Friday, March 13, 2009

An Open Letter From the DI to the SICB

Michael Egnor of the Discovery Institute has written an open letter to the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. He writes:
I have learned of your decision to boycott the state of Louisiana because of the recently enacted Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA). The LSEA is a landmark academic freedom bill that allows teachers to use supplementary materials to teach controversial scientific theories without threat of recrimination. Your organization lobbied against this law, and has lobbied in support of censorship in public school science classes and in support of punishment of teachers who use supplementary materials to teach their students about scientific controversies. You have now announced your decision to change the planned venue for the 2011 Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology annual meeting from New Orleans to Salt Lake City in retaliation for the decision of the citizens of Louisiana to allow academic freedom in their science classrooms.

Your organization has now gone on record as opposing academic freedom in public schools. The formal alignment of several organizations of professional scientists — of which you are the most recent — with censorship of scientific discussion is an ominous development.

This is disingenuous and everyone knows it. Mr. Egnor couldn't care less about gravitational theory, germ theory or relativity theory. He cares only about evolutionary theory. That is the focus of these "academic freedom" bills. Having lost the court cases and having failed to successfully promote Intelligent Design, the focus of the DI is now to go in the back door and get "academic freedom" bills passed. He continues:
Most Americans are creationists, in the sense that they believe that God played an important role in creating human beings and they don’t accept a strictly Darwinian explanation for life. And they think that they ought to be able to ask questions about evolution in their own public schools. They don’t share your passion for ideological purity in science classes. They have a quaint notion that science depends on the freedom to ask questions, and their insistence on academic freedom is catching on. They don't want religion taught in the science classroom, but they know that students are not learning about all of the science surrounding evolution. Seventy-eight percent of Americans support academic freedom in the teaching of evolution in schools, and that number is rising fast — it’s up 9% in the past 3 years. People clearly resent your demand for censorship. After all, it’s their children in their schools, and they aren’t happy with a bunch of supercilious Darwinists telling them that they can’t even question Darwinism in their own classrooms. So if you’re going to boycott all the creationists who despise you, you’ll eventually have to hold all of your conventions in Madison or Ann Arbor. Keep up the arrogance and eventually you won’t have to boycott people at all. People will boycott you.
Here, haughtiness and arrogance have taken over. The SICB pulled out of New Orleans as a protest because they knew that the academic freedom bill, promoted by non-scientists, would seriously injure science education in Louisiana and they did not want to be a part of that. Additionally, he has taken the "50 million Frenchmen can't be wrong" approach. Guess what? Four hundred years ago, EVERYBODY thought that the earth was in the center of the universe. That didn't make it correct. Modern science now knows better. He continues:
Folks in Louisiana don’t actually care if the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology cancels its convention in New Orleans. There are a lot of other organizations that will be delighted to hold their conventions in cities you boycott. There are a lot of big organizations out there who don’t exactly like you. The National Association of Evangelicals represents 40,000,000 people and represents 40,000 churches. The Society for Comparative and Integrative Biology has 2300 members. Just one organization of evangelicals has 17 times as many churches as you have members. There are thousands of churches that are larger than your organization, and I’m sure many members would be happy to come to New Orleans for tourism or meetings.
Is that so? Here is what New Orleans CityBusiness had to say about that:
If allowing faith-based theories to make their way into the realm of state-sponsored education is part of the formula to create more jobs and prosperity in Louisiana, you would see the business community throw its full support beyond LSEA. It obviously wasn’t touted as an economic development initiative, but business interests are now learning that even the most innocuous measure can affect their livelihood.

What the governor and lawmakers need to realize is that while measures such as these may not appear to have a business impact on the surface, they could ultimately affect the state’s bottom line.
Let’s hope they keep this in mind before they make their next decision that puts their personal beliefs ahead of the overall interest of the state, its citizens and our economy.
The rest of the letter is full of misinformation and vitriol. It is worth reading as an example of current DI thought. Oh by the way, Mr. Egnor, every time you use the word "Darwinists," you lose just a bit more credibility.


  1. The only possible response to Egnor is "Tee hee!" :)

  2. "Oh by the way, Mr. Egnor, every time you use the word "Darwinists," you lose just a bit more credibility."

    That part I agree with entirely.

  3. Angel, just out of curiosity: were there parts of the post that you did not agree with?

  4. So, if LSEA is about academic freedom in general, and not about promoting religion in the science classroom, then why does Egnor tout the National Association of Evangelicals as an organization that will be happy to come to Louisiana now that LSEA has passed? Why should evangelicals in particular be so excited about academic freedom in science classes?

  5. AMW, a good point. Pharyngula makes a similar observation. This is what I mean by the DI overplaying its hand. The organization spent a good deal of mental energy trying to isolate Intelligent Design from the abject religious nature of the Wedge Document. The Dover, PA trial blew that notion out of the water, so the DI might as well come clean.

  6. I was fine with the rest. I just really hate the term darwinists. I accept evolution as science but I would never call myself a Darwinist or evolutionist. It sounds like a belief system to me.

  7. Actually, Angel, the problem that I have is with the term "Darwinist." It implies that no research has gone on since Darwin's time. I do not have a problem with the term "evolutionist," much in the same way that some of my friends here are "physicists" and others are "chemists." I know that the folks who decry evolution use the term pejoratively, but I can't think of a better term. To me, it doesn't denote a religious perspective but, rather, someone who practices a certain discipline.

  8. I never really thought much of the term "evolutionists" being used in that way. I've been called one but never in a positive way. What I'm majoring in does have to do with evolution but it's not my main focus. So I see no reason for someone like me to go by that term.