Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The DI is engaged in their usual dishonest spin, this time over the issue of the origin of the ID movement. They’re responding to this post by Nick Matzke at the Panda’s Thumb where he points out that “intelligent design” was chosen as a new label for “creation science” after the 1987 Edwards v Aguillard ruling. Nick writes:

As everyone now knows, even though the ID guys will never admit it, “intelligent design” as such originated in the 1989 ID textbook Of Pandas and People, with “intelligent design” being the new label chosen after the 1987 Edwards decision made creationist terminology difficult to use in textbooks. Pandas was the first place the term “intelligent design” was used systematically, defined in a glossary, claimed to be something other than creationism, etc. In a desperate attempt to obfuscate this basic historical point, ID guys have dug up various random instances of the words “intelligent” and “design” placed together (although they missed the 1861 Darwin letter, and the 1847 Scientific American article), most of them with absolutely no evidence of having influenced the actual actors in the 1980s who created the ID movement (there are some legitimate precursors, but they are in explicitly creationist works, e.g. Lester and Bohlin’s (1984) The Natural Limits to Biological Change, so the ID guys won’t cite them post-Kitzmiller).


Despite the fact that Nick had anticipated their response and answered it in advance, Rob Crowther predictably ducks into the punch over at the DI blog. He does exactly what Nick predicted by simply changing the subject, trying to find instances in the past where someone else used the term “intelligent design” as if this answered Nick’s argument in any way:

Matzke reiterates the old canard that the phrase “intelligent design” was concocted after the Edwards v. Aguillard supreme court case in which creationism/creation science was ruled out of bounds for public high school science classes. This is simply a Darwinian urban legend.

This is simply a lie. Nick did not claim that the phrase intelligent design was invented for the first time in late 1987; he said that this was the first time the phrase was “used systematically, defined in a glossary, claimed to be something other than creationism, etc.” In other words, it was only after the Edwards ruling that this phrase began to be used by anti-evolutionists as a label for their alternative position, and thus began to be used as the label for their movement.

The evidence for this is absolutely undeniable. One need only look at the book Of Pandas and People, which was written by multiple fellows at the DI (Dean Kenyon, Charles Thaxton, Michael Behe, Nancy Pearsey, Paul Nelson, etc) and hailed by the DI as the world’s first intelligent design textbook. In that book, not only did the phrase “intelligent design” suddenly appear only after the Edwards ruling came down, but it appeared with the exact same definition as the phrase it replaced, “creation science.” In the early 1987 version of the book, then called Biology and Origins, they offered this definition:

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

In the late 1987 version of the book, then using its final name Of Pandas and People, they offered this 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.”

Now remember, this book was written by DI fellows. It was hailed by the DI as the first intelligent design textbook. And this very book uses the phrase “intelligent design” as being identical to the “creation science” that was ruled out of public school science classrooms in 1987. This “new” idea was advocated by the exact same people using the exact same arguments. Yet the DI wants you to believe that there’s no connection at all between ID and creation science, that they are entirely different movements. Only someone truly deluded – a group that rarely includes Federal judges, thankfully – would believe them.