Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Justice for Nifong

What sort of person must a man be who knowingly destroys the reputations of three young men, wrecks the lives of all their families, ruins an athletic season for dozens more, all on the testimony of a notoriously unreliable witness who the man, a district attorney, had every reason to know was lying? It seems hard to believe that anyone could be that contemptible but that's precisely what Michael Nifong did in the Duke "rape" case.

What his motives were is unclear. Some speculated that he saw a political opportunity to ingratiate himself with the African-American community and the ideological left by pressing charges against privileged white males accused of raping a black woman. It turns out that the woman was a liar, both emotionally and mentally unstable, and whatever Nifong's intentions were in prosecuting this case he clearly was guilty, at best, of total incompetence and at worst of prosecutorial abuse in being willing to destroy the lives of people he knew were innocent.

Now he faces eviction from the North Carolina Bar as well as civil suits which will almost certainly be brought against him by the families of the students. His career as a lawyer and a politician is evidently over. He'll doubtless be paying damages to the families for the rest of his life. If so, he'll be getting what he deserves.

We might hope that next somebody gets after the 88 Duke faculty who signed a letter condemning the accused boys before the whole world, and the craven president of the university who acted as if the students were guilty before any evidence had been produced against them.

We might also hope that somebody calls to account the various race hustlers, like Jesse Jackson, who were so blinded by their own racism that they assumed that a black girl known to be of dubious virtue was more credible than the protestations of innocence of privileged white boys.

The whole episode highlights the moral poverty and intellectual bankruptcy of common liberal assumptions about race, class and gender and the utter fatuousness of political correctness. Many liberals are so invested in the dogma that a woman who claims rape is not lying, they're so committed to the mythology of the exploitation of black women at the hands of white men, that the young Duke students were, in their minds, guilty as a matter of course.

What is on trial in the Duke imbroglio is more than the abuses of one arrogant, cruel, and stupid prosecutor. What is on trial in Durham is the mindset of many in the secular far left which demands that justice be subordinated to ideology. A lot of people have, in this sordid episode, vividly demonstrated that they are willing to believe anything, no matter how vile, about wealthy white men if the allegation against them is made by a black woman. That tells us a great deal about where the locus of racism and sexism is to be found in this country.


More on Demeaning Blacks

Our post Demeaning Blacks elicited a number of questions about what, exactly, my point was. Did I think it inappropriate to compliment blacks, some wondered. Am I so PC that I think that anything a white person says to a black person is automatically suspicious?

Well, no, but I do think that there are assumptions buried in much of what we say about matters of race, and some of those assumptions would surprise us if we were aware of them. I think they would especially surprise liberals since these folk often make a special effort to demonstrate that they are certainly not racist, even if those rednecks for whom they have such disdain are.

The basic purpose of our original post was to observe that when someone says about a black man that he's "articulate," the tacit meaning of the statement is that "he's articulate for a black man." This is a compliment to the individual, I suppose, but in my view it's an insult to blacks in general. The assumption on the part of the speaker is that it's not the norm to find a black man who can speak properly. The fact that one rarely hears whites described this way is evidence that articulateness is taken for granted among whites but not among blacks and that the speaker is mildly surprised to encounter a black man who expresses himself in standard English.

When I was growing up I used to hear people say about some handsome celebrity that he's "a good-looking black man." They didn't say that he's a good-looking man but that he's a good-looking black man. What they were actually asserting, without realizing it, probably, was that the celebrity was good-looking for a black man, as if black attractiveness is to be measured on a different, and doubtless more relaxed, scale than that of whites.

I thought this was insulting to blacks then, and I think the "articulate" compliment is, for the same reason, insulting now - not to the individual, of course, but to African-Americans in general.

The funny thing is that neither the person who insults by voicing the compliment nor the person who is complimented usually realizes what's really being said and what assumptions give rise to it.

Perhaps it would be interesting when we hear someone say that so and so is "articulate" to ask them if that surprises them. The question might help to expose the unfortunate assumptions that underlie their observation.


Dispelling the Myths

Our Feedback page has an interesting reply from a student to a post from a while back that addressed several myths about intelligent design. The student believes that these claims are not myths at all, but are indeed accurate criticisms of ID. I encourage readers to check out his argument.

I've copied my reply to him here:

Excellent reply A_. I'm very impressed with your knowledge of this issue. Let me see if I can respond to your critique of the three myths you address.

You wrote that:

Myth #1: The theory of intelligent design is a modern version of Creationism.

Right or wrong it is true that in our country the modern interpretation of ID comes from fundamental creationist Christians. The Dover trial clearly proved this. This does not mean that ID is not true. It only means that in our society, the vast majority of those that buy into the "faith" in ID happen to be Christians. It may be true that abstractly ID goes back deep in history, but it is not a myth that the modern rebirth of ID is a Christian mechanism to reduce what Christians see as the corrupting influence of Darwinism on the youth.

It is true that most, though not all, proponents of ID are Christians and that ID can trace it's lineage back to earlier creationists. It does not follow, however, that ID is a modern version of Creationism any more than the fact that chemistry can trace its lineage to alchemy or astronomy to astrology means that these sciences are modern versions of their predecessors. Chemistry is not alchemy and ID is not Creationism.

The theoretical structure of Creationism is completely different than that of ID. Creationism depends upon the literal truth of Genesis and upon the creator being the God of the Bible. ID doesn't. Creationism is incompatible with macroevolution. ID isn't. If Genesis were shown to be false and God not to exist, Creationism would be destroyed, but ID as a theory would be unscathed.

The fact that most ID proponents are Christians is irrelevant to the validity of the theory. Suppose most evolutionists were Christians (many are). Would that count against the truth of evolution? Or suppose that most atheists are Darwinians (which they are). Does that count against the truth of Darwinism?

You also wrote:

Myth #2: The theory of intelligent design claims that the designer is the God described in the Bible.

Well, in fact, the modern view is indeed a Christian invention. The modern ID movement is one that has been fueled almost entirely by "The Discovery Institute". There is no dispute over the fact that the Discovery Institute is a Christian based organization.

If one were to simply ask Americans that believe in ID the question: if there is an intelligent designer what or who do you think it is? is undeniably true that the vast majority of those Americans would answer that the designer is none other one or all of the Holy Trinity. Even though, at a philosophical level it is true that ID in no way implies any specific God or even a God at all.

The fact that the DI is comprised of Christians or that many ID proponents believe that the designer is the Judeo-Christian God does not mean that it must be God. There is nothing in ID theory or literature which makes a necessary connection between the two. The fact that most people believe that the designer is God does not weigh against the theory of ID any more than the fact that most people believe that Lee Harvey Oswald had an accomplice when he shot JFK weighs against the theory that he acted alone.

The designer could be an alien residing in some other galaxy, it could be an inhabitant of the multiverse, it could be a Platonic demiurge, it could be a Hegelian universal spirit, or it could be the God of Christianity. ID takes no position on the identity of the designer.

Myth #3 "Conservatives and Christians necessarily accept the intelligent design argument".

This would only be a myth if it said that all Christians accept ID. Nevertheless, it does seem true that very few non-Christians or non-conservatives believe in the ID "religion".

The word necessarily means the same thing as logically must so the above sentence in the myth is equivalent to saying that all Christians logically must accept ID; they cannot be a Christian and not accept it. It's like saying that if a figure is a triangle then it must have three angles. It cannot be a triangle and have four angles. It is not the case, of course, that Christians must accept ID in the same way that they must accept that a triangle has three angles and that's why it's a myth to say that the two are logically connected. Indeed, some of ID's most effective opponents are Christians (Ken Miller of Brown, for example).

Likewise, from the fact that few non-Christians accept ID one cannot conclude that therefore Christians must accept it. That would be like arguing that because few Democrats support the president that therefore Republicans must (in the logical sense, not the practical sense) support him.

Anyway, you did an outstanding job with this critique, A_, and I hope you continue to follow the debate on this issue. We post on it often at Viewpoint. ID may in the end turn out to be false. It may be that it's not good science (though it's certainly philosophy of science), but right now it's a much more powerful and compelling idea than it's detractors would have us believe, and few of the arguments against it seem, to me at least, very convincing.