Discovery Institute’s Unintelligent Designers Have No Scruples

This past Saturday one of the C-Span book reviews featured Dr. John West’s book Darwin Day In America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science. Dr. West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute argued that the domination of science in American society has led to the corruption of our morals.

I must admit my astonishment at West’s proposition. He reminds me of the preacher who proclaimed, “You don’t need to read nuttin but the bible.” Dr. West verges on suggesting ignorance and stupidity produce good morals. When talking about the theory of evolution that is essentially his position. The Discovery Institute’s mission is to fabricate reasons to deny the 150 years of research that stands behind the theory of evolution because it contradicts a literal interpretation of the book of Genesis. Has Dr. West ever heard of Galileo?

Dr. West and his Discovery Institute constituents are among the less than 1% of Ph.D.s in science combating the 99% of Ph.D.s in science who consider evolution a fact. West is scrambling for a reason that the Intelligent Design (ID) idea might be credible. Thus, Dr. West asserts that science and particularly Darwin ’s theory of evolution must be responsible for the corruption of morals.

West goes on to make the incredible claim that Darwin ’s evolution is responsible for anti-Semitism. Darwin’s Origin of Species first appeared in 1859. If West’s assertion is true then there could not have been any anti-Semitism prior to 1859.

On the contrary, anti-Semitism goes back at least 1,500 years. It has ranged from individual Christian expressions of hatred and discrimination against individual Jews to organized violent attacks by mobs on Jewish communities. Extreme instances of persecution include the German Crusade of 1096, the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290, the Spanish Inquisition, the Jew’s expulsion from Spain in 1492, the Jewish expulsion from Portugal in 1497, various pogroms, and the 20th Century’s most infamous Holocaust under Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

Martin Luther, student of the bible and namesake of Lutherans, wrote a pamphlet in 1543 entitled “On the Jews and Their Lies.” Luther sets forth the Christian obligation to destroy the Jews. Luther states Christians should “set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them.” . . . “Their houses also be razed and destroyed.” . . . “Their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them.” . . . “Their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb.” . . . “safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews.” . . . “usury be prohibited to them and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them.” . . . “If we wish to wash our hands of the Jews’ blasphemy and not share in their guilt, we have to part company with them. They must be driven from our country” . . . “we must drive them out like mad dogs.”

Martin Luther was a virulent anti-Semite long before Darwin was born. Luther’s hatred of Jews was grounded in the loving words of Jesus and Paul written centuries years before Darwin.

The Discovery Institute has all the appearances of respectability. They are Christians whom one assumes would never violate God’s Commandment against lying, “Thou shall not bear false witness.” Yet, they lie with abandonment. They are the victim of what happens when ideology supersedes common sense. The Discovery Institute is so consumed with their ideology that they have lost all concern for honesty and truthfulness. They have no scruples and depend on the gullibility of their constituents to propagate their nonsense.

All the immorality Dr. West ascribes to Darwin is undeniably justified in and by the bible. West’s problem is not the fault of science, but of blind allegiance to religious ideology.

Further, West’s reasoning illustrates the logical fallacy of “appeal to consequences.” This fallacious argument concludes a premise (typically a belief) to be either true or false based on whether the premise leads to desirable or undesirable consequences. It is an appeal to emotion and is a logical fallacy since the desirability of a consequence has no bearing on the truth-value of the premise.

The scientific method of thought ascribed by Aristotle, reinvigorated by the Enlightenment and paid with the blood of many martyrs made possible our deliverance from the Judeo-Christian doctrines justifying slavery, oppression of women and anti-Semitism. America’s enemies are not external but within our midst and must be exposed at every turn.

Lee Salisbury was an evangelical minister for 14 years. After a sabbatical leave in 1986, he finally looked objectively at the bible and Christianity. Lee began Minnesota’s Critical Thinking Clubs in January, 2001. Read other articles by Lee, or visit Lee's website.

13 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Wayne Green said on February 26th, 2008 at 2:47pm #

    John West’s book provides ample documentation for his claims showing that Hitler relied on Darwin. Jesus was a Jew who preached that we must love all humans—Jews and non-Jews alike. So any extent to which you quote-mine people claiming that Hitler had a Christian motives does NOT impugn Christianity; Hitler clearly was no Christian.

    On the other hand, West’s book has extensive quotes from the primary literature–from Darwin’s writings himself–that show that Darwinism naturally leads to eugenics-based social policies. If Hitler cited Christ, it was a misuse of Christ. You can’t make the same argument for Hitler’s reliance upon Darwin. Sadly, your post does not engage any of Wests’s actual arguments by showing that the quotes he provides showing Hitler’s reliance upon Darwin were misplaced.

    Your post seems to be an excercise in excessive personal attacks and hate-spreading rather than an intellectual rebuttal to West’s actual arguments and documentation in his book. I find that suspicious. In other words, your post is par for the course for the typical Darwinist rant. Chris Hitchens (and many other new atheists) would be proud of your work!

  2. Michael Kenny said on February 26th, 2008 at 3:07pm #

    The funny thing about creationism, intelligent design and such like is that, outside the US, the mere mention of those theories makes people laugh their heads off and those who propagate them have probably done more damage to American credibility worldwide than any other group. In addition, both the Catholic Church, which, don’t forget, represents a billion people, 50% of the world’s Christians (and about 25% of Americans), rejects literal interpretation of the Bible, which is the basis of all these theories, and, as far as I know, mainstream Jewish religious thinkers do likewise.

    We used to joke in Catholic school that faith was the capacity to believe the impossible and I see all this as part of a wider phenomenon. An America whose certainties drowned in the Mekong River many years ago and which clings to “memorised theorem”-type intellectual constructs simply because reason, as they understnad it, does not explain why the landslide is sweeping the city on the hill ever more rapidly downward into the valley. Because the possible boggles their minds, Americans convince themselves that the impossible must be true, reason notwithstanding.

  3. HR said on February 26th, 2008 at 6:24pm #

    Well, Wayne, slave breeders — not to mention royal families — were practicing eugenics long before Darwin published.

    Superstitious folks, particularly those associated with organized religion, have been fighting science from the beginning (Copernicus, Galileo, e.g.). The only reason superstition has persisted owes to its being forced to (reluctantly) accommodate belief to reality. Now, the fools are trying to go backwards, which is why I am confident (and happy) that superstition, including organized religion, is very near to passing from the scene, much nearer than most folks expect. Praise the “lord” for that!

  4. Wayne Green said on February 26th, 2008 at 9:02pm #

    In reply to HR, you’re right that people engaged in eugenics before Darwin. And guess what else? People were engaging in genocide and slavery long before Christ or the Hebrews. Congratulations: your logic just refuted Lee Salisbury’s argument that the Bible is responsible for such evil acts. (be sure to check out I Timothy 1:10 that calls slave trading a sin…)

    In fact, your logic is wrong: I’m not arguing that Darwin is directly responsible for all eugenics-based policies. Nor am I arguing that because there were eugenics after Darwin that therefore Darwin was responsible. What I am arguing is that West’s book presents compelling evidence that Darwin’s ideas logically lend support to such policies, and that many in fact relied upon Darwin and his logic to justify eugenics-based policies.

    West provides such compelling evidence by quoting directly from Darwin’s writings and Darwin’s follower’s writings discussing the logical implications of Darwinian theory. For all the personal attacks made by Lee Salisbury, he hasn’t offered any intellectual rebuttal to the research provided by West.

    Don’t worry HR, I’m not necessarily saying you support eugenics…but then again many people do not live out their belief systems to the full logical potential.

    …Then again, you eagerly wrote, “I am confident (and happy) that superstition, including organized religion, is very near to passing from the scene, much nearer than most folks expect.” So it seems that you are eager to see the extinction of those you disagree with. Perhaps you are living out your belief system after all…

    I must end my discussions by saying thanks for proving my point that Darwinism logically leads people to eugenics-thinking.

    Exhibit A: the documentation West offers in his book (which Lee Salisbury has utterly failed to engage).

    Exhibit B: the response to West from Darwinists like Lee Salisbury and HR. After all, you eagerly anticipate for the demise of the “superstitious” and “organized religion.” And Salisbury militantly opposes people like West: “America’s enemies are not external but within our midst and must be exposed at every turn.” (those are strong words; rhetorical question: what do people usually do to “America’s enemies”?)

    Thanks for proving West’s points.

  5. HR said on February 26th, 2008 at 10:20pm #

    Wayne, I believe if you check your book closely, the old part of it, that is, you will find plenty of justification for slave holding. After all, slave owners in the U.S. were good Christians and used your book to help justify it. Your book seems capable of justifying almost anything one wants to justify, as I learned during my childhood under the heel of the Southern Baptist cult. Something I would expect from such a human creation.

    I’m so pleased that you’re not accusing me of being a eugenicist, though I cannot recall expressing any worry in that regard to begin with. Funny thing, though, evolution (or “Darwinism” as the superstitious call it) is totally at odds with eugenics. Success of a population, measured by its ability to survive and reproduce over time, in the face of environmental change, is dependent on its genetic diversity (which is why pesticides and antibiotics must be reformulated over time). Eugenics is a process of decreasing genetic diversity and producing populations of more uniform organisms. Such populations generally are less viable in terms of survival over generations in a changing environment. They may have other undesirable traits as well, as any animal or plant breeder knows. It seems to me that you are confusing processes of evolution with the Social Darwinism belief system that sprang up shortly after Darwin published.

    It has for years amazed me how the superstitious insist that those who reject their beliefs must therefore hold to some belief system of their own. Evolution is NOT a belief system. It is simply the best explanation we have, one based on observation and measurement, not belief, for how species have changed over time. Concerning me personally, I have no beliefs whatever. Belief is unnecessary in my life. For example, I do not believe that a rock will fall to the ground if I drop it, but I certainly expect that to happen, based on experience.

    I would suggest that you go beyond simply referring to the writing of a man who is long dead. The study of evolution has progressed a great deal since the mid 19th Century.

    Finally, I look definitely DO look forward to extinction of all superstition. And I make no apology to you, or anyone else, in that regard That is different than looking forward to the death (individuals do not become extinct) of those who are superstitious, though my experience in life leads me to conclude that they would be more than happy to see me dead.

  6. joe rose said on February 27th, 2008 at 1:23am #

    Dear Wayne,

    I wonder if you could answer these simple questions:

    Do you hold that the Bible is the word of God?

    If so, how do you know the Bible is the word of God?

    I would appreciate a brief answer

    All the best

    Joe

  7. Rodney Sheffer said on February 28th, 2008 at 7:15am #

    I read all of this palaver, chit chat and endless suffocating detail about whether or not there is a god and I am asking myself why I bother. Most of you are just playing into the hands of the godists. Gods of any kind whether you believe in one or many, are nothing more than paleolithic thinking with little more than a brain stem. Theology is a pathetic attempt to create something out of nothing. It just does not work. NO evidence. No Data. Assertions cannot be verified or confirmed. No external corroboration. Ancient and archaic, mystical, mythological, allegorical narratives based on unsupported speculation and baseless conjecture are hardly a workable paradigm for truth seeking.

    One more thing. I have known Lee Salisbury personally for about 25 years. If there was ever anyone who had his head on straight it is Lee. Those of you who presume to be his critics need to be advised that taking issue with Lee’s views place you at extreme intellectual jeopardy. We should all be grateful when we have a chance to read his assessments of reality.

  8. Lee Salisbury said on February 28th, 2008 at 9:11am #

    Sheffer says “no evidence”? Shame on him. I have documentation proving the many times Zeus has gotten me parking spaces. Praise, honor and glory to Zeus!

    As to “extreme intellectual jeopardy” no,no,no. But as a prophet of Zeus my detractors do risk being struck by lightening. Only my humble prayers of intercession prevent such vindication.

  9. JBPM said on February 28th, 2008 at 1:44pm #

    What saddens me the most about these pro-religion vs. anti-religion “conversations” is that they miss a bigger point. Religion per se doesn’t lead to atrocities and neither does the lack of religion. What leads to atrocities is people’s inhumanity to other people, and that is usually rooted in how easily we are able to write one another off as “deluded,” “wrong-headed,” “stupid,” etc. I’m continually bothered by how easily atheists write off all religious people as ignoramuses on the path to extinction and also how easily the religious write off atheists and skeptics as lost, damned, without ethics, etc.

    Professor Robert McKim at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign gave a fascinating lecture a few years ago on the concept of religious ambiguity. For him, the world is “religiously ambiguous” which means that intelligent, thoughful people of whatever stripe (e.g. atheist, Buddhist, agnostic, Discordian, whatever) look at the evidence the world provides and come to different conclusions about the ultimate nature of things. They don’t do so because one is superstitious and stupid while the other is liberated and enlightened, but because their differing life experiences lead them to vastly different conclusions about the religious dimension of life or lack thereof. One could easily write off those whose interpretation of this richly ambiguous phenomenal world differs from one’s own, but why? Is it better to have the absolutely correct position or to have a society in which people with different views can actually work and live together in harmony and even (*gasp*) friendship?

    I guess I’m reaching out to the atheists out there to drop the divisive rhetoric about how religious folks are stupid, ignorant, deluded, etc. and I’m also reaching out to the religious people to do the same about the folks in their midst who don’t agree with them. Religion at its best has been about trying to make this world a better place for all of us, and I think the impetus behind skeptical science is similar.

    So instead of pissing on one another for what we believe or don’t believe, let’s try to see where we do agree and work together to improve this planet we share. The other options just don’t look that hot to me.

    That’s my two cents as an agnostic-Christian-Buddhist-UU and instructor of comparative religion.

  10. HR said on February 28th, 2008 at 4:59pm #

    Well JBPM, I appreciate your sentiments … though I disagree with them.

    After 40 years of accommodating believers, particularly evangelicals, I have been rewarded with nothing more than their insistence on taking over the country of my birth. I have witnessed their intolerance toward homosexuals, their intolerance towards women, including the right of a woman to choose an abortion, their authoritarianism, and their inherent racism. I hear them calling for modification of the Constitution to turn this country into a theocracy and spreading lies with respect to the religious perspective of the people who set up this outfit after the Revolutionary War. I see fundamentalists fellow travelers in government authorizing disbursement of public funds to religious charities, and I see a “Supreme” Court becoming packed with their sympathizers. I see teachers in public schools advising students from a religious perspective while on the job. And, so on. Afraid, I’m not in the mood any more for a “Rodney King” moment with respect to those folks.

    With respect to your assertion that religion per se is not to blame, I also disagree. You’ll find just as much hate and genocide in Christian holy texts as you do love and forgiveness. In fact, true Christians condemn people like me to eternal pain and suffering. Religion, like all superstition, is nothing more than a human reaction to things they cannot understand, as well as a means of getting folks to submit to and serve their “betters” on this planet. I would assert that the real problem is that too many people like me accommodated their beliefs over the last half century. We bought into the notion that we should respect the opinions of others instead of realizing that our only obligation was to respect their right to hold those opinions (I have no obligation to respect the opinion of those who claim the earth is flat). And, they took full advantage of the free pass we gave them.

  11. JBPM said on February 28th, 2008 at 5:26pm #

    HR,

    Thanks for the respectful response to my comments. I agree with you 100% regarding the frightening attempts to remake the US into a “Christian country” (whatever that means) on the part of Christian nationalist fundamentalists. Having grown up in a conservative, Biblical literalist Christian home, I know all too well the stultifying effects that some forms of religiosity can have on humanity and understand completely the response that says ALL religion is this way.

    The facts, however, don’t bear out the complete dismissal of religion, though. Religion was central to many in the abolitionist movement and the Civil Rights movement, just to name a few. Islam took a petty criminal named Malcolm Little and turned him into one of the greatest black leaders of the 20th century, Malcolm X. I agree that the Bible, and every other religious text, has some profoundly shitty material in it; religion (like all other human endeavors) is and always will be a mixed bag. If we simply write ALL religion off as “superstition” and “social control,” though, we miss out on those aspects that actively work against oppression, sexism, racism, etc. And those aspects exist, in every religious tradition, they just tend not to get as much press as the know-nothing, status quo, sexist, racist contingents.

    If we accept that the only religious folks out there are the right-wing fundamentalists, we do ourselves the double injustice of (1) reinforcing their claim to speak for ALL religious people and (2) alienating those whose religious views lead them to act in ways that support, rather than deny, human freedom.

    I guess what I am saying is not that we need to respect other people’s beliefs, but that we need to work at respecting other PEOPLE. And I think you agree with that from what you said above. That’s what the concept of religious ambiguity is all about; it allows those with strongly held opinions about the nature of the world (and I include EVERY human being in that camp) to disagree without necessarily clubbing one another. When we lump all religious people under the single rubric of “the superstitious” or “delusional” we insult those religious folks with whom we progressives might have otherwise been allied, perhaps in our struggle against a take-over by religious fundamentalists (and many religious folks, even some evangelical Christians, are opposed to Christian nationalism and related movements).

    Hopefully our ability to disagree here without resorting to insults and name-calling is a model for what I’m talking (typing?) about.

    Cheers,
    J

  12. HR said on February 28th, 2008 at 8:32pm #

    JBPM, we will continue, to our dying days, I’m sure, to disagree on some questions, notably that of religion and superstition, but that’s OK with me. My opinion is that whatever is the real answer to that, if there even is one, is beyond human capability to truly know, given our inability to adequately deal with the unknown or the infinite at our current stage of evolution (and I doubt that the species is likely to exist long enough to evolve much further). I do agree with your point on the many instances where religious individuals and groups have been associated with, or led, activities that were beneficial to society. I also agree that respecting people on an individual basis is essential for a society to function. I’ve done that for all my adult life, though with age, and with increasing destruction of the country I loved so dearly as a younger man, it gets harder and harder to do.

    I do wish that those who are religious moderates, who support separation of church and state, who embrace tolerance and the rights of others, would raise their collective voices, and loudly, more often, though. It seems to me that those folks have been cowed by the bullies, which makes it easy for them to become identified as part of the bullying crowd. And, as I stated in my first post on this article, I do expect that there will soon be a massive backlash against religion in general because the religious bullies are trying to make all of us travel back in time, to a place where where none of us want to be. It seems to me a good time for religious moderates to take their stand and to take it in a noticeable way.

    Best to you.

  13. hp said on March 1st, 2008 at 8:09pm #

    Try the alternative to Darwin. “Human Devolution, A Vedic Alternative To Darwin’s theory.” By Michael Cremo.
    All the old Gods are gone, except for Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Vedas.
    Think about it. Zeus is gone. Jupiter is Gone. Odin is gone. Ra and Isis are gone. Only Vishnu remains. Exactly as 5,000 years ago.
    All the new ‘religions’ have their roots in the Vedas.
    The big three are basically the big one. All related.
    All those legends and epic events were ‘borrowed’ from the Vedas.