In last Sunday’s editorial, I passed along some interesting insight into approaches used to discredit Intelligent Design proponents in public debates. It centered on highlighting inconsistencies, contradictions, and outright falsehoods as a means of alienating truth-loving Christians from those who deceitfully pander to them.
Just the day before, Brother Richard at Life Without Faith ran a column titled “Exposing the Tactics,” which analyzes what Brother Richard asserts are the four main “deceptive tactics being used to promote the movie, Expelled.” He’s got some good points, which I hit the highlights of, and he’s missing some things, too:
1. Double Standards. Richard rightly points out that pundits who “dismissed and discredited Fahrenheit 9/11 and SICKo in their entirety because of Michael Moore’s inequitable tactics” should hold Expelled to the same standard. I absolutely agree. I don’t see how this is any fault of the producers of Expelled, though.
2. Biased Language. Richard points out that “Stein, the Expelled producers, and the talking heads are all careful to use the [term] ‘Darwinism,’” and “often trick adherers to true science to use this word as well.” He also objects to the use of the phrase “Theory of Evolution.” The correct terms, Richard says, should be “Social Darwinism” and “Theory of Natural Selection.” I certainly think Richard has got a point. As readers here at HJ have rightly pointed out to me, using loaded terms breaks down communication. At the same time, a really good solution when conversing about the controversy is to seek clarification about the meaning of terms used, and not assume that everyone who uses terms you don’t like (on either side) is a propagandist. I personally get very irritated when people make erroneous assumptions about me, and I imagine others (including scientists!) do, too. (It’s probably also worth pointing out that “Intelligent Design” is not just another word for “Creationism,” as a lot of I.D. proponents wouldn’t begin to sign up for the Answers in Genesis approach; the adjectival form of “atheist” is not a synonym for “immoral”; “Christian” is not another word for “nincompoop” or “hypocrite”; and calling someone an “IDiot” is, well, childish.)
3. Key Silence. Richard rightly points out that, as often as possible, “Stein changes the focus to the fact that Darwinian Evolutionists don’t have a good explanation on how life began. That’s because natural selection has nothing to do with the origin of life. It only theorizes how life progressed once it appeared. The theory of how life began is called ‘Abiogenesis.’” The point Richard seems to be making is that if I.D. is concerned with origins, then it’s really covering a different field than evolution; fair enough. But the key silence on this issue is that the film pretty much lays that out; so I don’t think Richard has actually seen the film, and while this tactic may actually be employed, I don’t see that Richard makes a very good argument for it.
4. Free speech. I’m inclined to agree with Richard that Expelled’s over-simplified look at the controversy gets the whole squelching thing kind of wrong. As time goes by, I’m getting the feeling that there are not two parties in this debate, as the film presents it, but four: Creationist activists, I.D. advocates, actual scientists, and atheist activists. And as I see it, the controversy about the film and what it says is being waged primarily between I.D. advocates (who don’t adequately distinguish between scientists and atheist advocates) and the atheist activists. Actual ‘working scientists’ seem to just be sick of both parties; I’m not sure what the Creationists think.