Joined: April 2005
I can’t locate it right now, but yesterday some reasonable commenter commented on the fact that we seem to let the creationists call the shots here. They start new threads, we react. They insist we “vote” on which full-or-crap argument they’re going to deign to defend, or we’re “cowardly” (however that logic works).
Well, I guess since the theme of the discussion board is “antievolution”, the fringe elements are justified in claiming more attention than they merit in the real world. Still, they need to be reminded that it’s their position that is universally rejected in the world of science, and that there are very sound reasons for that. Indeed, letting them make their case as fully as they can only serves to illustrate that journal editors and curriculum designers are more than justified in ignoring them.
But GoP, with his pretensions of expertise ranging from journalism to biology to physics, causes me to pause and ponder the bigger picture, which I sum up as Pseudointellectual Anti-intellectualism.
I recall back in college seeing a notice for some Campus Crusade for Christ lecture where they were going to disprove the notion that their movement was “anti-intellectual”. I had never really thought about it in those terms, but it struck me that that is exactly what they are, and that what they stand for is the very antithesis of what my concept of the university community was all about. Someone, as a joke I guess, had ordered me a subscription to wacko-fundamentalist Garner Ted Armstrong’s (Worldwide Church of God; Ambassador College) monthly rag, “The Plain Truth”, which used to rail about the arrogance and folly of substituting “man-made philosophy” for divine revelation (i.e. Garner Ted Armstrong’s reading of the Christian Bible). Neither the Campus Crusade in particular, nor fundamentalists in general (and I use the term broadly, including, e.g. “Muslim fundamentalists) have ever offered any evidence that even begins to dissuade me from the conclusion that, in fact, anti-intellectualism is the very core of their movement.
Back then, fundamentalists were fairly straightforward about their distrust of academia, science, and “man-made philosophy”. Reading “The Plain Truth” was sort of a glimpse at a mindset that might be caught on insomniac TV faith-healer shows (does anyone remember Kathryn Kuhlman?), but had very little to do with real life. At the time, I suppose Henry Morris and the “creation science” crowd were making their claims, but I never heard of anyone with a decent high school education, let alone a member of the university community, who regarded them as anything but a joke.
But now we’ve got the “intelligent design” movement – which, as was demonstrated quite convincingly at the Dover trial, is actually just rebranded creation science – claiming to beat the pointy-head professors at their own game. Here’s William Dembski, with his multiple graduate degrees, using impenetrable jargon to comfort the faithful with the illusion that their distrust of book-larnin’ and “man-made philosophies” was respectable and could be (trust him! proved with mathematical formulas. (Never mind the fact that David Wolpert characterized Dembski’s supposed development of his [i.e. Wolpert’s] “no free lunch theorems” as “written in jello”. Never mind the fact that no scientist, statistician, or mathematician has ever written a positive review of his work, excluding Jesus-oriented websites and such.)
It’s this “beating the pointy-head professors at their own game” gambit that I suggest sums up GhostGuy’s virtuoso sophistry, and I dub pseudo-intellectual anti-intellectualism. It works something like this. How many readers of, say, Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” or Brian Greene’s “The Fabric of the Cosmos” are in a position to critique the math behind the book? Not a lot. Based on the fact that their disciplines accord them a lot of credibility, we in the general public likewise assume that their attempts to explain really arcane subjects are not just some con game. Dembski, Behe et al. abuse this trust by presenting their degrees and university affiliations in lieu of the respect their academic disciplines do not accord them. (Again, witness Dover.) Posers like Ghosty go even further. No credentials of any sort; just internet blowhards professing to know more than the professors in, apparently, every discipline they’ve given a moment’s thought. All in the service either of bloated egos or their fundamentalist memes or both.
Our job here, the way I see it, is to expose the hollowness of their pretensions. Every “I just don’t have time to prove it right now”, as far as I’m concerned, is a concession of defeat. An absurd argument (geocentrism comes to mind) is not made any stronger by the claim that six other absurd arguments compete for defender's attention. Quite the contrary.
Just thought I’d say that.
Must... not... scratch... mosquito bite.