John G. West of the Discovery Institute wants all you conservatives to know that the Debate Over Evolution Not Going Away, and that you need to join up with his side and question “Darwinism”, because of all those intolerant nasty dogmatists who want to suppress the truth. You know, people like me.
Biology professor P. Z. Myers at the University of Minnesota, Morris, has demanded “the public firing and humiliation of some teachers” who express their doubts about Darwin. He further says, “It’s time for scientists to break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, and get out there and hammer on the lunatics and idiots.”
I’ve been over this before, but OK, one more time. I have no problem with doubts about Darwin; in my classes, I’ll even get explicit about where Darwin was completely wrong. So does West think I’m asking to be fired over that? Never, ever trust a Discovery Institute fellow when he starts chopping up quotes; here’s my comment in full. I still stand by it.
Yeah, I’m afraid the “civilized academic debate” was settled about a century ago. Scientists have been engaging in that ideal, non-militaristic fashion for quite some time, and still are — those discussions go on in the pages of the journals. Unfortunately, while we have been doing everything in the proper civilized way, the forces of ignorance have not; they have lied their way into considerable power.
Here I am, a biologist living in the 21st century in one of the richest countries in the world, and one of the two biology teachers in my kids’ high school is a creationist. Last year, the education commissioner in my state tried to subvert the recommendations for the state science standards by packing a hand-picked ‘minority report’ committee to push for required instruction in intelligent design creationism in our schools. All across the country, we have these lunatics trying to stuff pseudoscientific religious garbage into our schools and museums and zoos.
This is insane.
Please don’t try to tell me that you object to the tone of our complaints. Our only problem is that we aren’t martial enough, or vigorous enough, or loud enough, or angry enough. The only appropriate responses should involve some form of righteous fury, much butt-kicking, and the public firing and humiliation of some teachers, many schoolboard members, and vast numbers of sleazy far-right politicians.
Do not sit there placidly while lies and nonsense are being peddled to your kids; why aren’t you fighting back? I think my tone was spot on. What we have to do is get vocal and angry…and then these creationists come along and pretend to be all concerned and worried and fretful; “Oh, how can you be so mean?” they squeak, “We’re just trying to have a polite, civil discussion!”
No, they’re not. They’re trying to junk good science and replace it with religious ideology. Don’t let the smarmy smile fool you, they are like unscrupulous used car salesmen trying to snooker you into buying a POS crapmobile with shiny new sidewalls and an engine that’s going to burst into flames once you roll off the lot.
West is just trying to pretend that he’s the good guy, but seriously, when you read his plea you should smell the reek of greasy pomade and cheap cologne, see the glitter of his garish pinky ring, and hear the false promises of the carnival barker, the snake oil salesman, the sweaty revivalist promising eternity in the canvas tent. It’s all lies.
Whatever one’s personal view of Darwinism, the current atmosphere of intolerance is unhealthy for science, and it’s unhealthy for a free society.
Conservatives who are discomfited by the continuing debate over Darwin’s theory need to understand that it is not about to go away. It is not going away, because the accumulating discoveries of science undercut rather than confirm the claims of neo-Darwinism. It is not going away, because Darwinism fundamentally challenges the traditional Western understanding of human nature and the universe. Finally, it is not going away, because free people do not like to be told that there are some questions they are not allowed to ask and some answers they are not allowed to question.
If conservatives want to address root causes rather than just symptoms, they need to join the debate over Darwinism, not scorn it or ignore it.
West is not dealing with science; he’s got a game he’s playing, with this silly fake dogma of Darwinism against his god of the gaps. The DI does not address science, so his sanctimonious concern is phony.
He is correct that the creationists are not going to go away, but his reasons are all wrong.
Scientific discovery is not undercutting evolution, it’s reinforcing it. Molecular biology is not an anti-evolutionary discipline, nor is modern developmental biology, nor is ecology or genetics or systematics. In fact, there isn’t a single biological subdiscipline where the evidence is driving its members to argue against evolution.
His second argument might well be an appeal to conservative minds whose knees jerk at the thought of questioning traditional Western views, but it’s not an argument against science—it’s a naked appeal to an ideology. He could at least be upfront about it and admit that the reason to oppose evolution is that it makes fundamentalists, unquestioning evangelicals, and panderers to the religious right queasy. That, at least, is true.
There are no questions you aren’t allowed to ask or answers you can’t question. The simple truth is that the questions the DI asks have either been answered or are so damn stupid that they are bad questions, and the answers they question are backed up by evidence they’re too lazy or ignorant to refute.
The real reason that creationism is not going to go away is that there will always be a market for pious lies. So, yes, conservatives, if you want to address root causes, I recommend that you ignore the unctuous, self-serving swill that John West slathers over his pleas, and go straight to the real problem: the promoters of creationism don’t do science, have no scientific evidence, and ignore the evidence we do have for evolution. If you think the fact that some of us evolutionists are big, uncompromising meanies is reason to neglect a century and a half of detailed evidence, though, don’t lie to yourself and claim your concern is about the substance of the science.