On Hance Haney and the Discovery Institute

by on August 30, 2006 · 20 comments

I have to admit that my reaction to the idea of inviting a scholar from the Discovery Institute to participate on TLF was pretty similar to those of the majority of our readers. The Discovery Institute’s intelligent design shop has a well-deserved reputation for peddling pernicious nonsense. See here for an excellent summary by Daniel Dennett of why intelligent design is a cynical shell game (scroll down a bit). More importantly, from my perspective, the intelligent design crowd at Discovery has repeatedly misrepresented and misquoted their opponents, refused to acknowledge errors in their work, made hypocritical charges, and generally presented their case in bad faith. See here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for a few of the many examples.

However, I don’t think we can immediately jump to the conclusion, as some commenters have, that anyone who works for DI should be automatically shut out of public policy fora such as this blog. My former colleagues Adam and Jim, whose judgment I trust on this sort of thing, have known Haney for years. They tell me that he’s a smart and intellectually honest guy with worthwhile things to say about technology policy. He was invited to participate on the basis of their personal knowledge of his work, not because of any particular love for the Discovery Institute.

We at TLF blog as individuals, not as representatives of our respective organizations. You’ll all have the opportunity to get to know Haney and his writing and form your own judgment about his credibility. This blog is read by a lot of smart and technically savvy people. If he plays fast and loose with the facts, I have every confidence that you guys will catch it and call him to task. So will I.

Julian worries that bringing Haney on board will “lend their crackpot ideology some sort of legitimacy by association.” But I think the point has been made: Haney has been put on notice that a large number of our readers don’t like his employer and will view his work with suspicion. Haney will have to work hard to earn your trust. If he succeeds, it will be despite his institutional affiliation, not because of it.

So I say welcome aboard, Mr. Haney. Jim and Adam speak highly of your work, and I’m looking forward to reading more of it.

  • http://yglesias.tpmcafe.com Matthew Yglesias

    This seems simple enough to me — what does Haney have to say about Intelligent Design? Surely he has an opinion?

  • http://yglesias.tpmcafe.com Matthew Yglesias

    This seems simple enough to me — what does Haney have to say about Intelligent Design? Surely he has an opinion?

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

    I’m still waiting for Haney to explain his reasons for working for Discovery. Folks at that institution have a history of playing the victim when held accountable for the ID agenda, and that figures into the calculus of credibility.

    It seems to me the point you’re missing, Tim, is the harm a DI fellow does to this blog and to the issues for which it stands. David Duke is a staunch free-marketer, but you wouldn’t invite him aboard, would you?

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

    I’m still waiting for Haney to explain his reasons for working for Discovery. Folks at that institution have a history of playing the victim when held accountable for the ID agenda, and that figures into the calculus of credibility.

    It seems to me the point you’re missing, Tim, is the harm a DI fellow does to this blog and to the issues for which it stands. David Duke is a staunch free-marketer, but you wouldn’t invite him aboard, would you?

  • http://www.WeMatter.com Mike Liveright

    I have no objection to having an ID (or Evolutionist) post, but as I read the purpose of this site it has little to do with the ID/Evolution… discussion, so I would hope that neither proponent would discuss their positions on this site.

    If Haney, or whoever, wants to discuss “regulation of the Internet, communications, media and high-technology in general.” then OK. Anyone who wishes to discuss their own beliefs in other areas probably should take their discussion elsewhere.

    Note: The key in this site’s purpose is “regulation”. I don’t see it appropriate to have a discussion of the practices, (the media will not carry my message), or the prejudices, (the media leaders don’t believe as I do) as appropriate, and as far as I can see, the site does not discuss other areas of “regulation”, e.g. the schools, etc.

    So, Lets see Haney wants to discuss before we pass judgement.

  • http://www.WeMatter.com Mike Liveright

    I have no objection to having an ID (or Evolutionist) post, but as I read the purpose of this site it has little to do with the ID/Evolution… discussion, so I would hope that neither proponent would discuss their positions on this site.

    If Haney, or whoever, wants to discuss “regulation of the Internet, communications, media and high-technology in general.” then OK. Anyone who wishes to discuss their own beliefs in other areas probably should take their discussion elsewhere.

    Note: The key in this site’s purpose is “regulation”. I don’t see it appropriate to have a discussion of the practices, (the media will not carry my message), or the prejudices, (the media leaders don’t believe as I do) as appropriate, and as far as I can see, the site does not discuss other areas of “regulation”, e.g. the schools, etc.

    So, Lets see Haney wants to discuss before we pass judgement.

  • eric

    “Julian worries that bringing Haney on board will ‘lend their crackpot ideology some sort of legitimacy by association.’”

    This hubristically presumes that there is some large fund of legitimacy here that would somehow diffuse out to Haney and his employer and their defining principles. Not to knock TLF, but that’s a pretty long bridge to cross.

    I honestly don’t understand the hostility to ID. If it is so self-evidently wrong, why the hypersensitivity? The effort to shut people up or shut people out seems fascistic.

    All that aside, a man’s words on one subject should not be pre-judged invalid by his beliefs on another subject, even if you are vehemently opposed to them. Hany’s credibility or lack (on tech issues) should become evident over time, as he reveals his reasoning process.

    Could there be some fear that Haney will reveal himself as a reasonable sort, hence casting doubt on the prejudice that ID supporters are all ignorant or sly schemers?

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    ***Could there be some fear that Haney will reveal himself as a reasonable sort, hence casting doubt on the prejudice that ID supporters are all ignorant or sly schemers?***

    I think you hit the nail square on Eric.

    Its evident reading Hance’s writings that he’s well informed, with a steady policy voice. I’ve never met Hance, I’m only judging him on what I’ve seen him write (which is all thats important on this matter, at least to me).

  • eric

    “Julian worries that bringing Haney on board will ‘lend their crackpot ideology some sort of legitimacy by association.’”

    This hubristically presumes that there is some large fund of legitimacy here that would somehow diffuse out to Haney and his employer and their defining principles. Not to knock TLF, but that’s a pretty long bridge to cross.

    I honestly don’t understand the hostility to ID. If it is so self-evidently wrong, why the hypersensitivity? The effort to shut people up or shut people out seems fascistic.

    All that aside, a man’s words on one subject should not be pre-judged invalid by his beliefs on another subject, even if you are vehemently opposed to them. Hany’s credibility or lack (on tech issues) should become evident over time, as he reveals his reasoning process.

    Could there be some fear that Haney will reveal himself as a reasonable sort, hence casting doubt on the prejudice that ID supporters are all ignorant or sly schemers?

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    ***Could there be some fear that Haney will reveal himself as a reasonable sort, hence casting doubt on the prejudice that ID supporters are all ignorant or sly schemers?***

    I think you hit the nail square on Eric.

    Its evident reading Hance’s writings that he’s well informed, with a steady policy voice. I’ve never met Hance, I’m only judging him on what I’ve seen him write (which is all thats important on this matter, at least to me).

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

    Eric and Noel, please allow me to help you understand why there is so much hostility to ID. Go read the Discovery Institute’s Wedge Strategy document, where you will find this statement:

    The social consequences of materialism have been devastating. As symptoms, those consequences are certainly worth treating. However, we are convinced that in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source. That source is scientific materialism. This is precisely our strategy. If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a “wedge” that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points. The very beginning of this strategy, the “thin edge of the wedge,” was Phillip ]ohnson’s critique of Darwinism begun in 1991 in Darwinism on Trial, and continued in Reason in the Balance and Defeatng Darwinism by Opening Minds. Michael Behe’s highly successful Darwin’s Black Box followed Johnson’s work. We are building on this momentum, broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the theory of intelligent design (ID). Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.

    Opponents of this approach to science aren’t driven by prejuedice, but by knowledge.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    Thats funny. The people who don’t want to see Hance on this site talk about ID more than he has; and Hance has written more pursuasively about tech policy than have those who don’t want to see him on TLF.

    Interesting that someone brought up Nietzsche earlier; Nietzsche one of the most misunderstood figures in history. I dabbled a bit in philosophy in my younger years (and wish I still had the time to). One of the best ways of mis-reading Nietzsche is to read his books as autobiographies (its also the easiest way if you don’t understand his ideas). Those who grasp philosophy on the other hand approach Nietzsche objectively for concepts, themes, arguments, characters, plots, etc.

    This lesson also applies to technology policy. When you read Hance’s writings, if you judge him by his affiliation, then you’re totally sidestepping the issues as well as the reason why you come to TLF. On the other hand, if you read him for his insights and presentation, you might find that he understands far more than other writers you give favorable presumption to.

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

    Eric and Noel, please allow me to help you understand why there is so much hostility to ID. Go read the Discovery Institute’s Wedge Strategy document, where you will find this statement:

    The social consequences of materialism have been devastating. As symptoms, those consequences are certainly worth treating. However, we are convinced that in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source. That source is scientific materialism. This is precisely our strategy. If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a “wedge” that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points. The very beginning of this strategy, the “thin edge of the wedge,” was Phillip ]ohnson’s critique of Darwinism begun in 1991 in Darwinism on Trial, and continued in Reason in the Balance and Defeatng Darwinism by Opening Minds. Michael Behe’s highly successful Darwin’s Black Box followed Johnson’s work. We are building on this momentum, broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the theory of intelligent design (ID). Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.

    Opponents of this approach to science aren’t driven by prejuedice, but by knowledge.

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

    Noel says: The people who don’t want to see Hance on this site talk about ID more than he has;

    Noel, you asked a question and I answered it. Why do you criticize me for doing that? If you don’t want to discuss ID here, follow your own advice and stop bringing it up.

    I don’t doubt that Mr. Haney is a caring and sensitive person with many fine and wonderful ideas that would be an asset to this little blog, etc; that never was the issue.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    Thats funny. The people who don’t want to see Hance on this site talk about ID more than he has; and Hance has written more pursuasively about tech policy than have those who don’t want to see him on TLF.

    Interesting that someone brought up Nietzsche earlier; Nietzsche one of the most misunderstood figures in history. I dabbled a bit in philosophy in my younger years (and wish I still had the time to). One of the best ways of mis-reading Nietzsche is to read his books as autobiographies (its also the easiest way if you don’t understand his ideas). Those who grasp philosophy on the other hand approach Nietzsche objectively for concepts, themes, arguments, characters, plots, etc.

    This lesson also applies to technology policy. When you read Hance’s writings, if you judge him by his affiliation, then you’re totally sidestepping the issues as well as the reason why you come to TLF. On the other hand, if you read him for his insights and presentation, you might find that he understands far more than other writers you give favorable presumption to.

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

    Noel says: The people who don’t want to see Hance on this site talk about ID more than he has;

    Noel, you asked a question and I answered it. Why do you criticize me for doing that? If you don’t want to discuss ID here, follow your own advice and stop bringing it up.

    I don’t doubt that Mr. Haney is a caring and sensitive person with many fine and wonderful ideas that would be an asset to this little blog, etc; that never was the issue.

  • eric

    Richard, I see — from your point of view — why this is a life-and-death struggle. However, I would merely point out that many truth seekers think science should be allowed to investigate all possible causes for observed phenomena, not merely impersonal, random, and mechanical ones. It is really an argument over what the definition of science ought to be. You believe debate about this should never even take place. Millions of Americans differ with that POV. But no matter. I am sure that that discussion will never take place here. This is TLF — tech will be what is discussed here. So, I understand why you’re upset about the fact that such questions are being raised in society, but I don’t understand why anyone shouldn’t be allowed to talk intelligently about tech on TLF. That’s just petty.

  • eric

    Richard, I see — from your point of view — why this is a life-and-death struggle. However, I would merely point out that many truth seekers think science should be allowed to investigate all possible causes for observed phenomena, not merely impersonal, random, and mechanical ones. It is really an argument over what the definition of science ought to be. You believe debate about this should never even take place. Millions of Americans differ with that POV. But no matter. I am sure that that discussion will never take place here. This is TLF — tech will be what is discussed here. So, I understand why you’re upset about the fact that such questions are being raised in society, but I don’t understand why anyone shouldn’t be allowed to talk intelligently about tech on TLF. That’s just petty.

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

    ID is not an issue about the appropriateness of investigating supernatural causes. If you simply read the document I referenced with an open mind and a loving heart, you will see that the criticism of evolutionary biology isn’t based on any alternative view of science.

    The DI says that scientific hypotheses should be evaluated not simply on a scientific basis, but according to their social impact. They’re already rejected natural selection at the outset on a social-impact basis, and simply don’t care if there’s no proper scientific alternative.

    So the scientific method, which is the best and perhaps only way we know to separate our own prejudices from the facts would be submerged under the thumb of a sort of political correctness if they had their way.

    That’s a much larger problem than simply fiddling with theory on the edges as the typical two-sided rational debate does; it’s a threat to our Western values, in the spirit of the Taliban or Hezbollah.

    Science does not follow the dictates of a religious priesthood.

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

    ID is not an issue about the appropriateness of investigating supernatural causes. If you simply read the document I referenced with an open mind and a loving heart, you will see that the criticism of evolutionary biology isn’t based on any alternative view of science.

    The DI says that scientific hypotheses should be evaluated not simply on a scientific basis, but according to their social impact. They’re already rejected natural selection at the outset on a social-impact basis, and simply don’t care if there’s no proper scientific alternative.

    So the scientific method, which is the best and perhaps only way we know to separate our own prejudices from the facts would be submerged under the thumb of a sort of political correctness if they had their way.

    That’s a much larger problem than simply fiddling with theory on the edges as the typical two-sided rational debate does; it’s a threat to our Western values, in the spirit of the Taliban or Hezbollah.

    Science does not follow the dictates of a religious priesthood.

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