Intelligent Design Cabal: A Little Too Clever
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Dec 27, 2006 at 11:49:02 PM EST
The proponents of the "intelligent design" theory of the universe are on the run. They are busy creating side issues and diversions from the growing public awareness of the fraudulence of their position. Ed Brayton recently reported at Talk to Action about how the Discovery Institute, (HQ of the ID movement), still smarting from the utter debunking of ID in a federal court decision a year ago, has been busy ever since trying to discredit the judge.  This is a part of a longterm pattern to try to divert attention from the substance of the validity of their claim. Indeed, the entire matter is best understood not so much in terms of religion vs. science, but what Pat Buchanan infamously called the "religious war" going on in America.
A year ago, federal Judge John E. Jones III  wrote a scathing opinion in deciding what would become the ultimate showdown over the validity of intelligent design as science: Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District  The issue in the case was essentially whether intelligent design is science and therefore suitable for teaching in the public schools -- or a religious view disguised as science. The case proved not only that ID was religion trying to pass itself off as science, but it also showed the degree of fraud advocates of creationism were willing to commit to conceal their religious and political agenda -- and to attack the mainstream science of evolution as it is taught in the public schools.

One of the expert witnesses in the case, Dr.Barbara Forrest, recently published an insider's account of her participation in the case in The Skeptical Inquirer magazine. She outlines, among other things, the desperate efforts of the ID advocates and defense attorneys to get her barred from the case.  None of it worked. But during cross examination, the defense attorney from the Thomas More Law Center, focused not on the substance of her testimony, but on diversions, asking for instance:  "When did you become a card carrying member of the ACLU?"

I was called as a witness because of my co-authorship with Paul R. Gross of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (Oxford University Press, 2004) and other publications about ID. In CTH, we analyze a document entitled "The Wedge Strategy," CSC's [Center for Science and Culture (CSC), the creationist arm of the Discovery Institute]  tactical plan, showing how CSC creationists are executing every phase except producing scientific data to support ID. We show that ID is creationism, thus a religious belief, using the best evidence available: the words of ID leaders such as Phillip E. Johnson, William Dembski, and their ID colleagues. We also show ID's continuity with earlier creationism. My job was to present this evidence to the judge.

Here is an excerpt, summarizing her testimony:

I had two tasks: to demonstrate to Judge Jones (1) that ID is creationism, thus a religious belief, and (2) that Of Pandas and People is a creationist textbook. As part of the evidence for my first task I included the words of two leading ID proponents, Phillip E. Johnson and William Dembski. Under direct examination by Eric Rothschild, I related Johnson's definition of ID as "theistic realism" or "mere creation," by which he means "that we affirm that God is objectively real as Creator, and that the reality of God is tangibly recorded in evidence accessible to science, particularly in biology." To that I added Dembski's definition: "Intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John's Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory."  If the judge had heard nothing except these two quotes, he would have had all the evidence he needed that ID's own leaders regard it as not only creationism but also as a sectarian Christian belief. But I had much more, such as CSC fellow Mark Hartwig's 1995 Moody Magazine article in which he referred to a 1992 ID conference at Southern Methodist University as a meeting of "creationists and evolutionists," calling Dembski and Stephen Meyer "evangelical scholars."  During these early years, when they needed money and supporters, ID proponents openly advertised both their religiosity and their creationism.
However, none of the evidence for ID's religious, creationist identity was more important than "The Wedge Strategy," probably written in 1996 when the CSC was established but revised in 1998. Known informally as the "Wedge Document," it was leaked from a Seattle office and posted on the Internet in early 1999. DI did not acknowledge ownership of it until 2002, after I independently authenticated it and wrote about it in 2001. The technical team hired by Pepper Hamilton to create computer "demonstratives" projected the Wedge Document onto a screen in court, and I walked Judge Jones through it, explaining the most important parts. My first slide made its significance clear: "[C]ould I have the first slide, please? This is the first page of the Wedge Strategy, and this is the opening paragraph of it. Quote, `The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which western civilization was built.' This . . . states very well the foundational belief behind the intelligent design movement and the reason that they have rejected the theory of evolution."  As I continued, the judge heard the strategy's explicitly Christian goals: "Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialistic worldview and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."  ...

To counter the defense's predictable denials that ID is creationism, I also explained, using an account by ID proponent and CSC fellow Paul Nelson, how Phillip Johnson had master-minded creationism's transformation into "intelligent design" after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed creationism in public schools in its 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard ruling. According to Nelson, creationists believed that Edwards meant the death of the "two-model approach to origins," in which creationists recognize only two alternatives, either evolution or creation, hoping to win by default after undermining evolution. But Nelson explained that "a revolution from an unexpected quarter . . . was about to occur."  The revolutionary was Johnson, who decided that, for creationism to survive Edwards, creationists had to redefine science: "Definitions of science, [Johnson] argued, could be contrived to exclude any conclusion we dislike or to include any we favor." Not only was Johnson's deliberate but nominal transformation of creationism into ID important for demonstrating ID's true identity, but it also provided important support for my testimony about Pandas: to survive after Edwards, Pandas would require a similar transformation. (When the book was first published in 1989, Johnson was already allied with chemist Charles Thaxton, author of the creationist book The Mystery of Life's Origin and "academic editor" of Pandas.  The subpoenaed FTE documents, which contained several earlier Pandas drafts, revealed that precisely such a transformation had been effected.

A Pandas co-author, CSC fellow Dean H. Kenyon, had been a creationist witness in the Edwards case and had submitted a sworn affidavit testifying that "creation-science is as scientific as evolution."  I discovered a letter Kenyon wrote to FTE president Jon Buell showing that he was working on the 1986 draft of Pandas, then called Biology and Creation, while also assisting in the Edwards case!  All pre-Edwards drafts of Pandas (there were at least five) were written using creationist terminology. The earliest drafts had overtly creationist titles. In 1987 the title was changed to Of Pandas and People, and there were two 1987 drafts. One was written in creationist language. In the other, creationist terminology had been replaced by "intelligent design" and other design-related terms, suggesting that the Edwards decision prompted this change. The clincher was a new footnote in the latter draft explicitly referencing Edwards, indicating that this draft was produced after the June 19, 1987, decision in an effort to evade the ruling. I also found a letter from Buell to a prospective publisher in which Buell made profit projections for Pandas contingent upon the Court's decision: "The enclosed projection showing revenues of over 6.5 million in five years are based upon modest expectations for the market, provided the U.S. Supreme Court does not uphold the Louisiana Balanced Treatment acts. If by chance it should uphold it, then you can throw out these projections. The nationwide market would be explosive."

The legal victory in this case has made the public schools less of a battle ground for the promotion of religious views of the origins of the universe as science.  But the battle continues on many other fronts.  (There is even an attack on evolution in the video game Left Behind:  Eternal Forces.)  

Anyway, Forrest's entire article, The "Vise Strategy" Undone: Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District is worth a read. It will serve as a useful backgrounder for anyone approaching this general subject.




Display:
to learn from our victories. The story of the Dover case is worth pursuing in far greater detail.

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Dec 28, 2006 at 12:04:54 AM EST

for a definition of "irreducible complexity" that can be tested and verified. Of course, it simply can't be done. Defining "IR" more akin to trying to define and test for the existence of God. Both are matters of faith, not science. And what of then deciding which religion's God is the real one?

So when are the creationists going to devise an experiment based on a quantifiable, verifiable definition of IR?

Never, of course. Its fraud and deceit to insist that Creationism is science and IR can be defined.

by James Veverka on Thu Dec 28, 2006 at 10:00:19 AM EST

which is one of the main points of this post. Since it is now proved that the main purpose of ID is to get around a Supreme Court decision banning the teaching of creationism in the publich schools, what we have here is a well funded propaganda operation conceived of by a law professor and propagandized by a well funded staff at the Discovery Institute.

The ID crowd will not submit thier ideas for scientific verification, because they know it is not science. That is the point. Therefore our thinking about how to best respond needs to evolve with the new circumstances.  We are not dealing with people who are honest in their convictions. We are dealing with people who are professional propagandists.

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Dec 28, 2006 at 01:22:57 PM EST
Parent

...................but we must be very very careful about using the words "proved" because nothing in the universe is proved; it is only evidenced. Science is about evidence for hypotheses and subsequent probabilities.

Science is about explanatory powers, not proofs.

I wish I could impress on people how important the differences are between what is considered proved and what is evidenced. Much is evidenced, and far less is proved. In fact, in what we consider important moral issues, nothing has ever been "proved"; it has only been evidenced.

 

by James Veverka on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 12:31:02 AM EST
Parent

It is about what has been proved in a court of law, and by any reasonable standard of proof in journalism and scholarship -- what I stated has been proved. For the purposes of this site, the science of intelligent design is well beyond our purposes, and not what I was talking about anyway.  

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 01:21:49 AM EST
Parent





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