When you’re a reporter for a liberal publication you can say whatever you like about the ID/Evolution debate, however disconnected from reality, and get away with it. Nicely illustrating this general principle, New Scientist comes across with this beauty. In a story titled “Science in America: Selling the Truth,” lamenting the perversity of Republicans with their primitive scientific beliefs on climate change and the rest, Peter Aldhous writes:
How a message is framed in relation to the cultural biases of the intended recipients is crucial to its persuasiveness. The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, a conservative think-tank that seeks to undermine the teaching of evolution in U.S. schools, has learned this lesson well. After failing to get biblical creationism taught in science classes, the institute came back with the “scientific” concept of intelligent design, and two carefully researched talking points: “evolution is just a theory” and “teach the controversy.”
None of this remotely true, of course. You don’t have to like the pedagogic model of exposing students to both sides of the debate on evolutionary theory. But in fact, if Discovery Institute’s advice were taken, the teaching of evolution in U.S. schools, far from being “undermined,” would be significantly expanded in breadth and depth with due attention to developing critical-thinking skills. That way it would be genuine education, not merely indoctrination.
As for the notion that we adopted this approach after Discovery Institute “failed to get biblical creationism taught in science classes,” this is grossly counterfactual, as the writer would know if he’d taken a moment to research it. Discovery Institute has never supported teaching biblical creationism in any context, nor do we advocate mandating intelligent design in public schools. Finally, the simple-minded “just a theory” trope is a clich� and a straw man on the lips of Darwin advocates, not sophisticated Darwin critics. We’ve criticized it, not advocated it; see here.
Once you get over the sheer smug, offensive laziness of the reporting, you can enjoy the irony that Mr. Aldhous thinks he is informing readers of a secret: Many people decide what they believe on science and other matters not based on a fair, intelligent weighing of factual evidence but rather based on how holding one belief over another makes them feel, socially included or socially excluded: “We have a strong interest in mirroring the views of our own cultural group.”
Yes, exactly. And as Aldhous’s article wonderfully illustrates, we’re most blind to the effect of that dynamic when we are most firmly in its grip.