Intelligent Design

Banned Books Week – at least one dinosaur survived after all

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Friends draw my attention to this Banned Books Week event at Baylor, and this hasty reassurance that we are NOT supposed to think that there is any clear comparison between the suppression of Bob Marks’s evolutionary informatics lab and the banning of books. (Hat tip Anarchicharmony’s William J. Murray.)

No, there isn’t. At Banned Books Week, so far as I can tell from the advertising, you mostly snore through old chestnuts whose ideas have long been accepted or dismissed by most of society. You don’t learn about dangerous ideas that genuinely threaten the CURRENT establishment. Oh, and you might hear calls for violent jihad, et cetera, that some have tried to ban.

The jihadis actually do pose a physical threat to subway, train, and airline passengers, as well as restaurant and supermarket patrons. But whether the best way to address the problem is by banning access to detailed information is a question of security strategy rather than ideas as such. I have yet to hear of anyone who wanted to be a jihadi’s blast victim – but complained that the government was somehow interfering with that individual’s personal liberty by preventing terror attacks … (Oh, make my day … surprise me. Tell me about such a case … )

The best way to see what happens when someone genuinely threatens the current establishment’s illusions is not to look at ID guys like Guillermo Gonzalez or non-Darwinists like Rick Sternberg – interesting as their cases are. I always say, look at Larry Summers, once Harvard prez, now Unperson. His crime? Only to say what every thinking person actually knows: That the preponderance of men in maths and hard sciences is most likely based in nature, not social prejudice.

It is instructive to note that the vast majority of the people who would nod approval at propositions as foolish as the Big Bazooms theory of human evolution probably purse their lips at Larry Summers, who has nothing on his side but the preponderance of the relevant evidence. However human evolution happened, it left more men than women with the types of aptitudes that are rewarded in math and hard sciences.

So the tendency for Banned Books Weeks to be, essentially, dinosaur halls of the mind, is part of a trend, actually. Go here, here, and here for recent examples of the pervasive and growing problem that genuinely challenging ideas are increasingly banned or shunned. And go here if you want to help do something about it.

How bad has it got? Pretty bad, actually.

In The Spiritual Brain, Mario Beauregard and I chuckled at the ideas that The Edge (Wedge the Edge! – d.) thought “dangerous” in 2006:

Reading them over, one is struck by how undangerous the ideas actually are. The faculty lounge will only yawn at the idea that “we are nothing but a pack of neurons” (Ramachandran, quoting Crick), or that “there are no souls” (Bloom, Horgan, Provine), or that there is no free will (Dawkins, Metzinger, Shirky), or that the self is a zombie (Clark). No one will perk up on hearing that “the natural world is all there is” (Smith), that God is probably a fairy tale (Weinberg), or that “everything is pointless” (Blackmore). Not only are these ideas not dangerous in contemporary academe, they’re not even surprising or interesting—or, at this point, particularly well supported.

[ … ]

If you want to say something dangerous, you must create risk where you live. Materialists’ perception of their own ideas as “dangerous” in the contemporary climate is mere branding without substance. The real danger is that their ideas are slowly, systematically being disconfirmed. But that is not a danger they show the slightest sign of eagerness to address.

(pp. 178-79)

Far from it, they will probably do their best to ban serious discussion on any pretext whatever. And they have a very good reason for that.

Note: I am well aware of prejudice against women’s achievements. There was a time, for example, when great women novelists wrote under a male pseudonym or the cryptic “by a Lady.” But that is a problem light years removed from an inability to actually WRITE the novel! Once the novel became a socially important form of expression, prejudice did not prevent women from writing great novels, only from publishing under authentic female names (at first). I am told, in fact, that more women than men published novels during the nineteenth century. And what if more women than men had been writing theorems in math? Conducting experiments in physics? Designing bridges and steam engines?

10 Replies to “Banned Books Week – at least one dinosaur survived after all

  1. 1
    bFast says:

    I have yet to hear of anyone who wanted to be a jihadi’s blast victim – but complained that the government was somehow interfering with that individual’s personal liberty by preventing terror attacks … (Oh, make my day … surprise me. Tell me about such a case … )

    1st, Did you mean, “who didn’t want to be a jihadi’s blast victim?”

    2nd, if you are looking for an actual case of “c’mon government, there’s got to be some point where personal liberty outweighs protection from terrorism” then I have a story for you.

    This happened about 4 years ago. The pastor of my church, has been so for the last 15 years, was showing the sights to the regional director of the denomination. As he lives in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada, he figured he’d take his guest to Skagway Alaska for a day trip. His trip was promptly cancelled at the U.S. border because he was suspected of being a terrorist. His crime? ‘Seems that when he was born his family was living in Israel near the Syrian border. As the nearest maternity hospital was in Syria, he was born there, and spent the first few days of his life there. I think this is a great poster-story as an example of a government “somehow interfering with that individual’s personal liberty by preventing terror attacks.”

  2. 2
    O'Leary says:

    No, I did mean what I said, that I have have never heard of anyone who DID want to be a jihadi’s blast victim” – the fad seems not to have caught on yet in Toronto, even among the smart set. – d.

  3. 3
    shaner74 says:

    “Friends draw my attention to this Banned Books Week event at Baylor, and this hasty reassurance that we are NOT supposed to think that there is any clear comparison between the suppression of Bob Marks’s evolutionary informatics lab and the banning of books.”

    The irony in this hits you about as softly as a tank. The world is truly going mad. It’s really looking to me as though, whether God is real or not, once you remove Him from the equation all hell breaks loose. Black is white, up is down, and relativism rules the day.

  4. 4
    lars says:

    His crime? Only to say what every thinking person actually knows: That the preponderance of men in maths and hard sciences is most likely based in nature, not social prejudice.

    His crime was even less than that: he suggested that aptitude was merely a more important factor than socialization / discrimination. (He didn’t say that aptitude was the reason for the phenomenon.) More important than either of these factors, he claimed, is the differential willingness of men and women to take on “high-powered” jobs that demand 80-hour work weeks.

    All with plenty of appropriately humble hedging. But apparently not enough to forestall nausea and blackouts.

  5. 5
    StephenB says:

    Oleary, lars:

    Wasn’t his crime yet even more sutble and even less serious than that?

    Wasn’t he pointing out that only at the highest possible levels of achievement does this dynamic take place–that at moderate levels women may even outperform men–that men are at both the lowest and highest ends of the bell shaped curve?

  6. 6
    rrf says:

    Banned Book Week at Baylor? Isn’t that just delicious? A search of Bearcat shows that 23 of Dr. Dembski’s books are still on the shelf of the Baylor library system. Don’t tell anyone or they’ll be disappeared next week!!

  7. 7
    zoobiewa says:

    I think that bFast’s point was valid. It may just be my own dullardry, but I can’t make sense of your statement. Maybe I can break down why I don’t follow.

    You say that you’ve never heard of a person who wanted to be a jihad blast victim… and then you qualified it. The qualification was that you’ve never heard of someone with such a deathwish that had complained about an infringement on liberties. But we’ve already established that nobody wants to be a blast victim! You are making qualifications about a person when none exist with those properties in the first place.

    It’s a little like saying, well, nobody wants to work for 120 hours a week, but I wonder if they would tolerate starbucks coffee in the break room or not.

    Am I misunderstanding this?

  8. 8
    jerry says:

    It is sarcasm. It is a double irony.

    Not only are there no people just “dying” to become a jihad victim but if there were, the ones proclaiming so are also not fretting for the rights of the jihadist to come and blow them up.

    Essentially Denyse is pointing to the hypocrisy that is going on. Lighten up on the logic. It ruins the humor of the point.

  9. 9
    Larry Fafarman says:

    Baylor’s announcement of Banned Book Week says,

    To see a list of the most challenged and banned books, visit the American Library Association Banned Books Web site.

    Let’s not forget that the American Library Association refused to put “Of Pandas of People” — the book that Judge Jones ruled could not even be mentioned in Dover Area public school science classes — in its list of banned books (now called the list of “challenged and banned books”).

  10. 10
    russ says:

    An issue of academic freedom or one of an institution taking care not to be misrepresented to the public?

    I thought the problem was procedure and protocol, not content of the website. Isn’t that the official line?

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