This past Thursday I sat on a post-film panel at Washington’s Avalon Theater for the D.C. premiere of Randy Olson’s “Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus.”

I accepted the invite to defray my expenses for the on-site research I wanted to do in regard to L’affaire Berger. Little did I expect, however, that the “Dodos” event would help me understand the media treatment of Sandy Berger.

As I saw that night – and as I would see again on my subsequent visits to the Washington Post, the National Archives and the Rayburn Building – our progressive friends have walled themselves into a Platonic cave of their own making.

Where others see light, they see a threat to their way of life. And given their mastery of the media and academia, they do a great job of screening out the uncomfortable.

The flier for the “Dodos” premiere described me as “an independent writer, producer and armchair paleoanthropologist, and one of the intelligent-design (ID) advocates featured in ‘Flock of Dodos.'”

That description was fair enough. So for that matter was my treatment in Olson’s congenial, if partisan, film. A Harvard-educated evolutionary biologist, Olson argues that his fellow scientists’ “blind pursuit of the truth” handicaps them in the public relations wars that the wily intelligent-design tricksters seem to be winning.

In the discussions that followed the film, both formal and informal, I got the sense that the Darwin fans in attendance – just about everyone – saw themselves as having something of a monopoly on truth’s pursuit.

In fact, the event was promoted by the D.C. branch of an international outfit called the Center For Inquiry, or CFI, and many of those in attendance were CFI members. According to its mission statement, CFI “advances critical thinking, freedom of inquiry and humanist values.”

CFI members, however, tend to reserve that freedom for people who inquire among the same murky chambers they do. In this world of shadows, the very search for clarity is verboten.

Should an ID advocate pop up to look for the light – in the schools, the colleges and even, as I documented last week, at the Smithsonian – the game changes from “Inquire Freely” to “Whack the Gopher.”

This willful myopia might be justifiable if any among our friends could answer the most basic biological question – one that I posed at the panel’s beginning – “Just how did life on earth begin?” But no one had a clue.

Still, audience members faulted Olson for treating the ID proponents in his film too charitably or for giving them a stage at all. The question was raised more than once as to whether evolutionists should accept a debate offer from an ID advocate, and in the spirit of free inquiry, my fellow panelists all said “no!”

In much the same spirit, Al Gore refuses debate on the subject of climate change and has recommended that the media deny coverage to climate skeptics. “Let’s just say,” affirmed columnist Ellen Goodman recently in a scarily typical gush of progressive groupthink, “that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers.”

A few at the “Dodos” event tried to engage me on the subject of global warming. I demurred. No fact was going to penetrate that mindset, not even the 5-degree wind chill outside, and I knew how quick this discussion could turn ugly.

As I have gleaned from this and other such forums, on this and virtually all topics held dear to our progressive friends, they tend to divide their opposition into two camps – fools and hucksters.

The “fools,” the great mass of the opposition, they hope to “educate.” Taking me for one, a woman I met at the event subsequently e-mailed me a presumably corrective blog entry about my Smithsonian article that began: “Jack Cashill, the Worldnutdaily’s resident conspiracy loon …”

And the weird thing is she thought that she was being helpful.

The blog entry captures almost perfectly the smug contempt of the science community that Olson chides in “Dodos.” More than that, however, it suggests the comfort secular progressives feel in expressing their disdain for subjects about which I write and about which they know little, if anything, at all.

When I observed during the Q & A, for instance, that real education can drive citizens away from progressive positions, as it did last fall in the Missouri referendum on the issue of embryonic stem cell research, audience members protested angrily.

The fact that I live in Missouri, serve as executive editor of a regional business magazine, moderate an annual high-level bioscience industry roundtable, consulted on the referendum and had an arsenal of facts at my disposal mattered not a whit. Light is no longer recognizable as such in the nether reaches of the cave.

After the event, I talked for a while with a few of the more civil audience members, all of them confident and well-educated. When one asked me what I was working on, I casually answered that I was doing research on Sandy Berger.

He looked at me quizzically and said, “Who’s Sandy Berger?”

Boy, sometimes I wish I could live in a cave, too.

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