Creationism: Abuse of the Language of Rights

IN the Guardian of London we read Creationist claims in Northern Ireland, by Sophia Deboick. She decries the same events in Northern Ireland about which we’ve been writing (most recently here: Creationism in Northern Ireland: Institutional Insanity), but that’s not what interests us today.

We enjoy conflict, so we normally don’t bother with material that agrees with us. But in the Guardian‘s article, we found something deeper than mere opposition to the virulent outbreak of theocratic creationism in Northern Ireland. That unfortunate situation is just the literary setup for what we have to say here. If you need to understand the setup (and you really don’t), there’s background information in our earlier post on the subject. While you brush up, the rest of us will proceed.

We have frequently complained about disingenuous the way the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids) attempt to frame the issue when trying to force their version of creationism into government schools and the rest of society. They demand that the schools should stop “discriminating,” and they claim that they’re for “fairness.” In promoting what is literally affirmative action for their pseudo-science, they tirelessly urge that schools should “teach both sides” of the non-existent scientific “controversy.”

In Creationism: the Unending Crusade, we said:

The creationists are under the illusion that if they could only conjure up the right verbal formula, they will somehow succeed. So they use slogans that vaguely echo the civil rights controversies, and then they promote rather obvious ploys like the Academic Freedom Act, and they complain about viewpoint discrimination and academic persecution.

Although we’ve always managed to say what was on our mind, we never found exactly the right words to express precisely what it was that bothered us about the Discoveroids’ tactics. Now, thanks to Sophia Deboick, we’ve found what we’ve been looking for. Here are the relevant excerpts from her article, with bold added by us:

The proponents of creationism in this row have used the language of balance, free speech and human rights to defend their views. The Caleb Foundation has spoken of its “campaign for equality’, while a letter to the Belfast Telegraph stated that the public were being denied the right to hear the “Christian position”. But these calls for equal treatment of views miss the point.

Science isn’t about “views”, it is about demonstrable fact. Creationism is manifestly false, perverting good scientific principles by taking a foregone conclusion (that God created the world in six days), and working backwards from it. The museum is a place where the expert-agreed consensus is represented, and faith-based ideas of history and science, with no root in the practice of those disciplines, cannot be incorporated without fundamentally undermining that principle. … This is not a denial of anyone’s rights, but a position based on the simple idea that if you want to know about natural history, ask a natural historian, not a cleric or a random person on the street.

That’s good, but we haven’t arrived at the great linguistic insight yet. It’s coming soon. Let’s read on:

We shouldn’t be complacent about attacks on humankind’s scientific achievements and the integrity of our cultural institutions, and the situation is all the more alarming when those who criticise secular values do so in its own language of hard fought-for rights.

Okay, we’re right at the end of the article, and this is it:

This is nothing more than an attempt to abuse the language of rights to go beyond the religious respect they are already accorded and secure religious privilege. It should be recognised as such.

That is, as they say, bang on! Abuse of the language of rights — yes, it’s the perfect phrase. Language abuse is exactly what it is, and that’s what we’re going to call it from now on. Thank you, Sophia Deboick.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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6 responses to “Creationism: Abuse of the Language of Rights

  1. Gabriel Hanna

    Now if only the Guardian would work on its OWN abuses of the language of rights…

    http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2010/06/overlords.html

    I suppose they get half a golf clap for recognizing it in others.

  2. Ms. Deboic ruins an excellent argument with:

    “Creationism is manifestly false, perverting good scientific principles by taking a foregone conclusion (that God created the world in six days), and working backwards from it. ”

    The DI will knee-jerkingly object by claiming that they do not want students taught a 6-day creation (why risk having students critically analyze what’s so easily falsified?). They’ll say that they only want students to learn “evolution plus” and say “what can be more fair than that?” The “plus” of course is blatant misrepresentation that misleads students about evolution and the nature of science. Thus the anti-evolution activists are the true censors, while having the audacity to claim that we are, because we demand that only that science class includes only that which has earned the right to be taught.

    Even if someone points out the absurdity of the DI’s objection, at that point the damage is done. If the DI’s objection persuaded one person in the audience who wasn’t already committed to denying evolution, they scored a point.

    Please! Let the “creationists” try to have it both ways. We simply can’t afford to. Either we define “creationism” to include ID – in which case it would not necessarily assume a 6-day creation – or we use separate terms. I tried the latter for a few years, and every other “Darwinist” objected.

  3. Frank J says:

    Please! [Don’t?] Let the “creationists” try to have it both ways. We simply can’t afford to. Either we define “creationism” to include ID – in which case it would not necessarily assume a 6-day creation – or we use separate terms

    We can’t control their behavior, only our own. My method, as you know, is to ridicule them all as creationists. I don’t care if a creationist is the Genesis kind or the Discoveroid kind — the difference is artificial and trivial. It was invented only as a legal maneuver to bypass the First Amendment. After Dover, the Discoveroids’ fictitious distinction (“we don’t use the G-word”) is as useless as the “dog ate my homework” defense.

    The rational side’s argument is always the same. Creationists (of either kind) have no scientific case — period. If some fool in the audience gets persuaded by a creationist movement, who cares? Fools are always getting fooled. He had no mind to begin with, so there’s no loss to the world.

  4. Curmudgeon: “I don’t care if a creationist is the Genesis kind or the Discoveroid kind — the difference is artificial and trivial. ”

    It may be trivial in that, once one is established as a science-misrepresenter, it matters little what alternate, if any, they promote, or whether or not it is the same as what they privately believe, they are “the problem.” But if we erroneously assume (ass-u-me) that IDers are YECs, and they deny it, which happens often, we get egg on our faces, and become part of the problem too. The prudent thing is to not assume what they believe, but if there’s time, ask, and watch them squirm.

    As usual I am not focusing on the hopeless subset of the audience, but the “fence sitters” who might be impressed with DI sound bites, but not YEC nonsense. If we come across as “not having done our homework” we don’t always get a second chance.

  5. Note on the “don’t?”

    I did mean to let them try to have it both ways (how can we stop that without duct tape anyway?). But then expose what they did. Which means don’t let them get away with it.

  6. retiredsciguy

    Sophia Deboick wrote, “Science isn’t about “views”, it is about demonstrable fact.”

    Too bad that so many of our legislators, school board members, and other officials in positions of authority are so scientifically illiterate that they don’t realize this.