Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Anticreationism from Stephen Jay Gould

In his Non-Overlapping Magisteria (I can't help but think of this phrase when watching The Golden Compass) Stephen Jay Gould claims "creationism" -- and one naturally thinks he has in mind specifically what he heroically opposed in McLean vs. Arkansas -- "a splinter movement (unfortunately rather more of a beam these days) of Protestant fundamentalists who believe that every word of the Bible must be literally true."

Phillip Johnson considered this proposed treaty between "magisteria" as disingenuous.  While I won't speculate here about Gould's motives, I do think most of the reasoning behind the idea of non-overlapping magisteria (which despite Gould's framing of the problem surely wasn't first thought of by him) does seem a little disingenuous to me.

More importantly though, you'll notice that whomever the initial supporters/advocates were in this land where Protestant fundamentalism is more than a mere footnote in its history, ID advocates (including those that advocate against this outlawing of ID) include more than Protestant fundamentalists.  As far as I know, neither Michael Behe nor Jonathan Wells nor David Berlinski nor David Klinghoffer nor Richard Sternberg are Protestant fundamentalists.

It's important to realize, however, that anticreationists believe that if the intelligent design movement evolved out of the creation science movement to any significant degree (Of Pandas and People is the important missing link fossil for the Barbara Forrests) then it has to classified as the same movement with the same pros and cons, the same limitations and problems, with all the same ideological grounds.   All one has to do is look into Eugenie Scott's treatment of Richard Sternberg to see this.  Or to look into the latest edition of Why People Believe Weird Things to see how Michael Shermer has updated his section on creationism to mention "intelligent design" as a new form of creationism and most of his criticisms of creationism have no bearing at all on intelligent design.  (I believe the ones that do have some sort of bearing are --as stated--strawman arguments or weakly applied to ID, but they could at least be developed in some way; the others are complete non sequiturs.)  But it's important to take evolutionist Michael Behe and pin a Duane Gish nametag to his chest and continue the debate from there.

Otherwise, what is the point of trying to discredit intelligent design with the guilt by association argument.  Association with Protestant fundamentalism.  If most people who find the courage to speak out against a sketchy scientific program -- in the face of great risk to their careers -- happen to do so because of a matter of faith, why does that become legal grounds for invalidating a cause?
Justice Scalia has a reputation for throwing attorneys off-balance with elaborate hypothetical questions. True to form, he posed for Topkis a long hypothetical question—for the purpose, presumably, of demonstrating that a law could have a religious motivation and yet be constitutional. “Let’s assume,” he began, “that there is an ancient history professor…who has been teaching that the Roman Empire did not extend to the southern shore of the Mediterranean in the first century A.D. And let’s assume a group of Protestants who are concerned about that fact, inasmuch as it makes it seem that the Biblical story of the crucifixion has [the] thing a bit wrong.” Concluding his story, Scalia tells Topkis that the upset students march “to the principal of the school, and say, ‘This history teacher is teaching what is just falsehood.’ And the principal says, ‘Gee, you’re right.’ And he goes and directs the teacher to teach that Rome was on the southern shore of the Mediterranean in the first century A.D.” The principal’s order was “clearly” religiously motivated, Scalia asserted, but wouldn’t it also, he asked, be constitutional?
Sometimes the only ones that will put up much of a fight are those who have a big stake in the outcome.  In spite of our First Amendment (and ironically, using an odd interpretation of it), those who have such a stake are often denied a voice precisely because of that stake.  Hmmm.

I think skepticism against Darwinism is nonetheless gaining momentum outside the Protestant faithful.  Thomas Nagel, a leading atheist philosopher, has joined the ranks of the secular creationists:
I realize that such doubts [about Darwinian naturalism] will strike many people as outrageous, but that is because almost everyone in our secular culture has been browbeaten into regarding the reductive research program as sacrosanct, on the ground that anything else would not be science.
No kidding.  In his Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False, Nagel has joined this mystical splinter cult of Protestant fundamentalism. He's even made given a "pernicious" and "dangerous" commendation to some of the intelligent design advocates at Discovery Institute.  One of the many who pretend to not be a Protestant fundamentalist in order to "mainstream" a thinly disguised form of Biblical literalism.

Can you say "bugaboo," kids?  I knew you could.  

Coyne also bizarrely characterizes Berlinski as a “creationist,” and a “defender” of Intelligent Design theory. In fact, he is neither. The notion that Berlinski is a “creationist” is nothing short of laughable and while “sympathetic” to ID, he is by no means an advocate of the theory, much to the chagrin of his colleagues at the Discovery Institute. 
Moshe Averick

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