As I’ve discussed many times, the ID movement has changed its strategy regarding the policies they are advocating to be adopted by school boards and legislatures. They know that any hint of the phrase “intelligent design” is going to be struck down by the courts, especially in light of the Dover ruling. In fact, they knew this before the Dover ruling ever came down. The big switch really began in Ohio in 2002 in an attempt to make the target too small for our side to attack successfully. Thus, you now have them advocating policies that would not teach ID explicitly.
In one place they may advocate that schools “teach the controversy” over evolution; in another they may advocate that schools teach “the arguments for and against evolution” or “the scientific evidence for and against evolution”; in a third, they may want schools to encourage “critical analysis” or “critical evaluation” of evolution; in a fourth, they may be pushing the idea of teaching “all scientific views about evolution.” All of these phrases mean essentially the same thing – they want the basic arguments that they make against evolution (which is the form that all of their arguments take) taught as valid, they just don’t want them labelled “intelligent design” so as to avoid the scrutiny of the courts.
Another key aspect of their rhetorical strategy is to pretend that their opponents are engaging in crazy conspiracy theories or, to use Casey Luskin’s amusing phrase, suffering from “false fear syndrome”, and seeing the ID boogeyman where it doesn’t exist. They have to say this, of course, whether it’s true or not; to say anything else would give up the game. Thus, we get statements like this from the sponsor of the bill in the Michigan legislature that invokes two of the four variations of the new strategy (“critical analysis” and “arguments for and against”):
Bill sponsor Rep. Brian Palmer, R-Romeo, said he had no intent to insert the intelligent design issue into the bill introduced earlier this week.
“That’s almost humorous. I think some people like to see a bogeyman,” said Palmer, who chairs the House Education Committee.
And we get statements like this from Casey Luskin:
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 let’s look at some of the past statements from ID advocates, particularly those attached to the Discovery Institute where Luskin works, about these phrases and how they do indeed lead the way to the teaching of ID in science classrooms. The first example is what was said in the aftermath of the Santorum amendment. The Santorum amendment, for those who don’t know, was attached to the No Child Left Behind act in the Senate in December 2001. It was a “sense of the Senate” resolution, not binding law, and it was later removed from the text of the bill in the conference committee that reconciled the House and Senate versions of the bill, but the ID movement still tried to use it to maximum effect.
The Santorum amendment was phrased in terms of teaching the “controversy” over evolution and in terms . The final wording declared, “Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.” This is exactly the kind of language that ID opponents point to and say that it inevitably leads to the teaching of ID, whether it does so explicitly by name or not. And while their strategy now is to portray such arguments as loony conspiracy theories seeking out mythical boogeymen, they weren’t always so circumspect. Here’s what John West, director of the DI’s Center for Science and Culture, had to say about the Santorum amendment a month after it was passed:
The reality is that Congress has voiced its support for teaching “the full range of scientific views that exist” about evolution. While that does not include things like biblical creationism, it unquestionably includes scientific criticisms of natural selection and random mutation as the mechanism for evolution as well as scientific alternatives to Darwinism such as intelligent design theory espoused by scientists like biochemist Michael Behe and biologist Jonathan Wells.
The only place they’ve been able to actually pass a policy using one of the phrases above is Ohio, where the state board of education adopted a model lesson plan to teach “critical analysis of evolution” in 2002 (that policy was repealed by that board yesterday). And the DI made the same argument about that policy that they’re now making about the Michigan bill, that our side is so obsessed with anything that bucks the “Darwinian orthodoxy” that we are seeing boogeymen because the policy doesn’t involve teaching ID but only the “full range of scientific views” on evolution. But our argument has been that such a policy will be seen as an open invitation by pro-ID school boards and teachers to teach all of the arguments found in ID, regardless of whether they actually call it that. And in 2002, Stephen Meyer, assistant director of the CSC, agreed:
…the state board should permit, but not require, teachers to tell students about the arguments of scientists, like Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe, who advocate the competing theory of intelligent design.
Finally, let’s look at what Sen. Rick Santorum himself said was the intent of his amendment’s “teach the controversy” language. In an article in the Washington Times in March 2002, Santorum said:
This opposition to intelligent design is surprising since there is an increasing body of theoretical and scientific evidence that suggests an alternate theory is possible. Research has shown that the odds that even one small protein molecule has been created by chance is 1 in a billion. Thus, some larger force or intelligence, or what some call agent causation, seems like a viable cause for creating information systems such as the coding of DNA. A number of scientists contend that alternate theories regarding the origins of the human species – including that of a greater intelligence – are possible.
Therefore, intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes…
The new law includes a science education provision where Congress states that “where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist.” If the Education Board of Ohio does not include intelligent design in the new teaching standards, many students will be denied a first-rate science education.
So here is the evidence that supports the claim that policy statements that require schools to teach the “controversy” or “arguments for and against” or the “full range of scientific views on evolution” will in fact pave the way for local boards and teachers to put ID into the science classrooms: Both the director and associate director of the DI’s Center for Science and Culture admit that such laws would allow the teaching of ID arguments, even if that name is not used. The author of the Santorum amendment says explicitly that his innocuous-sounding desire to teach the “full range of scientific views” explicitly means the teaching of intelligent design. The Dover school board defended its policy of teaching about ID in science classrooms by pointing to language just like this, including the Santorum amendment. One of the supporters of the Michigan bill told a newspaper reporter that while the bill does not mandate the teaching of ID, it would allow local school boards to do so.
In light of all of this evidence, I think it’s obvious that all of their talk about us seeing the ID boogeyman where it doesn’t exist is just so much dishonest rhetoric. The DI knows darn well that such language will lead to the insertion of ID into science classrooms. That’s the only reason they support such langugage. Their goal is to get all of the basic ID arguments – Behe’s irreducible complexity, Dembski’s probability arguments against evolution, Wells’ highly deceitful critiques of evolution, etc – into science classrooms without actually using the ID label. This is calculated strategy on their part, and they simply must pretend that it’s not or they know that the game is up. Thankfully, this ruse didn’t fly with Judge Jones, who noted:
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.
And we must continue to remind policymakers of this aspect of his ruling. Casey Luskin and John West may be trying to paint a picture of a “false fear syndrome” on our part, but they are only succeeding in creating a false claim syndrome on their own part. Their rhetoric is false and they know it’s false, but to admit that would bring down their entire strategy.