Response from Huffington Post Blogger

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The Huffington Post: “The Danger of Ignoring CreationismA few weeks back, we responded to a Huffington Post blog entry by Clergy Letter Project founder Michael Zimmerman. He recently fired back.

“I find myself writing about yet another major creationist organization’s criticisms of my work for The Huffington Post,” he begins, continuing:

We aren’t going to disagree with Zimmerman that evolutionists should take us more seriously.

This time the attack is coming from Answers in Genesis, the people behind the $27 million creation museum-cum-theme-park just outside Cincinnati. You know who I mean—they’re the folks who show dinosaurs and humans comfortably cavorting and who declare that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

There are two issues I need to address.

The first, why the criticism leveled by Answers in Genesis is meaningless nonsense, is rather trivial. The second, however, why any of us should care in the least about what creationist organizations have to say, is far from trivial.

While Zimmerman claims his first point is trivial, it’s the more important of the two to us; after all, we aren’t going to disagree with Zimmerman that evolutionists should take us more seriously (although certainly not in the same way Zimmerman means!). Nonetheless, we’ll see that his tactic on both points is almost underhanded. He goes on:

Let me dispense with the trivial point first. Last month I discussed why social Darwinism was both a misnomer and a terrible idea, both scientifically and socially. Not surprisingly, Answers in Genesis disagreed. They simply repeated their argument that social Darwinism is a “logical . . . conclusion of Darwinian scientific theory” and then, grotesquely, pointed to the existence of serial killers to support their absurd contention. . . . Such behavior is nothing new for Answers in Genesis and their founder, Ken Ham.

So, first, did we argue that social Darwinism is a “logical . . . conclusion of Darwinian scientific theory”? What we actually wrote was:

. . . If evolution were true, it would be true regardless of whatever negative “biological imperatives” it had given us. Of course, most people already realize this, even if many ignore the distinction when arguing.

The difference is whether social Darwinism is a logical normative conclusion of Darwinian scientific theory, as we have claimed. But to DeWitt’s answer in the affirmative, Zimmerman says only that “it has precious little to do with either Darwin or the theory of evolution” and provides no reason for believing his claim is historically true. Zimmerman does not explore why anyone would come to the conclusion—as did not only social Darwinists, but also have serial killers and others.

We contend that our statement has at least a little more nuance than Zimmerman’s quotation (which itself seems somewhat contorted) suggests. First, we had pointed out that “[L]ogically speaking, it’s true that arguing against the moral consequence of an idea is not the same as arguing against an idea itself,” a distinction Zimmerman apparently thinks we miss. Second, notice that Zimmerman does not answer our critique of his view (in the quoted paragraph and further on); he ignores it completely. Our response to his original piece was detailed; his response is a single sentence claiming we were repeating old arguments. We certainly were, because (as we pointed out) we did not find Zimmerman’s arguments convincing (for reasons we also pointed out)!

As for the mention of serial killers, we lacked the space to develop that line of argument in full (instead relying on a link to a more thorough article, Darwin’s Sad Legacy). Our point there is neither ad hominem attack nor grotesqueness but rather to point out what we believe are logically valid conclusions of Darwinism. We have articulated this point clearly in other places, and we regret that concision may have made it less clear to Zimmerman in this instance. Again, however, he offers no logical response, but only ridicule.

Those quotations are pulled out of context, and the message is consequently quite different than what Zimmerman implies.

Next, Zimmerman turns to his second point and attempts to dismiss all our arguments simultaneously by painting us loony. He digs up two “outrageous but all-too-typical examples” of our thought process, one which he quotes and another which he describes:

“[T]he spread of AIDS can be stopped—by simply rejecting false evolution”

In an even more extreme move . . . Answers in Genesis opted to commemorate the fifth anniversary of 9/11 by running ads . . . laying the attack at the feet of evolution.

Ridiculous, right? But as Ken Ham pointed out yesterday in a blog entry titled The Rest of the Story—Exposing Misquotes by an Atheist Professor, those quotations are pulled out of context, and the message is consequently quite different than what Zimmerman implies.

Zimmerman closes the piece with an extended warning on how creationists and the like are trying to take over the country, allow the supernatural into science, etc.: “Answers in Genesis and the Discovery Institute have the ability to shape public policy in frightening ways.” On some points, he’s right, but on most he seems to either distort or misunderstand the arguments. And what if a supernatural explanation turned out to be true? How can one come to correct conclusions if the correct answer is excluded at the outset? However, we hope Zimmerman reads this and offers a more detailed response to our previous post (along with an acknowledgment that he has used quotations of our material out of context).

(Correction: in our post in March we said that Zimmerman was “presumably a Christian” since he lobbies clergy and argues that Christianity and evolutionary ideas are compatible. However, we have since been notified that Zimmerman is on record as an atheist.)


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