Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Two Librarian Heroes: Saving the World By Banning Books

Related to my last post, Casey Luskin quotes a law professor, Stephen A. Newman, who praises two librarians who banned donated copies of Darwin's Black Box and Darwin On Trial from school libraries:
Consider the experience of two librarians who received copies of two intelligent design books, Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe and Darwin on Trial by Philip Johnson, as donations to their high school collections. When the librarians refused to put the books on the school library shelves, they were accused of censorship. In fact, exercising their professional judgment, they concluded that these books had “little or no value to our students and come from those with ulterior motives.” The books did not meet the usual selection criteria, which required that books “support the curriculum, receive favorable reviews from professional journals, and be age-appropriate.” Noting that intelligent design theory had been “repudiated by every leading scientific organization, including the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences,” the librarians determined that teaching intelligent design “would be tantamount to teaching about the existence of Santa Claus.”

The law professor had the audacity to argue that "undermining the teaching of evolution deprives them [students] of access to the best ideas in science." I wish Luskin had provided the full context of that last quote. It is hard to believe that any law school graduate, let alone a professor, actually thinks that banning books helps to give students "access to the best ideas in science."

The librarians justified their actions by claiming that the books did not meet their "selection criteria." But it looks like the "criteria" could easily be manipulated to justify censoring or banning just about anything. For what the American Library Association deems "censorship," you can read here.

Of course, everyone who wants to ban a book thinks that they are only doing what is in the best interest of the dear little children. I think both books would be absolutely excellent additions to any school library. Many, many other people would agree with me. So "selection criteria" seems to be a euphemism to allow librarians to ban any books they subjectively just don't like. Who gets to decide? Whoever has the power- and these librarians have it. So it goes in our brave new world.

Another post on book banning and what kinds of books are appropriate for school libraries is here. Which book is more appropriate and valuable for a high school library: Darwin on Trial or Private Parts by Howard Stern? So it goes in American public schools.

Seems like an overwhelming case of Darwinian Fundamentalism. Or is it just sheer ignorance?

The librarians determined that teaching intelligent design “would be tantamount to teaching about the existence of Santa Claus.” Is this bigotry, or simply ignorance?


At June 13, 2007 8:25 PM, Blogger Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

*cough* Hello, St. Nicholas, real live person, kinda famous.

Had to say it. ;^)

At June 13, 2007 10:58 PM, Blogger James F. McGrath said...

Funny, I used to be a young-earth creationist and then I looked at the evidence and now accept the overwhelming scientific evidence for evolution (not just 'micro'). Books like Science and Creationism edited by Ashley Montagu, and more recently (and in my opinion better) Ken Miller's Finding Darwin's God really helped me understand mainstream biology (and paleontology, and genetics, and so on) and where young-earth creationists (and later intelligent design proponents) were twisting the evidence.

If you've read Miller's book, I'd be interested to know what you think of it!

At June 14, 2007 6:12 AM, Anonymous Lawrence said...


Haven't read it, but I have read plenty of others. From what I have read, I am not that impressed with Ken Miller. Have you read any of the banned books?

You say:

I looked at the evidence and now accept the overwhelming scientific evidence for evolution (not just 'micro').

I would be very interested in knowing your views more specifically. I encourage you to give your answers to my plausibility survey here.

At June 15, 2007 10:10 AM, Blogger MARK said...

The cliché that comes to mind is, "You reap what you sow."

What else would you expect from the scientific and education communities? Intelligent Design advocates and their web-toed cousins, the Young-Earth Creationists, have engaged in a long and deliberate campaign against evolution with little to show for it but a track record of spurious and false arguments that have been discredited and disproven many times over. Specifically, IDs and YECs have repeatedly and knowingly:

Compared evolutionary scientists to Nazis and other Eugenicists while ignoring the fact that Darwinism preceded the National Socialist Party of Germany by quite some time as well as the fact that there were, and still are, strong ties between Naziism (and anti-Semitism in general) and Christianity.

Stated that the study of evolution leads to all manner of immoral behavior while offering no reliable facts or verifiable data to support this argument and clearly ignoring quite a bit of recorded history.

Conflated controversies regarding evolutionary mechanisms and processes into a "controversy" regarding the fact of evolution. Evolution as fact was immediately accepted by the scientific community and had been under consideration in one form or another long before Darwin published "The Origin of Species." Compare the list of the "100 scientists who disagree with evolution" with the Steve Project, which now has something like 700 scientists with the names of Steve or Stephanie who agree with the fact of evolution. That's a 7:1 ratio in favor of evolution, not ID or creationism, and that does not begin to take into account the scientists whose names are NOT Steve or Stephanie who also agree with the fact of evolution.

Engaged in a deliberate and wide-spread campaign of quote-mining from the writings of Darwin and other biologists, ignoring context and intent in favor of polemic distortions. Claims that Darwin was a racist, for example, neglect to mention that he made some of the first arguments against the idea of "race" in humans.

Attempted to discredit science and the scientific method by falsely claiming that science (to this day) relies on the Piltdown Man and Haeckel's drawings (both of which were ultimately disputed and discredited by scientists, not Creationists).

Used fallacious arguments such as the straw-man "Darwinist" meme to imply that Creationism and Intelligent Design are somehow "valid" or "better" alternatives to evolutionary theory.

Confused "pattern" with "design," relying on false analogies between cans of soda pop and DNA in order to make the argument.

Deliberately and maliciously engaged in legal tactics and maneuverings at the taxpayers' expense to insert their religious and pseudo-scientific beliefs into a science curriculum. They have shown ignorance toward and a blatant disrespect of community standards and rigorous curricula whenever these contradict religious dogma.

Most importantly, ID and YEC have utterly failed to provide a single testable hypothesis, reproduceable laboratory result, or even a cogent explanation that provides a beter model to explain the 150+ years of carefully-collated, cataloged, and verified data already acquired by the scientific community that supports a naturalistic mechanism for the evolution of life.

Perhaps if the IDiots and YECs had not been quite as hasty in insisting their views were scientific. Perhaps if they had not been quite as dishonest, abrasive, and manipulative. Perhaps they should have given more thought to the potential consequences of their actions rather than assuming that their religious and moral views justified whatever actions they took. Perhaps then there would be a place for your views, although not in Science, but possibly under Philosophy or Comparative Religion.

As it stands, you have planted this crop of bitterness and animosity. It's time to harvest the fruits of your labor.

At June 15, 2007 9:15 PM, Anonymous vargas said...

>>ID.....have utterly failed to provide a single testable hypothesis, reproduceable laboratory result, or even a cogent explanation...<<

In reality this statement applies to those who support Darwinian Evolution, not Intelligent Design.

At June 17, 2007 10:37 PM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

Mark, you provide one more long winded ad hominem argument that distorts the views of a large group of diverse people. Your rant shows that you are one more person who really does not understand the other side and has not made much effort to do so. What a shame.

Your comment is off topic. Shall we assume that your arguments are put forth to defend book banning?


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