March 14, 2008

Another Dull Decade

Salon science journalist John Farrell has just discovered the February article here on “The Right’s Science Problem” and writes to remind me that he has established a blog devoted to cataloging Weird Science outbreaks in what he considers “the major conservative media.” Thus far I have been spared, but it’s early days. You can check out the competition at what is diplomatically styled the ‘Stupidity Index Of Conservative Science Journalism ‘

Before   devout readers dismiss Farrell as an avatar of the devil’s party,, they should consider his view of a journal that at least tries to be intellectually serious –

” First Things:  I have to say is also the most open about science qua science. Yes, they do publish the usual swill from the Discovery Institute fellows, but they also allow Edward T. Oakes, my favorite Jesuit, to neatly deconstruct them whenever they do. But perhaps FT’s true openness to both sides of the argument isn’t ironic, for the very reason that the editors take their religion with all of its tradition and history more seriously than the those of the other magazines…

That’s not to say FT always gets it right. For example, in an otherwise thoughtful piece, Cardinal Avery Dulles can’t resist giving a crumb of credibility to Intelligent Design as one of three plausible reactions to what evolution tells us about the world, in spite of the fact that ID is a movement now so bankrupt in its lack of any scientific content, that it has become an embarrassment to Christians who are practicing scientists and philosophers…

I’m not blaming the Cardinal, except to the extent that I think leaders of the Church are too careful sometimes… Pope Benedict’s recent assertion that the whole creationism v. evolution debate is “absurd” would have been more welcome…when Cardinal Sch?nborn signed his name to an ill-conceived attack on Darwin in the New York Times. Instead, the pope was content to wait until after the cautious, quiet seminars he felt he had to sit through before making up his mind. But at least he invited scientists to make their case—which is more than our mainstream conservative magazines do.

… part of the problem…with regard to conservative journalists…is the narrow provincialism, born of the small social circle of people who make up the current conservative intellectual establishment….A friend of mine, who is also a longtime reader of National Review and the other conservative opinion journals, had some interesting comments… “The problem with NRO is that it’s intellectually incurious. It’s gotten to be dull and airless because it’s not really interested in exploring new ideas and rethinking old ones in light of experience, but instead serving as a political rallying point. There is so much more to conservatism—or to be more precise, what interests, or should interest, conservatives -.”

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