Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Cannon Fodder

One of my main motivations for starting a blog is the opportunity it provides to counter some of the outright falsehoods perpetrated by a number of people who seem to think they actually know what they're talking about. As an ex-Catholic, I find there are more than a few Catholic writers out there who are particularly frustrating to read when their discussions turn to an analytical view of science in today's culture. It used to be that Catholics were largely at the forefront of encouraging a scientific education (I certainly credit my own career in science as having been jump-started by nuns in parochial school). Now, with the exception of Kenneth Miller (Finding Darwin's God), it's hard to find popular Catholic writers who can actually pen something factual about Darwinian evolution, so caught up as they are in this almost psychotic need to defeat the "secular left". Benjamin Wiker, author of Moral Darwinism and frequent contributor to Crisis magazine and Father Richard John Neuhaus, editor of First Things are tops on my list. Don't get me wrong, both bring a sophistication and intellect to their arguments (Neuhaus more than Wiker). But they use those techniques to obfuscate evolutionary theory (and science in general) for their audience, rather than to elucidate solid arguments. Neuhaus, quite frankly, never met an Intelligent Design advocate he didn't like and Wiker can't find a moral crisis that isn't Charles Darwin's fault. Both have been quiet of late in commenting on supposed "flaws" in evolutionary theory, but I look forward to offering counter arguments when the time comes.

On the other hand, someone who brings neither sophistication nor intellect to discussions of science is Catholic apologist, Charlotte Hays (Loose Cannon) over at Beliefnet. In writing these posts I made a commitment to myself to try and avoid ad hominem attacks on people. They really don't accomplish much. But truth is, Charlotte Hays exemplifies every reason that I abandoned Catholicism. Furthermore, it's really clear that Hays didn't make the same personal commitment I'm trying to keep. In Catholic school, we always sang "They Will Know We are Christians by Our Love". Charlotte seems to have sung "They Will Know We are Christians by Our Spiteful Attacks on Those Who Dare to Stand in the Way of Our Attempts to Politically Institutionalize Religious Dogma".

Hays says she accepts evolution, but she's clearly not happy about it. She defends Intelligent Design as being an victimized idea that should have an opportunity to be heard (see her post, "Book Burning: The Way We Do It Now" in reference to the "philosophy" class on evolution and intelligent design recently proposed at a high school in Lebec, Ca. See Ed Brayton's post for what was really being proposed in this class, and why the proposal was eventually dropped). In yesterday's Loose Cannon post she lauded a recent Washington Post article on evolution by Shankar Vedantam, by suggesting it was both "terrific" and "fair to both sides". The centerpiece of the article is a biology professor at a Virginia community college, Caroline Crocker, who teaches Intelligent Design in her biology classes. Meyers and Rosenhouse nail the blatant falsehoods presented by Crocker to her class, so there's no need to repeat them here. Hays of course, thinks two pages reporting falsehoods presented as biology is equal to two pages reporting 150 years of repeated experimentation and research in a wide variety of fields of study, all of which consistently reach the same conclusion, as "fair and balanced". She obviously watches a lot of FOX news.

This is not the most egregious of Hays' posts, but other Catholic readers out there should understand that she is not a reliable source for information on evolutionary theory. I'm sure she'll be posting more comments on the subject...I can hardly wait.

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