More Egnorance: IDers lie for Jesus again

December 7, 2013 • 8:55 am

Michael Egnor is a regular fixture at the Discovery Institute’s website, Evolution News and Views.  I usually ignore their many attacks on me because Egnor and his pals are a pack of lightweights devoted to promoting God by attacking evolution, and I don’t want to give creationist loons a platform.  But there are two posts I want to highlight because they how far these IDers can twist the truth in the service of attacking evolutionists (and, of course, promoting Jesus or, in Klinghoffer’s case, Yahweh). Many of us know this already, but forgive me for flogging a moribund horse.

When I visited Kentucky a short while ago, I sought out and was photographed at the grave of John T. Scopes, the defendant in the famous “Monkey Trial” held in Dayton, Tennessee in the summer of 1925.  Scopes, the high-school football coach and substitute science teacher, was convicted of violating Tennessee’s “Butler Act,” which prohibited the teaching of human evolution. (Note: the teaching of nonhuman evolution was not forbidden, which shows you what really bothers people.) You probably know that Scopes’s conviction was overturned on a technicality: the judge fixed the fine ($100), but the law specified that fixing a fine over $50 was the duty of the jury, and the Butler act specified a minimum fine of $100.

My host Ben Shelby and I found Scopes’s grave in a cemetery in Paducah (his people were from Kentucky), and on his tombstone was engraved “A man of courage”.  I made the following comment on this site:

The trial was in 1925, so he was only 24 years old at the time. It’s amazing to realize that he was still alive when I was in my twenties. I should have sought him out to shake his hand.

Well, that was enough to give Michael Egnor a case of the vapors, and he put up a post decrying my admiration for Scopes. (These people must monitor my website with a fine-toothed comb!)

As if that weren’t enough (do these people have a day job?), Egnor’s fellow creationist David Klinghoffer chimed in on another post, comparing my “fawning praise” for Scopes (really? fawning?) with my praise for Nelson Mandela, whom I did call a “hero.” (He was, Scopes wasn’t, but Klinghoffer wanted to make the comparison).

But it wasn’t just my so-called “fawning praise” for Scopes that ticked them off, but something worse: Scopes was said to have promoted racism and eugenics! As Egnor said:

Coyne’s hero taught the schoolchildren of Dayton from a textbook with rancid eugenic racist hate, which was part and parcel of evolutionary theory during the first century of Darwinian ascendancy and remains today the subtext of the Darwinian understanding of man. The good folks of Tennessee, and the citizens of many communities across the country, wanted no such venom taught to their children.

Coyne embraces his hero — “a man of courage” — and would have liked to have shaken his hand. Here’s my question to Coyne and other admirers of John Scopes: Do you embrace what Scopes actually taught?

(Note: the Scopes trial was not about racism or eugenics—regardless of whether “the good people of Tennessee” objected to their teaching—but about evolution.)

Klinghoffer agrees with Egnor’s criticisms:

As Dr. Egnor points out, Scopes taught from a biology textbook laced with the most hair-racing racism. Now with the passing of Nelson Mandela, a genuine hero, Coyne turns cluelessly from one embrace to another:

“All men are mortal, but I always hoped Mandela would be the one exception. . .

We all knew he would go soon, but we already have too few heroes among us, and now there’s one fewer.” [JAC: my words]

The sentiment is certainly accurate, though I could do without the sugary prose that somehow makes you want to brush your teeth afterward.

Mandela, pivotal in ending apartheid, is a hero. True. But Scopes — who achieved fame by teaching from a textbook that hailed “Caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America” as the “highest type of all” and recommended European eugenic efforts as a solution to human “parasitism” — is also a hero?

Does Coyne really not see the contradiction?

What I see is a pair of misguided creationists with time on their hands publishing lies and misrepresentations.

Here are the facts:

1. Nowhere did I describe Scopes as my “hero” in that post. What I said about him is printed above. I don’t really see Scopes as a “hero,” for he risked very little in that trial, especially compared to what Mandela risked—and suffered. Scopes did have courage, however.

2. The textbook from which Scopes taught, Civic Biology by George William Hunter, did indeed contain some pretty dreadful racist and eugenicist statements. The link in the previous sentence gives some examples.

BUT

3. That textbook was required for all high-school biology students by the State of Tennessee.  Scopes had no choice about which book to use, and using that one certainly doesn’t show that Scopes shared its sentiments about race and eugenics. Does this mean that every high-school biology teacher in the state agreed with what was in the book? (It is ironic, by the way, that Tennessee, by requiring use of a book that covered human evolution, was requiring its biology teachers to break the law.)

4. Moreover, Scopes wasn’t even the regular biology teacher; he was a substitute teacher who filled in for others. And on the teaching days for which he was tried, he was filling in for the regular biology teacher.

5. Scopes didn’t even appear to teach from the textbook, and it’s questionable whether he taught evolution (or racism or eugenics) at all! Douglas Linder, a law professor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, and an expert in famous trials, notes in his description of the Scopes Trial:

One of the enduring debates concerning the Scopes trial revolves around whether Scopes ever actually taught the subject of evolution.   George Rappalyea posed the question, holding up a copy of George W. Hunter’s Civic Biology, at Robinson’s drugstore. “You have been teaching ‘em this book?” he asked. Scopes answered, “Yes,” then went on to explain that, while substituting for the regular biology teacher in April 1925, he had assigned his students Hunter’s chapter on evolution.  Illness the next day, however, kept him home and, to his recollection, no class discussion of the evolution materials ever took place.  Scopes, however, remembered teaching the topic in a general way earlier in the same month to his general science students.

Now look what Egnor and Klinghoffer have done. First, since they can’t lay a glove on evolution, they go after an evolutionary biologist—me. But even if I were a miscreant, that would say nothing about the truth of evolution. One could just as well criticize creationism by smearing some of its proponents, like convicted criminal Kent Hovind. Klinghoffer and Egnor demonstrate a principle often noted by Christopher Hitchens: when the facts aren’t on your side, pull out the ad hominems.

Second, they accuse me of characterizing Scopes as my “hero,” which isn’t true.

Then they claim that I have a “hero” who approved of eugenics and racism, one who supposedly taught from a textbook book containing those topics. (The implication, of course, is that I also favor eugenics and racism.) But that’s not true, either. Scopes was neither the regular biology teacher nor a teacher who conveyed lessons from that book.  In fact, it’s not clear how much evolution he taught, anyway—he volunteered to “violate” the Butler Act simply to create a test case.

Finally, there is not an inking of proof that Scopes approved of eugenics and racism, much less taught those topics as they appeared in Civic Biology.

In other words, both Klinghoffer and Egnor have fabricated a pack of lies and misrepresentations in the service of another lie: that I take a racist proponent of eugenics as my hero. Of course I decry racism and eugenics, but note that Scopes might have done so as well!

What a pathetic pair of men Egnor and Klinghoffer are. They have nothing better in their arsenal against evolution than to smear evolutionists in these ridiculous ways.  You’d think I ran over their dog or something. Really, guys, do you think you’re promoting the cause of Intelligent Design in this way? All you’re really doing is making fools of yourselves, and doing magic tricks in front of the fools who follow you.  An apology would be in order, but that’s about as likely as Egnor confessing that he’s finally seen the truth of evolution.

Am I hurt? Hell, no! The Discovery Institute’s opprobrium is music to my ears. But I do detest lying, whether it be in the service of Jesus or Darwin. And what I really think about Egnor’s and Klinghoffer’s stunts is not printable on this family-friendly site.

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81 thoughts on “More Egnorance: IDers lie for Jesus again

  1. “do these people have a day job?”
    Yes – writing stuff for that iDIot site is their day job. Have you ever checked how much money the iDIots from Seattle receive? If yes how do you think they spend it?

    1. The Discovery Institute Is A Con-Profit Scam

      … and since I’m incidentally hijacking the top comment.

      The pair of Dishonesty Institute clowns might want to check the beam in their own eyes when they aren’t busy conjuring motes in others.

      The Social Gospel movement is a Protestant Christian intellectual movement that was most prominent in the early 20th century United States and Canada.

      If they’d like to dig a little deeper and engage in some light reading …

      Preaching Eugenics: Religious Leaders and the American Eugenics Movement

      1. My apologies, please ignore the “Social Gospel” link in my comment if and when it comes out of moderation. I accidentally pasted that in from my text editor while composing my comment. What is interesting though is that the Social Gospel movement did include support for eugenics.

  2. Do you embrace what Scopes actually taught?

    Why, yes.

    Yes I do.

    No, I do not embrace what the lying IDiots have lied about what Scopes taught.

    But what Scopes actually taught?

    Yes, of course.

    And only a superstitious fool wouldn’t.

    Cheers,

    b&

  3. One of my heroes is (was) Ashley Montagu, who wrote in the Foreword of Science and Creationism, as I recall, “science is proof without certainty and bigotry is certainty with out proof.” IDers are certainteers with myriad ways of dodging proof.

    1. I love that book! Especially the piece by Gene Lyons, “Repealing the Enlightenment.” Its sarcastic humor on creationism is the best I’ve ever read. And Lyon’s title sums up the entire wingnut agenda: that is their goal.

      The book also contains Ken Miller’s discussion of how which isotopes are found in nature demonstrate the age of the earth (those with half-lives significantly shorter than 4.5 billion years are all missing. Imagine that!)

      And Miller’s quantitative debunking, the only one I’ve ever seen, of the moondust-thickness fallacy. He apparently got the data that disproves it in a personal letter from Carl Sagan.

      Anyway, the book ought to be more widely known, it’s fantastic.

        1. That’s a good debunking. I do prefer Miller’s, though, because he shows the (simple) math and calculate the actual thickness it predicts, which is, guess what, the same thickness as the layer that was found.

          It’s a simpler demonstration, more telling for those not versed in science, that anyone who can reason can see.

  4. Yeah I read that article last night via Klinghoffer’s usual ramblings which always border on obsession and hysteria when they deal with Jerry. He really needs to get a non stalking hobby.

  5. European eugenics was a social movement erroneously based off evolution but not a part of evolution.

    When people wallow in the mud and slime like Egnor and Klinghoffer do, they are bound to get dirty.

    1. European eugenics was a social movement erroneously based off evolution but not a part of evolution.

      Hmmm…I think that’s an unfortunate (and almost certainly unintended) mischaracterization.

      First, Nazi eugenics was explicitly both Christian and anti-Darwinian. The bloodlines whose purity was in jeopardy were Biblical ones; Darwinian evolution was as heretical to the Nazis as it is to the Disco ‘Tute. And the means they used were the same as (and modeled after) those used by farmers for millennia.

      Second, you may be thinking of “Social Darwinism,” which is itself entirely unsupported by actual biology and based most perverse (and likely deliberate) misunderstandings of what Darwin or any other evolutionary biologist actually wrote. Darwin’s finches, if nothing else, make clear that fitness has nothing to do with brutality, and the huge and varied forms of sociality amongst species all across the spectrum demonstrate that cooperation carries with it a great deal of evolutionary fitness — facts that Darwin himself made clear.

      I think I would have phrased the sentiment more like this: “European eugenics was a pseudoscientific social movement with its roots firmly planted in Christian mythology, especially as had been most recently formulated by Martin Luther. Some of its advocates excused their depravities with a patina of scientific-sounding jargon, including portions that drew their verisimilitude from distorted caricatures of some of the discoveries of evolutionary biology.”

      Cheers,

      b&

      1. The notion that Darwin was responsible for the Nazi regime in Germany is preposterous. The Nazi Party specifically rejected common descent as did Frankenberger in Mein Kampf.

    2. Are you ignoring the enthusiastic support for eugenics in the USA? From Wikipedia (a bit over the top in my view, but well documented) “Eugenics was practised in the United States many years before eugenics programs in Nazi Germany and U.S. programs provided much of the inspiration for the latter.” Thirty states in the USA had eugenics laws, and sixty thousand people were sterilised in consequence.

      1. Even in United States, eugenics is not served from evolution by natural selection:

        “Eugenics from Greek eu, meaning “good/well”, and -genēs, meaning “born”) is the belief and practice of improving the genetic quality of the human population. It is a social philosophy advocating the improvement of human genetic traits through the promotion of higher reproduction of people with desired traits (positive eugenics), and reduced reproduction of people with less-desired or undesired traits (negative eugenics).”

        1. I think that we probably agree. As a European I was reacting to what I saw as an implication that the practice of eugenics was a European phenomenon. If I misunderstood your intended meaning, then I apologise.

  6. There’s a reason why “egnorance” in the finest English neologism since the appearance of the word “santorum”.

    1. santorum

      Hey! Didn’t Professor Ceiling Cat explicitly call for family-friendly language in this post?

      If you’re going to start spreading santorum here, you may as well start dropping the B-bomb!

      Cheers,

      b&

    2. Right on! Egnor is the biggest insult to his profession (and mine – neurosurgery) that ever could be, and both are utterly despicable.i

  7. Since the IDers do not, or more accurately cannot do any scientific research re their ‘theory’, they have to resort to simply commenting on the work of others, embracing the woo and vilifying evolutionary biology [and biologists].

  8. THE thing I treasure most about us godless is our Knowing of the Truth.

    One of the next loveliest things which I hold precious about us godless — and which is truly an evolved trait: our so – thick skins.

    Sticks and stones may break m’bones, but … …

    Blue

      1. Restated thus: “An apology would be in order, but that’s about as likely as Egnor confessing that he’s finally seen the truth of evolution.

        Am I hurt? Hell, no! The Discovery Institute’s opprobrium is music to my ears. But I do detest lying, whether it be in the service of Jesus or Darwin.”

        This —
        Blue

  9. Coyne’s hero taught the schoolchildren of Dayton from a textbook with rancid eugenic racist hate, which was part and parcel of evolutionary theory during the first century of Darwinian ascendancy and remains today the subtext of the Darwinian understanding of man. The good folks of Tennessee, and the citizens of many communities across the country, wanted no such venom taught to their children.

    Heh — I very much doubt that the ‘good folks of Tennessee’ way back in the 1920’s had much objection, if any, to claims about caucasians being the highest race or anything like that. Such beliefs were a comfortable assumption and part of the background of white privilege in which the segregated culture bathed. No, evolution was hated because it posed a threat to Christian privilege and its critics were extremely clear about that.

    The Theory of Evolution has no need of Social Darwinism because it’s a description of development and never intended to be a blueprint for moral behavior. Truth is racism won’t be supported by any serious investigation of facts found in nature. But religion — ah, religion – is indeed intended to be BOTH a developmental history AND a moral blueprint. It’s also based on “facts” which are easily pulled out of untestable supernatural Truths given to the privileged.

    Nothing stops — nothing CAN stop — a pious person of faith from discovering that God made some races superior to others and scientific analysis and criticism be damned. Didn’t stop Hitler and it sure as hell didn’t stop the good folks of Tennessee. Egnor and the crowd of dunces at the DI fail to note the fatal flaw in resting racial tolerance on a requirement that one be religious.

    1. The Theory of Evolution has no need of Social Darwinism because it’s a description of development and never intended to be a blueprint for moral behavior.

      I would argue that “Social Darwinism” is neither social nor Darwinian.

      Nature is replete with examples of social species that evolved by Darwinian means and whose behavior is perfectly consistent with Darwinian theory. And, in those species, individuals cooperate for the good of the society even to the peril of their own lives — ultimate expressions of selfless altruism.

      So-called “Social Darwinism,” on the other hand, promotes selfish and uncooperative behavior that can only come at the expense of the society as a whole — that’s the very definition of “anti-social” and the antithesis of the Darwinian use of the term, “fitness.”

      The modern wealthy European countries have societies that are far better matches for the terms, “social,” and “Darwinian,” than any Utopian fantasy ever offered up by a proponent of the perversity that is commonly called, “Social Darwinism.”

      Cheers,

      b&

    2. “Truth is racism won’t be supported by any serious investigation of facts found in nature.”

      Though some forms of sexual selection might qualify by some definitions of racism. Conspecific dart frog females selecting mates of only one particular color morph, e.g.

      /pedant

  10. I only slightly disagree on that part (and testing whether blockquoting works):

    […] (These people must monitor my website with a fine-toothed comb!) As if that weren’t enough (do these people have a day job?) […]

    In case BQ doesn’t work: “[…] (These people must monitor my website with a fine-toothed comb!) As if that weren’t enough (do these people have a day job?) […]”

    While Creationists have nothing to add at all, I find it understandable when biologists and other science-minded people keep an eye on them, at least to see what they are up to next. In other case, where there is actually something to learn (other than creationism), I think it important to also read arguments of the other side and avid echo chambers. Correspondingly, when this is a general principle, the Creationists may well pay attention to what you write.

    Actually, I’d rather want them to pay attention to what you write with the faint hope someone might change their mind about their creationist nonsense. At least a small voice will keep telling them in their heads that they are lying and misleading others.

    1. I think it’s pretty obvious that the IDiots don’t read Jerry’s website to actually try to learn anything about him or biology. They are merely looking for something with which to try to denigrate or insult him. I’d compare them to kindergarteners, but most kindergarteners will eventually outgrow such childish behavior.

      1. Yes, but I suppose there’s a slim chance that someone in their readership who stumbles upon Jerry’s website via their references might actually come to see the light…

      2. From my experience, as regards denigrating and insulting, kindergartners consistently do better than certain substrata of grades 5 through 8, and better than not a few adults.

  11. Finally, there is not an inking of proof that Scopes approved of eugenics and racism,

    Would it matter if he did? Probably a lot of our heroes in the past had beliefs that we now consider odious. I’m not sure that makes them any less heroic.

          1. Even the most saccharine of the pure-as-the-driven-snow style of heroes have their faults, even if they grow out of them (as Mandela did). Luke Skywalker, for example, on multiple times nearly gave in to the temptation of the Dark Side. Indeed, that’s basically all he ever did: almost be seduced by evil, only to nobly hoe the straight row before doing anything he’d really regret later.

            b&

        1. If I correctly recall from the considerable NY Times coverage, Mandela freely reflected (particularly in his memoirs?) not a little on having significantly missed the mark in his personal life, vis-a-vis his public life. Relatively few human mammals of their own volition will own up to their shortcomings without considerable prodding.

  12. Coyne’s hero taught the schoolchildren of Dayton from a textbook with rancid eugenic racist hate

    – unlike the Bible/Torah/Koran which contain *only* sweetness and light{/sarcasm}

      1. But if he wasn’t, he was the best kind of believer… one that is essentially indistinguishable from an atheist. 😉

    1. According to the Young Turks’ recent coverage of Mandela he actually even refused to work with an atheist organization citing his Christian belief.

      They didn’t go into specifics and all I can find in his online biographies is that he didn’t join the Communist party due to its atheism (which hardly discredits him) but if there IS a separate incident where he refused to work with people only because of their atheism, Mandela doesn’t exactly come out smelling of roses on this issue.

  13. Nice that Jerry distinguishes between real heros and people who rescue a cat from a tree. In much journalism “hero”has largely become devoid of meaning.

    1. Try living in Australia. Cops, fireys, surf lifesavers et al get the tag, but any musclebound bloke who kicks a ball on telly is also called a “hero” down here.

      1. Except when they misbehave.
        Then they are fined and castigated for not being the good role model (for which they didn’t actually sign up).

  14. ID propagandists are not heroic; nor courageous. ID and eugenics are of two of a kind: political ideologies. Pure and simple.
    Science is not responsible for them.

  15. [W]hat I really think about Egnor’s and Klinghoffer’s stunts is not printable on this family-friendly site.

    Oh no, go right ahead and print. It’ll entertain me and I can cleanly convey the meaning to my three year-old daughter (who, incidentally, is well on the way to gaining an appreciation of the value of honesty that exceeds that held by the various gum-flappers at the DI).

  16. Wow, Jerry! You used a picture of a Persian cat to express your displeasure at the “twaddle” of Egnor and Klinghoffer, and you actually used “dog” spelled correctly. You must be at least a tiny bit annoyed at their lies and mendacity. 🙂

  17. I had a chance to visit Mendel’s grave, but saw no reason to do so. I was told that it was often visited by post Lysenko Russian geneticists, who would take away a small vial of dirt.

  18. “Do Admirers of John Scopes Embrace What Their Hero Actually Taught?”

    The irony of this coming from people who take their moral queues from the bible is probably lost on them.

    “Do Admirers of Mozes/St Paul/Calvin Embrace What Their Hero Actually Taught?”

    1. Yes. Yes, they do, all too often.

      A favorite of Christians, though they like to deny it, is Luke 19:27: “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” The popular paraphrase, especially by Christian soldiers marching onward to war, is, “Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out.”

      Cheers,

      b&

      1. I thought that quotation related to a fight between Catholic factions in medieval Europe. Since all the combatants looked alike, the field commanders asked how they would know which of the stave-wielding peasants were heretics & which were children of Yahweh.
        “Kill them all,” was the answer; “God will know his own.”
        Admittedly, they were only smiting fellow Catholics because they had no one else to smite; Muslims & atheists lay in the future.

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