Are Some IDers Perpetrating a Sokalian Hoax?


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Are Some IDers Perpetrating a Sokalian Hoax?

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Mar 30, 2008, 6:27pm

I imagine few people who frequent the creation/evolution message boards have heard of Alan Sokal. He was a physicist/mathemetician who wrote a paper entitled "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity." He then submitted this to "Social Text," a post-modernist journal, which published the article apparently without submitting it to any peer review process. The theory is that the editors were so tickled to have a scientist writing such an article, they published it without question. The paper was a hoax, as Sokal revealed in another article in "lingua Franca," an intellectual and literary magazine.

Sokal's point was to attack some of the claims of postmodernist philosophers to the effect that science was only a social construction and had no legitimate claims to being objective or a source of absolute truth. I won't go into detail on the philosophical points (you can easily research this yourselves), but I will pose the hypothetical question:

Is Michael Behe's work (and/or that of other ID "proponents") actually a hoax along similar lines to that of Alan Sokal's?

It's an honest question, whichever side you believe and whichever side you're on.

I'm sure some IDers, notably Phillip Johnson believe in the concept. However, because of his biochemistry background, Behe could not only thoroughly dismantle most ID arguments himself, but he could, if he chose, come up with a readable and, to the layman, convincing argument for ID. And the ID community would embrace Behe for the same reason the postmodernist crowd embraced Sokal, because he's a mainstream scientist.

In the Wikipedia article on him, Professor Behe is said to have done his Ph. D. on the biochemistry of sickle-cell disease. When I took graduate biochemistry sickle-cell disease was used as an example of biochemical evolution in action. I imagine that other biochemistry courses at other universities used it in a similar vein. And Professor Behe, having done his doctorate on it, would know these details as well as anyone.

A biochemist such as Behe could have motivations similar to Alan Sokal's. Or he could be a believer in ID. Alan Sokal created quite a stir in some circles. Michael Behe could do the same in others.

Abr 2, 2008, 3:21am

This is an intriguing idea, but when is the other shoe going to drop? If Behe is "doing a Sokal", he's going to have to out himself.

The tricky thing about this kind of hoax--if it is a hoax--is that only the perpetrator can reveal it.

Abr 2, 2008, 10:41am

The point with ID people, I think, is that it doesn't matter whether it is a hoax, or not. It just HAS to be true for them, there is no choice. They can't conceive of a world without god, and as material science allows for (but does not insist upon) that possibility, well, we can't have THAT, now, can we? So up go the ramparts, at all costs.

Abr 5, 2008, 8:06pm

Behe's book is not a hoax. He's quite serious and the arguments he raises are interesting. He writes well and speaks in the language of a scientist, not a creationist. I enjoyed the book because it presented an argument that I found hard to counter (at first).

I also read Alan Sokal’s book “Fashionable Nonsense” and give a short review of it.

Abr 12, 2008, 3:40pm

Maybe "the other shoe" isn't going to drop. Maybe Behe is doing this for extra money, and doesn't really care about "exposing" the ID charade. As has been observed, only he can expose this, if that's what he's doing.

My wife, once suggested that if I wanted to make some extra money, and didn't have a lot in the way of scruples, I could easily write a creationist book. I have some background in biochemistry, so why not?

I figure that if the idea occurred to me (or my wife), it could have occurred to someone else. I'd be surprised if all these ID types are for real. Most probably are, but all of them? I don't know.

Abr 12, 2008, 3:49pm

...if I wanted to make some extra money, and didn't have a lot in the way of scruples, I could easily write a creationist book.

You should aim higher. The REAL money is in starting your own religion.

Abr 16, 2008, 7:53pm

"The REAL money is in starting your own religion." (how come I can't do italics?)

Maybe, but I'd imagine most of these new religions have a pretty high rate of attrition. As the Bible says, "many are called but few are chosen."

Abr 16, 2008, 8:28pm

This IS an interesting question. I can't imagine how anyone could deeply, seriously endorse a concept such as ID without knowing (on SOME level) that they are perpetuating a hoax.

Sort of like the Holocaust deniers. I just don't know what it takes to convince some people.

Editado: Abr 16, 2008, 9:43pm

They don't think it's a hoax. They fundamentally distrust human knowledge, and only trust divine revelation. That's what it comes down to. No matter how much evidence there is (and they don't bother to study it closely, anyway), it comes down to "well, that's what MAN says". And that's it. So, no . . . no hoax.
Whatever man says that conflicts with scripture in any way must be wrong, no matter how compelling the devil may make it seem.

Abr 17, 2008, 4:26pm

"They don't think it's a hoax."

Therein lies the rub. Inasmuch as they present it as "scientific", within the broader context of evolutionary theory (a theory that most ID proponents would probably dismiss as so much hogwash, being that all God had to do was snap his big god fingers for the universe to come into existence), then how could they see it as anything other than a hoax inside an even bigger hoax?

My feeling is that they are using ID as a trojan horse: it's a means by which they can attempt either to a) bring enough discredit to evolutionary theory for the whole evil edifice to come tumbling down (fat chance!) or, b) cause enough headaches for school boards to throw up there hands and say "We give up! Go ahead and bring your mythology into the schools and pass it off as fact!!"

Abr 17, 2008, 6:04pm

Right, it's an ends justify the means sort of thing.

So, yes, for some people, they are sincerely deluded,
for others, they're just "lying for Jesus".

Abr 20, 2008, 10:08pm

The more I think about this, the more I get suspicious that some IDers really are just milking it. Some probably need to survive. Recently I started reading Hector Avalos's The End of Biblical Studies. The point Avalos makes is that people in the "bible studies" field know that there is nothing in the way of archaeological evidence to back up their preaching. So why do they do it? Well, one reaon is that they need to eat. Seriously, what else do you do with a degree in bible studies?

In another vein, there is a market for all this, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist, to say nothing of a biochemist (like Behe, or his equivalent from a generation ago, Duane Gish, and others) to put together a plausible (to a layman) argument for "design." All you need is some writing ability and a lack of pride. A degree in science then almost guarantees a place in the ID pantheon of heroes.

I started this thread partly in jest, but the more I think about it, the more I believe that a lot of ID, while it is serious stuff to the dupes who buy into it, is just a game, or maybe just a job, to the Behe's, Dembski's, etc. of this world. Perhaps that (unconscious) realization has long been central to my distaste for such folks.

I guess, I'm starting to believe that maybe ID is not so much a hoax as a scam.

Abr 21, 2008, 12:46am

> The point Avalos makes is that people in the "bible studies" field know that there is
>nothing in the way of archaeological evidence to back up their preaching.

Is he saying that there is no archaeological evidence supporting the bible? I would find this hard to believe (although I haven’t read his book). I see the bible as a historical document and so wouldn't be surprised at all if the geographical places and events were roughly correct. (By events I mean the fall of cities, invasions, birth and death of kings, etc.). The early writers of the bible would simply be recording their observations.

Stated another way, just because it is written from a religious viewpoint doesn't automatically disqualify its historical content. At the same time just because its historical accuracy may be validated doesn’t imply its religious content is true.

Abr 21, 2008, 8:57am

> The point Avalos makes is that people in the "bible studies" field know that there is
>nothing in the way of archaeological evidence to back up their preaching.

You're right and I must apologize for the way I worded that statement(trying to hurry up and hitting "submit" before proofreading). Avalos' point is that much (not all) of the bible lacks archaeological evidence. So a lot of the history described therein is of questionable authenticity.

Since I'm not at home as I write this, I can't cite specifics. I have one of these "specifics" in mind, but I'll check it out this evening to make sure before I post it. Come to think of it, I may start up (or join) another discussion on this very subject.

Abr 22, 2008, 12:52pm

Avalos' statement is as follows (from page 163 of the end of biblical studies):

"Biblical archaeology has helped to bury the Bible, and archaeologists know it. Ronald Hendel was exactly right when he said, 'Archaeological research has - against the intentions of most of its practitioners - secured the nonhistoricity of much of the Bible before the era of the kings.' We can now expand Hendel's observation and affirm that there is not much history to be found in the era of the kings either."

That lack of historicity is what much of Avalos' book is about.

Abr 22, 2008, 1:51pm

Ah'm a gonna git me that book. Sounds tasty. Thanks for the recommendation!