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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Breaking news in the intelligent design controversy

Hindu group supports textbook stickers stating that evolution is a “theory”

For ISKCON’s amicus curiae brief in favor of textbook stickers, go here. The Hare Krishna brief argues, among other things, that the sticker does not favor Christianity, that the court’s previous ruling against them is “impermissibly hostile to religion,” and that the content of the sticker, not who proposed it is what matters. For a Muslim view supporting intelligent design, see Islamonline.

Service note: If you are looking for my extended review of Privileged Planet, go here. If you are looking for information on the showing of Privileged Planet at the Smithsonian, go here and here to start, and then this one will bring you up to date.
I’ve always been curious about what would happen if religions other than conservative American Protestantism weighed in on this issue. Question: Will they all fall to fighting among themselves, as per usual? Or will they maintain that they all have in common the fact that they are not atheists, and it appears that most members of the National Academy of Sciences are?

The fact that so many key American scientists are atheists is the root of the “Church of St. Carl (Sagan)” problem that I have addressed in previous posts. The parishioners of St. Carl’s honestly think that they are absolutely right and justified in imposing Darwinism on the public, irrespective of growing problems with Darwin’s actual theory. But then, as I said in By Design or by Chance?, I learned during my three-year investigation that today’s Darwinism is, essentially, the creation story of atheism. The emotional attachment that Darwinists feel for the story (= from goo to you, in a zillion easy steps) speaks for itself.

Mathematician calls American people “dumb as posts”

To Amazing Randi, an Internet skeptic, who offered the Smithsonian US$20 000 not to show Privileged Planet on June 23, David Berlinski, writes,

Dear Amazing Randi:

I just read your widely publicized letter to the Smithsonian about its decision to air The Privileged Planet, Discovery Institute's film on intelligent design. You find it “impossible to comprehend” why the Smithsonian has chosen to such a film. And, I see that you are willing to pay the Smithsonian Institute $20,000 so that they don’t do it.

I want you to know, you’re doing the right thing. I figure the American people are dumb as posts. Who knows what ideas a film like that could put into their heads? You haven’t seen the film either, am I right? See no evil, see no evil is what I always say.

Read it and confirm your worst fears about Discovery Institute.

Come to think of it, I myself called the people who trashed a film they had never seen “dumb as a bag of hammers,” so I am just as guilty as Berlinski is of impatience at the illiberal wave spreading through society. What surprises me is that so many of these people seem to have no shame about their illiberal behaviour.

Some of them worry about a theocracy, unaware that if they are willing to trash films unseen and books unread, well, ... an ayatollah asks no more than that. Their world wouldn’t change a bit. Only those who customarily read, think, and judge for ourselves would be harmed by a theocracy.

Public confidence in newspapers, TV sinks to all-time low

According to news industry trademag, Editor and Publisher, public confidence in the news media has sunk to an all-time low. “Since 2000, confidence in newspapers has declined from 37% to 28%, and TV from 36% to 28%, according to the poll,” we are told.

No doubt, a rash of recent scandals is the main reason, but I suspect that scandals points to something deeper. Many news media seem content to relay a party line on many issues in such a way that it interferes with actual news reporting.

Occasionally, the problem becomes so bad that it develops into a scandal like pajamagate, but more usually it just causes people to look elsewhere for news. No wonder readership and ad lineage are down.

With respect to the intelligent design controversy, I told a young journalist recently:

This controversy is a conflict at the heart of science between naturalism (matter and energy is all there is) and empiricism (go with the evidence). I had to work with the story for a while before I understood that.

Once I did, I was no longer intimidated by the bloviating from science boffins who insist that "the evidence for Darwin's theory of overwhelming." The evidence is only overwhelming if you ALREADY believe that it must be true on philosophical grounds. In that case, only a little evidence is required to convince you. If you do not think that it must be true, and start evaluating the actual evidence, you will find that it is often sketchy and sometimes absent.

[With respect to news media coverage, ...]

1. The main problem, in my view, is that the media are covering the controversy purely as a site of the U.S. culture wars. So they are missing the big story. The big story is that - contrary to the view I was raised with (I'm 55) - the news from science does not particularly support Carl Sagan's view of the cosmos or Richard Dawkins's view of life forms. The universe we live in originated rather suddenly and is extraordinarily fine-tuned to enable life. Earth is an uncommon type of planet, and life forms are staggeringly intricate and complex. These findings support intelligent design, not Darwinism. However, by a quirk of law, Darwinism is arbitrarily defined as science and intelligent design as religion, regardless of the state of the science evidence for either proposition. This sets the stage for intractable conflict. Media tend to cover only the resulting conflict and ignore the big story in the background.

2. A secondary problem: Media people tend to arbitrarily take what Darwinists say as true, without checking it out or challenging them in any way. In that respect, media act as a public relations agency for the current science establishment. ...

3. Another secondary problem: Currently, there is an unusual degree of blindness to motive on the one side and oversensitivity on the other. ... in this particular area, media seem strangely blind to issues like turf protection - willing, in other words, to take the exact view of the Darwinists that the Darwinists have of themselves. Journalists should NEVER do that. (It makes for good PR copy, but it is deadly to journalism.) By contrast, many media sources appear willing to believe any foolishness they hear from Darwinists about the motives of the ID supporters, and are unwilling to consider the possibility that they are motivated by the belief that there is good evidence for their interpretation of nature.

Media that behave this way are not fooling anyone but themselves. After a while, the blogs end up breaking stories. That isn’t even what a blog is supposed to do, but ...

National Academy of Sciences starts Web site to combat ID

The National Academy of Sciences, alarmed by the spread of the ID controversy—and not yet willing to address the true reasons for public doubts and disapproval of Darwinism—has started a Web site to combat it. I haven’t had a chance to look at the site yet, so I will just give you the URL for now.

Service note 2: I will be away teaching at a writer’s conference until Sunday, and will not blog during that period. I recommend you look at the interesting blogs on the side panels at the top of the post. I have disabled posting during this period, but will reenable it when I get back.

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