Friday, November 11, 2005

New York Times: Still Beating the Fundamentalist Drum

The New York Times has an article on a new exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History on the life and theories of Charles Darwin. It contains a mantra that has appeared in many Times articles in the recent past:
And though there is no credible scientific support for this position, President Bush, when asked in August about evolution and intelligent design, said that "both sides ought to be properly taught."

This is a variation on Cornelia's Creed, which I have discussed several times previously. It is blatant fundamentalist reporting to state in a news article that there is "no credible scientific support" for intelligent design. A good journalist would have said something factual like "a majority of scientists do not accept the theory of intelligent design." It is well established that some scientists do hold that there is credible scientific support for the theory, and that there are significant problems with macroevolutionary theory. Yet the Times chooses to editorialize in a news article that the evidence cited by such scientists is incredible. Do we even know how many of the scientists who disagree with intelligent design also believe that there is no scientific support for it at all? The writer tries to stifle the opposition by pretending that it is not there, which is a form of obscurantism. Hasn't the Times learned anything after its recent embarrassments? As I have noted previously, the Times seems to think that a whole group of scientists doesn't even exist.

The article also contains this:
The exhibition mentions intelligent design not as science, or as a theory to be debated, but as a form of creationism, which offers the biblical view that God created the earth and its creatures fully formed within the last 10,000 years. In 1987 the Supreme Court ruled that creationism is a religious belief that cannot be taught in public schools.
So it appears (even though the author has shown himself to be unreliable) that the museum has opted for the strategy of misrepresenting the opposing point of view rather than addressing it on the merits. It takes a pretty small mind not to see the obvious differences between intelligent design theory and creationism based on the Bible. Here, let me help: intelligent design appeals only to scientific evidence for its support; creationism appeals to the Bible and scientific evidence. See any meaningful distinction there? The failure to acknowledge this difference is a form of bigotry, pure and simple. Such a position is akin to saying, "All evolutionists are atheists." Both positions are false and asserting them is morally reprehensible. Why is the museum so willing to take such a position? Is it really so afraid to deal with intelligent design accurately and on the merits, like it did in one of the issues of Natural History?

The question now seems to be: Is there any credible support for the proposition that the New York Times is a reliable source of information?


At November 11, 2005 4:45 PM, Blogger stewie said...

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At November 11, 2005 7:30 PM, Blogger stewie said...

Alright, so if ID "appeals only to scientific evidence for its support" then what predictions can it make? What questions does it answer?

ID *only* raises questions about evolution - nothing more. Without the presence of an evolutionary theory, ID could not exist, since it was born solely to counter evolutionary theory. The only thing it does is say "evolution can't explain this yet, so therefore God did it."

It's a pitiful excuse for a scientific method, because it is not at all scientific. *No* reputable scientists back it - the only ones who do are "creation scientists" who make no advances outside creation science. Michael Behe may be a professor of biochem or whatever, but what major discoveries has he made outside of attacking evolution? Nothing significant.

I'll make up an equally-defensible theory for creation and evolution right now: Magic. Photosynthesis works by magic, since we can't fully understand it. Species differentiation occured by magic, since evolution can't pinpoint each and every departure point.

It's bulletproof.

At November 11, 2005 11:56 PM, Blogger Ariel said...

At the very least, ID arguments like Behe's harken back to the natural theology of Paley, such that Behe critiques and develops Paley in Darwin's Black Box. But Paley was pre-Darwin. Your claim that ID is nothing but an anti-evolutionary parasite is mistaken.

Nice blog :)

Matt (from Tu QuoQue)

At November 12, 2005 3:19 AM, Blogger stewie said...

You mistake chronology for causality. ID would not have arrived on the scene had scientists with a Christian agenda not taken offense at the notion of nature developing without the need for a divine power. The fact that those ideologues employ exigeses which predate Darwin is merely a happy coincidence, not proof that the lineage of the scientific abortion we call ID has actually been exercised since 1809. If they had succeeded in their push to teach Creationism in the schools in the 80s, they would not have resorted to ID after their defeat in the 1987 Surpeme Court decision.

Nice try, but St. Augustine's even older. You can go back as far as you want - the notion of a designer behind the universe is not a new one, it's one of the cornerstones of Christianity. The push to repackage it in pseudo-scientific clothing, however, is new, and would not be necessary for them if they were already allowed to teach their precious Creationism.

This is proven by the Discovery Institute themselves in their explicit and well-documented "Wedge Strategy" which you can find at

ID is a "wedge" that they hope to use to open the door to the Creationist fairy tale of life's origins. From that document:

"If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a "wedge" that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points. The very beginning of this strategy, the "thin edge of the wedge," was Phillip ]ohnson's critique of Darwinism begun in 1991 in Darwinism on Trial, and continued in Reason in the Balance and Defeatng Darwinism by Opening Minds. Michael Behe's highly successful Darwin's Black Box followed Johnson's work. We are building on this momentum, broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the theory of intelligent design (ID). Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."

They say it right there: "...replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions." The motive behind ID is purely a religious agenda, and has nothing to do with advancing science. It obfuscates and corrupts the evolution of human scientific knowlege, only in the interests of preserving and spreading their anachronistic worldview.

Never mistake these people for what they really are. If they're Creationists, they should admit it. If they want God taught in public schools, they should just come out and say it. But they're trying to sneak in using strawmen and subversions of logic. That's cheap and dirty, and not worthy of discussion among the fine minds in the scientific community.

At November 21, 2005 1:37 AM, Blogger Vargas said...

Calling all of those who support ID Creationists is a deliberate attempt to misrepresent ID. Educate yourself on the difference (and there are huge differences) between the two.

At November 29, 2005 5:12 AM, Blogger stewie said...

ID is a means to the creationist end. Calling it creationism is merely jumping to the conclusion that ID like the DI hope to achieve.


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