Somehow I missed this from several days ago. Casey Luskin has a post on the DI blog about the Michigan bill that is rather amusing and highly inaccurate. His rhetorical device of choice these days is the notion of “false fear syndrome”, whereby the ID movement keeps making its strategy more and more vague and then makes fun of those who actually pay attention to the terminology changes and points out the reality behind those changes.
The entire history of ID creationism is one of increasing vagueness. ID is essentially creationism with all of the potentially testable hypotheses taken out. Now that courts have caught that fact, they are moving on to urging the teaching not of ID but of the “controversy” or the “arguments for and against evolution”. Or, in the case of the Michigan bill, merely to urge the fostering of “critical thinking” about evolution. At each step, they use increasingly vague language to cover their tracks. And then when we point out that this is coming from the very same people who were pushing ID yesterday and creationism the day before, they disingenuously claim that we are suffering from “false fear syndrome” and seeing ID boogeymen in perfectly benign legislation.
In the case of the Michigan bill, Luskin says that no one in their right mind could possibly think that a bill that encourages critical analysis of evolution could be a trojan horse to allow the teaching of ID or pro-ID arguments in science classrooms. The relevant portion of the bill reads:
The course content expectations for science shall include using the scientific method to critically evaluate scientific theories and using relevant scientific data to assess the validity of those theories and formulate arguments for and against those theories.
And indeed, this does sound quite benign and even laudable. Who could be against critical evaluation of any idea? Luskin continues:
Clearly this language has nothing to do with intelligent design and would simply bring scientific critique of theories taught in the classroom, and makes absolutely no mention of teaching intelligent design or any form of a “replacement theory” for those currently-taught theories that are being critiqued…Some Darwinist educators apparently felt the best way to protect dogmatism and one-sidedness in science education was to inflame False Fears that Palmer’s bill would bring in the teaching of intelligent design.
But are those fears false? Not at all. I’ll give you several reasons why the accusations that this is a trojan horse to allow local school boards and teachers to teach ID. First, because if you look at the full text of the bill, you’ll notice that the science section is completely different from all the other sections. The bill sets statewide standards in every department in public schools in Michigan. In every other department, the language is very specific, outlining exactly what information must be included in the course. I’ll quote just a couple of them for you:
The course content expectations for mathematics shall focus on the study of measurement, properties, and relationships of quantities and sets, using both numbers and symbols…
The course content expectations for civics shall focus on the constitution of the United States, the constitution of this state, and the history and present form of government of the United States and of this state and its political subdivisions…
The course content expectations for world history and geography shall focus on the development of cultures before 1600, beginning with consideration of the Mesopotamian and Hebrew civilizations. The course shall be designed to acquaint pupils with the historical roots of the Western heritage.
Now compare that to the section on science that I quoted above. Notice the difference? In all the other areas, it spells out exactly what must be included in the classes in order to meet the state standards. But in the science section, it’s not specific at all. It doesn’t say what theories have to be addressed, it doesn’t say what ideas must be included to meet the standards, it only says that “critical evaluation” must be used to “formulate arguments for and against” those theories. This is a very obvious change in both tone and substance and when I read the bill, it jumped out at me.
I immediately got on the phone and began calling my contacts in the state legislature on both sides of the aisle and I asked them why this section sticks out so much and is so different from the rest of the bill. I was told by Republicans that the real goal of the bill was to standardize the curriculum between public schools and charter schools, but that the section on science was indeed put into the bill as a “bone” to induce the IDers to jump on board. And that fact did not go unnoticed. In the very same Detroit Free Press article that Luskin cites, he conveniently left out this statement:
The wording for Palmer’s bill was taken from a bill by Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland. That bill would require a statewide high school curriculum to include a critical evaluation of the theories of evolution and global warming. Palmer’s bill, however, doesn’t mention evolution or intelligent design.
Moolenaar said Palmer’s does not require the teaching of intelligent design, but that such a decision would be up to local school boards.
Notice again how a more specific bill was replaced by a less specific bill. This is part of the ID strategy to give less and less of a target to hit that I mentioned earlier. And notice how even their own proponents admit that this bill will allow local school boards to teach ID. Indeed, how could it not? The bill doesn’t spell out what “arguments against” evolution are to be “formulated”, but where do you suppose teachers and school boards are going to turn for them?
To the ID movement, of course, who are more than happy to provide them with an armload of arguments against evolution, from irreducible complexity to Dembski’s “explanatory filter” to Wells’ book full of dishonest critiques of the “icons of evolution”. The language of the bill clearly tells school boards that they can teach these ID arguments without actually teaching ID itself, and this again is all part of their political strategy. Judge Jones wasn’t fooled by this, however. In his ruling, he addressed this strategy:
Accepting for the sake of argument its proponents’, as well as Defendants’ argument that to introduce ID to students will encourage critical thinking, it still has utterly no place in a science curriculum. Moreover, ID’s backers have sought to a void the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID.
Judge Jones wasn’t fooled by this strategy of teaching ID arguments without mentioning ID. We aren’t fooled by it. ID supporters in the legislaure have admitted that this is the goal. Yet Luskin, apparently with a straight face, attributes this all to “false fear syndrome”. I would suggest that Casey is suffering from real fear syndrome – the real and genuine fear that their political strategy will be transparently obvious to both proponents and critics alike, as it is in this case. Thus the need to say “pay no attention to that ID advocate behind the curtain”.