Joined: May 2006
My Evening with the Discovery Institute - Part the Third
Note: My comments or editorials will appear in red.
John West - 7 Myths of the Darwin Debate
Myth 3 - ID proponents want to unify Church and state
> The Darwinists don't have much evidence is this is what they are reduced to arguing.
> He is offended! He wrote a book, The Politics of Revelation and Reason: Religion and Civic Life in the New Nation , published by the University Press of Kansas, that supports the separation of church and state, but makes the case for people of faith participating in civic life. As described, this is entirely uncontroversial. I am not aware of anyone serious that advocates the disenfranchisement of people of faith. Not even the ACLU, despite what folks like West would have you believe. See Ed Brayton's blog (link) for more on this.
> He accused Barbara Forrest of quotemining his book to make it look like he is a theocrat.
> That is it. The sum total of his defense against accusations that the DI are theocrats, as if the entire case of them being theocrats rests on a quote mine by Barbara Forrest. I think the case is a bit more complex than that and I would have liked to hear West justify the Discovery Institute's acceptance of significant funding from Howard Ahmanson, Jr.
> West's book actually looks interesting, although not particularly provocative. It's premise sounds similar to Jon Meacham's American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation, a book I tried to read last year but put down because it read like a series of Newsweek articles, addressing the topic too superficially. Anyone have a copy of West's book they'd be willing to lend me? I wouldn't mind testing his accusation against Forrest with my own read.
Myth 4 - ID proponents are motivated by religion, while Darwinists are motivated by a dispassionate search for truth
> Darwinists are hypocritical. 90% of people believe in God.
> Darwinists are motivated by evangelical atheism
> He plays a video of a bunch of
nerds scientists singing an anti-ID song. He likens it to a revival meeting.
> Dawkins (atheist!) is bad because he says religion is a great evil.
> Barbara Forrest (atheist!) - 90% of BF's schtick is to examine the motives of ID proponents, but refuses to answer questions about her own beliefs. A local Lousiana reporter asked her and she refused to answer, essentially telling him to MYOB.
> Michael Shermer (atheist!) - said that science was his savior and rescued him from religion.
> Eugenie Scott - she is agnostic or atheist. Don't really know because she answers differently. She signed the Humanist Manifesto.
> We need to look at their motives
> Breakdown of biologists in National Academy of Science
o 65% atheist
o 29% agnostic
o only 6% believers!
> 2003 survey of leading evolutionists by Cornell
o 87% don't believe in God
o 88% don't believe life after death
o 90% don't believe in directed evolution
> In retrospect, I don't see West's talk as necessarily about dispelling any myths. It seems more a talk building to a specific premise using the myths as MacGuffins. As the talk progressed, West became more animated in his speaking and he builds toward his premise. Myth 1 was, as advertised, about establishing there is a controversy. Myth 2 and 3 were about establishing the "nice cred" of ID proponents on one side of the controversy. In Myth 4 here, West turns his attention to demonizing Darwinists on the other side and continues that theme throughout. In the Q&A, I challenged him on this broad brush demonization and he backed away a little, but never really answered the question. But, we will get to that in due time.
> The tactic becomes clear here. As much as West objects to being characterized by equivalences, he is more than happy to engage in that himself. He reduces the entirety of evolutionary biology down to a few scary figureheads (Dawkins, Forrest, Scott, Shermer- atheists, one and all!) then takes them on. Here he ignores significant personalities like Miller, Ayala, Collins that are not atheists.(umm, I'm not implying that Wes Elsberry isn't a significant personality. Far from it. He does a yoeman's job fighting antievolutionism and (unlike West and Luskin) actually does real science. Also, he is our gracious benefactor here and we loves him. Mwwahhh.
It's natural to be curious about our world, but the scientific method is just one theory about how to best understand it. We live in a democracy, which means we should treat every theory equally. - Steven Colbert, I Am America (and So Can You!)