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Derbyshire on Expelled

I’m no fan of conservative columnist John Derbyshire, but he’s worth reading on the issue of intelligent design.  Writing in the National Review, Derbyshire comments on the rank dishonesty of the creationist movie Expelled and intelligent design creationism as a whole.  He writes

I think this willful act of deception has corrupted creationism irredeemably. The old Biblical creationists were, in my opinion, wrong-headed, but they were mostly honest people. The “intelligent design” crowd lean more in the other direction. Hence the dishonesty and sheer nastiness, even down to plain bad manners, that you keep encountering in ID circles

I can’t say I agree with him on the first part – that biblical creationists are “mostly honest people”.  After all, not only is Hovind in jail but many creationist claims are just blatant falsehoods.  But it’s true that they are more honest than the IDists on a certain level – they are honest about what they are campaigning for.  They are willing to admit that they are motivated by their own (mis)reading of the bible (or other religious texts, presumably).  The IDists, on the other hand, built their whole movement on dishonesty and deception.  They claim that theirs is a scientific objection to evolution (and science as a whole, actually).  They claim that their endeavour is not religious, despite the fact that they have built a “big tent” in which young-earth creationists and old-earth creationists can put their differences aside and work together.

But Derbyshire’s main point isn’t the dishonesty of the IDists.  He sees it as an attack on one of the proudest achievements of Western civilisation.

Western civilization has many glories….And there is science, perhaps the greatest of all our achievements, because nowhere else on earth did it appear. … None of them ever accomplished what began in northwest Europe in the later 17th century, though: a scientific revolution. Thoughtful men and women came together in learned societies to compare notes on their observations of the natural world, to test their ideas in experiments, and in reasoned argument against the ideas of others, and to publish their results in learned journals. A body of common knowledge gradually accumulated. Patterns were observed, laws discerned and stated.

The Discovery Institute‘s Wedge Strategy makes it pretty clear that their enemy is the Enlightenment.  Their problem is with modernity.  Derbyshire writes

The “intelligent design” hoax is not merely non-science, nor even merely anti-science; it is anti-civilization. It is an appeal to barbarism… made by people who lack the imaginative power to know the horrors of true barbarism.

Gotta give credit where it’s due.  I disagree strongly with much of what Derbyshire has to say, and even here I don’t much like the way he spins things.  But he makes some excellent points.

H/T Jeffrey Shallit

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