Monday, July 23, 2007

Latest From the Discovery Institute

Apparently someone over at the Discovery Institute has decided to clean up their web page a bit. Click here for a pretty concise summary of their thoughts on a recent talk by P.Z. Meyers of Pharyngula.


Kevin Clark said...

I sometimes wonder what the point of people like old PZ Meyer is. Why does he do his blog, the point of which seems to be that he is utterly contemptuous of religion and religious people? Does he think that if he shows enough for contempt for religion, people will finally see it his way?

You know, the one I really feel sorry for is Ken Miller. He's trying to talk reason to both sides of the evolution debate, and neither side is particularly interested. It must be very frustrating.

By the way, just out of curiosity, why don't you use your real name on your blog? It would certainly seem to give your blog more authority if you actually listed your teaching post and credentials. Just a thought

Archaeopteryx said...

What I like about PZ's blog is that he really sticks it to creationists, and he does it with logic and good humor. You know that's a torch I carry, too. His blog is also loaded with nifty information about evolution.

Like many evolutionary biologists who also happen to be athiests, he gets a bit, um, strident about it. But I don't think even he thinks he going to change many people's minds about religion. He says as much on his blog.

I'm not sure you're right about Ken Miller. I don't think he's trying to talk reason to both sides in the evolutionary debate. Miller's an ardent evolutionist. If someone is truly a creationist, there's no point in talking reason to them--they've decided to reject reason. I think what Miller is doing is trying to assure people who have been led to believe that evolution threatens their faith that there is no need for them to worry--that evolution (and science in general) is compatible with religious belief. [As an aside, I've recommended Miller's book to several of my students who have expressed concerns about the issue, and it almost always helps assuage their fears.]

As far as not using my real name on the blog, I have two very different reasons. First, by maintaining some degree of anonymity, I can write about experiences at my school without fear of offending the administration, other faculty, or students (gotta get tenure, you know). I say "some degree" because it wouldn't be too difficult for someone to figure out who I am, should they really want to do so.

More importantly, I'm not a fan of those who use a publicly-funded educational position as a platform for their personal political beliefs. I think George Bush and Dick Cheney are personally responsible for everything that is wrong in the world (for example, it's their fault the Cardinals lost to the Cubs last night), but I would never say such a thing in my classroom. There's a good deal of politcal commentary on this blog--revealing my position would be akin to implying a University endorsement of the views expressed here.

By the way--I'm not ignoring your comment on the other thread--just contemplating it a bit.

Kevin Clark said...

When I say that Miller is trying to talk sense to both sides, I mean that he is saying to the creationists, "Stop thinking that evolution is some kind of atheist weapon to attack religion," and to the evolutionists, he's saying, "Stop using evolution as some kind of atheist weapon to attack religion." Miller is trying to tell everybody to just stick with the facts and not let personal biases get in the way. PZ is definitely not helping that. The more evolution is associated with atheism, the more people are going to reject evolution. Many Christians really do believe that there isn't any evidence for evolution and people just believe in it so that they don't have to believe in God. People like PZ just give more credence to that argument. Personally, I think Miller would be appalled by PZ Meyer's website.

Regarding using your name or not, it's obviously your decision. However, you might consider a couple of things. First, you really don't have plausible deniability. You teach biology at a state university in Arkansas that is located in a small town. You have a wife. Based upon what you have written I could pin your age down within a few years. Really, it would be simple to put the facts together and come up with a name.

Regarding your political beliefs, my guess is that they are pretty mainstream for academia, even in Arkansas.

It struck me the other day when you said that you and Mrs. Arch were commiserating about how everybody's opinion is equal on the internet, even if their opinion is a load of crap. You do have qualifications. Your opinion, in many areas, is better than other opinions. By staying anonymous, you, in a sense, just throw your opinion in with all the other people of unknowable qualifications, making it no better or worse than theirs. I think it would actually be a service to let people know who you are and what your qualifications are.

Just a thought.

Archaeopteryx said...

I'm sure you're right about Miller--he probably is appalled by Myers' website.

I don't doubt that anyone who wanted to could figure out my identity without too much trouble, but the point is, I'm not using the University as an endorsement of my viewpoints. And much of what is written on this blog is just my opinion. For the time being, at least, I'm going to leave things the way they are--but I must say, I'm kind of shocked that you've clued in everyone reading this that "Archaeopteryx" is not my real name. (If I ever have a kid, heaven forfend, I might just give him that name. Or her.)

Keifus said...

One of the cool things about being a chemist/chemical engineer(/whore) is not worrying whether any actual research I still do needs to be presented in way that will comfort everyone's delicate and uninformed sensibilities. To put it another way, even without being anti-religious, I can see why the pro-religious drive evolutionary biologists nuts. Just sayin.

I've got Archaeopteryx pegged as Bill Clinton, myself.