Coyne: Poor Beleaguered Melanie Phillips!

University of Chicago geneticist Jerry Coyne has a good post on Melanie Phillips’ latest 2,000-word attempt to burnish her credentials with the anti-evolution crowd (by attacking me). Phillips tries to earn some martyr points by claiming she’s the victim of a “secular Inquisition:” Poor beleaguered Melanie Phillips!

Just call me Torquemada.

Thanks to an alert reader, I’ve learned that Melanie Phillips has responded to the spate of criticism she got for her recent Spectator article claiming that intelligent design grew out of science, not religion.  She got it in the neck from bloggers and readers for that, most especially for her moronic claim that ID is not a form of creationism.  Now she has posted a long response to her critics, distancing herself somewhat from ID but still claiming that it’s not creationism.  She mentions Michael Behe as one of the scientific IDers, asserting that “He is not a Creationist.” Does she know that he once said that new species were “poofed” into being by the designer? If that ain’t creationism, I don’t know what is.

Ms. Phillips claims she’s the victim of a “secular inquisition.”

I hold no particular brief for ID, but am intrigued by the ideas it raises and want it to be given a fair crack of the whip to see where the argument will lead. What I have also seen, however, is an attempt to shut down that argument by distorting and misrepresenting ID and defaming and intimidating its proponents.

One way of doing so is to conflate ID with Creationism. I wrote below that this is wrong, since ID comes out of science and creationism comes out of Biblical literalism. This provoked Charles Johnson on LGF to accuse me of being either duped or dishonest. Johnson – who has become unhealthily obsessed with ID and Creationism in recent months — says I am wrong to say that ID is based on science rather than on religion, and wrong to say that it is different from Creationism…

Dogma is certainly what is on the other side of ID in this fight – a materialist dogma which, posing as the standard-bearer of reason against obscurantism, actually embodies irrationality and a kind of intellectual fascism. It is a secular inquisition – as the reaction to my post makes all too plain.

On the other head, maybe she’s just ignorant and biased, like the Inquisitors themselves.

Meanwhile, Phillips is still wrong when she insists “intelligent design” is based on science and unrelated to creationism. Claims of persecution mixed with long-debunked talking points from the Discovery Institute are a pretty pitiful way to make an argument.

As for Michael Behe, cited by Melanie Phillips as an authority, he has the distinction of being the only tenured professor currently working at an American university whose own department has distanced itself from his views: Lehigh University Department of Biological Sciences.

The faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences is committed to the highest standards of scientific integrity and academic function. This commitment carries with it unwavering support for academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. It also demands the utmost respect for the scientific method, integrity in the conduct of research, and recognition that the validity of any scientific model comes only as a result of rational hypothesis testing, sound experimentation, and findings that can be replicated by others.

The department faculty, then, are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory, which has its roots in the seminal work of Charles Darwin and has been supported by findings accumulated over 140 years. The sole dissenter from this position, Prof. Michael Behe, is a well-known proponent of “intelligent design.” While we respect Prof. Behe’s right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific.

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