Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What if there was a Culture War, and nobody came?

I hate the culture wars. Despise them, as a matter of fact.

Yes, I am upset that IDist Guillermo Gonzalez did not get tenure at Iowa State. I believe, given all that I know, that he probably deserved it. Gonzalez is the best and the brightest of the IDists. I think that he was held accountable for his private beliefs in a way that others, with different beliefs, would not have been. On the other hand, I detest the ID/Christian response to the Gonzalez case even more. What did they expect? And do they really believe that the correct reaction is to moan and whine and threaten litigation? Do they not care at all that they painted themselves into this unsavory corner? Consider these three facts:

  1. The ID leadership insists that ID is not about religion.
  2. ISU stated that Gonzalez's ID was a factor.
  3. They (the ID leadership) now want to argue religious discrimination!

In virtually everything the ID leaders do, they display gross incompetence. These folks make the Keystone Kops look like those crack CSI teams on the telle. Had they been honest, something of which they seem incapable, and admitted from the start what everyone with at least a half a brain already knows, that ID is about religion—then they could now argue with a straight face that Gonzalez was punished for private religious beliefs. But here comes ISU which says: OK, as you wanted, and since you insisted, we went ahead and treated ID as science—and when we did we found it scientifically lacking based on the good and proper evaluation of Gonzalez's fellow scientists—and so we, as anyone would demand that we do, count this bad science against Gonzalez. Religion has nothing to do with it since ID is, as you keep telling us, not about religion.

Messrs Dembski and Wells: Can you say hoisted with our own petards?

On the reverse side we have a rather loathsome and in some ways pitiable creature by the name of Hector Avalos. Avalos was just promoted to full professor at the same university, Iowa State. Avalos is a cliché: an atheist professor of religion. They're a dime a dozen. I have met more than a few in my day, and they share a common trait. They believe the strange juxtaposition of their position and their beliefs proves just how amazingly clever they are. Like the others I have encountered, Avalos appears to represent the most hideous aspects of the academy: a pseudo-intellectual with nothing substantive to add either to his own field or the unrelated fields, such as astronomy, into which he injects his nose.

Avalos, a non-scientist, was, two years ago, an instrumental force behind a petition of 120 ISU professors denouncing ID. At that time, he said "We certainly don't want to give the impression to the public that intelligent design is what we do." No, authoring vindictive, mean-spirited petitions, one might conclude, is scholarly activity of choice for ISU professors.

Avalos has denied the obvious: that this petition, aimed directly at Gonzalez, was designed, in part or in full, to derail Gonzalez's tenure application. Yeah, right. Like the ID leaders claiming ID is not about theism, Avalos's denial is a bald-faced lie that displays a garden-variety pseudo-intellectual's arrogance. He assumes, like the ID leadership, that the rest of the world is too stupid to see the true agenda through an obfuscation of rationalizations and half (or less) truths.

Aghast that anyone should criticize his lofty intentions and capabilities, Avalos posted a sanctimonious slew of self-aggrandizement on PZ Myers's blog.

At least it gave us a glimpse of the quality of his scholarship. He wrote, in response to a criticism that he blames the Jews for the holocaust:

I explicitly (Fighting Words, pp, 195-96) say that Hitler's plan is an updating of Martin Luther's famous seven-point plan for the Jews

Which is both a) wrong† and b) an argument so profound and original that I first heard from a classmate in my eight grade Comparative Political Systems class. Avalos also displayed a Clintonian mastery of the half-truth, writing:

While I have never called for Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez to be fired, or even to be denied tenure,

And what was the purpose of the petition, coming as it did at a time when Gonzalez was preparing to submit his application? Oh yes—it was just to assure the public that ISU did not have a Department of Intelligent Design.

Now the Full Professor of Petty Petitions is at it again. Avalos is besotted with the prospect of rescuing the little people from a grave ill, the unspeakable crime that the ISU football coach wants to hire, with private funds, a team chaplain. With the hard-hitting analysis you'd expect from a scholar awarded the prestigious rank of full professor, and with his mighty intellect focused on this threat to the Republic, Avalos said:

Are you going to have counseling for Jewish students? Muslim students? There's no such thing as one religion or one version of Christianity

A veritable Ph.D. thesis compressed into twenty three words.

Really now, what is it with these Midwestern atheist religion professors—why do they write and speak like sixth graders? I'm thinking now of Avalos Part Deux: Kansas professor and martyr wannabe Paul Mirecki who wrote about slapping fundies in their "big fat faces" and signs himself the "evil Dr. P."

† Avalos cannot, it would appear, understand the concept of the Nazis co-opting Luther's words for political expediency. One cannot make a truly convincing case that Christianity, either via a route connecting Luther to Hitler, or any other pathway, is responsible for Nazism. For if you do, you'll have to explain why the Nazi's had a plan to persecute the Church.

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