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.

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