I just got through reading Slaughter of the Dissidents, and I must say, it is fantastic. I was a little skeptical at first, simply because the title of the book was so extreme. After reading it, I still think that the title is extreme (there are real slaughters of people happening in different parts of the world), but I can see why it was chosen – the extent to which Darwin skeptics are being persecuted in academic environments is simply astonishing.
The first chapter, “A Context for Discrimination Against Darwin Skeptics” deserves special recognition. Kevin Wirth, who authored it, did an excellent job providing a background and context for this book, especially for those not familiar with the debate or why it generates so much controversy. It almost deserved to be an entire book unto itself. It described why (a) Darwin skeptics are skeptical, (b) Darwinists are skeptical of the skeptics, (c) why ID’ers and Creationists are often lumped together in a single category, even when completely inappropriate to the context, (d) the relationship between the source, the justification, and the effects of ideas (and why it matters), and (e) the relationship that religion has with this whole debate.
Honestly, if someone who wasn’t familiar with the issues asked for a short introduction to the whole issue, I would recommend that they buy the book if only to read the first chapter. That would give a good background on what the disagreement is over and why it is so heated.
Chapter 3 was emotionally tough to read – page after page after page of people being denied from academia precisely because they are Darwin skeptics. Bergman suggests that it is precisely this discrimination which causes there to be so few Darwin skeptics in academia. It was gut-wrenching to see, page after page, a veritable catalogue of good students being denied access to academia.
We’ve all heard about Carolyn Crocker and Guillermo Gonzalez, and some may have heard of Raymond Damadian and Dean Kenyon. All of these people’s stories are detailed and documented. But those only scratch the surface of the problem described by Bergman. Board after board, committee after committee, and court decision after court decision have ruled that it’s okay to single out a single range of views (skepticism of Darwinism) from consideration. In the Bishop case, the court actually ruled that the school has the right to censor any personal opinions of professors that it wants to (including tenured professors). In case after case, it is admitted by all parties that the teaching was not coercive, and the discussion was appreciated by the students, and it represented a tiny fraction of class time. But, since it was against Darwinism, it was alright for it to be censored.
This isn’t just happening in private schools – it’s happening in public schools (high school and college) which use public money for their operation. There is clearly a widespread problem of viewpoint discrimination, which your tax dollars are funding.
The last chapter asks what we should do now. The two which seem most relevant to the average Darwin skeptic (or even non-skeptic who disagrees with the discrimination) is to simply make your voice heard – whether it is a letter to the editor or speaking out at a school board meeting or writing your senator – make your voice heard. If you are a student, check out the academic freedom policy of your institution, and see what the limits are. If you are a non-tenured faculty member, Bergman suggests that you keep your head down and write pseudonymously. I disagree – I think everyone needs to be counted on this issue, though I know that some simply cannot because of the potential personal cost. For tenured faculty, it is imperative that you take students and younger faculty members under your wing and leverage your influence to help them come through the process unscathed. If we all stood up together, who knows what might be accomplished?
The book is great for anyone who is interested in the debate. It is informative to know what lengths people and groups will go to in order to eliminate discussion of the alternatives to Darwinism.