Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Defending truth and free speech takes a lot of effort

As part of his goals for the New Year, my husband wants to create global utopia in 2009.

OK, maybe that's night quite fair. He wants to come up with a plan for utopia in 2009. He admits that actual implementation may take a bit longer.

So now he's outlining his goals. And one of the things Jeff finds frustrating and would like to eliminate in his Utopian society is the prolific lying that so often passes in this nation for honest debate. (Think the tactics of the intelligent-design movement and its leaders like the Discovery Institute.)

Now maybe it's not fair of me to air my side of our marital disagreements like this (especially without allowing him to present his side) but hey, I'm a writer. That's just the way I roll. He knew this when he married me.

And this is just too fraught with opportunity to ignore.

So, as he says, in his utopia, "People wouldn't be allowed to spread lies."

To which I ask, "So, you're saying you want to criminalize free speech? In utopia?"

Oh sure, he hems and haws and insists that isn't exactly what he means. Then he tries to misdirect the argument and tells me that as long as I'm not willing to do something decisively to halt the deception foisted on the public, then nothing will change.

To which I reply: Darlin', I love you, but you're a freakin' moron. (Except I don't really say "freakin.'")

Then I tell him that I'm sorry that I just can't get down with his little tyranny thing.

To which he replies, "How is that tyranny?" even though he knows damn well what I mean by tyranny, but he's got an argument to win.

Sigh. And on and on it goes. He and I can't seem to schedule five minutes a week to balance our bank accounts, but we can fight for days over stuff like this.

(I should note, in the interest of fairness, that this is the way my husband processes things. He starts out with an extreme position and works his way back to a state of reason. But he always comes back.)

And the truth is, I understand his frustration. Who doesn't?

Spend five minutes on the Internet and you'll easily come up with countless egregious acts of misinformation, like, oh say, here, here and here.

Those spreading these lies count on a public to be too ill informed and overwhelmed by information to understand their deceptions.

But, of course, as ACLU members know, the answer isn't to silence those lies with government restrictions. Rather, it's exposing them with the light of truth. Granted, the system isn't neat and tidy. And it takes a lot of work. But it can also be satisfying. So satisfying.

Take, for example, the Kitzmiller case. Remember how after the trial, the pro-intelligent design board members, who lied through their testimony, were voted out of office by an electorate that had grown tired of the deception? That was cool.

But now Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute wants to go back and rehash the trial, all in an effort to convince readers that intelligent design did not get a fair shake in Harrisburg's federal courthouse.

In a series of posts, he goes over the testimony of defendants' witness Michael Behe and plaintiffs' witness Ken Miller and the issue of irreducible complexity of the blood clotting cascade, which both scientists revealed during testimony to be an utter scientific fraud. (Even though I'm pretty sure that wasn't Behe's intention.)

Why would Casey Luskin be bringing up Dover more than three years after Judge Jones' decision? Doesn't he have something better to do? Like scientific research? ... Ummm, well, the Discovery Institute does no scientific research. It's sole existence is to engage in deceiving the public with lie-filled propaganda. The kind of institution that my poor misguided husband thinks he'd like to see banned from public discourse.

So Luskin goes to great contortions in a series of posts called Smoke and Mirrors (Here, here and here) to say that irreducible complexity, the idea that if a working part of the blood clotting cascade were removed, the entire system would collapse and we'd all bleed to death from a paper cut. So that must mean the system could not possibly have evolved through gradual evolutionary processes.

But it's not true. And no matter how many times he whines about it will never make it true.

Sure, it's tempting to want to make Luskin just shut up. Yes, Casey ... please... shut up. Sure, some people end up believing the lies he's peddling. Sure, his goal is to slip his religious views past the First Amendment's Establishment Clause and force them on our children. I get all that. And that's slimy stuff.

But of course, forcing Casey to shut up would only betray the foundations of democracy.

So, instead, we respond with the truth. As Ken Miller, guest blogging for The Loom, did in a series of terrific posts. Using a howitzer to swat a mosquito, as one observer put it.

His responses are here, here and here.

Miller writes:
Luskin's willingness to misread Behe is then followed by an even more brazen attempt to misrepresent, "irreducible complexity," ID's own argument against evolution. The one strength of that argument is that it makes a testable prediction, namely, that the individual parts of an irreducibly complex biochemical system should have no function until all of those parts are assembled together. The difficulty, which Luskin has worked mightily to obscure, is that "irreducible complexity" fails that test at every turn. So he pretends that the existence of fully-functional clotting systems that are missing as many as five parts of the "irreducibly complex" system is no big deal. It is, in fact, a very, very big deal — because it shows that his argument, the claim of "design," and his revisionist account of the Dover trial are all dead wrong.

So, why even respond to Luskin? The Judge Jones' decision was a decisive smack down more than three years ago. Why all the hoopla now?

In his conclusion, Miller explains:
The only relevant question at this point is why the Discovery Institute keeps highlighting its own failings in this way. Why are Casey and his employers now — three years after the Dover trial — trying to rehabilitate the tattered credibility of both Michael Behe and Pandas? What mischief are they planning now? The only conclusion I can draw is that they must be maneuvering for the next round of state board hearings or legislative sessions — and I'm concerned. These folks are a whole lot better at politics and public relations than they are at science, and that means that everyone who cares about science education should be on guard.

So, gear up for the next battle.

True, it's not exactly a Utopian ideal, where we all get to sit around and eat grapes and pick flowers. This system of governance takes a lot of diligence, and hard work, and rational debate in the face of frustrating arrogance and irrational behavior. But until my husband comes up with something much better, thank you very much, I'll keep defending what we've got.

Lauri in York

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1 Comments:

Anonymous ELMERHORN said...

I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW, WHY A 15 YEAR OLD BOY WAS FORCE TO STAY WITH HIS MOTHER. WHEN SHE HAS NOT HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH HIM FOR 8 YEARS. HE TOLD THE JUDGE THAT HE DID NOT WANT TO STAY WITH HER. THAT HE WANTS TO STAY WITH HIS DAD. WHO HAS RAISED HIM. THE JUDGE WAS ALSO TOLD THAT THE BOYFRIEND OF THE MOTHER HAD FORCED HIM TO PULL HIS PANTS DOWN AND HIT HIS PRIVATE PARTS MANY TIMES. HIS MOTHER STILL LIVES WITH THIS MAN.

8:31 PM  

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