Recently, I received an e-mail from someone well known in the American Scientific Affiliation, an American organization of Christians in science, asking me to mute my criticism of its worse-than-useless policies in dealing with the current anti-religious materialist agenda. The note followed on the heels of “Public questions for Denyse OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Leary” (and eventually an “open letter to Bill Dembski and Denyse OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Leary”)
Incidentally, while I am here, anyone know whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s with the “Public” questions and “open” letter stuff?
Usage note for composers of public questions and open letters: Dearest muffintins, if you put something on theWorld WideÃ‚Â Web, it IS public and open. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what putting it on the Web means. So you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need to tell me or anybody else that it is public or open.
Well, anyhow, below follow some “public” answers. It is a longish post in which I say things like,
Message to American Association for the Advancement of Science: In a country where individuals have civil rights and the majority of people who work to pay your bills are professing Christians, it would be very unwise to be “inherently hostile” to the Christian faith. So we will assume, for now at least, that whatever happened was only a misunderstanding or a mistake.
About the American Scientific Affiliation: Is it possible that the ASA types are just bright guys living in fear? The whole sense I get from years of monitoring the ASA list is of a bunch of people who act as if they really think that materialism has won and they must live in the ruins, and hope materialists will behave respectfully toward them.
The trouble is, as I realized while researching The Spiritual Brain, materialism has lost. Lost big time. Materialists sense it and they are frantic. …
But first, a brief summary:
I have followed the “ASA list” with fascination for years, sometimes participating in its discussions. When I first realized in about 2001 that the intelligent design controversy would explode mid-decade, I assumed that ASA would beÃ‚Â the sort of organization I could treat as a resource on what was happening! Well, I could not have been more right in the first forecast (explosion) – or more wrong in the second one (resource). But hey, we learn from our bad calls as well as from our good ones.
The reason I continued to study the ASA list in particular, while writing and researching By Design or by Chance? is that it seemed toÃ‚Â typefy the failed response of Christians in academic science to materialism. I later came to know some of the listÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s older history (how constitutional lawyer Phillip Johnson (the godfather of ID ) abandoned it long ago and drew closer to people who shared his own vision – that serious (not feel-good) accounting with the materialists is needed, for example).
Still later, I often found myself wondering on my coffee breaks while working on The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist’s case for the existence of the soulÃ‚Â – why would Christians in academic science not be enraged by all the garbage that passes for informed comment on spirituality – and much of the worst garbage is directly traceable to the influence of Darwinism? “Evolutionary psychology” essentially attributes to either natural selection or the random workings of evolution (depending on your brand) what the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s spiritual traditions see as contact with transcendent reality. One outcome has been to attract to the study of religion many people who are plainly unfitted to it, who posit weak and foolish ideas based in speculations about cave men, ideas vastly inferior even to their own predecessors’ efforts at a materialistÃ‚Â account of religion. But that is a story for another day, and it is told in The Spiritual Brain.
More recently, the ASA listÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s general silence on the atheistic materialistsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ current anti-God campaign (using Darwinism) merited close focus.
A cute trick – but wearing a bit thin now?
I also started bugging people to explain to me, among other things, exactly why the ASA organization is so collectively confused as to even sponsor the”ASA list”. See, the list is essentially a cute trick whereby ASAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s name appears to endorse constant attacks on Christians in science who are sympathetic to intelligent design, whether or not they could be classified as theistic evolutionists like Mike Behe. A frequent contributor is Pim Van Meurs of the Darwinist PandaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Thumb, announcing – for example – the good news that Richard Dawkins is not really inciting hateful bigotry.
(And DawkinsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ attacks on Christianity are all the ID guysÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ fault anyway, remember? That would be news to Dawkins, of course, who is proud to have been anti-religious long before ID meant anything other than the photo card that guys under 19 have to forge if they hope to drink beer here in Ontario.)
So why are the ASA listas even discussing the question with van Meurs? Well, my guess is, the “ASA list” is a sort of Thumb for guys who probably (okay, maybe) go to church.
Sometimes, the whole thing takes a hilarious turn, as when one endearing ASA-lista gushes, about evolutionary psychologist David Sloan Wilson:
If you get a chance to hear David S. Wilson, I would recommend doing so. Though a nonbeliever, he is very respectful of religion, loves talking about it, and will ask questions that will make you think. He will also actually listen [I mean really listen] to what you say. I’m not a biologist, but my impression is that he has almost single-handedly made group selection a respectable topic again.
I do think that he imports values into his system that are not inherent in it, and thus some of his ideas could be mis-used. […]
Misused? Oh my stars. Imagine that. Well, hereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what Wilson has to say in DarwinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society:(University of Chicago Press, 2002):
DarwinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Cathedral …people who stand outside of religion often regard its seemingly irrational nature as more interesting and important to explain than its communal nature. Rational thought is treated as the gold standard against which religious belief is found so wanting that it becomes well-nigh inexplicable. Evolution causes us to think about the subject in a completely different way. Adaptation becomes the gold standard against which rational thought must be measured alongside other modes of thought. In a single stroke, rational thought becomes necessary but not sufficient to explain the length and breadth of human mentality, and the so-called irrational features of religion can be studied respectfully as potential adaptations in their own right rather than as idiot relatives of rational thought. (pp.122-3).
Respectful of religion … because religious folk – the majority of Americans, for example – turn out not to be governed by the “idiot relatives of rational thought”?
And he actuallyÃ‚Â listened to the people speaking to him. Now thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s respect.
Well, hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t he bloody well BETTER listen? Why should materialists deserve praise for behaving themselves in a civilized way in a public place? The supine posture so typical of the ASA list mentality (you materialists have the right to behave badly to those foolish people who doubt Darwinism, so we will praise you when you graciously donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t) is beautifully imaged in comments like these. (Note: I do not mean to single out individuals, but must quote specifics.)
Making it all about the young earth creationists
Anyway, Bill Dembski finally realized that I wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t quit bugging him until I got some answers (hello, hello, yes Bill, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s me again, oh I know, and do pardon me, but I really must update my book, and I was just wondering once again if you had given any more thought to ….) so he eventually got somewhere near the bottom of his in tray and dug out something which revealed that ASA had decided years ago to attack young earth creationists (who have very little social influence) rather than materialists (who are promoting an atheistic religion, aimed directly at young people, using public systems whenever possible). In other words, the ASA policy seems to be to divide the Christian community rather than address attacks by materialist atheists on Christians and other theists.
I call that selling out. In general, getting into a row with American fundamentalist denomination heads about the age of the earth makes about as much sense as getting into a row with Benedict XVI about the Catholic teaching on the perpetual virginity of Mary, JesusÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ mother. If you want to be regarded as not only wrong but just plain evil, aim right atÃ‚Â whatever beliefs that the other guy in your own communion is especially sensitive about (Eve? Mary?), beliefs that generally pose no public threat.
So it turns out itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not just the ASA list after all. The problem involves the larger organization. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t buy the excuse offered, that if Christians in science decide that a doctrine of their denomination about the age of the earth is not true they will “lose their faith.”
If they were serious Christians, they would simply change their denomination instead.
(However, I am hardly surprised to learn that many ex-fundamentalists drifted away from Christianity over Darwinian evolution. Darwinism is the creation story of atheism, so an obsession with promoting and defending it is probably diagnostic of much more general problems with Christianity, admitted or otherwise.)
How to use fundamentalism to defend Darwinism – now, that IS a neat trick!
Which reminds me: Another cute “ASA list” trick is to suddenly strike a fundamentalist pose and attack the ID guys because “the intelligent designer is not necessarily the Christian God.” Huh?
HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the deal: Are you a Christian? A theist? A believer in karma? A perennialist ? Then you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t not accept intelligent design. (Even a non-materialist atheist should accept design,Ã‚Â though many are too confused to do so.)
However, materialist atheists have a chokehold on science today, which is why design is supposed to be Public Enemy Number One in their view. I expect them to fight pretty hard to defend what they view as their property and theirs only (science), and it wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be no beauty pageant. Any Christian in science whose response to the problem is to make trouble for other Christians in science is AWOL.
Civil rights for non-materialists?
Which reminds me: What about professionally qualified Christians in science who are YEC – for example, Marcus Ross, who recently received a PhD, amidst much anxiety? There is lots of disparagement of YECs on the ASA list, although Ross has written to me, pointing out that the quality of YEC work had become much more rigorous recently.
I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get YEC myself (it seems to me like an answer to a problem that shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t exist), but I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have any special reason to doubt RossÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s word in the matter of rigor. I had observed that process at work while writing By Design or by Chance? It seems to me that a formal organization of Christians in science should not be sponsoring a list that so regularly attacks other Christians in science, whether YEC, ID, or structuralist like Sternberg. (The recent list attacks on Rick Sternberg made especially sobering reading. )
Anyway, I have good news. I am happy to report that ASA list types are much more sensitive when crap happens to them – even if there are no career implications whatever! One of the “ASA listas” was kvetching to me recently about the fact that some other listas had got themselves banned here at UD. I replied,
People do get banned at UD all the time, for saying things they would be praised for on the ASA list. I can’t and don’t speak for Bill on this point, but I get the impression he is a bit tired of the denigration routine that is standard fare among TEs. It is just possible that he sees the denigration as a cover for non-engagement with the key issues.
As in: “I would believe that the universe shows detectible evidence of intelligent design if only Dembski were not such a dork/didn’t have access to the moderator keys at UD/got rid of O’Leary and Springer and …”
Bill …Ã‚Â suspects that most of the people who claim that they would be nice to him in that case wouldn’t ever admit to believing anything that puts them in direct conflict with the materialism that runs the academy today. In which case they are no use to him and never will be.
And if they’re upset, they’re upset. Just think, it’s still that free a country.
Just who ARE you running around with, anyway?
Just what ASA is doing right now became clear when someone posted to the ASA list the Executive DirectorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Corner from the March newsletter, including the following:
In my last column I mentioned that several secular scientific organizations had contacted ASA for in-depth discussions on science/religion issues. One of them was the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The AAAS is the oldest and largest scientific organization.
The first meeting brought seven evangelicals to Washington, five of whom were ASA members. Alan and Connie [from AAAS] pointed out that the mission of the AAAS is to “advance science and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people.” They felt AAAS may not have done all it could have for the benefit of evangelicals, a rather large segment of the population. They sought to understand the evangelical community better and to determine how they could help meet its needs.
Huh? Well, how about they start by stopping the anti-ID campaign? At least one ASA honcho likes to assure me that far more ASA members are sympathetic to intelligent design than the “ASA list” would seem to suggest. Well, this is his (and their) chance to prove it. Is ASA even raising the question of whether the AAASÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s anti-ID pages are a bad idea? Or is it merely selling its ID sympathizer members out?
Then the Corner reassures us:
One message that the AAAS wishes to convey to evangelicals is that mainstream science is not inherently hostile to Christian faith. The vocal minority, like Dawkins and Harris, who advocate the abolition of religion under the guise of science, does not represent the thinking of most secular scientists, they assured us. The majority of scientists respect and honor the moral values that religion provides, even if they may not concur in theological details.
Wow! I love it! “Not inherently hostile to the Christian faith.”
This is right up there with deep gratitude that D.S. Wilson knows how to behave like a gentleman at a public meeting. (Am I supposed to fall and kiss the ground before the materialists at this point, or will three deep curtsies suffice for now?)
Message to AAAS: In a country where individuals have civil rights and the majority of people who work to pay your bills are professing Christians, it would be very unwise to be “inherently hostile” to the Christian faith. So we will assume, for now at least, that whatever happened was only a misunderstanding or a mistake.
I love the part about “may not concur in the theological details.” Presumably the Corner means to reference the fact that the vast majority of elite scientists today are materialist atheists and they have a heavy investment in keeping their club exclusive. In fact, that is the precise reason that being anti-ID is so important to them. No other philosophical orientation in the world requires that.
It IS time we talked about all this, yes, but I somehow doubt that thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what AAAS sees as the problem. In fact, the AAAS agenda is pretty transparent: Be nice to the ASA, and get a reputation for being tolerant while giving up nothing whatever of substance.
Come to think of it, if the AAAS types are serious, canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t they prove it by denouncing DawkinsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and HarrisÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s anti-God campaign instead of ID? Maybe they have and I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t notice. On the other hand, from what I can see, the ASA types are probably well enough rewarded if they are merely treated politely. We all know that evangelicals in general are poor, undereducated, and easily led. Right?
The culture of the ASA list is pervasive. One ASA-lista, looking for homeschooling texts to recommend, suggested NCSE as a source – a key Darwin lobby organization. Yes! As if people homeschool in order to have their kids fed a materialist/dying liberal church line (you know, “the Pope Ã¢â‚¬ËœacceptsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ evolution” and all that rot, even as the controversy over materialism and its creatin story (Darwinism) goes worldwide).
Yes, worldwide. And the ID guys did that. I want my next book tob e about how t hey did it, exactly.
From what I can see, ASA is still AWOL, and proud of it. There is certainly no prophetic voice there.
Is it possible that the ASA types are just bright guys living in fear? The whole sense I get from years of monitoring the ASA list is of a bunch of people who act as if they really think that materialism has won and they must live in the ruins, and hope materialists will behave respectfully toward them.
The trouble is, as I realized while researching The Spiritual Brain, materialism has lost. Lost big time.Ã‚Â Materialists know it and they are frantic.Ã‚Â Materialism’s most basic agendas (people are just clever apes, computers can really feel and think, the mind and free will are an illusion, Darwin explained everything – are not confirmed). Materialism is currently supported principally by persecution campaigns. Materialists maintain their chokehold in part because of groups like ASA do not challenge the basic materialist agenda. Indeed, they act so pleased to just be noticed.
So, no, no, no! I wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t keep quiet about this. I know a scandal when I see one. And so yes, I accuse ASA of being AWOL from the central conflict in the science of our age – between the materialists and just about everyone else who has a stake in science enterprises.
My personal recommendations for ASA:
1. Develop an office to address the problem of Christians/theists in science who are subjected to materialist persecution, whether on design issues, bioethics issues, climate issues or others that will undoubtedly arise – especially any cases where irregular methods have been employed to get rid of evidence-based dissent. Continued silence in these situations is shameful.
2. Cease the campaign against the young earth creationists. To the extent that YEC is a doctrinal position, just donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get involved. If YEC scientists are subjected to persecution based solely on supposition about their point of view and not on failure to perform work to standard, defend them as one would defend any Christian subjected to persecution.
3. Check out of campaigns against the intelligent design guys, whether of the old earth creationist or theistic evolutionist variety. (Campaigners, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not fooling anybody. The materialists whose good opinion you want probably despise you way more than I do.)
4. Pull out of any discussions with AAAS while that organization attacks intelligent design as a concept and – onÃ‚Â your way out – ask them to denounce Dawkins instead and get back to you when they have.
5. Recognize that, as ID and non-materialism become worldwide forces, fewer and fewer people are fooled by materialist protestations of tolerance for Christianity, accompanied by attacks on something as fundamentally obvious to any theist/perennialist as the intelligent design of the universe.
6. Change the name of the “ASA list”, take it private, or shut it down.
The honchos at ASA would be best off to do this stuff before more people get wind of whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been going on in recent years. After all, not everybody reads Uncommon Descent … yet.