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

by on August 28, 2006

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?

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