Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Alt-Right is Secular? Anyone Buy That?

One of my favorite targets is the Discovery Institute (DI) and the lengths they will go through to rationalize just about anything.  Today's topic is "The Religion of the Alt-Right", and it appears to be an attempt at disassociating themselves not only from their religious roots, but any connection with Alt-Right groups.

The Alt-Right is collection of people, self organized into a number of different groups who lean to the far-far right of the political spectrum.  Their main weapon, at least according to the DI is Racism.  Their recent activities in Charlottesville Va is a good example of their behavior.  I think that view is quite narrow.  The Alt-Right is against a number of things, like Abortion, Gay Marriage, Antisemitism, Immigration, Civil and Women's Rights, and pretty much a rejection of any American Ideals.  Their tactics are full of violence and hatred for anyone who supports an alternative view.  Yet, the DI just wants to focus on just Racism.

Now why would the DI want to disassociate themselves from such groups and why use a one-trick argument, Racism?  I see two reasons here.  The first is one of the common themes from the DI, the efforts to disassociate themselves from their conservative religious underpinnings.  You see that in this post because what they are doing is to try and claim that the Alt-Right is not particularly religious, but secular.  Most of this post is a rationalization about the Alt-Right's use of religion and how they really aren't religious  -- regardless of all the religious symbolism and right-wing religious organizations that belong to the Alt-Right.

Why is that important?  Remember the DI is really a religious ministry wearing an ill-fitting lab coat and constantly trying to convince people that they are a scientific organization.  If they were not a religious ministry, then why is this part of the post be necessary?  If you aren't sure here is the first line of the DI's description in Wikipedia (my underlining for emphasis):

"The Discovery Institute (DI) is a politically conservative non-profit think tank based in Seattle, Washington, best known for its advocacy of the pseudoscientific principle of intelligent design (ID)" (Wikipedia: Discovery Institute)
From the same Wikipedia page, a few words from the Dover Court Decision:
"The court ruled that the Discovery Institute pursues "demonstrably religious, cultural, and legal missions," and the Institute's manifesto, the Wedge Document, describes a religious goal: to "reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."[  It was the court's opinion that intelligent design was merely a redressing of creationism and that, as such, it was not a scientific proposition."
Now, you are the DI, and you are associated with being conservative as well a being a religious organization.  So how to you try and break any association with the Alt-Right?  You disassociate yourself if you can, and if you can blame Charles Darwin at the same time you have a win-win.

That's what the rest of this post is all about.  And since the DI has tried to establish the Alt-Right as a secular organization, then it's just one more step to claim that they are followers of evolution and lay all the trouble they have been causing at the footsteps of Charles Darwin.  They even manage to drag in Hitler for a brief cameo.

So who does the DI turn to for this attempt? Why Richard Weikart, one of their stable of pseudo-historians and also a Senior Fellow at the DI. 
Richard Weikart is best known for his book From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics and Racism in Germany.  The Discovery Institute, the hub of the intelligent design movement, funded the book's research.  The academic community has been widely critical of the book.  Regarding the thesis of Weikart's book, University of Chicago historian Robert Richards wrote that Hitler was not a Darwinian and called criticized Weikart for trying to undermine evolution.  Richards said that there was no evidence that Hitler read Darwin, and that some influencers of Nazism such as Houston Stewart Chamberlain were opposed to evolution. " Wikipedia: Richard Weikart)
Of course the DI doesn't mention that Weikart's book received an almost universal negative criticisms from academics -- historians and theologians alike -- conservative and liberal as well.  The main criticisms focused on his very selective focus on one narrow point of view and failure to regard a host of factors influencing Hitler and the Nazi's.  Bottom line is Weikart's pushing the DI's agenda, and therefore critics don't matter much, after all, the DI and Weikart are doing God's work, aren't they?

So what we have here is not some treatise to be taken seriously.  It looks like nothing more than a rationalization to try and officially disassociate the DI from their religious and conservative underpinnings and at the same time promote an already widely dismissed idea blaming Darwin and Evolution for the abhorrent behavior of some of the DI's philosophical brothers, those in the past and those in the present.

I do have to wonder about the timing of this?  The DI does nothing without a motive.  So why this sudden interest in disassociation with the Alt-Right?  Are they setting the stage for some new argument, or is this just an excuse to trot out Weikart again and his already much discredited ideas?  Guess we'll see what the future brings.

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