Thursday, May 01, 2008

Creationists and denialists: liars and charlatans

A doffing of my prized Panama to
Canadian Cynic for links to two extraordinary stories today that somehow seem almost erotically intertwined.

The first is John Derbyshire's bone-crushing smackdown of the egregious dishonesty of creationists and "Intelligent Design" propagandists. The second is an equally impressive
DeSmogBlog expose of the global warming deniers over at the Heartland Institute, caught with their pants down in a barefaced fraud (and that is not a mixed metaphor).

These two accounts sum up the malignant anti-rationalism of conservatives who play politics with cards up their sleeves. Do not be misled: Derbyshire is a cranky far-right-winger himself, and a bit of a racist. But lunatic attacks on science are simply too much for him. Ignore his silly comments about Apaches*, and settle back for an entertaining read.

DeSmogBlog, hearing of a Heartland Institute list of alleged climate-change denialists with scientific credentials, took it upon himself to contact the scientists on the list. The result? Outrage from forty-five of them so far, and the numbers are growing. A typical comment:

I have NO doubts ..the recent changes in global climate ARE man-induced. I insist that you immediately remove my name from this list since I did not give you permission to put it there. --Dr. Gregory Cutter, Professor, Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Old Dominion University

(Shades of the Oregon Petition.)

As for the cartoonish creationist movie Expelled, and the devious, unethical bunch of fraudsters who cobbled it together, there's an exhaustive account here.

When proponents of a point of view find themselves having to lie, consistently and shamelessly, to defend their position, we know that intellectual bankruptcy proceedings are not far off. From the "scientific" racism of Cyril Burt and his devoted followers today, to creationism and global warming denial, we see mountebanks and snakeoil salesmen of every description attempting to harness science to their broken-down wagons.

Historically, the Left has the Lysenkoist cross to bear, of course, but that was more than half a century ago. Today, however, what is sketchy and marginal and fraudulent for us seems to be mainstream for the Right. The question therefore is, John Derbyshire aside: Why is this sort of dishonesty virtually a hallmark of conservative politics today? I don't mean that as a rhetorical question: I'm genuinely curious. Comments are welcome.

*Not to mention his bizarre claims that the Chinese have no scientific tradition. Has the man never heard of Joseph Needham?


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