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Boycotting Bloggingheads: Reaction to an Intelligent Design debate shows limit to public discussion.

Christianity Today has weighed in on the bloggingheads’ controversy involving the disappearing and reappearing discussion between John McWhorter and Michael Behe.

An online clearinghouse for intellectual debate has discovered the apparent boundary for its controversial conversations: Intelligent Design.

Bloggingheads.tv posted a video interview between journalist John McWhorter and Intelligent Design proponent Michael Behe in late August focused on the Lehigh University biochemistry professor’s 2007 book The Edge of Evolution. It was taken down the same day after the website received a barrage of online criticism for not asking tougher questions of Behe and for hosting him at all.

The video was re-posted later, but as Dr. Behe  explains, the initial removal is indicative of a larger issue:

“Reposting the interview didn’t make everything better,” says Behe. “Yanking it down in the first place sent the strong message that this is a topic that can’t be discussed rationally; it is beyond the pale, and an interviewer like McWhorter risks his career if he does otherwise.”

Of course the interview was entirely rational, the reaction that it received was not; and that, folks is beyond the pale. The fallout:

The decision to repost the interview prompted notable scientists Carl Zimmer and Sean Carroll to publicly disassociate with the website because they believe Intelligent Design is not a serious scientific idea worthy of debate.

Some religion history experts noted the ironic adaptation of Fundamentalist techniques on the opposite side of the evolution debate. “Recently ‘the new atheists’ have been characterized, even in some of the mainstream media, as like fundamentalists in their dogmatism,” said George Marsden, a noted professor of American religious history at the University of Notre Dame. “Breaking relations with those who associate with your enemies sounds a lot like classic American fundamentalist ‘second-degree separation.’ “

Indeed it does.

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8 Responses to Boycotting Bloggingheads: Reaction to an Intelligent Design debate shows limit to public discussion.

  1. I agree the new atheists act like fundamentalists and may become as dangerous as religious extremist.

  2. 2
    William J. Murray

    Funda-materialists is more like it. The new Fundamaterialism.

  3. Are we all agreed then that new atheists and religous fundamentalists are both wrong when practicing this form of behavior?

    I haven’t followed this story very closely, but it seems to me that bloggingheads should have stuck to their guns as a media outlet and shouted “Free Speech”, thumbing their noses at requests to take the video down. Any concern that people had over McWhorter or Behe’s questions/statements should have been directed to them alone.

    But I’m happy we agree that all dogmatism is wrong, not just the other guy’s.

  4. Nakashima

    “All dogmatism is wrong.”

    Is that a dogma? :D

  5. I think Nakashima is right if he is using the term dogmatism as “it is always wrong to be an untolerant bigot.” Mr Nakashima would be an absolutist in this sense, and rightly so. I don’t think he means certainty as in “anyone claiming with positive assurance that their position is correct is wrong” in which sense that would indeed be a self-refuting statement as tragic mishap points out.

  6. tragic mishap,

    Yes it is. All was can truly say and not become self-referentially incoherent is that some dogmas are wrong, and some right.

  7. Mr Mishap,

    Not a dogma, but a good heuristic! Certainly I feel we should be more suspect of our own dogmas than the other guy’s.

  8. Carl Zimmer: “I write about research and ideas that have held up under scrutiny.” (1) As if the idea of a monotheist God hadn’t passed that test.

    Sean Carroll: “If I’m going to spend an hour of my life listening to two people have a discussion with each other, I want some confidence that they’re both serious people. Likewise, if I’m going to spend my own time and lend my own credibility to such an enterprise, I want to believe that serious discussions between respectable interlocutors are what the site is all about.” (2) I suppose that would apply to Copernicus, Newton, Gödel and Einstein to name a few crackpots.

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