Note to TLF Readers: This Blog Has Nothing to Do With the Intelligent Design Debate

by on August 28, 2006 · 36 comments

I’ve been sick as a dog and stuck in bed for several days now and just now had the energy to get back in front of my computer and catch up with the blog. And I must say, what I’m reading here in response to Hance Haney’s arrival at the TLF makes me sick in a different way because is so remarkably venomous and unfair.

Let’s start with some obvious facts. As I made abundantly clear in the very first “Welcome to the TLF” post on this blog two years ago, the TLF is a “technology policy blog” that focuses on “[the] dangerous trend of over-regulation of the Internet, communications, media and high-technology in general.” That’s it. Our focus is narrow and our intent is clear: Advancing the cause of liberty as it pertains to this very narrow set of public policy issues.

We have brought together a diverse collection of minds to advance that cause, and it is a group that most assuredly would not agree on several other policy issues out there. For example, not everyone here necessarily agrees with the Heritage Foundation’s position(s) on national security issues, or Cato’s on drug legalization, or PFF’s on certain copyright issues, but we invite technology policy scholars from those institutions into the fold because they have something thoughtful to say about tech issues from a shared, liberty-loving perspective.

So it should really be no different for Hance Haney. Hance has nothing to do with the intelligent design debate at Discovery and he will certainly not be saying anything about the issue on this blog. Hance is blogging with us because he has solid credentials in the field of technology / telecommunications policy and has been a long-time friend to many of the other TLF bloggers. (Moreover, I am sure that if Hance ever dared to even mention the term intelligent design on this site, many of you would respond with all the formidable intellectual weight you bring to every discussion here and have a damn good time doing so!)


Finally, I want to address two of my former Cato colleagues Will Wilkinson and Julian Sanchez and the comments they have made here or elsewhere. If I’m hearing you guys correctly, you’re saying that the TLF shouldn’t have anything to do with anyone associated with Discovery. Do me a favor before you cast another stone and search the Cato website for the names George Gilder and Richard Rahn. Those two men have involved with Cato for a long time (Rahn has even been an adjunct scholar with Cato for many years). But Gilder and Rahn have also been involved with Discovery from the start. Why then, in light of your apparent theory that all good, respectable humans should not associated themselves with anyone having anything to do with Discovery, have you not both taken up intellectual arms against Cato and publicly asked them to purge Gilder and Rahn’s names from the hollowed halls of libertarianism?

Seriously, would it really be your position that Cato should consider a policy that no Cato employee or adjunct scholar could have any affiliation with Discovery (past or present) simply because of the Discovery’s views on intelligent design? And if that’s your preferred policy, where do you draw the line regarding other institutions or issues? How about the Acton Institute, which focuses on the role of liberty and religion in a free society? Should Acton Inst. employees be blacklisted? If so, I encourage you NOT to type the name Rev. Robert A. Sirico (Acton’s president) into the Cato search engine because you will not like what you will find.

Look, I’m not trying to pick a fight with guys about this. All I’m saying is that you’re “guilt by association” game is a little unfair in this case. As a fellow life-long libertarian, I learned long ago that there are few “true-blue” friends of freedom on this Earth. We have to seek out allies wherever we can find them and sometime forge alliances with others that don’t share are worldview across the board. Thus, through the years, I’ve worked – - on a selective basis – - with representatives of diverse groups such as ACLU (to fight against various free speech regs through the years), Christian Coalition (to fight against the V-Chip back in 95), U.S. PIRG and Sierra Club (to oppose TVA and energy subsides back in 98), and many others (some of which I’m embarrassed to mention!) In each case, there were times when I had to suppress the little voice in the back of my head that kept saying: “Why the hell are you working with these guys? They believe in X or Y, and that’s very anti-libertarian.” Instead, I took the opposite approach of working with them where we agreed to advance the cause of liberty, and then, after I had established a friendship (or at least some level of trust) with them, I would broach those divisive issues and attempt to engage in tolerant, rational debate. Of course, it didn’t always work. But I think we were all better off for having tried.

It may be that you guys believe that the intelligent design debate is different and that there is no way to engage in rational debate with the opposing side. Perhaps you are right. I really don’t know. But this really has nothing to do with whether or not Hance Haney should be invited in to part of the TLF. He’s well-qualified to comment on these issues and feels as passionately about advancing the cause of liberty in this arena as other TLF bloggers do. He does not cover intelligent design theory for Discovery and he will not be writing about it here. Therefore, let us not place the scarlet letters “ID” on his chest and banish him from this site simply because of what others in his organization have said on an issue that has nothing to do with Internet policy. Let us instead judge him by the merits of what he writes here on the issues of primary concern to the TLF.

Now, can we just get on with the business of penning a technology policy blog and be done with this silliness?

  • http://www.pff.org Patrick

    Let me echo Adam on this one. Hance is a well-respected, informed and erudite communications policy player. If any TLF reader will actually pay attention to his contributions here, I suspect they’ll find them engaging, enlightened and provocative, just what a blog entry should be. For those wishing to see more of his writing, I’ve been reading him for some time at the Disco Tech blog, http://www.disco-tech.org.

    As for intelligent design, I too have strong thoughts on the subject. But I also don’t see TLF as the place to debate the subject and I won’t share them here, as they’re not relevant to technology policy. Anyone wishing to engage in a discussion of ID is welcome to e-mail me.

  • http://www.50minutehour.net Amy Phillips

    While I think that some of the comments on the other post are a bit over-the-top in their alarmism, I think that several commenters have attempted to draw a crucial distinction between people who disagree with particular policy positions and people who disagree about the way that debates over those issues ought to be conducted.

    I’m happy to build single-issue coalitions with people who disagree with me on other issues I hold dear, and I think that TLF is well-served by featuring such people. I do not, however, support alliances with groups that regularly practice deception, nor do I think that we benefit from building coalitions with groups that seek to undermine the norms of rational debate and scientific inquiry. If Mr. Haney is willing to denounce the Discovery Institute’s practice of obscuring scientific truths and muddying the waters about the way scientific study is conducted, I’m willing to take at face value his declaration that he opposes such practices. But in the absence of any statement to the contrary, I think it’s reasonable to assume that he agrees with the positions of his employer on scientific inquiry, and I don’t think it’s unfair of your readers to object to him on those grounds.

  • http://www.pff.org Patrick

    Let me echo Adam on this one. Hance is a well-respected, informed and erudite communications policy player. If any TLF reader will actually pay attention to his contributions here, I suspect they’ll find them engaging, enlightened and provocative, just what a blog entry should be. For those wishing to see more of his writing, I’ve been reading him for some time at the Disco Tech blog, http://www.disco-tech.org.

    As for intelligent design, I too have strong thoughts on the subject. But I also don’t see TLF as the place to debate the subject and I won’t share them here, as they’re not relevant to technology policy. Anyone wishing to engage in a discussion of ID is welcome to e-mail me.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Amy’s right. Adam tries to paint DI as just another player in the public policy field, which is exactly how they want to be viewed. But their ID advocacy isn’t simply a matter of promoting a different hypothesis, it’s an assault on the Western values that grew out of the Enlightenment.

    So how far do we extend the assumption of tolerance and rational debate, all the way to support for those who seek to destroy our cultural framework?

    ID isn’t simply one view among many, it’s a deceptive attack on science and rational inquiry.

    At bare minimum, Mr. Haney needs to explain why he thinks he can associate with such a vile movement without losing credibility.

  • http://www.50minutehour.net Amy Phillips

    While I think that some of the comments on the other post are a bit over-the-top in their alarmism, I think that several commenters have attempted to draw a crucial distinction between people who disagree with particular policy positions and people who disagree about the way that debates over those issues ought to be conducted.

    I’m happy to build single-issue coalitions with people who disagree with me on other issues I hold dear, and I think that TLF is well-served by featuring such people. I do not, however, support alliances with groups that regularly practice deception, nor do I think that we benefit from building coalitions with groups that seek to undermine the norms of rational debate and scientific inquiry. If Mr. Haney is willing to denounce the Discovery Institute’s practice of obscuring scientific truths and muddying the waters about the way scientific study is conducted, I’m willing to take at face value his declaration that he opposes such practices. But in the absence of any statement to the contrary, I think it’s reasonable to assume that he agrees with the positions of his employer on scientific inquiry, and I don’t think it’s unfair of your readers to object to him on those grounds.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Amy’s right. Adam tries to paint DI as just another player in the public policy field, which is exactly how they want to be viewed. But their ID advocacy isn’t simply a matter of promoting a different hypothesis, it’s an assault on the Western values that grew out of the Enlightenment.

    So how far do we extend the assumption of tolerance and rational debate, all the way to support for those who seek to destroy our cultural framework?

    ID isn’t simply one view among many, it’s a deceptive attack on science and rational inquiry.

    At bare minimum, Mr. Haney needs to explain why he thinks he can associate with such a vile movement without losing credibility.

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com MikeT

    Not 3 comments in and we have a secularist simultaneously bemoaning the loss of pluralism while attacking him for holding different beliefs. How do you do it, Richard? How do you keep such a straight face while posting something like that? Great way to practice what you preach. If ID is so vile, maybe you want to start living like you live in a world driven by/built on natural selection. I suggest reading a little Nietzsche beforehand.

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com MikeT

    (Like Adam, I am not interested in an ID or evolution debate. I could care less about this issue as I have no dog in this race.)

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com MikeT

    Not 3 comments in and we have a secularist simultaneously bemoaning the loss of pluralism while attacking him for holding different beliefs. How do you do it, Richard? How do you keep such a straight face while posting something like that? Great way to practice what you preach. If ID is so vile, maybe you want to start living like you live in a world driven by/built on natural selection. I suggest reading a little Nietzsche beforehand.

  • http://tieguy.org/ Luis Villa

    Read the argument, Mike. Richard is not bemoaning the loss of pluralism. He’s bemoaning the loss of rational inquiry as the basis for political and policy discussion- as he says, the core of post-Enlightenment Western values. I realize it suits your purposes to conflate those two radically different arguments, but that deliberate mis-construance of your opponent’s position to suit your is exactly what Richard is talking about and exactly what bothers most of the commenters in the previous thread about DI.

  • enigma_foundry

    I understand that this is a techology and tecnology law blog, however:

    1. The position of the Discovery Institute, as well as its methodology, call for a response. For too long we, as a country and our media especially, have been too lenient in the interest of presenting ‘both sides’ of issues.

    2. Where, pray tell, would you draw the line with this ‘guilt by association’ metaphor? It is not as if, say Hance’s brother had been a noted advocate of Intelligent Design, I wouldn’t even bring it up. But it is Hance Haney, and Hance Haney alone, who has, of his own volition, chosen to associate himself with the Discovery Institute.

    Isn’t it fair to question a politician regarding his choice of political party? Then I say, it is fair to expect those here to have reservations about Hance. I do myself.

    Although one item, I would like to say is troubling me much in this issue. I had recently watched the debate between William Buckley and Noam Chomsky from 1969, and one thing I was struck by was how very civil they both were to each other in the debate. Today, we have pundits like Ann Coulter calling for those she disagrees with to be tried, and executed. Even hosts are rude to their guests now, as in this example.

    So please turn down the volume, and try not to be so disagreeable when disagreeing…

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    I’ve read most of Nietzsche MikeT, what do you suggest I should re-read, “Will to Power”, “Beyond Good and Evil”, “Thus Spake Mr. Z”, or should I just peruse some collected works and look for slams on scientific method? Binion’s “Frau Lou” on Lou Salome, the girlfriend of Rilke, Nietzsche, and Freud was illuminating from a cultural history standpoint, and then there’s all the progeny like Heidegger. I generally prefer the Kaufman translations, do you?

    My comment on pluralism apears to be too subtle for you, and I run into that a lot with fundamentalists. We live in a culture that values reason and open debate. Now there’s a little bit of a paradox in allowing those who don’t believe in reason and open debate into the debate, because they actually seek to destroy our cultural system.

    So do we let them do that, or do we modify our view of tolerance to say we tolerate everything except intolerance. Either way, some fool can shout “Hypocrite” as you do.

    We’re all used to that by now, so you’ve simply branded yourself an unserious person.

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com MikeT

    (Like Adam, I am not interested in an ID or evolution debate. I could care less about this issue as I have no dog in this race.)

  • http://tieguy.org/ Luis Villa

    Read the argument, Mike. Richard is not bemoaning the loss of pluralism. He’s bemoaning the loss of rational inquiry as the basis for political and policy discussion- as he says, the core of post-Enlightenment Western values. I realize it suits your purposes to conflate those two radically different arguments, but that deliberate mis-construance of your opponent’s position to suit your is exactly what Richard is talking about and exactly what bothers most of the commenters in the previous thread about DI.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    I understand that this is a techology and tecnology law blog, however:

    1. The position of the Discovery Institute, as well as its methodology, call for a response. For too long we, as a country and our media especially, have been too lenient in the interest of presenting ‘both sides’ of issues.

    2. Where, pray tell, would you draw the line with this ‘guilt by association’ metaphor? It is not as if, say Hance’s brother had been a noted advocate of Intelligent Design, I wouldn’t even bring it up. But it is Hance Haney, and Hance Haney alone, who has, of his own volition, chosen to associate himself with the Discovery Institute.

    Isn’t it fair to question a politician regarding his choice of political party? Then I say, it is fair to expect those here to have reservations about Hance. I do myself.

    Although one item, I would like to say is troubling me much in this issue. I had recently watched the debate between William Buckley and Noam Chomsky from 1969, and one thing I was struck by was how very civil they both were to each other in the debate. Today, we have pundits like Ann Coulter calling for those she disagrees with to be tried, and executed. Even hosts are rude to their guests now, as in this example.

    So please turn down the volume, and try not to be so disagreeable when disagreeing…

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com MikeT

    Well, I can think of worse things than not being taken seriously.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    I’ve read most of Nietzsche MikeT, what do you suggest I should re-read, “Will to Power”, “Beyond Good and Evil”, “Thus Spake Mr. Z”, or should I just peruse some collected works and look for slams on scientific method? Binion’s “Frau Lou” on Lou Salome, the girlfriend of Rilke, Nietzsche, and Freud was illuminating from a cultural history standpoint, and then there’s all the progeny like Heidegger. I generally prefer the Kaufman translations, do you?

    My comment on pluralism apears to be too subtle for you, and I run into that a lot with fundamentalists. We live in a culture that values reason and open debate. Now there’s a little bit of a paradox in allowing those who don’t believe in reason and open debate into the debate, because they actually seek to destroy our cultural system.

    So do we let them do that, or do we modify our view of tolerance to say we tolerate everything except intolerance. Either way, some fool can shout “Hypocrite” as you do.

    We’re all used to that by now, so you’ve simply branded yourself an unserious person.

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com MikeT

    Well, I can think of worse things than not being taken seriously.

  • http://tieguy.org/ Luis Villa

    And now having read Adam’s post :) Adam, I don’t think the problem is ID; the problem is the tactics DI has used to advance ID, and as Richard put it, the implicit attack those tactics make on core Enlightenment political and philosophical values.

    To put it another way: I don’t care what TLF posters (or DI) believe; I care about what methods they use to advance those beliefs. One of the reasons I like TLF is that I find that by the standards of our current political environment TLF does an admirable job of advancing its point of view without resorting to methods that I find insidious with regards to our rational democratic norms. Even when I don’t agree with TLF, I come back, because I find myself edified and challenged when I come here. I have no faith that anyone who can tolerate assocation with DI’s methods will uphold (generally) those same democratic Western norms of conduct or (specifically) the high quality of discourse I expect to find at TLF.

    I of course welcome Mr. Haney to prove me wrong. If he actually is an honest, well-meaning discussant*, I look forward to engaging him on telecom policy, as well as persuading him how insidious DI’s methods are to the common goals we all share, and how he should really look for work elsewhere :)

    * as I said earlier, I don’t find his second post persuasive on that count.

  • http://tieguy.org/ Luis Villa

    And now having read Adam’s post :) Adam, I don’t think the problem is ID; the problem is the tactics DI has used to advance ID, and as Richard put it, the implicit attack those tactics make on core Enlightenment political and philosophical values.

    To put it another way: I don’t care what TLF posters (or DI) believe; I care about what methods they use to advance those beliefs. One of the reasons I like TLF is that I find that by the standards of our current political environment TLF does an admirable job of advancing its point of view without resorting to methods that I find insidious with regards to our rational democratic norms. Even when I don’t agree with TLF, I come back, because I find myself edified and challenged when I come here. I have no faith that anyone who can tolerate assocation with DI’s methods will uphold (generally) those same democratic Western norms of conduct or (specifically) the high quality of discourse I expect to find at TLF.

    I of course welcome Mr. Haney to prove me wrong. If he actually is an honest, well-meaning discussant*, I look forward to engaging him on telecom policy, as well as persuading him how insidious DI’s methods are to the common goals we all share, and how he should really look for work elsewhere :)

    * as I said earlier, I don’t find his second post persuasive on that count.

  • dimitris

    There’s nothing wrong with pluralism, and it’s true that ID and technology issues are almost completely unrelated.

    Besides, the ID issue has been settled already.

  • dimitris

    There’s nothing wrong with pluralism, and it’s true that ID and technology issues are almost completely unrelated.

    Besides, the ID issue has been settled already.

  • Anono

    Interesting that none of the holier-than-thou types are willing to go on the record with teh same wholesale condemnation of Cato for the same guilt-by-association offense. If Julian Sanchez, for example, really believed his own words, then Cato has “surrendered any claim to be taken remotely seriously.”

    Good going, guys. After you’re done with the Stalinist purges, you can have a nice little soiree with the two or three libertarians in the country that haven’t soiled themselves by associating with anyone that disagrees with them on one issue or another.

  • Anono

    Interesting that none of the holier-than-thou types are willing to go on the record with teh same wholesale condemnation of Cato for the same guilt-by-association offense. If Julian Sanchez, for example, really believed his own words, then Cato has “surrendered any claim to be taken remotely seriously.”

    Good going, guys. After you’re done with the Stalinist purges, you can have a nice little soiree with the two or three libertarians in the country that haven’t soiled themselves by associating with anyone that disagrees with them on one issue or another.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Cato should dump Gilder and Rahn, in my opinion. But this isn’t Cato’s blog, so that’s a bit tangential to the present controversy, Anono.

    And you just might be a little off the mark with that “Stalinism” charge; this is more like an Inquisition, don’t you think?

  • Anono

    You mean that you and several others are trying to punish heretics? Nay, not heretics directly. Rather, you’re trying to punish a blog that publishes someone who, in another aspect of his life, belongs to an organization that, as to a completely different issue, takes a heretical position.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Cato should dump Gilder and Rahn, in my opinion. But this isn’t Cato’s blog, so that’s a bit tangential to the present controversy, Anono.

    And you just might be a little off the mark with that “Stalinism” charge; this is more like an Inquisition, don’t you think?

  • Anono

    You mean that you and several others are trying to punish heretics? Nay, not heretics directly. Rather, you’re trying to punish a blog that publishes someone who, in another aspect of his life, belongs to an organization that, as to a completely different issue, takes a heretical position.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Yup, that’s about right.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Yup, that’s about right.

  • http://mcgath.blogspot.com Gary McGath

    I’ve often dealt with people who are (in my judgment, anyway) quite good on some issues and stark raving lunatics on others. I might want to check Mr. Haney’s facts more skeptically than I would other people in some cases, but I’m willing to judge him on what he says here.

  • http://mcgath.blogspot.com Gary McGath

    I’ve often dealt with people who are (in my judgment, anyway) quite good on some issues and stark raving lunatics on others. I might want to check Mr. Haney’s facts more skeptically than I would other people in some cases, but I’m willing to judge him on what he says here.

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