Monthly Archives: April 2009

Octomom and welfare ideology

Of course the Octomom coverage is overblown, but not just in the sense the media overblows things all the time. The interest in Suleman’s story has long ceased to share anything in common with the interest surrounding previous multiple births, say, those profiled in the TLC series John and Kate Plus 8. Most everything said about Suleman is sharply negative or accompanied by something negative.

I’ve tried to get a handle on what precisely this woman has done to garner such criticism. I am told she was wrong to take on more children than she could care for properly. Suleman elected to have eight embryos implanted while she already had six birth children. People seem especially upset that the six are “already on welfare.” However, if the issue is simply that these children will not be cared for, this is largely irrelevant. The six are cared for by way of welfare, and ostensibly so will the new eight—right? One can complain about the “taxpayer burden” or some such, but this is an entirely separate matter from the provision of the children.

Nadya Suleman: The poor man's Angelina Jolie

Nadya Suleman: Subject of much hype

(Of course, this only speaks to the financial side of “care.” There is also the fear that Suleman’s energies and “face time” will be stretched to the point of inevitable child neglect. But here the ideology of The Family is at work. Yes, money aside, one parent is hardly enough for fourteen kids. But neither are two parents enough for one child. That a child should have to bypass a rich world of human resources to fundamentally identify with at most two persons within it is simply pathological. Granted, the family unit is the richest reproductive structure available to most of us—one does what one can. But let us not measure Ms. Suleman against some alternative nuclear “ideal.”)

And what of that taxpayer burden? So we each have to pay $.000000000001 (or whatever) more a year for the Suleman family? Should anyone really give a shit? (A newsworthy shit?) It isn’t as though Suleman’s story is illustrative of some epidemic; her case is unique. Plus, in economic terms, simple population growth pays off for the general economy and the federal budget alike; in time, Suleman’s children will contribute more than enough to offset any meager welfare payments they consume now. Taxpayers will pay more up front for this, but there is no evidence they will pay out in any net sense over time. (Not that I would care much if they did.)

Digging deeper

Criticism of Suleman brings American welfare ideology into sharper relief.

It is clear her critics view the welfare burden as a kind of penalty: For her poor judgment, the taxpayers are “stuck with” a bill. But why is this bill seen as a penalty, rather than simple spending? By comparison, nobody views themselves as “penalized” for the “mistake” of eating out when the waiter brings the ticket.

More to the case, we don’t say that the “conventional” parent who does not take welfare is “penalized” with diaper, clothes, etc. bills for giving birth. We consider these expenditures like any other.

So what makes Suleman’s case (or, welfare) different? Some will argue that she, and not the taxpayers, made the choice to procreate, therefore the responsibility for care is hers. But this doesn’t work. Some parents have unplanned (“unchosen”) pregnancies; the critics I have in mind would oppose welfare even for them. And the fact that we don’t view the non-welfare parent above as “penalized” has nothing to do with whether she chose the pregnancy. (Maybe she did; maybe she didn’t.) So “choosing” isn’t really the issue here: “Not choosing” gets society off the hook, allegedly, but never birth parents.

Critics could respond that the “conventional” parents didn’t take adequate precautions against the possibility of pregnancy; in leaving themselves open to chance, they “chose” it, and the responsibility, indirectly. But again, this doesn’t work: If the parents didn’t take sufficient precautions, then neither did society. There is always more both could have done to have prevented unwanted pregnancy. Saying ‘it isn’t society’s job to do this’ just begs the question that “Who chose?” was supposed to answer in the first place.

That is: If the “choosing party” is always responsible for care; and if we accept the idea of indirect “choice” through prevention-failure—It follows that, at best, the parents and society have a joint responsibility for care.

* * *

The reigning welfare ideology says “be responsible for your own.” But there is no clear standard by which we can define a child as her parent’s “own” which does not also make her society’s “own” (to whatever degree). She is at once a member of both groups. On the face of it, there is no more warrant for viewing public assistance as “coercive” to taxpayers than to for viewing parents as coerced for being made to feed and transport their biological children. If another truth lies under that “face,” we’ll need a hell of a lot more argument from the “ideologists” to show it.


Birth citizenship depresses immigrant wages!

Most anti-immigration arguments beg the question; rather than showing how immigration is a problem, their arguments assume this very conclusion from the start.

By analogy, I heard Rush Limbaugh on the radio arguing against “smart cars”—tiny, very fuel efficient vehicles. His point was that these fare poorly in wrecks with larger cars. The argument was supposed to show that smart cars are a problem; but all it really showed was that the discrepancy between smart cars and larger ones is a problem. Pointing to a discrepancy tell us nothing about how to resolve it; that is a separate issue entirely and must be argued for independently. Rush’s argument points as much to getting rid of large cars as getting rid of small ones. It is just as reasonable for smart car owners to cite the discrepancy in favor of making all cars smart.

The same logic is behind arguments to the tune of “immigrants depress our wages.” Yes, when you have “rational” wage discrepancies among groups—when the wages correspond to discrepancies in skill levels, for instance—there can be a drag on the wages of the more highly paid group. But again, pointing out the discrepancy doesn’t tell us in which direction to resolve it. For the discrepancy describes a mutually adverse relationship. Mexican immigrants could just as fairly argue that the ‘skilling’ of the higher paid workers has served to ghettoize them in the second, low-paid group. Indeed, this skilling accounts for the existence of a tiered wage system in the first place. There is nothing ‘in’ the discrepancy to tell us which is the right way out of it. To side against the immigrants because they are immigrants assumes the very thing the “depression” argument was supposed to prove.

No group of wage laborers in history has ever impugned, legislated or barricaded its way out of a bidding war. There is no reason to think American-born workers will be the first. Their best bet is to unite with Mexican, etc. immigrants and bid together against the wage-payers. That might raise the standard of immigrant living, but if we can stomach that…

Followup on Darwinism and eugenics, Nazism

Here I tried to show that Darwinism does not theoretically license any attempt to engineer humans to become more “fit,” e.g. eugenics, killing disabled people in the Holocaust, etc. I quoted where Darwin himself says the practice would violate morality.

I might have added: Darwin condemns it on practical grounds as well. In The Origin of Species, he writes:

“It is good thus to try in our imagination to give any form [i.e., adaptive feature] some advantage over another. Probably in no single instance should we know what to do, so as to succeed. It will convince us of our ignorance on the mutual relations of all organic beings; a conviction which is necessary, as it seems to be difficult to acquire.”

In other words, not only may we not “enhance” humanity through artificial (versus natural) selection, but it wouldn’t work if it we tried. We simply don’t know which adaptations will enhance fitness and which won’t. The situation is a bit game-theoretic: The complexity of an environment, which includes all of the other organisms, and all of the infinite ways it (and they) might change in the future, preclude a solid basis for “engineering.” This is precisely why the theory of evolution is not a predictive one. It locates a real causal mechanism for speciation, but it by no means follows that we can anticipate precisely how a species will change to come. Yet this is precisely what would be needed in order to “breed” humans for fitness. (We can sort of breed animals for fitness only to the extent they remain in a relatively artificially closed system of domesticity or captivity.)

Ben Stein, Do we need any further evidence to prove that Darwinism does not contain the “seeds of horror”?

Why god cannot be the ground of morals

[I admit there is nothing new below. Kai Neilsen made the same basic moves before me. But I think the synopsis is helpful. Also, I refer to god as ‘he’ because I’m a dumbass and a flake and can’t think of an elegant, non-sexist rendering.]


A common objection to atheism is that, by removing god, one removes the “grounds” for morality. Without a divine legislator, humans are free to do and think whatever they want. Below, I attempt to show not only that (a) god is not needed to ground morals, but (b) he cannot be a ground for them.

God and morals: The wrong kind of atheist response

Atheists have been quick to respond that they are, in fact, no less moral than anyone else. And while I am loathe to equate “imprisoned” with “immoral,” I expect many theists do, so it may be relevant that the prison population boasts about the same percentage of declared atheists as the broader population.

Chris Hitchens gives an interesting twist on this defense. In The Portable Atheist, he issues a challenge to believers: “Name me an ethical statement made or an action performed by a believer that could not have been made or performed by a non-believer.”

Hitchens’ point is that there is no logical reason why atheists could not behave just as theists. Assuming this is true, however, it probably doesn’t answer the theist’s main concerns: Supposing there is a divine legislator whose will provides the reason (and the only reason) for ethical behavior. Sure, atheists could make any statements and perform any actions they want all day long—just as theists could say and do unethical things, in spite of god’s commands. The point is that they could only do so inconsistently.[1]

The believer argues that, without a belief in god, there is no rational grounds for behaving morally; an atheist can do it, but he cannot justify it.[2]

Fleshing out the theist challenge

The heart of the theist’s worry is over arbitrariness in morals. Unless morals are imported from outside humanity, each human is left free to define the good for himself, or to dispose of moral categories altogether. To be able to say that some choices are wrong requires a collective “touchstone” or measure against which the choices can be evaluated. We can still argue about what is good or bad; but as C.S. Lewis pointed out, that we can argue at all presupposes there is some real standard, independent of the arguers, to be argued over.

But how does god solve this problem? For he is in precisely the same existential position as we, it seems. He has no “touchstone” outside himself. His choices are just as arbitrary. We would do no worse to elect one of our species to legislate—my uncle Ron, perhaps; his communications would be more direct, no doubt, and would avoid messy controversies about the legislator’s existence. If there are problems with “Lord Ron,” invoking god does not so much solve them as push them back one level.

Believers would respond—they would have to—that god is more than a useful place-holder, an expedient “tie-breaker” in moral disputes. He does not so much ‘pick’ the good as he (including his will) just is good. Only if we assume god is perfectly good—good completely and at all times—can we know that whatever actions he wills for us are good.

Two options for theists

Option 1: Morals by divine command

Still, how god’s will relates to the good is unclear. To paraphrase Plato’s Euthyphro dialogue: Is it good because god wills is, or does he will it because it is good?

On the one hand, we could simply define “good” as “whatever god wills.” Then we know for certain that god’s commands are good because “good” simply means “whatever god commands.” But this just thrusts us back upon the King Ron problem. It doesn’t solve the problem of arbitrariness in morals. God might have willed us to eat babies (he could change his mind and will this tomorrow) and it could not but be “good” to do so.

Some theists bite the bullet and accept this unattractive consequence—at least when asked. But it is unlikely they could ever embrace it in practice. Defining “good” as “what god wills” makes nonsense of much of what believers want to say about morality.

They can never, for example, speak of god’s having good (or any other) reasons for what he wills. It cannot be that in his wisdom god chooses this because it is good. This would imply he is referencing some standard of the good outside himself, which determines his choices—when we have already defined him as the sole standard.

Not to mention most theists (traditional Christians, for one) would be put off by the implication that an ‘almighty’ god should be “determined” or “limited” by some force outside himself in this way.

Likewise, every believer is taught that she always ought to do what god wills. (Certainly, the Bible demands this.) But this too becomes impossible. It invokes the same “outside standard” our definitions have forsworn. When “what we ought to do” and “what god wills” have the same meaning, the most one can say is “I ought to do what I ought to do,” or “god wills what god wills.” This bleeds our moral imperatives of substance, rendering them vacuously tautological.

Option 2: God as “substantially” but not logically good

Still, believers need to say that god’s commands are always good if they are to retain the idea that god is the ground of morals. They just need some non-tautological way of doing so. In short: We need to say that what god wills is always, necessarily good, but it is not good by definition. For lack of a better analogy, think of a dog which is not logically brown—dogs can be all kinds of colors, and this dog could have been another—but is still, in fact, always brown.

But this brings up a new epistemological quandary: How could we know god is perfectly good? There was no problem knowing he was good when we were simply defining him that way; we knew this in the same way we know unmarried males are always bachelors, or dogs (of whatever color) are always canines.

One could claim to know god is good because of direct acquaintance with him or his works. His goodness is known in the in the same way we know our a friend’s penchant for jokes or cooking style.[3]

But to know whether god is good requires a prior and independent understanding of the concept of goodness. We have to know what “good” means before we can look and see if god and his works exhibit this quality. His goodness is not just a cognition but a re-cognition.

This explodes the theist’s argument: If we can know what is good before knowing god, this knowledge cannot depend upon him. We cannot “get our morals from god” because we need the morals to know whether he is in any position to give them out.


While the “grounding” of morals is an interesting problem, it is a problem for both theists and atheists alike. Postulating divinity doesn’t get us closer to solving it. Even if there were a god, we would have to get a sense of right and wrong from a source outside him. Thus, the fact that we do possess a sense of right and wrong cannot be an argument for the existence of god.


[1] Hitchens’ approach exemplifies the problems I have with most of today’s “leading lights” (“brights”?) of atheism. They speak as though the only bad consequences theism could produce are observable: Religion fuels violence, divides people, slows progress on stem cell research, etc. This prejudice leads him to cast the ethical aspect of the debate as one of how we get people to do right stuff.

[2] The theists have a point: Living an authentically moral life requires more than the right behaviors. It requires having the right reasons behind them. Having good reasons is what makes moral actions moral in the first place: If I trip and accidentally cushion a baby’s fall from a balcony, I am hardly to be praised for his rescue. Indeed, I could have been on my way to throw a different baby off a different balcony; maybe I only tripped because I was wearing socks to better sneak into the apartment. Even if I meant to save the baby, but only in a crass bid for media exposure, it ceases to be a moral act. If, however, I place myself in the baby’s way deliberately, I’m a hero, and deserve all the praise I get. The behavior is the same; only the reasons distinguish them.

[3] There are other problems with knowing god’s goodness that exceed the scope of this piece. Note, god is not just good but perfectly good. It is unclear how one could be “acquainted” with any “perfect” quality. Maybe we can know god has been good up to now, but “perfect goodness” projects this quality of goodness into an infinite future—while our data is ever limited to the past and present. But this for another post.

All wrong: A review of Ben Stein’s Expelled: Part II

Is the Academy enforcing thought control against Intelligent Design?

Part I of my review covered Expelled’s specious attempt to link Darwinism to nasty “social engineering” projects like eugenics and the Holocaust. Here, I discuss the film’s second major theme: Alleged “thought persecution” of pro-Intelligent Design professors by the academic establishment.

ben-stein-fake-ass-rebelBen Stein: Fake-ass rebel

Negative “freedom”: A bogus virtue

A valorization of ‘negative freedom’—defined as the absence of external constraint—frames the whole film. Stein begins his narrative, “Freedom is what makes this country great….But imagine if these freedoms were taken away.” Well, he doesn’t have to imagine: American professors, he argues, are being punished for sympathizing with Intelligent Design (ID) theory.

The “taken away” line, consequently, is accompanied by a montage of young black Civil Rights marchers brutalized by police dogs and hoses. Stein must intend that the “freedom” fought for by these marchers is the same object now being denied his academics.

This seems a stretch precisely because it is. In truth, there is no generic “freedom” to guide us in morals or social policy. There are only specific freedoms to do specific things. And just as our commitment to “food” doesn’t commit us to favoring every nutritive substance on earth with equal vigor, it is possible to embrace “freedom” without being equally committed to, or worried over, every freedom to do every thing. (Indeed, as every freedom is mutually incompatible with some others, we can’t be equally committed to all.)

If by “we should secure freedom,” Stein really means, “we should secure freedom to teach Creationism in the classroom,” fair enough—and make the case on the merits of the thing. But let us not pretend that a commitment to “freedom” automatically spells a commitment to this freedom.

Academic freedom, no less

Stein is shocked that “scientists” should be less than “free to ask any question, to pursue any line of inquiry without fear of reprisal.” But a strict absence of constraint in the classroom has never existed, much less “made America great.” Nor should it exist. (Nor is Stein really, in his heart of hearts, agitating for any such thing.) It would amount to nothing less than the abandonment of curricular standards.[1]

“Persecuted” professors?

Stein’s general approach

Regardless, Stein’s examples of ID sympathizers persecuted by the academy are so exceedingly weak that we can assume, if this is the best he has, the issue is effectively nonexistent.

Stein’s entire case rests on the testimony of five science professionals profiled in the first fifteen minutes of the film. I dare anyone to watch to that point, parse the narration carefully, and tell me precisely where Stein demonstrates how, in his words, “ID is being repressed in a systematic and ruthless fashion” by the academic establishment.

To establish the victim-hood of his subjects, Stein employs the following suspect tactics:

(1) “Suggesting” causal connections without evidence: Stein describes how a subject (A) made public a commitment to ID, and then (B) suffered some loss of position. “A happened; later, B happened.” Of course, this gives the impression that the two events are actually connected in some way; but if you watch carefully, you’ll see Stein never makes the case. He doesn’t even try.

(2) Overlooking possible causes other than ID loyalties: Often Stein’s “victims” violated some university or professional policies which could just as likely explain their “discriminatory” treatment.

(3) Confusing “fired” with “expired”: In three cases, the so-called “expulsion” of Stein’s subjects coincide with the predetermined end of their contract period.

The charges which don’t fall under these categories are “offenses” which, even if true, are simply not serious. Nor is there evidence they had anything to do with the victims’ ID commitments.

Finally, all of the accounts are purely anecdotal; nothing any “victim” claims is corroborated by other first-hand accounts. (Indeed, where others involved give their versions, they always contradict, and outnumber, Stein’s subjects.)

Stein’s profiled “victims”: A case-by-case analysis

(a) Richard Sternberg

This appears to be Stein’s “flagship” case. According to Expelled, Dr. Richard Sternberg, while managing editor of a biology journal, decided to publish a colleague’s paper “suggest[ing] intelligent design might be able to explain how life began.” At the time, Sternberg also held an “office” at the Smithsonian.

The paper, Stein recounts, “ignited a firestorm of controversy…[Sternberg’s] political and religious beliefs were investigated and he was pressured to resign.” Sternberg adds that the department chair (and other unspecified “people”) said bad things about his decision. But at this point, the worst we have is “pressure…to resign.” And Sternberg didn’t resign from anything. This hardly rates the imposing, red-inked “Expelled!” stamped across Sternberg’s face with a thud—a recurring graphic motif in the film.

So what did happen?

First, Sternberg could not have “resigned” his editorship on account of the article, as it appeared in the issue he’d already scheduled to be his last. In a subsequent issue, the journal’s publisher ran a retraction of the article. This was not for its ID-themed content, but because it violated their own (and standard) peer-review protocol: Sternberg claimed the paper had been reviewed by “four well-qualified biologists,” but refused to name them (and never has); he also failed to mention that he was one of them. The entire process was done behind the backs of the other editorial staff. This is all highly unorthodox and violates the practice and express rules of the journal.[2]

Neither could Sternberg have “resigned” from his job at the Smithsonian, because he didn’t have one. He was an unpaid researcher there under the rubric of another institution. He did, as he claims, “los[e] his office,” but this was not because of the paper, or ID, but because his set term as researcher was up. Right after, he was offered another research position at the same institution. Sternberg’s own email records document his supervisors’ opposition to any sanction of Sternberg for his ID sympathies.

This hardly describes the “exile” the professor claims to have suffered.

(Note too that the journal is a tiny regional paper with a circulation mostly internal to its publishing council. Whatever happened to its editor would hardly implicate “the academy.” )

(b) Caroline Crocker

Caroline Crocker was a biology professor at George Mason University. Stein begins, “After simply mentioning intelligent design in her cell biology class…her promising academic career came to an abrupt end.”

Note the correlation without causality: Crocker mentioned ID here; she lost her job there. But the link between the two events, if any, remains unshown.

Crocker’s “lost…job” amounts to the university’s failure to renew a contract that ended at a set time. This is not at all unusual—especially for part-time faculty, as was Crocker—and implies nothing particularly sinister. The university claims the decision had nothing to do with ID, and there is nothing but Crocker’s “feelings” to say otherwise.

(And Crocker did much more than “simply mention” ID. She taught the damn thing. But more on this below.)

(c) Michael Egnor

Stein narrates: “When neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Egnor wrote an essay…saying doctors didn’t need to study evolution in order to practice medicine, the Darwinists were quick to try and exterminate this new threat.”

So what did this sinister effort look like? In Egnor’s own words, “A lot of people on a lot of blogs called me unprintable names.”

This is the entire charge. At most, some of these bloggers encouraged their readers to call the university and ask for Egnor’s resignation. (We are not told whether any of them ever did.) But Egnor wasn’t fired or driven out from anywhere. His name-callers weren’t associated with any university or professional administration. For this, Egnor is the most dubious recipient of Stein’s thunderous “Expelled!” stamp across the forehead.

(d) Robert J. Marks II

Dr. Marks, an engineering professor at Baylor University, erected a website on the university server to solicit grant moneys for private research. The site explored ID theories. Marks’s entire complaint in Expelled is that the university asked him to add a disclaimer—the same type that introduces every infomercial—clarifying that Marks’ personal views may not represent those of the university. This reflects university policy, which, if anything, appears to have been bent in Marks’ favor to let him keep the site. Instead, Marks chose to export it to another server, where it remains.

Again, this is the entire complaint. Marks is still at Baylor university and continues to receive a river of grant monies totaling in the millions. (And again with the “Expelled!” logo. Jesus. A disclaimer on a website is “Expelled”??)

(e) Guillermo Gonzalez

Finally, Stein profiles astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez of Iowa State University. After publishing the ID-sympathetic book, “The Privileged Planet,” Gonzalez’s petition for tenure was turned down.

Once more, we are presented with two events but no evidence—no attempt, even—to show how they might be connected. Gonzalez himself can only speculate: “I have little doubt that I would have tenure now if I hadn’t done any professional work on intelligent design.” (Well.)

The Chronicle of Higher Education notes Gonzalez, by the time of his tenure denial, “had no major grants during his seven years at ISU, had published no significant research during that time and had only one graduate student finish a dissertation.” A Physics Dept. colleague of Gonzalez reported his work leading up to the denial conspicuously lacked any math, measurements, or tests.[3]


Expelled was Stein’s big chance to slam the intellectual establishment. With two years and a ton of resources (in his words, it is “possibly the most expensive documentary for its length ever made”), he produces this anecdotal piece of shit. It is as if the Klan produced a documentary to prove once and for all the validity of white supremacy and all they present is a couple people saying black guys cut them off in traffic. I’d love to hear from people who find this convincing. I just don’t get it. Ben Stein has always sucked, but he’s better than this.

Two concluding points:

(1) Again, nobody in the documentary was fired, or otherwise sanctioned, for teaching ID. But what would be wrong if they were? As noted, “academic freedom” per se is simply crazy, and even the people who invoke the value don’t believe it in a strict sense. Stein himself gives the caveat that we wouldn’t want teachers to push Holocaust denial or flat-earthism in the classroom. So he must want limits to this “freedom.” But he never specifies what they should look like.

So why couldn’t ID in principle be relevant to one’s claim to lead a classroom or edit a journal? If the theory is plainly, grossly wrongheaded—crudely put, if it’s a damned stupid thing to believe—why should its endorsement not be a sign of scientific incompetence? I mean, fine, argue that it isn’t stupid; but stop acting as though nothing a professor believes could be ever relevant to his tenure.

On the other hand, ID could be a serious liability to scientific performance. It is classic god-of-the-gaps. And if you stop at the next gap, the next unknown phenomenon, and just assume it is designed, you stop looking for a genuine explanation. And the whole history of science—even the science the ID folks accept—is nothing if not the history of naturalistically filling gaps which looked at first to be designed.

(2) The most annoying part of the project is its faux rebellious air. Stein snarkily reports that his subjects “questioned the powers that be” and are now paying the price for it. This is accompanied by montages of the old Soviet Union building walls and showing force against “dissidents.” Of course the academy is supposed to be the brutish, conservative Regime and Stein and the ID guys are the lone rebels. This imagery is part of Stein’s cloying effort to hippen or “MTV”-up the film.

But rebellion in itself is nothing to celebrate. The NAMBLA pederasts’ website is full of challenges to a rigid orthodoxy. Every purveyor of every vile or idiotic thing is almost by definition a convention-flouter. You don’t get to be a cool rebel just because you believe crazy shit.

* * *


[1] By “scientists,” Stein refers to academics who are also scientists. Granted, the (alleged) persecutions are not strictly for things said, as I wrote, “in the classroom.” Some teachers have been targeted (again, allegedly) for things they wrote in academic journals. But my comments stand: Not only is it unreasonable to expect total freedom in the classroom, it is unreasonable to expect that you can exercise total freedom in your published work and it not affect your claim to a classroom. I’m sure Stein has no objection to teachers’ receiving jobs, or tenure, on the basis of published works. Everyone sees these as factors relevant to one’s teaching status. This is why every published professor with a website lists a C.V. But this relevance works in two directions.

[2] Nor was Sternberg, among those associated with the journal, nearly the most qualified to review the article. The article covered Cambrian-era invertebrates, on which many of the publishing Council are experts. (Sternberg is a taxonomist with no paleontological background.)

The article grew out of a meeting between Sternberg and the author (Stephen C. Meyer)—not the other way around. There is some reason to think they planned it as a “lame duck” parting shot which they knew would never fly under normal circumstances, and which Sternberg would likely be sanctioned if he weren’t already leaving. Meyer offered no new scholarship that would normally occasion publication, but cobbled together parts of papers he’d already published.

[3] The film also mentions “petitions” circulated by an “Avalos,” hinting that it sealed Gonzalez’ fate. Hector Avalos is a professor of Religious Studies at ISU. He co-wrote a general statement (not a “petition” for anything) against ID explanations which was signed by 130 other faculty. It wasn’t a policy document, nor did it result in any policy change. It predated Gonzalez’s tenure bid by two years. Nor did it name Gonzalez or any specific person.