Not all my mail is from cranks and ravers; I actually get some nice and friendly and interesting mail, too. Like this one, from Hank Alme, who asks a good question:
To what extent does intellectual honesty require me to also read guys like Behe and Dembski, and to understand their arguments?
That’s an easy one: intellectual honesty doesn’t require that you read any of their crap. One of their great successes is that they’ve managed to convince many people that it’s only fair to read their books, often reading them instead of good science. It’s not true! You are far better off reading a solid science text than wasting it on their drivel.
The only reason to read any of their work is not because it’s the honest thing to do—if we carried that reasoning to its logical conclusion, I’ve got a library of stuff you need to read first—but because it will prepare you better to deal with their arguments. It takes the edge off that first moment of shock, when they say something so awesomely stupid that you find it incredible that anyone would even suggest such a thing. I’ve experienced that moment: your eyes focus on infinity, your lips move involuntarily as you try to parse the absurdity, your brain spins its wheels for a while as you mentally downshift, trying to get yourself in the proper frame of mind to handle the curious words of the deranged person in front of you. Otherwise, though, there isn’t much point to wading through the dreck.
So no, don’t read Behe and Dembski. Read Carroll and Dawkins and Gould. Understanding the science is all the preparation you need.
By the way, I’ve noticed that commenting is way down. It could be you’re all bored with me, or that it’s my fault since I’ve been distracted with grading and exam preparation, or most worrisome, the TypeKey requirement has stymied potential commenters, or at least discouraged them. Let me know if there’s a problem— the comments contribute much to the site, and I’d hate to see them chased away.