It’s not enough to be just an anti-creationist

I am not going to praise John Derbyshire; some people seem to be impressed because he has penned a dismissal of the ID creationists, but jebus, that ought to be the absolute rock bottom minimum we should expect from rationalists. That he can clear a hurdle set one inch above the ground does not impress me in the slightest.

Furthermore, he couldn’t spit it out without saying something stupid.

As it turned out, Judge Jones is a conservative in the right way, the best way: he respects the law, and the plain rules of evidence.

Think about that. Respect for law and evidence is not a property exclusive or intrinsic to conservatives. Does he think liberals believe in violating the law and ignoring the evidence (don’t bother to answer; he probably does.) I’m not dazzled by a wingnut who manages to see the obvious but is still burdened with the usual far right nonsense.

(via Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub)


  1. doctorgoo says

    As it turned out, Judge Jones is a conservative in the right way, the best way: he respects the law, and the plain rules of evidence.

    I read this a different way than PZ does. To me, he’s saying that conservatives who make decisions strictly based on religion (which is the only way Jones could have decided the other way) are wrong, and that real conservatives use their brains.

  2. Caledonian says

    But conservatism historically has been associated with retaining the traditionally-understood interpretation of laws while ‘liberality’ frequently demands radical reinterpretation of law – not necessarily without due cause, but intention is irrelevant to the definition.

  3. doctorgoo says

    Judges are supposed to use their brains, whether they’re liberal or conservative.

    Exactly. He’s criticizing those who think that he should have followed the Christian Right Party line. I think you’re reading too much into it if you think he’s taking a crack at liberal judges.

    he can clear a hurdle set one inch above the ground does not impress me in the slightest.

    Yea, it doesn’t really impress me either, except for the fact that he’s one of a few conservatives who, like Jones, can see through all of the DI’s BS.

    But if a conservative voice like his, in a conservative magazine with conservative readers can convince a few uber-conservatives to not support the DI, then I think we can all consider it at least a minor victory.

  4. Observer says

    It seems that when the statement stands alone it is ambiguous, and if you replaced “best” with “worst” a conservative would be yelling, but in the context I read I don’t see a problem here especially considering his audience, as Doctorgoo said.

  5. Chinmaya Sheth says

    I would also protest the obvious implication that conservatism holds law and evidence more sacred. And the best response to his concern for how many people celebrate Kwanzaa would be: its none of your business.
    Happy New Year to All!

  6. says

    I don’t think we ought to get all gushy about Derbyshire, either — there is exactly one item in that column where I’m comfortable that he got the issues right.

    I’m happy to see someone at National Review using his brain, however, and I wanted to give him credit for that — you know, encourage him to do the same.

    While I often disagreed with Bill Buckley, generally he had good reasons for his views, and he was open to changing his mind on some issues. He understood (and to great extent still does) the use of evidence and logic. And when he got thumped in a discussion, he’d smile about having learned something, and go on. That’s not what I see at conservative publications today, especially National Review. Human Events has lost any intellectual appeal it once had (Tom Winter, what’s gotten into you? Ann Coulter? Is that up to the standards of the authors of 1976? Would you have allowed a plagiarist to keep going, back then?)

    But you’re absolutely right, P.Z., that rational decisions is the least we should expect from all judges, liberal, conservative, in the middle, or all over the map.

    I’m dazzled that any one of the brand of wingnuts over there now manages to see the obvious.

    I got to that piece almost directly from commenting on a little contretemps over at the blog of Rick and Nancy Pearcey. Probably 20 times in the past year I’ve had someone I know through church recommend her book, Total Truth to me. Each time I explain that the book is a crock, and I offer examples. She’s highly respected by most Christians. So I was surprised to see her husband and her “plagiarize” the article from WorldNet Daily on the DI’s shameful slam on Judge Jones, and I called them on it — they have so far pulled a Dembski, refusing to put my post up at their blog.

    In contrast, Derbyshire gets his science almost right.

    So my compliments to Derbyshire might be seen as a ‘been so far down so long that it looks like up to me’ type of praise.

    Calling them idiots doesn’t get them to change. Can I try a little honey this once?

    Judges are supposed to use their brains, yes. What does it say about IDists that they crowed in advance about the political pull they had that would compromise the judge’s decision? Things worked as they were supposed to. Smart conservative writers are supposed to recognize evolution is solid theory (as Bill Bennett used to, when he wrote suggested curricula for public schools back in 1987). What’s unique isn’t that Judge Jones is an honorable judge — what’s unique in this case is that Derbyshire is defending him for it.

    I must admit, though, that I debated that one just a little. Maybe I should have been critical of him, so his wacko conservative homeys wouldn’t be suspicious. Sorta like when Bill Brock was nominated for Secretary of Labor in the Reagan administration. He was an old friend of AFL-CIO president Lane Kirkland. When Kirkland heard Brock had the nomination, only partly tongue-in-cheek he called Brock and wished him luck, and pledged to do what he could to get Brock confirmed. “What do you want me to do to help out?” Kirkland asked: “Should I commend or condemn you?”

  7. CL says

    I’m with observer and doctorgoo. I think you’re reading too much into that specific statement, PZ.

  8. mndean says

    Buckley, having good reasons for his views? Then why was he against the Civil Rights Act, and civil rights for black Americans in general? That he may have modified his views shows no measure of greatness, or even goodness, just the ability to swim with the tide.

  9. says

    Think about that. Respect for law and evidence is not a property exclusive or intrinsic to conservatives. Does he think liberals believe in violating the law and ignoring the evidence

    Well, traditionally there was a rather vocal subset of the left who believed that law and order are tools of “The Man” and delighted in breaking the law — think of Abbie Hoffman’s suggestions in “Steal This Book”.

    But true, ever since hippies morphed into yuppies who suddenly had property of their own that they wanted to defend, pretty much the only defenders of the Hoffman ideology have been students.

  10. Russell says

    The problem is that “conservative” and “liberal” each have a broad range of meaning, some overlapping, and those at different points in the spread try to stake out territory for their side. These days, following the rise of the religious right and George Bush, a conservative like Derbyshire who rejects fundamentalist religion can feel distinctly out of place. As to Badger’s comments about Abbie Hoffman, I tend to distinguish that as “the Left,” as distinct from “liberal,” terms that also overlap but are not identical.

  11. Russell says

    Where Derbyshire shows his irrationality is where he calls Kwanzaa “bogus.” I’ve seen other conservatives label it artificial. The stupidity here is that all holidays are artificial. All traditions, too. It is no more a slur against a holiday to call it made up, than it is against a word to say that someone coined it. Well, of course. That is how words and holidays get made.

    Kwanzaa may be many things, and people may choose to celebrate it or not because of what it is. But labeling it “bogus” or “artificial” simply displays the unthinking and fallacious conservative tendency to view what was invented a millenium ago is somehow less artificial than what was invented yesterday, or worse, to forget that the traditions they revere also are contrivance.

  12. Graculus says

    “We must never forget that the Rule of Law is not a conservative or a liberal value. It is assuredly not a Republican or Democratic value.” – Judge John E Jones III, February 10, 2006, speech to the ADL.

  13. says

    …and that real conservatives use their brains.

    That’s the worst part of Derbyshire’s statement. He’s simply being part of the push (ever since it became obvious that the Republicans were going down in flames in the elections) to claim that all these Republicans, and their policies, were not “true” conservatives. Then the writer can claim that it’s perfectly okay to vote for conservatives next time, because, no, they didn’t screw up; no, their policies weren’t tried and failed; no, no, no! Those people were not “true” conservatives.

    Don’t be a chump and let them get away with this BS. They’re trying to saddle us with future nutcases, just as Gerald Ford did with his pardon of Nixon — “cut ’em lose and demonize ’em, then run against them” — that’s how we got Reagan and GHW Bush, and that of course led to GW Bush.

  14. Pieter B says

    Derbyshire also wrote, in his first graf,

    Perhaps the stupid and insipid “Happy Holidays” is being laughed out of existence at last.

    Has he forgotten that a song by that name was written by Irving Berlin for the musical Holiday Inn in 1942? It was somewhat overshadowed by “White Christmas,” but Der Bingle sold many a record with both tunes on it.

  15. Mike says

    I’m going to have to defend Derbyshire as well – I’ve read his columns on I.D. and he has some of the best put downs for these clowns I’ve ever come across e.g. “What has the Discovery Institute ever discovered?”

    He doesn’t hesitate to call them what they are – con artists and liars…

    More importantly is the fact he isn’t preaching to the choir – he’s in the belly of the beast telling the conservatives & right wingers the truth about the creationists/I.D. crowd…for some of his readers I suspect Derbyshire may be the only voice of sanity they come across on this issue.

  16. says

    No. Judges are supposed to use their brains, whether they’re liberal or conservative.

    I don’t think that captures the essence of what judges are supposed to do either. Even the whackiest decision is the result of them using their brains, albeit badly. What they’re supposed to do is use logical reasoning to reach decisions, based on applicable law and admissible evidence and consistent with relevant precedent.

    What’s most amusing about Judge Jones is that the Creationists were delighted to get a conservative Christian Bush-appointee, then he rendered his verdict and suddenly became a “liberal activist Judge”. They expected him to be biased, were disappointed when he wasn’t, then projected their own bias onto him.