Self-Described “Pro Science” Rapper MC Hammer Embraces Intelligent Design October 8, 2020

Self-Described “Pro Science” Rapper MC Hammer Embraces Intelligent Design

He’s best known for his 1990 hit single “U Can’t Touch This” as well as his trademark Hammer pants, but these days MC Hammer — now nearly 60 — is using his fame to spread the message of science. He’s cheerleading Black representation in STEM and shining a spotlight on Nobel laureates, and he’s happy to retweet any science story he finds interesting, whether it’s from popular media or PubMed.

On the surface that looks like an unmitigated win for science. As Forbes put it:

Online, our algorithms keep feeding us the same topics we always look at. But by using their platform to share science news and scientist profiles, high-profile performing artists like MC Hammer can break through that bubble and give their audience a glimpse into a world that they might otherwise not seek out themselves.

There’s just one problem.

It turns out a famous rapper from the 90s isn’t always the most successful at separating good science from bad. Now Hammer’s tweets about technology, chemistry, and biology are sharing the stage with tweets positioning Intelligent Design as equally valid science.

It started over the weekend with a tweet about the human eye, a popular discussion point for Creationists trying to cloak their beliefs in science. (Just ask Answers in Genesis.) Hammer tweeted out a CGI image of an eyeball (admittedly extremely cool to watch) as evidence for Intelligent Design:

(What does #Hamm400aos mean? No idea. It’s almost exclusively used in tweets by and about MC Hammer, though, so we can safely assume it means something to him.)

A few science fans took the opportunity to point out that Intelligent Design is not a scientific concept, including Louisiana State ichthyologist Prosanta Chakrabarty:

But Hammer doubled down, insisting that science and religious Creationism are compatible:

He even went on to level accusations of mindless religious arrogance at everyone telling him that Intelligent Design wasn’t compatible with science:

Clearly being “pro-science” doesn’t automatically translate to understanding science.

But the Intelligent Design proponents swooped in with links and recommendations — most notably, Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute linked Hammer to a Hoover Institution roundtable discussion among intelligent design proponents. It was a smooth move that let Hammer feel vindicated instead of manipulated, and turned him against the science communicators he termed “mad scientists”:

Hammer has since continued to tweet about the compatibility of faith with scientific fact:

Proponents of Creationism are trumpeting this as a win, with a particularly smug article appearing on misleadingly-named Trojan horse website “Evolution News.” That might sound like an even-handed, authoritative science site, which is almost certainly deliberate: In truth, it’s run by the Discover Institute, a pseudoscience think tank pushing conservative beliefs and values. They’re known to emphasize Intelligent Design as a particular pet issue.

Evolution News writer David Klinghoffer positioned himself pretty effectively as a champion of free inquiry for all — which sounds good until you realize that it flattens any difference between genuine expertise, surface-level knowledge, and deliberate manipulation of facts:

Now, I know that rap superstars, whether of the 1990s such as MC Hammer, or of today, aren’t uniquely empowered to decide the ultimate questions of science or philosophy. But you know what? Neither are scientists like Jerry Coyne, or science philosophers like Stephen Meyer. We are all responsible for weighing the evidence as best we can and, where there is a controversy, as with the one over dumb unguided evolution as the sole engine of all the wonders in biology, for deciding which position has the better arguments. That is what David Gelernter did when he came out a Darwin skeptic, and it’s what MC Hammer did.

So who cares what MC Hammer thinks about evolution? Maybe no one.

But it’s an interesting object lesson for science communication. By letting Hammer continue seeing himself as some kind of ambassador for science, Meyer and his fellow Creationism proponents managed to score a victory over the scientific truth and paint atheists and scientists as unhinged dogmatists.

(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Brian for the link)

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