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Civility of Darwinists Lacking at Academic Freedom on Evolution Event in Oklahoma (Updated)

Casey Luskin and John West were in Oklahoma yesterday at an Academic Freedom Day event hosted by the IDEA club at University of Oklahoma. Not surprisingly Darwinists were in attendance, and showed their complete and utter lack of civility. Casey sent me this e-mail recapping once such encounter during the Q&A following his presentation.

Pro-Evolution Blogger Abbie Smith Flipped Me Off on Friday Night, and Here's the Story

University of Oklahoma (OU) graduate student and science-blogger Abbie Smith flipped me off during my talk about academic freedom at the University of Oklahoma on Friday night. But before I get to that part, I'd like to tell what actually happened.

After reviewing some of the problems with the Kitzmiller ruling, my talk focused on the importance of protecting academic freedom. I made the point that Darwinists use a variety of tactics to shut down free and open debate on intelligent design (ID) and evolution. These tactics range from persecution of ID-proponents to fear-mongering that challenging Darwin is "dishonest" or brings religion into the classroom, to personal attacks on ID proponents designed to intidimate people from speaking freely in support of ID. I went though arguments made by local Oklahoma Darwinists. First I discused false fear-mongering tactics made by two OU facutly in a document they distributed to oppose the Oklahoma Academic Freedom Bill. Continuing with local attacks on acadmic freedom, I mentioned an incident on Abbie Smith's ERV blog where she scrambled the comments that a pro-ID blogger Julie Haberle was making on the blog, and then telling Ms. Haberle to post a nude photo of herself to get the comments unscrambled.

When my talk ended, Abbie asked the first question. It wasn't really a question, and her response was to defend her conduct. I felt she deserved the right to explain herself, and since Abbie was hanging herself with every word she spoke, I let her continue. She defended her treatment of Haberle on the grounds that Haberle was a "troll" who was posting spam. Having seen Abbie Smith defend what is indefensible under any circumstances, there was really little more to say. It is never defensible to ask, whether seriously or joking, that a woman post a nude photo of herself in order to participate in civil discussion.

I didn't know exactly what Ms. Haberle was posting because I can't read her comments. All I know is that even if Haberle was posting what Smith called "spam," Smith's tactic of scrambling the words ("devowelling them") and then suggesting that Haberle post a nude photo in order to get her comments unscrambled represents a tactic that would intimidate ID proponents from speaking freely on her blog.

I called Abbie on this. My talk had made it clear that we needed to forge a civil discussion on this issue. In fact, one of the final punchline points of my talk was as follows:

"I'm not interested in holding grudges. I'm interested in forgiving so we can all move forward in a spirit of civility! ...There Is a Better Way: Free Speech, Civility, and Peaceful Co-Existence in the Academy"

At one point Abbie said something about being banned from Bill Dembski's blog. But since I know nothing about the circumstances of this event, I couldn't really comment.

Finally, Abbie got to her question stating that most students are too stupid to even know that the earth revolves around the sun, so how can they learn about debates over natural selection? (Abbie's argument apparently did not resonate well with certain audience members, as one student came up to me afterwards and told me he did not appreciate being told that students are too stupid to learn about these debates. I later learned that Abbie was merely recapitulating an argument made by John Lynch during his recent talk at OU.) I answered that since biology textbooks already teach students that natural selection is the driving force generating the adaptive complexity of life, that students clearly are expected to learn about this topic. And since scientists have debated the adequacy of natural selection in mainstream scientific journals, then students should be able to learn the existence of those debates as well. After all, if students can learn about the evidence supporting certain claims in the textbook, there's nothing stopping them from learning about evidence that challenges certain claims in the textbook.

I was quite civil to Abbie during our entire discussion. I tried my best to make it clear to her that I had no ill-will or malice towards her, and that I was not angry over her behavior, I was just hoping she would respond favorably to my call for civility. I specifically emphasized the point that one need not agree with me on ID to agree with me about the importance of civility.

That's what I said in response to Abbie. Thus ended our dialogue. Sadly, it seems that my calls for civility were not heard by Abbie: as Abbie walked away from the mic after I answered her question, she flipped me off.