Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Eugenics In America

The Fernald School of Waltham Mass, one of America's ugly forays into Eugenics. A place where the "feeble minded" were imprisoned so they wouldn't breed. From the CBS story:


"We thought for a long time that we belonged there, that we were not part of the species. We thought we were some kind of, you know, people that wasn't supposed to be born," says Boyce [a Fernald School victim].

And that was precisely the idea.

The Fernald School, and others like it, was part of a popular American movement in the early 20th century called the Eugenics movement. The idea was to separate people considered to be genetically inferior from the rest of society, to prevent them from reproducing.


On a related note, Richard Dawkins, on why eugenics is your friend:


But if you can breed cattle for milk yield, horses for running speed, and dogs for herding skill, why on Earth should it be impossible to breed humans for mathematical, musical or athletic ability? Objections such as "these are not one-dimensional abilities" apply equally to cows, horses and dogs and never stopped anybody in practice.

I wonder whether, some 60 years after Hitler's death, we might at least venture to ask what the moral difference is between breeding for musical ability and forcing a child to take music lessons. Or why it is acceptable to train fast runners and high jumpers but not to breed them. I can think of some answers, and they are good ones, which would probably end up persuading me. But hasn't the time come when we should stop being frightened even to put the question?


Hey Dick, did you ever learn that one about those who cannot remember that past…

(HT: Telic Thoughts)

Missing Teens

Brent posts on two missing teens, one of whom is the daughter of a mutual friend. I'll second the call for prayer.

Oh, I'm sure Brent won't mind if I just reproduce his post:

I'm posting this to help a friend, in case someone out there reads this and happens to make a connection. His daughter, Rachael Crites, and a friend, Rachael Smith, have been missing since Friday. I spoke with him this morning and he asked me if I would post messages on any boards I had access to to help get the word out.

Crites is approximately 5 feet 4 inches tall and 110 pounds, with brown eyes and medium-length brown hair. Smith is around 5 feet 1 inch tall and 118 pounds, with green eyes and medium-length brown hair. They were driving a dark blue 1997 Subaru Outback station wagon with Maryland license plates MBJ-485. Police believe they may be in Charlestown, West Virginia (USA).

If you've seen them, their car, or know anything about their whereabouts, please contact the Montgomery Co. MD police at 301-279-8000, or the Family Crimes Division at 240-773-5400. Also, in the interest of getting the word out, please forward, re-publish, link, or whatever this post so others can read it as well.


MORE: news report with video.

Denominational Disconnects among Baptists (baptism) and Presbyterians (theonomy)

Surely all denominations have disconnects. Furthermore, exactly what constitutes a disconnect is no doubt in the eyes of the beholder. For example, I see a major disconnect in the Baptist position on baptism. To wit: Baptists teach that baptism is purely commemorative, however they also demand that it must be done in a precise way—even though nothing actually happens during the ordinance—it, after all, being purely commemorative.

In reading about theonomy (from pro-theonomy writers) I am struck once again by a Presbyterian disconnect. To wit: the Westminster Confession (WC) is not inspired, honest—we really do acknowledge that—no kidding. However you (as a Presbyterian) must affirm the WC.

Now the Westminster Confession is probably the greatest confession ever penned by men. However, it is not a creed—it does not summarize the simple basics of the faith like, say, the Nicene Creed. It is a rather comprehensive treatise. Just due to its size and breadth of coverage, the odds are it commits an error now and then.

A major flaw, in my opinion, among the pro-theonomy crowd (who, the intellectual ones at least, tend to be Presbyterian or Presbyterian-like) is that they often defend theonomy on the basis that it is consistent with the Westminster Confession. There is no acknowledgment that the Westminster divines lived at a time when the intertwining of church and state was the norm. Instead, what they wrote is considered, for all practical purposes, gospel.

If that weren’t bad enough—it is not so much what the WC gives unequivocal support to theonomy—it is what the divines wrote privately. In other words, certain nebulous paragraphs (see below) which on the surface are not at all “obviously” pro-theonomy are interpreted as such because the same men who wrote them also, privately, wrote pro-theonomy position papers and hence they must have intended the WC to be pro-theonomy. Therefore, the logic continues, the Presbyterian Church should adopt a pro-theonomy position—even though the WC is not inspired—really it’s not.

The key paragraphs from the WC:


XIX.III. Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, His graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly, holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the New Testament.

XIX.IV. To them also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging under any now, further than the general equity thereof may require.


Now, a reasonable person reading these paragraphs might conclude that the divines intended this, in summary: In the Old Testament we had ceremonial law, judicial law, and moral law. In the new covenant, the ceremonial law is abrogated, the judicial law has expired, and we still have the moral law.

Such an interpretation leaves no room for theonomy, which, in effect, is merely the statement that the judicial law still applies.

To make room for theonomy, you have to argue that paragraph XIX.IV teaches that the distinction between the judicial law being “expired” and the ceremonial law “abrogated,” is critical, and furthermore that the expiration of the judicial law applies only to the nation of Israel. How do you support this? By finding writings of the divines (which are no more inspired than the WC itself, honest) that suggest a pro-theonomy position—ergo that must be what they meant when they wrote the WC.

So what did some of the divines write concerning theonomy, and how compelling are their arguments? Consider a problem passage for theonomy, from the words of our Lord:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matt 5:17)
Now, if you are a theonomist, you must argue that (a) this includes the judicial law (but not the ceremonial law) and (b) given that, Christ has so–stated, he must have fulfilled the judicial law.

Well, that’s a problem, because on a number of occasions Christ violated or at least ignored the judicial law. The most famous example being the woman caught in adultery (cf. John 8:1-11.) The law was clear regarding her punishment—but Jesus let her go with a command to sin no more. How then can this be reconciled?

Westminster divine George Gillespie (1613-1648), considered a theonomist, in Wholesome Severity Reconciled with Christian Liberty, explained:


Christ's words, Matt. 5:17, Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill, are comprehensive of the Judicial law, it being a part of the law of Moses; Now he could not fulfill the Judicial law, except either by his practice, or by teaching others still to observe it; [but it was] not by his own practice, for he would not condemn the Adulteress, John 8:11, nor divide the Inheritance, Luke 12:13,14. Therefore it must be by his doctrine for our observing it.


But this is classic (if not exceptional) begging of the question. Gillespie assumes that Matt. 5:17 includes the judicial law, argues that Christ could either fulfill the judicial law by practicing it or teaching it. (Wouldn’t you actually and reasonably expect both?) Since, Gillespie admits, Christ does not fulfill it by practice—given that he did not condemn the adulteress, he must fulfill it by his doctrine, including presumably, Matt. 5:17.

This is faulty logic.

The bottom line is that theonomy, if it is true, must be defended by scripture, not by the WC let alone the twice-removed private writings of the divines.

Now trying to prove theonomy by New Testament teachings is a very difficult task. And you do have to explain why Jesus ignored the judicial law. And you have to explain why, given so much opportunity, neither Jesus nor any of the apostles presented any clear teaching that could be viewed as pro-theonomy.

In addition to the adulteress woman, Jesus encountered unspeakable heresies and blasphemies from the ranks of the Pharisees. He never called for any judicial enforcement of those capital offenses.

So far the pro-theonomy books I am reading fall far short of defending their position.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Weather or Not

Dr. Heidi Cullen of the Weather Channel has caused a firestorm, as I’m sure most of you are already aware. She has argued for a severe career penalty not for those who deny global warming, but for those who accept global warming but are as yet unconvinced that man’s role has been scientifically demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt. She wrote, about meteorologists who dare to suggest that the human race's contribution is still an open question:


I'd like to take that suggestion a step further. If a meteorologist has an AMS Seal of Approval, which is used to confer legitimacy to TV meteorologists, then meteorologists have a responsibility to truly educate themselves on the science of global warming. (One good resource if you don't have a lot of time is the Pew Center's Climate Change 101.)

Meteorologists are among the few people trained in the sciences who are permitted regular access to our living rooms. And in that sense, they owe it to their audience to distinguish between solid, peer-reviewed science and junk political controversy. If a meteorologist can't speak to the fundamental science of climate change, then maybe the AMS shouldn't give them a Seal of Approval. Clearly, the AMS doesn't agree that global warming can be blamed on cyclical weather patterns. It's like allowing a meteorologist to go on-air and say that hurricanes rotate clockwise and tsunamis are caused by the weather.


What a boneheaded position to take. What an absolutely idiotic article to write. Why, taking her suggestion yet another step farther, I would argue that anyone who seriously suggests that a person should lose a certification for holding to a (minority?) scientific view should have her Ph.D. revoked. After all, scientists who challenge the majority position are a proud part of the scientific process. Should Hoyle have been decertified for questioning the big bang? Even if the deniers (that man-made global warming has been conclusively demonstrated) are "wrong" they are playing a valued and highly uncontroversial role in the scientific process. Cullen, on the other hand, wants to enforce a dogma—this is unquestionably anti-science. She has, in my mind, forfeited the right to be called a scientist. The most amazing thing is that she has the chutzpah to accuse her less dogmatic colleagues of politicizing the issue.


If it is a majority—remember we are not talking about the actuality of global warming, but, given global warming whether there is incontrovertible data proving that man’s industrial activity is a substantive contributor.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

RTB du jour

From Hugh Ross’s (more or less) daily reason to believe:


Studies of planet formation continue to reveal the fine-tuning of the solar system to ensure Earth can support life. During formation of planets, gas giants form before rocky terrestrial planets do. Earlier research showed that gas giants with eccentric orbits prevented the formation of earth-sized, watery planets. Now, a team of international scientists has shown how interactions of gas-giant planets with the disks of debris around their stars cause the eccentricity of the gas giants to grow-even if their orbits were initially circular. One feature of our solar system that remains unique among all known planetary systems is the very circular orbits of multiple gas giants. This circularity ensures the gravitational stability of Earth through time and also provides an environment for Earth’s growth and accumulation of water. Such fine-tuning comports well with the idea of a supernatural Designer fashioning a habitable planet where humans can dwell.

Gennaro D’Angelo, Stephen H. Lubow, and Matthew R. Bate, "Evolution of Giant Planets in Eccentric Disks," Astrophysical Journal 652 (2006): 1698-714.


It often goes unappreciated how the gas giants (especially Jupiter) in our solar system (a) shield us (by a reduction factor on the order of 1000) from catastrophic impacts and (b) help stabilize our orbit. These properties require (1) the gas giants being outside our orbit, far from the sun and (2) the gas giants having a circular orbit.

Though we discover more and more planetary systems around other stars, we have yet to find any with these conditions.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Out and About

I am on travel--no posting until next week.

Monday, January 08, 2007

...10-118, 10-119, 10-120, STOP!

Brent Goodwin has penned his first fine tuning post, on the venerable cosmological constant. Called Einstein's greatest mistake--well it turns out it wasn't! No, Einstein's greatest mistake was disputing the bible on one of the few scientific points made in scripture: that our universe had a beginning.

The final score:

 The Holy Bible: 1
Albert Einstein: 0


Better luck next time.

Puzzling Scripture

Based on my site's logs, the Google search that lands people at He Lives most often is for Humorous Scripture.

I'd like to start a new collection: Puzzling Scripture. Submit your passages that, for you, resist a satisfactory explanation.

Of course, there are likely many such passages. However, if I had to pick just one, I think it'd be:
16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. (1 John 5:16-17)
No matter how many commentaries I read, or study-bible footnotes, I have yet to come across a parsing of this passage that smellsright. For example, Matthew Henry, whom I find consistently reliable and understandable, writes, concerning this passage:


There is a sin unto death (v. 16), and there is a sin not unto death, v. 17. (1.) There is a sin unto death. All sin, as to the merit and legal sentence of it, is unto death. The wages of sin is death; and cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them, (Gal. 3:10). But there is a sin unto death in opposition to such sin as is here said not to be unto death. There is therefore, (2.) A sin not unto death. This surely must include all such sin as by divine or human constitution may consist with life; in the human constitution with temporal or corporal life, in the divine constitution with corporal or with spiritual evangelical life.

Ah-wreh?

Feel free to offer an explanation of this passage—but the main point for this post is to encourage you to submit your favorite puzzling scripture.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Sammy Harris, you old rational son of a gun, you!

One can see a certain diabolical coherency to atheist Richard Dawkins. At least on most occasions he passes a self-consistency test. Sam Harris, however, defies analysis.

At first he seems like a young, heir apparent. Like Dawkins, he begs the question: he assumes religion and rationality are orthogonal and then concludes that if we are to achieve a rational society we must, obviously, abandon religion.

There, however, the similarity ends. The rational-minded Sam Harris declares an end to irrational religion in order to make room for the scientific spirituality he advocates: xenoglossy, ESP, and other New-Age mystical touchie-feelies. Who knew that pure ice-cold atheism could be so mind expanding?

For the rest of the story, see Joy's post on Telic Thoughts.

By the way: have I ever mentioned that, in my opinion, Telic Thoughts is the web's best ID site? (Not just because they haven't banned me, although that's nice of them.)


No, I thought, there couldn't possibly be a wikipedia entry on xenoglossy. I was wrong, of course.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Solomon, the occasionally unwise one

At the time Solomon became king, there was no centralized place of worship for the people of Israel. Instead, many were worshipping indiscriminately in the “high places” in the mountains And Solomon, instead of following the practices of his father David, who worshipped at the Ark, joined them. Ultimately, his worship practice and unsatiable desire for foreign women will be the undoing of the unified kingdom of Israel. Before that, however, Solomon would complete his greatest accomplishment, the building of the temple. Remarkably it is accomplished through an agreement with the king of Tyre, who supplies materials and craftsmen:
1 Now Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon when he heard that they had anointed him king in place of his father, for Hiram always loved David. 2And Solomon sent word to Hiram, 3"You know that David my father could not build a house for the name of the LORD his God because of the warfare with which his enemies surrounded him, until the LORD put them under the soles of his feet. 4But now the LORD my God has given me rest on every side. There is neither adversary nor misfortune. 5And so I intend to build a house for the name of the LORD my God, as the LORD said to David my father, 'Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, shall build the house for my name.' 6Now therefore command that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me. And my servants will join your servants, and I will pay you for your servants such wages as you set, for you know that there is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians." (1 Kings 5:1-6)
Alas, however, Solomon also makes an unwise decision:
King Solomon drafted forced labor out of all Israel, and the draft numbered 30,000 men. (1 Kings 5:13)
He enslaves (more accurately a corvée, also described as a labor “tax”—wherein people were drafted into public works labor for specified periods) his own people to build the temple. God will use the fury created over Solomon’s use of forced labor to ignite the rebellion that will lead to a divided kingdom.

The interesting thing is the multithreaded nature of God’s sovereign plan. The dividing of the kingdom after Solomon’s death is ordained—but look how it plays out:
  • Back in the book of 1 Samuel, at the end of the era of judges, when the people were clamoring for a king, the prophet Samuel warns them that, among other negative consequences of their ill-advised request, they would be enslaved by their own king (1 Sam 8:12, 17).

  • Indeed, Solomon fulfills this prophecy, using forced labor to build the temple. (See also 2 Chron. 2:17-18)

  • This unwise choice by Solomon sets the stage for a rebellion.

  • Later, Solomon turns away from God (1 Kings 11) and worships, in those “high places,” the foreign gods of his 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines!

  • God is angered, and decrees that the kingdom would be divided.

  • After Solomon’s death, God uses the simmering resentment created by Solomon’s use of the corvée, as prophesied by Samuel, as the means to accomplish his decree.
Very cool indeed, how it all works together.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Name that tuned universe

Physics grad student Brent Goodwin is starting a series of posts on fine tuning. Check your tiresome puddle analogies at the door.

Solomon, and the strange tale of Abishag

It has been said that under King David, Israel enjoyed her Golden Age. And under Solomon, the gold began to tarnish. And after Solomon, the kingdom turned to rust.

As King David lay dying, his oldest surviving son Adonijah launches a coup to make himself the next king. In fact, he has himself declared king while David was still alive.
1When King David was old and well advanced in years, he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him. 2So his servants said to him, "Let us look for a young virgin to attend the king and take care of him. She can lie beside him so that our lord the king may keep warm." 3Then they searched throughout Israel for a beautiful girl and found Abishag, a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. 4The girl was very beautiful; she took care of the king and waited on him, but the king had no intimate relations with her. 5 Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, "I will be king." So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him. (1 Kings 1:1-5)
Here we have the first mention of the beautiful virgin Abishag, who was charged with keeping the dying king warm. It was a man’s world indeed. Scripture tells us that David did not sleep with her. Why this information? Considering just this passage, you’d probably assume that the intent was to avoid impugning David’s (rehabilitated) good name. Even then, it seems a bit odd. But like many other occurrences in scripture, its purpose is found elsewhere. Hold that thought.

What is happening? Following in his brother Absalom’s footsteps, Adonijah tries to wrest the kingdom by connivance. In classic coup strategy, he begins to line up coconspirators, including Joab, David’s most trusted general (a mistake that would cost the brutal Joab his life.) This is a power struggle of the highest magnitude. David had already sworn an oath to his wife Bathsheba that her son, Solomon, would be king.

When David hears about the extent of the betrayal, he acts—successfully arranging for Solomon to be declared as king.

After Solomon is made king, Adonijah comes to Bathsheba (yes, that Bathsheba) and, after acknowledging that Solomon is king, asks Bathsheba (remember not his but his half-brother Solomon’s mother) to ask the new king to grant him this same Abishag as his wife. Bathsheba agrees and does ask Solomon:
19So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her and bowed down to her. Then he sat on his throne and had a seat brought for the king's mother, and she sat on his right. 20Then she said, "I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me." And the king said to her, "Make your request, my mother, for I will not refuse you." 21She said, "Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother as his wife." 22King Solomon answered his mother, "And why do you ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom also, for he is my older brother, and on his side are Abiathar the priest and Joab the son of Zeruiah." 23Then King Solomon swore by the LORD, saying, "God do so to me and more also if this word does not cost Adonijah his life! 24Now therefore as the LORD lives, who has established me and placed me on the throne of David my father, and who has made me a house, as he promised, Adonijah shall be put to death this day." 25So King Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he struck him down, and he died. (1 Kings 2:19-25)
The Old Testament is so interesting! To reiterate what transpired:

  1. The leader of the failed coup Adonijah goes to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon, the new king.
  2. He requests just one favor: that Bathsheba ask her son the king to send Abishag, the young woman who had kept King David warm on his deathbed, to him to be his wife.
  3. Bathsheba takes the request to Solomon.
  4. Solomon responds, saying in effect: why not just ask me to make him king?
  5. Instead of granting the request, he has Adonijah executed!
Again, to us this probably seems excessive. Why not just throw the man a bone? (Not to disparage Abishag but—like I said before, this was a man’s world.) There seems to be no harm. If a beautiful wife will keep him occupied, out of mischief, and maybe a bit grateful, it’s a win-win.

Not so fast. What appears to be happening here is that Adonijah is still a force to be reckoned with. The kingdom is Solomon’s but at this moment his grip upon it is tenuous. In some strange eastern political calculus that I cannot fully appreciate, having the hand of Abishag, the woman who had comforted the beloved King David, would, Solomon feared, give Adonijah just the boost in credibility and extra political capital that he needed to still pull off his stalled coup. It may have caused a few more officers to defect.

Solomon understood Adonijah’s plan. But here is the kicker: Adonijah’s plan was only feasible in the first place because Abishag did not sleep with the king. If she had, it would have been illegal for Adonijah to request her hand—so his failed plan could never have been launched. Maybe he would have tried something else—perhaps something with a better chance of success. God’s sovereign plan is surely a thing of beauty.

Anyway—I believe that is why we were told that detail way back in 1 Kings 1:4.

An unanswered question is why Bathsheba brought the request to Solomon. Here we can only speculate that she knew that the request in and of itself was useful intelligence for Solomon. It told him, as his response verifies, that Adonijah still had designs on the throne. In this case Bathsheba played the part of a dutiful member of the court and matriarch of the royal family. Solomon, I bring you a request from your half-brother (wink, wink, nod, nod)…

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A New Year for the ID Movement

On Uncommon Descent, Dembski is promising a banner year for ID, including three major developments:

1) A new ID friendly research center at a major university. (This is not merely an idle wish — stay tuned.)

This one is intriguing only because of the mystery regarding the university. Does anyone know? Is it common knowledge and I just missed it? I'm guessing Biola? At any rate, that has already been tried, at Baylor, until its head (Dembski) got himself fired for "Gloating Unbecoming the Head of a Research Center Who is Expected to Know How to Handle an Emotionally Charged Political Victory with Grace, Dignity, and Humility." You can read about it here.

Here are my related predictions:
  • The worst thing that could happen to ID is that it creates a "research" center at a Christian university while still proclaiming that ID has nothing to do with theism and everything to do with science. The heads of more scientists who are somewhat sympathetic to ID will, as mine already has, explode from the unbearable dissonance pressure. Prediction: this will happen!

  • A good thing that could happen to ID is that it created a "research" center at a Christian university and proclaimed that ID will refocus its mission to an apologetic one: namely to demonstrate to believers that science is not the enemy, and that the bible instructs us to study creation for God's glory. Prediction: this will not happen!


2) The publication of Michael Behe's book with Free Press: THE EDGE OF EVOLUTION.

Regardless of the quality of Behe's book (and I'll certainly read it), a popularized book is no substitute for published research. Guys: there's an established order to this process:
  1. Do the science, publish papers, gain credibility and then
  2. Publish popularized accounts, do the book tours, get the honoraria.
For a while we could hope that you were boldly reversing the order—a new paradigm as it were. But now it just looks like you've decided to skip step one altogether.

3) The publication of the sequel to OF PANDAS AND PEOPLE, authored by Jonathan Wells and me [Dembski] and titled THE DESIGN OF LIFE: DISCOVERING SIGNS OF INTELLIGENCE IN BIOLOGICAL SYSTEMS.

As for this—sigh. One piece of advice: keep those galleys under lock and key boys—just in case you have to go back later and do a global search and replace. That's caused a bit of embarrassment in the past, you know. I'll only add the observation that Dembski is the only person I know, and I do mean the only, who would list his own soon-to-be-published book among the three major milestones he anticipates for his discipline in the upcoming year.


OK, not a Research Center but, to be precise, a Think Tank. However for ID, so far, the terms are synonymous.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Derb vs. Dawkins's Doctrinaire

Panda's Thumb is happy that National Review correspondent John Derbyshire is bashing ID again.

Long time readers will recall that I can't stand John Derbyshire. I haven't been to the Corner for a while, but presumably he is still the narcissist that he always was—and still referring to himself in third person:

THE DERB ON THE DERB BY THE DERB John Derbyshire

Hi simple minded Corner people, the Derb here. None of my NR colleagues know anything about science. Neither does the Derb, really, but the Derb knows just enough to be NR's expert on all topics scientific and mathematic. The Derb is wise. The Derb has been to China, so The Derb is also NR's sinophile and expert on all things Asian. The Derb is the most erudite writer on NR, which is why the Derb enjoys writing about the Derb. Maybe later today the Derb will find a math puzzle and its solution on the net. The Derb will post the puzzle here, but post the answer on the Derb's website, so that it appears that the Derb solved the problem.

Posted at 3:24 PM


Having reminded you of that, I regretfully announce that, in this case, I agree with Derbyshire's recent criticism of the ID movement:



Kitzmiller, One Year On. It was just a year ago this month, on December 20, 2005, that U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III delivered his opinion in the case Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, a crushing blow to the Intelligent Design movement. The ID-ers have not forgiven Judge Jones, and have been smearing and vilifying him ever since. These people can’t do science, but they sure can do ad hominem. Federal marshals actually had to place the judge and his family under guard for a while, so threatening were some of the emails sent to his office by the ID fanatics.

This, by the way, was a judge whose appointment to the case had been greeted with rapture by the ID-ers since he was, as one of them put it: “a good old boy brought up through the conservative ranks… appointed by GW hisself… Unless Judge Jones wants to cut his career off at the knees he isn’t going to rule against the wishes of his political allies.” As it turned out, Judge Jones is a conservative in the right way, the best way: he respects the law, and the plain rules of evidence.

All the depositions and court transcripts in the case are now on the Internet, and very devastating they are to the ID cause. And as devastating as what is there is what is not there — the court testimony of leading ID-er William Dembski, for example. After much pre-trial bluster about how, in an open forum, he would shred the arguments of the “Darwinists,” when he was actually presented with a wonderful public opportunity to do exactly that in the Dover courtroom, Dembski declined to show up! The whole sordid story is told by expert witness Barbara Forrest in the Jan./Feb. 2007 issue of Skeptical Inquirer (not yet online… and I took that quote in the previous paragraph from Ms. Forrest’s article).

I don’t see how anyone can read these transcripts, or Ms. Forrest’s account, without concluding that the whole ID business is riddled with dishonesty. Two of the [pro-ID] defendants in the case were actually discovered to have lied under oath when making their depositions, and were scolded by the judge for it. Lesser degrees of shiftiness, like Dembski’s as noted above, are all over the place. I daresay there are some honest and sincere people pushing the ID agenda; but taken as a whole, it is all a bit shabby and ignoble. Read those transcripts, or just Barbara Forrest’s article, and tell me I’m wrong.

None of that will make much difference to the ID-ers, of course. They will carry on merrily raising funds, organizing conferences, whizzing round the country on their junkets, preaching the True Word to receptive audiences, basking in the adoration of the faithful, collecting their book royalties, and disdaining to do anything as grubbily tedious as actual scientific research — behaving, in short, just as they have for the past several years. The Kitzmiller case does, though, at least advance the day when the rest of us will no longer need to pay any attention to the Intelligent Design buncombe and its shifty promoters.


It's selfish, I know, but I blame Dembski and company for putting me in a position where I am forced to agree with a rather unsavory character like John Derbyshire.

There is, however, one amusing twist to this story. Uber-fundamentalist PZ Myers, whose circle of orthodoxy is microscopic, refuses to praise Derbyshire for writing an anti-ID (movement) article on a national, perhaps the national conservative publication--even though it should represent a windfall for the PT team. Alas, PZ cannot overlook Cindy Crawford's birthmark. No, you must align yourself with Dawkins’s Doctrinaire on all party planks, regardless of how small and how unrelated to science, before you will receive his blessing. Just ask Ken Miller.

Thank you PZ--the world would be far less interesting without you.

What did the Derb write that prevented him from receiving PZ's annointing? Well, the blasphemous phrase was:

As it turned out, Judge Jones is a conservative in the right way, the best way: he respects the law, and the plain rules of evidence.

Clearly the unpardonable viewpoint of a reactionary. Sorry, the Derb, You must be pure as gold before you can worship Dawkins alongside the lidless-eyed PZ. More re-education is called for.