Sean Carroll is one of those open-minded science types who are always generously offering the rest of us lectures on the importance of intellectual freedom and open inquiry–at least when the subject of discussion is buried in the annals of history. When it comes to people debating issues today, however, there are other things which must be taken into consideration.
Like whether Carroll agrees with them.
He is particularly upset about Bloggingheads.tv running a dialogue between John McWhorter and Intelligent Design advocate Michael Behe, a professional scientist. “Unfortunately,” he says, “I won’t be appearing on Bloggingheads.tv any more.”
Bloggingheads.tv is a site that bills itself as “a place where great minds don’t think alike,” a slogan that sounds suspiciously like a description of a place where great minds don’t actually think alike. Carroll’s problem with the site is that it included a dialogue with someone he doesn’t think like–namely, Michael Behe–and he doesn’t think this is something that a site designed for discussion between people who don’t agree should do.
Here is Carroll, expounding on his reasons from opposing open discussion on bloggingheads.tv:
Here’s the distinction I want to draw, which might admittedly be a very fine line. If someone wants to talk about ID as a socio/religio/political phenomenon worth of study by anthropologists and sociologists, that’s fine. (Presumably the right people to have that discussion are anthropologists or sociologists or historians/philosophers of science, not biochemists who have wandered into looney land.) If someone wants to talk to someone who believes in ID about something that person has respectable thoughts about, that would also be fine with me. If you want to talk to a theologian about theology, or a politician about politics, or an artist about art, the fact that such a person has ID sympathies doesn’t bother me in the least.
But if you present a discussion about the scientific merits of ID, with someone who actually believes that such merits exist — then you are wasting my time and giving up on the goal of having a worthwhile intellectual discussion. Which is fine, if that’s what you want to do. But it’s not an endeavor with which I want to be associated.
In other words, a site dedicated to discussions between people who don’t agree shouldn’t run any dialogues that include people who don’t agree with Carroll. And if it does, then Carroll’s not going to be associated with it. He’ll just go back over to his own blog, where, if he gets into a debate, he will at least be assured that his opponent will agree with him.
G. K. Chesterton and George Bernard Shaw once debated the question, “Do we agree?” Carroll and Bloggingheads.tv are now debating the question of whether two people who don’t agree should debate the question of whether two people who don’t agree should debate. About whether two people who don’t agree should debate, that is.
Of course, the difference is that Chesterton and Shaw conducted their debate in full knowledge that it was a joke.
After Bloggingheads-tv posted the dialogue, it apparently received complaints from Carroll and his allies, on the grounds that people like Behe were “crackpots.” So it took the post down. But then the hard-to-please Carroll, who complained that the site should never have posted the dialogue in the first place, got upset when the site took it down:
Then, to make things more bizarre, the dialogue suddenly disappeared from the site. I still have very little understanding why that happened. The reason given was that it was removed at McWhorter’s behest, because he didn’t think it represented him, Behe, or BH.tv very well. I’m sure that is the reason it was removed, although I have no idea what McWhorter was thinking — either when he proposed the dialogue, or while he was doing it, or when he asked that it be taken down.
In other words, Carroll complained about the post being put up. Bloggingheads.tv took the post down. Then Carroll complained that the site took the post down.
If only Bloggingheads.tv would act in as non-erratic a fashion as Carroll, maybe he would come back and be associated with the site again. Then it wouldn’t, like, be so bizarre.
But Carroll gives the reason he was upset that the site took the post down:
That feeds right into the persecution complex of the creationists, who like nothing more than to complain about how they are oppressed by the system.
Carroll is against giving people he disagrees with any excuse to complain that they are oppressed by the system. And the best way to do that, he suggests, is by never giving them a chance to speak in the first place. It’s so simple, really.
Oh, but then there’s the last part of the saga: Bloggingheads.tv put the post back up! And if you think this pleased the dyspeptic Carroll, why, you’re just not paying attention.
Remember, these Intelligent Design people are crackpots. Unlike Carroll. Who’s not.