Civility: a mug’s game

If you haven’t acquainted yourself with the Synthese brouhaha, you can do so here. There’s a lot of material flying around, including open letters from the special issue editors, various unsatisfactory replies from the actual Synthese editors, and an elaborate “Who? Me?” act from Francis Beckwith. The details are sufficiently covered at Evolving Thoughts and Leiter Reports, so I’m not going to bother to repeat them here. What I’m interested in is the rhetorical maneuvers underlying this so-called scandal. Keep in mind that the whole thing got off the ground with a prefatory note by the Synthese editors saying that they thought the essays in the special issue, particularly that of Barbara Forrest, were… how to put it… less than generous to the ID position? Perhaps even… uncivil?!

Naturally this represents and undermining of the very purpose of the special issue. I haven’t actually read the original papers by Forrest and others, but what I would argue is that even if the editors’ preface was entirely accurate and the essays were in fact “uncivil,” (having read other things by Forrest, I know that she pull no punches against bad philosophy; I assume that this was in fact the point of contention), well, they should have been. Because ID proponents and creationists do not deserve civility. They are liars and frauds who graft disparate pieces of math, physics, and philosophy (all misapplied, natch) in the service of a religious agenda. The ID crowd wants to have it both ways, claiming to be a scienfitic undertaking while blatantly identifying with Christian theology. The entire structure of ID advocacy is a ploy to put a “scientific” face on religious promotion; and of course, ID advocates acting “outside” of their official ID affiliations have absolutely no problem calling atheists and secular humanists immoral or worse. But dare to breathe an unkind word in their direction, and the double standard kicks in. How dare you accuse them of the things they openly advocate! How dare you suggest their so-called science is a fraud and a sham! Why, that kind of evidence-based judgment is terribly uncivil, dontcha know!

These are not people who deserve the benefit of the doubt. They are, at the very best, cranks; at the very worst, they are active participants in the subversion of secular ideals to religious orthodoxy. They cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged, and they must be called out at every possible opportunity. And most importantly, their false civility cannot be allowed to silence debate. The tactic of accusing your opponents of being uncivil has a long history of being used to marginalize voices in sensitive debates and it cannot be allowed to advance any farther, especially not in cases of scientific questions.

You know what’s uncivil? It’s when you demand all the emails from a professor’s university account because you don’t like his evisceration of your historical ignorance. It’s when you tell your followers to go protest outside of a kid’s house because his family was a poster case for what happens when you lose your health insurance. It’s when you launch frivolous lawsuits against actual scientists who show demonstrate that your “alternative medicines” are full of shit. It’s when you aim your gun at the only doctor in the entire state who can provide late-term abortions and pull the trigger. That’s uncivil. Being called out for your shitty reasoning and repeatedly exposed as the lying religionist you are? That’s reality, motherfuckers.

Where is the madness that you promised me?

I am mad at the Miami Heat.

I should be clearer about that. There is the standard sports-fan mad, where Team X upends your favored Team Y. That is the likely outcome of the Celtics-Heat series, which is very likely to come to an end tonight, with Miami leading 3-1 and playing game 5 on their home court. These things happen and they are not what I’m writing about.

What steams me is the manner in which this Heat team has progressed through the post-season. This Heat team was supposed to be a revolution. It paired two and a half superstars with supposedly competent if not spectacular role players. It was supposed to be Wade throwing 15 alley-oops to LeBron every game while Bosh is drilling long 2-pointers. I was promised stellar fast breaks and unbelievable dunks and my eyes literally turning into stars and a motherfucking unicorn.

Shockingly, almost none of that has materialized. Sure, there were some blowout wins against decent opposition during the regular season, but pasting the Kings is pretty much what you expect out of any decent playoff team. This team was supposed to be an unstoppable juggernaut and the impression I came away with after watching game 4 of its series against the Celtics is that of two prize fighters beating each other with foam sticks. Someone is going to wear down eventually and lose (and in this case that ended up being the Celtics, a result which seems largely based on the fact that they’re just older and more tired). The game itself was nigh-unwatchable with horrible offense on both ends. Sure, credit the defense for making that happen, but how is it possible for a Miami team loaded with this much talent to not even attempt to run plays? Every second-half possession for Miami was basically dependent on either low-percentage shots going in or one of LeBron or Wade driving to the basket and getting fouled.

People slagged Mike Brown a lot during his Cleveland tenure for failing to run a real offense, but is this Miami team doing anything better? The only difference to me is that there’s just more talent on the floor, so more of those bad shots and desperate drives end up succeeding. I don’t know if Spoelstra is even coaching this team or if he just throws them out there and lets them do whatever they want, but whatever the cause, the results are frustrating and downright dull. I could live with a transcendent Heat destroying everyone on their way to a title, but watching them grind out aesthetically unbearable, sloppy wins is the very antithesis of the fireworks I was promised.