I thought I smelled something foul…John West is coming to Minnesota

As fellow Minnesotan Greg Laden warns, we’re getting a visit from another dishonest hack of the Discovery Institute, John West. On Friday, 30 November, at 7:00 in Room 155, Nicholson Hall on the UM campus. I may just have to stop by. He’s going to be babbling about an extended argumentum ad consequentiam: “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: The Disturbing Legacy of America’s Eugenics Crusade”. Yeah, once again, we’re going to be told that reality is dehumanizing.

One thing that greatly peeves me is the sponsoring organization. This is a parasitic religious organization that sucks leechlike on academia: the MacLaurin Institute. I despise those guys. They were also responsible for bringing Behe to talk on campus — that kind of rot is what they bring to the university.

I do like the honesty of their motto, though. Here comes John West, representative of the ‘secular’ Discovery Institute, under the imprimatur of an organization with the goal of…

Bringing God into the marketplace of ideas by
communicating the Christian worldview
with its transforming potential.

Right. Bringing lies to our students certainly does have transforming potential, only I wouldn’t be proud of it.


  1. says

    So if you do go, are you going to get into a debate with this guy or just listen to what he has to say?

    Larry Moran recently posted on how frustrating the first option can turn out to be.

  2. says

    “Bringing God INTO the marketplace of ideas…” For centuries West’s God was the only idea allowed! I guess it’s progress that I haven’t been drawn and quartered or burned at the stake.

  3. waldteufel says

    “This is a parasitic religious organization that sucks leechlike on academia. . .”

    One might expand that thought a bit: Religion has been sucking leechlike on humanity every time it has achieved a toe-hold in any society.

  4. says

    Ahhh, John C. West, quoted in the Deseret News in Utah as saying that Minnesota’s standards favor teaching Critical Analysis of Evolution. I traded voice-mails with him, I told him he was wrong, he told me he was right.

    I may go to capture the spectacle, but I am not likely to join the fray at the Q&A. I hope it is at least entertaining enough to be able to sit through any bloody prayers they may tell.

  5. Julius says

    Carl (#2): It’s just Christian Persecution Complex again, isn’t it? That phenomenon has been annoying me for quite a while, certainly since before I really started taking much of an interest, reading blogs like this one and all…

  6. SEF says

    Well I started typing first! I just ran afoul of some strange weirdness with accidentally hitting the @/’ key which then took me over to preview (probably to tell me I hadn’t put an email address in).

  7. TomS says

    A few things that I would like to hear about from the creationists who try to connect Darwin to eugenics, or any of those other social/political movements of the early 20th century.

    1. Creationists often insist on telling us that they accept evolution within a “kind”. Eugenics is only concerned with “mankind”.

    2. Eugenics is concerned that natural selection is not enough. Just like the creationists, the eugenicists believe that intelligent, purposeful action is needed to help it along. They were not darwinians, but rather antidarwinian. The early 20th century was the era known as “the eclipse of darwinism”, in part because of the lack of acceptance of the productivity of natural selection.

  8. says

    So, what exactly is the ‘Christian worldview’? God hates fags? Lying to kids is A-Okay? Bigotry and hate will keep us safe from evil Ay-rabs? Fetuses must be kept alive at all costs, but once they’re born, fuck ’em for living in the ghetto because God hates social programs? It’s far better for millions of Africans to die from AIDS than it is for one teen to buy a condom as part of a harm-reduction strategy?

    Gosh, there are just so many winning ideas there. How the world could have possibly survived for so long without God in the marketplace of ideas is beyond me.

  9. Loren Petrich says

    I wonder if the fundies would object to eugenics measures that would produce results convenient for them. Results like:

    * Reducing people’s curiosity.

    * Making people more rigidly dogmatic in their beliefs.

    * Getting rid of genetic tendencies for homosexuality.

    * Reducing people’s sex drives, especially in women.

    * Making people meek and submissive and possibly even mentally deficient, especially women. I’m thinking of something like the Kzinti of Larry Niven’s stories, the male ones of which bred the female ones to be nonsentient.

    Some of these features may be difficult to produce from the existing range of human genetic variation; those features may require genetic engineering. Even so, would they object to such genetic engineering?

  10. T_U_T says

    petrich : This could be done quite easily So, please, keep such thoughts for yourself, unless you really want all liberals to be wiped out and the rest of humans to be transformed into fundy zombies.

  11. Sampo Rassi says

    “Transforming potential” sounds kind of eerie. I bet you could make a great catchphrase or an ad campaign on it.

    “Christianity! Transforming heretics and dissidents to burned corpses since 0AD!”


    “Christianity! Transforming mind to mush near-instantly!”

  12. says

    Hmm. Too bad Caledonian’s not around to read your paper, T_U_T.

    I wonder how he’d react to the idea that his attitudes about the genetically-determined intelligence of blacks might be themselves genetically determined.

    And since I disagree with my trog father on almost every issue, I suppose this is further evidence that I am the mailman’s kid.

  13. Kagehi says

    The problem of course with breeding to make one sex stupid is that the Kzinti picked the wrong sex (presuming their genetics work anything like ours). There is an article here on the subject:


    What it seems to be saying is that while the solid, mostly unchanging, code may exist in both gene sets, much of the rapidly changing bits, which would include nearly anything you might *breed* for, like intelligence levels, happen on the X Chromosome. So, if you breed to try to produce dumb females, you get idiot males (since they will likely ***always*** express the dumb gene, while women may or may not, depending on how many copies they have). Same with lowered sex drives, gullibility, or anything else some moron might want to tweak. It would be Eugenics creating the world from the movie Idiocracy (which wouldn’t be a big surprise, given that idiocracy is probably pretty close to what you have with theocracy).

  14. raven says

    Maybe the Kzin have heterogametic females. Many vertebrates seem to have females as heterogametic. The talk about breeding dumb humans deliberately is old hat. Huxly wrote about it in Brave New World. The betas, gammas and deltas were phenocopies but the idea is the same. I sometimes think the fundies just pith their kids at birth.

    Some abo tribes used to flatten the heads of their infants with a board for cosmetic reasons. Some think that crowding the frontal lobes might have had effects on cognitive abilities.

    In vertebrates, the heterogametic sex is male in mammals whereas in birds it is female. The other lower vertebrates such as reptiles, amphibians, and fishes have both types; the type may differ between species or any larger taxonomic groups. In Amphibia, female heterogamety is assumed to have evolved first, because the morphologically primitive species are most commonly heterogametic in females. Male heterogamety is thought to have appeared later at certain evolutionary branching points and quite rarely to have reversed back again to females (HILLIS and GREEN 1990 ).

  15. Loren Petrich says

    Kagehi, I disagree. The way that you would do it is to exploit the way that the sexes grow different sex organs and different secondary sexual characteristics from the same precursor organs. Some body parts grow bigger in men, and some body parts grow bigger in women, which suggests that the genes involved in producing these features must have some “gender switches” in their regulators.

    And since several genetic conditions are known to cause mental retardation, it may be possible to add “gender switches” to the regulators of some genes involved in brain growth and brain function for the purpose of making one sex mentally retarded relative to the other sex. And the same can be said for whatever genes contribute to assertiveness, curiosity, mental flexibility, sex drive, etc.

  16. T_U_T says

    Nope guys, they would simply select for more sexual brain dimorphism. Make it more extreme, shift the middle point so that and only males get anything near a normal brain. And voila ! males with IQ only slightly reduced and completely retarded females are born.
    Just as I have said. Too scary stuf because it could be done too easily.

  17. liveparadox says

    @#22: there isn’t enough room on the Y chromosome to encode that, I suspect… And it would have to be, since it’s the only chromosome males get that females don’t.

  18. says

    Curse fundamentalism! They probably wouldn’t even understand that they were reducing the sexiness factor of women beyond all recognition. T_T

  19. says

    I wonder why the fundies never think of socio-economic status, which children inherit by chance from their parents, as a eugenics program. Having money for health care, food, education, etc., or not – what could be more eugenics-oriented than that? One Republican senator whose name escapes me whined during the Terri Sciavo farce, “We don’t refuse medical care to our poor.” The flipping hell we don’t!

    What about that?

  20. says

    So, what exactly is the ‘Christian worldview’? God hates fags? Lying to kids is A-Okay? Bigotry and hate will keep us safe from evil Ay-rabs? Fetuses must be kept alive at all costs, but once they’re born, fuck ’em for living in the ghetto because God hates social programs? It’s far better for millions of Africans to die from AIDS than it is for one teen to buy a condom as part of a harm-reduction strategy?

    Sounds like my relatives.

  21. Rick Schauer says

    To help make it easier for you to attend West’s talk, PZ…I’ll sponsor a Pharyngula Fellowship event at the UM Campus Club.

    I’m talking free-beer and munchies to you and any other Pharyngulaites reading this from 5:30-6:45 at the Club. We then all walk from Coffmann to Nicholson and confront the poor sap in unison. We’ll make more plans as time passes.

  22. says

    Isn’t there a law that says, “An idea is not responsible for the people who believe in it?” John West is refuted, just like that. Esp. if you can work in that Hitler was a devout Christian in his own eyes.

  23. Zeratul says

    Bringing DOG into the marketplace of ideas by communicating the Christian worldview with its transforming potential… :-D

  24. TomS says

    For Monado, while I agree with your point, I suggest that we not be too quick to accept that these various social/political movements of the early 20th century made use of darwinian ideas. They were largely non-darwinian lamarckians.

  25. says

    I don’t accept that eugenics was Darwinian. I suspect they were mostly a conservative, blame-the-victim attitude: “I’m at the top, the cream rises to the top, I’m successful because of my virtues, we need more people like me and less like them.” Especially since poverty and chronic illness (hunger, cold, vitamin deficiencies, parasites) went hand in hand, thus proving that poor folks were lazy.