Friday, September 5, 2014

Randy Olson's Flock of Anti-Creationist Statism

Early in his documentary Flock of Dodos, Olson starts framing the controversy as a red/blue political issue, and his entire presentation taken as a whole seems to emotively suggest an equation: ID = Creationism = Fundamentalism = Conservatism = G.W. Bush, actually promoting the divide that he is supposedly reporting on objectively.  Olson seems to go out of his way to make these impressions, at one point having the camera lingering dramatically on a picture of G.W. Bush in case the viewers haven't yet associated evolution skepticism with the political divide.  Early in his presentation, he suggests that there was a time that the U.S. was "red white, and blue" before dividing into just "red and blue" states.  A previous post earlier this year concerned the political significance of the phrase "Bush-appointed judge"; Olson uses the phrasing "Bush appointee" to denote the plagiaristic Judge Jones.  He also manages guilt-by-association (see here and here) in linking a bunch of divisive social issues to the Discovery Institute via a "tree" analogy used in the notorious "Wedge Document," and neatly avoids the question on whether the Institute takes a stand on any of these these issues.

An important nuance that is lost on most anticreationists like Olson and most of the poker-playing evolutionary Ph.D.s who rail polysyllabically against the theocratic bogeymen is that the neo-Darwinist guardians of truth are the ones who have successfully used federal power to silence opposition and criticism.  And yet one of these poker-playing Darwinists opines dramatically and righteously that allowing students to be misled in school threatens "the foundations of democracy."  It would seem that, if true, this would mean that democracy is best served by presenting evidence for and against.

Olson presents as a sort of cynical stratagem the idea that the "teach the controversy" approach has its roots in liberal ideas of pluralism and multiculturalism (which probably motivate John Angus Campbell).  Olson, on this point and others, shows his alignment with the Barbara Forrest's "trojan horse" conspiratorial propaganda (see Luskin's Salvo response), which is also set up by his colleagues' concepts of Evolutionary Wars EWI and EWII, in which a town school board embraces Intelligent Design after federal intervention in squelching creationist material (or so Flock states).  Yet, he never questions nor presents questions on whether there is something inherently authoritarian about centralized government control (guided, naturally, by the poker-playing elite) of what parents choose their children to learn as science.  But this is nothing new to the "pro-science" lobby.

Noteworthy in the movie is that Olson claims that he would have liked to have debated two of his interviewees about evolution but that they weren't sufficiently knowledgeable.  Yet, he never fires his challenges at Dr. Michael Behe.  ("What scientific data supports these concepts, Dr. Behe?" is never heard.)  While the film admits that Behe believes generally in macro-evolution and common descent, evolutionary ecologist Randy Olson is content to leave off the interview with the Mount Rushmore analogy, as though that represents the totality of ID concepts.  He doesn't present Behe with any criticisms to the mousetrap analogy, which should be a pretty simple exercise for someone as steeped in evolutionary science as Olson.  Maybe Olson was afraid of "looking like a dodo."  In fact, Mount Rushmore is the strawman on which Olson will base the film's summary of ID: that it is a concpet that never gets past the subjective to the quantitative.  To do this, he presents Behe as somehow the leading scientific figure in ID (curiously, an evolutionist who is ironically is representative of the what Olson depicts as a fundie conservative "anti-evolution" bloc).

Would it not have been extremely informative if Olson would have interviewed Behe (or someone else) who could have answered how Behe's concept of "irreducible complexity" relates to Dembski's concept of "design inferences"?   Aside from confining ID to Mount Rushmore-esque impressions, Olson interviews Dr. Jonathan Wells about one aspect (I'll discuss this grievance in a later post) of the one book mentioned that doesn't even discuss the merits of Intelligent Design.  Icons of Evolution is focused on the simplistic, flimsy, and misleading teachings that "explain" the Modern Synthesis to unknowing students.  It is an important book because many "pro-science" advocates state that ID is unimportant to consider because of all the things neatly explained already by the Modern Synthesis.  But it begs the question why Olson avoids any meat of ID theorists before he announces his verdict.

No comments:

Post a Comment