Friday, June 20, 2008

The New York Times Is Trafficking in Offensive Stereotypes

The editors of The New York Times have decided to propagate offensive stereotypes in a recent editorial. The sneering editorial lumps together "creationists," proponents of intelligent design, and evolutionists who question some aspects of mainstream Darwinian orthodoxy. The important differences between the many kinds of people who question at least some aspects of Darwinian theory have been ably demonstrated elsewhere. The Times chooses to ignore, or remain ignorant of, those differences. I find that truly and deeply offensive.

I believe that no reasonable person can read the works of Michael Behe and conclude that he is a young earth creationist, a proponent of creation science, or that he ever advocated the teaching of creation science in the classroom.

Why does the Times do it? One can only speculate. But it is clear that the culture of young earth creationists and the culture of intelligent design proponents are both quite foreign to the editors of the Times. What is sad is that they feel no need to educate themselves about these different cultures. I guess multiculturalism has its limits when the Times has political points it wants to score.

The stereotyping and "lumping" that the Times engages in is analogous to asserting that Barak Obama's views are the same as Rev. Wright's because they attend the same church. It is analogous to asserting that all Muslims are suicidal terrorists. I am not claiming that the Times' stereotypes are as harmful to our society and to civil discourse as those stereotypes are. I do claim that all simplistic stereotypes are harmful and should be avoided.

Does the Times stereotyping rise to the level of bigotry? I have discussed a related question in another context.

Another post about another stereotype promoter is here.


At July 11, 2008 2:04 PM, Blogger Democracy Lover said...

While there may be minor differences in these views, they all have the same core - they stem from a particular strand of Christian belief, namely that creation is a direct act by God.

Once you start with that assumption and then look for scientific "evidence" to back up your assumption, you end up with both poor science and poor theology. Behe's view is essentially nothing more than a reductionist version of the intelligent design argument.

To reject the massive scientific evidence that makes evolution a far more plausible theory than any advanced in the book of Genesis, is an indication that the God you worship is too small or that your concept of God is rooted in very primitive ideas. Does God have to have literally created the life on earth in order to be God?

At July 17, 2008 6:38 PM, Blogger Mats said...

It's always easier to refute a caricature then the real thing.

At July 18, 2008 4:03 PM, Blogger Jim Sherwood said...

It's odd that some are ignorant enough to think that ID is based upon Christian belief. One ID theorist is quantum physicist Ulrich Mohrhoff, who is not a Christian and apparently not a theist. Do a search for "Mohrhoff", "Dembski," and "Koantum" to read Mohrhoff's favorable review of The Design of Life, by Dembski and Wells.

DaveScot (David Springer), one of the lead moderators at Dembski's blog Uncommon Descent, is an agnostic. He presumes that the intelligence involved is space aliens.

And while I'm also favorable to ID, my only religious influence as an adult has been Zen Buddhism, and some Zen-like sages. Check my Blogger profile to see what I think.

At July 18, 2008 5:13 PM, Blogger Jim Sherwood said...

In his favorable review of The Design of Life by Dembski and Wells, quantum physicist Ulrich Mohrhoff (above) writes "I do not subscribe to any religion" and "There's no doubt in my mind that specified complexity is the 'smoking gun' of some other-than-human intelligence at work, as the authors maintain...[The intelligence], however, could be very different from how it is conceived by theists."

ID itself is a wide concept not bound to any particular religious view. And like Behe, Mohrhoff believes that all species have descended from an ancient common ancestor.

At July 21, 2008 6:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

doesn't that simply demonstrate that "intelligent design" is not science, simply an idea (a hope?) that something intelligent somewhere, did something unspecified at some unknown point in time to change something about biological life on Earth

At July 22, 2008 5:32 PM, Blogger Jim Sherwood said...

We've been told that intelligent design is a plot dreamed up by Christians. But now it seems that quite a few others, including some quantum physicists and agnostics, have been hatching the same alleged "plot?"

Quantum physicist Ulrich Mohrhoff's favorable review of The Design of Life, by Dembski and Wells, isn't hard to read, for the most part. He's one of those who have concluded that ID has produced good scientific evidence that intelligence was involved in the origin of all species. Google "Mohrhoff," "Dembski," and "Koantum" to read it.(Mohrhoff isn't a Christian, and apparently isn't a theist either: but he's definitely not a materialist.)

While intelligent involvement might be demonstrated by an analysis of the biological evidence, that evidence doesn't tell us what the intelligence or intelligences involved might be. So different people can be inclined to widely different interpretations of the intelligence(s), often for religious or philosophical reasons. Thus ID doesn't require any particular religious or philosophical view.

Or, if you're an agnostic etc., you can go with the space aliens.

At July 22, 2008 7:09 PM, Blogger Jim Sherwood said...

To clarify the last sentence, I meant that agnostics may regard space aliens as the intelligence involved.

In fact, astrophysicist Fred Hoyle seems to have been the first to use the phrase "intelligent design" in its current sense, in 1982: while proposing that an extraterrestial civilization had designed the first living things on earth:

"So if one proceeds directly and straightforwardly in the matter, without being deflected by a fear of incurring the wrath of scientific opinion, one arrives at the conclusion that biomaterials with their amazing measure or order must be the outcome of intelligent design."

--Fred Hoyle, in his book Evolution from Space: The Omni Lecture, 1982, p. 28.

At October 18, 2008 11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My background was physics before I first heard of ID. I thought intelligent design implied what the words typically infer - intelligent design - I did not know that the majority of people interpret ID as a physical creation of physical matter. The newspaper article was written under a lack of physics education, as well as a lack of education of several other topics including religion. I myself have never met an individual educated in physics that did not interpret creation as being an intelligent design both of the act and the result.


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