Recently, a journalist friend phoned me to ask if I realized that I had been cast as a villain in Marci McDonald’s, book that allegedly
… draws back the curtain on the mysterious world of the right-wing Christian nationalist movement in Canada and its many ties to the Conservative government of Stephen Harper.
Folks, this book is like drawing back the curtains only to discover so many muddy streaks on the window that you’d be far wiser to just go outside and have a look yourself, if you want to see what is going on.
Yes, I appear briefly in McDonald’s book-length screed, even though I have never met Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, do not follow politics closely, and know (inconveniently) that there is no viable Christian nationalist* movement in Canada. Anyway, several pages are, unjustifiably, devoted to me. Some of what results is just sloppy writing.
For example, an unconsciously comical McDonald refers to my “omnipresent” hats (p. 198.) No hat is “omnipresent”; a hat sits on one person’s head at a time. It goes where the person goes, period. Or else it sits in a drawer. And I like hats. So?
But sometimes, statements are wrong in a way that must be countered.
The main vice of McDonald’s book with respect to me is that – presumably to make its weak factual case – it grossly overstates my role in the intelligent design controversy.
P. 198 I am a “key figure ” Admittedly, on page 199, she downgrades me to a “minor luminary”. Neither is true, exactly. I am just a hack who reports on a growing beat others fear. Presumably, they couldn’t stand the kind of stuff you will see if you Google my images on the Internet.
But I knew it was a story, and wouldn’t let it go.
But then, McDonald also says, at p. 200, “O’Leary has become one of the most influential voices on intelligent design in the blogosphere, a key gatekeeper of news and opinion on the subject, …”
Wow! Who knew? But who, except McDonald, believes that it is true?
Later, she says (p. 202) that I was identified by some writer somewhere in some publication somewhere as a “Christian leader”.
News around here, let me tell you. So, let’s see: With the entire materialist atheist blogo ranged against people like me, I still managed to … ??!! My grandmas must be so pleased, watching me from heaven.
No, but seriously, just about everything McDonald writes about me is designed to denigrate my character, whereas I actually have a good rep in my industry. But that’s a “marci” for you*.
*A “marci”? I have decided, as noted elsewhere, to coin the term “marci” to identify errors that could have been avoided by fact checking. McDonald can hate people as much as she wants, but that does not absolve her of the need for fact checking.
Anyway, here are a few marcis about me:
For example, I was never in the “employ” of the Foundation for Thought and Ethics – a Texas curriculum provider. I indexed one of their books, and provided content to their Web site for a while. (p. 200) These types of jobs are almost always freelance and immediate or short term, as anyone who wanted to ask could find out.
I do not, as claimed, get paid for contributing to what McDonald refers to as “Dembski’s promotional blog” – she must mean our Uncommon Descent blog. . Uncommon Descent was founded by Bill Dembski, yes, but has long been an ID community blog. Dembski is not in charge of the blog. A Colorado lawyer named Barry Arrington is. Dembski and I are two of the four other co-ordinators. We have, in common, a strong dislike of trolls, not nationality or politics. Financial contributions are most welcome, and will be used to augment the services we provide.
This, above, gives you some sense of the screed on me. No one bothered to ask detailed questions that would have resulted in factual answers.
It is as if the universe is now fact free. Some woman’s misplaced anger and fear is important now, and nothing else is.
P. 199 Some statements are simply smears or falsehoods: “Although O’Leary insists that she was halfway through her research [for By Design or by Chance? ] before she first heard of ‘Disco,’ as she breezily refers to it, her book features glowing cover blurbs from institute fellows ….”:
As it happens, both statements are true. The early part of my book dealt mainly with cosmology (views on the universe) and early twentieth century religious conflicts. An American prof who evaluated my work, told me, halfway through, “If you don’t know about the Discovery Institute, you need to.” I followed through, and then my publisher wisely asked me to collect blurbs from people who might suggest that people buy the book. The easiest crowd was the Discos.
Some other claims could have easily been corrected by fact-checking, but that obviously was not wanted by the publisher or the author. For example,
P. 199 “ … having spoken at Discovery Institute seminars …” Only one seminar, actually, in 2007, the year my co-authored book, The Spiritual Brain, came out. Copies arrived at my home the day I came back. The publisher at Harper One, thought it a good idea to go speak there, even though I did not particularly want to at the time.
P. 199 “ … and been hooked into its strategic conference calls … ” Falsehood! I was never hooked into a strategic Disco conference call. I was sometimes hooked into media conference calls, though I can only recall one, something about Kansas, if memory serves me.
And it goes on. You get the flavour, and I really have no more time to waste on this stuff. People are really stooping when they stoop to this. People who think that design might play a role in the universe must be doing something right, or the opposition would not be stooping so low.
See also here and here for more “marcis” = errors of fact that fact-checking would have prevented, accompanied by the hostile tone that one has come to expect. Read the book if you want, but I would not recommend buying it, and certainly not quoting from it unless you yourself are a bigot with little regard for fact.
*Of course, McDonald can always get away with these smears by insisting that I affirm that I am both a Christian and a loyal Canadian. But that does not add up to being a “Christian nationalist”, for the same reasons as a banana and an apple don’t add up to a “banapple”. Shame on her and shame on her publisher.