“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”
Richard Dawkins has now commented on the Martin Gaskell discrimination case where a distinguished astronomer was turned down for a job at the University of Kentucky (UK) because he expressed views sympathetic to intelligent design. UK ultimately felt compelled to cough up a $125,000 settlement to Dr. Gaskell, the university’s lawyers reasoning they would fare worse if the case went to trial. Dawkins jauntily endorses such academic discrimination.
Why, how bold of him! After all, he’s not the guy who will have to open up his wallet and pay for it next time something like this happens.
What’s really contemptible about Dawkins’s article is the illustrations he gives of “anti-science” views that would justify turning down a candidate for a job in a scientific field. Why contemptible? The illustrations, some fantastically hypothetical and some real though vanishingly rare in academia, are as follows as they come up in the piece: a) a young-earth creationist, b) “a doctor [who] believes in the stork theory of human reproduction, rejecting the sex theory,” c) “a flat-earther [who] applies for a professorship of geography,” d) someone who “believes Mars is the egg of a giant purple Mongoose,” e) “an astronomer who, on religious grounds, believes the universe is less than ten thousand years old,” f) yet another young-earth creationist.
Because a university science department would be justified in turning down holders of these beliefs, Dawkins wishes us to think, it follows that UK was justified in rejecting Gaskell. Dawkins’s illustrations are three cases of Biblical literalist YEC belief and three fantasy beliefs the likes of which no one you’ll ever meet actually holds, certainly no one who could rise to a level of scientific achievement where hiring him to teach at a university would come up for practical discussion. Dawkins wraps them all together under the category of being “anti-science” and — without telling readers he has done so, and without even mentioning ID — implicitly slips ID under the same heading.
Nothing could be more shoddy and dishonest. If believers in a 10,000-year-old earth didn’t exist, Dawkins would have to invent them in order to populate a trumped-up category — “anti-science,” “creationism” — into which Darwin defenders can insert ID. They can then walk away without having to answer any of ID’s arguments or even describe them fairly.
Expansive categories like this seek to mislead by gathering together and condemning things or people that are wildly unlike each other except insofar as they share one or two very superficially similar characteristics — in the present case, being in opposition to some aspects of scientific fact or scientific prejudice. Inventing and wielding such categories is a popular technique among bullies of all types, a technique of evasion and intimidation, mastering other people’s opinion by fraud. Darwinists have used it successfully to cow a lot of otherwise thoughtful men and women.
Because of course, without such a trick ready at hand for intellectual bomb disposal, guys like Dawkins would have to do what they so manifestly do not want to do. That is to forthrightly confront the case of intelligent design — as it’s being made at this moment at the scientific cutting edge, drawing on observations about population genetics, combinatorial inflation, developmental biology and ontogenetic information.
Dawkins showed his own blind cowardice in his most recent book, The Greatest Show on Earth. The book was supposed to present the affirmative case for Darwinian evolution against the public’s persistent doubts on the matter. Intelligent design, whether you like it or hate it, is the argument you have to answer if you are going to write a book like that. Dawkins, however, chose to content himself with mocking a clueless YEC lady he interviewed once on TV and allowing the editor of a website, Conservapedia’s Andrew Schlafly, to stand in all by himself for those who doubt the relevance of Richard Lenski’s E. coli experiments to the debate about macroevolution.
“Schlafly,” remarked Dawkins in disgust, “a lawyer, if you please, not a scientist at all.”
Yes, exactly! So then why not pick on someone your own size, like a pro-ID or Darwin-doubting scientist? Nah, not interested. Although there is no shortage of these, minority though they are, Dawkins won’t go there. Absolutely refuses.
The man is just a pathetic and worthless bully, nothing more.