Selection for "Intelligent Design" Books Questioned

Bias by Design is an analysis of evolution books reviewed and selected by librarians.

The average number of libraries holding a Not Favorable title is nearly triple than that of libraries having a book supporting Intelligent Design. For nearly every 3 libraries holding a title pooh-poohing Intelligent Design, your patrons will find only 1 library with the temerity to rebut those who find nothing intelligent about Intelligent Design. Availability is certainly no reason for this disparity, pro Intelligent Design books have enjoyed a near 2:1 publication advantage to their counterpart since 2000.

Interesting points here regarding the role of the library.



There are several interesting things in your post.

1) "I can find anything I need about computers, digital cameras, poker, Elvis Presley, movie stars or the latest fiction at my public library. Crafts? I could knit, tat, crochet and scrapbook out the kazoo. But its collection on Christianity and cultural issues from a conservative viewpoint is skimpy ... (if you want to read something other than Billy Graham, Joni Tada, or Rick Warren.)"

There are several authors listed. Is that still skimpy?

The things you are describing that are widely collected are very popular and broad subjects. Religion is small and rarely used (any religion and sub-group). Do you really expect a public library to have as many books on conservative Christianity as computers?

2) "It's possible all the newer conservative books have been checked out but ... "

If I go outside and see that it is dark should I say "It is possible that it is night, but I'm sure it was just a giant astro-mongoose who ate the sun?"

3) "Not sure why we need four new titles on the founding fathers, all "reclaiming" them for liberal causes ... "

None of the titles you list are anything like that. And it seems that you read the back of some books on the new book shelf and came to the conclusion that you wanted to come to when you walked in, so pardon me if I view that conclusion suspiciously.

Tomeboy's study of library collections is not much better.

1) "My research found a total of 68 books. I divided this group into three sections; "Balanced", "Not-Favorable", and "Favorable". Balanced being those books presenting both sides of Intelligent Design, Not-Favorable discrediting Intelligent Design and Favorable supporting the theory. Some may take issue with my designations however I feel reasonably confident that each book has been properly placed."

That would be me. I take issue. Coding in social science research is a difficult and painstaking task. Having coders describe something complex like a long questionarie or interview takes a long time and involves difficult stats to make sure that the coding is reliable and consistent.

Not only did you not read all the books on the list, you didn't have a group of people read all of them for you, or even one other person. The fact that you used an "n = something or other" doesn't mean you did research.

I also couldn't help but notice that Library Journal reviewed the "pro" books more favorably than the "balanced" ones.

Library collection are not going to conver every subject to the same level. Nor should they. But the method that the two of you have used to analyze the situation is faulty and on top of that at the end both of you append a conclusion that there is no evidence for ... namely, Commie, pinko, Islamo-homo-Pelosi Liberal Traitor Librarians and their bias.

ID and conservative Christianity (what ever that means) are niche subjects and are treated as such. I am reasonably sure they are covered to the same depth as rock climbing, stock car racing, stamp collecting and Tudor England murder mysteries.

Shorter: Just because you two think something is important doesn't mean it is. Stop looking for the public library to validate your worldview or make you feel good about yourself.

Ah Chuck, my boy. You're so far off base, I don't even know where to start. I mention looking at titles on the New Book Shelf and you want me to present a carefully crafted research article like Tomeboy's. Sonny, I'm retired, and I don't do that any more. The comments here denigrating the ID books to the level of Loch Ness Monster clearly demonstrate Tomeboy's points. It wouldn't surprise me if you're demonstrating why libraries close and bond issues fail--librarians, staff and boards being insensitive to the community. I'm not a supporter of ID myself, but find the level of knowledge about it in this discussion at an all time low. I truly hope some of these commenters are trolls and not librarians. Otherwise librarians, even the gen-x and gen-y new grads must be rigid, narrow minded and naive (just like the old timey stereotype of librarians) when it comes to religion--all religions--its importance to their readers, and the culture. Even the comments about witchcraft should be bring howls from Wiccans who probably won't think much of how you are portraying them.

"Do you really expect a public library to have as many books on conservative Christianity as computers?"

I think I can expect a PL to be respectful of people of faith since most of the people this library serves are Christians (liberals, conservative, main-line, Catholic, Pentecostals, etc.). With 3 Lutheran churches in town, one of them one of the largest in the country, I could expect something on that denomination newer than 40 years old (there is now that I requested one--but just one was added). I don't think we have any Amish in town, but that collection is pretty good. And my, aren't they just so interesting and folksy and fun to read about! I might expect just a tad of curiosity on the part of the librarians (I don't think most actually live here) about what Christians are doing, besides getting their information from CNN.

Yes, Chuck, it would be a huge surprise to you that people who use computers might also be Christians and that Christian magazines carry articles about computers, the internet, copyright problems, websites to watch, the digital divide, computers in business, and (gasp) libraries.

Sweet fancy Moses, are Fang and I agreeing with Tomeboy?

I thought the same.

Obviously the two of you are capable of discerning the subject of Intelligent Design from the collection development principle I am trying to make.

Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket tonight?

Brian - presumably as a librarian entrusted to spend others money, how would you guess your patrons, board, etc. would find your comparison re ID books and the Flying Spaghetti title? Seriously.

I wonder what would happen to the numbers if the report went back to 1995. For instance, the year 2000 cut-off leaves out Behe's pro-ID Darwin's Black Box, which appears to be owned by more libraries than any of the "not favorable" books listed in the article. I'm also curious about what would happen if the review/acquisition bias toward titles from major publishers were taken into account.

And I'm positively appalled that The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster didn't get included.

I don't think so. Intelligent Design and so-called Creation Science are seen as science only by the religionists who espouse them. Rational people see them for what they are: religion. As such, they are not a crackpot science; because they are not science in any way, shape, or form. If anything, books on those topics should be filed under Conspiracy to Defraud.

Either way, "Know your enemy; the first rule of war" applies. You cannot simply accept on authority the statement that a particular philosophy is bankrupt, you have to be allowed to look for yourself, and you have to allow others to do the same even if the content or viewpoint offends your prejudices. Hence: stock the books. Holocaust Denial as much as Flat Earth theory.

"the free marketplace of ideas"

That's the one argument that I'm thinking wins out in my mind. Not stocking these books means I can't read them. While I may never want to read this garbage, just because I agree with it in this case shouldn't matter since I won't agree with it in other cases. Using the "But This Is Different" excuse is not one I like. I hear it from the neocons far too often.

Sweet fancy Moses, are Fang and I agreeing with Tomeboy?

About the same credibility as string theory.

Chuck - thanks for taking the time to read the piece.

I also appreciate your candor because it perfectly captures the point I hoped to make. Personal prejudice.

I agree partly regarding "coding" as you say. That said, I welcome you to research all 68 titles (perhaps more?)and arrive at your own conclusions. But keep in mind when a librarian buys a book critical of ID, he or she has already entered into the pseudoscience or as you characterize "crap" realm. Doesn't that librarian have a professional obligation to at least present the other side of this "crap"? Just as ALA publications have with reviewing?

On one level, Intelligent Design as presented by the religious right is a pseudo-religion, the way horosocopy is a psuedo-science. They say that the universe was designed by an intelligence, but that that intelilgence was not God and they will not or cannot put forward any other candidate.

On another level, it is a heresy, since the universe was designed the way they purport supports the idea of evolution.

On a third level, it is a concept launched into the free marketplace of ideas; however contemptuously the soi-disant rational mind might regard it, Intelligent Design has its place there.

No, I have bought books on these subjects. I just am not going to amass a large collection on them. I'm not going to pretend there is an intellectual depth that I need to capture that isn't there.

What if your patron base wanted more titles espousing the Flat Earth theory? Holocaust denial? White supremacy? Witchcraft?

Go Rev. Ted!--"Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, confidently explains on camera, "If the evangelicals vote, they determine the election." No more evolution!

I wrote about the bias of my library's new book shelf at my> this week. I'm sure all the conservative titles must have been checked out, since the community itself is weighted to Christians and conservatives. Because we all know, librarians would never, never let their personal bias influence their purchases.

Based on your logic, we should also not be buying books on bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, UFOs, the Bermuda Triangle, etc. either unless they are not favorable to those topics. Patrons should only get books on "fringe" issues scientists disapprove of if they are negative?

My bias is professional, not personal. ID is a fraud. I won't go looking to make a collection of them and I will only buy if there is a demonstrable interest.

That's what my previous post said. Was that unclear?

Unbiased doesn't mean uncritical and it doesn't mean stupid.

It is good to know you are willing to let your personal biases influence your selection policy. I just hope your patrons are as aware as we are.

ID books have a whole section = 200s.

Tomeboy said " ... Intelligent Design carefully wrapped as fringe and pseudoscience, worthy of a token purchase but nothing more."

But that's the case. The other commenter was right. ID isn't a theory. It has no principles to be tested, it allows for no modification in the face of new facts, it is intellectual dishonest and runs counter to the scientific method, by definition.

I am a stone-cold atheist. My father was a Catholic priest (he left the order obviously, hence my existence.) I read the Bible at least once a week.

I consider it an honor to stock my library with the finest books on Biblical exegesis and archaeology, Christology, theology, religious history and philosophy. I had a 20 minute reference interview yesterday with a woman who was looking for books on the life of Christ, during which I recommended several sources I had read.

At no point was the fact that I did not believe in a divine Jesus a problem. I stock what is good and / or what is demanded (within reason.)

But I won't actively by crap. ID is phrenology with a nice haircut.

They have the same basis in reality.

I'd bet money there are already more books on the shelves of libraries for witchcraft then there are intelligent design.