Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Nick Matzke's Stereotypes

In a comment on the Telic Thoughts blog, Nick Matzke of the NCSE has graciously revealed his working stereotypes of certain groups of people. After Bilbo laid out certain distinctions and differences between various groups that are skeptical of aspects of Darwinian evolution, he asked for comments: "Does anybody disagree with my diagram?" Matzke jumped in with his answer: "Yes." Part of his response is below. Notice Matzke's methods: he does not discuss the careful distinctions that Bilbo has laid out. He chooses to lump everyone into completely different categories to show that they are either religious or confused:
Bilbo's classification is just another version of the ID movement's big tent approach, which attempts to minimize the fact that ID was invented as a workaround once creation science was ruled unconstitutional, and that the movement was born and bred within American fundamentalism, and primarily exists to fill in the science section in the apologetics books and sermons of the fundamentalists. The secular-ish construals of ID, pretending that aliens or whatever could be the designers, are simply invoked for tactical reasons to attempt to avoid the creationism/apologetics charge. No one takes the aliens option seriously.

An accurate view would something like:

ID movement leaders:
~25% YEC & Biblical inerrancy
~50% OEC & Biblical inerrancy
~25% creationist, agnostic on the age of the earth & Biblical inerrancy
less than 5% accept common ancestry of apes and humans and go with some vaguer form of supernatural guidance, a strong view of Biblical inspiration but not quite inerrancy
- Plus a few percent (above and beyond the 100%) are not actually ID supporters, but generic cranks who hang out with the ID guys because the ID guys actually pay attention to them, unlike everyone else. E.g. Berlinski, Davison, etc.

ID supporters on the ground:
~50%+ YEC
~remainder OEC or agnostic/confused/haven't thought about it on the age of the earth
~10% who are confused by ID's deliberately vague language and think that "ID" means "theistic evolution" or something similar.

Mike Gene notes that people tend to be either "lumpers" or "splitters." Certainly observing similarities (lumpers) and differences (splitters) are both important in accurately analyzing people groups. However, Matzke apparently thinks certain distinctions should be ignored, even though they are very important to the relevant people groups. Note that he dismisses Bilbo's distinctions without making any attempt to show that they are inaccurate.

Clinging to simplistic and negative stereotypes and refusing to acknowledge distinctions is one of the main components of prejudice and bigotry. I do not know what is going on in Matzke's head, but the promotion of such stereotypes and the apparent denial of meaningful distinctions can only be harmful to civil discourse on this issue. It is also why so many people are skeptical of the Darwinian fundamentalist lobby.

In a previous post, I look at the question of when stereotyping results in bigotry.


At February 04, 2008 11:36 AM, Blogger dobson said...

Nick does seem to have a point which is that there is very little consistency over very fundamental concepts in ID.

Controversies exist in mainstream evolutionary science, but pretty much every evolutionary biologist seems to agree on the fundamentals e.g. the mechanism of evolution.

On the other hand, it seems only fair to point out that ID's big-tent encompasses theories as diverse and mutually contradictory as Mike Gene's "Design Matrix" and Young Earth creationism.

As an outsider I have great difficulty pinning down any proposition or theory which is universally acceptable to ID proponents. On the other hand there seems to be a great deal of consensus amongst the core ideas of Evolution.

The only consensus I have seen amongst IDers is a rejection of what they call "Darwinism". However the stated reasons for this rejection range from somewhat scientific sounding reasons to the outright theological.

Whatever you think of the modern theory of evolution, I think both sides would be content to agree that the consensus is overwhelming amongst mainstream biologists, whereas amongst IDers, the diversity of opinions is what stands out the most.

Do you agree?


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