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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Outrageously funny mathematician takes on Darwinists: Irrepressible Berlinski confesses all

In three interviews with himself (and who better to do them?), here, here, and here, American-born mathematician and novelist David Berlinski, a Jewish agnostic, socks it to a variety of topics related to the intelligent design controversy. The last interview is the funniest, so don't read it anywhere that you may be asked why you are laughing out loud. Remember, Berlinski isn't supposed to be funny. You are supposed to have correctly outraged views on a variety of topics that he declines to have such views on:

On outraged Darwinists:

Why are Darwinian biologists so outraged? Like the San Andres fault, the indignation conspicuous at blogs such as Panda's Thumb or Talk Reason is now visible from outer space.

There is a lot at stake, obviously. Money, prestige, power, influence - they all play a role. Darwinism is an ideological system and when such systems come under threat, they react in predictable ways. Freedom of thought very often appears as an inconvenience to those with a position to protect. Look at the attempts made to humiliate Rick Sternberg at the Smithsonian Institute or the campaign now underway to do the same thing to Guillermo Gonzalez at Iowa State. There is nothing surprising in all this. I myself believe that the world would be suitably improved if those with whom I disagreed were simply to shut up. What is curious is how quickly the Darwinian establishment has begun to appear vulnerable. (from Interview 1)

On the Discovery Institute:

... the only private institution in the world, I suspect, that has had the nerve to take on the entire Darwinian establishment ...

... no more than a handful of scholars, really, Steve Meyer, Mike Behe, William Dembski, Jonathan Wells, me - of course, I count for three - taking on the entire American science establishment, and more or hess holding its own, too, against the most solemn anathemas and grimly voiced objurgations that any number of perfumed tonsils can devise. Of course, it helps to be financed by secret Christian oligarchs ...

... You're not serious ...

Of course not. If the DI had the kind of money that its critics suppose, do you think it would allow Steve Meyer or Bruce Chapman to appear in public in those frumpy suits of theirs?

On his true relationship to ID:

My attitude is pretty much what it has always been: warm but distant. It's the same attitude that I display in public toward my ex-wives. I have been a published critic of various design-theoretic arguments, but unlike other critics I have never suggested that the Enlightenment would come to an end were they to be widely accepted.

On the Talk Reason Darwinist blog:

... They make an effort to be fair. An overwhelming impression conveyed by Talk Reason is a kind of insecure disgruntlement, the impression conveyed by men who suspect that the opinions they reject might just be persuasive to men less intelligent than themselves ...

On the Panda's Thumb Darwinist blog:

The Panda's Thumb, on the other hand, is entirely low-market; the men who contribute to the blog all have some vague technical background - computer sales, sound mixing, low-level programming, print-shops or copy centers; they are semi-literate; their posts convey that characteristic combination of pustules and gonorrhea that one would otherwise associate with high-school toughs.

Yes, I have sometimes reflected myself that with such friends, Darwin would be better off with his enemies.

Incidentally, Berlinski's comments on origin of life theories are here.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Vatican Astronomer: Six-day creationism is "pagan superstition"

Guy Consolmagno, one of the Vatican astronomers who takes issue with the Catholic Church's recent clarification that it is opposed to Darwinism, recently told The Scotsman:

Consolmagno stated that the Christian God is a supernatural god. In the past, the belief in God being supernatural led the clergy to become involved in science to find natural explanations for things like thunder and lightning. Pagans often attribute thunder and lightning to vengeful gods.

"Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism - it's turning God into a nature god," he said. "And science needs religion in order to have a conscience, to know that, just because something is possible, it may not be a good thing to do." (May 6, 2006)

Now, I'm hardly a fan of young earth (YEC or six-day) creationism myself, though I covered it charitably in By Design or by Chance?">. But there are two major things wrong with Brother Consolmagno's claims:

1. It's just nonsense to say that YEC is a form of "pagan" superstition. I studied its history for By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg Fortress 2004). YEC got started in about 1960 in church basements. However misguided one may think it to be, it is an authentic product of American evangelical Protestant Christianity. But Consolmagno is so sure of the sympathy of his audience that he can proclaim any fine-sounding nonsense, knowing that no one will check him out on the facts.

2. Consolmagno's actual position leaves me, for one, wondering how close his position is to the teachings of the Catholic Church. It seems clear from his comments above that he thinks that God, being supernatural, does not act in nature. Now he is entitled to his opinion, of course, but it is worth mentioning that he serves a church which requires that a person have performed an authenticated miracle or two in order to be declared a saint.

Paganism and creationism: Six-day creationism is a form of fundamentalism (literal interpretation of the Bible), which originated with Christianity and other "religions of the Book" and has no pagan roots whatever. Nor could it have such roots.

The pagans' only book is nature itself (the "book of creation," as it was formerly called). However, once an actual book is accepted as a divine revelation (Torah, Bible, Koran), it can be quoted with authority. But such books only came into existence with monotheistic religions.

The fact that Consolmagno can get away with such misrepresentations shows how eager many in the science community are to hastily shelve the discussion of intelligent design, citing any old nonsense that sounds pleasant to digest.

For anyone who wants to know facts in this area, there are actually "pagans" (sometimes called "heathens") in North America. To my knowledge, they are not particularly friendly to creationism (young earth or ancient earth) or to any type of intelligent design. (Scroll down or search on the term "intelligent design.")

My sense, incidentally, is that they are ignorant of the nature of the issues; they clearly do not understand that materialism is as much their enemy as it is the enemy of the monotheistic religions. They want to be traditional Greek or African-type pagans, but they risk being exploited by modern materialists, flogging up materialism as if it were paganism/heathenism.

Basically, as I see it, the pagans are trapped. They cannot go home again to Diana or Thor or Babalu Aia. The last deities of the great pantheons of old were creatures like Psyche (soul) and Baldur (a Christ figure), who foreshadowed the end of the pagan way of thinking altogether. That way had its achievements, yes, in great literature, art, architecture, and seminal learning - but it has long passsed its best before date, and the arrow of time flies on and on.

The modern pagan (heathen) movement, incidentally, dates back to the 1950s , not to mediaeval or prehistoric times, as the pagans would like to imagine. Thus, modern paganism took root at the same approximate time as young earth (six-day) creationism, but through an entirely different path, among different people, with different sources of credibility.

At the very same time, among the highbrows, people like Aldous Huxley and Sir John Eccles were speaking out against materialism, in favor of perennial philosophy , but more on that later. There is a whole history of early revolts against materialism that begs to be told.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

British psychiatrist and writer Theodore Dalrymple: On political correctness

When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.

See the quote in the context of the interview. So much for school systems and universities that insist on students learning politically correct ideas that no one believes or should believe.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove ?

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

O’Leary’s comments on Francis Beckwith, a Dembski associate, being denied tenure at Baylor.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
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