The Dissent from Darwinism

Read my concise definition more carefully: I did NOT claim that all religions recognize a “transcendent God”. I said that a religion requires “the transcendent”. That transcendence doesn’t have to be a deity, “personal or impersonal” as you say. It can be any sort of transcendent “whatever”.

Buddhism is a religion because its various versions focus on various transcendent goals and foci, whether that transcendence be described as enlightenment, overcoming samsara, Nirvana, or attainment of Buddhahood.

(1) Do you think that the average popular-level layperson dictionary for a language is the best authority on such a term? [My question is sincere. I’m not trying to sound dismissive. I’m just trying to better understand where you are coming from.]

(2) Depending upon the general public’s notions about a word’s meaning is fraught with ambiguities and contradictions—and appalling errors. For example, does the fact that many English-speakers think that a dolphin is a kind of fish provide sufficient reason to doubt an ichthyologist definitions of those words? Does the fact that the average English-speaker thinks that a koala bear is a kind of bear overrule the taxonomist who tells you that the word koala does not refer to a species of bear?

I am also wondering if you think that religious studies scholars and evolutionary biology scholars are commonly mistaken in their terminology. (Again, I’m not being dismissive. I just want to understand more of your opinion of the academy in general and the years of training we had to go through to do our jobs as researchers and as teachers at universities.)

[As a linguist, lexicography is very important to me, so that is why I have responded so carefully on this issue.]

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Ok good. That gives me some specifics because years ago I did a case by case scrutiny of the “bias examples” discussed by Ben Stein in the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. I concluded that not one of them was valid. Indeed, I was absolutely shocked at the misrepresentations. (In some of the cases, I would have to say my use of the word “misrepresentation” was a euphemism.) By the way, did you notice that in the Expelled film Ben Stein made no effort to check with parties on the other side of the story? The film was a good example of what the Bible warns about: “A story sounds true until another comes forward to cross-examine and testify.” (That’s my personal paraphrase of Proverbs 18:17.)

I’m not going to post my point-by-point refutation of Stein’s example cases in this thread because far more qualified people have done a much better job of that and they are available to the general public online. (Readers can easily find them with a Google search, just as I found them.)

As a born-again Christ-follower who had received many enthusiastic recommendations (and even their advertised endorsements) for the Expelled movie from friends and evangelical colleagues, I was very frustrated and disappointed by that film once I had opportunity to see it and investigate it. My scrutiny and skepticism over its claims turned out to be well founded.

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To put my response more concisely before I leave for the afternoon to do some urgent errands: Is it possible that you accepted the claims of Ben Stein et al without sufficient scrutiny and skepticism?

By the way, what are Ben Stein’s academic credentials and relevant expertise in relation to these topics? Do you believe that his background as an economist and actor makes him better qualified to weigh these topics than the thousands of evangelical scientists with earned degrees in fields relevant to evolutionary biology?

Even the ID folks do not enthusiastically promote it, for those very reasons.

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That is not true. They did and do promote it. Case in point the exchange that provoked this thread. @Ronald_Cram does not identify as an ID proponent, but he sure is is “ditto”-ing their claims.

This is going back a long way in the conversation, but I concur with this. I would also “dissent from Darwinism” as worded, but doing so would likely be misconstrued by those that care, one way or the other. Also, as was mentioned earlier, I don’t think the document is well-known in most circles. I doubt anyone else in my department has ever heard of it.


I sometimes wonder if it was intentionally set up this way…

Ronald, you may be thinking of this incident from a couple of years ago:

The grand irony of this is that we are carefully considering an alternative model to Common Descent in another thread: Winston Ewert: The Dependency Graph of Life.

I am an ID supporter, and have steered people away from it (the Ben Stein video). They did support it at first, but fairly quickly demurred… within, I’d say, the first two to three years.

When did they demur? I see no evidence of that. What are you seeing?

Go on ENV and search for mentions. I’ve found three, two of which were from before it was released. The topic is mostly about academic freedom, and it was applauded by ID for that reason; not because of how it actually described and argued ID.

I noticed a similar stepping away from the Expelled film. I had originally assumed that popularity among churches would keep rentals and sales of the movie quite brisk for years—but the production company quickly went bankrupt precisely because it went from an alleged “hit” to a “bust” in relatively short order. The company (and the film) got sold off at a fire sale price.


Yes. Language is used by common people. Language has technical terms when more precise terms are necessary. But it is completely arbitrary, even if done by specialists, to require that religion must have a God of some type. Most of the world will not agree with you.

I’m not a Discovery Institute supporter because I don’t agree with their methods. They were established to try to change the educational system using litigation. I think that’s the wrong focus. The right focus is to do good science. Their attempts at good science have been hit and miss.

Regarding Ben Stein’s movie, I saw it an exposing violations of academic freedom, not as a science movie. I happened to meet one of the people portrayed in the movie and believe the movie represented very well the injustices done to her. I recall her name.

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I am a CSC supporter, and know for sure that they had asked the Dover school District not to enact the ruling that they did, that went to court.
They didn’t want a “Scopes Trial” that early in their history. Judges are particularly ill-suited to rule on what is good science.
They would have much preferred to serve as a source of testimony and support in academic freedom cases as they arose. The only lower education goals they’ve expressed is for freedom for teachers to “teach the controversy” that actually does exist within the reigning paradigm. As things are, without this exposure, kids are indoctinated into accepting platitudes in the name of scientific “orthodoxy.”
They are an unmanageably big tent, in my opinion, but have and continue to serve an important role in consolodating and marshalling “dissent science,” to the degree that even atheist pholosopher Thomas Nagel has gone on record thanking them for forcing science to be better in this area.
As a societal player in the “worldview wars,” I see them as continuing to have a strategic role to play.

We went over this before. This is a type of double speak. At the same time, they were endorsing the Kansas Education Board Hearings, which were equally controversial.

You can’t tell only half the story. We’ve even asked DI employees directly about this, and they have demurred: ID and Science Classes.

Not double speak at all.
I said as much here:

[quote=“Guy_Coe, post:36, topic:734”]
The only lower education goals they’ve expressed is for freedom for teachers to “teach the controversy” that actually does exist within the reigning paradigm.

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Once again: I never claimed that “religion must have a God of some type”. Indeed, I said something quite different: all religions involve a devotion to something that is transcendent—such as enlightenment.

The Discovery Institute was first established to lobby for particular types of regional transportation systems in the Puget Sound area.