholarship deserve recognition for purposes of promotion or tenure. It's fairly rare for a committee to leave a "smoking gun," such as was the recent case of the astronomer at the University of Kentucky.
(David DeWolf, a Discovery Institute senior fellow, teaches law at Gonzaga University.)
A show of moral courage in the face of implacable ignorance and bigotry is a noble theme in any art form and is especially needed in these anxious, ambivalent times. The French film Of Gods and Men, written and directed by Xavier Beauvois, ranks with A Man for All Seasons and The Passion of the Christ as a window into the dilemma of humanity in an era of religious fanaticism and violence. Set in a Trappist monastery during the Algerian civil war of the 1990s, the movie inevitably invites ruminations on events right now in Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and on and on. It is profoundly Christian, but also ecumenical and humanistic.
Mark Salter, former McCain staffer, reviews the film ably for RealClearPolitics and comments on the irony that the French sent this to Hollywood as their nominee for best foreign film of 2010, but that the Academy failed to put it even in the list of nominees. It did win the "Best Foreign Film" award of the National Board of Review.
My wife and I left the theater in Seattle feeling edified and uplifted. Even non-believers will have that experience if they allow themselves the quiet contemplation that the film proposes.
Do you doubt that there are martyrs in our day?
Pour some tea and savor this amusing email interview of eminent physicist Freeman Dyson by the (UK) Independent's Steve Connor.
What I enjoy most is Dyson's description of how science is supposed to be open-minded and how many scientists have forgotten that. In the real world the enforced "consensus" of science is not harmless at all. For example: "(A)ll predictions concerning climate are highly uncertain. On the other hand, the remedies proposed by the experts are enormously costly and damaging, especially to China and other developing countries. On a smaller scale, we have seen great harm done to poor people around the world by the conversion of maize from a food crop to an energy crop. This harm resulted directly from the political alliance between American farmers and global-warming politicians. Unfortunately the global warming hysteria, as I see it, is driven by politics more than by science. If it happens that I am wrong and the climate experts are right, it is still true that the remedies are far worse than the disease that they claim to cure."
Photo: Tufts Journal
Eugenics is the ugly stepchild of Darwinian evolution. Today some Darwinists wish to disaffiliate from the past history, but, in fact, eugenics is making a comeback. Wesley J. Smith discusses the latest "brite" idea: screening babies for intelligence.
NPR is taking it licks for the surreptiticiously recorded conversation two of its top officers had with men pretending to be part of a Muslim Brotherhood funded foundation. There are now hundreds of news reports and commentaries on the story and even the ones on NPR, in the New York Times and the Washington Post are damaging to the proposition--if it still is believed anywhere--that NPR is objective and unbiased.
In the course of a long lunch in Georgetown, NPR's Sr. Vice President Ron Schiller and development officer Betsy Liley manage to say things that are likely to offend many evangelicals, Jews, white people, conservatives generally and the Tea Party in particular. They are sad that the "so-called elite" aren't more numerous. And they give unintentional comfort to those who want to stop government funding of NPR by saying they wish it were possible.
One particularly interesting segment of the tapes is an exchange in which the NPR officials explain how their network covers controversial subjects in science. Betsy Liley is heard describing another funding source who wanted NPR not to report the views of global warming skeptics:
"This funder said to us, ' you know you would like us to support your environmental coverage, but we really don't want to give you money if you're going to talk to the people who think climate change is not happening,'" Ms. Liley recounted (as reported by the Washington Times).
A few years ago Jay Richards, Sr. Fellow of Discovery Institute, edited a book we published called, The Age of Spiritual Machines: Ray Kurzweil Vs. His Critics. Ray, a good friend of George Gilder, participated only on the basis that he would have the last word with each critic. These days he is perhaps the most formidable exponent of artificial intelligence (AI).
Recently, IBM's "Watson" beat two human contestants on "Jeopardy", representing a new leap in computer speed and mastery of human-like logic. I predicted here February 7 that some Darwinists would use the victory to claim evidence for evolution (our brains are just thinking meat), but to my knowledge that hasn't really happened. What has happened is a lot of hand-wringing about "what it means to be human" in the age of artificial intelligence.
At least we can joke about it. Can Watson?
Jay Richards' current, rather upbeat assessment is found in this article from American.com:
The competition between the IBM computer "Watson" and a couple of Jeopardy game whiz guys is going to be fascinating theater when they go up against one another February 14. Watson is super fast at assembling knowledge programmed into him and using fuzzy logic to make literal sense of human metaphor and nuance. Apparently, its speed gives it an edge in pressing the Jeopardy game answer buzzer before its human competitors can do so the nanosecond after a question is read out loud.
It already happened, in fact.....at the end of the Roman Empire. There is no word about whether the Emperor and Senate failed to control CO2 emissions. The London Telegraph has the story.
Before this year of economic hope and ideological change concludes, I would like to record World magazine's citation of two of 2010's literary accomplishments, Claire Berlinski's "There is No Alternative": Why Margaret Thatcher Matters and Ben Wiker's Ten Books Every Conservative Must Read.
Actually, Basic Books brought out the Thatcher book in 2008, but it is becoming more topical--and popular--daily in the aftermath of the Tea Party's success and Mr. Obama's failures. Regnery's publication of the Wiker work is newer, but timeless in its application.
Both authors, saluted by editor Marvin Olasky in the December 18 issue, are Discovery Institute fellows. But you probably knew that.
It took Christians a long time to recognize what was going on with the yearly news weekly cover stories explaining why modern "scholars" now have supposedly discovered that orthodox faith on such matters as the Incarnation and Virgin Birth, like the Resurrection, are just cultural reflections of various political and social movements. This kind of debunking in the past few years has recognized as the "war against Christmas," because serious religious faith (as opposed to consumerism and popular songs about winter) is a threat to another orthodoxy, secularism. The Christmas story has to be debunked or its public expression discouraged and/or banned.
by David Klinghoffer
Slate startled us the other day by publishing an insightful essay asking whether political and worldview presuppositions drive the debate over climate change on both sides -- not only for those on the Right, but for combatants on the Left too, including scientists (who are mostly on the Left). It's an elementary observation that should be evident to anyone who follows the evolution debate, but of course a welcome surprise coming from a venue like Slate.
Author Dr. Daniel Sarewitz worries that because the ranks of scientists are so politically skewed, that threatens the trust that scientists currently enjoy among the public:
Slate's provocative essay by Daniel Sarewitz on why Republicans are unrepresented in science continues to ripple through the Internet.
Various answers are given and several have merit, but the strongest real reason is that contemporary science as taught in government supported universities (which is almost all of them) implicitly supports the ideological viewpoint of the left--since that supplies the money and is resistant to normative influences from tradition--and it is pervasively prejudiced against the kind of students found on the right, especially religious believers. A large share of America is cut off from science in universities on that account, and American science is the poorer for it. Now try studying that.
You can put this in the growing file of "Faithless Stewards of Public Science Money." The account is from Los Angeles where the chair of the UCLA Department of Environmental Health Services is trying to fire a long time professor of particle physics and epidemiology. If the report in Environment & Climate News by John Dale Dunn is correct, Dr. James Enstrom is being dismissed because his "research is not aligned with the academic missions of the Department."
In other words, Enstrom's work has run afoul of the thought police. Here is the makings of another a science scandal.
Almost all science research is funded these days by the federal government. This leads to backscratching and logrolling by the old boy network in the bureaucracies of the government and academia. Certain things are considered sacred truth by the old boys, such as the perils of second hand smoke or of global warming. Enstrom has published scientific studies in places like the British Medical Journal that affront conventional ideology. He also published an embarrassing expose of a fellow scientist who made false claims of having a Phd.
A number of California state legislators have come to Prof. Enstrom's defense and challenged the attack on his academic freedom. As is, the termination date has been moved to March, 2011.
I'll say it again, possible misuse and abuse of federal science monies across several fields deserves a thorough review.
Was it only 12 months ago that we were chuckling over the plight of attendees at the world climate change (aka, "global warming") conference in Copenhagen? Remember how most world leaders fled early because of an impending blizzard? The US President had put his prestige on the line, imagining that his famous charisma would break the diplomatic ice and produce a treaty. It did not. The ice held.
Now, with much less publicity coming out of this year's conference in Cancun, it seems that the swell computer models that predicted a spectacularly warm 2010 have failed once again. So, of course, did the hurricane predictions for the 2010, but then, those unfulfilled predictions are becoming predictable. But the global warming predictions are more consequential, leading to untold billions in government spending and truckloads of new regulations. Now, David Rose reports for the Daily Mail in London, it seems that the temperature has not materially warmed for fifteen (not just ten) years.
The Daily Mail concludes, "The question now emerging for climate scientists and policymakers alike is very simple. Just how long does a pause have to be before the thesis that the world is getting hotter because of human activity starts to collapse?"
Here's another question: When do journalists start to realize that computer models often are completely unreliable in science? Why have people forgotten the very oldest maxim about computers: "Garbage in, garbage out"?
For the past century or so decadence in art has always centered on shocking the middle class (épater les bourgeois ). Revenge of supposed free thinkers in society is a way of forging a union of the cultural left and the monied left. It's a pretty tired theme by now and requires ever more sensationalism to excite the old tittilation. If you can get the taxpayers to pay for offending their own deepest values, that at least improves the prospect of overcoming the majority of the public's indifference to your calculated insult.
The past week the the Smithsonian gained publicity for an exhibit at the Portrait Gallery called "Hide/Seek" that chiefly features assorted edgy sexual content and, among other things, a four minute video of ants crawling over Jesus Christ. The Smithsonian apparently thought that this would be a good seasonal antidote to too much Christmas cheer. However, the Catholic League protested and the National Portrait Gallery took down the video, but none of the rest of the exhibit.
The Washington Post went into a dither at that point. It's art critic railed two days ago. The editors ranted yesterday, criticizing the Republicans on the Hill for daring to criticize the exhibit, "The Censors Arrive." "'Hide/Seek' should be a platform for cultural debate, not the target of a misguided political vendetta," the Post snorted.
Wait a minute, isn't this the same Washington Post editorial page that five years ago objected to the showing of the film The Privileged Planet at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History? Oh, yes, it is. The Post was entirely on the other side of the censorship barricade then. No talk in that case about a needed "platform for cultural debate."
So, smutty art is sacred. But a film that suggests that there is scientific evidence for design in the universe, that is just too offensive the Ruling Class to permit.
To say that the Post and the Smithsonian are both hypocritical on the censorship issue is putting too good a face on hypocrisy.
One of the most distinguished members of the National Academies Science, Dr. Philip Skell, died last Sunday. He is remembered with fond respect by his friends at Discovery Institute.
by Jay Richards
In the last few days, The New York Times has participated in a misinformation campaign about Pope Benedict's comments from a recent book based on a reporter's interview with the Pontiff. I don't know if it's the result of ignorance or malice. In either case, it's misinformation.
The New York Times trope is that the Pope has changed longstanding "policy" on the morality of condom use--as if the Catholic Church had policies analogous to the platform of a political party. This is nonsense, as many commentators, from George Weigel to Jonah Goldberg, have explained. Weigel is a Catholic theologian who wrote the foreword for the book, so one would think that The New York Times could manage to fix the error, or at least stop perpetuating it.
But no. They're still at it. This morning (November 24), they have another installment, by Rachel Donadio and Laurie Goodstein. Now they're reporting on the controversy that ensued in large measure because of the perverse articles in The New York Times itself.
Anyone with a basic grasp of moral reasoning could understand Benedict's point: While condom use is wrong as a form of contraception, it could be less bad for a male prostitute with HIV to use a condom than not to use one, since he would at least be trying to avoid the spread of the virus. Apparently such distinctions are too fine for the Times.
I can't resist mentioning that the co-author of today's story, Laurie Goodstein, has also written on intelligent design, with a similar unwillingness to report a position as its proponent holds it. Hmm.
What is more powerful, altruism or the survival instinct? Usually the latter, perhaps, but often faith shines a light on our better nature. Chuck Colson has the story on his Breakpoint program.
High tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel was interviewed over the weekend by Holman Jenkins in the Wall Street Journal, among other things asserting that science and technology (except computer technology) are failing to meet expectations.
The same issue describes a new University of Indiana study on sexuality of American adults built, it seems, on questionable data collection. The Kinsey studies of a half century ago came from the same university, you may remember, and have been the subject of a number of professional attacks in recent years.
It is becoming clear that DNA is not all that we were led to believe, says Matt Ridley in "The Failed Promise of Genomics"--see another Journal article in the same issue. (Discovery Institute fellows are well into this subject, by the way.)
And then there is the story of a food scarcity that is likely to follow a poor world record for corn production this year. It is not pointed out in the article, but we are massively subsidizing corn production for ethanol.
Finally, elsewhere reported this this weekend is the news that Dr. Harold Lewis of the U. of California, Santa Barbara (Emeritus), has resigned from the American Physical Society, complaining of the organization's propaganda support for bogus claims about global warming.
All of this in one weekend would seem to confirm the thesis that big science, indeed, is burdened with ideology that sometimes keeps it from running as fast and true as expected by the public that pays the bills.
There is a tremendously interesting story developing about breakthroughs in embryology. But ideological blinders--and staff cuts?--are preventing a number of publications from covering the story adequately, or even competently. Our Sr. Fellow Wesley Smith does cover it on his Second Hand Smoke blog, as he did today, chiding the New York Times.
The left is having a fit of neurotic indecision. On one hand they have former Treasury Secretary Robert Reich reporting in the Christian Science Monitor that the House Republicans' "Pledge to America" agenda is a scheme to promote "Social Darwinism", "survival of the fittest." He states as a fact that Republicans have always wanted to destroy Social Security, even though the system--another supposed fact--is absolutely solid. Take his word on both scores. Or throw Gramma into the street. It's your choice.
Social Darwinism doesn't sound so good, does it?
But wait. Almost simultaneously, University of New York (Binghamton) biologist and anthropologist David Sloan Wilson is down in Australia delivering a Templeton Foundation lecture on how Social Darwinism can solve poverty, build trusting community, cure ingrown toenails, alleviate the heartbreak of psoriasis and improve your love life. Step right up. Dr. Wilson's Darwinian Elixir is good for what ails ya.
Okay, which Social Darwinism is it? Or is there, like the witches in the Wizard of Oz, a "good Social Darwinism" and a "bad Social Darwinism"?
Mssrs. Reich and Wilson are both political progressives and probably would get along very well. They both have a theory that can support or undermine any agenda they like. Unfortunately, they made opposite claims for it on the same day.
Please be clear. In contemporary science you supposedly cannot posit the existence of intelligence in the universe. It doesn't matter if your reasoning follows the same pattern of historical science used by Darwin, as, for example, in Meyer's Signature in the Cell. "No intelligence allowed," as the film Expelled made clear.
There is one exception. Just as he explained in the film Expelled, Richard Dawkins is prepared to believe in space aliens, the U.N. now wants to establish a liaison with these unknown creatures, even if there is no evidence for their existence at all--just speculation. A Malaysian astrophysicist is to be the first ambassador of the world to little green men on Mars, or wherever they turn out to be.
It is all put forth in complete seriousness.
Did you know that a fondness for chile peppers was a reason our ancestors reproduced, while those bland-tasteed Neanderthals died off? Yes, according to that endlessly productive Darwin propaganda machine, The New York Times, a taste for hot sauce is a trait of evolution.
If we could afford it, we'd hire someone just to compile a list of all the fascinating aspects of life that are the result of some reproductive advantage. We can't afford it, however, because the list would go on and on and on.... On the good side, such a list would be really funny.
Of course, other than the plain-as-mud evolutionary explanation, there is reason to think chiles initially became popular especially in the tropics and sub-tropics because they provided a way in hot, humid climates to disguise the taste of meat on the cusp of decay.
On the Larry King show last week--stuck between the host's overly deferential treatment of Stephen J. Hawking, the windy interjections of Hawking co-author Leonard Mlodinow and the smiling ruminations of Deepak Chopra--Fr. Robert Spitzer barely had a chance to clear his throat. Always introduced as a Jesuit, never as the physicist and former college president (Gonzaga) that he also is, Fr. Spitzer was lucky to get in a few comments about the way the Church thinks about the origins of the universe.
No mention was made by Larry King of Fr. Spitzer's new book, Evidence for God, that addresses cosmology directly. (See also a recent article on the program Fr. Spitzer, with Dr. Bruce Gordon, held at Discovery Institute.)
It is interesting that many media outlets and scientists that claim to have understood intelligent design and support it in cosmology, but not in biology, have not bothered to take Hawking on or to notice Spitzer's work. How serious, therefore, are their professions of support for ID even in cosmology?
Fr. Spitzer has a good YouTube commentary up on Hawking's The Grand Design. The Magis Center he heads is a great place to learn more of his views, and i also would send you to our own privilegedplanet.com for the views of Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards.
American media have tended to uncritical worship before Stephen Hawking and his new tome, a rebuke of The Grand Design. The Wall Street Journal has had three articles on it, one by Hawking.
On CNN, Larry King was like a flustered peasant bowing before an oracle: he reads a question, the oracle speaks, he reads the next question...
The English themselves are not in such awe. There has been a small parade of dismissive reviews, including some by bored scientists who found nothing new in Hawking's argument that natural laws are sufficient to explain the universe. In The Daily Mail, Oxford mathematician John Lennox writes, "(T)he beauty of the scientific laws only reinforces my faith in an intelligent, divine creative force at work. The more I understand science, the more I believe in God because of my wonder at the breadth, sophistication and integrity of his creation.
"The very reason science flourished so vigorously in the 16th and 17th centuries was precisely because of the belief that the laws of nature which were then being discovered and defined reflected the influence of a divine law-giver."
Among the eyes-open reviews is that of The Economist.
"Despite much talk of the universe appearing to be 'fine-tuned' for human existence, the authors do not in fact think that it was in any sense designed. And once more we are told that we are on the brink of understanding everything.
"The authors may be in this enviable state of enlightenment, but most readers will not have a clue what they are on about."
Their claims, says The Economist, are only "another tease".
A man who reports he is dying of throat cancer, yet persists in arguing his claims for atheism, was perhaps the real fascination of Tuesday night's debate in Birmingham, Alabama between Chris Hitchens and David Berlinski. Both men are recent and frequent authors and were presented at a pre-debate book signing by the debate sponsor, Fixed Point Foundation. An audience of 1,200 attended the subsequent debate.
CBS's Sixty Minutes (doing a program on Hitchens) covered the occasion, as did C-Span. Hitchens' illness, following on publication of his memoirs this summer, provided more than usual interest in what had to be viewed as a very relevant topic. Is it religion that "poisons everything," as Hitchens says, or is it atheism, as Berlinski states?
All the media, including the supposedly conservative media, have buried or simply ignored the part of James J. Lee's manifesto that dealt with Darwinian evolution. How come?
I wrote about the connection the day that Lee held hostages at Discovery Channel and was killed. But now David Klinghoffer has done the service of exploring the full background of Lee's mania. The heart of it is his obsession with the environmental consequences of over-population. And yes, it is directly connected with Darwin---except that all the reporters I have followed chose not to notice.
When intelligent design theory first erupted into widespread attention about 15 years ago we were told by Darwinians and their media Greek Chorus that ID was an inadmissible topic because it was really "religion," not "science," or, alternately, it was "philosophy and not science." (I well recall the long ABC TV interview of Steve Meyer, demanding repeatedly, "Who do you think the designer is?!") To their shame, some theistic evolutionists (like embryonic stem cell research promoter, Francis Collins) have given their backing to that prejudice.
In reality, ID theorists always made clear that the theory is part of historical science, exactly like Darwin's theory. There are religious implications from ID, just as there are from Darwin's theory, but we have always agreed that the scientific evidence should be allowed to stand on its own.
But, never mind. What we have seen in the past few years is a complete destruction of any supposed wall between science and religion, and the destruction has not been wrought by supporters of ID, but by hard core Darwinists and other scientific materialists. Whether it is biologist Richard Dawkins and his Internet Sancho Panza, P.Z. Myers, or, in physics, Stephen Hawking, the wraps are off. For them, not only is science about religion, religion is the main purpose of science--attacking religion, that is.
It was instructive that when Dawkins left his chair at Oxford and started a charity, he didn't direct the proceeds to science teaching or research, but to promotion of atheism. "Where your treasure is, there also is your heart."
It's a refreshing contrast to see the distinguished John Lennox of Oxford taking Hawking on directly on topic, not pulling back at all.
By the way, the increasingly open presentation of science-as-applied-atheism completely bankrupts the strategy of groups like the National Committee for Science Education that pretend that their business is about science and not religion. Their real business is about assuring a monopoly of public education for scientific materialism, period. You can be sure that neither the NCSE nor the equally misnamed Americans United for the Separation of Church and State--nor the ACLU--mind at all if Stephen Hawkings' opinions and those of Richard Dawkins attacking God are taught in school rooms. When those groups sue schools for bringing anti-religious messages into schools will, indeed, be the day Hell freezes over.
By George Gilder
A bottom-up regime of Darwinian materialism has turned science on its head. Yet is presented as the sole tenable explanation for human life and natural diversity. The new regime essentially flattens the Universe. Replacing the story of creation--the rumored God and hierarchical cosmos--is an ebullition of accidental and purely physical fact. All reality is said to be derivable from such physically ascertainable and testable facts.
"Just the facts, Mam!" So can be summed up the new flat cosmos. I remember that canonical phrase from my childhood. I heard it as I clutched my new transistor radio--the dazzling new technology of my youth--to hear tales of tough interrogation by a no-nonsense detective named Jack Webb on a program called Dragnet. Or was it Joseph Welch at the Army McCarthy hearings before the US Senate? Through the fogs of time, the voices all converge but the message remains: "Just the facts."
In my memory, the program on the radio segued into black and white television stories of Earle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason, the sage and upright defense lawyer, also insisting on the primacy of facts. Finally came Sergeant Colombo (or was it Walter Cronkite?) upholding the same moral universe of physical factuality, with all other hierarchical forms of power or claims of authority banished to the lapsarian fringes.
It was both scary and pathetic at the Discovery Channel in Maryland today when an environmental terrorist took hostages in an attempt to force the television network to show more programs on Malthus and Darwin and to rail against over-population and global warming.
Oddly missing from initial news accounts was any mention of Darwin. But, in James J. Lee's manifesto, emerges this clear demand: "Develop shows that mention the Malthusian sciences about how food production leads to the overpopulation of the Human race. Talk about Evolution. Talk about Malthus and Darwin until it sinks into the stupid people's brains until they get it!!"
Another odd thing is that the Discovery Channel probably runs more programs about Darwinian evolution than any other network, even PBS. Indeed, if I close my eyes and try to visualize "Discovery Channel" the image that forms is of a cartoon amphibian crawling out of the primordial pond, growing simian legs, making fire and developing into a TV news anchor.
In the news stories of the Columbine massacre several years ago the Darwin angle also was missed, though it had been explicit in the rants of the young killer/suicides. Now it's Mr. Lee's turn to have his message revised.
Isn't it time to "follow the money" on science scams in academia? In the end, taxpayers are the suckers and that is a fit subject for public inquiry.
For example, evolutionary psychology includes the assertion that Darwinian evolution accounts for human morality. But that claim was dealt a hard blow last week when one of its leading exponents, Prof. Marc Hauser of Harvard, was exposed as a fraud. The monkey research he conducted didn't show at all what what he said it did. This isn't Climate Gate, but it's a scandal.
Dr. Hauser probably can escape permanent damage to his employment prospects if he explains that his genes made him cheat. In the history of hominids, after all, shaking down taxpayers is a well-established behavior to enhance reproductive advantage.
What no one in the media apparently bothered to check was the cost of Prof. Hauser's bogus research. Looking at National Science Foundation grants online, it seems to have been $504,000. Shouldn't the Inspector General at the NSF be asking Harvard for the government's money back?
The follow-up question is, how much of this goes on in academia? And why does Big Science, alone among American institutions, get to police itself? We have headline investigations if some Congressman misuses his per diem allowance on a junket to Ouagadougou. Total waste, maybe $300. In comparison, is 500K for rigged university research merely chimp change?
The Tower of Babel was a human impertinence that caused God to fasten on humanity many languages, a contribution to the confusion and disagreement that have become characteristic of human nature. Today we have the Internet.
The American Spectator, a fine journal of lively opinion, ran online an article by me today, A Classic Evolution Policy Blunder..
It is instructive to see the numerous comments that follow it. From the same article various respondents decided that I am anti-science, anti-Bible, anti-reason and pro-liberal judges. I am denounced as a creationist by one reader and an anti-creationist by another. (I am none of those things.) Soon enough, as is typical, some of the commenters are denouncing each other, often behind the protection of made-up names.
We now live in a media environment that is like a restaurant where all the patrons are shouting at the same time. The louder your neighbor, the more you raise your own voice. The more competitive the din, the more nuance and extended argument are cast aside in favor of sloganeering and insults.
In such an environment, one probably should lower his voice rather than raise it.
It should be obvious that just because I am aware of the disposition of federal courts on the subject of religion in public school classrooms I do not necessarily favor it. In the instance of Judge Jones in Dover, PA, I think the judicial opinion is poorly reasoned as well as unfair. Regardless, in real life, school leaders must deal with the law as it is, not as they would like it to be. In the case of Dover, some members on the local school board defended their actions on religious grounds and not only had their policy thrown out by Judge Jones, but also got themselves thrown out of office. In addition, they at least temporarily made the work of intelligent design scientists and other Darwin critics more difficult. The issue was not theirs to misrepresent and endanger, properly speaking, but they did it anyhow.
I hope that doesn't happen in Louisiana. The state government has a fine law that will allow controversial scientific subjects to be taught objectively on their scientific merits. It should be obvious (again) that no one denies that there are religious implications to Darwinian evolution and also to its rejection. But there also are religious implications, for example, to such topics as cloning. And there are political implications to global warming. But most people probably, upon reflection, can find common ground on teaching only science in public school science classes and leaving religion and/or politics at the door. Science should not avoid controversy, but it should respect its own limits. Within those limits there is still plenty to discuss.
In the deconstructionist critical age it is hard to assert the truth about anything, especially something that used to be thought tautological: "science". What Discovery Institute has been saying for years is that the guardians of big science, cocooned in walled universities and succored on federal grants, humbly catered to by the major media, and in-bred at small journals with foundation-assured budgets, have become another modern institution suffering from advanced sclerosis--hardening of the very arteries meant to provide society with copious supplies of oxygen.
Real work goes on in the sciences, but with little thanks to the ideological gatekeepers that patrol the corridors these days.
The universities have not yet been inspected by any visiting committees. Nor have the supposed science journals (from the biggest to some of the smallest). Nor, of course, have the grant-making organs of government and philanthropy.
But someone--Virginia Heffernan--finally has taken a look inside the world of "science blogs", the new frontier of alternative media. The doubly amazing thing is that her article just appeared in The New York Times.
What she finds is not science, but self-referencial sophomoric pranks, vitriol and cavil.
That world, also amazingly, seems to be fraying badly.
By Wesley J. Smith
Well, I'll be cornswaggled! Richard Dawkins disdains the moral implications of human exceptionalism-for example, he yearns for the discovery of a human/chimp hybrid species that could interbreed with us to "break the species barrier."But even though he might prefer to tear it down-probably because HE can be seen as supporting religion-Dawkins clearly believes that human exceptionalism is an existential reality.
In 2007, Dawkins strongly asserted in a debate that we are unique and unprecidented in the history of life on the planet, indeed, that we have moral duties and imperatives to escape selfish Darwinian impulses and act in an explicitly "anti Darwinian" fashion as "earth's last best hope." From Dawkins' opening statement in the New Scientist/Greenpeace Science debate of 2007 (statement full at the YouTube video above):
Far from being the most selfish, exploitative species, Homo sapiens is the only species that has at least the possibility of rebelling against the otherwise universally selfish Darwinian impulse...If any species in the history of life has the possibility of breaking away from short term selfishness and of long term planning for the distant future, it's our species. We are earth's last best hope even if we are simultaneously, the species most capable of destroying life on the planet. But when it comes to taking the long view, we are literally unique. Because the long view is not a view that has ever been taken before in whole history of life. If we don't plan for the future, no other species will...
Wow. That's pretty darn exceptional. Indeed, I could have said it! In fact, I have, in other words, said precisely that.
But why would we do that? Why would we care? Because we are the earth's only moral agents. And that means, Dawkins is saying, that we should act morally:
It is not clear why the number of academic freedom cases seem to be increasing. Is it because the iron hand of ideological conformity is squeezing professors more tightly? Or is it because more subjects of attack are fighting back in court?
I tend to think it is for both those reasons. Socially acceptable views in academia tend to run from the left to the far left. More traditional, conservative viewpoints are regarded as simply wrong. It occurs in field after field. We see it on many aspects of the evolution debate and issues pertaining to bioethics. Academic freedom policies are adopted by universities, but then selectively applied. They probably were written to protect left wingers in dissent, so when a right winger tries to appeal to them, administrators regard the appeal as bizarre. Freedom of dissent is for liberals, not conservatives.
But groups like the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) have been established in the past decade precisely to answer the cries of professors and students who are discriminated against on ideological grounds. As a consequence, some professors may be more willing now to sue.
In addition to evolution or bioethics, cases are coming to the fore on many fronts now. The ADF just won a settlement in California for a biology teacher who was assailed for providing an honest and scholarly answer to a question in class about the relative influence of nature versus environment in homosexuality. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the ADF have entered another case by an Illinois professor who was denied promotion because someone was offended by his comparison of Catholic and utilitarian philosophies in evaluating sexuality.
Meanwhile, groups like the American Council of Alumni and Trustees is making some progress in forcing academia to live up to its own professed standards by adopting and enforcing serious codes of academic freedom. ACTA's own statement on the issue is preceded by a quote from former Yale president Benno Schmidt: "The most serious problems of freedom of expression in our society today exist on our campuses.... The assumption seems to be that the purpose of education is to induce correct opinion rather than to search for wisdom and to liberate the mind."
In its July 3 issue, World Magazine's "2010 Book of the Year" is Arthur C. Miller's The Battle , "How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government will Shape America's Future." As the U.S. economy sags, the book by Miller (the new CEO of American Enterprise Institute) is a timely and telling--and ultimately inspiring--critique of current challenges.
We're pleased also to see that World gives three "Honorable Mentions" to books by Discovery Institute fellows: William Dembski's The End of Christianity, Stephen C. Meyer's Signature in the Cell, and Jay Richards' Money, Greed and God.
Human Events is offering new subscribers a free copy of Ben Wiker's exciting new book, 10 Books Every Conservative Must Read (the book itself would be the 11th, by the way). For a two year subscription you get that book and Wiker's previous one, 10 Books That Screwed Up the World.
Regnery, Inc., publishers of 10 Books Every Conservative Must Read, also is promoting the work extensively.
The Wiker books are useful for those with holes in their life-time reading accomplishments. Truth is, however, that's most of us. What Wiker does is give you an idea whether to read the books themselves--and which ones first. And for the rest, well, you can throw the names around at cocktail parties anyhow!
Michael Medved treated visitors to his homepage to a preview of the trailer for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader that will be released at Christmas time. It is sure to be a blockbuster, the latest in Walden films' Chronicle of Narnia series, based on the works of C. S. Lewis.
by George Gilder
The preeminent UK science writer Matt Ridley, formerly an editor of The Economist and author of the best-selling Genome and other books, has long upheld the politically correct canons of his trade. But in his new book, The Rational Optimist, he has finally exhausted his patience with the environmental movement and the rest of the economic left. The cause of his sudden and violent disillusionment is the collapse of global warming science, which he and the Economist have long gullibly accepted but which Ridley has now discovered to be so deeply flawed as to rise to the level of fraud.
This is the most complete and far-reaching and even profound critique of environmentalism and socialism that has come from Britain since Hayek's Road to Serfdom. Ridley shows that the green movement poses a devastating threat to the environment, which throughout history has always benefited most from the very economic growth and progress, fueled by fossil energy, that the Greens are dedicated to ending. The only comparable books are Peter Huber's Hard Green and the Bottomless Well, but Ridley takes the argument further and brings it up to date. This is a major breakthrough for conservatives and a must read.
My only objection is his credulous reliance on materialist economic models based on Darwinian biology. But compared to his huge achievement the flaws are best left to cavil at another time.
Media should hold scientists, and especially official science boards, responsible for dire predictions that fail to materialize. The good example of this past year's non-appearing flu epidemic is dissected by Michael Fumento of the Independent Journalism Project.
Accountability for false predictions is desirable in order to prevent fear-mongering and its exploitation for notoriety and public and foundation fund-seeking. Modest claims probably don't get the financial backing that sensational claims do. Who knows the costs of bogus science?
There is an unending parade of uncritical headlines that include the phrase "Scientists Say." That's all it takes, and you can assert almost anything after it. Except that contemporary science, for all its achievements, isn't as sound and sure as these hyped stories make out. If you want the public to become cynical, however, then this is just the way to go.
Our colleague Jay Richards, co-author with Guillermo Gonzalez of The Privileged Planet, responds to the perfervid, unremitting efforts to posit, if not find, life in outer space. People like Richard Dawkins and the New York Times-- that condemn theorists who cite evidence for intelligent design--get weak-kneed and giddy when offered totally speculative aspirations to life discoveries by scientism's guardians.
Like the economic theorist describing how to get out of a hole--"First, assume a ladder."--the materialist indicates that all it takes to find life in other galaxies is a near-infinity of stars and a near-infinity of time. Theory conquers all.
At some point, one gets tired of hearing conservative intellectuals pronounce solemnly in their speeches, "Ideas have consequences." Well, yes, ideas do have consequences. But what ideas and what consequences? And where does the fequently incanted phrase come from? Seldom--almost never--is one told, as speakers rush on to declaim, say, for spending cuts or a strong defense.
In fact, the phrase is the title of a seminal work of modern traditional conservative thought, Richard Weaver's Ideas Have Consequences. First published in 1948, Ideas and subsequent Weaver books and essays, especially The Ethics of Rhetoric (1953), influenced the young Bill Buckley and inspired generations of still younger conservatives in such groups as the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
These days Weaver's Ideas appears to be cited almost infinitely more often than it is read, and that's a pity. Likewise Weaver's other books and essays.
My colleague David Klinghoffer not only has read extensively in Weaver, but also has enlisted the philosopher's ghost in the battle against Darwinism. Weaver correctly saw Darwinism as an idea with profoundest consequences. How odd it is that he and some other notable conservatives fifty or so years ago (C.S. Lewis, Irving Kristol, Whittacker Chambers, Bill Buckley) could see the scientific flaws in Darwin's theory, and the philosophy of materialism behind the theory, while so many conservative public intellectuals today quietly seek appeasement.
An emeritus professor of geology at Western Washington State University (Bellingham, WA), Don Easterbrook, says we are in for global cooling for another twenty years or so.
It certainly seems so this spring. Winter on the East Coast was grim and summer temperatures are hard to find now in the West. Snowfall also higher than in decades past.
It doesn't mean anything except this: there is (and should be) a real debate.
Journalists, even on the left, know a cover up when they see it. That is why the story in Germany's Der Spiegel is so damning on the issue of global warming. Discovery Senior fellow Wesley Smith cites the article and comments on his blog site.
Note the relevance he ascribes to stem cell research and the Darwin issue.
Dr. Francisco Ayala is now the winner of the Templeton Prize for science and religion, his distinction seeming to be that he, a scientist, asserts that science and religion are "compatible." Accept Darwin's theory that life arose by an unguided natural process that has nothing to do with design and your creed can be stamped "Approved" by Inspector Ayala, always described in the press as a "former priest."
The only problem is that Dr. Ayala himself doesn't believe in your religion. He left the priesthood years ago. With all the evil in the world, he no longer could believe in God. He left the Catholic Church, too. He won't discuss his current views on religion --he doesn't want to be "tagged"-- but he certainly will not affirm anything of substance in the Christian faith, or any other.
How does such a person fit the Templeton template of recent years? Responding to the Ayala award, an article by Michael Brooks in the New Scientist (definitely a Darwinian journalistic redoubt) makes it plain: "When I attended a journalism fellowship funded by the Templeton Foundation in 2005, I learned from Templeton-endorsed scientists and theologians that the way to establish a peaceful co-existence of science and religion was to make no religious claims at all.
"...There can be no afterlife. Nor does anyone have an eternal soul. There was no virgin birth - that was most probably a story made up after Mary was raped by a Roman soldier. There was no physical resurrection of Jesus. None of the miracles actually happened. And prayers are not answered."
Maybe Jack Templeton agrees, though that is contrary to his reputation.
Ayala, accepting the Templeton prize, has a way of explaining the odd situation: "If they (science and religion) are properly understood, they cannot be in contradiction because science and religion concern different matters." That is, believe what you want about religion, so long as it does not intrude on reality, for reality is established by (Darwinian) science and that explains it all. You see, it's the old fact/value split. We'll take the facts, you can have the values.
I understand why an Orwellian stylist like Ayala is attractive to Darwinists like the National Center for Science Education, all right. He is part of their show at conferences of atheists. such as the famous "Beyond Belief" meeting covered by the New York Times in 2006. He joins the advisory boards of groups like Campaign to Defend the Constitution, whose agenda included the standard fare of abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, etc. He cleverly terms intelligent design a "heresy". He himself may not be a Christian any longer, but he surely doesn't mind parodying the lingo. In a 1999 New York Times interview titled "Ex-Priest Takes the Blasphemy Out of Evolution," Ayala argued that "evolution, in my view, is not only NOT anti-Christian, but the idea of special design ... might be ... blasphemous."
How is it that someone who is not a Christian pronounces on blasphemy?
When asked by Biologos Institute to critique Steven Meyer's book, Signature in the Cell recently, Ayala's resulting online attack showed plainly that he had not read the book and had little idea of the scientific issues it raises. Francisco Ayala is above arguing science, he is available only to declaim on religion, and that in the most vague possible fashion. He is willing to absolve Christian believers, mind you, and grant them respectability, but only if they humbly disavow any consequential religious beliefs.
True believer Darwinists--who at least are honest about their convictions--snicker about Ayala. No wonder.
From time to time almost everyone at Discovery Institute winds up taking a swipe at scientism, the philosophy that enthrones science as the ultimate arbiter of morals, as well as facts. Scientism--seen in many a news and opinion article--is an arrogant assumption of unearned authority. Wesley J. Smith blogs about it at First Things today.
The trouble is, one may dismiss scientism as folly, and yet be seduced by it in particular circumstances. My chief disappointment these days is not with those snake oil salesmen in the scientific community who try to peddle their views as unimpeachable truth, but the gullible laypeople who, lacking a doctorate in science, think they have to defer to the "experts". This is particularly true of journalists and editorial writers. They wouldn't defer so readily to generals on the subject of the advisability of war, would they? Nor to Wall Street gurus on the wisdom of a given tax policy. But some "study" in which "scientists say" something in a "journal" is treated as Gospel.
Gospel, of course, is not treated as Gospel.
Slowly, if in strange fashion, the truth about the fallacies of scientism are being made manifest. You fall for scientism and soon you get censorship, and then you get a halt--of all things--to scientific progress.
Unintentional assistance comes our way today from The New York Times.
On its front page the Times reports that Darwin skeptics have decided on a new strategy--linking doubts about Darwinian evolution to doubts about man-caused global warming. The article by Leslie Kaufman makes the ludicrous assertion that this is some sort of plot hatched by conservative Protestants.
Of course, this is a hoary old Times trope. In the real world, plenty of Catholics, Jews and other people, regardless of religion, question the alarmist view that human beings are largely responsible for global warming (to the extent there is global warming). The same goes for the responsible scientists of various faith backgrounds, and none, who contend that Darwinian science is collapsing in the face of evidence. And even a larger, more diverse crowd worries about the implications of Darwinism for our culture.
But the Times story does at least correctly and helpfully quote John West of Discovery Institute on a way global warming and Darwinism are connected. "'There is a lot of similar dogmatism on this issue,' he said, 'with scientists being persecuted for findings that are not in keeping with the orthodoxy. We think analyzing and evaluating scientific evidence is a good thing, whether that is about global warming or evolution.'"
What has the Columbia Journalism Review learned from the campaign it waged with Chris Mooney (see immediately previous post) to disallow scientific evidence against massive man-caused global warming? What have "media experts" at Harvard and MIT learned from the efforts to disallow the critics from being heard?
Why, at a seminar last week on "Scientists, Skeptics and the Media" they learned that media must be even more ardent in support of the alarmist viewpoint. No one seems to have considered the possibility that the skeptics might have a case deserving of coverage.
Mooney is a sometime Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT. Philip J. Hilts, professor of "science journalism" and the current head of the Knight program (presumably funded with money from the Knight newspaper chain's charitable arm), covers the seminar for the CJR.
"Like doctors gathered around the operating table in mid-surgery, a group of media experts at Harvard yesterday offered their diagnoses of the ailing body of journalism. The symptom: a surprising decline in public belief that climate change is real or important."
The journalist-doctors go on to offer one idea after another on how to convince the public that its growing skepticism is a mistake. Only a small group in the population are true skeptics, after all. And the way to restore a proper sense of alarm among the others might be to tie climate change to people's personal health concerns....Etc.
A comment on the CJR blog by "JLD" makes the pertinent response:
"I have to say it takes a great deal of chutzpah -- or perhaps cluelessness -- to examine the drop in public trust in climate science without once mentioning Climategate or the very real scandals that are now plaguing this 'settled science.'
"Let's make a short tally: Phil Jones dismissed from office, and facing possible legal action; Michael 'hockey puck' Mann under investigation; the IPCC reports riddled with falsehoods. And now Rajendra Pachaur (the IPCC head with numerous conflicts of interest) is suggesting that critics (including Greenpeace) should go rub their faces with asbestos. What a great guy to have as your representative. Good thing he can't be voted out of office.
"But being a recent graduate of the Kennedy School I would expect nothing less than a complete whitewash of anything that offends liberal sensibilities. By all means keep 'fighting back' against the 'denialists' -- it might feel good, but it won't convince anyone outside of Harvard Square."
Defenders of the myth of "consensus science", such as Chris Mooney, have attempted to minimize each new revelation of incompetence and bias in climate change pronouncements. But today, the London Telegraph exposes yet another parade of errors in the IPCC report of 2007 upon which so many scare stories have relied. Skeptics of the alarmist view on global warming have been held to punctilious footnoting and have been tormented over "peer-review", which is hard to acquire in such drum-beating advocacy journals as Nature or Science. But, meanwhile the IPCC has used unsubstantiated alarmist statements from graduate student dissertations, the opinions expressed in activist group newsletters and faulty computer models to reach many of its conclusions.
English and Canadian papers are doing a better job of covering this scandal than are their American cousins. Bloggers, as the Spectator"s Matt Ridley observes, have pushed the British press to do its duty. They have been less successful in the United States. That is especially unfortunate in that many billions of dollars of U.S. government research money have been committed to projects that rely on official assumptions of human-induced global warming. That doesn't even touch the money that alarmists would like the government to spend to save the planet--at the expense of the private economy and ordinary taxpayers.
Why aren't these matters under official U.S. investigation? Probably because the media here are still cowed by the public relations activities of the climate change alarmists, skillfully advanced by Fenton Communications and its deep-pocket clients. Another problem is that Congress and other authorities lack the independent professional expertise to do a proper investigation. Regardless, they had better find the people to do the job. The issue isn't going away.
A few years ago Mooney and his associates, with the help of such professional organs as the Columbia Journalism Review, successfully lobbied editorial boards and science writers not to publish the views of skeptics of such "settled science" issues as the ability of neo-Darwinism to explain evolution, the necessity of using embryonic stem cells to conduct medical research and, of course, radical, human-caused climate change and the economic "reforms" required to reverse it. To give the skeptics on such issues space to express their objections in their own words, he told credulous media, was equivalent to listening seriously to flat-earth proponents.
On case after case, Mooney and Co. have been shown to be wrong. Too bad it takes scandals to show how wrong and why. The explanations come in two words: ideology and money.
Remember the folks who told you that Darwin's theory is really "fact" and that only cranks disagree? And the folks who promised that dire, man made global warming had been demonstrated objectively and beyond question--enough to justify massive economic dislocations? Well, it increasingly seems that the uniquely promising field of embryonic stem cell research offers another case of warped and hyped "consensus science".
A hundred years ago consensus science proclaimed the merits--and advanced the the political program--of eugenics.
In the past decade, the moral objections to embryonic stem cell research almost seemed to make the project more, not less, appealing to certain science bodies, journals and bureaucrats. In California, the state sold the public on a gauzy multi-billion dollar vision of miracle cures that supposedly were just around the corner. The warning signs about the California Prop. 71 embryonic stem cell program were virtually ignored by the mainstream media. Our Discovery senior fellow and co-director of Human Rights and Bioethics, Wesley J. Smith, was unusual if not unique in his coverage of the issue. Now he and other skeptics are vindicated. California is broke and plainly has wasted billions on a quixotic errand for political correctness. The real progress with stem cells comes, happily, in less controversial--and less well funded areas.
In every case of dogmatic certainty in science's recent past, the blinders on the science establishment (including especially federal funders) are political and ideological. In real science, as I keep saying, you have free and accurately reported studies and reports. In politicized science, ideology determines what and who gets funded, and even how results are covered.
Meantime, the space program is being gutted. Space exploration is not p.c. any more.
When Clarence Thomas was considered for confirmation as a Justice of the Supreme Court, the late-Senator Edward Kennedy referred to him as an "extremist" because of his support for "natural law." Thomas, of course, won the war, since he subsequently was confirmed by the Senate, but Kennedy scored points with the press. At the time, Thomas was hardly in a position to debate with him on the subject.
Of course, the framers of the U.S. Constitution were natural law men themselves. And it was Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, who penned the immortal line that "men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Of course, we all know what an "extremist" Jefferson was.
Now we have a broad, beautiful book, The Line Through the Heart, by J. Budziszewski that examines "Natural Law as Fact, Theory and Sign of Contradiction." Budziszewski is a professor of philosophy and government at the University of Texas, a contributor to First Things and a senior fellow of Discovery Institute.
His book is reviewed by John Grondelski in the January 17 issue of the National Catholic Register. (Unfortunately, one must be a subscriber to read it online.)
Writes Grondelski, "Budziszewski adresses personhood and the law, capital punishment, constitutional jurisprudence and the religious 'toleration' as a slogan to push religion out of public life."
There are several threads that link the works of most Discovery fellows and one of them surely is the topic of what it means to be human. Another is the topic of the ideals that made Western civilization exceptional. Both are joined, effectively, in The Line Through the Heart.
A "brave" German magazine of women's fashion has decided to get rid of the anorexic look of modern models, the bodies that convey an unhealthy attitude toward food and attitudes that express boredom or contempt.
Men and women, Republicans and Democrats, ought to celebrate the repudiation of irony as fashion and desireability. Cheers to Brigitte.
Pat Robertson made a foolish statement on his television program about the pact that Haitians supposedly made with the Devil to get rid of the French a couple of hundred years ago. For some it seemed to indicate that he thought that God was sending the recent earthquake to get even.
Well, no. Robertson was using a shard of some old story as a prelude to his report on the earthquake, which then proceeded to an appeal for funds to help the Haitian victims of the earthquake.
But the world's leading crusader for atheism and Darwinism, Richard Dawkins, is not about to let the old boy off the hook. Robertson must pay. So by amazing extension must Christianity in general, never mind the extent to which the massive outpouring of aid to Haiti is coming from Christian sources. Even the Red Cross is, after all, about a cross, isn't it?
Robertson may be tone deaf about the such events as the earthquake, but it is left to Dawkins to try to turn tragedy into an evangelizing opportunity. His article, if it were about politics, would be dismissed as propaganda. But the London Times seems to think it fit enough.
The New Scientist is just one of those science journals that boast falsely of their professionalism. It is obvious on the face of it, however, that they routinely employ ad hominem comments and sheer rank-pulling to disparage critics of what they regard as the "scientific consensus" (e.g., dogma). Don't confuse them with the evidence.
Now they and other supposedly objective media are being exposed by demonstration after demonstration that they have allowed the books on climate change to be hidden or rigged. Climategate, as the Investor's Business Daily says, is a scandal that extends far beyond some mischief in East Anglia. People in the science media who should have been investigating these situations instead have buried them.
Someone in the mainstream media is going to pick up on the increasing examples of fraud, misuse of public and foundation money and plain ideological presumption. It will make a great newspaper series, book and documentary. Good work already is being done in all these categories, but not in the media major leagues.
There is no question that human beings contribute to air and water pollution. There is no doubt that the West needs to wean itself from imported oil. But collaboration on win-win solutions is hampered, not helped, by groups of ideologues who are willing to hide data and avoid scrutiny. Their loyalty apparently is not to science, or even to the general welfare, but to their worldview.
Do you think I am wrong? Then where are the debates that let both sides be heard?
The Nobel Prize committee that saluted President Obama last year for a mere changed rhetorical tone and anticipated improvements in international affairs, gave its 2007 award to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) for a supposedly courageous report on climate change. The IPCC report included the prediction that Himalayan glaciers would be gone by 2035 or sooner. Now it turns out that the predictions for the glaciers not only were based on flimsy, unsupportable data (see January 20 post), but that the whole section of the report in which it is found is flawed. It is being disowned.
Once again it was the skeptics, not the science journals and the big science foundations of government and the professional associations that like to pronounce on various subjects, that revealed the flaws.
We are in a time when news developments are tumbling over one another so fast that one barely can keep track, let alone assess the consequences: the Massachusetts election, the sudden death of Obamacare (at least in its present form), the faux populist assault on the banks (in the process of backfiring) and here, the continuing, collapse of the alarmist position on global warming. Yesterday it was revealed that the "breakthrough" hailed by President Obama at the Copenhagen Climate Summit--puny as it seemed at the time--has not even survived the winter. It should be renamed "the Copenhagen Breakdown."
Add now the collapsing reputation of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.
It was bad enough when the lobster population grew so fast off the coast of Maine that the lobstermen there were going broke. Now the same curse of abundance is occurring with salmon in the Pacific Northwest ("Cascadia" to us). With the oceans dying, this is not supposed to happen.
What next? Will someone find out that the Himalayan glaciers are not in immediate danger of disappearing? What!? That, too?!
Now we have scientists predicting a new age of cooling, pointing out that Arctic ice is growing, not shrinking, and it all has to do with ocean currents, not man-made activity. Human caused global warming increasingly is seen as an over-statement, at the least. Without open debate, who knows?
Scientific hype is found in medicine, too, with repeated dire warnings about epidemics that don't quite happen. Swine flu, of course, is the latest in a long train. One could mention the BSE (Mad Cow) hysteria, and, before that Alar, silicone breast implants...on and on. Businesses and whole industries have been destroyed in some cases before reality reasserts itself.
Resorts to claims that "the science is settled" and there is (as The New York Times considers conclusive) a "scientific consensus" are shown repeatedly to fail the tests of time, close scrutiny and experience. They remind one of the old Marxist trope, "As everyone knows...." The one thing these movements lack is a humility and a willingness to test their hypothesis in an atmosphere where other sides are allowed to provide countervailing evidence, interpretations and theories. Real science, I say again, has to provide for debate.
Another case of poor science doing the work of ideology (scientism) is the willingness of the media and cultural organs to defend hard-core Darwinian explanations for everything from bad backs to altruism. The evidence doesn't seem to matter once the "consensus" is adduced. The "consensus" deems that scientific books and reports that challenge Darwin--let alone support intelligent design--may not be read, let alone reviewed.
Behind all the "consensus" controls lie groups of individuals that benefit greatly by hyped priorities--research institutions, especially, including cash-pressed universities in search of federal money. Include trial attorneys who benefit from public fright. Add in, then, the para-political elements in society that want government sanction to run the lives of other people; this includes a large part of the environmental movement, plus the cultural totalitarians who seek government power to implement their social and spending policies. Also include the bureaucracies of government that seek constantly to expand their writ...and staffing levels. Economist Thomas Sowell has termed the alliance "coercive utopians."
To stand up to these trends and strategems is "pro-science", not "anti-science", despite what the consensus mongers contend. If "science" is essentially a propaganda and social scheme looking for complaint, vendable professionals to support it, then over time it will lose its hold on public respect. And that is just what is happening.
Here's the key test (once more): do they allow and even encourage debate and the expression of contrary views? If not, "science" is corrupted.
Fox News ends the year with a list of under-reported stories of 2009. It is notable how many are related to science or, generally, to the politicization of supposed "experts".
Nearly a half century ago, as he left eight years in office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of a "military-industrial complex" that promoted particular new weapons systems and concomitant budgetary and foreign commitments. Ike, the former five star general and Columbia University president, warned that selfish professional ambitions and interests can create a deceptive perception of national interest. The term "military-industrial complex" has become famous.
However, less noticed, Ike's farewell address also warned of development of a grants-corrupted "scientific-technological elite."
In his new book, The Deniable Darwin (Discovery Institute Press, 2009), published just before the ClimateGate scandal broke, mathematician David Berlinski explained that scientists should not be trusted to check themselves--no more than anyone else on the planet, and maybe less so, since grant money is involved. Now he writes on his blog, "I Told You So."
From The Deniable Darwin:
My own view, repeated in virtually all of my essays, is that the sense of skepticism engendered by the sciences would be far more appropriately directed toward the sciences than toward anything else. It is not a view that has engendered wide-spread approval. The sciences require no criticism, many scientists say, because the sciences comprise a uniquely self-critical institution, with questionable theories and theoreticians passing constantly before stern appellate review. Judgment is unrelenting. And impartial. Individual scientists may make mistakes, but like the Communist Party under Lenin, science is infallible because its judgments are collective. Critics are not only unwelcome, they are unneeded. The biologist Paul Gross has made himself the master of this attitude and invokes it on every conceivable occasion.
Now no one doubts that scientists are sometimes critical of themselves. Among astrophysicists, backbiting often leads to backstabbing. The bloodletting that ensues is on occasion salutary. But the process of peer review by which grants are funded and papers assigned to scientific journals, is, by its very nature, an undertaking in which a court reviews its own decisions and generally finds them good. It serves the useful purpose of settling various scores, but it does not -- and it cannot -- achieve the ends that criticism is intended to serve.
If the scientific critic finds himself needed wherever he goes, like a hanging judge he finds himself unwelcome wherever he appears, all the more reason, it seems to me, that he really should get around as much as possible.
Stephen Meyer has already made year-end lists with Signature in the Cell, an Amazon bestselling science book and one of Times Literary Supplement's books of the year for 2009, but the latest news go far beyond that: Stephen Meyer has been named World Magazine's "Daniel of the Year" for 2009:
This fall Meyer came out with a full account of what science has learned in recent decades: Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (Harper One, 2009) shows that the cell is incredibly complex and the code that directs its functions wonderfully designed. His argument undercuts macroevolution, the theory that one kind of animal over time evolves into a very different kind. Meyer thus garners media scorn for raining on this year's huge celebration of the birth of Charles Darwin 200 years ago and the publication of On the Origin of Species 150 years ago.
The cover story is what should become the essential profile of Meyer, following what World's Marvin Olasky describes as "the four-stage pattern that is common among intellectual Daniels: Questioning, discernment, courage, and perseverance."
Meyer says, "You ask how someone gets the moxie to take something like this on. Part of the answer is that I didn't know any better when I was young. I was just so seized with this idea and these questions: 'Was it possible to develop a scientific case? Were we looking at evidence that could revive and resuscitate the classical argument from design, which had been understood from the time of Hume and certainly the time of Darwin to be defunct?' If that was the case, that's a major scientific revolution."
Courage becomes a determinant once we count the cost and see that it's great. Meyer's first inkling came when "talking about my ideas to people at Cambridge High Table settings, and getting that sudden social pall." But the cost was and is more than conversational ease: San Francisco State University in 1992 expelled a professor, Dean Kenyon, who espoused ID, and other job losses have come since. Meyer and other ID proponents saw "that this would be very controversial. One of the things that emboldened all of us who were in the early days of this movement was meeting each other. In 1993 we had a little private conference [with] 10 or 12 very sharp, mostly younger scientists going through top-of-the-world programs in their respective fields who were all skeptical. I think the congealing of this group gave everyone the sense that this was going to be an exciting adventure: Let's rumble."
The article, as the title indicates, is a profile in courage worth reading, particularly this bit:
Many who enter the courage stage at first think that the war in which they find themselves will end in a few years. There comes a time in many lives, though, when a hard realization sinks in: It will not be over in my lifetime. That's when some give in while others proceed to the perseverance stage. That's where Meyer is: Signature in the Cell ends with a long list of testable predictions concerning the direction of science over the next several decades. Meyer predicts that further study will reveal the importance of "junk DNA" and the reasons for what seem to be "poorly designed" structures: They will reveal either a hidden functional logic or evidence of decay from originally good designs.
Text courtesy of CNS, who published the article online this morning.
"This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper."
--T. S. Eliot, The Hollow Men
The level of maturity of the New Atheism movement was on florid display at the national convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation this past weekend in Seattle. A high point apparently was a "non-prayer breakfast," where six hundred attendees were reminded of the oppressive civic funcions where people often are asked to bow their heads for a moment of silence. Instead, the atheists were encouraged to exhibit a moment of "bedlam", shouting, clinking glasses and who knows what? How liberating!
A top draw attraction at the convention was Ron Reagan, a middle-aged "unabashed atheist" who is best known for....well, for being a son of President Ronald Reagan, who was a favorite target of people like the conventioneers. President Reagan often ended his speeches with the benediction, "May God bless America." Ron derives whatever significance he enjoys from repudiating his father's worldview. It's not much of a gig, is it? And it also is not much of a threat.
The other good news for non-atheists is that the chief philanthropy of the New Atheism--its most heartfelt project, in fact--seems to be....bus signs. Richard Dawkins is using profits from his books for the signs. Lesser-known, latter-day Clarence Darrows and H. L. Menckens likewise are using their savings to invest in bus cards that sally forth in cities from London to Seattle. The seasonal placards now up in Seattle announce that, "Yes, Virginia, there is no God."
In America we are a century and a half away from the "Know-Nothing Party", a secret political society that fulminated against the Catholic Church and Irish immigrants. (Asked about its composition, members would say, "I know nothing;" hence, the moniker.) Formed in public as The American Party, the party's hateful, nativist politics took a long time to expunge from our shores. But we now have an Englishman, Richard Dawkins--one of society's "Brites" according to his fellow-Darwinist, Daniel Dennett--in a screed against the Catholic Church that proclaims the same frothing bigotry exemplified by the Know-Nothings. This and Dawkins' various other attacks should remind us that the hoary religious hatreds of old (including those of the angry atheist) were a European legacy. Catholics and other Christians need to realize that Dawkins and Company aim to revive them.
Rome is possibly "the greatest force for evil in the world," Dawkins announces, "a disgusting institution" that is "dragging its flowing skirts in the dirt and touting for business like a common pimp." That kind of language is like a blast of stale air from the 1850s.
You cannot expect his fellow Darwinists to repudiate Dawkins for the simple reason that a number (e.g., P.Z. Myers) share his prejudices and his paranoia. Darwinism never was mainly about science; it is about metaphysics. It is a worldview that has no space for the sacred, no regard for the exceptionality of human life. Darwinists, who operate few if any hospitals or homeless shelters, cannot recognize the humanity of those who do.
Dawkins is not an oddity. He is the world's leading Darwinian spokesman. He is hailed at universities, museums and foundations. Publications like The Washington Post and The New York Times--that simply will not run an article by scientists presenting the evidence against Darwinism--can't showcase him enough.
Other than such Know Nothings, what other modern bigots are regarded as so fashionable?
The Vatican's expanded opening to Anglicans this week has provoked many published analyses of what the policy might mean to the future of the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church in the United States. The significance actually is far wider. Notably, on cultural issues it may strengthen the relatively conservative Roman Catholic Church and weaken the relatively liberal Anglican/Episcopal Church. That, really, is the source of so much media interest.
For breakaway Episcopal parishes and dioceses in the U.S., the Vatican offer may not mean much at first. Many are in property disputes with their former Episcopal co-religionists, and are losing in the courts. But they also are well along in forming new Anglican churches. Perhaps 100,000 Episcopalians have decamped so far to the new Anglican branches, while additional defectors already have converted to Catholicism, various evangelical churches, or Orthodoxy, or are just sleeping-in on Sundays now. The headquarters of PECUSA, The Episcopal Church of the United States, is declining to report on the latest membership changes.
Regardless, the tectonic plates of Christianity are moving, and not just because of this latest Vatican announcement. The ecumenical cause is gaining force again after decades of stasis. A long, powerful dialogue on theology that yielded a book and follow-up essays called "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" has influenced laypeople for almost a generation. Leading were such Catholics as George Weigel and the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, and such evangelicals as Charles Colson and J.I. Packer. The latest development in the dialogue is an essay on perhaps the most difficult issue for Protestants, the place of the Virgin Mary.
A similar dialogue has gone on quietly for four decades among theologians in the two largest Western liturgical churches (those whose sacred services center on the Eucharist)--the 1.130 billion Catholics and the 75 million Anglicans. The Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission, an enterprise called ARCIC, also has produced one agreement after another, so much so that one has to ask, Couldn't a lot of these misunderstandings have been ironed out 500 years ago and spared Western Civilization a load of pain?
Regardless, while theological problems are dissipating, ecclesiological differences--over the meanings of priesthood and the operations of Church hierarchy-- have become more evident. After years of frustration, the Vatican plainly has given up on most discussions with Canterbury on ecclesiological matters; and, hence, the opening to dissident Anglicans. Representatives of the latter have been descending on Rome for five or six years now, pleading for succor. This week they have it.
Creation of "Anglican Rite" services and even whole Anglican Rite Catholic parishes now anticipate retention of the beautiful Anglican Book of Common Prayer--the only literary product of a committee to rival Shakespeare--as the liturgical basis for an additionally acceptable orthodox Catholic mass. One may well see Anglican Rite services in the calendar of regular masses at certain cathedrals and other large Catholic churches, as well as separate, predominately Anglican Rite chapels and churches and seminaries that--like the Eastern Rite Catholic churches--express a culture, but also recognize the primacy of the See of St. Peter.
In England, one idea that eventually may find resonance is shared use by Catholics (including Anglican Rite Catholics) and official Anglicans of the great, under-used and under-funded medieval cathedrals, such as Salisbury, Lincoln and Wells. They were built in the era of Christian unity, after all.
Meanwhile, the Russian Orthodox and other Orthodox branches (330 million) also are in discussion with Rome, while a respected Anglican seminary, Nashotah House in Wisconsin, has been in talks with the Orthodox Church (Antioch) recently. What will come out of all this? For the old liturgical churches of Christendom, divided since the 11th century, full reconciliation on some basis is likely; rather sooner than later, it now seems. One thousand years late, old wrongs will be righted, injuries healed.
The circle widens in ways still unforeseen to the orthodox in "mainline' denominations of Protestantism (Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.) and to the strong, growing number of nondenominational evangelicals. There is no knowing the particularities of revised association, of course. What matters is that orthodox Christians are finding their commonality. C. S. Lewis already has called his Office.
Rather than damaging relations between Christians and Jews, the serious discussions on matters of faith among Christians likewise may be improving understanding, mutual respect and appreciation between Christianity and what John Paul II called "our older brothers in faith."
Reconciliation, at least for those of orthodox faith, will provide an assist for a culture groping for firmer ground.
NPR has run a story about an atheist schism. It runs roughly between the nice, old fashioned folk who don't believe in God and demand the right to their position, and the new "edgy" atheists who demand that you give up your belief in God. The former are getting fed up with the latter. The latter are annoyed by the former.
This is refreshingly un-P.C., since it displays the coterminous relationship of Darwinism and atheism. (Mainly, Darwinism is atheism in a lab coat.) The growing tactical fight within the Darwinian camp has gone under-reported for some time, perhaps because it makes the culture war even more complex--and harder to cover. The old idea was that there were "creationists" (anyone who disputes the Darwinian account) and "science". It's was a nice, cozy conception for the Ruling Class. But then came intelligent design, positing a scientific case against Darwinism and making a scientific case for design (viz, Signature in the Cell, by Stephen C. Meyer). ID had to be conflated with "creationism" to keep the story simple. And then there came the structuralists--materialists who nonetheless doubt Darwin--and they, tremulous rebels as they are, were mainly ignored.
But then, like an old South Park episode we seem to remember, the atheist/Darwinists started attacking one another. In Seattle recently, Richard Dawkins couldn't resist a swipe at Chris Hitchens. And Flock of Dodos producer Randy Olson, in The New Scientist, tussled with Dawkins himself. The NPR story by Barbara Bradley Hagerty marks a fresh mainstream awareness of such developments.
I am willing to hold the coats for both sides in this brawl.
Richard Dawkins, oleaginous Oxford intellect, was in Seattle this week and I decided to beard him when he appeared on the Michael Medved show to promote his latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth. The source of my irritation was an assertion by Dawkins early in the interview that his comparison of Darwin doubters to Holocaust deniers only applied to creationists, not to intelligent design proponents. I am not a creationist, but I found that statement bigoted.
It should be annoying to anyone that Dawkins would try to fasten creationists with the Holocaust denier label. Creationists may be wrong on the age of the Earth, but they can't deserve Dawkins' moral opprobrium. Pressed by Medved about the Holocaust reference, Dawkins issued so many qualifiers (the creationists' failing, he warbles, is not moral--no, of course not--only "historical") that the reference loses all meaning-- except as a propaganda tactic. The stink of unjustified anti-Semitism remains even after Dawkins' rationalizations. This is like a McCarthyite calling a liberal a "communist sympathizer." Just an historical reference, mind you. No reason for anyone to take umbrage.
In any event, asked by me as a caller why he would not debate Stephen Meyer, author of Signature in the Cell,, on the scientific arguments against Darwinian evolution and for ID, Dawkins referred to ID as "creationist". He had just said that he was not tarring ID with the same brush as creationism, and then he used the same crude brush to do just that.
Dawkins' new book actually is notable in that he makes no mention of ID authors or their arguments. He instead battles a straw man: creationists who think the world is a few thousand years old. He knows that they are not his real problem, but he attacks them anyhow. Watch Richard shred the Book of Genesis as a science document! How daring!
Heaven (or whatever) forbid that he should address ID for real. A few years back he managed to review a book of Michael Behe (The Edge of Evolution) for the New York Times without making any serious reference to its arguments. Instead he wallowed in ad hominem aspersions. Plainly, he doesn't even bother reading the case presented by the likes of Behe, let alone the new book by Meyer. (I hate to disillusion the reader, but not all book reviewers actually read the books they are assigned to review.) In the Behe case, Dawkins offered smears in place of refutation.
Dawkins is accustomed now to uncritical notice because (I contend) his metaphysical position confirms the disposition of his reviewers. As an intellectual he is not curious. I guess he feels he doesn't need to be. He doesn't debate opponents (Meyer, Behe, Berlinski) because he really doesn't have any idea what they think. He can make up a crank position for them and assign them to it, secure from contradiction by a supine press.
But even his own current reviews, once the ritual praise is over, hint that the man has become lazy.
Dr. John DeVincenzo, a distinguished California businessman, orchardist and community leader, died this week, a loss to leadership on many levels. He is remembered in the San Luis Obispo Tribune also as "a dedicated family man - energetic, funny, full of life and always pushing the limits on traditional thinking."
Dr. DeVincenzo professionally was an orthodontist who was generous with his skills and resources. Throughout the past decade he was an enthusiastic supporter of Discovery Institute and its Center for Science and Culture.
We note with final gratitude that the family has named Discovery Institute as one of John's favorite charities. Those who wish to help further our work in his memory can do so by utilizing this online link or by sending checks marked the "DeVincenzo Fund" to the attention of Kelley Unger at Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture.
"Charles Darwin!" jokes Mathias Brucker, an Austrian friend (adopting the tone of the secular Left), "Why, he was the most important person since Jesus Christ--except, of course, that Jesus wasn't real."
That pretty much sums up the attempted hagiography of the anti-religious crowd in recent years. So a film about the personal life of Darwin, supposedly the greatest man of all time--the one whose birthday, February 12, is to supplant Abraham Lincoln, the current occupant, in American schools--should be a sure-fire seller. Candles will be lit before the movie posters in homes of skeptics around the world.
But the new flick Creation does not seem likely to add to the campaign for sainthood. Like Darwin's concept of life's origins, it just never seems to get started. Even Roger Ebert is rather discouraged.
What to do? Well, the earnest star, Paul Bettany, wants you to know that, contra Ebert, this really is about deicide, after all. The movie, he says, "happens to be about Darwin, who is in the process of killing God."
If that publicity doesn't pack the theaters, what will?
The New Scientist may sound like a scholarly science publication, but in covering news it often revels in uninformed and unprofessional attacks on critics of Darwinian evolution. So it is somewhat of a surprise to see the publication produce a not-so-veiled pan of The Greatest Show on Earth, Richard Dawkins' new book. If the evident disappointment expressed by science filmmaker Randy Olson is at all valid, Dawkins' resemblance to the creator of the original "Greatest Show on Earth," 19th Century circus entrepreneur P.T. Barnum, is confirmed.
Dawkins doesn't address his real adversaries. He simply ignores Stephen Meyer, whose Signature in the Cell is now leading the science book parade in several Amazon categories. He just dubs opponents creationist reactionaries and assumes that his haughty air will delight his claque and daunt everyone else. He has plenty of ringmaster bluster left, but nothing much to say.
Reviewer Olson, a relentless Darwinist himself, has to complain of Dawkins, "Implying that your audience is stupid does not qualify as a great new angle."
Dawkins not only refuses to debate the likes of Stephen Meyer, he doesn't even take note of answers to his classic arguments. For example, watch this clip, "Climbing Mt. Improbable," from the soon-to-be-released film, Darwin's Dilemma. It's a fine take-down of Dawkins' case for the nearly unlimited power of natural selection.
P.T. Barnum's famously asserted, "There's a sucker born every minute." C. R. Dawkins must be hoping that the suckers still will buy his books.
Don't miss Steve Meyer, author of Signature in the Cell--introduced by yours truly--on these Labor Day Weekend C-Span showings:
Saturday, September 5th at 7pm (ET)
Sunday, September 6th at 7am (ET)
Monday, September 7th at 12pm (ET)
Tuesday, September 8th at 12am (ET)
Do your homework for the show by reading the new American Spectator and its insightful review of Signature in the Cell, "Blown Away," by Dan Peterson. Meyer's book, says Brown, is a "defining work in the discussion of life's origins and the question of whether life is a product of unthinking matter or of an intelligent mind."
HarperOne, the publisher, is pleased to report that the book is now in its Third Printing and selling briskly. Order one briskly, and see for yourself.
How many intellectuals and media conveyers will defend free speech and the importance of an unfettered debate of ideas? Fewer and fewer. We are witnessing in America a kind of academic French Revolution, where leading opinion is fratricidal, enraged, fanatical--and then overthrown to make room for a newer fanaticism.
People are not getting their heads chopped off physically, of course, but careers are being sliced off and reputations ruined. Fear is in the air.
There are manifold efforts to chase down, stigmatize and eradicate intellectual dissent, almost all of them in universities and media outlets. There is no recourse for the honest scholar or commentator except to stand up to the bullies, pay the price and then live in peace with his conscience, whatever his resulting--usually diminished--station might be.
But I am most familiar, of course, with the tawdry campaign of Darwinists to misrepresent and punish those scientists and science writers who dissent from Darwinism, or merely are known to associate with dissenters. Think I am exaggerating? Forget the film Expelled and what it revealed. Forget that the man in the film who simply defended the rights of dissenters, Ben Stein, himself has been punished. Just look at what the Darwinists are doing to one another when someone dares to talk to dissenters. The recent Evolution News articles about the fuss at Bloggingheads has a number of excellent pieces on this affair. David Klinghoffer in his article employs the apt metaphor of "ritual contamination."
I use the French Revolution metaphor above. But one also might mention McCarthyism--not the reality alone, but also the hysteria around it. A Christian, citing Dante, among others, could mention human nature and the temptation to pride and its brothers, envy and spite.
But let us also invoke the metaphor of evolution. Would the Darwinists like to explain how natural selection works to cause otherwise mature people in universities and media to ostracize--excommunicate--colleagues who dare to dissent from someone's concept of orthodoxy? Is there a gene for persecution that causes them to hector not merely dissenters but those who are guilty merely of taking the views of dissenters seriously?
Or maybe we should just invoke a television metaphor about childishness: "I have my fingers in my ears! La, la, la, la! I can't HEAR you!"
"Creation, matter structured in an intelligent manner by God, is entrusted to man's responsibility, who is able to interpret and refashion it actively, without regarding himself as the absolute owner." --Pope Benedict XVI
The Catholic Church, like other Christian bodies, has a host of folk who support theistic evolution and oppose intelligent design. But the Pope doesn't seem to be one of them. In another remark that probably will get little attention, the Holy Father--in the midst of comments about the environment--described "matter structured in an intelligent matter by God."
Theistic evolution is the curious theological concept that Darwin's theory is right in all its particulars, but somehow God was behind it. God made the process and the process did the work. That is how an inherently "unguided" process was--well--guided.
The theistic evolutionists oppose the idea that intelligent design can be identified specifically in nature itself. (They exempt cosmology, where they acknowledge design.) So they probably don't like the pope talking of creation as "intelligent".
Ben Stein probably thought he could do his work on the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed and not himself endure the kind of personal attacks that, in the film, he defended Darwin critics against. In fact, what he found was that Darwinism is at the root of the worldview of the materialist Left and even the materialist Right. You can't say or do anything to offend them. You can't even advocate academic freedom.
The people who demanded free speech in the 60s and shouted down figures of authority are now the tenured faculty and newsroom editors of the Establishment. And now they are disallowing any criticism at all.
So, unlikely as it seems, Ben Stein became a martyr. Richard Dawkins intervened at the University of Vermont last spring to deny Stein a gig as Commencement Speaker. Now Ben has been disingenously trashed by The New York Times. Typically, when firing Stein as a business columnist the Times couldn't give the actual reason--which is ideological--and instead had to insinuate that he had a "conflict of interest." That is a joke as well as an insult.
Actually, I think Ben may come to enjoy the role of martyr. Like many of us, he never really suffered much discrimination in his life and may find it an interesting experience. As middle age creeps into Medicare Age, he may even find the sting of the lash will stimulate his muse--his comic muse, I hope. It is notable that his American Spectator column on the firing has generated hundreds of comments, almost all favorable, the others sublimely ignorant and smug.
Think of the new material you've been handed, Ben. Maybe the Intelligent Designer is priming you for a book!
Sam Harris has a piece in The New York Times suggesting that Francis Collins' Christian views render him unsuited to serve as head of the National Institutes of Health. That is so, says Harris, even though Collins is a devoted Darwinist. Clearly Harris would like a sign that says "Only Atheists Need Apply" to hang over the NIH.
Only a couple of days ago Nicholas Wade wrote a blog for the The Times about Thomas Bouchard, Minnesota psychologist, who contends that science is damaged by conformism, just as economics and other fields are:
Researcher Condemns Conformity Among His Peers
By Nicholas Wade
"Academics, like teenagers, sometimes don't have any sense regarding the degree to which they are conformists."
So says Thomas Bouchard, the Minnesota psychologist known for his study of twins raised apart, in a retirement interview
Journalists, of course, are conformists too. So are most other professions. There's a powerful human urge to belong inside the group, to think like the majority, to lick the boss's shoes, and to win the group's approval by trashing dissenters.
The strength of this urge to conform can silence even those who have good reason to think the majority is wrong. You're an expert because all your peers recognize you as such. But if you start to get too far out of line with what your peers believe, they will look at you askance and start to withdraw the informal title of "expert" they have implicitly bestowed on you. Then you'll bear the less comfortable label of "maverick," which is only a few stops short of "scapegoat" or "pariah."
A remarkable first-hand description of this phenomenon was provided a few months ago by the economist Robert Shiller, co-inventor of the Case-Shiller house price index. Dr. Shiller was concerned about what he saw as an impending house price bubble when he served as an adviser to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York up until 2004.
So why didn't he burst his lungs warning about the impending collapse of the housing market? "In my position on the panel, I felt the need to use restraint," he relates. "While I warned about the bubbles I believed were developing in the stock and housing markets, I did so very gently, and felt vulnerable expressing such quirky views. Deviating too far from consensus leaves one feeling potentially ostracized from the group, with the risk that one may be terminated
Conformity and group-think are attitudes of particular danger in science, an endeavor that is inherently revolutionary because progress often depends on overturning established wisdom. It's obvious that least 100 genes must be needed to convert a human or animal cell back to its embryonic state. Or at least it was obvious to almost everyone until Shinya Yamanaka
The academic monocultures referred to by Dr. Bouchard are the kind of thing that sabotages scientific creativity. Though they sprout up in every country, they may be a particular problem in Confucian-influenced cultures that prize conformity and respect for elders. It's curious that Japan, for example, despite having all the ingredients of a first rate scientific power -- a rich economy, heavy investment in R&D, a highly educated population and a talented scientific workforce -- has never posed a serious challenge to American scientific leadership. Young American scientists can make their name by showing their professor is dead wrong; in Tokyo or Kyoto, that's a little harder to do.
If the brightest minds on Wall Street got suckered by group-think into believing house prices would never fall, what other policies founded on consensus wisdom could be waiting to come unraveled? Global warming, you say? You mean it might be harder to model climate change 20 years ahead than house prices 5 years ahead? Surely not -- how could so many climatologists be wrong?
What's wrong with consensuses is not the establishment of a majority view, which is necessary and legitimate, but the silencing of skeptics. "We still have whole domains we can't talk about," Dr. Bouchard said, referring to the psychology of differences between races and sexes.
Dr. Collins at the signing of President Obama's Executive Order on stem cells. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.
The President's nomination of former Human Genome Project head Francis Collins to lead the National Institutes of Health must have seemed like a felicitous decision at the White House. Collins lately has been a popular speaker on science and religion around the country, assuring Christians that there is no problems linking faith in God and faith in Darwinian evolution.
But when the confirmation hearings take place I would not be surprised to hear some sharp questions about Dr. Collins' less known views on subjects that have not come out on his pulpit tours. He is, for example, a strong supporter of President Obama's program on embryonic stem cell research. The head of NIH doesn't have a lot to say about evolution, but he does have a lot to say about research matters in science on key social issues. Stem cells is only one of them.
Conservatives also may want to know Dr. Collins' views on the President's decision to let the Council on Bioethics lapse.
At the same time, Collins is anything but popular on the Darwinian left because, while he affirms Darwin's theory completely, he also works God into the picture, and that especially bothers scientists and pundits in New Atheist circles. It was also known to irritate staff at NIH when he was last there. So you are going to hear some interesting grumbles.
Steve Meyer is the leader of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute--the organization that puts the most noted critics of Darwinism and proponents of intelligent design onto the field of intellectual competition. He also exemplifies the movement in his own writing, speeches and debates. Publication (by Harper/One) this week of Signature in the Cell assembles the most searching and advanced argument for ID yet. It seems likely to become a classic treatise, a scientific Mt. Probable that Darwinists like Richard Dawkins will not be able to scale by steps small or large. (See http://www.signatureinthecell.com/.)
I met Steve almost 15 years ago when he was a popular young professor at Whitworth College in Spokane, not long removed from private sector work in geology in Texas and his doctoral research in the philosophy of science at Cambridge University. He already had emerged as a leader, however. From that time on, Steve's energy and resourceful insights helped re-shape the mission of Discovery Institute and extend the debate over intelligent design world-wide.
During these years he has written many distinguished articles and papers, including the peer-reviewed paper on the Cambrian explosion for The Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington that got the journal's editor, Richard Sternberg, into such celebrated trouble at the Smithsonian, as the film Expelled explained. (It's a great story told well in the new book.) All the while, Steve has been a mentor and editor for the other fellows and staff of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute and has given sacrificially of his talent to help others achieve their goals.
Now he has distilled his own research and reflection into one big, pathfinding book. Signature in the Cell could have been a couple of books, actually, since it is packed with so many provocative ideas. But Steve was advised early on by his Discovery friend and colleague George Gilder to "put everything you have into one book," and that's what he has done. Along the way, he also describes his own, often surprising personal journey. There are a number of rollicking inside accounts here not seen anywhere before.
I had the challenge of serving as one of Steve's readers when Signature in the Cell was still in manuscript form this past winter. I relished the learning opportunity. What a relief and thrill for all of us to have it finished and published now. You'll see, it was worth waiting for.
I have to congratulate Steve here, and urge everyone I know who cares about the big ideas that rock our times to read Signature in the Cell. Expect a torrent of contrived Darwinian media alarm, of course, and consider the source. They once accused us of operating mainly as a public relations office, but the opposite is true. Dr. Meyer's scholarship is as sophisticated as his style is accessible. The Darwinists meanwhile are treading very stale water these days and pretending they are swimming in a fresh, sylvan pool.
So, as usual, do your own reading and thinking, and tell your friends. To my own way of thinking, Steve Meyer, with this book, should be recognized as one of the foremost intellectual entrepreneurs of our age.
The latest hype from scientific materialists--following "Ida" ("Sweet as apple-cidah," as Eddie Cantor sang it)--is that we now understand, yet again, how life arranged itself from a few chemical elements. George Gilder comments from The Gilder Report today:
Friday Blogger Bonus / The Issue Has Never Been Chemistry
Gilder Telecosm Forum Member: "Scientists may have figured out the
chemistry that sparked the beginning of life on Earth. Until now,
scientists couldn't figure out the chemical reactions that created the
earliest RNA molecules."
George Gilder, Gilder Telecosm Forum: The issue has never been chemistry,
but information. The chemistry of the carrier doesn't matter as long as it
is robust and reproducible. You need a low entropy (predictable) carrier
to bear complex high entropy information. Computers, for example, can be
made of matchsticks, beach sand or Lego blocks, among other things, but
these substances cannot make or program a computer. You need a recipe to
produce a pudding, but a pudding cannot write a recipe. The low entropy
carrier does not generate the information that creates it. It takes a mind
to produce information.
Jack Kevorkian is in jail where he belongs, a man who repeatedly killed off people in the supposed interest of assisted suicide. That Al Pacino is planning to play this man--sympathetically--in an HBO film is a sign that human degradation has become a Hollywood staple. (Please note that First Things is now hosting our colleague Wesley J. Smith's blog on bioethics, "Second Hand Smoke.")
Senior Fellows David Berlinski and Bruce Gordon spoke last week at the ninth annual "Physics and the God of Abraham" conference, held at Gonzaga University in Spokane. The event was organized by Fr. Robert Spitzer, President of Gonzaga, physicist and adjunct fellow of Discovery Institute. This year's theme, "Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions," was taken from the subtitle of Berlinski's latest book, The Devil's Delusion (Crown Forum, 2008).
The conference was organized by the Faith and Reason Institute at Gonzaga, an organization dedicated to an integrationist understanding of faith and reason through a philosophical investigation into both the nature and results of scientific research, and through critical discussion and reflection on topics in philosophical theology. To this end, "Physics and the God of Abraham" focuses on the relationship between Judeo-Christian faith and the physical sciences, often dealing with the Judeo-Christian roots of modern science, the role that believers in the God of Abraham have played in scientific discovery, and the interpretation of modern physical theory in relation to philosophico-theological concerns.
In his lecture, "Naturalism's Last Stand: Taking the Measure of the Multiverse," Dr. Gordon explored the implausibilities and limitations of the speculative constructs offered by quantum cosmology, chaotic eternal inflation and the string-theoretic landscape to explain cosmological origins and fine-tuning. He argued that transcendent intelligent causation provides the only causally sufficient and metaphysically tenable explanation for what is known of the universe. Fr. Spitzer's talk, "New Proofs for the Existence of God," focused on evidence of creation and supernatural design in contemporary big bang cosmology, arguing for the inevitability of an initial singularity that requires a transcendent cause best described in the language of Thomistic apophatic theology. The final talk -- entitled "Who's Counting?" -- was given by David Berlinski. Dr. Berlinski ventured beyond physical cosmology to the eternal verities of mathematics, examining the historical development of arithmetical conceptions from Euclid to Dedekind, and noting the independence of mathematical truth from physical reality; he thus ended his reflections with the provocative question, if 3+4=7 regardless of whether the universe exists, then who's counting?
Further information about the conference may be found at:
Professor Mansfield explains the Athenians and Machiavelli and the American Founders in wise ways that make you wish that he typified Harvard rather than stood against it so often. He also is droll as a philosopher having fun with a mere biologist.
The New York Times got the preview story wrong, and the Washington Post editorial writer probably was too rushed to question the charges of "creationism" coming from the National Center for Science Education, the Darwin-only lobby. So this week's important decisions by the Texas State Board of Education (TSBE) on how to teach evolution were predicated in the media by the big question of whether teachers should provide both "strengths and weaknesses" of Darwin's theory. Those words might sound benign, readers were told, but they really are "code words" (take the press' word for it) for creationism and religion.
To the media left, any questioning of Darwin is reserved for denizens of Dogpatch.
So, what did the TSBE do? Well, it turns out that they are fairly adroit politicians. They did remove language providing for "strengths and weaknesses" and then added new language--quite a lot of it--providing that students will learn, for example, to "analyze, evaluate and critique scientific explanations...including examining all sides of scientific evidence... so as to encourage critical thinking by the student." Perfect! A policy distinction without a difference! In fact, the new standards are just fine, an improvement, in fact. Now teachers can tell the kids about the scientific evidence in a variety of fields that seems to contradict the Darwinian account as well as the supposed evidence in support.
Once again the NCSE was too-smart-by-half. It ran blogs making fun of religion, while organizing public speakers who gave fulsome testimony to their Christian faith and how compatible it is with "evolution" (meaning Darwinian evolution). To the purists like Richard Dawkins and P.Z. Myers it probably makes them look like toadies.
In the end, the rhetoric meant to evoke fundamentalist cranks was mixed with pious statements doing the very kind of religious posturing the Darwinists project onto their foes, and reminding me of the church scenes from Blazing Saddles. It all backfired.
By demonizing specific words--and making the elimination of them the test of "science"--the NCSE and its state distributor, the Orwellian-named Texas Freedom Network, simply allowed the Board to do the obvious word shuffle. Okay, no "strengths and weakness, " but instead, we'll pass similar ideas in different words, and everyone will be happy. Except, of course, the NCSE and the TFN.
Don't expect the media to figure this out from the NCSE Talking Points memo, but the insiders get the picture. Dawkins must be enjoying a caustic chuckle at the expense of the NCSE.
Is Notre Dame for or against "dialogue," "conversation" and "debate" among different viewpoints? Yes, those are the standards on which university officials are defending the coming address by President Obama--a president whose decisions on behalf of abortion and embryonic stem cell research have been opposed by the Catholic Church.
But only two weeks ago Notre Dame was official co-sponsor in Rome of an international conference on Darwinian theory that specifically, publicly and energetically forbade participation by scientists who criticize Darwinian theory and support intelligent design. No "dialogue", "conversation", let alone "debate", for them!
So what is the lesson? Simply put, Notre Dame University supports openness to viewpoints that are supported by the Left and opposes openness to viewpoints supported from the Right. You can trash Catholic teachings on life issues at Notre Dame, but you cannot receive a hearing for scientific viewpoints that challenge scientific materialism.
I am for the free marketplace of ideas. But I also favor consistency, and Notre Dame flunks the test.
"Do you know who funded it?" asked the email from the AP reporter. She and a number of other people read my post from three days ago about the Darwin conference being held in Rome.
I took a deep breath and replied to the AP email, "Yes, I know who funded it." It was the Templeton Foundation.
I took a deep breath because Templeton is a powerful and well-connected. You don't want to cross Charles Harper of Templeton if you can help it. But in public and private Harper has attacked intelligent design and Discovery Institute. He is not just interested in discussion, but in molding the discussion in certain ways. To that end, Templeton funds go to many groups and individual writers who, perhaps coincidentally, could have an interest in how the Darwin versus design issue is discussed.
Here is today's AP story. Among other things, in my email last night to Nicole Winfield of the AP, I pointed out the following:
Many liberal writers deny that Darwin's theory--and Darwin's writings in Descent of Man--contributed to the racist thinking of later generations and even the race-theories of the Nazis. Tony Campolo, the noted liberal Christian who once advised President Bill Clinton, does not make that mistake.
Regrettably, however, Campolo apparently is unaware of the gaping holes in modern Darwinian theory as science. He might be more optimistic if he could see that the future of the scientific debate is bright. Both faith and science oblige us to see the exceptionalism of human beings.
The late "Travis", seen here in happier times.
Are you aware that some of the main cheerleaders for the birthday of Charles Darwin--such as Richard Dawkins and Peter Singer--are also the spokesmen for a plan to give great apes "human rights"?
It is grotesque mistake. Chimpanzees are not people, nor are gorillas. It is a romantic delusion borne of Hollywood fantasy and misleading "animal rights" propaganda that they are. The results can be catastrophe for all involved.
Imagine turning such tragedies into legal battles where the apes were considered to have rights comparable to those of people. But that is where scientific materialists would take us. The object is to erase the line between humans and animals.
This fine blog post by physicist Frank Tipler of Tulane is nominally about global warming, but it really is about the credentialism that makes a mockery of sound judgment in many scientific fields.
I am warming to a theme: Money and ideological power increasingly threaten to warp scientific research, sometimes to the exclusion of integrity and responsibility. The argument from authority is being overdone.
Here is the tip-off. As you notice scientists demand conformity based mainly on their say-so, become alert.
When members of the scientific establishment want to pursue a controversial scientific enterprise--let's say, crossing the human-animal species line through lab attempts at creating chimeras, such as ape-men--the argument is made that science must rule and moral objections are antiquated, unreasonable and repressive.
Darwinism, similarly, is not just true, we're told, but a thorough-going explanation for practically everything, because men with doctorates declare it.
But when big money and ideological power collude to resist scientific consensus--for example, in the cause of asserting animal rights versus human medical advances, or in the advocacy for "adjusting" a U.S. Census with sampling and computer models (as I have described recently)--then all of a sudden the response of "scientific community" is rather quiescent. Make way for money and power.
For another example, how many public billions (in bankrupt California alone) are being squandered on the barren fetish of embryonic stem cell research, while almost all the noted medical advances are coming from other forms of stem cells? Few scientists want to talk about this in polite company for fear of losing friends or funding.
I am fearful that federal and foundation grants are corrupting the priorities and integrity of science. It is a little-examined ethical scandal.
Your magazine's lively online service, Forbes.com, has been attacked by biologist Dr. Jerry Coyne for allowing several scientists who support intelligent design to dissent from an other-wise fawning parade of Darwinists who appeared in your spaces to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth. http://www.forbes.com/2009/02/12/evolution-creation-proof-opinions-darwin_0212_jerry_coyne.html
Coyne compares your carrying articles critical of Darwinian theory to support for Holocaust denial, among other extremities. He says you have "debased journalism as well as science."
Actually, it is instructive to have Coyne exhibit in public the spirit of angry censorship that now pervades Darwinian science. Behind the scenes Coyne and his colleagues have intimidated a number of other media from publishing or interviewing scientific contrarians. It has become a trend.
There even was a legal effort by several Darwinists to block the showing of the 2008 Ben Stein film, Expelled. Fortunately, they were unsuccessful. Recently, a telephone call from Richard Dawkins helped inveigle the president of the University of Vermont to dispense with Ben Stein as one of this year's commencement speakers. Stein's crime was to defend the academic freedom of intelligent design scientists in his film.
The academic left's assault on free speech and academic freedom is often accompanied by adhominem attack, as in Coyne's repeated false characterization of Dr. Michael Egnor of SUNY (Stonybrook)--one of your recent writers--as a "creationist". Egnor further is a mere medical doctor, in Coyne's telling, not a "genuine scientist" like Coyne.
In reality, Dr. Egnor is, indeed, a well-known neurosurgeon, but he also is a distinguished neuroscientist. He not only teaches, but he also has conducted pathfinding research with an intelligent design perspective. He has been a visiting professor at Stanford, Harvard, and UCLA, among other leading institutions, and his discoveries about the manner in which blood flows into the brain after head injuries have influenced surgical practice.
Who is Jerry Coyne to question the bona fides of such a man?
Forbes proudly calls itself "The Capitalist Tool," and you personally have dedicated yourself first and foremost to the advancement of freedom in many arenas, especially economics.
You don't need to be reminded, therefore, that there have been places and times where the arguments for capitalism and against socialism have been banished--by definition!--from economics classes, exactly as Darwinists want to forbid the weaknesses of Darwinian theory from being heard in America's high schools and to prevent scientists who support intelligent design from being employed at universities--or read on the pages of your publication.
There is an arrogant, almost totalitarian mentality among certain scientists and Coyne is a prime example. There is a coercive ideology behind their calculations that challenges all friends of liberty.
With best regards,
It is the theme of Ben Stein's 2008 motion picture documentary, Expelled, that the science establishment is fast racing past smugness to persecution. The central issue is the institutional mistreatment of scientists who question Darwinian theory and posit the scientific case for intelligent design. Once dissidents are uncovered at universities and the Smithsonian, Stein reported, they are hounded out of their academic positions like suspected Communists in the early 1950s.
Stein had the goods on the Darwinists and they didn't like it. Two plaintiffs went to court to try to stop distribution of Expelled. They failed, and they must have been especially upset when over a million theater-goers paid to see the documentary (now briskly selling in the DVD market).
It now turns out that a further course of academic authoritarianism is being attempted by the Darwinian Left. It seems you cannot even defend the scientists who question Darwin, as Stein did, without being given the jack-boot yourself. Today the University of Vermont, lap of luxurious free speech on any other subject, demonstrated the point by pressuring Ben Stein to withdraw as a commencement speaker. It is not to be tolerated that someone would accuse Darwinians of intolerance! (AP and Chronicles of Higher Education stories here.)
Author, economist, actor, raconteur, Stein speaks on many stages on many subjects, always with droll humor. He writes regularly for The American Spectator and occasionally (on economics) for The New York Times. He is one of the nation's leading exponents of our men and women in the military--the "real stars" of our time, as he rightly says. It doesn't matter. The Darwinian Inquisitors have him sighted in their search engines and when his commencement speech was announced they came after the University of Vermont by their hundreds.
The academic farm of Dairyland was easily cowed. Stein found the reaction of UVM "pathetic", which it was, but one hopes he also realizes that he has been vindicated. The collapse of liberal education standards at the University of Vermont demonstrates his point in Expelled completely.
The flighty Dr. Dan Fogel, UVM's president, for example, should feature in some future Stein satire on double-talk. After dumping on Stein, Fogel chirped, "This is not, to my mind, an issue about academic freedom or the openness of the campus to all points of view," a statement of bureaucratese that is best translated as, "This is an issue about academic freedom and it is an issue of openness of the campus to all points of view."
Meanwhile, though the AP picked up the Vermont story, it is usually the case that the major media ignore this kind of event, or refuse to see the issues and don't even report the facts accurately. Sometimes, however, conservative media rise to defend campus conscientious objectors on such questions as global warming, embryonic stem cell research and euthanasia. Let's hope they decide that this is one of those times.
Scroll down to the December 10 item of Evolution News (Rob Crowther) and enjoy the lovely whimsy.
The economy not only is terrible, but no one really seems on top of the problem. The terrorists proceed as if the United States hadn't just had an election (didn't anyone tell them to knock it off?). The weather outside is frightful (let it snow, let it snow, etc.), but it all is global warming, anyhow, warm or cold. In short, we should all be in a bad mood.
But in churches all across the world this is the third Sunday in Advent, and Christians are joyful--in the very teeth of adversity.
Can you understand why?
The December First Things, edited by Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and Joseph Bottum, carries a very satisfying article by Anthony Flew rebuking Richard Dawkins as a "secularist bigot". That is about right, and it is time that this view was expressed by someone who knows the man personally.
Flew is the famous atheist philosopher who announced in 2004 that he had been persuaded by intelligent design arguments to abandon the faith of no-faith and accept a deistic God. It was an honest affirmation by an honest intellectual. For his pains Richard Dawkins, his one-time ally, pilloried Flew in The God Delusion, implying that the old man (85) was senile.
Flew's witty reposte is not yet available online (you should subscribe to First Things anyhow), but I will note especially his takedown of The God Delusion as so lacking in useful content that it shows Dawkins "to have become what he and his fellow secularists typically believe to be an impossibility: a secularist bigot."
"Helpfully," he adds, "my copy of the Oxford English Dictionary defines a bigot as an 'obstinate or intolerant adherent of a point of view.'"
On a more academic plane, Flew finds Dawkins guilty of an unforgivable failure in anyone seeking truth in a subject, a "scandalous and apparently deliberate refusal to present the doctrine that he appears to think he has refuted in its strongest form."
That is, Dawkins, unlike, say, Michael Behe, does not play fair with his opponents. He is a propagandist.
The same may be true, sadly, of some otherwise fine people in an obscure office down a Vatican corridor that is so long it isn't even part of St. Peter's Square. I am talking about the Pontifical Council of Culture that is holding a conference on evolutionary theory next March. Commenting gently but firmly--also in the new First Things--Fr. Neuhaus follows the press comments of a Council spokesman, Jesuit Fr. Marc Leclerc, who explained that an express decision not to invite proponents of "creationism and intelligent design" (which he ties together) is because sponsors "wanted to create a conference that was strictly scientific."
Fr. Neuhaus analyzes the reasons and excuses proffered and concludes that the real aim seems to be to "secure for the Catholic Church a clean bill of health from....(those) who condemn any deviatiion from scientistic ideology as anti-intellectualism."
The Vatican has still not really dealt adequately with the issue of Darwinian evolution, but on evolution broadly Pope Benedict XVI continues to make more sense than anyone else in the hierarchy. His greeting last Friday to the Pontifical Academies of Science conference that is now concluding in Rome is well worth reading.
The conference as a whole appears to have been something of a dud, perhaps because it is a closed affair and--more to the point--it has been used to showcase a viewpoint spectrum that ranges only from ardent materialism (Stephen Hawking) to various forms of theistic evolutionism/Deism. Intelligent design was slated for an attack by one participant (Maxine Singer of the United States), but the abstract of that attack betrayed another straw man argument of the kind that Darwinists typically construct in order to avoid real debate. No scientist who supports ID was invited to attend or speak.
That is not the fault of the Holy Father, however. The Academies of Science is a small, mostly self-perpetuating advisory group that does not require members to be religious, let alone Christian, let alone Catholic. It obviously does not command much attention in the Vatican, or, it seems, even the media.
Nonetheless, the Holy Father's welcoming remarks to the conference deserve attention. I particularly liked the image of evolution as a "scroll"--a book--to be read. That sounds like ID to me.
Here are some added thoughts from a friendly, but anonymous, critic:
1. There is a clear affirmation by the Pope of the doctrine of creation: the universe is contingent and had a beginning, it is not something that is self-sufficient and eternally existent. We cannot understand the universe, he says, exclusively on the "horizontal" level of "mutation and transformation," but rather we must acknowledge the vertical or "transcendent origin of participated being."..."In order to develop or evolve, the world must first be, and thus have come from nothing into being." This is a clear affirmation of the orthodox doctrine of creation ex nihilo.
2. By stating that "the Creator founds these developments and supports them, underpins them and sustains them continuously," the Pope is clearly foreclosing on any deistic interpretation of science. God is involved in Creation for, if He were not, it would not and could not continue to exist. In speaking of Aquinas' views here of the Creator as "the cause of every being and all becoming," the Pope is clearly saying that God is the First Cause of the universe and that the universe is under His intelligent direction -- God is the primary cause of everything that happens, while causes operating on the level of the "horizontal origin of the unfolding of events, which is history," are only secondary causes. Furthermore, in stating that "the notion of creation must transcend the horizontal origin of the unfolding of events," there is the suggestion of an Augustinian and Thomistic conception of eternity in which God transcends time entirely and views the universe as a whole from Creation to Consummation as one creative act.
3. The etymological discussion of "evolve" as meaning "to unroll a scroll" as in reading a book is highly unusual and intriguing. The clear reference is to God as the author of nature in the same way that He is the author of Scripture. The book of nature is then read "according to the different approaches of the sciences, while all the time presupposing the foundational presence of the author who has wished to reveal himself therein." As a consequence, the world, rather than being chaotic, "resembles an ordered book." It is cosmos, not chaos. What is more, this book is legible, since it is written in the language of mathematics.
This is similar to how Galileo framed the question. The "legibility" of matter is found in the mathematics that describes it and reveals "the visible inner logic of the cosmos." Naturalism has no explanation for why nature should be intelligible on the basis of mathematics, indeed, for why it possesses any order at all. That the book of nature is written by its Author in the language of mathematics, which is readable by man, is therefore an instance of God's revealing Himself in nature. It is furthermore the only reason that nature is intelligible, for when we study it in such a way, we are seeking to "think God's thoughts after Him." Here the Holy Father is using another interesting expression, one that is usually credited to the astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) ("I was merely thinking God's thoughts after him. Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature," wrote Kepler, "it benefits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God")
4. Although a bit unclear in his meaning, the Pope states that "there always remains a broad range of intelligible events, and the process is rational in that it reveals an order of evident correspondences and undeniable finalities." The correspondences in the natural world are clear enough: In the inorganic realm there is a relationship between microstructure and macrostructure, and in the organic realm there is a correspondence between structure and function. "Undeniable finalities" should probably be understood in the Thomistic-Aristotelian context of final causes, that is, purposes. The reason that microstructure has the mathematical description it does is found in the macrostructures it thereby makes possible; the reason that biological structures have the form that they do resides in the functions that they are intended to perform. In the spiritual realm, there is a correspondence and purpose revealed between knowledge of the truth and freedom. I can only interpret this in light of John 8:32: "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." This is an oblique reference to Christ as the Light of the World who releases us from darkness and bondage into knowledge of who God is.
5. Finally, Pope Benedict reaffirms John Paul II's reflections on the origin of the human soul and the Magisterium of the Church in stating that "every spiritual soul is created immediately by God" and is not "'produced' by the parents." This is an affirmation of (theological) creationism over traducianism as an explanation of the origin of the soul. The Pope furthermore affirms the immortality of the immaterial soul. Both of these affirmations make it clear that there is a distinction to be made between human beings and the rest of the biological world -- there is a spiritual break in continuity between humanity and others of God's creatures. As the Pope says, "[t]his points to the distinctiveness of anthropology, and invites exploration of it by modern thought." Humanity has a unique place in the cosmos.
In short, the Pope seems not only open to intelligent design, but he affirms it in the sense that nothing takes place in the universe apart from God's sustaining life and authors it--that order being revealed in our study of nature through the language of mathematics. The Pope is rejecting the neo-Darwinian view that humanity is the end result of blind processes that did not have him in view.
Richard Dawkins' replacement plans on steering his predecessor's position away from attacking God and replacing it with a more general approach to science and public understanding. Sounds like an improvement.
The New York Times unwittingly serves the cause of science and education with its tendentious front page article today.
Start with the Mickey Mouse analogy. Mickey's change in appearance over the decades doesn't provide an example of "evolution," folks. Mickey was intelligently designed. (Walt Disney drew him.) This is an elementary mistake in logic by the teacher that the reporter--and The New York Times--not only bought, but used to highlight their story.
Then there is the ridiculous peppered moth case that is supposed to show students how evolution takes place. (Light moths that dwell on dark trees' trunks are more likely to be seen and therefore eaten, etc.) But even if the peppered moth experiments had been valid they only would show micro-evolution, not macro-evolution (new species). Hardly anyone disputes micro-evolution. Talking about it is mainly a way to confuse people about the real issues and impute to critics as criticism they don't advance. But, in any case, the peppered moth experiment results themselves were not valid. They were discredited years ago (the moths were pinned to the trees, and, furthermore, the peppered moths live in tree canopies, not on the trunks). The scientific literature has been clear on this for years. Yet, as we all fear about the schools, they continue to cite evidence that even scientists who are Darwinists no longer cite.
The students in Florida were skeptical about the teacher's "facts". Good for them. They were right, and their teacher, who may be a fine fellow in other respects, abused their trust with his heavy ideological hand. Thanks, New York Times, for showing how it is done.
The Chronicle of Higher Education shows courage in publishing a non-P.C. article by Peter Wood of the National Association of Scholars that describes the real, as opposed to the putative, obstacles to increasing the number of American-born and educated scientists. Anti-intellectualism is a big part of it.
There is a problem, however, that Peter Woods overlooks, either because it doesn't occur to him or because he doesn't wish to spur the science establishment to even more outrage by mentioning it. That problem is the contemporary hostility that many committed Christian young people, and perhaps other religious youth, encounter in the sciences these days. Even those who have not experienced it become alert to it and, in turn, may be discouraged.
Darwinists can deny that this is the case, but a serious study, I submit, would show that it is so. Asked in private, when their words can't be twisted and asked in a neutral manner, many religious students report a classroom environment that demeans religious belief and demeans religious people. If it is known that they do not accept Darwinian accounts of the rise and development of life, or even the development of universe before life arose on Earth, students know that they could be graded down in some classes (a certain University of Minnesota biology class comes to mind, but it is unusual only in the professor's lack of subtlety). If they decide to seek an advanced degree the opposition will be stronger and they normally dare not express their convictions. If they somehow get a doctorate, they cannot expect a teaching position, or recommendations, once any serious dissent from Darwinism is detected. And if they secure a job they will not get tenure if word leaks out (see Expelled). Even after they have tenure they can still be maligned and harassed and even effectively demoted.
Does anyone at CHE or the National Association of Scholars wish to contest either that many religious students are aware of this situation or that it can be a disincentive for a career in science? Or that in many cases their apprehensions are well-justified? Articles can be written that pooh-pooh what I have just written. But many youth know otherwise. Anecdotal evidence perhaps, but I have talked to a number of them.
How many students might we be talking about? Probably a minority.
But possibly a big minority. It's part of the group that loves science at first, and then is turned off.
Lost in some cases to contemporary dogmatism and bigotry. A country that really cared to raise up a larger community of scientists would address it.
The University of Minnesota has now made clear that it is within the orbit of academic freedom at that institution to engage in active religious bigotry--in the case of P.Z. Myers, desecrating the Eucharist from a Catholic Church--while it is not within the reach of academic freedom to teach any criticisms of Darwinian evolution or the scientific case of intelligent design. This comes from the Catholic League:
UNIV. OF MINN. REFUSES TO PENALIZE MYERS
The Chancellor of the University of Minnesota, Morris (UMN) released a statement today regarding the intentional desecration of the Eucharist by Professor Paul Z. Myers. "I believe that behaviors that discriminate against or harass individuals or groups on the basis of their religious beliefs are reprehensible," said Jacqueline Johnson. Importantly, she added that the school's Code of Conduct prohibits such behavior. However, she also stressed that academic freedom allows faculty members "to speak or write as a public citizen without institutional discipline or restraint...." Nowhere did she say Myers would be disciplined.
Catholic League president Bill Donohue responded as follows:
"This is classic: Johnson admits that Myers has violated the UMN's Code of Conduct and then proceeds to tell us why he is being allowed to do so with impunity--it's a matter of academic freedom.
"Academic freedom is not the issue: academic malpractice is. For example, Section 10.21 (b) of UMN's Tenure Code explicitly says that a tenured faculty member can be terminated or suspended for 'unprofessional conduct which severely impairs a faculty member's fitness in a professional capacity.'
"In 2001, this part of the Tenure Code was invoked against a professor at UMN because he had images of child porn on his computer. It should now be invoked against Myers, and that is why we will appeal to UMN's Board of Regents to do just that. It strains credulity to maintain that Christian students can expect fair treatment by a faculty member who has publicly shown nothing but contempt for their religion.
"It is a sure bet that UMN would not tolerate a white professor who worked a comedy club on weekends trashing blacks. Indeed, it would say that such behavior disqualifies his ability to be objective. In many respects Myers is worse, and that is why sanctions are warranted."
Contact Myers at email@example.com
Contact President Robert Bruininks at firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan A. Fani Director of Communications Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights email@example.com New York, NY 10123 212-371-3191 212-371-3394 (fax) http://www.catholicleague.org/release.php?id=1467
Michael Medved, now a Discovery senior fellow, has noted often that outsiders imagine that Hollywood's god is money; but it's not, it's the approval of one's peers. A fine piece by pajamas media shows how this is playing out now. Note that Expelled did uncommonly well for a political documentary, but not only was it not reviewed much when it came out, but even its financial records are ignored now.
There are several good news stories on today's development in the federal court case in which Yoko Ono seeks to prevent further distribution of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, the Ben Stein film. And then there is this one from ars technica:
Notice the way the writer feels obliged to abuse free speech--by misrepresenting intelligent design--even as he defends it.
We still do have free speech protections in America, but we also have the right to tie up opponents in tactical lawsuits, which is just what Yoko Ono did at a crucial point in the screening of Expelled. Nonetheless, Expelled has become one of the most-viewed theater-released documentaries ever.
We are not quite at the point where there should be a film about the way Expelled itself was attacked, but there is a story there.
The spirit of authoritarian censorship is all over the cultural left these days. These were the same people who opposed authority back in the 60s, weren't they--people like John Lennon and Yoko Ono? "Imagine"!
Michael Gerson cannot bring himself to point out the theme of the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed that has been in theaters for three weeks now, but he still hits the mark with his column on the bogus "War on Science" issue that certain liberals have tried to float. He cites a useful paper by Yuval Levin of Ethics and Public Policy Center. Both are former Bush White House officials.
David Berlinski's The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions (reviewed brilliantly by George Gilder in the new National Review) is just arriving in book stores, while in Paris an entirely different, and also invaluable, book, Origines (Origins), has been published this week in French by Saint-Simon.
Those who know Berlinski's exquisite scientific inquiries into the origins of life, mind and matter will recognize the themes. As the dust jacket states (translated here into English):
Here are three great mysteries: the existence of the human mind; the existence of living creatures; and the existence of matter.
Why are they there?
Many scientists claim that while we cannot answer these questions in detail, we can answer them in a general way.
Can we indeed?
In this profoundly provocative book, David Berlinski, the best-selling author of La vie revee des maths and Une breve histoire des mathematiques (A Brief History of Mathematics), examines these questions, and argues that it is far from certain that we have answered them at all.
Origins will appeal to readers who believe that these great questions have been settled, and to readers who believe that they have not.
(And just to test your French:
Voici trois grands mystÃ¨res: l'existence de l'esprit humain, l'existence de
les crÃ©atures vivantes, et l'existence de la matiÃ¨re.
Nombreux sont les scientifiques qui prÃ©tendent que, si nous ne pouvons pas rÃ©pondre Ã ces questions en dÃ©tail, nous
vous pouvez y rÃ©pondre d'une maniÃ¨re gÃ©nÃ©rale.
Peut-on en effet?
Dans ce livre provocateur profondÃ©ment, David Berlinski, l'auteur de
La vie revee des maths et Une brÃ¨ve histoire des mathematiques, examine ces
questions et fait valoir qu'il est loin d'Ãªtre certain que nous avons rÃ©pondu Ã tous.
Origines fera appel aux lecteurs qui croient que ces grandes questions ont Ã©tÃ©
rÃ©glÃ©, et aux lecteurs qui croient qu'ils n'ont pas.)
David is back in Paris after his U.S. tour and the opening of the Ben Stein film, Expelled, in which his role is prominent. He will return to these shores in a few weeks, speaking, among other places, at the annual Gilder/Forbes Telecosm conference, held this year at Lake George, New York from May 27 to 29.
A haiku dedicated to Yoko:
Yoko Ono mad
"Imagines" bad infringement
Stein movie Expelled?
Editorial comment: How can Left-wing Darwinists be so dense as to think that the way to deal with a film about their efforts to shut down dissenting scientists is to try to shut down the film, too? They are just proving the film's point! (See this release from the Expelled producers, received today.)
This is the footnoted version of the article that ran in Thursday's Seattle Times.
Richard Dawkins and the evolution lobby do not see eye to eye on strategy. But it seems that the National Center for Science Education and "Expelled Exposed", the NCSE's website assailing the film Expelled, don't want you to know that. The situation is evident in the film that opens Friday, for all to see. The interviews with Dawkins are dispositive.
First we meet Eugenie Scott of NCSE, sounding so invincibly cheery that one suspects she must moonlight for the Oakland, CA Chamber of Commerce. She relishes telling about all the nice religious people she has lined up around the country to support Darwinian theory.
But then, here comes Dawkins, backed by a parade of voluble atheist scientists who far outrank Scott. They are the famous experts, she is a lobbyist with a political approach that is too-smart-by-half. They don't want any more confusion raised in people's minds about whether religion is compatible with an accurate understanding of evolution.
It is not a question of who is more of an atheist. The NCSE is stuffed with atheists. The difference is over whether to lead with atheism, or hide it while you charge that the other side--the ID supporters--are the ones with a religious agenda. Indeed, Eugenie Scott makes this religious case against ID "creationism" in one speech after another, including, without irony, speeches to one atheist conclave after another.
But the evangelizing atheism that Dawkins and other top Darwinian scientists present to the Expelled audience--even including personal witness accounts of how they variously came to faithlessness upon hearing the Gospel of Darwin--is a political embarrassment for the NCSE. It probably is not a topic in the film the NCSE would like to discuss. It also is not a subject its close allies in the media and higher education want aired.
In turn, the NCSE's coy reticence about the end-game plainly annoys the world's most famous Darwinist. Dr. Dawkins rejects the pretense that real Darwinism is neutral on religion. Oh, you can believe that if you want, just as you can believe in "fairies at the bottom of the garden." But, believing that Darwin and religion are compatible doesn't make them compatible. Interviewed for Expelled, Dawkins makes clear that neo-Darwinism, properly understood, virtually compels atheism and leaves no room for religion, and, further, that this truth is being fudged by people in the "science lobby, evolution lobby" (the NCSE).
"There's a kind of science defense lobby or an evolution defense lobby, in particular," he tells the camera. "They are mostly atheists, but they are wanting to --desperately wanting -- to be friendly to mainstream, sensible religious people. And the way you do that is to tell them that there's no incompatibility between science and religion."
This plainly rankles.
"If they called me as a witness, and a lawyer said, 'Dr. Dawkins, has your belief in evolution, has your study of evolution turned you toward (atheism)?' I would have to say yes. And that is the worst possible thing I could say for winning you that court case. So people like me are bad news for...the science lobby, the evolution lobby."
He adds, "By the way, I'm being a helluva lot more frank and honest in this interview than many people in this field would be."
Dawkins wants an end put to pussy footing. The NCSE, however, wants to pussy foot as long as possible. That way they can enlist nominally religious people and people who wrongly think they can be both Darwinists (holding that there there is no guidance in nature) and theists (holding that there is guidance in nature, however disguised). If there are ministers and scientists who want to "believe" in Darwinism and also in a God who actually plays some active role in the world, or in the Easter Bunny, for that matter, the NCSE wants them on board. In fact, they must be pushed forward so they can gull the public and, one might add, the media and the courts.
Trouble is, here is Richard Dawkins in Expelled--exposing the NCSE.
Apparently, relations are strained between Oxford and Oakland and have been for some time. Now that story is real, unlike the straw men the NCSE's website is trying to construct.
Schools are in recess this time of year, so busloads of girls using "like" as a verbal crutch and wise cracking, baggy pants boys are wending their way through the cherry blossoms of America's capital. In these security-conscious times, when it is harder than ever to get a tour of the White House or Capitol, parents and chaperones are quick to steer the young to the Mall.
Yes, this is the same Natural History museum where an affiliated scientist
bragged in one of the emails the House of Representatives found a couple of years ago that her own son uses "under dog" instead of "under God" when saying the
Pledge of Allegiance.
For the more discerning visitors, a trip to Mt. Vernon is recommended. Thank goodness for old-fashioned philanthropy and a non-ironic perspective. George Washington's home boasts a lavish new visitors' center and education program that puts government museums to shame. The heroic history of the Revolution is evoked in a stirring orientation film written by Lionel Chetwynd.
Mt. Vernon is not hesitant to hail our true ancestor-in-patriotism as the hero he was, the flesh-and-blood Father of his Country. It's a lot easier for a kid to look up to George than down to a rodent.
With evident personal satisfaction, David Berlinski sashayed (or did he
"chasse"?) around Washington this week in promotion of The Devil's Delusion, heralded by an article in Harper's ("The Evidence of Things Not Seen") and another in Commentary ("God of the Gaps"). C-Span covered his Discovery Institute talk at our DC offices and will air it Saturday night (11:00 Eastern, 8:00 PDT) and again Sunday.
He's good, this man. If there were "best supporting role" awards for documentary films, Berlinski would win for Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.
He will be in Los Angeles this weekend, Seattle for a week, then Dallas,
Minnesota, San Francisco, back to DC, and, I don't know where else. New York, I think. There are some excellent reviews pending, I am told--it is not considered LC (literarily correct) to say what you know on this topic.
The Darwinian Establishment that Berlinski eviserates so surgically surely
will try to slice him back. Maybe they can get the NYT to assign the review to Dawkins, as happened to Mike Behe's latest. There's nothing like a studious, objective reader.
WHO cares? The Devil's Delusion is climbing at Amazon and will surely
eclipse the other attacks on the "Atheists' scientific pretensions" that gained attention in recent months. For anyone who is really objective, The Devil's Delusion will eclipse the atheists themselves.
A crowd of 350 invited guests attended a pre-screening of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed tonight in Seattle's Pacific Place. I can see now why the eminent Richard Dawkins, who crashed a screening in Minneapolis last week, remains so upset about Ben Stein's movie. He must not have realized until he sat in the theater last week and heard people laughing at him on the screen that he had made himself look foolish. On his website he calls the audience "sycophantic."
Among other things, he writes that before he was interviewed he didn't know who actor/economist/columnist Ben Stein was or that his droll monotone had comedic appeal to those strange Americans. He's so "boring," Dawkins writes. (Ferris Bueller thought the very same, Richard.)
Of Stein's laconic inquiry as to whether he saw any way intelligent design could occur in the universe, Dawkins complains that "I was charitable enough to think he (Stein) was an honestly stupid man seeking enlightenment from a scientist."
How typically "charitable" of Dawkins that he had such a generous thought. And then to have his charity betrayed when the cheeky Yankee actually used Dawkins' extensive reply in the film!
In Seattle, the sycophantic audience chuckled, then guffawed as Stein slowly winkled out of Dawkins the answer that intelligent space aliens might have "seeded" the Earth with its first life molecule. (Actually, does anyone wonder why those "highly evolved" aliens would stop with creating a mere molecule? After coming so far, why not linger and go all the way, create, oh, I don't know, fishes and amphibians and human beings while they were at it?)
So now he deplores the film's "cheap laughs at expense of scientists who are making honest attempts to explain difficult points." He means himself. He's a victim, see. So is his buddy, P. Z. Myers, who started attacking the film weeks ago on his blog, and was not let into the Minneapolis shindig.
Yet in his blog Dawkins complains that Expelled's tale of persecuted scientists seems "whiny" to him.
I suspect that Dawkins may have been upset, furthermore, to see captured on film the hard swipe he takes at Eugenie Scott and the accommodationist strategy of the National Center for Science Education. It is a telling moment, and give credit to Dawkins for his candor about the atheism baked into Darwinism and the deceitful nature of the NCSE's claims of compatibility between Darwinism and religion. He does a commendable job of pulling the veil aside.
Less candor is apparent as Dawkins returns to his charge (made in The New York Times) that the film unfairly shows Darwinism's influence on Nazi race policies. "The alleged association of Darwinism with Nazism is harped on for what seemed like hours, and it is quite simply an outrage," he scolds. Having seen that statement before last night's screening, I tried as best I could in the dark to clock the time in the film devoted to the Nazis. It was roughly 10 minutes. That included Ben Stein's chilling interview with the head of the museum at the former sanatorium at Hadamar, near Dachau, where the director readily acknowledged--even insisted on--the Darwinian provenance of the Nazi treatment of the handicapped "patients" there. And it included clips from Nazi propaganda films that eerily advocate the line of "natural selection" in human beings. How can you argue with that? The film is careful to qualify the case of Darwinism's influence on Nazi policies. But evidence of influence is abundant. (Much more could have been used if the film really had spent "hours" on the subject.)
As I have noted before, the Expelled producers are nervous about what they see as potential efforts by screening interlopers to record the film and expose it in ways that would damage its commercial value. In Seattle, even some of the "sycophants" were chuckling as a boilerplate copyright protection warning was read aloud. But I don't think any in the audience would have characterized the person who read it the way Dawkins characterizes the one who read it in Minneapolis--as a "Gauleiter."
A "Gauleiter"? A Nazi district leader?
Funny word choice for a man who is unhappy that Expelled raises the question of Darwinian theory's influence on the Nazis.
Dawkins on his website is at pains to protest that he himself does not promote a Darwinian society. Good for him. But he might be more persuasive if he were willing to concede that a Darwinian society not only would have the potential to become a fascist state--which he does--but also that once in history Darwinist views contributed to creating just such a state.
After last night's screening, a good part of the crowd in Seattle stayed around as long as the theater management would allow to talk with three of the Darwin critics and ID scientists who were interviewed in the movie. I wish Richard Dawkins had snuck into that event so they could have invited him to join them.
I just received the new Harper's . The issue's first essay under "Reading" is "The Evidence of Things Not Seen," by David Berlinski, the noted mathematician whose writings have won many awards and whose new book, The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions, comes out next month. David's essay is the perfect punctuation to the end of the American Atheists convention held in Minneapolis over Easter Weekend (when else would atheists meet, Christmas?).
Suffice that Berlinski's article--derived from the book--is a joy. There is at least one other leading intellectual journal with a piece from the book coming out.
And then there is Berlinski's major role in the new Ben Stein film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The film comes out on April 18. Also, George Gilder has persuaded Dr. Berlinski to address the opening of the Telecosm Conference at Lake George in May andthere will be Devil's Delusion book parties in Washington, D.C. and Seattle (see our DI homepage for schedules). And speeches elsewhere.
I can summarize the Berlinski review of real scientific knowledge (as opposed to fanciful guesswork and speculation) on the origin of the universe, the origin of matter and the origin of life: No One Knows.
How many of his fellow scientists will admit as much?
Gilder says Berlinski's new work is the "best book of the decade."
Well, that leaves two years for Dawkins, et al to mount a reply.
The New York Times story on Richard Dawkins' gatecrashing a special screening of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed in Minneapolis Thursday night contains the usual boilerplate bias of reporter Cornelia Dean. (Expelled is a "creationist" film, you see, and ID is an "ideological cousin of creationism", etc.).
Nonetheless, Dean's report contains two nuggets. One is that Dawkins had flown to Minneapolis to accompany P. Z. Myers to a convention of atheists. That underscores the real mission of these gents, as I have said before. When they accuse ID supporters of injecting religion into science they really are just projecting.
Second, and more important, Dawkins says that the film's references to the linkage of Darwinist thought and the Nazi's race policies is a "major outrage." Great. Let him debate that with scholars who, unlike the one-time zoologist, now turned polemicist, actually have studied the matter.
No one in the film, and certainly not Richard Weikart, historian and author of From Darwin to Hitler, sees one-to-one causality. But Darwinist thought did influence the Nazis. Probably more than anywhere, the ideas of racial superiority and eugenics were fervently advocated in Germany for decades, among others, by the noted Darwin enthusiast Ernst Haeckel. As a result, race theory and eugenics were not a hard sell to the German volk, including educated people, when the Nazis took charge.
Lovely stuff. Maybe Dawkins should make a tour of it.
In Expelled, Ben Stein does.
Like many films in pre-release, Ben Stein's Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is being selectively screened around the country to develop a buzz.
Press will be invited to screen the final version in three weeks, I'm told, while the official opening in theaters is April 18. Surprisingly, even the private screenings are causing excitement. Audiences love it.
In January I saw an early version that was screened in Fort Lauderdale and I will be at a Seattle screening soon. The Darwinists who are portrayed in the film -- giving answers to questions submitted in advance! -- are worried about what the public will think of their views when produced incontrovertibly in their own words. What they say is damning, all right, but it's not much different than what they write in books and say in speeches and other appearances.
There is a growing fear by the producers that Darwinists may be trying get into the showings to make bootleg copies (for the Web?), possibly in hopes of damaging the commercial value. Others may be crashing because they want to trash it before it even gets reviewed by the media. P.Z. Myers, who was not let into a showing last night in Minnesota, probably falls in the latter category.
Amazingly, the best selling Oxford scientist/author Richard Dawkins also crashed a showing of Expelled in Minnesota last night and he not only was let in, but introduced at the end of the showing.
Dawkins apparently acknowledged that he had not been invited and did not have a ticket. A sophomoric side to his ideological campaign is thus revealed.
Dawkins, understandably is nervous about this film, among other reasons because Ben Stein has him on camera acknowledging that life on Earth may, indeed, have been intelligently designed, but that it had to have been accomplished by space aliens! This is hilarious, of course, because Dawkins is death on intelligent design. But it turns out that that view applies only if it includes the possibility that the designer might be God.
Myers, of course, relished being expelled from Expelled, but objective observers know that Myers is the most vociferous advocate of expelling Darwin critics from academia. Not from movie pre-screenings where he wasn't invited, mind you, but from their jobs. Too bad the film doesn't show (and I wish it had), his promotion of advice to attack teachers and professors who dare question Darwin's theory. The whole point of Myers is that he is a take-no-prisoners, crusading atheist scientist who has made it his purpose in life to harass people who disagree with him. Dawkins turns out to be his buddy and mutual admirer.
Frankly, I wish the producers would have a special pre-release screening for the Darwinists who are interviewed in the film -- and invite some of the rest of us who have seen their depredations up close. We'd be glad to debate right there.
Among other things, I'd like to read some of the Darwinists' statements and charges back to them and ask them to defend themselves. One of the most preposterous is that the well-funded' Discovery Institute is funding this film! ( 1-They seem to have far more money available to them than we do, and 2-We are saving our pennies for the upcoming Broadway musical comedy, Darwin's Folly.)
I have to say something else, personally. I have been sandbagged by one TV and documentary crew after another. So have Discovery-affiliated scientists. The interviewers all say they just want to understand the issue. Going in, they are quite clear about definitions, for example, and only start using Darwinist definitions of our positions when they report. They never provide questions in advance and even if they say they will stick to science questions and public policy, almost all sneak in questions about personal religious beliefs. Then, of all the footage, guess what gets on TV or in the documentary?
So it really is pathetic of Dawkins, et al to complain that when they were interviewed for Expelled they didn't know that the film was inherently unfriendly. These are interviewees who received pre-agreed questions, signed release forms after the interviews were conducted, and actually got paid for their time.
I am getting more excited about Expelled myself and can't wait to see the finished version. I suspect I'll wish that the film was twice as long and had twice as much from Dawkins, P.Z. Myers, et al. From what I already have seen, they really expose themselves as the anti-intellectual, bullying poseurs they are -- small men who above all are afraid of a fair contest.
"Theodore Dalrymple" not only has one of the most droll pen names I have seen (the man is a doctor who enjoys his privacy), but he also is one of England's best writers on social issues--and its finest contrarian. One of his favorite targets is scientism and the ways it ravages the poor and ignorant. In this review in The New York Sun he is singing the song whose tune I know well and whose lyrics I never tire of: "Marx is Dead, Freud is Dead, and by the way, so is Darwin."http://www.nysun.com/article/69618
Americans and Europeans don't pay enough attention to the fact that the second largest body of Christians in the world, after the Roman Catholics, are the Eastern Orthodox, about 300 million souls, by some counts. If these two bodies ever get together, Christianity will heal a nearly thousand year rift and greatly enhance the authority of traditional understanding of Christain doctrine. Striving for such unity was a high priority for Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI has not slackened the Vatican's pace on this topic. Slowly, but surely, progress is being made.
Among the several Orthodox national groups, the Russian Orthodox have long been the most resistant to unity discussions. Even a high level meeting was unachievable. But now the Russians' past reluctance seems to be dissipating a bit. A story from a week ago illuminates a new milestone.
I was out of the country when this story first appeared, so I missed it. But the mainstream media seem to have missed it, too. Too bad.
Christianity is growing in the Global South, but, beset by secularism and an increasingly truculent and letigious atheism, it it seems to lack confidence in Europe and most of the rest of the Global North. But the fall of Soviet communism has unleashed something of a revival in Russia that could contribute to a general revival of Christianity elsewhere in the "North". Unexpected because of its geographical location, a Orthodox/Catholic demarche would be a true stimulus to broade revival.
The Orthodox have their own problems, including divisions, but on faith and morals they tend to be quite...well, orthodox. Therefore, the unity talks of Rome and Moscow bode well for all traditionalist Chrstians, and for those of other faith communities who wish them well.
My colleague, David Berlinski, is a profound and adroit writer on matters scientific. But he admits that he has no talent for the close plotting and realistic dialogue of a novel. Fortune, however, has given him two children who do: Claire (a sometime novelist living in Istanbul and working on a new non-fiction book on Margaret Thatcher) and a son, Mischa. A few weeks ago, David let it drop that Mischa had written a "wonderful" first novel called Fieldwork that was published by the grand house of Farrar, Straus and Giroux and had just been nominated for the National Book Award.
I read it. Now I recommend that you read it. In Fieldwork the youngest Berlinski has told a story of surpassing grace and compassion about the modern human person, set out in an unlikely place--northern Thailand, close to the dangerous Burmese border--and introducing characters that are at once familiar and exotic: a family of Christian missionaries, a Berkeley anthropologist and the droll and admirable hill tribes of a region now rife with change and intrigue. Berlinski got to know such people living in Thailand and, having visited there, I was delighted by the verisimilitude of his novel's descriptions of street life and modern bureaucracies as much as that of the legacy of primitive culture found in hamlets one has to walk to find. Shades of the estimable Graham Greene.
The story is memorably inventive. The "Dyalo," the hill tribe Berlinski has created, has its own language, customs, food, clothing and, of course, religion. I can't think of another writer (even Conrad) who shows such engaging artifice. These people not only are believable, but they also are identifiably cousins to the actual tribes of the Golden Triangle, such as the Hmong and the Karen.
Fieldwork is a murder mystery that is so enthralling that you will want to read it through in a few sittings. It is also almost satirical in its comic outlook, yet avoids cynicism. (The Washington Post reviewer called it "disturbing and entertaining.") Ultimately, you fall in love with practically everyone. All by itself that makes it worth your time, and the time of anyone real that you already love and wish to gift this season. They'll thank your for this novel when they get it and thank you again, with still greater sincerity, once they experience it.
I have been thinking lately about how hard it is for people with different world views to communicate with one another. Within our own culture the difficulties are almost equal to those of dealing with other cultures. Maybe one reason I resonated so much to Fieldwork is that David Berlinski seems to have this very subject on his finely tuned and intuitive mind.
You undoubtedly know some people who think they understand all about the issue of evolution and don't need to know more to have an informed opinion. That would include all the presidential candidates, 90 percent of the editorial writers (the majors, anyhow) and columnists (start with George Will), vast numbers of teachers in various fields and, strangest of all, a large number of pastors. A few of the latter even hold "Darwin Sunday" services at their churches in February to show fearlessly that they are more in sync with the New Atheists than they are with scientists and philosophers who question the Great Man. No need to find out what the critics actually are saying; just read The New York Times and it'll tell them all about the subject. Besides, they studied this in high school or college, right?
Indeed, you may have people with such attitudes in the bossom of your own family and the closest circle of your wassailing friends this festival season. You may even be such a person yourself, God (or Natural Selection) forbid!
There are a number of scholarly antidotes for such cases of smugness. Some deal with physics or cosmology, some with biology, some with mathematics and philosophy of science, some with the devastating legacy of Darwinism for our times.
In the latter category, I uncategorically recommend John West's authoritative and new work (from ISI Books), Darwin Day in America. The subtitle, "How our politics and culture have been dehumanized in the name of science," and the chapter headings are an indication of the breadth and depth of influence worked on the modern mind by Darwin's seemingly harmless little theory, from criminology to mental illness to economics to education--literally from the cradle (abortion, embryonic stem cell research, cloning) to the grave (euthanasia, assisted suicide).
Dr. West, a distinguished writer, former Chairman of the Political Science Department at Seattle Pacific University, and a Senior Fellow of Discovery Institute, is scrupulous in his handling of history, even sometimes denying his position the benefit of the doubt if he cannot precisely footnote or otherwise account for a fact. As a result, criticism of his book has been reduced to whining, dodging and name calling.
For a fair minded reader, Darwin Day in America is a shocking mirror held up to our own unconscious prejudices and assumptions. All of us tend to use "evolve" in a bland way that lulls our mental discrimination. After reading this riveting and compelling story, you may wish to reconsider some those assumptions, even if you already are in the camp of the Darwin critics. In other words, the reality is even grimmer than you thought.
Well, I always like a bracing read for this time of year, even if it is a bit more suited for Advent than Christmas! In the end, in addition to everything else, Darwin Day in America is inspiring. It will straighten and harden your backbone.
Another book I want to recommend for your Christmas list is A Meaningful World by Drs. Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt. This is an affordable paperback and would gracefully stuff the stockings of your most cherished reading friends and family. As the quotation below from the great Catholic evangelist Scott Hahn suggests, it would make the very best gift for your parish priest or minister. Give it to your rabbi for Hanukkah! This book is sheer exploration and discovery; that is, joy.
If you are feeling especially expansive, buy some copies for your local church leaders and others who like the idea of design in the abstract but just can't see how it applies to the real world of science and sensory experience. They might learn something from you for a change!
Oh, of course, you also should buy it for yourself!
This is from Dr. Hahn:
A Meaningful World is astounding, breathtaking! This is a book about both the beauty of science and the beauty of creation, a book I wish I had as an undergraduate taking science courses. Wiker and Witt draw us beyond design, to the sheer grandeur, elegance, and deep intelligibility of nature, all of which bespeak a creative Genius. It will help overcome the residual fear of science that plagues all too many devout believers, and instill a sense of childlike wonder at the splendor of our world. A Meaningful World admirably answers the call of Pope Benedict XVI to see the glory of God's wisdom, God's Logos, permeating creation. I can't wait to get this into the hands of my own teenagers, and even my college grads.
Over the coming days I'll recommend some promising books for that difficult certain someone on your gift list--the know-it-all son-in-law, the besieged college student, the intellectually deprived expat in Mexico. Maybe it's even a stealth purchase for yourself!
Let's start with "Mike Gene's" book, The Design Matrix.
One of the most interesting figures in the intelligent design debate is the maverick theorist "Mike Gene," who runs the webpage www.idthink.net, and contributes commentaries at the group blog Telic Thoughts.
Mike Gene is a pseudonym, used by its author to focus the attention of his readers on the content of his arguments, and the scientific evidence -- and not on the
personality, academic training, or background of "Mike Gene" himself. That's a healthy attitude to have in a debate all too often dominated by ad hominem attacks and motive-mongering. It also presumably protects Mike Gene from attacks by Darwinist colleagues. We have seen what they can do to dissenters, haven't we? For the record, I don't know who "Mike" is.
The Design Matrix, regardless, is Mike's long-awaited book, released in time for the shopping season by Arbor Vitae Press. As befits his independent nature, Gene's approach in the book cannot be placed in any familiar category -- and that makes the work deeply fascinating and refreshing.
For those who have grown weary of apparently entrenched arguments, The Design Matrix is full of surprising insights and examples. Might the process of evolution itself, for instance, have been designed to bring about novelty and complexity? Mike Gene's answer to that question is loaded with potentially fruitful
(scientific) implications. Why has the frequency of the term "molecular machines" increased so dramatically in the scientific literature over the past few years? And so on.
Treat your gift-recipient (and yourself) to an intellectual journey along new and largely unexplored paths, in The Design Matrix.
Richard Hayes, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society in Oakland, explains in an admirable Los Angeles Times article
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-hayes22nov22,0,340355.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrailthat many scientists who opposed embryonic stem cell research on various grounds were reluctant to say so until now: they didn't want to be seen helping President Bush politically. Hayes' candor is commendable, but the scientists' motives it perhaps unintentionally betrays are craven. It is, in truth, an indictment of the current politicization of science.
This is a serious matter. We can all be thrilled that new technology seems likely to make the use of human embryos an unnecessary source for stem cell production in research. It is a victory for human life and for common sense in laboratory science. Politically, it takes off the table an issue that hurt conservatives and that the materialist Left has been using as part of an attack on pro-life forces, whom they represent as "anti-science." It was slated to become a major theme in the 2008 elections.
But politics should not trump everything else. If scientists who were skeptical of embryonic stem cell research remained silent for essentially political reasons or were influenced by the big bucks that were behind efforts in California and Missouri to use taxpayer funds to support embryonic stem cell research, they should be chagrined now. They let their politics take precedence over their calling as scientists.
Politics was definitely at play in Missouri, for example, where the issue of stem cells on a state ballot measure was used to defeat conservatives. It was a real "wedge" issue. You can understand why the Left deployed it; polls showed 2 to 1 public acceptance of embryonic stem cell research. But that doesn't let scientists who knew better off the hook, does it? It is appalling that some scientists privately opposed embryonic stem cell research on what they might regard as liberal grounds--such as the program's exploitation of poor women for their eggs--still were guided chiefly by political correctness and kept their peace. Some others surely would have spoken out if the media had asked them. But most of the media, too, are P.C., of course.
So, on how many other issues are dissenting scientists holding their fire because they don't want to be seen helping President Bush or social conservatives? How about end of life issues? How about Darwin's theory of evolution, the sacred writ of materialism?
In some periods of history courage is demanded of statesmen, or military men, or even economists. In our period, we need scientists to show the courage of their private convictions on the whole range of issues that pertain to human dignity and distinctive worth.
One way you can tell an ideologue is if he ditches an old friend because the old friend no longer agrees with him. It has happened to me occasionally on the issue of Darwinism, and I rather relish it, frankly. I have been a card carrying member of the Centrist Establishment my whole adult life, so I experience a certain excitement in being stigmatized as an extremist by the Leftist Establishment. Me? An extremist? Why thank you so much!
The same thing is happening to Anthony Flew now, in double dossage, and I hope he, too, is enjoying the notoriety. http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6501078.html
The New York Times--media headquarters for the Give No Quarter to Darwin Doubters campaign--decided to respond to the recent apostasy of England's hallowed Professor of Atheism by intimating that the old man must be daft. Never let it be said that The NYT lacks for objective anaylsis and journalistic professionalism on science issues. They simply are following the lead of that noted Darwinian ethicist, Richard Dawkins.
But Flew is fighting back. I may be old and slow, he says, but stop your carping insinuations about my intelligence and your eggregious age discrimination (okay, I added that last twist myself). Let my recent book speak for itself, he says.
Lovely. I say that the AARP (or their UK branch) should file a suit against The Times.
Meanwhile, let The New York Times wallow in its patronizing zeal. When the history of our real times is written it will be noted that The Times newspaper was no more accurate about trends in science in the early 21st century than it was about the nature of communism in the middle of the 20th. It is easily addled by its ideology.
I had the honor as a young man to write editorials for the late, great New York Herald Tribune. We distrusted The Times then and I can't find any reason to think better of it as years go by.
The erudite and entertaining M.D. Aeschliman of Boston University and the University of Italian Switzerland has written a fine tribute to that promethean intellectual figure of our time, Jacques Barzun, who turns 100 this month and will be feted at Columbia University.http://nrd.nationalreview.com/article/?q=ZDhjM2Y1YzhlY2JmNjE4NWZmNjk1NThhNTA0MjlkYTc=
Dr. Barzun published From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life in 2000--when he was 93, a great inspiration for all of us!
I like him also because he was onto Marx early, onto Darwin early, and quick to see the limits of the modernist artistic perspective.
I like him further because he disputes the determinist interpretations of history that threatened to prevail for his entire lifetime. He believes that individuals make a difference.
One individual who makes a difference is Jacques Barzun. In a time when intellectual pipsqueaks, montebanks and popinjays scurry about our culture, what a welcome relief a giant makes against the horizon!
The intelligent new on-line Seattle regional magazine "Crosscut", edited by David Brewster, carries a column (as Anika Smith pointed out yesterday) called "Bruce Chapman is Right," written by "Mossback" liberal Knute Berger. It generally agrees with recent comments of mine on Dr. James Watson and the battle over eugenics.
I hate to cavil after such welcome praise, but I have to demur from Berger's one demurral. That is, when he says that we should remember that many Christian and Jewish clergy backed the original eugenics program in America, some heavy qualification is needed.
I will leave the details to John West's authoritative new book, Darwin Day in America--being launched today at a Washington, D.C. book event at the Heritage Foundation--but the point I want to make here is that most traditionalist Christian clergy did not back eugenics. Those who did tended to be liberal theologians in liberal denominations that already had made their peace with Darwinism and modernity. In contrast, virtually the whole scientific establishment not only lined up behind the "consensus" position in support of eugenics, but they also sought to silence dissent. (Sound familiar?)
Theologically conservative Protestants and the Catholic Church were largely opponents of eugenics. The Vatican, which is always a little behind the times, thank God, set Catholic public policy on the issue. As for evangelicals, almost forgotten now is the fact that eugenics was one reason former Democratic presidential candidate and Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan became so passionately involved in the Scopes Trial of 1925.
The eugenics was preached in Hunter's Biology textbook and its treatment of evolution, and it was this book that was at issue in Dayton, Tennessee and all around the country.
Playbill from Inherit the Wind, National Production, Chicago, 1956
Bryan feared that evolutionary theory was being used to justify mistreatment of the weak in society, as well as to discredit religion. This motivation takes on even more significance when one realizes, as Ed Larson makes clear in his book on the Scopes Trial, Summer for the Gods, that Bryan himself was not a young Earth creationist, even though his fictional surrogate is so characterized in the play and film, Inherit the Wind. It might help to rehabilitate the liberal reputation of Bryan, "The Great Commoner," if his stand on evolution was better understood and not permanently warped by the fictional accounts.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Scopes Trial, what about H. L. Mencken, the famous Baltimore Sun journalist who did more than anyone to denigrate Bryan in the public eye and whose bitterly funny style was employed so effectively against other opponents of Darwinism? Well, Mencken's sarcasm has been a great inspiration to aspiring journalists right up to our own time and especially on the topic of evolution. But as to his content, Mencken was an on-and-off-again eugenicist, a racist and an anti-Semite right up to and past the time when that was no longer an acceptable position in polite society.
Sorry, but that is the history. Those who doubt it should be prepared to debate it in public. John West, the expert, along with Richard Weikart of California State (author of From Darwin to Hitler) have the research mastered.
Meanwhile, regardless of the above, I want to repeat that I'm grateful that Knute Berger has been so clear on the need to examine the real way eugenics developed. Because eugenics is still with us in various forms. It is a human rights issue of historic proportions. It goes right to the question that John Paul II always asked, "What does it mean to be human?"
There are 21 pages of comments on a blog essay written by author Disesh D'Souza to answer the question, "Was Hitler a Christian?" It is an excellent polemic against the bizarre claims of Darwinian atheists (Hitchens, et al) who want to chalk up the crimes of Hitler to religion--Christianity, of all things. The whole attack is backfiring, since it practically invites people to examine the real intellectual roots of Nazism.
Of course you can find Hitler propaganda quotes--especially in his early political career--posturing in defense of Christianity, but his whole record runs against it. As for those who want to credit the Spanish Inquisition with inspiring Hitler, forget it. The complete death list of people ever burned at the stake for heresy would not have equalled the number of people killed by the Nazis on slow day at Auschwitz.
Let this debate continue, by all means. Historian Richard Weikart's resource book, From Darwin to Hitler, is totally authoritative and scholarly, unlike the ramblings of Hitchens, Harris, et al. As for D'Souza, following Weikart, he is not claiming that Darwin and Nietszche would have been Nazi admirers, only, as he says, that the Nazis definitely admired Darwin and Nietszche.
The furor over Dr. James Watson's comments on the supposed racial inferiority of black people--resulting from evolution--caused cancellation of at least one of the Nobel scientist's speeches in England this week. He may even have lost his job at Cold Spring Harbor. This brings a new element into the story.
Continue reading this post at Evolution News & Views.
I have written here before of how one supposedly settled "scientific consensus" after another is constantly being overturned, much to the distress of those who have staked their prestige and grant money on the status quo. Sometimes it seems to intelligent design proponents that Darwinism is the only subject where scientific dissenters are routinely shut down, ostracized, denied tenure or fired and personally attacked in the media. But it is not so. Scientific persecution has happened repeatedly in history and, oddly for a supposedly enlightened age, it is happening more and more now.
Yes, the Scopes Trial of 1925 has been turned on its head eight decades later. Scopes was fined for teaching Darwin's theory, while today's teacher will be fired if he offers the evidence against it, as well as for it. The same is true of the trial of Galileo. He upset the scientists of his day enough to cause them to get Church help in silencing him, while the scientific establishment of our day would use methodological naturalism to intimidate anyone (Church included) who challenges a materialist explanation for the origin of the universe.
But the anti-Darwinists are not the only dissenters undergoing a contemporary scientific Inquisition. Here are two current illustrations, the first from an article by John Tierney in The New York Times that fat is not the public health menace that consensus science made it out to be a quarter century ago. Just think how many billions of dollars have been spent in the false belief that it was so! "Fat-free this," "fat-free that." Until recently you really couldn't challenge the consensus.
Now, as to persecution of dissent, it would be hard to match the ill-treatment Larry Summers got at Harvard for the sin of suggesting that there are differences between the brain biology of men and women. Humiliated already by losing his job as Harvard's president, he is having his reputation for apostasy from accepted PC science ground into him at the University of California, Davis. Imagine, Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretary is now a "don't invite'm" in polite liberal society.
There is a pattern here, friends. Global warming, abortion, cloning, embryonic stem cell research, the list goes on and on. Of course, it is not nearly so fierce in most fields as in the supposedly "non-existent" scientific debate over the adequacy of Darwin's theory. You would be hard pressed to think of a subject where the leading spokesman in the field--Dr. Dawkins, in this case--not only wants rival scientists fired and disgraced (his New York Times review of Michael Behe's new book, The Edge of Evolution, shows that), but he also wants ordinary citizens barred from teaching their children anything other than The Gospel According to Dawkins. The English haven't been burning people at the stake for five hundred years now, but Dr. Dawkins' apparently thinks the custom should be revived.
Since this subject is now slated for politicization in America, thanks to the National Center for Science Education and even the National Academy of Science, PBS, and at least one presidential candidate (Sen. Clinton), I plan to keep posting examples of failed scientific consensus and the crimes that have been committed in its name in the past. And those being committed now.
We all have to get over the childish assumption that scientists are superior beings immune from human pride and ambition, not to mention human guile and bile. Here's a question though, do these negative qualities derive from evolutionary adaptation--and therefore must be excused--or from a human nature anchored to the very existence of man's soul, and therefore must be confronted?
There is a long record of conflict and persecution in the history of science, as in any area of endeavor. Scientists are given to the same failings as other human beings: greed, status anxiety, envy, and fear. To believe the pious statements by professional organizations about the enlightened way "science works" is comparable to accepting the civics textbook renderings of "how a law is made." There is a way, all right, that science is supposed to work (and laws supposedly are made), and then there is reality.
One can be grateful that there are so many cases where science does proceed along the ideal path, but there is no excuse for trying to fool the public into thinking that great injustices and bad judgments don't occur, too.
I asked Steve Martyn, a summer intern from Seattle Pacific who was at Discovery Institute this summer to research some historic examples. He came up with a number; in fact, he could have found scores.
Take, for example, the shameful cases of the "Vanguards of Germ Theory" (see the paper and footnotes here), including Dr. Ignaz Semmelweiss, the Hungarian working to solve the problem of puerperal fever (childbirth fever) in Vienna in the early 1840s. Before the work of Louis Pasteur, Semmelweiss correctly identified the solution if not the exact diagnosis: thorough cleanliness on the part of doctors delivering babies.
Semmelweiss showed that requiring doctors to wash up between operations and deliveries could sharply reduce mothers' deaths in childbirth. Nonetheless, his strictures offended the medical establishment and he was driven from his hospital. It is a long, gloomy story of harassment that ended in a mental breakdown by Semmelweiss.
A few days ago I sat in one of the rooms where the producers of a new film, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," were screening a trailer and passing the word to interested individuals and groups. It's the same pre-release publicity approach used recently for other Hollywood offerings, including documentaries. My emotion was almost as much one of relief as excitement. It is going to be a terrific film treatment of the whole controversy, and far fairer than any we have encountered.
For two years we have known that the Hollywood actor/critic/comedian/writer Ben Stein was making a film with a company called Premise Media that would inspect the controversy over Darwinian theory and intelligent design. Let's just say that some people at Discovery Institute were eager to cooperate, others more cautious. We have been burned so often by sweet-talking film-makers and television people who wanted to hear about "the science" and to hear our "side" of the controversy, only to be appalled by the one-sided, selectively edited final products that resulted.
The New York Times carries an apparently objective story about gender science controversy and the persecution (I'll use the word) of a scientist at Northwestern whose views differ from the mainstream of political
This is increasingly familiar territory. All sorts of academic pressures and tricks are used to bring non-pc scientists into line, and failing that, to get them fired or demoted or ostracized (e.g., no research grants). We see it on the global warming issue (as the previous Discovery Blog item attests) and, of course, in cosmology (the persecution of Guillermo Gonzalez at Iowa State) and biology (too many cases to mention in regards to Darwin critics and/or supporters of intelligent design). It is also practiced in areas like embryonic stem cell research and anything to do with abortion.
If you have not read C.S. Lewis' novel, That Hideous Strength, with its description of the superficially benign government research group, "N.I.C.E." (National Institute for Coordinated Experiments"), this is a good time to enjoy a read. Lewis was ahead of the times on this as well as other moral issues.
And it is a moral issue. It is an issue particularly for the media, most of whom are influenced by the trend in such journals as Columbia Journalism Review that recommend that reporters not bother providing "balance" on science stories where "a consensus of science exists" and not to allow dissenters on scientific issues to appear on op-ed pages.
The results are abundant. The Times itself today carries an oblique reference to Michael Behe's new analysis of the limits of Darwinian evolution by science reporter Ken Chang. While he critiques his argument, it appears Chang did not consider it seriously enough to interview Behe. And when it came time for publish a review of Behe's new book, The Edge of Evolution, the Times not only chose a sure-fire hit piece by Richard
Dawkins, but allowed Dawkins to descend into an almost totally ad hominem assault that avoided science. (Dawkins of course would never debate Behe.)
We have seen this before in history, though not on so many subjects at once. The Darwin-inspired eugenics movement is one example, but so are repeated cases in medical history where new cures were spurned for years--and medical innovators tormented or destroyed--before their views ultimately triumphed. Something similar happened with Big Bang Theory.
Meanwhile, trendy scientific theories without any supporting evidence (string theory, multi-verses, etc.) are perfectly okay to teach and advocate for the clear reason that they serve one overriding, objection-demolishing purpose: to advance philosophical materialism.
In May Mary Ellen Tiffany Gilder, a medical student in Albany, New York, published in this space a devastating critique of Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth, drawing on public research. Ms Gilder, a daughter of Discovery Senior Fellow George Gilder, is saluted for her global warming analysis in Steve Forbes' lead column in the new Forbes magazine (September 3 issue: "Fantasy Fears").
The line of Forbes' I like the best: "Scientists who arrive at an opposing conclusion (from Gore's) are ostracized and often denied grants. Universities won't hire them or, if they are already tenured, will make sure they don't get promoted." Any scientific critic of Darwinian theory can sympathize!
You can read or re-read Mary Ellen ("Melly") Gilder's original paper--"Good News, Mr. Gore, the Apocalypse Has Been Postponed"--on our site.
One motivation for writing the paper apparently was Melly's conviction that exaggerated or wrong scientific analyses could wind up hurting the world's poor, as happened with DDT studies relative to malaria forty years ago. Ms. Gilder's medical training and deep Christian faith has propelled her into medical missionary work in South East Asia in recent years, some of it in dangerous territory.
Not only is Melly Gilder intent on serving the needy and neglected, this lovely young woman clearly has the same kind of talent and trained writing skills as her father, George--and her mother, Cornelia Brooke Gilder, a distinguished historic preservationist who champions the remarkable built environment of the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts.
It bothers me to think that young atheists would be harassed by anyone, especially Christians. If that is why they need to go to "Atheist Camp" in the summer, it is a sad commentary.
Also, if young atheists don't want to say the Pledge of Allegiance, that is fine, too. I do wonder at people like a scientist at the Smithsonian who emailed a colleague that his son says "One nation under dog," instead of "under God." Can't he just leave it out, or leave the whole thing out?
So, if you know any young person who is intolerant of someone who is an atheist, help him or her to reconsider their attitude.
Of course, our experience is that young atheists are not intolerant of people of faith. But old atheists certainly are.
The following appears in the Summer 2007 Discovery Institute Views, our semi-annual newsletter for members.
You have been reading about Discovery Institute fellows on the front pages in recent weeks, as well as in op-ed articles, interviews and Internet blogs. In a few cases we have struck a chord across ideological lines, as with our Cascadia Center's promotion of plug-in hybrid autos. As a way to substantially lower dependence on foreign oil (or any oil), reduce air pollution and improve our economy, it has bi-partisan appeal. Whether you believe that human beings are primarily responsible for global warming, or not, you can agree on win-win strategies for energy conservation.
Interestingly, in happy cases like the plug-in hybrid car, the follow-on questions that have to do with process -- how do we achieve this policy we all support? -- are less contentious than they are for other public issues. Perhaps that is because the search for practical answers is one that simply doesn't raise peoples' temperatures. Rather, it's the clash of values that excites passions.
The Discovery mission has always been to "Make a positive vision of the future practical." The difficulties come these days with the vision, not with the practical solutions.
The published letters of Charles Darwin reveal a man who debated about design in a manner that seems "more tolerant and humble" than one encounters in the current debate, says Anthony Barnes in a book review in The Independent (U.K.). It could also be noted that Darwin was treated better by his critics 150 years ago than his followers--the dominant neo-Darwinists--treat their critics today.
Darwin himself obviously thought a lot about religion, but, like his successors, he had what seems like a rather puerile understanding of theology and philosophy. He told the American botanist Asa Gray that Darwin's own nose, which he considered large and unattractive, was evidence against design. "Will you honestly tell me that the shape of my nose was ordained and guided by an intelligent cause?" he chided Gray.
The existence of what appears to be sub-optimal design a sad argument that cannot be evaluated scientifically. There is nothing in the scientific question of design to suggest that the source of design had to have our particular understanding of optimal design in mind. What appears sub-optimal at one time (the appendix, for example, turns out later to have had serious functionality. Furthermore, considerations of beauty (noses, female girth, etc.) are often products of culture, not science. Flaws in nature, likewise, do not disprove design.
What a shame that Darwin's faith and his knowledge of philosophy was not up to the quality of his scientific inquiry.
(Cross-posted at Evolution News & Views)
Discovery Institute fights against the conceit that only a secularized culture can have a legitimate public life. Indeed, we would argue that people of serious religious perspectives not only have a full, long-recognized right to contribute to the leadership of political culture (broadly defined), but also that they often provide intellectual insights beyond the reach of the culturally deracinated secularist. In consequence of this stand we find ourselves described by foes on the Darwinist evolution debate as a "Christian" or "religious" think tank. That is really an ignorant, philistine description, though one that always amuses those Discovery fellows who are Jewish or non-religious.
We do weigh many issues in the scales of ethics that have been employed for centuries in the Judeo-Christian world. We do so without apology. The standards are sound even without reference to religion. In staking out this ground, we are constantly intrigued by a number of brilliantly edited magazines that look at politics and culture through a religious lens. The wonderful thing about such magazines as Touchstone, First Things, Crisis, World, Christianity Today and Commentary is that within their respective circles of writers, one actually finds more diversity of religious backgrounds--and more true tolerance--than, say, at The Nation or The New York Times magazine, and more relevance to lasting consequences of public policy than one encounters at certain increasingly rudderless conservative journals.
Commentary is an example that stands out in this group of magazines because its Jewishness is ethnic as much as religious, and because it has an utterly unique history and record of achievements. (One of our own senior fellows, David Berlinski, has been responsible for some of those achievements.) A new account of Commentary's history by Nathan Abrams obviously doesn't do the subject justice, if Benjamin Balint is to be believed. And my own familiarity with the magazine over the decades suggests that Balint is to be believed, indeed. His review of Abrams' book, running in the new issue of The Weekly Standard, has real authority.
Balint explicitly asserts that "Commentary showed that there is no contradiction between ethnic particularities and participation in the larger culture," and that the path to full participation need not fall into the trap of cultural relativism or "multiculturalism". Abrams apparently doesn't come close to grasping that point.
Overall, Balint's fine review suggests that the full story of one of America's most under-recognized cultural resources--Commentary magazine--has still to be written.