Creationism and the Dewey Decimal System

AS WE reported in this earlier post, Florida’s State Senator Ronda Storms (R) is currently on a crusade against the Dewey Decimal System.

Many of our readers will recall that in 2008, Ronda led the unsuccessful battle to have the Florida legislature enact one of those “OK to Teach Creationism” laws promoted by the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture — their intentionally misnamed Academic Freedom Act.

Like most of you, we were wondering — Why is a raving creationist like Ronda suddenly battling against the Dewey Decimal System? Is it, perhaps, a prelude to eliminating fluoridation of the water supply, in order to preserve our purity of essence? Our confusion ended when we were placed on the right track by Tony Whitson, whose blog informed us about Intelligent Design and the Dewey Decimal system.

Then your Curmudgeon went to work. We found what seems to be the official website for the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system. There’s far more to it than we imagined. But they have this page: A Brief Introduction to the Dewey Decimal Classification, with information about the basic categories and their principal subdivisions. We learned enough to keep us going:

200 = Religion, and within that category, 213 = Creation.

500 = Science, and some sub-categories of interest are 570 = Life sciences; biology, and 576 = Genetics & evolution.

In libraries that use Dewey’s system, the DDC number determines what shelf a book will be stored on, and in what sequence, so it can be located when needed. It also allows a book to be stumbled upon by someone browsing through the stacks for titles on a particular subject. We can easily understand that a creation “science” or Intelligent Design author would hope for his book to get a DDC number in the 500s, and he would be disappointed if the librarians assigned his “scientific” work a number in the 200s.

With that in mind, we went hunting for some of the better-known creationist authors and some of their books. Here’s what we found — and it required some effort because Amazon doesn’t give DDC numbers.

These books were assigned numbers in the 200s, indicating that their subject is religion:

Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe (Proceedings of the Wethersfield Institute), by Michael Behe — DDC 213.
The Devil’s Delusion, by David Berlinski — DDC number 215
The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism, by Phillip E. Johnson — DDC 261.5
Scientific Creationism, by Henry M. Morris — DDC number 213
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, by Jonathan Wells — DDC number 231.7652

But these were assigned numbers in the 500s, reserved for science:

Darwin’s Black Box, by Michael Behe — DDC number 572.838
The Design Inference by William A. Dembski –DDC 501
Darwin on Trial, by Phillip E. Johnson — DDC 575
Icons of Evolution, by Jonathan Wells — DDC number 576.8
The Design of Life, by Jonathan Wells and William A. Dembski.– DDC number 570

You can see that books by Michael Behe are sometimes in the 200s, and sometimes in the 500s. This is also true of books by Jonathan Wells and Phillip E. Johnson. We’ve searched for only a few titles and authors, but it’s obvious from what little we’ve seen that having any of their books excluded from the science category must be infuriating to those who claim to be pioneering a new science that will — they imagine — supersede Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Under these circumstances, we’re not surprised to learn that this “problem” has come to the attention of the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids). But we’ve found only a few items at their blog.

Here’s a Discoveroid blog article by Casey Luskin, one of their intellectual heavyweights: Materialist Science Fiction Promoted to Students at a Local Public Library. Excerpt:

Despite the patent overstatements and blatantly false oversimplifications of origin of life research in this book, the Dewey Decimal call number for Life on Other Planets was 576.8 or “Life Sciences, Genetics and Evolution.” In my view, if you’re going to market these kinds of false speculations to kids, better forewarn them by classifying the book in the 800s — fiction.

And here’s a Discovery Institute podcast about the same book’s “mis-classification,” also by Casey Luskin: Materialist Science Fiction at a Public Library. We haven’t listened to it, but it’s described thusly:

On this episode of ID the Future, Casey Luskin examines the lame materialist science fiction being promoted to students at a local public library. With wild speculations on the existence of life outside our planet based on the idea that life just takes a “bing” and some interstellar chemicals, this book should be not on reference shelves, but in the science fiction section. Listen in as Luskin lays a Dewey decimal smackdown on Life on Other Planets.

Casey tactfully fails to mention allegedly scientific tomes by Behe and Wells (his creationist colleagues) which have been “wrongly” classified as religious in subject matter. Instead, he only complains that science books — where he doesn’t like the science — should be classified as fiction. And of course he has no complaint when books by Behe and Wells are somehow assigned science numbers.

If the DDC were working as your Curmudgeon thinks it should, all Discoveroid books would be given whatever DDC number is appropriate for books about the Bermuda Triangle and Alien Abductions.

Despite the small amount of publicity the Discoveroids have given to the issue of the Dewey Decimal System, we can easily imagine the wailing and howling that occurs in the halls of their venerable Seattle “think tank” when one of their new works receives a non-science classification. We can also imagine that it’s difficult to argue with those huffy librarians who run the DDC to get them to change their decisions. So it’s no wonder that the Discoveroids have decided to deploy their faith-based network of fellow travelers and useful idiots in an effort to de-legitimize the entire system.

And that, dear reader, is what we believe to be behind Ronda Storms’ campaign against the Dewey Decimal System. It’s all about creationism.

See also: How Librarians Classify Creationism.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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14 responses to “Creationism and the Dewey Decimal System

  1. I thought you were looking in the right direction, but that Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods books were more precisely in the same category as Intelligent Design. Actually, that turns out that they are in the same classification as the Bermuda Triangle and Alien Abductions: 001.9. See
    http://curricublog.wordpress.com/2009/01/01/0019/

  2. Tony says: “I thought you were looking in the right direction, but that Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods books were more precisely in the same category as Intelligent Design.”

    I yield to your expertise in the Dewey Decimal System.

  3. Wow – just wow! Oh well … Happy New Year! It looks like we’re gonna have some fun. Maybe I’ll e mail “Bubba the Love Sponge” He LOVES Rhonda Storms ——- Not!

  4. astrostu206265

    I listened to that “ID The Future” podcast where Casey really just goes on a tirade against that extraterrestrial life book. Being an astronomer and someone who worked in a library for about 2-3 years, I felt obliged to point out the MANY problems with that episode and Casey’s claims in my own blog. If you’re willing to let this link stand, here’s my post on it: http://pseudoastro.wordpress.com/2008/12/12 .

  5. Larry Perrault

    If you are at all familiar with explorations of thought in the field of philosophy, one is frequently invited to engage a “thought experiment. This is done to explore the sense and implications of a realm of thought that is alien to the system one regularly presumes as reality.

    I am not a philosophical naturalist. However, I understand the internal logic of those who are. In sum, that means I disagree with the conclusions of their logical system and the postulates that generate it. However, I do not resort to shrill charges of irrationality or that because their postulates differ that they ought be barred from calling their study of the world, “science.”

    [Big load deleted.]

    As surely you must know, Philip E. Johnson looks at the case for unguided natural selection as a complete case for all of life, and finds the case lacking as compelling argument, absent the a priori naturalist presumption.

    Johnson’s background is legal. But like any field where argument is applied, whether law, science, socio-politics, philosophy, religion or others, there is no basis on which to engage a dissenter and proceed to understanding if on is patently unable or unwilling to engage the thought experiment of considering alternative logics outside the pretense that certain metaphysical assumptions are constrained by reason itself, rather than the basis from which a particular system proceeds. Chest-thumping to the contrary reduces legitimate matters of consideration to little better than arguments over a favorite football team.

  6. Larry Perrault says:

    But like any field where argument is applied, whether law, science, socio-politics, philosophy, religion or others, there is no basis on which to engage a dissenter and proceed to understanding if on[e] is patently unable or unwilling to engage the thought experiment of considering alternative logics outside the pretense that certain metaphysical assumptions are constrained by reason itself, rather than the basis from which a particular system proceeds.

    Polylogism may be your game, but it’s not mine — and it’s not the way science is played. If someone wants to claim that according to his own private logic system, whatever he’s doing is “science,” that’s his own fantasy.

  7. astrostu206265, no problem with your link. An astronomer is always welcome here.

  8. Wells sees the very integrity of science itself as threatened by tying it to a single philosophical posture.

    I’m sorry, I can’t take an argument seriously when Wells is held up as someone who cares about integrity. His Icons of Evolution is an extended exercise in dishonesty.

  9. Larry Perrault

    Curmudgeon:

    Understand, assuming your choice of words, “polylogism” is not a method by which I establish truth. It is a method by which one explores the logic of another: specifically, it is the method by which I understand YOUR logic, even though I experience its premises and conclusions as false.

    [Deleted a big load.]

    And James F., I have ventured to wade in a number of fields where there is popular disagreement. I have found that common to all of them is the instinct when one has little thoughtful to say, to resort quickly to intellectual and/or moral derision: passing strange when it arises from a domain which recognizes no objective moral reality.

  10. Larry Perrault says:

    Understand, assuming your choice of words, “polylogism” is not a method by which I establish truth. It is a method by which one explores the logic of another: specifically, it is the method by which I understand YOUR logic, even though I experience its premises and conclusions as false.

    Larry, if you don’t like the logic of science, that is your choice. I wish you well as you pursue your philosophical explorations with non-Aristotelian logic. Alas, you will not approve of our discussions here, and your objections will inevitably be rejected as being irrational — by our logic. Therefore, your participation in our discussions will be unrewarding, both for you and for us. Good luck with your endeavors.

  11. Larry Perrault

    It is clearly so. But, your talk aboutwhat is “the logic of science” is presumption in addition to being fales. Do you reaaly imagine that naturalistic philosophy has been “scientifically” demonstrated? You people amuse yourselves, what you are engaged in is uninstructive intellectual group masturbation.

  12. Larry, anyone who wishes to discuss the wonders of non-Aristotelian logic can find your blog through Google. He can go there and discuss it with you, or debate it with you. That’s what your blog is for, I assume. It’s not the purpose of this blog, and I’m not turning the place over to you so that you can carry on about something that doesn’t fit here. If you have nothing to say except that you have a superior form of logic, you’ve said it. Several times. I’ve been patient and polite. But now, Larry, your work here is done. Farewell.

  13. retiredsciguy

    “But now, Larry, your work here is done. Farewell.”

    Thanks, Curmy. He was starting to wear out the scroll wheel on my mouse.

  14. Some pirates lurk off the coast of Somalia, and try to take over oil tankers. Others are on the internet, and try to take over other people’s blogs.