Over on the ARN forum, Jack shares an e-mail he received from Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of American Civil Liberties Union. It contains the following claim:
Powerful political forces are not just tinkering around the edges of our religious freedom. They have set their sights on transforming our country from a constitutional democracy to a thinly veiled theocracy. They want to turn America into a country governed by their interpretation of the Bible, serviced by faith-based, taxpayer-funded institutions and guided by religious doctrine against which neither citizens nor judges should dare to speak up.
You and I can't let them get away with it.
The "theocracy around the corner" bit it clearly an example of irrational hysteria mixed with paranoia. But I suppose we can excuse it, as this looks like a fund-raising letter. Y'know how it works: a) find a bogeyman; b) argue that bogeyman is about to get you and then c) ask for money to fight off the bogeyman. This is old school sales technique at work and the ACLU is clearly peddling the Fear to rake in the money.
But what if the hysteria is more than a way to con people out of their money? What if people are really True Believers in the coming apocalypse? And what if such people exist within the scientific community?
Pat Shipman is an adjunct professor of anthropology at the Pennsylvania State University. He wrote an essay for the American Scientist entitled, "Being Stalked by Intelligent Design." And as the title would have you expect, the smell of fear runs throughout the essay. The usual elements are present "“ the Wedge Conspiracy, the Intimidated Teachers, Science Education is already in trouble (and whose fault is that?), etc. But it's more than this. Throughout the essay, Shipman effectively admits he feels threatened by ID and is alarmed, terrified, and even horribly frightened. In fact, the title of his essay comes from this rather striking confession:
These events prompted me to take ID seriously, and this movement scares me. Now I feel like a jogger in the park at night who realizes that she is far too isolated and that the shadows are far too deep. At first I ignored that faint rustling behind me, convincing myself it was just wind in the leaves. Louder noises made me jump and turn around, but I saw nothing. Now I know that I and my colleagues in science are being stalked with careful and deadly deliberation. I fear my days are numbered unless I act soon and effectively. If you are reading this, the chances are that you are in the same position.
As we approach Halloween, perhaps scientists can turn out the lights and read each other Shipman's article around the soft glow of the Bunsen burner. In a low voice, simpy say, "Your days are numbered"¦.What's that?!…Did you hear that sound out in the hall?…A frightening predator roams the hall ways. The uneducated peasants call him Behecula. He has fangs 10 inches long, razor-sharp claws, and his mouth is drenched in clotting factors. He has supernatural strength and cunning, able to destroy the entire global scientific community by sucking blood from the soft underbelly exposed in a small community named Dover."
And it's from this position of Fear and Trembling that Shipman calls upon his fellow threatened colleagues to "expose Intelligent Design for what it really is?"
Look, I probably shouldn't make fun of someone else's fear, but I think this rhetoric is really losing its grasp on reality. If more and more scientists come to the public speaking like Shipman, more and more of the public is going to wonder about these scientists.
What's more, more of the public might figure out that you can't objectively pass judgment on something that scares the hell out of you.