IN case you’ve missed it—it started with a post named Robert Pennock the Conciliator, in which I made remarks on philosopher of science Robert Pennock’s article on Intelligent Design (ID) in U.S. News and World Report. That post drew attention from another philosopher, Bradley Monton, whom Pennock had rather gouged in the USN&WR piece. Monton takes a unique position: he is an atheist who supports pursuing ID as science and philosophy.
On a follow-up blog post, Opponents, Not Enemies, we were visited by Nick Matzke, who is known as having been the Public Information Project Director for the National Center for Science Education, perhaps the most prominent anti-Intelligent Design advocacy group in the world. Matzke contributed heavily to the prosecution’s successful case against teaching ID in the 2005 Dover trial. Not long after, Casey Luskin dropped in with comments. Luskin is Program Officer in Public Policy & Legal Affairs for the Center for Science and Culture of the Discovery Institute, the most prominent pro-ID advocacy group in the world.
There have been the usual Thinking Christian commenters taking part as well, and others who have come to join in what has turned out to be some fascinating fireworks. I added a third post to try to untangle some of our topics, How Wrong Is It To Suggest a Darwin-Hitler Link. Now, in another attempt to cut the knot, and also for the benefit of those who are just trying to catch up, I’m trying to summarize where we now stand. This will be very brief and therefore should be taken as an outline, not as a new set of arguments. Obviously when writing about others’ views from one’s own perspective, distortions, errors, or bias can creep in. I’ll be glad to make appropriate corrections here.
There are three major topics weaving through these threads:
The manner of conduct among ID proponents and opponents
The link between Darwin and Hitler, as claimed by many ID proponents
The question of whether naturalistic evolution is compatible with certain kinds of ethical statements or beliefs
We’ll take our topics in reverse order here. With reference to ethics, he has most recently said that the fact that we have common moral opinions is enough to make ethics non-subjective and binding. Charlie and I have both said this is inadequate, except in context of our being created for a purpose. It specifically lacks explanation of what makes ethics really real (the ontological question) under naturalistic evolution (NE), particularly since NE cannot seem to find any basis for considering humans different in nature than other life.
Discussion on the link between Darwin and Hitler (2) has been mostly a back-and-forth between Charlie and Nick, in which Nick has said that Hitler never referenced Darwin (and that we had never read either Darwin or Hitler) and Charlie has responded by quoting passages from Hitler, where Hitler made clear reference to Darwin. As far as I have noticed, Nick has not responded to those quotes at all. (I’m open to correction on that.) My own response to (2) has been to move away from that question, on which I lack the historical expertise, and proceed to (3), concluding, that if NE is true, then there is no basis for ethics anyway, so how could it be wrong under NE to say anything at all about Darwin and Hitler?
Finally (1), the latest has come from The Deuce and Casey Luskin, who continue to maintain that there is a qualitative difference between the way ID proponents and ID opponents speak about the issue and the people on the other side of the issue. One case in point has been Wesley Elsberry’s blog, where the language directed toward ID proponents is often caustic and insulting. The Deuce has pointed out an inconsistency in Matzke’s response to that: Matzke seems to think that “guilt by association” should not be imputed to Elsberry, yet Matzke has practiced it in his conflating ID with some forms of creationism. The Deuce has posted twice on this, and unless I’ve overlooked it, Matzke has failed to respond to this.
Casey Luskin’s last post, too recent to allow time for Matzke to respond yet, was a call for respect, with examples of how that has often been lacking. Which takes us back to where we started: Monton’s response to the way Pennock treated him in the USN&WR article.
In summary (of the summary), there are these open questions:
Can NE explain the basis for ethics (not just how we know what’s right, but how right and wrong can actually exist)
What about Hitler’s words referencing Darwin?
What response does Nick Matzke have to “guilt by association” in light of the Deuce’s recent comments?
Can we treat one another with respect on all of this?
The “game” is not “over.”
I’m certainly making mutual respect my goal here. If in the process of summarizing I’ve missed some person’s comments, I apologize, and as I said, I’m open to corrections.
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