Evolution History Holocaust Holocaust denial Intelligent design/creationism Science Skepticism/critical thinking

Intelligent design activists make hay out of the Larry Darby case

Geez, who could have seen this one coming?

Straight from the Discovery Institute’s blog regarding atheist and Holocaust denier Larry Darby in reference to his activities against ID in Alabama, Casey Luskin bloviates:

An outspoken opponent of the bill has been activist Larry Darby. Mr. Darby’s vehement opposition to the Alabama Academic Freedom Bill was on full display at a House Education hearing back on April 29, 2004. According to reports I have received, committee chair, Rep. Yvonne Kennedy (D), did not allow citizens to testify for the bill. But for some reason she let Mr. Darby alone provide special commentary on it. Blasting the bill, Mr. Darby claimed that Alabama already had enough legislation filled with bible and race-based hatred. Yet Mr. Darby himself has recently gained attention for his own denial of the murderous events of the Holocaust.

Increased attention has been paid to Mr. Darby because of his campaign to become Attorney General of Alabama. Most of the spotlight has been on his outrageous views about the Holocaust. According to “Candidate: Holocaust didn’t happen” (by Jay Reeves [Associated Press], Montgomery Advertiser, May 13, 2006), Mr. Darby apparently claims that only 140,000 Jews died in the Holocaust, and that most of those deaths resulted from typhus. This is Holocaust denial in all its ugly un-glory. Previously, Mr. Darby had made national headlines for calling AL Governor Bob Riley’s prayer meetings “Christian terrorism.” But through it all, Mr. Darby’s die-hard commitment to philosophical materialism has made him one of the fiercest critics of Alabama’s Academic Freedom Act. “Science deals with materialism,” he reportedly said at that 2004 House Committee hearing.

Egads, this story combines three of my interests: Holocaust denial, evolution, and skepticism all into one little package. All they’d need is to throw in some quackery (Dr. Lorraine Day testifying for Ernst Zundel, anyone?) and it’d be the perfect storm for this blog. How can I not comment?

Through his racist views and Holocaust denial, Darby manages to hurt efforts to prevent the inclusion of ID pseudoscience in public school classrooms. Never mind that Darby’s been nearly universally repudiated by his fellow atheists and secularists. That doesn’t matter to the ID advocates. To them, Darby’s like a dream come true: an atheist wingnut who spews not only Holocaust denial but white supremacist rhetoric, revealing himself to be a racist bigot and anti-Semite.

Luskin’s article also shows one reason why, rightly or wrongly, I’m so cautious about using analogies between Holocaust denial and creationism (I’ve posted a detailed discussion why before):

Most interesting is Mr. Darby’s appearance at the Alabama “Rally for Reason,” alongside Jeffrey Selman. The rally was sponsored by the Atheist Law Center, of which Mr. Darby is apparently past-president. Mr. Selman is the ACLU’s plaintiff in the textbook sticker case against Cobb County School District near Atlanta, GA. (See for details.)

Ironically (and unfortunately) Mr. Selman himself specifically insisted that allowing the Cobb County sticker disclaimer is analogous to the events that led to people being put into ovens in Nazi Germany (also discussed here). Unfortunately many leading Darwinists have also compared skepticism of evolution to Holocaust denial…The ADL has strongly (and rightly) opposed inappropriate invocations of Holocaust imagery in political issues. Where was the ADL on Selman’s comments? Perhaps Mr. Selman’s outrageous slander against skeptics of evolution should have been saved for actual Holocaust deniers, such as the man he took the stage with in Alabama at the “Rally for Reason” to oppose ID.

Ouch. As much as I hate to say it, that one left a mark. I hate it when “our side” does something that stupid. Learning about it a year and a half later, I still find it idiotic.

Nonetheless, we should not shy away. Let me reiterate once again that it is true that the logical fallacies and abuse of evidence and reason used by ID advocates to push their pseudoscience are often the same as those used by Holocaust deniers to push their pseudohistory. I am not saying that defenders of science should ignore the parallels. However, we have to remember that Holocaust deniers are without exception (at least any exceptions that I’ve ever been able to find) anti-Semites and/or Nazi sympathizers, making the comparison so toxic and emotional that the offense, whether real or a tactic designed to divert attention from the similariities, that the cmoparison is of limited usefulness. And, as defenders of science, we ourselves should definitely be very careful to avoid simplistic and overblown comparisons to the Holocaust such as the one Selman used. We have to be especially careful whenever we find it necessary to point out the very real parallels in logical fallacies and abuse of evidence between Holocaust deniers and creationists to emphasize that we are not calling creationists Nazis. We are merely pointing out that they use the same ideologically-based distortions of logic, evidence, and argument that Holocaust deniers do. Unfortunately, it’s been my experience that all the disclaimers necessary to try to get the point across tend to dilute the message, and ID advocates still claim that I’m calling them Nazis. Consequently, I rarely use the comparison anymore, more for tactical reasons than anything else.

In any case, Selman provides a rare instance in which I agree with the Discovery Institute. Selman’s comparison of the law in Cobb County to place a sticker on biology textbooks to urge students to be “skeptical” of evolution to the Holocaust (in January 2005 he was quoted as saying about it, “Look what happened in Germany. The German Jews said, ‘We’re Germans. We’ll be fine.’ The next thing you know, they were opening the oven doors for us.”) was worthy of a Hitler Zombie piece. And I would have written one for him, too, except for two reasons. First, I didn’t know about Selman’s idiotic remarks at the time they; and, second (and just a wee bit more importantly) Selman’s quote occurred nearly five months before I ever came up with the little literary conceit of bad analogies to the Holocaust being due to a chomp on the brain by the zombie of Hitler’s corpse.

There is, however, another aspect of this.

I can’t resist pointing out to Mr. Luskin that creationists should be very careful about how shocked–shocked, I say!–they act about someone using bad Holocaust analogies against them. After all, creationists are very quick to blame evolution for Nazis and the Holocaust (not to mention Communism and Stalin and a variety of other evils) (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10).

Indeed, the term “pot kettle black” comes to mind, as the Discovery Institute has itself not been above approvingly commenting on the “evolution led to Hitler” canard on at least two occasions, including last year in the very blog piece in which it castigated Selman for his analogy (although the DI did qualify their remarks somewhat). The DI even sells Richard Weikart’s book, From Darwin To Hitler on their website, fer cryin’ out loud!. If we count up the number of overblown analogies to the Holocaust made by supporters of evolutionary science and supporters of ID and then compare them, I’m quite sure I know who would win the count hands down.

“Pot. Kettle. Black,” indeed.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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