Monday, August 22, 2005

Safire On Origins of Origins Terms

I almost missed William Safire's On Language piece in the Sunday Times magazine on the origins of terms in the origins debate. The Times is doing a pretty good job of slamming the obscurantist "intelligent design is the same thing as creationism" poppycock.

He does not just comment on the well-know phrases, but brings up a neologism that the dogmatic Materialists hope will spin the debate in their direction:
To counter the ''sophisticated branding experts'' who flummoxed establishmentarian evolutionaries with intelligent design, opponents of classroom debate over Darwin's theory have come up with a catchily derisive neologism that lumps the modern I.D. advocates with religious fundamentalists: neo-creo. The rhyming label was coined on Aug. 17, 1999, by Philip Kitcher, professor of the philosophy of science at Columbia University, in a lively and lengthy online debate in Slate magazine with the abovementioned Phillip Johnson, professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley: ''Enter the neo-creos,'' Kitcher wrote. ''Scavenging the scientific literature, they take claims out of context and pretend that everything about evolution is controversial. . . . But it's all a big con.'' Johnson replied: ''I want to replace the culture war over evolution with a healthy, vigorous intellectual debate. The biggest obstacle is that the evolutionary scientists are genuinely baffled as to why everyone does not believe as they do. That is why they appear so dogmatic, and why they tend to slip into sarcasm and browbeating.''
Nobody is pretending that everything about evolution is controversial. I don't think "neo-creo" is going to catch on for one simple reason: the obscurantists are too intent on using the label "creationist" to support their false claim that the new challengers are no different than the folks who were arguing for Creation Science back in the 80's.

He spends most of his time quoting others, without taking positions. But he seems to give a nod of approval to teaching the controversy by closing with this:
I will leave the last word on this old controversy with its new phraseology to the neuroscientist Leon Cooper, a Nobel laureate at Brown University. He tells all of today's red-faced disputants: ''If we could all lighten up a bit perhaps, we could have some fun in the classroom discussing the evidence and the proposed explanations -- just as we do at scientific conferences.''
This is fun, isn't it?


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