The argument from code words fascinates me. You can use it to prove anyone is saying anything. Just say X is a code word for Y. This post may be an encoded call for terrorism; just declare that “the argument from code words fascinates me” is code for “Let’s nuke every major city in the US.” (They do things like that in spy novels!)
A while back, I saw a claim that Betsy DeVos is a creationist. Having no idea whether this was true or false, I did a search, which led me to an article on propublica.org:
At a confirmation hearing earlier this month, Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s pick for education secretary, responded to a question about whether she would promote “junk science” by saying she supports science teaching that “allows students to exercise critical thinking.” …
DeVos and her family have poured millions of dollars into groups that champion intelligent design, the doctrine that the complexity of biological life can best be explained by the existence of a creator rather than by Darwinian evolution. Within this movement, “critical thinking” has become a code phrase to justify teaching of intelligent design.
Hearing DeVos refer to “critical thinking” was “like hearing old catch phrases from a nearly forgotten TV show that never made prime time,” Michigan State University professor Robert Pennock told ProPublica. … “She evaded what should have been a simple question about not teaching junk science,” Pennock wrote in an email. “More than that, she did so in a way that signaled her willingness to open the door to intelligent design creationism.”
DeVos’s answer was entirely to the point. Promotion of critical thinking is highly relevant to warding off junk science. Just declare it a “code phrase,” though, and you can call it an “evasion” while putting creationism into her mouth. Putting anything into anyone’s mouth.
Just as bad, it concedes the scientific high ground to creationists. If you favor critical thinking, you should find Genesis more intellectually rigorous than The Origin of Species? But then, a lot of people favoring evolutionary science treat it as a matter of faith, just as much as “intelligent design” advocates do. Their concern isn’t with correcting erroneous thinking but with damning heresy. At a wild guess, I suspect about one person in ten who agrees with evolutionary science can give any scientific arguments for it. (I’m one of the 10%: DNA similarities, adaptation of structures, observed genetic drift, etc.) It’s become a cultural battle instead a reply to poor reasoning.
I’d like to find that “nearly forgotten TV show” which promotes critical thinking. It sounds interesting.
Happy Darwin’s birthday!