Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Bush-Appointed Judge Who Traipsed Into Evolution

While I don't think of the politics of science as a particularly left vs. right issue, criticisms of neo-Darwinism and evolution are buffeted by mass character attacks and stereotyping that attempt to derail the debate by framing it all as Christian pseudoscience (arguing so largely by attacking the motivations of critics).  This body of method (the propaganda techniques) and madness (the virulent anti-religious hatred of many so-called Skeptics and Freethinkers and some liberal religionists) I refer to collectively as anticreationism.  Not because everything they attack is creationist (it would helpful if they had a consistent definition of such); it is so blindly reactionary that skeptics are called creationists and Jews and agnostics are called evangelicals.

Even Daniel Dennett has criticized the backlash to some extent, which is ironic, because he is one of the most openly derisive and reactionary, not only against religion but against anything that in his opinion stinks of the mystical and ineffable.  (Heil Science!)

Years ago I read a particular criticism of Rupert Sheldrake's morphogenic field theory of biology that compared him to Lamarckists and creationists, that is, lumping him in with epithets that readers of Nature and Science could safely dismiss as crackpots -- and by "safely" I mean "carelessly."

Coming across the nasty reaction of Thumbites to John West's criticism of Judge Jones decision, it seems there was so much incredulity about what West desrcibes as a reinvention of Jones as a conservative judge.   Here is what I recall:  Several years after his famous decision I was reading articles about it and was struck by how common place the phrase "Bush-appointed judge" came up.  So I googled the phrase.  Only that phrase.  At least 40% of the results seemed related to Judge Jones and his name-making decision.  If West was entirely wrong about people trying to insulate him from questions about what motivated his parroting of the ACLU brief by casting him as a far left, what was the significance (or relevance) of his being appointed by President Bush other than to try to associate him with American political conservatism and clear him of any political agenda?

What constitutes actual conservatism vs. actual liberalism is a much more complicated matter and is not germane to the demarcation problem of the philosophy of science, a topic that no single philosopher of science is equipped to answer for all of us, let alone a judge whose written decision shows a woeful ignorance of the topic. Since it was essentially written by a political special interest group, that much is not surprising. Nonetheless, Judge Jones' decision questions why anyone would be better equipped to decide the demarcation problem (with specific philosophical assumptions) for all of America (not just narrowly for the case at hand) than himself.

Whether he was appointed by Calvin Coolidge or Bill Clinton, ID advocates have criticisms against the merits of the decision, the rationale of the jurisprudence.  Aside from the reasoning and judging of the case, there are also other circumstances. If it is true that he really watched Inherit the Wind for historical context (or really intended to), that alone demonstrates a biased ignorance and silliness that makes one wonder why he was so adamant about construing the scope of his decision, and why he didn't take the time to come up with some original thinking for the case.  And that Jones would really be so obtuse as to fall for that bit of courtroom theater of stacking papers in front of Michael Behe, it is "breathtaking" that Jones actually speaks of "breathtaking inanity" in his decision.  That alone was itself breathtaking inanity.

Inherit the Wind is really not much more than anticreationist (and anti-religious) propaganda about a trial that is well-known to have been a publicity stunt.  Preparing for a landmark decision on the politics of evolutionary biology by consulting such a film seems to be either clownish buffoonery or ideological reveling. It's absurd.  His outrage against people that were very understandably worried about how local church support of anti-Darwinian education would be construed in a case that has cast a long shadow in the nation's politics.  Is it the outrage of his Excellency who balks at the idea that anyone would dissemble before the might of his federal authority, or is it rather the outrage of a freethinking ideologue who despises those who would threaten the sacred secularity of hallowed science?

Coercive science politics in America got a further boost from his Honor, as we inherited the wind of his political hot air.