Friday, November 25, 2005

"Intelligent Design and the new McCarthyism"

Here, with permission, is an email from the editor of an Australian magazine (with identifying information removed and minor changes), and my reply which was a week ago. In a follow-up message, the editor indicated that the article, "Intelligent Design and the new McCarthyism" should be in the magazine's 30 November issue.

----- Original Message -----
From: AN
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Thursday, November 17, 2005 9:07 AM
Subject: Intelligent Design and the new McCarthyism

Dear Mr. Jones:

My name is AN and I'm the editor of [...] magazine [...]. We're doing a feature on "Intelligent Design and the New McCarthyism", basically about how ID has become the theory that dare not speak its name in Australian universities as proponents of the theory get shouted down and shunned within the academy for expressing these views. I ran across your site in the course of my research, and I was hoping you might be able to help and point me in the direction of pro-ID academics in Australia who would be willing to speak, either on or off the record.

I can be reached on this e-mail ([...]) or on [...] at your convenience. Hope you can help!

Best regards,

----- Original Message -----
From: Stephen E. Jones
To: AN
Sent: Friday, November 18, 2005 9:10 AM
Subject: Re: Intelligent Design and the new McCarthyism


Thanks for your message.

The only Australian academic that I am aware of who has come out publicly in support of Intelligent Design is Professor Graeme Clark, FRACS, chair of otorhinolaryngology (ENT) surgery at the University of Melbourne. See articles in The Melbourne Age, "Evolving argument creates new battle" and "Creation crusade marches again, under new banner," both on August 6, 2005, in which he is mentioned as supporting ID.

I expect there are many more closet Australian academic supporters of ID , but as you are no doubt aware, it would be professional suicide for an academic to come out in support of ID, or even to advocate that it receive a fair hearing, in a modern science dominated by scientists whose personal philosophy is scientific naturalism.

According to Dembski's assessment of Schopenhauer's three, or Haldane's four, stages of acceptance of new ideas:

"Revolutions are messy affairs. They are also far from inevitable. For there to be a revolution, there must be revolutionaries willing to put their necks on the line. They must be willing to take the abuse, ridicule and intimidation that the ruling elite can and will inflict. The ruling elite in this case are the dogmatic Darwinists and scientific naturalists. Rigidly committed to keeping intelligent causation outside the natural sciences, they misrepresent intelligent design at every step, charging that its critique of Darwinism (and of naturalistic theories of evolution more generally) is utterly misguided and groundless. Accordingly, the public is informed that intelligent design is religion masquerading as science or `Creationism in a Cheap Tuxedo' (the title of a newspaper headline). Moreover, the public is warned that intelligent design spells the death of science and that to teach intelligent design is intellectually (if not morally) in the same boat as teaching that the Holocaust didn't happen. The acceptance of radical ideas that challenge the status quo (and Darwinism is as status quo as it gets) typically runs through several stages. According to Arthur Schopenhauer, `All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.' Similarly, evolutionist J.B.S. Haldane remarked, `Theories pass through four stages of acceptance: (i) this is worthless nonsense; (ii) this is an interesting, but perverse, point of view; (iii) this is true, but quite unimportant; (iv) I always said so.' I like to flesh out Haldane's four stages as follows. First, the idea is regarded as preposterous: the ruling elite feel little threat and, as much as possible, ignore the challenge, but when pressed they confidently assert that the idea is so absurd as not to merit consideration. Second, it is regarded as pernicious: the ruling elite can no longer ignore the challenge and must take active measures to suppress it, now loudly proclaiming that the idea is confused, irrational, reprehensible and even dangerous (thus adding a moral dimension to the debate). Third, it is regarded as possible: the ruling elite reluctantly admits that the idea is not entirely absurd but claims that at best it is of marginal interest; meanwhile, the mainstream realizes that the idea has far-reaching consequences and is far more important than previously recognized. And fourth, it is regarded as plausible: a new status quo has emerged, with the ruling elite taking credit for the idea and the mainstream unable to imagine how people in times past could have thought otherwise. With intelligent design, we are now at the transition from stage two to stage three-from pernicious to possible. This is the hardest transition." (Dembski W.A., "The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design," Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 2004, p.20).

(and bear in mind in case you quote this in your article that, as with many widespread unreferenced quotations, it is doubtful that Schopenhauer and Haldane said it exactly that way), ID is progressing through something like Haldane's stages one and two, from being largely ignored by the science establishment, to now being attacked (which includes Schopenhauer's "ridiculed" and "violently opposed"), in an attempt to suppress it as much as possible.

But if the Schopenhauer and Haldane sayings are generally true (as I believe they are), then the attacks will just increase the Australian public's (including scientists and future scientists) interest in ID, and pave the way for its eventual acceptance within mainstream science.

I would be interested in hearing from you if and when you publish your article on ID. May I also have your permission to post your message (minus any identifying information) and my reply, to my blog CED? Thanks.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

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