The Discovery Institute, losing its battle for Intelligent Design (ID) on all fronts (they can’t even get it taught in a Texas community college!) has resorted to a desperation move: attacking the characters of evolutionary biologists. How this will give evidence for ID is beyond me: perhaps they think that if they show character flaws in evolutionists they thereby discredit our discipline. But whatever happened to their promise to that “scientific” evidence for ID was “right around the corner”? They seem to have forgotten that one.
And they should be mindful of the beam in their own eye: despite their claim that ID isn’t religiously motivated, virtually everyone at the Discovery Institute is religious, and some of them (like Paul Nelson and William Dembski) unwisely proclaim their religious motivations when they think they’re out of earshot.
So now, in their efforts to support ID, they’ve started a “hyprocrisy watch” on Professor Ceiling Cat. But the “hypocrisy” they discern in me in is ludicrous, as recounted in their latest screed at Evolution News & Views by David Klinghoffer, “Hypocrisy watch: Jerry Coyne, Dr. Hedin’s persecutor, turns to teaching teligion in the science classroom.”
What is the hypocrisy I evinced this time? It’s this: I called for Eric Hedin at Ball State University to stop pretending that ID was science in his Physics and Astronomy class, and stop proselytizing for religion in that class. In other words, at a public university, I said it was unconstitutional (and bad science) to teach discredited religious views as science.
But then I apparently did the same thing! What oh what did the pernicious moggie do?
I answered student questions about my book at a class in Genetics and Evolution at Duke University (a private school). I do this every year, and often the students ask questions that are religiously-inspired critiques of evolution, or stuff that they’ve heard about evolution from creationist sources. I answer these questions and criticisms as best I can. And here are the two I wrote about when I Skyped the class from Poland:
I addressed, by Skype, an introductory evolution/genetics class taught by my ex-student (and now chair of biology at Duke) Mohamed Noor. They are reading my book and asked lots of questions. As usual, most of those questions were about the intersection of science and religion — students are really curious about that. Several students had also read ID books and asked me about Haeckel’s “fraud,” as well as more conventional creationist questions about why evolution didn’t violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics (a softball!).
Well that certainly got Klinghoffer’s knickers in a twist! In his mind, correcting the misconceptions of students who raise objections to evolution, whether or not those objections derive from religion, is the same as teaching religion in a class. As Klinghoffer says:
Coyne instructed a course on “evolution/genetics” about what he himself terms “religion”: specifically, “the intersection of science and religion,” intelligent design, “creationist” challenges to evolution based on the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and no doubt more along the same lines.
In his mind, it is acceptable to teach about religion in a science class, so long as you are condemning it. It’s acceptable to teach about intelligent design, so long as you are condemning it. It’s acceptable to teach about “Haeckel’s ‘fraud,'” as long as you’re minimizing it. It’s acceptable to teach about challenges to Darwinian evolution based on the Second Law of Thermodynamics, so long as you’re denying that the challenges have any force to them.
This is crazy. Any scientist has the right to correct student misunderstandings about science in the name of good science education. Or does Klinghoffer think that I should refuse to answer the objection that the Second Law of Thermodynamics prohibits evolution, because that’s “”condemning religion.” In fact, I answered both of the questions he mentions without condemning religion at all, so how is religion even involved in this issue? Nor did I say that my answers proved that God didn’t exist—something that Eric Hedin didn’t refrain from when he used scientific observations of the cosmos as evidence for God.
Really, these guys don’t have enough to do, so they trawl my website looking for these ridiculous examples of “hypocrisy.” It doesn’t irk me at all, though, for it’s funny: it shows that they’ve failed in their main aim to get American schools to teach intelligent design, and expel materialism from public science classes.
It’s a shame, because I’m sure Klinghoffer has enough brains to have really made something of himself—to have accomplished something for the good of humanity beyond Lying for Jesus. When I see guys like him—who are by no means dumb—wasting their lives in such futile efforts, I remember the scathing dispatches of H. L. Mencken from Dayton, Tennessee during the Scopes trial. This description of William Jennings Bryan was from the Baltimore Evening Sun, July 17, 1925:
The old boy [Bryan] grows more and more pathetic. He has aged greatly during the past few years and begins to look elderly and enfeebled. All that remains of his old fire is now in his black eyes. They glitter like dark gems, and in their glitter there is immense and yet futile malignancy. That is all that is left of the Peerless Leader of thirty years ago. Once he had one leg in the White House and the nation trembled under his roars. Now he is a tinpot pope in the coca-cola belt and a brother to the forlorn pastors who belabor half-wits in galvanized iron tabernacles behind the railroad yards.
People like Klinghoffer, it seems, have completely bypasssed the Peerless Leader stage and gone directly to the end stage of Tinpot Pope.