Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Wedgie Document and the creationist challenge

Creationists have the Wedge Document. Now, thanks to The Commissar, one of my favorite conservative bloggers, a man after my own heart who leans right (albeit a bit farther right than I do) but doesn't buy into the fundamentalism of the Christian right that has infested the Republican Party, we now have the Wedgie Document, a guide to arguing with creationists on the Internet.

One phenomenon The Commissar mentions that hit close to home is the "not a creationist" creationist, a phenomenon, I would point out, that is not limited to just one variety of crank. Back in my days on alt.revisionism, we had to deal with a similar sort of person, the "not a denier" Holocaust denier. We regulars could spot them right away. Usually, it would start with a newbie entering the newsgroup. They would then express innocent-sounding "doubts" about some aspect of the Holocaust or other. A little questioning would usually be all that it would take to reveal their true agenda and that their "doubts" came straight from the standard list of denier canards. I usually tried to give them the benefit of the doubt, at least initially, in case they were just someone ignorant about history who had stumbled onto neo-Nazi or Holocaust denier websites. I soon learned I was wasting my time and became a lot faster to realize that, when it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck.

I can well understand why Holocaust deniers would want to try to hide their true agendas or beliefs. Most people consider Holocaust deniers to be despicable--and rightly so--because it is virtually always anti-Semitism that drives their Holocaust denial. As I have said before, although I leave open the possibility that there is a Holocaust denier out there who isn't either a neo-Nazi, an anti-Semite, or both, I have yet to encounter one. (Indeed, every Holocaust denier that I've ever encountered will, with a little questioning, reveal anti-Semitic and/or neo-Nazi sympathies.) On the other hand, I have a harder time understanding why creationists would go so far to deny that they are creationists. There is no real perjorative implication to being labeled a creationist in large swaths of the country, certainly nothing as bad as being labeled a Holocaust denier. Creationists tend to confuse religion with science, and they really only become a problem when they try to pressure gullible school boards to put the imprimatur of the state behind their beliefs and require their teaching in public schools. I suspect that their reluctance to reveal themselves is because, for some reason, creationists seem to crave the mantle and authority of science. They're desperate to be taken seriously outside of the context of their religion, which is odd, given the contempt many of them seem to have for science. Such a desire will drive "intelligent design" creationist "luminaries" like William Dembski to say with a straight face during a CNN debate with Michael Shermer that "intelligent design" doesn't require the "designer" to be God (and could even be aliens or some sort of Gaia-like intelligence). Of course, he will then turn around and say in essence to evangelical audiences that of course the "designer" must be God. Because they either know they are peddling religion or are too ignorant of science to realize that ID is not science, creationists can't admit that ID is religion-based in secular settings. They realize that doing so would endanger their strategy to get ID taught in public school classrooms as an "alternative" to evolution by explicitly running afoul of the Establishment Clause.

So, if I may be so bold, I'd like to suggest to the Commissar another variety of ID creationist: the "my religious beliefs have nothing to do with my support of ID" variety, a variant of the "not a creationist" creationist. And, in The Commissar's spirit of going on the attack, I'd like to adapt an earlier challenge to a different variety of crank. The next time you see an ID apologist claiming that religion or God has nothing to do with ID, lay this challenge on them:
Where are all the "intelligent design" advocates who are atheists (or even just agnostics)?

It's a fair question. After all, how can ID advocates hope to be taken seriously if they all have such apparent biases, agendas and axes to grind? If, as its advocates claim, "intelligent design" is strictly about science, evidence, and experimentation and has nothing to do with a belief in God, then it is not unreasonable to expect that there should be some atheists out there who accept ID as science.

In a particularly telling contrast, there are plenty of "evolutionists" out there who believe in God, refuting the oft-voiced claim by some creationists that "evolution=atheism." There is clearly no inherent conflict between belief in God and acceptance of the science of evolution. So, if ID is science, as its adherents claim, then why shouldn't we also expect there to be some atheists out there who, without a belief in God (or any religious beliefs at all) have come to accept "intelligent design"?

So, then, if "intelligent design" is an intellectually honest scientific endeavor, where are the ID advocates who are atheists (or even agnostics)? You'd think that after many months of my looking for one, at least one ID advocate who is an atheist or agnostic would have come forward and said "Here I am!"

But, no. It appears that there just aren't any such ID advocates around.
I plan on posting this challenge every so often. I encourage readers to do the same. Unfortunately, even though it should be, simply emphasizing and explaining the mountain of evidence for evolution and contrasting it with the zero credible scientific evidence for ID creationism isn't enough. We have to frame the debate in its true terms: adherents of ID trying to have their religious views taught as science. And it's not just any religion or even Christianity in general, but a small fundamentalist subset of Christians and other religions, including Muslims and Jews. Most mainstream religions accept evolution as settled science and as being in no conflict with their beliefs. That point needs to be hammered home again and again and again, and my little challenge is just one way of doing it. Coming from a Roman Catholic background, I have no problem with religion or a belief in God, as long as it is not forced upon children in state-run schools. Unfortunately, that's exactly what teaching creationism, whether of the ID variety or otherwise, in public schools would be.

8 example(s) of insolence returned:


At 9/21/2005 7:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You forgot the !

-Scott Simmons

 

At 9/21/2005 8:00 AM, Blogger Orac said...

That's a religious cult; so I don't think it invalidates my point...

 

At 9/21/2005 8:00 AM, Blogger Orac said...

Also, Raelians aren't the major force behind ID. Fundamentalist Christians are.

 

At 9/21/2005 10:12 AM, Anonymous Dave Harmon said...

Remember that to these sorts, anybody who does not believe exactly as they do, isn't a "Real Christian" (tm). And yes, the "my beliefs aren't relevant" argument is exactly a subtype of those who (momentarily) claim not to be Creationists. They are lying, in hopes of slipping their arguments past people's filters.

Religious fanatics simply can't grasp that anybody might actually reject their arguments on the merits, or agree about objective reality. They think their Holy Truths must necessarily prevail, if only they can sneak past all those Satanic scientists conspiring to "silence" them.

 

At 9/21/2005 4:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a different question for Holocaust deniers:
1. You hate Jews,
2. You admire/like/have positive feelings of some sort toward A Hitler,
3. You either don't believe that the Holocaust happened at all (rare) or believe that it has been exaggerated or believe that it all somehow happened without Hitler knowing about it, SO
4. Why do you like Hitler again?
VKW

 

At 9/21/2005 10:17 PM, Blogger Greg P said...

I'm not sure that the fact that there don't seem to be atheists who believe in intelligent design hold much water. It's certainly not a very strong argument.

I think the main thing to point out is simply that intelligent design and the belief in creationism by God are really just two halves of the same circular donut of logic. Neither one makes any sense without the other. Once they are together, they defy logic or any objective analysis.

But the whole reason ID came about was the obvious realization that belief in God is not objective.

 

At 9/21/2005 10:49 PM, Blogger Orac said...

I'll grant you that it's not a strong argument against ID per se, but, I would argue, it is a strong argument that ID is religion, not science.

Which was my point.

 

At 9/22/2005 1:47 PM, Blogger Lord Runolfr said...

You might also be interested in the debating guide at CreationTheory.org...

http://www.creationtheory.org/Database/

 

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