"If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin."
- Charles Darwin

Oct 17, 2007

Intelligent Design's Selective Moral Outrage

James Watson, Ann Coulter and the tolerance of bigotry

Image: Voices for Change Committee

The nineteenth-century American author and moralist T.S. Arthur once wrote, “We are judged by the company we keep.” While we can doubt the veracity of this statement in every particular (after all, this famous advocate against the evils of alcohol was a friend of Edgar Allen Poe who probably died from drink) it’s certainly true in the case of people who condemn in others what they tolerate amongst themselves.

Denyse O’Leary, Canadian journalist and Intelligent Design creationist who writes at William Dembski’s site Uncommon Descent, has taken great umbrage with James Watson for yesterday’s racist comments, and for good reason. Just days after insulting the intelligence of Rosalind Franklin (the geneticist he refuses to credit as one of the discoverers of DNA) Watson claimed that he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because:

"All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really . . . people who have to deal with black employees find this not true."

This is patently offensive nonsense. How such a formerly brilliant mind could believe such absolute hogwash is a depressing thought. However, it takes tremendous hypocrisy on the part of Uncommon Descent to paint these absurd remarks with a broad brush and vehemently assert that “legitimized racism is an inevitable consequence” of evolutionary theory. Considering that they have such high standards, one would naturally assume they’d call out such vile language in those they agree with as well as those they don’t.

Predictably this isn’t the case. Ann Coulter (who has said about Muslims that “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity” - also see below) has been praised repeatedly on the same website which now claims such profound moral indignation.

William Dembski himself has stated that Coulter “will propel our issues in the public consciousness like nothing to date” and was “happy to report that I was in constant correspondence with Ann” while writing her book Godless, in which she defends the racist social science propagated in The Bell Curve.

O’Leary likewise accuses Richard Dawkins of being anti-Semitic for making passing reference to the successful “Jewish lobby” in Washington. But when Coulter announces that Jews are nothing but “imperfected Christians” and that the entire religion of Judaism should be thrown away there is strangely no mention, no moral outrage, no condemnation that “legitimized bigotry is an inevitable consequence” of conservative Christianity (which I don’t think it has to be, though believers often attempt to dissuade me of this view).

James Watson deserves the public thrashing he’s currently receiving, and I’m glad that Uncommon Descent will agree that such racist comments are despicable. However, I think this hypocrisy represents a fundamental difference between Intelligent Design advocates such as O’Leary and Dembski and those they intend to malign. Immediately after Watson’s diatribe was uttered, prominent evolutionary scientists condemned his opinions and were rightly offended by his remarks. I’m still waiting for similar actions to be taken by those pillars of tolerance over at Uncommon Descent.

UPDATE: For more on this see Mark's terrific post today at Denialism Blog.

Additional quotes by Ann Coulter:

"Jihad monkey talks tough; jihad monkey takes the consequences. Sorry, I realize that's offensive. How about 'camel jockey'?"

"I'm all for public flogging. One type of criminal that a public humiliation might work particularly well with are the juvenile delinquents, a lot of whom consider it a badge of honor to be sent to juvenile detention. And it might not be such a cool thing in the 'hood to be flogged publicly."

Thank God the white man did win or we would not have the sort of equality and freedom, or life, that we have now.”

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Anonymous said...

"Darwinism is Unscientific, Mythical, and inherently racist. It is being officially rejected by the modern science community and the mass public."

Darwinism and Atheism: Unscientific and Mythical

Eric Michael Johnson said...

What a brave post anonymous Christian apologist. I'll make sure to bring up this website at the next secret meeting where all of us evolutionary scientists get together and laugh about how we have no evidence for our views and just want to force our opinions on an unsuspecting public without their participation or consent.

healtheland said...

Hello: First off, if you want to see someone critize Anne Coulter, try it here:

Second, about the "perfected Jews" thing, have you not read the Bible? All Anne Coulter (who is not legitimately a Christian by the way) did was repeat what the Book of Romans chapters 2 and 3 and the entire Book of Hebrews says. Incidentally, who wrote the Book of Romans and the Book of Hebrews? Jewish converts to Christianity. Except that at the time the New Testament was written, Jewish converts to Christianity were still considered Jews. What happened? The Jews that did not convert to Christianity kicked the Christianized Jews out of their synagogues by adding a prayer cursing Christians to their liturgy. The notion that what has been a well known core point of Christian doctrine for over 2000 years is "bigotry" is a recent invention of political correctness, and those who claim it are either ignorant of the true history of the origins of Christianity (and to this day what Jews actually believe and teach regarding Christians and Christianity and non - Jews in general in private ... have you ever read what the Talmud and some of their other holy books say about non - Jews per chance?) or are being willfully dishonest because of their own agendas. Liberal Christians, who know these things, are in the latter category. Which are you?

And now to my creationist perspective on the words of James Watson, which incidentally includes a quote from "The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle For Life" (oh gee, I wonder why it is better known simply as "Origin of Species"?)

Regrettably I did not include any of the many statements in favor of evolution by Hitler and the Nazi regime in this one. Oh well, I will do so in the follow - up!

Eric Michael Johnson said...

Well, it would seem you'd disagree with my statement that it's not necessarily true that "legitimized bigotry is an inevitable consequence of conservative Christianity". I agree that you'd have to disregard key passages of the Bible in order to reject this bigotry, but then, people have no trouble eating at Red Lobster even though Leviticus 11:9-12 states that shellfish are an abomination (as bad as boys kissing boys even - perish the thought).

So, yes, I agree with you. The Bible can be an awful, hate-filled book but which has a few passages that say it might be nice if we were kind to each other. It seems we can find common ground there (or were you arguing in favor of anti-Semitism?).

However, you completely misconstrue what Darwin was referring to as "the preservation of favoured races." Since you've probably never read Darwin any further than his title, allow me to cite the portion of Origin in which he discusses this:

"When we look to the hereditary varieties or races of our domestic animals and plants, and compare them with species closely allied together, we generally perceive in each domestic race, as already remarked, less uniformity of character than in true species. . . I think this must be admitted, when we find that there are hardly any domestic races, either amongst animals or plants, which have not been ranked by some competent judges as mere varieties, and by other competent judges as the descendants of aboriginally distinct species" (p. 78).

In other words, what Darwin, and all other biologists of his era, referred to as races in the biological sense were just varieties of plants and animals that were different from each other but were not different enough to be distinct species. Your claim that Darwin was making a white supremacist argument is completely unfounded.

And please don't bother with that tired old argument about Hitler being a closet biologist who might have been a decent guy if only Darwin hadn't corrupted his thinking. That vegetarian painter with one testicle too few was a Catholic eugenicist who frequently used Christian rhetoric in his speeches. Even if he had passed out copies of Darwin to the SS as instructions for his "final solution", he would be advocating a corrupt form of natural selection. I certainly won't condemn all of Christianity just because some sadistic madman happened to be inspired by it (though it ought to give believers some pause).

Anonymous said...

"James Watson deserves the public thrashing he’s currently receiving"

What I find fascinating with this whole Watson thing is just how quickly people who claim to believe in evolution (i.e. when it’s time to criticize creationism and intelligent design) turn into creationists (”we’re all born equal!”) when people like Watson take the idea of evolution to its logical conclusion (quote:“There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so.”).

Evolution doesn't produce equality. You can believe in either one or the other but not in both.

Eric Michael Johnson said...

Well, Anonymous, what both you and Watson don't seem to appreciate is the fact that the human species has only been divided into such diverse geographical regions for about 100,000 years. This is a mere instant in evolutionary time scales and is not sufficient to result in vast genetic differences between groups of people. As Jared Diamond so eloquently posed in Guns, Germs and Steel, the major factor that has resulted in different levels of "development" between groups has been the environmental conditions that happened to be available in some regions of the globe and not others. Eurasia had the accidental benefit of cereal grains, domesticable animals and a longitudinal axis that made the transfer of such items relatively easy (since both crops and animals adapted to one latitude can easily be transferred to another region that has the same climate). Peoples in this region had a head start which they then used to dominate other groups.

We can never conduct experiments in history, but imagine a group of playful extraterrestrials were to have transplanted all African peoples with all European peoples and vice versa at around 12,000 years ago just to see what would happen. I would expect that the European land mass would still end up colonizing the African land mass. This wouldn't have been because more melanin made the black skinned Europeans genetically superior, but because they had the better starting conditions.

I'm also not proposing that we're all born equal. People like Mozart and Tiger Woods show that some people have more innate talent than others with a similar level of hard work. But there are more differences within groups than between groups. In other words, people are born no more stupid in Africa than in Middle America. But in Middle America we have the resources to help people enrich themselves and achieve more of their innate potential (even though fewer than half ever choose to read a book after high school). Africa isn't suffering a genetic lack, they're suffering an economic one.