Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Cordova Tries Again

The old saying is that when you find yourself in a hole that you can’t get out of, the first rule is to stop digging; Sal Cordova appears not to have heard that rule. He left this comment on one of my previous posts addressing him, in which he appears to be compelled to duck into the punch. He proves me right from the very first sentence. First he quotes what I said:

It should be clear to any honest person that Matzke was referring to the same thing Dembski was, to the present use of that phrase as a label for a (still non-existent) theory, research program, or movement. That Sal continues to make absurd arguments to prove otherwise only shows his lack of intellectual honesty.

And then….he agrees with it completely:

A rose is a rose by any other name, and it appears the movement merely adopted a name suitable to it’s rightful heritage. It was ID all along, and any mis-naming it along the lines of “creation science” was a mistake, and Edward’s vs. Aguillard only hastened the fixing of this mistake.

Thank you, Sal, you just admitted precisely what Nick and I have been arguing all along – ID is nothing but a new label for the same old set of arguments and claims and it was chosen because Edwards ruled those ideas out of public school science classrooms under the old label (that’s only the first part of the story, of course; they also then stopped using the more blatantly Biblical claims from creation science for the same purpose).

Sal has just admitted that they merely exchanged labels and that they did so because of Edwards. We already knew that, of course, because Of Pandas and People offered the exact same definition of the two terms, but since this is exactly what Sal has been putatively arguing against all this time, it’s nice to see him finally admit that (wittingly or unwittingly). He then offers this brief quote from my good friend Genie Scott, which he bizarrely claims “defeats” me:

With respect to what ID is, and where it descended from:

ID is a lineal descendent of William Paley’s Argument from Design (Paley 1803,)

Eugenie Scott

Ed’s analysis is clumsy and simplistic as I pointed out in Eugenie Scott defeats Ed Brayton and in subsequent comments.

Of course ID is a lineal descendant of Paley’s argument; who in their right mind would deny that? Why Sal thinks that defeats my argument is beyond me; it doesn’t even address my argument. For what seems like the 9 millionth time, let me make this clear: this argument has nothing to do with who first uttered the phrase “intelligent design” or with how old the concept is. Those things are red herrings, plain and simple. The argument is over the systematic use of that phrase as a label for a movement and an (alleged) theory, particularly as a new label for an older set of arguments and claims – which means that, once again, Sal is actually admitting that we are right. And he’s not done yet:

I will show that Brayton is wrong to think the ID debate was about public schools, and of all things I will show he is wrong because of a superbly researched peer-reviewed paper by Eugenie Scott, published in the Annual Reviews of Anthropology, 1997.

But first, it is only fair to concede that biblical creationism and ID do indeed arrive on at least one common conclusion, namely, that there is design in life. But does arriving at the same conclusion imply there is only one means of reasoning to arrive at the same end? Is there only one road that leads to Rome?

If two roads lead to the same destination, does that mean the two roads must be the same road? Darwinists think that because ID and biblical creationism arrive at comparable conclusions with respect to the question of intelligent agency in the design of life, that ID must therefore be identical to biblical creation. But this line of reasoning by the Darwinists is as illogical as saying that any road that leads to Rome must be the same road, that if one arrives in Rome, he can only have gotten there through one route. So if Brayton insinuates ID = creationism because they have comparable conclusions, or that ID = creationism because the evidence leads to inferring design, he is being illogical.

But this is emphatically not my argument at all. In fact, I argue the exact opposite, that ID and creationism arrive at the same conclusion by following the same exact road to that conclusion. Their journeys are only different in two ways: creationism was explicit about the identity of the intelligent designer (it was the Biblical God, of course), while ID advocates pretend that they don’t know who or what the designer was; and the IDers make a conscious choice to avoid stopping along the way at the explicitly Biblical rest areas like the age of the Earth or a global flood. Both of those distinctions were chosen explicitly for strategic reasons, of course.

My argument that they arrive at the same conclusion using the same road is easily supported by one basic and undeniable fact: every single arrow in the ID quiver was also in the creationist quiver. There is not a single argument in the IDers arsenal that was not taken directly from earlier creationist writings. Behe was not the first one to come up with irreducible complexity, the argument was found in creationist writings long before he wrote a book about it. They even used all of his infamous examples, including the flagellum, as evidence.

Here’s my challenge to Sal: show us the arguments in ID that cannot be traced directly to earlier creationist writings and then perhaps someone will believe you that ID and creationism arrived via different paths. Good luck.

But even granting (only for the sake of argument) that ID = creationism, the claim that ID was created primarily to inject creationism into public schools is indefensible because ID was not aimed at the public schools, but rather the UNIVERSITIES. No critic I’ve debated has been able to get around that difficulty, and it will be more difficult in light of Eugenie Scott’s superb peer-reviewed research on the matter.

No critic has been able to get around that difficulty? Seriously? I find that more than a little hard to believe because the answer is so incredibly obvious. Here’s the answer: Sal is lying. And not just Sal, but many other ID advocates who have made this same claim. The chutzpah of the ID crowd is truly staggering at times; they’ll look you right in the eye and tell you that they have no desire to get ID into public schools while simultaneously trying to get ID into public schools. Of Pandas and People is not a college textbook, folks; it’s a high school textbook.

For crying out loud, at the same time that the Discovery Institute claims that they never had any intention of putting ID into public school science classroms, three of their fellows – David DeWolf, Stephen Meyer and Mark Deforrest, put out a whole treatment of this subject arguing for doing exactly that. The title of that book tells you all you need to know:

Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curricula: A Legal Guidebook

Here’s what that guidebook argues:

While finding that the Louisiana statute failed to comply with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the Court encouraged “teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to school children . . . with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction.”3

Within the last decade or so, just such an alternative theory has emerged. Darwinian theorists have long acknowledged that biological organisms “appear” to be designed. Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins, a leading Darwinian spokesman, has admitted: “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”4 Statements like this echo throughout the biological literature. Francis Crick, Nobel laureate and co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, writes, “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”5 Nevertheless, Darwinists insist that this appearance of design is illusory since the mechanism of natural selection entirely suffices to explain the observed complexity of living things.

Over the last forty years, however, even many evolutionary biologists have acknowledged fundamental problems with the Darwinian explanation for apparent design. As a result, an increasing number of scientists have begun to argue that organisms appear to be designed because they really are designed. These scientists (known as design theorists) see evidence of actual intelligent design in biological systems. They argue that, contrary to neo-Darwinian orthodoxy, nature displays abundant evidence of real, not just apparent, design. As their numbers have grown, their work has sparked a spirited scientific controversy over this central issue.

The purpose of this guidebook is to help teachers, school boards, and school administrators to negotiate the difficult scientific, legal, and pedagogical issues that arise from the origins controversy. At present many groups advise educators and administrators to ignore the controversy over design and to continue to teach a single theoretical viewpoint, ignoring scientific dissent and parental concerns about dogmatism and intellectual intolerance. In short, their approach is to suppress the controversy. We believe there is a better way. We suggest that public schools teach the controversy over biological origins in a way that faithfully reflects the debate that is actually happening among scientists.

But no, where would anyone ever get the idea that they would want to put ID into public school science curricula? Anyone who would claim that is obviously a Darwinist with an axe to grind. Pay no attention to everything we’ve said in the past. Pay no attention to the fact that we’ve gone all over the country testifying in front of school boards and legislatures encouraging them to put ID into science classrooms. Pay no attention to the fact that we’ve published books arguing that ID should be in public school science classrooms and that we’ve written textbooks marketed directly to the high school market. Who are you gonna believe, me or….well, me for the last 10 years?

Sal tries in vain to turn Genie Scott against me and pretend that she somehow disputes my argument; I assure you, she does not. And this is where Sal once again displays his truly extraordinary ability to miss the point. He’s trying to claim that ID was never about public school science curricula but was always only about university curricula. And he quotes Genie Scott saying something entirely different than that:

In 1989, shortly after the Edwards Supreme Court decision, Of Pandas and People, a supplemental textbook for high school biology, was published (Davis and Kenyon 1989). Its publication signified the increasing OEC [old earth creationist] influence in the neocreationist antievolution movement, and introduced the term Intelligent Design (ID). ID is promoted primarily by university-based antievolutionists who tend to be PCs [progressive creationists] rather than YECs. Dean Kenyon, for example, a tenured professor of biology at San Francisco State University, and Percival Davis, who teaches at a public college, Hillsborough Community College, in Tampa, Florida, advocate ID.

ID is a lineal descendent of William Paley’s Argument from Design (Paley 1803,)….

ID literature is more sophisticated than creation science literature, perhaps because it is (except for Of Pandas and People) usually directed more toward a university audience….

Antievolution at the University One of the leading exponents of ID is a University of California law professor, Phillip Johnson, who holds an endowed chair at Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley. Johnson appeared on the antievolutionist scene in 1991 with the publication of his book, Darwin on Trial (Johnson 1993). Because of Johnson’s academic credentials, and because he ignored arguments about the age of the earth and was even faintly contemptuous of YEC,….

Although Johnson is an evolution basher, his main concern is not really with whether scientific data do or do not support evolution, but with broader questions of purpose and meaning.
In the mid to late 1990s, university-based antievolutionism is a small but growing movement. For now, participants are dwarfed in both number and effectiveness by the more public efforts of organizations like the ICR, with its Back to Genesis road shows and media programs. YEC is still the most frequently-encountered antievolutionism that K-12 teachers have to cope with, but more and more it is being augmented by “arguments against evolution,” ID or other neocreationist positions. However, because a university-based antievolution movement has great potential to reach future decision-makers (who are being educated in universities today), this component of the movement may be highly influential in the future, even if it is small today. Future generations of college graduates may think that books like those of Johnson or Behe represent modern scientific scholarship on science and evolution.

Eugenie Scott, 1997

One can only imagine why Sal thinks this actually answers any argument I’ve made. Yes, many ID scholars are at universities. Yes, lots of ID books are written for a college-educated audience (which is not the same thing as saying that they were writing college textbooks, by the way). But so what? How in the world does that deny that the ID movement has attempted to get ID into public school science classrooms? It doesn’t. Let’s take Sal’s summation of his arguments one by one:

1. ID was originally university-based and oriented

This is his unwarranted conclusion from the mere fact that many ID scholars were at universities teaching. Totally irrelevant. The fact is that none of the ID scholars at universities actually teach ID there. Minnich does not teach a class about ID, nor does Behe, nor did Gonzales (I’m leaving out Dembski, who teaches ID at seminaries). In fact, that is their first line of defense when criticized – “Hey, I believe in ID but I don’t teach it at my university so why should you care?”

Can Sal name a single attempt by ID advocates to get an ID course in any state university? Or to get a textbook used in a college level biology class? I know of no such examples. But we do know about lots and lots of attempts to get ID into public school science classrooms in high schools. We know they wrote an entire guidebook advocating exactly that, and wrote an entire textbook just for that purpose. We know that they’ve testified in front of innumerable school boards and state legislators encouraging them to incorporate ID, either explicitly or under the label of “weakness of evolution” or “arguments against evolution.” For Sal to pretend that it was never about high school curricula is a baldfaced lie, plain and simple. But we’re getting used to that by now, aren’t we?

2. ID is a lineal descendent of William Paley’s Argument from Design (Paley 1803,) therefore Matzke is in a tough position arguing ID was somehow originated in 1989

And here Sal continues to beat up the same strawman version of Matzke’s position – and continues to ignore the fact that Dembski said the very same thing Matzke did. He didn’t claim that the idea didn’t exist prior to 1987; in fact, he himself listed sources using both the phrase and the concept long ago. In fact, that letter from Darwin that Sal quoted to start this whole thing? He found out about that quote from Matzke’s post about this. How much of a liar do you have to be to continue to claim that Matzke thinks the concept of design originated in 1987 when you yourself have found prior examples of that concept from Darwin because Matzke cited them? The answer: a really, really big liar.

3. the Edwards decision is only passingly mentioned

Of no relevance whatsoever to this argument.

4. ID literature is more sophisticated than creation science literature (therefore it cannot be the same by definition!)

I’ll take non sequiturs for $1000, Alex. Perhaps Sal could ask Genie what she meant by that; I can assure you that she meant nothing like what he claims she meant. ID literature is “more sophisticated” than creation science literature only in the sense that it avoids some of the mind-numbing stupidities of young earth creationism (which Sal himself believes, by the way). But the fact is that all of the arguments found in ID can be found in earlier creationist writings; the difference is the level of sophistication in the way the arguments are presented. Let’s look at the larger context of what Genie wrote in this regard:

ID literature is more sophisticated than creation science literature, perhaps because it is (except for Of Pandas and People) usually directed more toward a university audience than to the general public, at least up to now. One is less likely to find discussions of the vertebrate eye and more likely to find DNA structure or cellular complexity held up as too complex to have evolved by chance.

Precisely so. But even the arguments about cellular complexity was found in earlier creationist literature. Behe’s arguments about the flagellum existed in creationist writings before he put them in his book. The examples used and the arguments made may be stated in a more sophisticated, scientific-sounding manner, but they’re still the same old arguments we’ve heard time and again. Indeed, Sal admits this when he points to Paley’s watchmaker analogy – it’s the same argument. What originated in 1987 wasn’t the argument, but the systematic use of the phrase “intelligent design” as a label for that same set of arguments.

5. University-based anti-Darwinism was distinguished from the public school anti-Darwinism

Again, irrelevant. That some ID advocates were “university based” does not deny the fact that those university based scholars were pushing for ID in high school science classrooms. David DeWolf is university-based, but he and Meyer and DeForrest wrote an entire book advocating putting ID into high school science classrooms. This is one big red herring.

6. ID literature was not constrained to Pandas and People, and in fact is a notable exception, contrary to what Matzke tries to insinuate!

So where are all those college ID textbooks, Sal? If ID was aimed at college curricula rather than high school curricula, where are the college ID textbooks? You might claim that the new Explore Evolution textbook is aimed at the college market (though it is being marketed to both), but then you’d have to explain why, if the whole point was the college market all along that book is finally coming out 20 years after the high school textbook was written.

Just for laughs, presumably, he threw in this bizarre statement:

For that matter we got Yale Law School’s #1 alum (class of 1970), Ben Stein, to make a movie about them.

Right. Because the #1 alum of one of the finest law schools in the world is the guy who said “Bueller” and hosted a bad game show, not an influential legal scholar. Just weird. And stupid.