Education Expelled Intelligent Design

Michael Shermer’s Fact-Free Attack on Expelled Exposes Intolerance of Darwinists towards Pro-Intelligent Design Scientists

Spread the love

[Note: This article is an excerpt of what was originally published on Evolution News and Views as a 3-part series, linked as follows: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.  For the full article, see http://www.discovery.org/a/4689.]

Scientific American has a long history of opposing intelligent design (ID), so it comes as no surprise that they have tasked their columnist Michael Shermer with the job of attacking Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Michael Shermer is the founder of Skeptic Magazine, who loves to boast about how evolution liberated him from belief in God. In fact, he does just that in his article attacking Expelled, opening it by saying: “In 1974 I matriculated at Pepperdine University as a born-again Christian who rejected Darwinism and evolutionary theory,” but when he “finally took a course in evolutionary theory in graduate school I realized that I had been hoodwinked.” In his book, Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design, Shermer tries to convince the reader that he believes that evolution and religion are compatible, but ultimately concedes that, “were we to take a strictly scientific approach to the God question, we would have to reject the God hypothesis.”[1] It’s tough to take Shermer’s calls for peace between religion and Darwin seriously when he has elsewhere declared his view that “[t]here is no God, intelligent designer, or anything resembling the divinity as proffered by the world’s religions.”[2]

Shermer is interviewed in the documentary Expelled, and he basically denies that there is any persecution of ID proponents. Since the film provides extensive documentation of the discrimination faced by ID proponents in the academy, Expelled disproves Shermer’s one-sided skepticism.

Shermer’s day job is literally being a professional skeptic. He makes a living telling people that they should be skeptical of religion. But Shermer virtually never applies his skepticism to modern Darwinian theory. This film shows that sometimes his skepticism against ID goes too far. Shermer certainly has a huge stake in the debate over this film—in fact, it seems that his entire worldview, livelihood, and de-conversion experience depend heavily upon the veracity of Darwinian evolution. It therefore comes as no surprise that in his review of Expelled, he paints evolutionists as the saints, and Darwinism as a pure and unadulterated religion.

Shermer’s General Approach to Handling Persecution of ID Proponents: One-Sided Skepticism, Denial, and Blaming the Victim
Having seen Expelled, Shermer now knows that his denial that ID proponents get persecuted serves as a foil for the impressive documentation of such persecution presented throughout the film. His response is not to amend his answer in light of the facts presented in the movie, but rather to issue even more forceful denials that there is any persecution of ID proponents taking place. Shermer’s method of dealing with these persecution instances is as follows:

  • (1) Ignore all the facts showing there was persecution;
  • (2) E-mail the persecutor and ask them if there was any anti-ID discrimination;
  • (3) Withhold all skepticism from the statements of the persecutors, and then trumpet their response as evidence that there is no persecution against ID proponents, blaming the victim for losing their job and then claiming those who feel there is persecution are just promoting a “conspiracy.”Shermer’s record of consistently taking the side of the persecutors shows that he is part of the problem and is in no way an objective source to analyze this subject. For example, Shermer implies that Richard Sternberg’s credibility is diminished because he’s a fellow of the International Society for Complexity Information, and Design or because he “is a signatory of the Discovery Institute’s ‘100 Scientists who Doubt Darwinism’ statement.” (By the way, it’s over 700 scientists now, Dr. Shermer.) This shows that Shermer himself could be a potential persecutor of Darwin skeptics, for he isn’t interested in giving Darwin-skeptics equal treatment.If only Shermer would turn some of his skepticism against the perpetrators instead of waging all of his skepticism against the victims. This is typical behavior of persecutors: Deny and blame the victim, telling them they are conspiracy theorists. This unwillingness to believe the facts fits perfectly with Shermer’s modus operandi: unyielding and eternal skepticism…unless it supports Darwinism.Read the rest at http://www.discovery.org/a/4689.

    5 Replies to “Michael Shermer’s Fact-Free Attack on Expelled Exposes Intolerance of Darwinists towards Pro-Intelligent Design Scientists

    1. 1
      DLH says:

      See some thoughtful essays addressing these issues from The Thinking Christian

      Expelled: The Hot Topic
      April 17th 2008

      Two articles of mine posted on other websites today:

      On BreakPoint.com: Handling a Hot Topic (how Christians ought to engage in controversies like the one over Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed).

      And on the website for the Center for a Just Society, the first of two articles on the whether there was some connection between Darwinism and Nazism, as the movie claims. This first one looks at Richard Dawkins’s to the matter in his review of the movie Expelled. The second one, to be published around Monday, acknowledges that no legitimate philosophical link can be drawn from Darwinism to Hitler’s ethics. There’s another question, though: was there an historical connection regardless?

      I must refer you also to Richard Weikart’s expert article on that topic, published yesterday.

    2. 2
      Andrea says:

      Shermer’s record of consistently taking the side of the persecutors shows that he is part of the problem and is in no way an objective source to analyze this subject. For example, Shermer implies that Richard Sternberg’s credibility is diminished because he’s a fellow of the International Society for Complexity Information, and Design or because he “is a signatory of the Discovery Institute’s ‘100 Scientists who Doubt Darwinism’ statement.”
      I don’t think that Shermer cites the involvement of Sternberg with ID activities to “diminish his credibility”. He cites it in the context of the PBSW editorial procedures because they are obvious potential conflicts of interest with the job Sternberg had to do as editor overseeing the publication of Meyer’s paper.

      As for the “unwillingness to believe the facts”, facts are not an issue of belief, either they exist, or not. (Perhaps Casey meant “claims”, not “facts”, but then his argument would be substantially weaker, because of course claims have to be carefully examined on the basis of facts in order to be believed.)

      In this case, Shermer has posted articles with specific and lengthy discussions of the evidence in Sternberg and the other Expelled cases at the eSkeptic web site, besides of course Expelled Exposed (I am not linking to either, because that may be frowned upon by the blog authors, but the sites are easy to find for those interested.) The facts (confirmed by all later investigations) show that Sternberg was not “fired” from anywhere, did not lose his appointment at the SI, did not lose his access to the SI collections, etc. Those claims are therefore not to be “believed”.

      On the other hand, the evidence does show that he was shunned by his colleagues, his motives were questioned, and he certainly must have felt very uncomfortable hanging out at the SI. People may judge this reaction unfair and even nasty, and whether it was actually reprehensible it depends on whether one accepts the the scientists’ argument that it was justified by Sternberg’s apparent ethical and professional breaches, but certainly it was neither illegal nor unmotivated. And it was not the equivalent of censorship or, let alone, Nazi persecutions.

    3. 3

      Thanks for the article.

    4. 4
      Jason Rennie says:

      “Shermer’s day job is literally being a professional skeptic”

      Meh, I did an interview with Shermer a while back. He isn’t a skeptic at all. The term is really a total misnomer when applied to him or others like him.

      They are just a bunch of religiously motivated naturalists who seek to defend their turf.

    5. 5
      Casey Luskin says:

      Thanks to the commenters.

      Dear DLH: Thanks for the link to the excellent “Handling a Hot Topic” article. It made a good point: “There is far too much name-calling and invective being tossed around on this subject. You’ll see it if you look around the blogosphere a bit. I’m grateful to be able to say this is far less pronounced on the pro-ID sites than on anti-ID sites.” In that regard, I did not call Shermer any names in my rebuttal to him. My worst charge against him was that he uses selective skepticism. Sadly, Darwinists have been quick to accuse me of “dishonesty” and worse in my response to Shermer. To reiterate, your link’s finding is significant: “name-calling and invective … is far less pronounced on the pro-ID sites than on anti-ID sites.”

      Dear Andrea: You approach sounds a lot like that of Shermer: you try to deflect from the large amount of information recounted in my article showing that Sternberg WAS discriminated against due to his views on evolution–information that Shermer ignores in his Sci Am article. Then, like Shermer, you blame the victim for his fate, charging Sternberg with “ethical and professional breaches.” (I’ll get to that later)

      So what does Shermer ignore? For example, Shermer’s Sci Am piece ignores the unambiguous evidence that Sternberg was asked to resign. Shermer also ignores that the BSW president privately admitted that there was no wrongdoing regarding the peer-review process:

      “I have seen the review file and comments from 3 reviewers on the Meyer paper. All three with some differences among the comments recommended or suggested publication. I was surprised but concluded that there was not inappropriate behavior vs a vis [sic] the review process.”

      Can you really say with a straight face that this all had to do with procedural concerns about the publication of the article and not oppositin to ID? As the congressional staff investigation found: “given the circumstances and email debate surrounding the recommendations for greater restrictions, it is clear that NMNH staff were actively seeking to punish Dr. Sternberg.”

      Moreover, if this had nothing to do with ID then WHY DID THE BSW TURN TO THE NCSE FOR HELP and then WHY DID THE BSW CONDEMN ID in its statement? After all, one NMNH official wrote in an e-mail:

      “From now on, I will keep an eye on Dr. (von) Sternberg, and I’d greatly appreciate it if you or other NCSE specialists could let me [know] about further activities by this gentleman in areas poutside [sic] crustacean systematics.”

      Or as the report found: “Early on in the controversy, the NCSE circulated a set of ‘talking points’ to the BSW Council and NMNH officials on how to discredit both Sternberg and the Meyer article. The OSC investigation found that the ‘NCSE recommendations were circulated within the SI and eventually became part of the official public response of the SI to the Meyer article.’”

      You claim that Sternberg was rightly treated because he had “potential conflicts of interest with the job Sternberg had to do as editor overseeing the publication of Meyer’s paper” and Sternberg did not recuse himself. Oh, I see: Is “Darwin-skeptics cannot professionally interact with one-another via the mechanisms of the mainstream scientific community or it’s a conflict of interest” the new pretextual rule from the Darwinian community to justify anti-ID discrimination? That rule is discriminatory in-and-of-itself because any complaints about Sternberg’s affiliations amount to a double-standard: How many editors of science journals have ties to evolution societies and yet oversee the publication of pro-evolution papers? That rhetorical question needs no answer because it’s obvious that Darwinists are not seeking to impose a rule on pro-evolution scientists that no one would ever impose upon the evolutionary biology community.

      So let me get this straight: If a Darwin-skeptic with 2 Ph.D.’s in evolution oversees the publication of an article by another well-credentialed Darwin-skeptic (and the two happen to have some common professional affiliations) then that’s an “ethical and professional breach.” That’s an incredibly weak argument and discriminatory argument. The very fact that you make the argument reveals the double-standard that Darwinists would impose upon Darwin-skeptics.

      Once again, I remind you what the BSW president privately wrote: “I have seen the review file and comments from 3 reviewers on the Meyer paper. All three with some differences among the comments recommended or suggested publication. I was surprised but concluded that there was not inappropriate behavior vs a vis [sic] the review process.”

      Also to remind, the congressional staff report found: “The extent to which NMNH officials colluded on government time and with government resources with the NCSE to publicly discredit Dr. Sternberg’s scientific and professional integrity and investigate opportunities to dismiss him is alarming.”

      Given that fact, what would the NCSE’s counsel have been to the SI and NMNH? Does the NCSE feel that it is OK to discriminate against Darwin-skeptics or ID-proponents? How would they counsel the NMNH/SI?

      You try to paint me as someone who would object to linking to Expelled Exposed. That’s an unfair charge on your part: If you want links to that site, just read my article, which links to “Expelled Exposed” multiple times. I’ll gladly discuss the site because it’s important for people to realize that it reveals just how the NCSE endorses discriminating against people because they support ID. Here’s an excerpt from my article:

      But what does Scott’s organization, the NCSE, have to say about Gonzalez and ID? In fact, the NCSE has sponsored an anti-Expelled website, “Expelled Exposed,” that takes an intolerant mindset that justifies discriminating against Gonzalez because he supports ID.

      The “Expelled Exposed” site says that Gonzalez’s “distracting work on an unscientific enterprise like intelligent design,” among other things, “make[s] it impossible for supporters to legitimately claim that the decision not to grant him tenure was unfounded.” When discussing Gonzalez, the NCSE site also argues that ID proponents do not deserve the protection of academic freedom, stating, “A scientist should not expect his colleagues to ignore his advocacy of a perspective that those in his field have overwhelmingly rejected.” In other words, when ID-proponents like Gonzalez come up for tenure, the NCSE thinks that ID should count as an automatic and absolute negative. Clearly the NCSE endorses discriminating against Gonzalez simply because he supports ID.

      So the NMNH and SI turned to a group that supports discriminating against ID proponents, and a congressional staff investigation then made the finding that the SI and NMNH then discriminated against Sternberg. It sounds like the NMNH and SI got the precise help they sought. You cannot say with a straight fact that the actions taken against Sternberg had nothing to do with discriminatory mindset towards ID and were simply about procedural concerns regarding the article and Sternberg’s alleged “conflicts of interest.”

      Why don’t Darwinists just admit that the NMNH and SI screwed up, and move on? Is this the “zero-concession” policy at work here?

      Finally, I never said Sternberg was formally “fired”–but in fact I believe that the evidence shows that by the way he was treated, he was ousted–i.e. forced out against his will. An Office of Special Counsel investigation and a U.S. Congress Congressional Staff investigation validated Sternberg’s allegations. Some people might rightly feel that has no moral difference between “firing” someone and what happened to Sternberg.

    Leave a Reply