Timothy Sandefur posted Entry 2568 on September 6, 2006 12:00 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2563

Jonathan Wells (2006) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.Amazon

Read the entire series.

If there’s something embarrassingly dumb to be done or said, it’s probably going to be done or said in the name of “political incorrectness”. That term was first used to bring attention to the political censoriousness at leftist epicenters in the 1990s, but it has mutated into an excuse for saying stupid, outlandish, misleading things. The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History was full of misrepresentations, politically-motivated elisions, and a neo-Confederate interpretation of the Constitution that embarrassed serious constitutional scholars. The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science was full of silly pro-“intelligent design” notions, and now The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design by Jonathan Wells has come along to carry this tradition forward—if “forward” is the right term.

An indication of the astonishing degree of misrepresentation and outright lying that The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design employs comes in Chapter 15 when discussing the controversy over an evolution website supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation. The Thumb covered this pseudo-controversy pretty thoroughly at the time. But here’s how Jonathan Wells describes it:

In 2005, a California resident sued the NSF and University of California for violating the First Amendment, but district court judge Phyllis J. Hamilton dismissed the lawsuit. So the governments of the United States and California now officially endorse religious views—and only those religious views—that are acceptable to Darwinists.

(p. 179)

The citations provided for this statement are to the Discovery Institute’s blog and a report on (quelle suprise!) World Net Daily. The paragraph does not mention that the “resident” was the wife of an “intelligent design” activist and serial plaintiff Larry Caldwell. Nor does it even mention why Judge Hamilton dismissed the case. That decision, Caldwell v. Caldwell, 420 F.Supp.2d 1102 (N.D. Cal. 2006), was based on Caldwell’s lack of standing—a procedural matter having nothing to do with the religious issue at all. According to Judge Hamilton, “the court need[ed] not, and [did] not, reach the merits of the Establishment Clause claim” Id. at 1108.

Furthermore, Wells claims that the First Amendment “clearly prohibits the government from favoring the views of one religious group over another” (p. 178), which isn’t quite accurate. More precisely, the First Amendment prohibits the government from endorsing a religious viewpoint.

The distinction is important because the First Amendment does allow the government to endorse a great many truth claims. The government can say “X is true” except and only except in those cases where X is a religious claim and only a religious claim. If for example the government wishes to state that it is true that a match can start a fire, the government is free to do so, even if a particular religious group agrees with that statement. But the government is not allowed to declare that the doctrine of papal infallibility or reincarnation is true. The government is allowed to teach that some people believe in papal infallibility, or that some people believe in the trinity, because these are not religious claims; they are descriptions of fact that can or might be empirically verified to some degree.

The website about which Wells complains was funded at least partly by government dollars, and it declared that “most religious groups have no conflict [sic] with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings. In fact, many religious people, including theologians, feel that a deeper understanding of nature actually enriches their faith”. Now, whether or not a person agrees that religion and evolution are compatible—I don’t.—is not the same as saying that some people do believe this thing. And the fact that some people believe this thing is not a religious statement. There is nothing in the First Amendment prohibiting the government from saying it. Yet according to Wells, “Political scientist John G. West[1] wrote in 2004: ‘Taxpayers might wonder why it’s the government’s business to tell them what their religious beliefs about evolution should or shouldn’t be’” (p. 179). That, of course, is not what the website did. It said only that some people believe this thing or that thing. Yet even this easy distinction is too much to demand of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design.

In Chapter 13 Wells focuses on the legal issues of teaching “intelligent design” in the classroom, and it too is full of this kind of misleading writing. The chapter begins by describing the case of public school teacher Roger DeHart, who “supplemented” his science classes with readings from Of Pandas And People, an “intelligent design” textbook that began life as a biblical creationism textbook. But Wells describes it this way:

For several years, biology teacher Roger DeHart had been teaching students the required curriculum about evolution, but he had also been mentioning intelligent design….

DeHart had the support of his school administrators and local school board, but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) claimed that his practice amounted to religious proselytizing and “violates both state and federal laws.” The school district caved in to pressure from the ACLU, the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and local atheists. DeHart was ordered to stop mentioning intelligent design, though he was told in 2001 that he could request approval to use supplementary materials critical of some of the evidence for Darwinian evolution.

(pp. 143,144)

You see, he was just mentioning “intelligent design” and was railroaded by a conspiracy of “local atheists”. And note the scare quotes around “violates both state and federal laws”. Wells doesn’t explain which laws those would be (e.g. the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution) or how they would apply in a case where a government employee is teaching religion to students. DeHart was careful to use the “intelligent design” movement’s best tactics, e.g. claiming that they are seeking only “free debate” and “teaching the controversy”. Because evolution as a scientific matter is true and because there is no genuine controversy over it, these tactics are simply mechanisms for sneaking religion into the public school classroom—a fact well covered on the Thumb.

Wells’s portrayal of DeHart as a martyr, chewed up in the great maw of atheist science, is typical of the doublespeak of “intelligent design” activists and is related to activists desire to portray themselves as an oppressed minority. We’re told that “Darwinism has serious problems with the evidence” (p. 147), which isn’t true, and that “Darwinists are opposed to mentioning scientific problems with their view” (p. 147), which isn’t true, and that “ID theorists are given no opportunity to respond” (p. 149) to their critics, which is amusing to find in a book by written a leading “intelligent design theorist” and released by a major publishing house. DeHart, in fact, chose to go to another school, a religious school, in fact, where he is perfectly free to teach the religious concept of “intelligent design”, without any oppression by the atheistic cabal that “intelligent design” activists like to pretend is ruthlessly suppressing dissent.

There are few legal claims in Wells’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design; in fact, the book is so unserious as to quote from an episode of Friends in one marginal notation (p. 155). But Chapter 13 includes a brief whine about the Kitzmiller decision. The passage opens by claiming that the Discovery Institute “urged the [school] board to rescind the policy” of requiring that science students listen to a disclaimer about evolution (p. 154). (It doesn’t note that the district’s science teachers refused to read the disclaimer to their students.) This, of course, is not entirely honest; it would be more honest to say that the Discovery Institute abandoned the Dover School Board as soon as it became clear that that ship was sinking. That, at least, was the view of the Thomas More Law Center’s Richard Thompson, who said,

[The Discovery Institute] wrote a book, titled “Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curricula.” The conclusion of that book was that … ‘school boards have the authority to permit, and even encourage, teaching about design theory as an alternative to Darwinian evolution’ … and I could go further. But, you had Discovery Institute people actually encouraging the teaching of intelligent design in public school systems. Now, whether they wanted the school boards to teach intelligent design or mention it, certainly when you start putting it in writing, that writing does have consequences.

In fact, several of the members, including Steve Meyer, agreed to be expert witnesses, also prepared expert witness reports, then all at once decided that they weren’t going to become expert witnesses, at a time after the closure of the time we could add new expert witnesses. So it did have a strategic impact on the way we could present the case, cause they backed out, when the court no longer allowed us to add new expert witnesses, which we could have done….

So that caused us some concern about exactly where was the heart of the Discovery Institute. Was it really something of a tactical decision, was it this strategy that they’ve been using, in I guess Ohio and other places, where they’ve pushed school boards to go in with intelligent design, and as soon as there’s a controversy, they back off with a compromise. And I think what was victimized by this strategy was the Dover school board, because we could not present the expert testimony we thought we could present.

But Wells simply writes, “the Dover School Board ignored the Discovery Institute’s advice” (p. 155).

In a lovely example of ad hominem, Wells says that Dover citizens suing the school board were represented by “[t]he American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)—the same organization that defends the right of Nazis to march publicly in support of their racist and anti-Semitic policies” (p. 155). Ah, yes, because ACLU is really a group of evil racists doing the leg-work for the Great Atheist Conspiracy. No mention of the ACLU’s defense of Christians, conservatives, and other generally pro-intelligent-design groups, as Ed Brayton has well documented.

Jonathan Wells claims that Judge Jones “was so impressed by the testimony and materials presented by the Darwinists that he apparently didn’t bother to read much of the material presented by their critics” (p. 155). Of course, it’s a very serious matter to accuse a judge of such misbehavior, but the opinion itself belies that fact. The long decision (58 pages in the final version) contains many citations of the record and discusses at length the credibility of the pro-intelligent-design witnesses—or rather the lack thereof. One need merely read the decision—which is too much, alas, for many people—to see this point refuted. As Craig Venter once noted, it’s common for people who lose a race to say “oh, I wasn’t really racing after all”. So, too, it’s common for those who lose a case to say the judge was just a schmuck anyway. After all, as Wells claims, Judge Jones was “[a]pparently not burdened with an excess of judicial restraint” (p. 155). Ah, judicial restraint, the last refuge of the scoundrel. I’ve written before about the meaninglessness of such terms. But so, too, did Judge Jones, whose refutation speaks for itself:

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy.

(Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Dist., 400 F.Supp.2d 707, 765 (M.D. Pa. 2005))

This decision, Wells concludes, “intimidated” legislators in Ohio “into surrendering [their] critical analysis of evolution” (p. 156). Translated into plain language, this means that Judge Jones’s enforcment of the First Amendment persuaded Ohio officials not to start promulgating a religious viewpoint in government schools.

It’s telling, really, that “intelligent design” activists have to play such word games. “Intelligent design” is really a word-game anyway: a word game that replaces “religion” with “scientific theory”, “creation” with “design”, “miracle” with “irreducible complexity”, and so forth. This sad little shell game is all that anti-science activists have to offer. But it’s sad that they continue to find publishers willing to sell such pseudo-intellectualism to the public for a quick buck. As the great John Fogerty put it,

The little pig knows what to do, he’s silent and quick, just like Oliver Twist;
Before it’s over, your pocket is clean,
A four-legged thief paid a visit on you.

Notes

  1. The PIG commonly fails to disclose the fact that quoted authorities are allied with the Discovery Institute. This is one example.

Commenters are responsible for the content of comments. The opinions expressed in articles, linked materials, and comments are not necessarily those of PandasThumb.org. See our full disclaimer.

Comment #126458

Posted by Jedidiah Palosaari on September 6, 2006 1:44 PM (e)

As someone who is a committed Christian and recently had to resign my position teaching high-school biology because the school administration began officially teaching ID, I get very tired of the mentions of Darwinism and Darwinists by that side. It is a not-so-subtle way of framing the discussion in terms of religion- putting an “ism” and an “ist” on the end makes people start thinking of it as a philosophy which can be debated with other philosophies, or even better, a religion. Yes, all of who accept evolution also accept Darwin’s thoughts on it, for the most part, and therefore could be called “Darwinists”. But I resist the label, as it is the same path as the West labeling the Other as Buddhism, Mohammedism, etc.- It’s the idea that Christianity is the one true faith, and any faith we want to denigrate, we put an “ism” at the end. Adding that suffix turns evolution into a religion to be debated on those grounds. Then, if enough of the laymen hear this term, they begin to think it must be religious, because obviously, it has ism at the end. I have half a mind, next time I’m asked “Are you a Darwinist?” to respond that I’m not familiar with the term. “But are you a stupidist believer in troglodytism?”

Comment #126460

Posted by FastEddie on September 6, 2006 2:12 PM (e)

Jedidiah, what public school district has official begun teaching ID? Or is it a private school? If the former, then I would suggest you contact the NCSE and/or the ACLU if you felt forced out because of this policy.

Comment #126474

Posted by steve s on September 6, 2006 2:54 PM (e)

It’s generally hard to tell when a creationist is lying, vs when they’re delusional. In a few cases it’s not. Dembski: lying. Luskin: delusional. Based on the 8 excellent Panda’s Thumb articles on Wells’s book, it is obvious that while he may also be delusional, cough*Moonie*cough, Wells is clearly a nonstop liar. If I were Reverend Moon, I’d smack the bejeezus out of him.

Comment #126476

Posted by JohnS on September 6, 2006 3:18 PM (e)

Jedidiah,
If you can expand on the situation about your resignation, please do. Whether it is a private or public school, many here would like to know more.

You are entirely correct in your analysis of the motivations of the -ismists.

Their audience, of course consists mostly of people who rely on authority for opinions to be held. Thus it is no big leap for these followers to project that accepting evolution means treating Darwin as a prophet or holy leader of a religious faith.

No scientist studies evolutionism, unless the subject is the history of science with respect to creationist claims against science.

Comment #126479

Posted by JohnS on September 6, 2006 3:28 PM (e)

Steve,
You might if you were Him, but I won’t be waiting for the actual Unification Messiah to show by His actions that He disapproves of lying in His Name. That’s what was assumed when he funded his acolyte’s ‘science PhD’. Now, on the other hand, if the result of those lies were to be a significant embarrassment ($$), then maybe.

Comment #126484

Posted by Bill Gascoyne on September 6, 2006 3:46 PM (e)

… the First Amendment prohibits the government from endorsing a religious viewpoint.

But the government is not allowed to declare that the doctrine of papal infallibility or reincarnation is true.

This is an interesting notion; I wonder if it’s oversimplified. If not, it’ll be interesting to see what happens when the declaration out of (IIRC) North Dakota that pregnancy (or was it “life”) begins at fertilization, rather than implantation, reaches the SCOTUS. The recognized medical/scientific definition is that pregnancy begins at implantation, hence the controversy over “Plan B.” I wonder if the point quoted above will be raised, and if so, how Scalia will react.

Comment #126497

Posted by steve s on September 6, 2006 4:53 PM (e)

(this is in regards to Bill’s comment. If it turns into a big long out of topic discussion feel free to bathroom wall it.)

If life begins at fertilization, then shouldn’t unprotected sex be considered something like homicidal negligence? (I’m sure that’s not exactly right, IANAL, but you get the drift). Very often an egg is fertilized, it fails to implant, and no one’s the wiser. So through failure to act, a human being has been created and then allowed to die. Should that go unpunished?

Comment #126500

Posted by steve s on September 6, 2006 5:02 PM (e)

In fact, I’m going to start an AtBC thread for this so the thread doesn’t get dragged off topic.

Plan B / Abortion thread

Comment #126502

Posted by Bill Gascoyne on September 6, 2006 5:07 PM (e)

No, there’s nothing one can do after unprotected sex to ensure that a fertilized ovum (if one exists) implants, so I don’t see that there’s anything to neglect.

And in my own defense (should a flame war erupt), we were talking about governmental declarations/ endorsements of religious principles, so I don’t consider my comment to be anywhere near as off-topic as yours.

Comment #126533

Posted by Jedidiah Palosaari on September 6, 2006 7:39 PM (e)

Eddie- Unfortunately it was a private school, and overseas, and therefore not one that would be addressed by NCSE. However, I used the term “resigned” on purpose- I wasn’t forced out. I could have remained. I didn’t feel it ethical to remain however, under those conditions.

John- I was the only biology teacher in the school. The school board decided to begin teaching ID/literal creationism officially this past year, in 4 mandatory Saturday schools that all high-school students had to attend, taught by the director of the school. I felt this was inappropriate, for a few different reasons, chief among them being it’s inaccuracy of course. The director was doing the classic bit of “teaching the controversy”, affirming that he wasn’t personally attacking me, but instead trying to show that it was permissable to believe both sides, or many different sides. So what I taught was reduced to merely an opinion, and science was merely an opinion. The director even taught that evolution is “only a theory” and therefore not fact, and so attacked the basis of science itself. He taught that there was an “evolutionary paradaigm” so that he could go against the Big Bang and everything else. Rather than seeing all the different lines of evidence from so many sciences as contributing to the edifice supporting evolution, he saw it all as a conspiracy whereby the materialist evolutionist construct. It therefore extended to all the sciences. He would suggest that some scientists argue that the sun is powered by gravitational collapse rather than nuclear fusion. (I’d never heard of this idea so I had to look it up.) Though no reputable scientist would argue this, at least not for many decades, if you accept the idea, then the sun gets to be a lot younger than it actually is. It went on and on.

I found students repeatedly coming in to my classroom confused on what to believe and who to believe. Their science teacher and the director were telling them two different things. What I taught was reduced to the level of an opinion, and indeed all of science. I had some success in getting some students to remain with science, some others who started to see it all as an opinion, and most of them confused. With what I taught undermined to such an extent, and my training reduced to opinion, I didn’t feel that I could remain any longer. I attended the first of the 4 sessions, as it dealt with describing the theory of evolution, but refused to attend the next three, as I felt my presence would lend validity to the teaching. Likewise, I felt like my continued presence would support the structure of competing opinions on origins that was being created, and I didn’t want to be a party to that. So I didn’t resign up for the following year. I wasn’t interested in teaching in an environment where science is only an opinion, and didn’t feel like I could be enough of a counteragent for the truth. Ironically, now back in the States, I find it difficult to teach or even sub, as I’m not certified, but just have a degree in biology.

Comment #126545

Posted by stevaroni on September 6, 2006 8:46 PM (e)

I find it difficult to teach or even sub, as I’m not certified, but just have a degree in biology.

Well duh! All you’ve got is that you know the subject and you’ve taught it before. What makes you think you’re qualified to teach in the States?

I bet you couldn’t even answer a simple essay question on the importance of self-esteem derived from multicultural holidays and how it relates to the fallacy of supposedly “correct” answers in algebra class.

How could we possibly let you anywhere near students?

Comment #126547

Posted by Jedidiah Palosaari on September 6, 2006 8:51 PM (e)

Can’t figure out how to edit comments, so…I should say there was something positive in all of the experience. My students, like most of the world, didn’t really see what the big deal of the controversy was. Unless they were die-hard literal creationists, they didn’t care much one way or the other. They were at first disbelieving and then shocked to hear that I was leaving my position over the issue. So my actions did have an impact- for the first time, I could tell from comments and expressions, a number of the students saw that this issue of evolution is actually a serious thing, worth changing your life for.

Comment #126567

Posted by Michael Suttkus, II on September 6, 2006 10:07 PM (e)

A few years back (on DebunkCreation, I think), we had a creationist swing by and start with with the “evolution is a religion” lie. Naturally, he referred to it throughout as “Darwinism” and even referenced his case: “Note the religious -ism!”

To which I had to counter:

Polydactylism: A medical condition where you have extra fingers or toes. Note the religious -ism.

Capitalism: an economic system. Note the religious -ism.

Pointilism: A style of art. Note the religious -ism.

Creationists who will not let go of “Darwinism” I start referring to as Morrisites. It’s at least as appropriate.

Comment #126582

Posted by Henry J on September 6, 2006 11:01 PM (e)

Re “He would suggest that some scientists argue that the sun is powered by gravitational collapse rather than nuclear fusion. (I’d never heard of this idea so I had to look it up.)”

Before radioactivity was discovered that was the only thing they could think of that could put out that much energy.

Henry

Comment #126669

Posted by William E Emba on September 7, 2006 6:54 AM (e)

Timothy Sandefur wrote:

If there’s something embarrassingly dumb to be done or said, it’s probably going to be done or said in the name of “political incorrectness”. That term was first used to bring attention to the political censoriousness at leftist epicenters in the 1990s, but it has mutated into an excuse for saying stupid, outlandish, misleading things.

“Politically correct” was a term of approval in American Communist circles going back to the 30s. It was an early form of doublespeak, meaning that while the evidence was actually against the statement, no one was to acknowledge the evidence, but continue sacrificing truth for the higher cause, and that this was a good thing. Assertions like “Stalin is a swell fellow, and all those eyewitnesses to the contrary are reactionary petty bourgeoisie”.

Of course, such a concept is very useful for just about any cause, and the term spread within leftist circles over time. It became quite common within feminism in the 70s. My own introduction to the terminology was in 1980, when one feminist explained to me personally how we could never be an item, because I was “hopelessly P. I.”, which initialism she had to expand and only which later did I discover what it actually meant. Ah, yes, it finally dawned on me, that time I pointed out to her that her assertion that women world leaders do not go to war, period, was obviously false, and started listing counterexamples like Cleopatra, Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great, and Golda Meir, which did not go over well with her. Silly me, to be interested in starting with the evidence.

I was briefly pleased when the positive connotations of PC were flipped, but it degenerated into boneheaded stupidity for me to enjoy myself rather long. There was a time I was proud to be known as “hopelessly P. I.”, but with the meaning co-opted to mean “rightwing nutjob on an evidence-free roll”, I’ve had to give it up.

Comment #126687

Posted by Flint on September 7, 2006 7:45 AM (e)

The application of the epithet “politically incorrect” seems to either be so vague as to target anything, or to be morphing rapidly. It seems clear to me that within creationist circles, Wells’s positions are as rigidly politically correct as conceivably possible. Complete with all the connotations that if evidence refutes (or even if suspicion undermines) the Official Truth, that one is to suppress or ignore such things in forwarding the Cause.

My reading is that the original phrase (in addition to the “communist branch”) grew out of efforts at social engineering based on the policy position that out-groups are born (i.e., are biologically) inherently equal with respect to certain opportunities. So it became politically correct to maintain that black IQ inferiority was *entirely* social in nature, and that the gender imbalances in certain fields areas ranging from CEO of large corporations to higher management ranks to musical composers (and rock instrumentalists) to Nobel Prize winners was also due to socialization forces. Briefly, it became politically incorrect to suggest that possibly something biological exerted influence here.

That Wells is doing exactly the opposite, that he’s defending an Official Policy Position against the corrosive effects of evidence using every stunt and gambit in the Dishonest Debater’s Handbook, is yet another illustration of how creationists use words (as Lewis Carroll said) to mean whatever they WANT words to mean.

Comment #126710

Posted by GvlGeologist, FCD on September 7, 2006 9:26 AM (e)

Don’t forget Bill Mahr’s TV show Politically Incorrect, sadly defunct after Bill’s, well, politically incorrect comments on 9/11. In the case of his show, his political incorrectness was focussed on both the left and the right (IIRC), although mostly on conservatives.

It amazes me (as has been said before on PT) that with both houses of Congress, the Executive, and the Judical branches controlled by the right, and often far right, that they still whine about having to be politically incorrect. I’d argue that their views are currently politically correct, and that comments by many supporting Evolution/Natural Selection on this blog are the new politically incorrect.

Comment #126803

Posted by dogscratcher on September 7, 2006 3:03 PM (e)

Sandefur:
““Intelligent design” is really a word-game anyway: a word game that replaces “religion” with “scientific theory”, “creation” with “design”, “miracle” with “irreducible complexity”, and so forth.”

I wish I had said that. Good stuff.

Comment #126839

Posted by Shaffer on September 7, 2006 4:10 PM (e)

The evolution, as it were, of the concept of “political correctness” is quite interesting. To my knowledge the first modern incarnations of language that was deemed to be “PC” was from feminist circles, particularly in the push to remove gender-specific pronouns from many of our common words: replace “chairman” with “chairperson”, “congressman” with “representative”, “policeman” with “police officer”, etc. This (relatively benign and in my opinion, quite reasonable) effort was eventually co-opted to nutcase extremes, the flagship of which is probably the much-ridiculed replacement of “short” with “vertically challenged.”

The first, and most vociferous, ridiculers of “politically correct” language came from the political right, man of whom took the opportunity to highlight the most extreme proponents of PC language and prop them up as a strawman for “liberal” thought in general. This strategy made for a very effective mechanism for ad hominem arguments (typical usage: “the liberals are pushing for welfare reform, out of ‘sensitivity’, but these are the same ‘sensitive’ pinheads that want you to call a short person ‘vertically challenged’.”) and was ultimately successful enough in associating “liberalism” with “political correctness” that “PC” has become, to much of the right, a generic perjorative way of describing liberal thought.

It’s effective. The use of the term “politically incorrect” in the titles of these anti-factual books is actually fairly sly from a marketing perspective; it conveys an anti-establishment-ism that says “the Darwinism that they’re trying to teach your kids is really just PC baloney; here’s the real truth, and the ‘establishment’ is really not going to like it when we tell it to you!” Of course it doesn’t matter whether the “establishment” is built upon a foundation of mountains of evidence and scientific research, or if it’s just some absurd ultra-liberal pushing polysyllabic alternatives to “short”. The point is to use the latter to create a strawman for the former.

Comment #126852

Posted by Bill Gascoyne on September 7, 2006 4:35 PM (e)

… the push to remove gender-specific pronouns from many of our common words: replace “chairman” with “chairperson”, “congressman” with “representative”, “policeman” with “police officer”, etc. This (relatively benign and in my opinion, quite reasonable) effort…

My $.02: I have no problem with gender neutrality when referring to generic functions; it is sexist to say “elect a chairman” or “call a policeman” before such person has been elected or called. What I hate is a rebellion against gender identification, as when the caption on the television identifies a particular person, whose gender is obvious, as a “spokes-person.”

Of course it doesn’t matter whether the “establishment” is built upon a foundation of mountains of evidence and scientific research…

“Question Authority!”
“If authority answers, will you listen?”

Comment #126863

Posted by Flint on September 7, 2006 5:02 PM (e)

My favorite tale, maybe even true, is that a committee of feminists decided that the term “manhole” was OK as it was, and they did not recommend a change to “personhole”.

Comment #126963

Posted by ScottN on September 7, 2006 11:18 PM (e)

Flint wrote:

My favorite tale, maybe even true, is that a committee of feminists decided that the term “manhole” was OK as it was, and they did not recommend a change to “personhole”.

I had heard a different interpretation of this one - virtually certain to be apocryphal - that there was (supposedly) a city that did decide to stop using the word “Manhole” and settled upon “Maintenance Hole” instead. Since they would need to replace the cast iron lids to these “Maintenance Holes” they decided to abbreviate with … wait for it … “Man. Hole”

Comment #127006

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 8, 2006 4:05 AM (e)

Of course, such a concept is very useful for just about any cause, and the term spread within leftist circles over time. It became quite common within feminism in the 70s. My own introduction to the terminology was in 1980, when one feminist explained to me personally how we could never be an item, because I was “hopelessly P. I.”, which initialism she had to expand and only which later did I discover what it actually meant.

My first close encounter with the term “politically correct” was when I was “an item” with a feminist law professor at UCLA. She and her feminist friends used it to chide other feminists who took themselves and their ideology too seriously, such as “political lesbians” who didn’t sleep with women because they preferred to but because it was “politically correct”. The term entered the mainstream with its shifted meaning after a series of articles in the Atlantic Monthly and other magazines, in an apparently concerted effort to smear civil libertarians by attacking over-the-top bureaucratic examples of “political correctness” on college campuses and presenting them as though they were characteristic of all egalitarian thought.

Checking the Wikipedia article, I see that it supports my experience:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politically_correct…

The contemporary use of the term political correctness is said to derived from Marxist-Leninist vocabulary to describe the Party Line. [1]

The term was transformed and used jokingly within the Left by the early 1980s, possibly earlier. [citation needed] In this context, the phrase was applied to either an over-commitment to various left-wing political causes, especially within Marxism or the feminist movement; or to a tendency by some of those dedicated to these causes to be more concerned with rhetoric and vocabulary than with substance.

The term again became popular in the early 1990s as part of a conservative challenge to curriculum and teaching methods on college campuses in the United States (D’Souza 1991; Berman 1992; Schultz 1993; Messer Davidow 1993, 1994; Scatamburlo 1998). In a commencement address at the University of Michigan in 1991, President George H. W. Bush spoke out against administrators and academics who would “declare certain topics off-limits, certain expressions off-limits, even certain gestures off-limits” (Glassner 1999). Conservatives picked up and once again transformed the notion of political correctness to claim that a left-wing movement based in liberal academic circles was attempting to create a new doctrinaire political orthodoxy through social engineering which included changing words and phrases that some groups found offensive.

Comment #127008

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 8, 2006 4:08 AM (e)

the flagship of which is probably the much-ridiculed replacement of “short” with “vertically challenged.”

It’s fascinating how people confuse late night talk show jokes with history.

Comment #127010

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 8, 2006 4:16 AM (e)

And because people here seem to actually believe such silliness, I offer

http://www.slate.com/id/2139270/

Apocryphal euphemisms are hardly the province of any one political vantage point, however. Fifteen years ago, during the height of the “PC wars,” many American conservatives exulted in telling stories of rampant euphemization on college campuses and elsewhere. Politically correct speech, such as the use of “differently abled” for “disabled,” was often presented as an Orwellian attempt to control thought by changing the English language. The only problem was that a number of these supposed “PC euphemisms” were never actually used in seriousness, as Deborah Cameron explains in her 1995 book Verbal Hygiene. No school ever mandated that short people be called “vertically challenged,” or that girls be called “pre-women.” Those were satirical takes on PC language invented by college cartoonists and other wags, but the expressions were eventually circulated as ostensible proof of political correctness run amok. As with transfer tubes, the would-be PC-isms spread quickly because they fit into a set of preconceptions about an opposing point of view.

And we can see that process operating right here.

Comment #127012

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 8, 2006 4:34 AM (e)

My reading is that the original phrase (in addition to the “communist branch”) grew out of efforts at social engineering based on the policy position that out-groups are born (i.e., are biologically) inherently equal with respect to certain opportunities. So it became politically correct to maintain that black IQ inferiority was *entirely* social in nature, and that the gender imbalances in certain fields areas ranging from CEO of large corporations to higher management ranks to musical composers (and rock instrumentalists) to Nobel Prize winners was also due to socialization forces. Briefly, it became politically incorrect to suggest that possibly something biological exerted influence here.

That’s a rather bizarrely passive description. The phrase “grew out of” these efforts? You mean you think that “social engineers” chose that phrase to describe their own efforts? Hardly; it was a smear term applied by reactionaries to critics of social inequities. The Rushton/Shockley/Jensen/Murray/Herrnstein thesis that black IQ inferiority was a consequence of heredity was politically correct, in the literal sense of that term, but it was not scientifically correct, as demonstrated by Stephen Jay Gould in The Mismeasure of Man and by others.

Comment #127112

Posted by Mike on September 8, 2006 11:31 AM (e)

“It’s generally hard to tell when a creationist is lying, …”

I doubt I’m the only reader who, on getting that far, immediately thought ‘No, it’s not. His lips are moving.’ before reading the rest.

‘There are lies, damned lies and creationism.’

Comment #127190

Posted by David B. Benson on September 8, 2006 4:34 PM (e)

Mike — Around here there are YECers. Those that I have conversed with are not lying. For to tell a lie is to knowingly and purposefully utter a falsehood. But those YECers, anyway, did not understand they were uttering falsehoods. They BELIEVED!

At I am sure that unto this day, they STILL believe…

Comment #127214

Posted by Shaffer on September 8, 2006 5:24 PM (e)

Popper's Ghost wrote:

It’s fascinating how people confuse late night talk show jokes with history.

The point, I think, is that to some people, *any* attempt to tell them that something they say or do is offensive results in a reaction that’s indistinguishable from their being told to call a short person “vertically challenged”. The salient point is that some proponents of “PC” speech did go overboard, and that those proponents were useful in setting up a strawman for “liberal” thought in general.

Comment #127219

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 8, 2006 5:51 PM (e)

My first close encounter with the term “politically correct” was when I was “an item” with a feminist law professor at UCLA. She and her feminist friends used it to chide other feminists who took themselves and their ideology too seriously, such as “political lesbians” who didn’t sleep with women because they preferred to but because it was “politically correct”.

There was a women’s group in New York a few years back, called simply The Feminists, who preached the same line. Their motto, as I recall, was “You’re not a real radical unless you sleep with women.”

Oddly, there was another radical group in New York at around the same time, called Redstockings, who denounced lesbians as “infiltrators” in the feminist movement.

Nothing is so byzantine as the politics of the Left. (The REAL Left, not the damn Bill-Clinton-Democans.) Pick a line, any line, and you can be pretty sure there is some group or groupuscule preaching it somewhere.

Comment #127237

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 8, 2006 6:46 PM (e)

Okay, well cool. I was beginning to get worried that I no longer qualified as a “radical feminist.”

But since I sleep with women, it sounds like I’m still all about rad fem…

(Runs, not walks, towards nearest foxhole chikee emergency shelter!))

Comment #127272

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 8, 2006 7:41 PM (e)

The point, I think, is …

The point is precisely the one that the Salon article (which was primarily about the myth that the Pentagon now calls body bags “transfer tubes”) made: “the would-be PC-isms spread quickly because they fit into a set of preconceptions about an opposing point of view”.

Comment #127273

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 8, 2006 7:45 PM (e)

Nothing is so byzantine as the politics of the Left. (The REAL Left, not the damn Bill-Clinton-Democans.) Pick a line, any line, and you can be pretty sure there is some group or groupuscule preaching it somewhere.

Yeah, but I prefer that to the right, where everyone preaches the lines from the talking point list that they receive from Grover Norquist every Thursday.

Comment #127323

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 8, 2006 11:19 PM (e)

Okay, well cool. I was beginning to get worried that I no longer qualified as a “radical feminist.”

But since I sleep with women, it sounds like I’m still all about rad fem…

Ya know, I *knew* someone was gonna say that …. .

And I had a pretty good suspicion it would be you.

;)

Comment #127327

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 8, 2006 11:22 PM (e)

Yeah, but I prefer that to the right, where everyone preaches the lines from the talking point list that they receive from Grover Norquist every Thursday.

I wouldn’t be so sure about that. There is a civil war long brewing on the Right, between the fundie ayatollah-wanna-be’s and the neocon fascist-wanna-be’s. They have little in common with each other, and the fight between them will be bare-knuckles and bloody.

Comment #130926

Posted by David Hudson on September 17, 2006 11:43 AM (e)

This book, like that of Anne Coulter, reminds us all not only that there is a great amount of scientific ignorance in this country, but also that this ignorance is organized and too often well-funded. Because of this combination of organization and funding, it is imporant that not only the scientific community but all those non-scientists who support it, should at least endeavor to undertake a few counter measures. One possible measure would be for major private colleges and universities and those publicly supported schools in states where there would not be a plitical backlash require explicitly that all applicants not only have biology courses but must demonstrate that these courses include a good, solid treatment of evolution. An applicant who does not do so should be required to tak a non-credit “bonehead” biology to remedy the deficiency. This is a small suggestion, but it is necessary that at least some small suggestions be implemented as a counter to this organized and funded ignorance.

Comment #140415

Posted by Leon on October 19, 2006 6:42 PM (e)

This discussion reminds me of a young lady I dated in college. She wasn’t a feminist herself, but was sympathetic to some of her professors, who were spouting the most unbelievable bull****. One insisted that language was an instrument of male domination (notwithstanding sociologically, language is more shaped by women, who are the ones who transmit it to the young) and should therefore be replaced by gibberish–her writing literally devolved into gibberish.

Another thing I remember from back then was the drive of these bat****-crazy feminists to change history to “herstory”, which was glibly explained as meaning “her story” as opposed to “his story”. Never mind the word history has nothing to do with the word his–they come from totally different origins, which you can see in other languages: eg, in French, “history” is “histoire”, but “his” is “son” or “sa”. My answer to that nonsense was “Should we then change ‘histrionics’ to ‘herstrionics’, ‘hysterical’ to ‘hersterical’, and ‘histerectomy’ to ‘herstorectomy’?”