Correcting Misinformation about ID: Yet Another Irresponsible Critic in the BioLogos Comments Section
|June 16, 2018||Posted by eddieunmuzzled under Intelligent Design|
ID proponents have many times noted that at BioLogos, both management figures and columnists have distorted and deformed the facts about ID theory and the Discovery Institute. But perhaps even more damaging to the accurate public perception of ID are the comments which fill the BioLogos discussion boards. The negative comments about ID coming from BioLogos readers are not only more numerous than those which appear in actual BioLogos articles, but also more unrestrained and extreme, and generally speaking (because the BioLogos boards are frequented overwhelmingly by people who are anti-ID), they go unchallenged. I here discuss a recent case, from this BioLogos page:
I will focus on this passage from one “Ronald_Myers”:
One thing Gauger does not address is that Meyer et al’s book is titled Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical and Theological Critique. The Discovery Institute claims to be a scientific institution so the philosophical and theological critiques are out of bounds. By publishing this book the Discovery Institute surrendered all claim to being scientific
The essence of the much of this heat is that the ID movement is changing. Michael Behe’s original book accepted evolution of multicellural life, now the blogs moderated by Discovery Institute speak more like YEC people without any moderator comment, ie with tacit approval. Further, onj the Discovery Institute web site there are now topics on Economics, Technology and Human Exceptionalism which from the subtitles are value laden topics.
I’ll leave aside detailed consideration of the author’s several typing, spelling, editing, and punctuation errors, such as et al for et al. and ie for i.e. Such errors are, alas, increasingly common even among supposedly educated people these days, due to the failure of the American school system to train most students in basic writing skills, but to linger on this writer’s sloppiness and incompetence as an author would divert me from my basic point, which concerns his sloppiness and incompetence as a researcher and thinker.
To start, let’s focus on this statement:
By publishing this book the Discovery Institute surrendered all claim to being scientific
And there is the first error. Discovery did not publish the book in question. If “Ronald_Myers” had bothered to do even the most basic research on his subject, he would have seen the title page of the book, which gives the publication information as: “CROSSWAY: Wheaton, Illinois.” Lest Mr. Myers (if that is his real name, which one can never be sure of on the Internet) should be unaware of the fact, I would inform him that the Discovery Institute and its publishing arm, Discovery Institute Press, are located in Seattle, Washington. A casual check of the Crossway website would have made clear to him that Crossway is a quite independent publishing operation, which opened its doors in 1979, before Discovery even existed.
The second error follows from the first. Ronald Myers writes:
The essence of the [sic] much of this heat is that the ID movement is changing. Michael Behe’s original book accepted evolution of multicellural [sic] life
Even if one identifies “ID” with the Discovery Institute (which is not a safe identification, since there are ID proponents who are not members of the DI), the contents of a book published by Crossway would not necessarily indicate that either ID or the Discovery Institute has changed. The Crossway book contains essays by a number of leading ID advocates, but it does not contain essays by all of them, and it makes no claim to provide a complete picture of the ID spectrum.
For example, there are no essays by Michael Behe or Michael Denton (both Fellows of the DI, and major champions of design) in the Crossway book. I say that not in a derogatory tone, but simply to note that major ID writers who have long been showcased by Discovery (the DI has published three books by Michael Denton in the past two years), and who accept “evolution of multicellular life,” are not represented in the book. It is therefore wrong to equate the range of views in the Crossway book with the total range of views found in ID writers.
The Crossway book represents a subset of ID writers, i.e., those who, unlike Behe and Denton, reject or are skeptical of the existence of macroevolutionary change. It does a good job of expressing the views of that subset, and it can and should be read as an effective critique of the defects of many of the claims of theistic evolution, but it does not give a full cross-section of ID thought. So it provides no evidence that “the ID movement is changing.” The ID movement includes Behe, as it always did, and Discovery still promotes the works of Behe and Denton, as it always has. Myers is drawing an incorrect inference, because he takes the emphasis of a book published by one publisher (Crossway) as indicative of the position of a completely different publisher (Discovery).
To be sure, Myers does not rely upon the Crossway book alone. He thinks he detects in recent Discovery blogs a bias toward YEC (Young Earth Creationism) and against the position taken by Michael Behe. But I have to confess that I haven’t seen this alleged bias. I haven’t seen any columns pushing for YEC. I have seen some columns that could be taken as anti-macroevolution, and hence as differing from the position of Behe. But an anti-evolutionary position might just as well be OEC (Old Earth Creationism) as YEC. And in any case, while in the short run, it may be that several Discovery columns within a short period (depending on who writes the columns) have an anti-evolutionary leaning, in the long run things balance out. Every time Discovery publishes a book by the pro-evolutionary Michael Denton, it advertises the book strongly in blogs and videos. And not long ago, Discovery did a big retrospective celebrating the work of Michael Behe. Over the space of any given year, the whole range of ID views is presented on Discovery. Myers is taking too small a sample. But that’s not surprising. A man who will not even open a book to find out it is published by Crossway rather than Discovery, before jumping to a careless conclusion, is not likely to read Discovery blogs over the course of a year and assess the overall situation with sound judgment.
Myers makes a third error. He writes:
Further, onj [sic] the Discovery Institute web site there are now topics on Economics, Technology and Human Exceptionalism which from the subtitles are value laden topics.
Myers writes as if this is a new development. Clearly he has very little knowledge of Discovery. Discovery has been publishing material on political and economic subjects for years now. In fact, Discovery was covering most of those topics before it got into Intelligent Design at all! Discovery started out as a think-tank to address regional economic issues, political issues, etc. and only took up the ID cause later on. The Center for Science and Culture, where ID is dealt with, is only one of Discovery’s many operations, and that has been the case since long before BioLogos even existed. Myers simply hasn’t done his homework. Unfortunately, this is the case for the majority of people who post snarky comments against Discovery and ID on BioLogos.
And of course, it goes without saying that Discovery could publish on “value laden topics” — politics, economics, ethics and so on — while still publishing detached scientific analyses regarding the possibility of design in nature. Myers writes as if the fact that Discovery publishes books on politics and economics means that its discussions of scientific matters are automatically compromised. But that does not follow, nor is Myers being consistent in his application here: I don’t see him complaining that Richard Lewontin’s evolutionary biology is compromised because Lewontin is an outspoken Leftist on political and economic matters. Consistency, of course, has never been a feature of most of the writing in the BioLogos comments section. The goal is always to bash ID and Discovery, by any means fair or foul.
Normally, it would not be worth the effort to expend time refuting a writer as sloppy and lacking in coherent argument as “Ronald_Myers.” Taken by himself, he is insignificant in the greater world of design/evolution/creation debates. However, there are hundreds, probably more like thousands, of people with similar intellectual and literary defects out there on the Internet, posting on BioLogos and other blog sites without thinking before they post, and in the process spreading their existing prejudices to readers who are honestly trying to figure out exactly what ID is all about, what Discovery stands for, etc. So from time to time it is a good thing to demolish such examples of poor research and bad reasoning. The open-minded, inquiring reader needs to see how badly ID is being distorted by its detractors.
If there are any UD readers who also have posting privileges on BioLogos (I was stripped of mine by BioLogos management), they are free to post a link to this article in reply to Myers’s comment. And Myers is of course welcome to reply here to my comments, if he thinks I have in any way misrepresented him or failed to deal with his arguments.