Pig pile on Robert Bazell!

Bazell wrote an irritatingly obtuse commentary on Intelligent Design creationism, and I dawdled about expressing my dislike for it…but Tara and Orac and John Pieret and even non-scientific humorists (and I’m sure there are others I’ve missed) have all chimed in now, so you’d think I could just let it pass. But no! This is the blogosphere! We will all shout out our condemnations!

Bazell is not a complete idiot. He recognizes that evolution is and should be a serious component of a doctor’s education, and he is no supporter of Intelligent Design or any other brand of creationism. That’s all overshadowed by his opening premise, however.

Scientists should stop whining about threats to the teaching of evolution and spend more time discussing values.

What a weirdly askew declaration. Since others have already taken Bazell apart, I’ll just quickly mention the things that immediately popped into my head on reading that.

  • This is not a zero-sum game. That we should oppose the intrusion of religious dogma into the science curriculum does not mean that there is no room left in our brains for ethics. What Bazell is implying is that the people who oppose creationists have diminished values, compared to those high-minded folks like himself who do not trouble themselves with mere attempts to corrupt public school education, but instead think deep thoughts about whether they have accepted too many gifts from pharmaceutical companies.
  • Stick your “values” where the sun don’t shine. I hate to say this, but on this one thing I agree with George Will: “values” is a vacuous code word. When people say we should vote or discuss “values,” what they really mean is that they want direct, personal approbation for their opinions, no matter how shallow or wrong they are. As an atheist, I often encounter the attitude that only religious ideals count; by babbling about “values,” what they are trying to do is promote their own weird little ideas as superior to those of amoral, value-free godless people.
  • Fighting against creationism is fighting for values. I value excellent public education; I value reality-based policy making; I value the institutions and procedures of science. The creationists are making the most blatant, best-funded attack with the widest popular support directly on my values—it would be a denial of what I think is important to just ignore it. Bazell’s priorities (the expense of modern medical methods, the ethical compromises of gift-giving to doctors, and human experimentation) are real and certainly worth discussing and learning about, but personally, I think the concerted effort by creationists to screw up our children’s education is a more fundamental problem.


  1. says

    Don’t even try to figure it out. Why this lazy thinker is attacking the opponents of Intelligent Design is beyond me. I’ve already ranted about this nitwit on my blog and on others, and sent a response to MSNBC asking if Bazell was not concerned about such growing movements as the “fetal pain,” “abortion’s-link-to-breast-cancer,” “Terry-Schiavo-was-singing,” “cervical-cancer-vaccines-produce-loose-women,” and “HIV-doesn’t-cause-AIDS-in-heterosexuals” dunghill “science.” (That particular movement resulted in the death–from AIDS–of the founder’s young daughter.)

    It never ceases to amaze me how out of touch people are, for Bazell to simply dismiss the creationist beliefs of middle-class, surprisingly educated, suburban America as just belonging to a bunch of insignificant hillbillys with no power to screw up this country, and for him to be so cavalier about the consequences of these beliefs. Does Bazell think that superstitious beliefs don’t impact medicine? He must be a real fortunate dude, with plenty of dough to avoid the kind of doctors that I encountered and to send his son through medical school, and to live above the evolution/ID fray in his ivory tower.

  2. PaulC says

    Quoting myself from my Panda’s Thumb comment:

    The rhetorical goal of calling someone a whiner is very simple. A whiner is a weak-willed person who complains easily. You’re “challenging” them to be less weak-willed. Anyone dumb enough to fall for this sucker’s game will demonstrate their strength of will by shutting up, which is exactly what you were hoping they’d do.

    The ever-popular “whiner” meme has been bugging me for a while, and I think the above summarizes why. The title of Bazell’s article alone is sufficient reason to ignore it. He’s engaging in lazy, bully rhetoric. One man’s whining is another man’s valid grievance, whistleblowing, “speaking truth to power”, etc. Tell me what you think is wrong with fighting against intelligent design, but spare me your highly subjective view that it is “whining”–I’d have figured that one out. He would hardly have sunk any deeper if the title were “Dawkins: I don’t like his face.”

    Just because Bazell’s sick of hearing scientists complain about education under attack from fundamentalists is not sufficient grounds for scientists to shut up. If he has a valid criticism (and I actually did read it and didn’t notice one) then he can give his piece a reasonable title and reasonable people can take it seriously.

    I had a teacher in grade school who said she took points off of any essay that used the word “boring.” Unfair? I mean, some things really are boring after all. Her point was that it was so overused that it was a substitute for thinking about what you wanted to say. I would put “whiner” and “whining” in the same category. Some people really do whine, but if that’s the best you can come up with to say, then you’re not thinking.

  3. noahpoah says

    I don’t think Bazell’s use of the word “values” here is what George Will was criticizing. Although Bazell doesn’t elaborate on it, my impression was that he was thinking of “values” in much the same way you do in your third bullet, PZ. As you point out, he raises (but doesn’t delve into) some real issues in medicine.

    My biggest problem with the essay is that he doesn’t make anything you could call an argument. He seems to think creationism/ID is less important than a number of other issue facing medical professionals, but he doesn’t provide any reasons for the reader to agree (or disagree). He just states his opinion on the issue and leaves it at that. Boring.

  4. says

    Just because Bazell’s sick of hearing scientists complain about education under attack from fundamentalists is not sufficient grounds for scientists to shut up.

    Bazell should get to the root of the problem: Work to stop the fundamentalist attack, and he’ll hear the golden silence of us not complaining.

    Too bad he’s spending his time whining about our inability to do nothing while evil is busy trying to victorious.

  5. Steve LaBonne says

    Yawn, just another in the bazillions of instances of our brain-dead “news” media exhibiting what from now on I will refer to in honor of Tom Tomorrow as the sh*t sandwich syndrome.

  6. Steve LaBonne says

    Hey, why don’t hrefs work properly? (At least I can comment now so maybe I shouldn’t complain…)

  7. Bronze Dog says

    I always thought the phrase was ‘dog pile’…

    I considered throwing in my two cents, and now I have my appropriate canid reference, thanks to you. :)

    Steve: The formatting that works for me: [a href=”http://whatever.com”]Whatever[/a href] Remember both quotation marks in the opening tag, otherwise you just get blue text.

  8. Azkyroth says

    As I’ve said before:

    “You know what I hate? All the whining on the Internet. You know why? Because 90% of it is people whining about all the whining on the Internet.”

  9. Johnny Vector says

    Besides, what we’re doing isn’t whining, it’s bitching. There’s a big difference (I know this is true because I made it up myself).

    Whining is complaining to yourself, or to your best friend, neither of whom can do anything about the problem. Bitching is complaining to someone who can do something about it. In this case, school boards and other educators, judges, legislators, etc.

    So no, we’re not whining, thank you very much.

  10. sir_russ says

    Think this through a bit: the US is one of the most heavily churched-up countries in the world; those churches claim they teach morality; most US citizens claim to “believe” in the church stuff; and, before someone gets to medical school they should have been exposed to… what, maybe 20 years of church-based morality. Do they really need more, or is it safe to assume that the churches are complete failures when teaching morality?

    Is his article not an admission that Mr. Bazell himself was a failure in not addressing these issues well in advance of his childs’s medical school experience? What does it say when the moral aspects of a medical career are not raised – by family or faculty – until medical school commencement? With all of the advance planning required for medical school is it really the case that the moral issues are never considered? End-of-life, abortion, privacy, indigent care, birth control – are these critical issues neglected by the prospective MD and all of his mentors before and during medical school?

    My church-based experience is that they do not teach morality. They teach a check -off list of beatitudes, platitudes, and attitudes which they themselves then label “morality,” but they do not even come close to teaching a moral decision-making process that is applicable in people’s lives. For essentially all clergy, their time in the classroom and the pulpit is a complete waste, especially on the morality front – they are bored, boring and notably unadept at teaching morality.

    So, Bazell’s message is clear: by the time a person makes it to medical school they have had at least 20 years of exposure to parents, grandparents, teachers, clergy, friends, laypeople, television, Boy Scouts, among others, all of whom are failures at teaching moral decision-making, so we need to off-load it onto the science community. I for one think it is quite unlikely that “teaching morality” at such a late stage in ones life will have much effect.

    I’m an atheist – a complete materialist – and morality is very important to me. Children, from birth, should be taught proper moral decision-making processes that they can more generally apply in their regular and professional lives. A child’s life will be quite different from their parent’s lives so no list of dos and don’ts could possibly address the issues the child will face. They need a workable set of skills that will allow them to make decisions leading to lives of personal contentment and peace for themselves and others. Developing such skills starts long before a youth becomes a professional anything.

  11. G. Tingey says

    What is good Phaedrus, and what is not good?
    And do we need anyone to tell us these things?”

  12. ConcernedJoe says

    sir_russ absolutely an on spot, well said, comment. Thanks.

    I was reminded of when I taught Sunday school.

    Before we go further: yes, I was and am a full blown atheist; yes, I had complete license to teach what I wanted; no, I did NOT *attack* people or their beliefs, this was not an *anti-religion* class; yes, I remained consistent with my atheism and was not phony in any way.

    My wife and I thought our children should be exposed to religion, and for them to make some first hand observations and conclusions for themselves. So we choose and *joined* a *church* with our children.

    We wanted it to be a real learning experience. So I volunteered to do teaching and they accepted me even though it was obvious I was not the religious type (hey they were hard up at the time! and because I was not intending to be negative — just FACTUAL — I never mentioned the *A* word).

    I spent about 3 years having a lot of fun working with the children. I tried to impart a sense of real history, and an appreciation and understanding of *philosophies*, and a way to think things through and do situational analysis.

    I tried to give them some useful knowledge and tools. I had fun, and the kids seemed to like it as best kids can like schooling on their day off. BTW I often held class on a walk or playing an outdoor game.

    I hope, inadequate as I might have been as a teacher of children, that something stuck. You know — and not bragging — I bet it did in some small positive way.

    PS – bet you are guessing it was Unitarian! NO! Quaker. Mostly this Meeting had good, loving, thoughtful people. NONE of them *in your face* about Jesus/god in the least. Some BTW are like *us* re: this god thing. However the social principles of Friends holds them, and the church *family* and activities has its appeal.

  13. NatureSelectedMe says

    Noahpoah: He seems to think creationism/ID is less important than a number of other issue facing medical professionals, but he doesn’t provide any reasons for the reader to agree (or disagree).

    I’m baffled on how you can disagree with this assertion. You can’t think of any issues more important? If you can think of just one, then his premise is true. But since you sound like you disagree, that means you can’t think of any