Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Recycling Creationist Tactics

One of the primary arguments made, and conclusively proven, during the Dover trial was that ID is little more than old-fashioned creation science repackaged under a new title. The most obvious piece of evidence in favor of that argument was, of course, the fact that Of Pandas and People, hailed as the first intelligent design textbook, used the exact same definition for ID that its early manuscripts used for creation science. In the published version of the book, they offer the following definition:

“Intelligent Design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency with their distinctive features already intact: fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings, etc.”

But an earlier manuscript, one written before the Edwards ruling declared that teaching creationism was unconstitutional in public school science classes, defined creation almost word for word the same:

“Creation is the theory that various forms of life began abruptly, with their distinctive features already intact: Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers and wings, mammals with fur and mammary glands.”

But that’s hardly the only line of evidence for that argument. Another line of evidence is is that there is not a single argument in the ID arsenal that wasn’t taken directly from creationist sources. Dembski’s “explanatory filter” is nothing more than a restatement of the argument from probability. Behe’s “irreducible complexity” is just a new term for the old “what good is half a wing” argument. Every single argument found in Wells’ Icons of Evolution is just an old, and in each case already discredited, argument found in creationist pamphlets and books for decades prior.

But as it turns out, even the tactics of the ID movement find antecedents in creationist literature. Even before losing the Kitzmiller case, the ID movement had already shifted its strategy from advocating the inclusion of “design theory” (which they explicitly advocated in the Wedge document) in science classrooms to only advocating that the “scientific evidence for and against evolution” be taught. This sometimes goes by the phrase “teach the controversy”, or more recently as encouraging “critical thinking” about evolution. As it turns out, even that change in tactics was anticipated and advocated by those creationists that the ID crowd tries so hard to distance themselves from. To wit:

In the meantime, school boards and teachers should be strongly encouraged at least to stress the scientific evidences and arguments against evolution in their classrooms (not just arguments against some proposed evolutionary mechanism, but against evolution per se), even if they don’t wish to recognize these as evidences and arguments for creation (not necessarily as arguments for a particular date of creation, but for creation per se). To do anything less is equivalent to making humanistic evolution an article of faith, and this would be an establishment of religion.

This was written by Wendell Bird and the Institute for Creation Research staff and published in ICR Impact in August 1987, just after the Edwards decision had come down. So not only are all of the ID arguments merely restatements of earlier creationist arguments, but their tactics are also merely repackaged creationism.

Hat tip to Nick Matzke and Paul Gross who published this quote in their chapter in Not In Our Classrooms, edited by Genie Scott and Glenn Branch.


  1. #1 Krauze
    November 27, 2006

    Hi Ed,

    You might want to check out this post of mine, dealing with that very argument.

    PS. I’m also planning to write a response to your response on framing. But my schedule is tight at the moment, and I don’t know when I’ll have the time.

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