Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Ratliff Weighs In

In this recent post I mentioned this article from Wired magazine about the attempts by ID proponents to alter high school science curricula. The article plainly took a skeptical view of ID, which prompted this response from the Discovery Institute. It was this response I was criticizing in my previous post.

The author of the Wired article, Evan Ratliff, was kind enough to send me an e-mail thanking me for the post. I reproduce his e-mail here, with his permission:

Hi Jason. I'm the guy who wrote that Wired article on evolution; was surfing around yesterday to see if anyone picked up the Discovery Institute press release (as often the Washington Times or other places will), and came across your blog. The Discovery statement itself is so frivolous that we decided not to respond to it, but I appreciate your doing so. In fact you did it better than I could have myself.

One other notable oddity in the press release, I thought, was that the one actual fact error that they alleged, regarding Stephen Meyer's bio, was also not in error. According to Meyer's official bio: “Dr. Meyer teaches a course each year in Christian Apologetics in the School of Ministry.” According to that, in fact, it's the only course he teaches. We could've included his more official title, I suppose, but the way its written seems equally if not more valid.

The rest of it, as you point out, seems to rely on a studied mis-reading of the article. The thing about all the claims of “omissions,” and failures to include various recently published books and articles, is that I did in fact interview Michael Behe--and I asked him whether he thought any new arguments were being put forth since his and Dembski's first books and the subsequent responses came out. Here's what he said:

“I don’t think the actual rebuttals and arguments have moved beyond the end of that [late 90s] flurry. I think it’s because we have made our points, we have argued why we think life looks designed, and they have countered, and we have said this is why they think you are flawed, and why, and they say no they are not flawed and why. You can read their stuff, our stuff, and make up your own mind.”

Indeed. In any case, thanks for all the kind words about the piece. I enjoy the blog.

Behe's statement here is basically an admission that ID has made no headway as science. ID proponents claim that their view of things is poised to revolutionize science (some of their more immodest devotees claim the revolution has already occurred). Yet here is Behe admitting that ID has offered nothing new since the late 90's. So according to Behe the story goes like this: A handful of people with scientific credentials made certain arguments hostile to evolution. The overwhelming majority of scientists responded by pointing out that these arguments were completely incorrect. And then...nothing.

On a personal note, I'd like to thank Evan for his kind words about the blog. In a subsequent e-mail, he mentioned that he has received hundreds of e-mails accusing him of being “biased”, a “journalistic fraud” and sundry other less kind things. Such is the fate of anyone who addresses this issue without parroting Discovery Institute propaganda. He deserves the thanks of everyone who cares about honest reporting on this or any other issue.


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