01 December 2005

A Letter to the Editor

Today's (1 December 2005) edition of USA Today included a column on Intelligent Design written by Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel. The entire column is objectionable, but Thomas' conclusion was by far the worst part. The rest of this post, which also appears at The Panda's Thumb, has been submitted in response as a letter to the editor.

Dear Sir:

On June 30, 1860 a famous (and perhaps fictional) encounter took place between the scientist Thomas Henry Huxley and the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce. The occasion was a discussion of Darwin’s recently published book Origin of Species, and according to legend Wilberforce concluded his remarks by asking Huxley whether he was descended from an ape on his father’s side or his mother’s. This bit of ancient history popped into my mind when I read Cal Thomas’ remark at the end of the column that he and Bob Beckel wrote on Intelligent Design in yesterday’s paper.

Unlike our understanding of evolution itself, which has advanced tremendously in the last century and a half, Thomas’ idea of a clever response seems to be on a par with the good bishop. Thomas’ remark, “Maybe we can offer [scientists] some bananas as an incentive. As they eat them, they can contemplate their heritage,” does not have any more of a place in a reasonable discussion than did Wilberforce’s.

My reply to Thomas is more or less the same as Huxley’s reply to Wilberforce: if I had a choice between having a monkey as a grandfather or having as a grandfather someone who has great intellectual gifts and influence, but uses those gifts and that influence merely to inject ridicule into a serious debate, I would, without hesitation, choose the monkey.

Michael Dunford
Graduate Student,
Department of Zoology, University of Hawaii at Manoa.


Anonymous said...

Today: Should public schools teach “intelligent design,” the theory that the universe and its life forms are so complex that a higher cause must have been involved in making them?

Bob: ... Despite the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community that evolution is the sole explanation for all living things, these scientists have yet to prove the theory conclusively.

"yet to prove the theory conclusively", Bob Beckel obviously doesn't know the definition of theory.

When trying to determine what should be taught in a given subject one should turn to the experts in that field. Given that were talking about science if the "overwhelming consensus of the scientific community" says teach evolution I think it would be a safe bet to do so. People with no expertise in the field such as myself, Bob Beckel, and Cal Thomas should have no say.

Cal Thomas supports "pulling conservative and Christian kids" out of schools teaching evolution. If he truly believes the theory of evolution to be bad science shouldn't he be concerned with the education of all children.

Anonymous said...

Holy crap it's impossible to decide where to begin. Those two don't need any more bananas.

"Surely C-SPAN would carry the debate if the scientists were prominent enough. "

In fact, C-SPAN already carried a debate of sorts at the American Enterprise Institute.

During the debate, one of the bigwigs at the Discovery Institute (the Institute responsible for peddling ID to rubes like our two USA Today idiots) was shown to be a bald-faced liar -- IN REAL TIME.

Another so-called "serious scientist" by the name of Paul Nelson revealed himself to be a dissembling tool incapable of serious debate but a master of subterfuge, spin, selective memory, and just plain sleaze.

The scientists, e.g., Ken Miller, totally destroyed the creationist peddling idiots.

And the videos are available for "Cal" and "Bob" to go and look at any time. They could watch the AEI presentations and think carefully about what was said and write an article about it.

At one point in our nation's history, that was the job of so-called journalists.

Now journalists peddle whatever bogus garbage they are handed by whatever interest group gives the best lunch.

Gnuosphere said...

Is the designer the designed?

The Reverend Schmitt., FCD. said...

Very good. :>

Gerry L said...

Hey, Mike, I was looking for a way to send you an off-topic email but your profile and email address are not included.

UH/Manoa class of 1980 and 1981

Anonymous said...

I am not a scientist, but after having been a follower of pandasthumb and pharyngula for only a short time I have to say "WTF" where these two people thinking when they wrote this article. They both seem to have abdicated a journalists responsibility and simply posted what was convenient to their beliefs. At least scientists who publish in well recognized journals know that if they publish BS, it will be shown as such. It may not happen immediately, but it will happen. How can something as well documented as evolution (sorry Behe, remember the virus's transmission vector that could have evolved into the flagellum) be so consistently held up to ridicule by fools who have no idea what it really is?

Damnit, I am a business major, who is responsible for a budget over $300M, and yet I can peruse pandasthumb, and the links to creationist/ID sites, and still make the educated opinion that ID is BS. What is wrong with us?