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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Christianity Today article on Privileged Planet uproar

My Christianity Today article on the showing of Privileged Planet at the Smithsonian is now posted.

"Jewish mathematician David Berlinski, a well-known critic of Darwinism, told Christianity Today, "I thought the uproar was indecent. I am in general appalled but not surprised by the willingness of academics to give up every principle of free speech and honest debate whenever they think they can do so without paying a price."

Note: Privileged Planet was favourably received by the journalists who saw it at the University of Toronto on the same night.

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New York Times assigns team of reporters to cover ID issues

A generally reliable source informs me, "ID has apparently become the issue du jour with the mainstream media. ... the New York Times is so interested--or rather, concerned--with national debate over Darwinism and ID, ... they've organized a team of reporters to cover the issue. They currently have at least two of them working on in-depth, perhaps even multi-part stories ...

The source worries, "As you can imagine, the Times is likely to downplay the science and turn this into purely a cultural and political issue."

He complains, for example, about sitting for a two-hour interview in which almost the whole focus was the details of his religious beliefs and practices, not the science that he and a colleague have pursued.

So, remember this when you read the New York Times on the subject of ID theory. If the U.S. Paper of Record does not even ask much about the science (apart from offering inveterate enemies of ID an opportunity to condemn it), don't make the mistake of running around claiming that there is no science behind ID. Change your paper of record instead. As the issues become more important and more controversial, you can't afford to just not know what is really going on.

Here are two books to get you started: Uncommon Dissent, essays by intellectuals who find Darwinism unconvincing, and By Design or by Chance?, my own book, which introduces the controversy to the average reader. You can read excerpts as well.

By the way, Web logs are a great, free source of clarification in situations where legacy media simply refuse to cover an issue by listening to all sides. In this one, John West of the Discovery Institute points out that the New York Times covered the Kansas hearings on Darwinism in the school system by focusing on those who did not testify, not those who did. "That's a novel way to cover an event," he writes, "only talk about the people who did not participate in it." Yes, it's novel, all right, and it explains why these news outfits increasingly risk being seen as "legacy media."

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Essay: Darwinist Massimo Pigliucci on changing his mind

Yes, it’s true. Darwinist Massimo Pigliucci admits that he has changed his mind at least three times. (So he is at least barely mortal?) He writes, "As regular readers of this column know, I occasionally try to debunk the myth that skeptics are just a bunch of curmudgeons and naysayers, people who have a strong psychological need to feel superior and always right. As a small contribution to this demystification, let me tell you about not one, not two, but three (!!) instances in which I changed my mind about issues of concern to freethinkers and skeptics, and in the process try to learn when it is in fact reasonable to change opinion."

The article is fascinating for what it reveals about the mindset of at least one thorough-going naturalist. Pigliucci clearly does not think that he might actually be mistaken in his assumption that nature is all there is, and that the whole panoply of life forms came into existence with no guidance whatever.

One item of interest is that Pigliucci is beginning to wonder about the Brights movement, a whole group of people who think that nature is all there is, who also apparently think themselves smarter than their neighbors. The group features some Darwinist luminaries, such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett .

"I'm no longer sure it was such a bright idea," Pigliucci notes.

Actually, Massimo, it wasn't a bright idea at all. The world is not a grade five classroom and the great issues of philosophy and science are not merely questions blazoned on the "I can read with confidence" wall chart, where a correct answer would demonstrate that you are a bright child. Being a naturalist does not make you particularly bright. The people who disagree with you are no stupider than you. They see things about life and the universe that you don't or won't see.

Blog service note 1: Did you come here looking for any of the following stories?
- the Privileged Planet film shown at the Smithsonian, go here for an extended review. Please do not raise cain about an "anti-evolution" film without seeing it. If your doctor forbids you to see the film, in case you get too excited, at least read my detailed log of the actual subjects of the film. If you were one of the people who raised cain, ask yourself why you should continue to believe the people who so misled you about the film's actual content ...

- the showing of Privileged Planet at the Smithsonian, go here and here to start, and then this one and this one will bring you up to date.

- the California Academy of Sciences agreeing to correct potentially libellous statements about attorney Larry Caldwell, who thinks that students should know about weaknesses as well as strengths of Darwinian evolution theory, click on the posted link.

- Bill Dembski threatening to sue the Thomas More Law Center in the Dover, Pennsylvania ID case, click on the posted link and check the current daily post for updates. (Note: This dispute has apparently been settled. See the story for details. )

Blog service note 2: Now that I am back from vacation, posting is reenabled on recent stories.

Blog policy note: This blog does not intentionally accept fully anonymous posts, posts with language unsuited to an intellectual discussion, or defamatory statements. Defamatory statement: A statement that would be actionable if anyone took the author seriously. For example, someone may say “O’Leary is a crummy journalist.” Well, that’s a matter of opinion and I don’t know who would care. But if they say, “O’Leary was convicted of grand theft auto in 1983,” well that’s just plain false, and probably actionable, if the author were taken seriously. Also, due to time constraints, I rarely respond to comments, and usually only about blog service issues.

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