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The Political Design of Intelligent Design
Russell D. Renka
Professor of Political Science
Southeast Missouri State University
November 16, 2005
"Intelligent design" is intended by its creators to be an emerging scientific alternative to Darwinian evolution. It has rapidly become the cultural conservative's choice of terms in lieu of their longstanding support for biblically based "creation science." For both, the political aim is to compete in public school venues with teaching of evolution in biology classes. This is a central objective to many religious conservatives from a variety of faiths, not exclusively those of Christian origins. The issue was played out in fall 2005 with the federal trial of Kitzmiller et al v. Dover Independent School District in the State of Pennsylvania. The same conflict plays in the Kansas Board of Education's 2005 curriculum standards that redefined science to permit non-natural explanations of observable natural phenomena. Backing them both are pronouncements from leading Republican politicians that evolution and intelligent design should be taught together.1
Here I show that I.D. is an integral part of a political campaign by cultural conservatives, largely from fundamentalist religious convictions, to undercut the teaching of scientific evolution. This should be rejected out of hand because the theory of evolution is not under serious attack by scientists. Neither is I.D. an emergent scientific paradigm or rival theory as its advocates proclaim. The proper place to "teach the controversy" is in classes on politics, on history, on culture, and (perhaps) on theology. In science class, only science should be taught.
Wikipedia defines intelligent design as "the controversial assertion that certain features of the universe and of living things exhibit the characteristics of a product resulting from an intelligent cause or agent, as opposed to an unguided process such as natural selection." In earlier times the contravention to teaching evolution was done via creationism or "creation science," but that strategy failed decisively with the Supreme Court's 1987 rejection of a Louisiana law on grounds that it violated the First Amendment's establishment clause by teaching religious doctrine in public schools (Edwards v. Aguillard 482 U.S. 578 (1987) [85-1513]; Cornell's Edwards v. Aguillard).2 That decision killed creationism politically as a viable way to teach against evolution. Intelligent design (hereafter: I.D.) dates its emergence from there via latter-day creation of the Discovery Institute, which remains the chief home site for I.D. today.
Evolution itself is based on natural selection. That process is often construed by creationists to refer to random occurrences piling up over time to produce changes within species, and even emergence of new species. Creationists then point to a majestic finished product--a human, a cat, a horse--and insist that natural emergence of such a perfect creature is so unlikely by this mechanism that it's akin to a tornado rearranging a junkyard into a working Boeing 747 (or something equally impressive). Or they say the same about a working body part such as the human eyeball. But natural selection is truly anything but random. Dawkins cites it briefly as "nonrandom survival of randomly varying hereditary instructions for building embryos" (Dawkins 2005). Genetic mutations occur in random fashion over time; but selection works through a powerful bias. That bias favors some mutations while being neutral or hostile toward others, all depending upon the environment's characteristics. There is adaptation not because advanced functioning eyes appeared out of whole cloth all at once, but because any perception of changes in filtered sunlight was a valuable quality for sea floor Pecten mollusks in an environment full of predatory crabs, octopi, fish, and human harvesters of Pectens.
Modern humans are especially powerful selection agents in evolution. We pick puppies from pounds based on cuteness, leaving many others to euthanasia. We mow lawns in part to kill dandelions, but leave those growing low enough to stay below lethal mower blades. We shepherd herd-amenable cattle to water holes in lion country with spears at the ready, while leaving truly ornery cows to the lion pride. All these favorably selected features are hereditary and thus go forth to progeny. All this is probably not objectionable in micro form to religious believers, many of whom are dog owners, lawn mowers, or cattle herders. But put natural selection in larger context and teach it all to teenagers? There is the making of a fight.
The 2005 Dover case had the expected lineup for a major cultural clash. Advance work was considerable. The culturally conservative Thomas More Law Center made a national name for itself by shopping for a school district willing to require teaching of intelligent design if evolution is taught, finding the Dover Area School District in October 2004, and then arguing the I.D. side on a pro bono legal basis for them.3 Lined up against them for 11 plaintiff families (Kitzmiller et al.) was the American Civil Liberties Union, backed by the National Center for Science Education and the National Academy of Sciences.4 Both cultural sides knew some venue would hash this out, and Dover happened along for 2005 as Dayton, Tennessee once did for the celebrated 1925 Tennessee v. John Scopes trial.
The strategy in promoting intelligent design walks a delicate line between truth and legal fiction. On one hand, I.D. serves the interests of Biblical literalists who set forth an exacting version of Biblical inerrancy. This includes a particular historical reading of the Old Testament's Book of Genesis to include a "young-earth creationism" argument contravening scientific evidence that the Earth (and universe) are very old. That is not consonant with the far more general intelligent design claim that an unnamed cause or agent guided the universe to its past and present form. I.D. does not specify or require specific testable claims about age of the earth, or of the universe. It is quite simple from an inerrancy view to label I.D. a false doctrine for ignoring revealed truths from the Book of Genesis.5 But as a practical constitutional and political matter in calendar 2005, it was either I.D. as an attack on Darwinian evolution, or nothing.
Intelligent design fills another void by proclaiming itself as emergent science, someday to become a newly dominant standard model of how to view empirical reality. That serves the interests of creationists everywhere. The outright rejection of scientific evolution by religious fundamentalists is not restricted to Christendom. Muslim clerics and writers also condemn it for putting forth a strictly secular and "materialistic" view of human origins and history. Turkish writer Harun Yahya labels it in practically identical language as blasphemous--and scientifically wrong.6 But dominant scientific theories do not go away without replacement by a rival explanatory scheme. Does intelligent design actually fill such a role?
Not in the light of current scientists. Critics of intelligent design are unstinting. Philosopher Barbara Forrest has shown that the seminal I.D. textbook Of Pandas and People has gone through nearly 20 years of iterations showing a very close association with creationism (Forrest 2001; Forrest and Gross 2003; Davis and Kenyon 1989, 1993). Nick Matzke of the National Center for Science Education calls I.D. "creationism in a cheap tuxedo" for this offense (Nick Matzke's site). I.D. has evolved into a latter-day version of creationism after creationism failed the Supreme Court's 1987 Aguillard decision. H. Allen Orr demolished its claim to be high science in a 2005 New Yorker article tailored to that magazine's select audience among the cultured, the educated, and the science-minded (Orr 2005, The New Yorker PRINTABLES). Scientists do not accept either creationism or I.D. as authentic science--but school boards and politicians and parents might accept I.D. in lieu of self-declared creationism.
Intelligent design proponents meanwhile celebrate it as a soon-to-be-mature alternative that will eventually overthrow evolution's status as a dominant scientific paradigm.7 Author Lee Strobel in a Christianity Today interview said "one of the fastest growing phenomenon is scientists who are doubtful of the claims of Darwinism" as "there's more than 300 scientists with doctorates from major universities who've now signed this statement saying that they are skeptical of the claims of neo-Darwinism." (Science that Backs Up Faith - Christianity Today Magazine) This appeal to authority is coupled with the scientifically recognized fact (since 1965) that the universe has a finite origin now figured at 13.7 billion years ago (from work via Hubble and Keck telescope evidence, among cosmologists). Strobel construes the origin to mean that "whatever begins to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist; therefore the universe has a cause." Readers should recognize circular reasoning here; but if not, they may recognize the absence of an empirically testable claim.
And that absence is a core distinction of I.D. from young-earth creationism. Creationism makes very specific and easily refutable empirical claims, and has done so long before a young creation-believing Charles Darwin first went aboard the exploratory globe-circling Beagle voyage in the early 1830s. Either the earth is 6000 years of age now, or it is not. Either all species were created at one time in a special act of creation, or they were not. Either humankind suddenly appeared fully formed in an idyllic garden with two distinct genders and navels for each, or it did not. Either the Grand Canyon was product of a single worldwide flood, or it was not. Either; well, you get the drift, as all these claims can be falsified with publicly understandable critical tests in a jiffy. But I.D. literature from the Discovery Center (or Strobel) lacks comparable empirically testable claims derived from an underlying theory. To proclaim a creator of the universe is not refutable by any scientist on basis of any known means of inquiry, so I.D. is largely immune from immediate and obvious contradiction in a science class. It's child's play to disprove young-earth creationism claims, but not so for I.D.
I.D. advocates will protest that it does make sophisticated scientific claims that are testable. True, it does deny some subtle inferences from Darwinian evolution; and evolutionists have thoroughly debunked those claims in semi-professional scientific venues such as the pages of Natural History, the National Council of Science Education review site on the Dover trial, and the trial transcript. But school board members rarely read that magazine, let alone more technical scientific journals; and NCSE as party to the Kitzmiller side of the Dover trial is considered active enemy territory by many religious conservatives. The important point of intelligent design's difference from creationism is that it's amenable to use in K-12 educational venues where those disproofs of I.D. will not be shown or known. The major current political value of I.D. is simply to get a non-evolution curriculum in place in K-12 public school science classes, since 1) the label of being "science" lends I.D. the tremendously powerful appeal-to-authority currency possessed by all of modern science, and 2) if it somehow is defined as scientific, I.D. just might get past court review based on the establishment clause's prohibition on teaching religious doctrine in public schools.
Some critics ask why I.D. supporters have not tried to invade universities first. The normal path of emergent new scientific paradigms is through graduate schools and the leading professional journals of science. The is easily witnessed when tectonic plate theory in the 1960s and 1970s produced a revolutionary change in earth science. Science has tremendous prestige when put into practice, as the income and standing of American physicians and pharmaceutical firms will attest in contrast to primitive 19th century surgical practices and quack medicine sales pitches. The true problem for cultural conservatives with modern evolution, which is based increasingly upon spectacular advances in molecular analysis, is that it's been extremely successful as a central theory with countless confirmed empirical tests and new research questions to chew over. To say that it is "just a theory" is equivalent to dismissing plate tectonics, the big bang, or general and special relativity as "just theories." Such theories are central to doing science, and they have been confirmed repeatedly even while being modified in light of new findings. That's normal science. It is out of the question for I.D. to be successfully introduced to the public via higher education venues. It will never gain standing in such scientific courts as the evidence for evolution piles up ever higher.
The I.D. advocates say they are denied access to journals by prejudice of this science establishment. That is quite correct, in the same sense that any non-science is normally not allowed into science journals. That is not by conspiracy but by consensus of scientific practitioners. The Discovery Institute is amply funded and nearly two decades of age, but has no peer-reviewed journal of I.D. findings. What they do publish is devoted almost exclusively to picking at well-known problems and inconsistencies in the theory of evolution. That is strange behavior for a supposedly emerging new scientific paradigm that would provide detailed testable explanations of its own on the topics evolution now addresses. I.D. advocacy from a few science-credentialed Ph.D. prominences like Professors Behe and Dembski is not coincident with an ongoing enterprise of uncovering new theory and testing that will revolutionize fields like molecular biology, geological history, and cosmology.
I.D. advocates also state that major news media are prejudiced against them since the mainstream media are supposedly dominated by liberal Democrats. They may be surprised to hear scientists and science writers deride those same media for dwelling on "the controversy" at expense of explaining evolution itself (Mooney and Nisbet 2005; Nisbet 2005). The media indeed devote intensive coverage to the controversy itself under their established bias favoring audience-drawing stories with ample doses of sound and fury. Popular television news and entertainment shows feature equal time for creationist/I.D. spokesmen such as Rev. Jerry Falwell.8 Those of us interested in political struggles also must plead guilty to hyping this cultural collision. The controversy draws vastly more attention to I.D. than it would possibly get otherwise. That is a success for I.D., which desperately needs the free media to spread a word that scientists and science journals regard as a foolish diversion.
I.D. has another advantage in choosing K-12, because for most Americans their junior high school and high school educations will have far more impact than university science classes do. Politically the question is how to bolster the cultural positioning of religious conservatives, and I.D. has served this end by targeting a 9th grade curriculum in Dover Area School District at behest of two religiously conservative members of the Dover school board. Through the 1980s, about one in three secondary school teachers supported giving equal time to teaching creationist alternatives to evolution (Scott 1999, Table 4). If ever I.D. is to invade the college and university science curricula, it will come to campus via students, their parents, some of their high school teachers, and maybe the impositions of consumer-conscious college administrators.9 This worries serious people such as Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education and its "point person" against the imposition of I.D., and Barbara Forrest, a philosopher known for identifying I.D. as the primary wedge for imposition of the cultural conservative political and religious creationism agenda into schools (Forrest 2001; Forrest and Gross 2003; Scott 1999).10
It worries me, too, but I have a peculiar solution on hand. My specialty is teaching politics. My venue is the perfect one for "teaching the controversy" to which President Bush refers. This is not a scientific controversy; it is a cultural and political controversy, and thus the rightful property of classes on politics, on history, and on culture (but doubtful value for serious classes on theology). Religion and science are separate realms of inquiry in the pure sense that neither can adequately answer the core questions posed by the other. A question about ultimate purpose of life, about a path to salvation of the soul, about an afterlife or reincarnation, will not admit to empirical testing derived from a scientific theory such as Darwinian evolution or the cosmological big bang. Neither will religion generate new answers on how to decode the human genome, or to interpret why a new species of mosquito has appeared in the special environment of the London Underground. This separation is why so many persons of faith also accept science, and so many active scientists are also practicing Christians or Jews or Muslims or Buddhists.
This is ultimately a struggle over sources of authority. Fundamentalists put forth the Bible as ultimate word on all things. No scientist operates on that basis in his or her own research. Some religious doctrine will inevitably fall into direct conflict with free-ranging scientific inquiry. The very names "Galileo" and "Catholic Church" in one sentence ought to remind us that a conflict of authority and legitimacy has been and is underway here. The fact that the same Church had already made use of advanced astronomy to produce the majestic Gregorian calendar does not change this. Science and religious authorities can and do collaborate. But they also collide, and something or other must yield when they do. Scientists do not define truth by pondering how to interpret the text of the Old Testament's Book of Genesis or the Ko'ran. We now write another chapter in this old book of competing sources.
There is no doubt that I.D.'s main appeal to citizens comes from its link to religious concepts. Confirmation of this comes from polls on Americans' beliefs about science. An August 2005 poll from The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life shows a large plurality of Americans favoring creationism for science classrooms, and another large plurality favoring evolution (Public Divided on Origins of Life, August 30, 2005). The result varies deeply by education level and also by religiosity. The educated are far less attached to I.D. than the less educated. Evangelicals and fundamentalists show high rates of affiliation with I.D. while other religious persons and the secular are much lower.
I.D. advocates reply that hefty national majorities favor the
Bush approach of teaching the controversy. Other polls confirm the Pew
findings, some of them sponsored by advocates of I.D. This has assisted
politicians in endorsing a position to teach both sides.11
That is traditional
pluralism at work; fair-minded Americans who assume a scientific controversy exists will vote for teaching both
sides over just one. The premise of these polls is that such a controversy
does exist--not among scientists, but among the public and the politicians.
Naturally most citizens therefore choose to let both have a turn at the podium.
Evolution is science, and science is not simple to understand. Much evidence affirms that most Americans are ill-equipped to decide whether a real scientific controversy exists at all. John D. Miller has conducted survey inquiries on "civic scientific literacy," defined as "the capacity to make sense of competing arguments in a scientific debate" (Gross 2006, Scientific Illiteracy and the Partisan Takeover of Biology; Miller 1998). Miller found that only 1 American in 6 is so qualified. On evolution v. I.D. or creationism, Miller found that only 14% or approximately 1 in 7 Americans firmly held that evolution is a real phenomenon whereas 1 in 3 are equally firm-set against it on religious grounds.
This scientific issue is mediated by both one's state of knowledge about the controversy and by political ideology. Some leading ideological conservatives favor evolution, others are opposed. The defining mark is their scientific understanding. A July 2005 open-ended telephone survey of prominent public conservatives shows an intriguing mix of knowledge and unfamiliarity of both evolution and intelligent design (Adler 2005, Conservatives and Evolution: Evolutionary War). Those few with training in science, like Charles Krauthammer, readily accept evolution. Many others do so as well, but they vary in degree of reservation about gaps in the theory, or doubts about human and life-form origins. A greater expression of unfamiliarity and uncertainty is on I.D. itself. That is another advantage for I.D., as lack of such understanding almost forces a hold-your-gun openness to learning more about it.
Scientists themselves do know I.D. and say it's about religion, not science. A year 2002 sampling of 460 Ohio science professors had 91% say it's primarily religion, 93% say there is not "any scientifically valid evidence or an alternative scientific theory that challenges the fundamental principle of the theory of evolution," and 97% say that they did not use I.D. concepts in their own research.12 Robert Camp is a writer affiliated with evolution-defending Creation and Intelligent Design Watch of Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal or CSICOP. He conducted an open-response survey with biology or life science department chairpersons or deans from leading universities on basis of a single question: "Regarding the issue of “Intelligent Design theory” vs. current biological consensus on the mechanisms of evolution - is there a difference of professional opinion within your department that you feel could be accurately described as a scientific controversy?" (Camp, Turn out the lights, the "Teach the controversy" party's over). His 158 query emails received 73 responses (response rate 46 percent) with 45 extended comments. Only one of the 73 affirmed that such a controversy among scientists did exist.
Scientists do get riled to discover creationism or I.D. in their midst, as occasionally will happen on campuses or other scientific venues.13 They view themselves as uniquely qualified to define science, because they understand it vastly better than the common citizenry or the elected officials do. They might be too sensitive, as learning more science might be a byproduct of this particular controversy. A concurrent Ohio Poll of 900 citizens reveals that few citizens had any real knowledge of the concept of intelligent design, but once it was described, then very large majorities saw it as religious in nature.14 Thus the more is learned about I.D., the less it can masquerade as valid science rather than religious doctrine.
The opportunity to learn more was right upon us through 2005 and into 2006. There will be no early end to this cultural conflict. Just as the Dover trial ended its trial proceedings in November 2005, the Kansas Board of Education voted 6 to 4 on 8 November 2005 to adopt new science standards that directly challenge evolution in curricula for grades 4, 7, and 10. They did so by officially redefining science itself to include non-natural explanations for natural phenomena.15 The language is unmistakably that of intelligent design (Wilgoren 2005). The Intelligent Design Network, based itself in Kansas, hailed this decision by a conservative Board elected in 2004 (Science Standards - Intelligent Design Network Seeking Objectivity in Origins Science). The NCSE was considerably less pleased (NCSE Resource - Kansas state science standards reviewed). Lawyers for both sides are delighted, as there is an overflow of work to do.
There is a political repercussion to be expected from cultural conservative sponsorship on this issue. It divides not only Americans, but specifically Americans affiliated with the Republican Party. This comes in two versions--mild, where no actual policy is on board so the non-cultural hardliners can ignore the issue or give quiet assent, and a noisy version where heated attention forces bystanders to declare their positions. Success by the cultural conservatives on I.D. can jeopardize the whole GOP's slate of elected officials. We had a small profile of this in the Tuesday, November 8, 2005 election result of the Dover Area School Board. Two religious fundamentalists on that Board were responsible in 2004 for putting Dover into the trial spotlight. The November 8 election saw both voted out of office. One of them, Alan Bonsell, was shown in the trial transcript to seek teaching of creationism out of fundamentalist religious convictions. He got the lowest vote of the 16 candidates. His cosponsor was second lowest. Defeated alongside these two were six Republicans not closely associated with the original decision, who suffered from guilt by association for passively allowing or voting for the original imposition. 16
That is not a surprising result of local elections revolving around a single hot-button cultural issue such as imposition of I.D. or creationism. Normal local elections are quiet affairs with very low voter turnout (generally below 20 percent of the eligible voting age population), and few if any nationally viable issues in the campaign. Christian fundamentalists have long ago learned to effectively use a "stealth strategy" of quietly getting elected to these boards--and then introducing proposals such as the Dover or Kansas entries. There will be no end to this practice, only variations from learned successes and failures. But once it highlights a divisive policy touching on the way teenagers are taught about science and religion, then national and even international attention turns to that place. That in turn mobilizes the local opposition to the fundamentalists, producing increased voter mobilization, increased turnout, and defeat of many stealth strategists. Mobilization eventually cuts both ways.
The result is "wing nut politics" (What Culture Wars? by Morris P. Fiorina, July 14, 2004, p. A14 at Samuel Abrams- Harvard University WSJ; Fiorina et al., 2005). Wikipedia defines "wing nut" as a pejorative on right and left-wingers, including cultural warriors who attack teaching of evolution (Wingnut (politics) - Wikipedia). Their issues are strictly cultural at the core, with economic and national security alignments to other Republicans for sake of coalitional majority formation. They would redefine science to suit their own ideological agenda. They're a definite numerical minority of Americans, but their politics is based less on numbers than on intensive mobilization of ideologically committed followings who are quite unrepresentative of the American people. There is no general culture war in America by Fiorina's lights, but wing nuts would have it otherwise.
The specific wing nut behavior of spurned I.D. advocates is to label opponents enemies of God. This is a popular invocation with the committed base of I.D. and creationist believers. A leading employer of this tactic is Reverend Pat Robertson, host of "The 700 Club." Robertson wasted little time branding Dover for turning out the perpetrators of the trial. His November 10 statement from "The 700 Club" broadcast said: "I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city. And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there." (CNN.com - Robertson warns Pennsylvania voters of God's wrath - Nov 10, 2005)
Many religious leaders in Dover reacted strongly to this. Robertson then issued what started as an apology: ""I was simply stating that our spiritual actions have consequences and it's high time we started recognizing it. God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in his eye forever. If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin ... maybe he can help them." The conclusion flew a truer set of colors than its start (Tucker and McMinn, 'You voted God out' - York Daily Record, November 11, 2005). Pat's believers are more energized than before, and his opponents more determined to stop them. That is a snapshot of the cultural-war landscape of American politics in 2005.
Practically minded politicians should know that it's risky to behave this way. So should strategic leaders of American political parties, which are advised to avoid strict cultural-division lines for their own good. As our politics became steadily more cultural during the 1980s and 1990s, U.S. House incumbent "wingers" who strictly voted a single party's positions had a greater likelihood of electoral defeat (Canes-Wrone, Brady and Logan 2002). If Dover be a sign (from either heaven or voters; your choice), that applies elsewhere too. "Teaching the controversy" in science class is not a consensual political position; it is instead an invitation to duke it out in another Dover trial.
Meanwhile the largely moderate American people are divided, and therefore its political leadership is
too. Neither has a full understanding of this debate. Both want to reach some
kind of amicable coexistence and collaboration. But that cannot be done with a doctrine that calls itself science among non-scientists, and is
rejected out of hand by the vast majority of the real practitioners. If
I.D. passes muster with the Supreme Court, and Dover Area School District or the
State of Kansas gets to teach I.D., then what? Do creationists suppose that science standards
will change enough to permit their convictions to be affirmed via independent
blind tests in peer-reviewed scientific journals? This outcome will only
produce a painful downfall among persons whose hopes were drawn to the wrong
arena. Faith ought not be based on scientific tests. Intelligent design will eventually die off, and evolution will live
on. Galileo's heavenly bodies moved not because he said they did, nor
because the Church said it was so, but because it was really so. The overwhelming empirical
evidence that they actually did move eventually imposed itself on inquiring
minds who insisted on pursuing reality wherever it took them. Evolution
does this very thing now, and will keep doing so. Better by far that
biology classes teach biology, complete with its foundation.
1 These include President Bush's
"teach the controversy" statement on 2 August
2005, followed shortly by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).
Earlier pronouncements for I.D. and against evolution come from then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay
(R-Tx.) (Answers in Genesis, DeLay's take on
Baylor, A&M draws fire).
The President said "Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."
Many GOP lawmakers at state and federal levels want to see legislation having public schools teach intelligent design per "equal time" laws. Some 37 of 53 Indiana state lawmakers sought public approval for that via constituent surveys (GOP lawmakers want schools to teach 'intelligent design' IndyStar.com). More than a few Democrats concur. But few if any state legislative actions through 2005 took hold, as they awaited outcome of the Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover federal trial.
2 The Aguillard majority
opinion in a 7 to 2 vote was written by Justice William Brennan: "The
Lemon test must be used to gauge the constitutionality of the Creationism Act.
The Act does not have a secular purpose. It does not advance academic freedom
and restricts the abilities of teachers to teach what they deem appropriate. Louisiana offers
instructional packets to assist in the teaching of creationism
but not for the teaching of evolution. The Act does not require the teaching of
creationism, it only asserts such an interest when evolution is taught. "The
preeminent purpose of the Louisiana Legislature was clearly to advance the
religious viewpoint that a supernatural being created humankind... . The Louisiana
Creationism Act advances a religious doctrine by requiring either the banishment
of the theory of evolution from public school classrooms or the presentation of
a religious viewpoint that rejects evolution in its entirety." ."
A strong dissent came from Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Chief Justice William Rehnquist (Doug Linder, Justices Brennan and Scalia Debate Creation-Science in Edwards v Aguillard). Scalia said that the Court lacked a basis for denying that creationism was scientific, and that the Court show defer to Louisiana legislators who themselves believed it was science at time of the law's passage.
An earlier 1968 decision from the State of Arkansas overturned a state prohibition on teaching of evolution in public school (Epperson v. Arkansas 393 U.S. 97 ). Louisiana then enacted its law to teach creation science alongside teaching of evolution by requiring that if one is taught, then the other must be taught.
Explanatory context for this and more is Doug Linder's The Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design Controversy at the UMKC School of Law.
3 See Goodstein
2005a, In Intelligent Design Case, a Cause in Search of a Lawsuit. New York Times,
November 4. Discovery
Institute associate director John G. West did not concur with the Thomas More strategy for arguing Dover, as we shall
see. West insists that
Intelligent Design and Creationism Just Aren't the Same (December 1, 2002).
He also claims that suppression of I.D. is a violation of free speech within the
realm of scientific teaching and research communities. West recognizes
that the Thomas More strategy could seriously jeopardize the campaign to make
I.D. a recognized scientific enterprise. He is probably quite right about
that, but wrong in believing that I.D. has mostly scientific value rather than
convenient usage for political ends such as getting a change made in public
school science curriculums.
On "why Dover?" one answer (like Job's query to God) is "why not Dover?" It's a rural school district that proved amenable to the Thomas More Center's appeal. See Dover-area assessment via Lauri Lebo, "What’s made Dover unique? Nation, world seek reasons this community became flashpoint for intelligent-design debate," York Daily Record, November 6, 2005.
National Center for Science Education has a Dover trial page entitled
Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School
District - Legal documents, trial materials, updates. The National
Academy of Science weighs in with resources on evolution at
National-Academies.org -Evolution Resources From the National
Among newspapers, see the New York Times, The Evolution Debate. A good news source compilation on the "intelligent design debate" is The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Intelligent Design Debate.
Alongside The Discovery Institute, defenders of I.D. include the Intelligent Design Network: Seeking Objectivity in Origins Science. Less well known is the oddly named Access Research Network with a title denoting its goal of producing access to scientific and technical inquiry from an I.D. point of view.
Natural History, a magazine published by the American Museum of Natural History, has provided a 2002 online Special Report titled Evolution: Science and Belief. This shows its own support of evolution and that of several leading I.D. critics of evolution, including Michael Behe and William Dembski. These are paired as argument-and-rejoinder, per Behe/Miller and Dembski/Pennock among others.
5 See Creationism vs. Intelligent Design -
Is there a difference? By Daniel Engber, Slate, May 10,
2005; and NPR
Slate's Explainer Creationism v. Intelligent Design.
Strict believers in biblical creation probably know Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis - Creation, Evolution, Christian Apologetics site. This is expressly biblical doctrine, including denial of an old earth or old universe, and equally adamant for a onetime worldwide flood. Advocates of intelligent design wisely avoid defense of those empirical proclamations.
Other strict creationist sites include Kent Hovind's Creation Science Evangelism - Creation, Evolution, Dinosaurs, and the Bible.; the Institute for Creation Research begun by Henry Morris and featuring speaker Duane Gish; Grady McMurtry's Creation Worldview Ministries; Randy McWilson's Defend your Faith.com; Ray Bohlin's Probe Ministries; and Carl Baugh's Creation Evidence Museum. All are overtly based on Christian fundamentalism.
Harun Yahya -
Categories - Refutation of Darwinism from the mother site
Harun Yahya - An Invitation to The Truth.
Yahya (a pen name) argues for design in living things and in the universe
itself, in a familiar
intelligent design fashion, per Design in Nature and
Design in the Universe.
Followers of Descartes will recognize the view that while the deity is not
directly witnessed, nonetheless nature's glory and our own capacity to
contemplate it are sufficient to prove the deity's presence. Many
religious believers add that such proof is ongoing rather than confined to a
singular origin. Natural
selection, an elementary tenet of Darwinian evolution, thus has no place in Yahya's
view, per A System
Planned in its Every Detail. Lest readers doubt Yahya's conviction,
this sentence appears on Harun Yahya - The Author
from his book The Evolution Deceit: "The theory of evolution is nothing but a deception imposed on us by the
dominators of the world system."
Physicist Lawrence Krauss recognizes that scientists and secular thinkers ponder the unknown as intensively as religious thinkers like Harun Yahya, but draws a distinction of scientists from "those whose beliefs cause them to insist that life can only be understood by going beyond the confines of the natural world." It is this: "Scientists know that without experimental vindication their proposals are likely to wither." (Krauss, Science and Religion Share Fascination in Things Unseen - New York Times, November 8, 2005). Astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson speaks similarly of religious belief filling voids of knowledge, but receding when science achieves a theoretical explanation with empirical verifications. But on origin and development of living things and human life in particular, he recognizes that many defenders of faith post stiff barriers to acceptance of evolution (Tyson 2005).
7 See Creation-Evolution Encyclopedia - The most comprehensive source of scientific facts and statements on origins for a sampling: "An astounding amount of scientific evidence disproving evolutionary theory has been uncovered. Here is part of that evidence."
8 This is the same Reverend Falwell who followed hard upon the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001 by assigning responsibility for it to America for permitting legal abortions to occur, thus leading to God lifting His normal veil of protection from this land. (Let it be noted that he and interlocutor Pat Robertson also condemned the al Q'aeda terrorists for their part in this attack.) See TruthOrFiction.com's Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, views on September 11-Truth!; beliefnet's "You Helped This Happen" - Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson react to the September 11 terrorist attacks on American soil.; and Weblog: As the World Prays, Falwell and Robertson Blame ACLU, Gays, and Others for 'Deserved' Attack - Christianity Today Magazine.
9 That could happen via introduction
of student IDEA (Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness) clubs, which are promoted by
Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute. The idea follows from Meyer's
2002 Ohio newspaper piece,
Teach the Controversy, in the Cincinnati Enquirer, March 30, 2002. See Geoff Brumfiel,
Intelligent design Who has designs on your students' minds Nature with
illustration of Gallup Poll information affirming wide public support for I.D.
It won't come from university schools of education. Neither will it issue from science-supporting foundations or from the periodic national educational reports emanating from them. To the contrary, I.D. promotion reflects the generally adverse conditions for setting proper state standards in teaching science as a whole, not excluding biology. The most recent Report of 7 December 2005 from the National Assessment Governing Board via the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation is The State of State Science Standards (pdf file; primary author Paul R. Gross) showing that the 50 states averaged a grade of C (see also Thomas B. Fordham Institute - The State of State Science Standards 2005. The separate assessment of teaching of evolution is shown at Press Release - December 7, 2005; it concludes that poor teaching of evolution follows mainly from poor overall state science standards and practices.
10 The notorious Discovery Institute "wedge document" itself is posted at The Discovery Institute's Wedge Document located at www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Hangar/2437/wedge.html. The Discovery Institute originally kept this statement of affinity of I.D. with creationism quiet, but it "was leaked to the Internet in 1999. The Discovery Institute later admitted to its authenticity." This is accounted in Coyne 2006, p.4f1.
11 The Pew Forum on Religion & Public
Life, Public Divided on
Origins of Life, August 30, 2005.
A poll with an distinct lean toward "teaching the controversy" is a Zogby Poll of 600 Texas residents done for the I.D.-sponsoring Discovery Institute; see Texas Poll Final (in .doc form). The absence of Zogby Poll prefatory material explaining what's at stake leads to an assumption by respondents that an authentic scientific controversy does exist. That poll was scathingly reviewed by Chris Mooney of CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) at Polling for Intelligent Design (Doubt and About).
Since this paper is on the web and reliant on website links, here's the place to warn readers NOT to fall prey to web-originated polls that invite your participation. These are legion on the web, and easily found in Google searches. All of them are worthless as indicators of anything beyond themselves. Only those using standard scientific method for random selection of a sample are worth reading or studying for inferences about the population beyond the specific sampled persons in the poll. Web polls are notorious for self-selection, the nonrandom process of creating a sample from whoever happens to be there and be interested enough to vote once (or more than once!) in that poll.
For those who will ignore this warning and affirm their preconceptions, go directly to the American Family Association's Should Intelligent Design be taught in public schools alongside evolution? website poll. As a visitor there, your probable and expected answer has been conveniently filled in ahead of time. This site calls itself a "project" but lacks the proper acknowledgement that all such projects are unscientific.
For those who would interpret valid polls, see Nisbet and Nisbet 2005, Geotimes — September 2005 — Evolution & Intelligent Design Understanding Public Opinion.
Ohio Scientists' Intelligent Design Poll. The sample of 460 had a
response rate of 31% and a sampling error of +/-4.5%.
The Discovery Institute would have to counter this poll's appeal-to-authority value, and in early 2006 they attempted that. The result is profiled in CSC - A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism, released 20 February 2006, and is reviewed in Kenneth Chang, Few Biologists but Many Evangelicals Sign Anti-Evolution Petition - New York Times, February 21, 2006. The 514 credentialed signatories are short of biologists and long on overtly religious Christians whose dissent on Darwinism extends further to questioning of ancient earth and ancient universe propositions. In other words, these are largely creationists. The dissenters' list is at filesDB-download.
Many of the dissenters evade the overwhelming evidence for evolution by accepting micro-level evidence of emergent variation within species while rejecting macro-level emergence in nature of new species. But evolutionists do not separate these. Arguments among evolutionists occur not on whether speciation occurs, but only on the necessary conditions for that process. See Carl Zimmer, Palm Trees and Lake Fish Dispel Doubts About a Theory of Evolution - New York Times, February 21, 2006; this summation demonstrates evidence for sympatric speciation instead of the normal (and accepted) allopatric speciation.
13 See Nina Siegal,
Riled by Intelligent Design - New York Times, November 6, 2005. Iowa State University astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez
produced an anti-evolution documentary, leading to withdrawal of a Smithsonian
Institute sponsorship and a statement from 120 Iowa State science faculty to
shun portrayals of I.D. as real science. Popular opinion on campus was, of
course, far more divided.
Also see Laurie Goodstein, Intelligent Design Might Be Meeting Its Maker - New York Times, December 4, 2005.
14 See Ohio Scientists' Intelligent Design Poll, subheadings "Public Ignorance and Public Opinion" and "Survey Methodology."
15 Scientists are incensed to
the point that they boycotted the Kansas Board of Education meetings after
seeing the witness lineup and recognizing that cultural conservatives had
predetermined a vote for changing the definition of science (Kansas Citizens for
Science, KCFS Press
Release 3-3-05). The former
Board definition restricted scientific inquiry to "seeking natural explanations for
what we observe in the world around us." The revision drops the "natural
explanations" part to allow non-natural explanations to be considered part of
the K-12 science curriculum. Brief summation is at Overbye,
Philosophers Notwithstanding, Kansas School Board Redefines Science - New York
The Kansas Board of Education adopted this revision on 8 November 2005, posting the results at Kansas Science 2005. Lest one doubt the political nature of this document, highlighted in brilliant yellow is a statement with link reading "Strategy of our opponents, Kansas Citizens for Science." with another brilliant yellow highlight of their internal wording: "There may be no way to head off another standards debacle, but we can sure make them look like asses as they do what they do."
Elsewhere on the KS2005 document are more bright highlights on the 19 pedigreed persons who did testify to the Board. NCSE mocks their listing of scientists who support I.D. at "NCSE Project Steve" where Steve is the rare scientific bird who sings against evolution. The general NCSE site on Kansas is News Archive - Events from Kansas.
16 See election results at
Slate Outpolls Rivals - New York Times, November 9, 2005; Starr 2005,
Dover boots board -
York Daily Record, November 9, 2005; Kauffman, Dover Dumps Designers:
Group opposed to intelligent design sweeps school board - The York Dispatch,
November 9, 2005; Goodstein 2005c, A Decisive
Election in a Town Roiled Over Intelligent Design - New York Times. Sheila Harkins had joined Bonsell
in the I.D. campaign and received the second lowest vote total. All eight
who were elected opposed I.D. in the school science curriculum, and they ran as
a slate called Dover CARES on that basis. Some of them were registered
Republicans, affirming that this issue divides Christians against other
Christians, and Republicans against other Republicans.
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Copyright©2001-2007, Russell D. Renka
Wednesday, August 29, 2007 01:03:07 PM