Friday, June 17, 2005

The Conservative Assault on Evolution Continues

While browsing in the bookstore yesterday I noticed that the cover story in the current issue of The American Spectator is a ten-page pro-ID, anti-evolution rant. It's author is a fellow named Dan Peterson who is described, as I recall, as “an author in Northern Virginia.” Strong qualifications.

The article is only available online to subscribers, but it really doesn't merit much of a response. It's just a rehashing of the standard ID talking points. Every other word is flagellum this or probability that. Yawn.

The reason I bring it up is that it is just one more example of how important anti-evolutionism is to modern conservatism. Every major conservative magazine in recent years, whether it is The American Spectator, National Review, Commentary, or The Weekly Standard has published anti-evolution articles. Most of them revisit the topic frequently.

Meanwhile, the left-wing magazines, the ones that are supposed to stand for science and reason, sit on in stone-faced silence. Where is the ten-page pro-evolution article in The New Republic or The Nation? The American Prospect has run some good stuff from Chris Mooney on the subject, but they have not run an article of sufficient length to really discuss the scientific issues. And when I proposed to them that I review the book “Creationism's Trojan Horse” they politely replied that they weren't planning to publish any review of the book.

Great. A book that deals specifically with attempts by right-wing groups to corrupt science education, and one of the most prominent liberal magazines wasn't interested.

At least they replied to my query letter. Slate and Salon didn't bother.

H. Allen Orr's recent article in The New Yorker was a good beginning, but there is so much more to say...


At 4:25 PM, Anonymous vyomananda said...

Unfortunately, "left" does not mean "pro-science." Having lived in San Francisco for more than 10 years, I can tell you that there are plenty of politically left-leaning individuals who are also believers in religiously-based origin of species schemes that greatly resemble Creationism and Creationism Lite. The name of the deity may be different when the believer is a left-wing Wiccan, for example, but whether life was designed by a God or a Goddess hardly makes much difference in the face of opposition to scientific theories.

It is incorrect to assume that simply because someone isn't a wingnut that they're automatically pro-science or pro-reason, for that matter.

At 10:30 PM, Blogger caerbannog666 said...

Unfortunately, "left" does not mean "pro-science." Having lived in San Francisco for more than 10 years,...

A few months ago, I was vacationing in the Bay Area and stopped by a "natural foods" store in Marin County. On the way out, I picked up a couple of new-agey freebie magazines. The BS level was off-the-charts! The magazines were filled with ads touting the services of all sorts of wacky healers and such. Amongst my favorites was an ad pitching the services of an "Intuitive Transformational Healing Facilitator" (whatever the hell that is!).

The far-out left is just as wacky as the Christian right -- they just aren't quite as organized (or angry).

At 2:24 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Sadly, you're both right that the left can be as loony as the right on scientific issues. But magazines like TNR, The Nation, or The American Prospect, when they do write about scientific issues, are generally (not always) pretty good. I think the reason these magazines have not run a major article on evolution/creation is not that they have any sympathy for the creationists. It is that they don't recognize it as an important issue.

At 3:46 PM, Blogger JM O'Donnell said...

It is quite true that the left can be as looney, sometimes MORE looney than the right. Look at the responses to GM from certain left groups, heck, look at the New Zealand Greens party attempt to ban dihydrogen monoxide.

At 3:55 PM, Anonymous Robert said...

Maybe a lot of those on the left take a similar view to Richard Dawkins - that attempting to debate with ID/creationists gives them a level of respectability they don't deserve. So they don't bother.

After all, is it a case of publishing pro-evolution articles in response to creationist articles or in response to said creationists winning the argument with the public? I suspect it's the former and left-wing magazines should only join in if it becomes the latter.

At 6:49 PM, Anonymous jspaceman said...

I think Dembski has most, or all, of the Dan Peterson/American Spectator article up on his website, see The Little Engine That Could… Undo Darwinism.

It is basically a rehash of all the old ID talking points though, bacterial flagella, irreducible complexity, poor oppressed Richard Sternberg vs. the big bad Darwinian establishment, etc.

At 11:40 PM, Blogger uxtreme said...

Just in case anyone should go away with the impression that the NZ Green party tried to ban water - they did not, as even a cursory investigation will reveal.

At 2:03 PM, Blogger JM O'Donnell said...

" Just in case anyone should go away with the impression that the NZ Green party tried to ban water"

Sorry, yeah they did:


"Green Party turns red
The Green Party briefly turns red after the party swallows a report posing as part of a campaign to ban the substance Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO). Convinced it was genuine the party responds enthusiastically requesting more information to take up the cause until it is pointed out to them DHMO is the scientific name for water. This episode is doing the rounds as a cautionary tale about the volume of unreliable research being published on the internet.",4273,4286098,00.html

and several other sources :)

I'm afraid to say that they did, although thankfully they never bought it up in parliament because it got caught out well before then. But the point, and their embarassment remains as a testament to that parties anti-science ignorance (and plain stupidity).

At 6:41 PM, Blogger uxtreme said...

A reasonably complete version of events:

Seems to me to be pretty far from the whole NZ green party seeking to ban water. A malicious email which manages to trick a secretary with no technical knowledge into a ridiculous error should not be interpreted as a party deciding to try to ban water. sigh...

At 11:59 PM, Blogger john said...

It seems to me that a better strategy for the 'left' would be to steal the thunder from the conservatives by proposing a leftist critique of Darwinism, but in the context of supporting evolution. That means exposing the ideology behind natural selection (as Gould tries to do in his Structure of Evo Theory).
Karl Marx's first reaction, btw, to Darwin was 'ideology'. The enthusiasm springing from Engels for Darwinism is a later development.
The whole Darwin scheme has a Whiggish stench, and is conservatized from the word go. The initial period of people like Erasmus Darwin, with his inchoate evolutionism and ideas of progress, fell into disrepute during the Restoration, and made the idea of evolution suspect. Darwin's conservative revolution is thus a clever move, but...
So both sides of the debate, ID and Darwinism are really conservative, nice monopoly for keeping liberal dupes confused.
John Landon

At 10:20 AM, Blogger ocmpoma said...

Another magazine to somewhat recently (November 2004) publish a pro-Darwin artcile was National Geographic. The article was also somewhat brief and lacking in scientific particulars; but, then again, it would take a quite lengthy piece to cover evolution adequately - as opposed to ID. That's another problem: ignorance always requires so much less effort in the short term.

At 4:47 AM, Blogger uxtreme said...

Rather new to this debate, I am surprised by the idea that there can be a "leftist critique" (or a "rightist critique" for that matter) of a scientific theory. I agree with all those who have said that the extremes on either side can be as daft as each other - where I live there are plenty examples of both sides and they are equally able to ignore facts and shut their eyes to observational reality. So perhaps it's possible to have a "leftist critique" but I'd be surprised if it were any more valid than one would expect a "rightist critique" to be. What should matter is a scientific critique, surely. If a particular researcher's results are tainted by their political stance then this will eventually be found out - but it will be found out by scientists, not by politicians.

I will now go away and read Gould (right after I get finished with Darwin...).

At 10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll just wait till you talking heads produce a viable counterexample to either specified complexity, complex specified information, or irreducibly complex systems being reliable markers of intelligence. Induction says you can't.

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