We have previously documented the Discovery Institute’s peculiar, one-sided view of academic freedom. They insist that they should be free to promote their bizarre “theory” about a magical, transcendental designer — blessed be he! — but they never rouse themselves to defend those who teach actual science. In The Discoveroids Oppose Academic Freedom we said:
While they pretend to be champions of academic freedom by promoting their phony Academic Freedom bills, and scream to the heavens when a creationist is disciplined for promoting religion in a state school’s science class, they never object when someone is stopped from teaching evolution at a creationist school — see The Reality of Creationist “Academic Freedom”.
In state school science courses they demand the freedom to wedge in their Oogity Boogity nonsense — disguised as the “weaknesses” of the theory of evolution. But when creationist schools throw out those who teach genuine science, they give tacit approval by their silence. They never demand that science should be taught in bible colleges — and they never defend the academic freedom of those who teach science in such places.
There are several other examples of the Discoveroids’ hypocrisy mentioned in Hey, Discoveroids: Is This Academic Freedom? The record is clear — the Discoveroids want only their own freedom to promote their non-scientific dogma everywhere.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone, because their goals are clearly stated in their founding manifesto — see What is the “Wedge Document”? — and in the legislation they promote — see Curmudgeon’s Guide to “Academic Freedom” Laws.
They have a new post today at their creationist blog which gives us an interesting look at their tactics: Discovery Institute’s Chapman, Buri, and West Sign Joint Statement on Academic Freedom. It was written by Donald McLaughlin, a Discoveroid staffer whose undergraduate degree is in Speech and Drama, and his work history is mostly as a fundraiser for religious organizations, including Prison Fellowship Ministries. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture has as one of its main goals the defense of academic freedom. While our primary focus is on science — the freedom to teach and research about evolution objectively, to explore evidence for intelligent design without fear of retaliation — we of course also believe that freedom should extend to every discipline. Voices challenging long-held views are to be found in all scholarly fields, not just biology.
Sounds glorious, doesn’t it? They’re such lofty, high-minded people. Then McLaughlin says:
Academic freedom has become a hot-button issue nationally in recent months. Of late, hardly a week has passed without some major news story highlighting demonstrations on college campuses by those who are not only opposed to certain political views, but who will not tolerate anyone advocating views that some students and faculty do not wish to hear.
Yes, there’s been a lot of craziness on college campuses lately — but it doesn’t involve creationism. McLaughlin tells us:
A notable, recent example was the abominable treatment of speaker Charles Murray and his host Allison Stanger at Middlebury College. … We have highlighted many stories over the past few years of science professors being threatened, disciplined, and silenced for having the temerity to publicly question Darwinian orthodoxy or show an openness to ID as a legitimate scientific alternative.
Those are totally unrelated incidents. The Middlebury event is typical of some wild, sometimes violent campus demonstrations we’ve seen recently, but it’s quite unlike the rational response we expect when creationism creeps into a science class. McLaughlin continues:
Now, prompted to speak out by the Middlebury incident, two well-known scholars, Cornel West of Harvard and Robert P. George of Princeton, have just released a joint statement expressing support for academic freedom and opposition to the “illiberalism” prevalent on campuses today.
Fair enough. The academic freedom they’re talking about doesn’t seem to support creationism being taught as if it were science. That would be as wacky as urging the “academic freedom” to teach astrology in astronomy classes, flat-Earth in geography classes, or faith-healing in medical school. Let’s read on:
Discovery Institute chairman of the board Bruce Chapman, president Steve Buri, and vice president John West have signed the statement.
What? Another excerpt:
The opening paragraph by Dr. George and Dr. West [Cornel West, presumably, and not John West] says:
The pursuit of knowledge and the maintenance of a free and democratic society require the cultivation and practice of the virtues of intellectual humility, openness of mind, and, above all, love of truth. These virtues will manifest themselves and be strengthened by one’s willingness to listen attentively and respectfully to intelligent people who challenge one’s beliefs and who represent causes one disagrees with and points of view one does not share.
That sounds lovely. But promoting creationism has nothing to do with the pursuit of knowledge — quite the opposite. Here’s the Discoveroids’ final paragraph:
This admonishment is eloquent, important — and frankly, considering all the abuses we have observed in the areas of science and science education, long overdue. It would be welcome if critics of the theory of intelligent design were to take heed. Instead of the usual vitriol and ad hominem attacks directed at anyone who questions Darwinian orthodoxy, let them hear us out and then respond in a civil, substantive manner.
So there you are. The Discoveroids have leaped aboard an idealistic effort to encourage civility, presumably intending to subvert it to their own purposes. It’s a clever move, really, because while this civility campaign lasts, it makes the Discoveroids look respectable.
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