I’m trying to get caught up on a couple of things from last week. Here’s one of them. You may have seen this on Pharyngula. As PZ Myers explains:
A couple of college students in Toronto…took offense at the patent absurdity of the “Bible and Bible Studies” section of a large bookstore at Yonge and Eglinton, and decided to help organize the shelves by filing their contents more appropriately. They quietly moved the contents to other places in the bookstore, like Fiction, Humour, Sexuality, Erotica, Cuisine, Parenting, Mental Disorder, Parapsychology and the Occult.
What I wanted to bring to your attention, though, was his follow-up article:
Many comments on Pharyngula suggested that Science shelves should be bereft of such gems as Michael Behe’s intelligent-design manifestos, or any book on new-age pseudoscience.
It’s with this that I must take issue. When, in my email to Dr Myers, I referred to the democratic marketplace of ideas, I was not paying lip service. It is a fundamental tenet of western democratic society that as long as nobody is literally hurt, every opinion has a right to be heard. I’m not saying that every opinion is worth the paper it’s written on, just that anyone has every right to make their case. This is especially the case in the rigours of the scientific process, where any theory—new or old—is continually vetted by a process of peer review and critique.
In the case of Behe’s ID idiocy and New-Age acupressure guides, they belong squarely in the science section. The questions that they address (Who are we? How did we get here? How can the flow of Chi affect my basement grow-op?) are fundamentally scientific ones. Just because a particular author’s answer to a real scientific question is completely insipid does not mean that it does not belong on the Science shelf.
Call me Naïve, but I truly want to believe that in the great marketplace of ideas, theories will ultimately rise and fall on their own merits.
If you want to rid your local science section of wastes of wood-pulp like Behe’s books on Intelligent Design, here’s how to do it.
Let his opinion be heard.
There is only one appropriate response to a ridiculous proposition, and that response is thorough ridicule. Give Behe and his ilk a seat at the table. Engage him. Expose his ideas for the unscrupulous shams that they are. I’m not advocating that anyone treat fools with kid gloves—far from it. All I’m saying is, give these people just enough intellectual rope to hang themselves with, then help them build their gallows.
That article sums up some of what we do here at BoF. It’s great fun pointing out how foolish the “freedom fighters”, Concerned “Women”, and Family “Researchers” are, but our fun has a very real purpose. These people want to pull our society back to the Dark Ages. Ridiculing these ideas is one of the best ways to expose them for the frauds that they are.