In a recent dialogue with paleontologist and ID proponent Gunter Bechly, Washington University computational biologist Joshua Swamidass zeroed in on his main complaints about intelligent design. The venue was Justin Brierley’s podcast Unbelievable? I get top billing in this department. First and foremost, Swamidass dislikes the “confrontational approach” that he thinks I promote and exemplify, along with other ID proponents. In his words: “Doug Axe in Undeniable and also in the recent Crossway book on theistic evolution talks about how there’s a need to have a confrontational approach to evolutionary science.”
“Even if ID is correct,” he continues, “I think a conversational approach is better than a confrontational approach.”
The proper role and form of confrontation in dialogue is worth discussing, so I thank Joshua for bringing the subject up. In short, if by confrontation we mean calling someone to account on a false claim by presenting evidence of its falsehood, then surely everyone who values the truth ought to be in favor of it. Understood that way, confrontation has nothing to do with bullying or vilifying. It’s about setting the record straight, which certainly shouldn’t be at odds with productive conversation.
In fact, Joshua’s comments call for an example of constructive confrontation. Contrary to what he said, I don’t actually talk about the need to have a confrontational approach. Rather, he seems to be misconstruing a section from my contribution toTheistic Evolution. Douglas Axe, “Confronting Joshua Swamidass on Confrontation” at Evolution News and Science Today (July 22, 2021)
Well, he would be, wouldn’t he? Make coffee. Never do this without coffee.