Condescending paternalism, just in time for Christmas, from William Dembski

18 12 2006

It’s now only a week until Christmas, and I would have thought that the “long argument” over evolution and creationism would have subsided over the holidays, giving everyone a little year-end break. Hell, even Richard Dawkins had this to say, via note reproduced in the New York Times:

“Presumably your reason for asking me is that ‘The God Delusion’ is an atheistic book, and you still think of Christmas as a religious festival,” Mr. Dawkins wrote, in a reply printed here in its entirety. “But of course it has long since ceased to be a religious festival. I participate for family reasons, with a reluctance that owes more to aesthetics than atheistics. I detest Jingle Bells, White Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and the obscene spending bonanza that nowadays seems to occupy not just December, but November and much of October, too.”

He added: “So divorced has Christmas become from religion that I find no necessity to bother with euphemisms such as happy holiday season. In the same way as many of my friends call themselves Jewish atheists, I acknowledge that I come from Christian cultural roots. I am a post-Christian atheist. So, understanding full well that the phrase retains zero religious significance, I unhesitatingly wish everyone a Merry Christmas.”

So while grad students and researchers settle in for a short winters nap, creationists show up giving out back-handed slaps. While feuds between William Dembski and evolutionary researchers are usually confined to scienceblogs.com and the Panda’s Thumb, the latest insult comes in the form of an animated flash cartoon featuring evolution-advocates like Kenneth Miller, Richard Dawkins, and Eugenie Scott yanking a pull-string on Judge Jones’ back (making a fart noise), at which point Jones makes some anti-ID or pro-evolution comment from the Dover trial in a voice not unlike Alvin of Chipmunk fame. Don’t believe me? See for yourself via overwhelmingevidence.com, a website designed specifically to give young ID advocates a place to discuss ID and never have to justify their beliefs.

Now, some of you might be saying, “Wait, there aren’t any fart noises in that presentation at all.” Well, that’s because they have been deleted as more about this flash has come to light. Initially, it came to my attention early yesterday morning when it was simply stupid and offensive by its own merits. There was something suspicious about Judge Jones’ voice, however, so a former Uncommon Descent (Dembski’s blog) commenter used some technological knowhow to slow down the speech and lower the pitch, only to discover the faux Jones is none other than Dembski himself. I guess this goes to show that Dembski is as mature as many of the ID-trolls found hiding in the comments of many blogs all over the web (including this one). If such an insult wasn’t over-the-top enough, Dembski wrote this letter to those featured in the animation:

“There’s a Christmas present for you at http://www.overwhelmingevidence.com

— a flash animation that features each of you prominently (some of you are probably aware of it already). We’re still planning a few enhancements, including getting Eric Rothschild in there and having Judge Jones do the actual voiceovers himself (right now it’s me speeded up though it’s his actual words). In return for the judge doing himself, we’ll drop some of the less flattering sound effects. We would have included Prof. Padian, but the images of him on the internet weren’t of sufficient quality (I’m copying Prof. Padian — if you send me a hi res jpg of yourself, I’m sure we can work you in — you were after all the expert witness at the trial).

Best wishes,
Bill Dembski”

There’s an entire string of words I would like to use to describe a man such as Bill Dembski, but I am afraid that a post containing said string of words would make this post inappropriate for most viewing audiences. Thus, I would refer you to the seasonally appropriate rant Chevy Chase goes on in the classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when his character discovers that he has been enrolled in a jelly-of-the-month club rather than receive a Christmas bonus. In any case, once Dembski was “outed” he obviously must have had something to say for himself, and here is his whiny attempt at justifying the objectionable cartoon:

“The other side is making much about my having attained yet another “new low” in being the creative force behind the Judge Jones School of Law (go to http://www.overwhelmingevidence.com). Just to be clear, my aim in this flash animation was not to shake up the convictions of convinced Darwinists. Rather, my aim was to render Judge Jones and his decision ridiculous in the eyes of many young people, who from here on will never take Darwinian evolution or him seriously. If the cost of accomplishing this is yet another lowering of my estimation in the eyes of PT or Richard Dawkins, that’s a price I’m only too glad to pay — heck, I regard that as a benefit of the deal.”

Oh, ok, Dembski wasn’t trying to change the way I think, but rather to indoctrinate and delude “young people” who are most likely not very familiar with the important details of the current culture and science wars going on about this. Posters to Overwhelming Evidence who are in favor of evolution are often booted and their comments stricken from the site, which doesn’t add to its credibility. What I find interesting is that scientists at the forefront of this debate may criticize and blast their opponents in public forums, but they at least show some vestige of respect and don’t stoop to making literal caricatures of people like Dembski, Wells, etc. (then again, such people are “looney-tunes” enough as it is). As offensive as the cartoon is, perhaps it will actually help evolutionary scientists by showing how arrogant and idiotic some members of the ID camp truly are. Perhaps even Dembski himself realizes this, as the cartoon is now being edited:

“The Rembrandt of flash animation and I are working to enhance “The Judge Jones School of Law.” As a first step we have made the animation less offensive to more refined sensibilities. All the overt flatulence has therefore been removed. Go to http://www.overwhelmingevidence.com for the less objectional version of this animation (we are keeping the original, however, so that when the history of evolution’s demise is written, all versions of this animation will be available to historians).”

As a side note, “All the over flatulence has therefore been removed.” There’s covert flatulence in the cartoon they haven’t taken out? I guess they’re standing their ground on the “silent but deadly” variety in the flash.

Somehow I doubt Judge Jones is going to donate his voice to this piece, nor do I find it likely that Padian will present a hi-res picture of himself to be mocked by Dembski & Co. I have yet to see replies from the other featured scientists (I’m sure they are forthcoming), but Dawkins had this to say via his website:

“Anybody who resorts to tactics of desperation like this has to be a real loser. Dembski is a loser, and it now looks as though he KNOWS it. My guess is that he will try to take it down when he realizes how foolish it makes him look.”

If all this were not enough, Dembski once again takes ID beyond the scientific or political and delves in the Biblical realm, attempting to justify his actions with some rather violent allusions. Via PT and UD:

“Let me suggest you all read your Old Testament — Elijah taunting the prophets of Baal (and then, oh my, killling them); Micaiah the prophet telling Ahab the king to look forward to his coming death; and Jehu’s respectful treatment of Queen Jezebel (throwing her out a window and letting the dogs lap up her blood). And then in the New Testament we find Paul wishing that certain Judaizers didn’t just circumcise themselves but would go the whole way and castrate themselves. I see the JJSchLaw as an instrument of grace to bring Dawkins and others to their senses (if such a thing were possible). What have you done lately, dopderbeck, to jar Dawkins out of his dogmatic rampage?”

And yet, people still claim that ID has nothing to do with religion. *smacks forehead* I can only imagine how much some ID advocates would love being able to prophetically forecast the death of Dawkins or wish that evolution advocates castrate themselves, thus preventing our offspring from potentially doing good science in the future. While the overtly public face of ID will deny any connection to religious motivation up and down, those who embroil themselves in the debate on a daily basis know that when no one’s looking, all these funny little religious statements and allusions start creeping back out, only to go away again when said advocate is on the witness stand.

But wait, there’s more! As a sloppy sleight of blog trick, Dembski attempts to draw attention away from his idiocy by claiming that he can post any of Richard Dawkins’ correspondance with Dembski, being that Dawkins saw it fit to share Bill’s holiday note with everyone. How much more immature can the man possibly get? I still wonder why anyone can possibly still read Uncommon Descent after the terrible post about how we can scientifically explain the virgin birth of Christ, but in the spirit of full disclosure that post came from Dembski’s Dachshund DaveScot and not Dembski himself.

I’ve been waiting to see what Kenneth Miller has to say about all this nonsense, and I was pleasantly surprised with his exceedingly funny offer to help Dembski and Co. with some extra footage and sound bites for the flash. You can read the e-mail for yourself here.

I don’t expect too many people to change sides one way or another over this issue, stalwart ID advocates claiming said animation was justified and evolutionary thinkers will see it for what it truly is, but in a culture war there are some tactics that work and others that don’t, and in this case Dembski pulled the pin, counted to 3, and dropped the grenade in his own foxhole.

Coming Attraction: In looking over Overwhelming Evidence, I spied, with my evolved eyes, that the first chapter of the Wells/Dembski textbook collaboration had been put online for all to see. Yes folks, is as vapid as you imagined. I’ll have a review and dissection of the sadly misguided text coming in the next few days.


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