As so often happens, this write-up requires more space than I expected it to when I sat down to begin writing it. I had intended this to be the last part of my write-up on Woodward’s presentation, but, having written steadily for the last two hours and seeing no end in sight, it is clear to me that I will need at least one more installment after this. So I apologize for not getting to either of the teasers I mentioned at the end of part one. They are coming, I promise.
In Part One of this report, we discussed Woodward’s blatant misrperesentation of some remarks by Niall Shanks in his book God, The Devil, and Darwin.
Woodward’s next trick was to give the same treatment to Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross, from their book Creationism’s Trojan Horse.
He quotes Forrest and Gross as saying, “…we also believe that its ultimate goal is to create a theocratic state.” After a brief pause, Woodward now offered his own paraphrase of that remark, “If Intelligent design wins, we will have a Taliban theocracy.” He then observed that whenever he brings up this statement in front of audiences they rightly laugh.
Are you suspicious? Are you wondering, perhaps, what the “its” refers to? You should be. Here’s what Forrest and Gross actually said, from page 11 of Creationism’s Torjan Horse:
There is no doubt that the Wedge’s immediate goal is to change what is taught in classrooms about the basics of biology and the history of life, as we show here from its own documents, sources of support, and productions. But based on our demonstration in chapter 9 of the religious foundation of the intelligent design movement and the importance of this foundation to the Wedge’s goal of “renewing” American culture, we also believe that its ultimate goal is to create a theocratic state, which would provide a protective framework for its pedagogical goals. In an important respect, the Wedge is another strand in the well organized Religious Right network, whose own well documented but poorly understood purposes are strongly antagonistic to the constiutional barriers between church and state.
So, contra Woodward, Forrest and Gross were actually talking about the ultimate goals of the Wedge, not the ultimate goals of ID. The difference is significant. By “the Wedge” Forrest and Gross mean not just the scientific claims of people like Behe and Dembski, but also the entire network of supporters and financiers who make it possible for them to disseminate their wares. They explain this quite clearly in the book.
Now, as we see from the quote above, Forrest and Gross referred us to a section of their book where we could find evidence to back up their fears, namely chapter nine. This chapter is 58 pages long. In this chapter they provide ample evidence both of ID’s fundamentally religious character, and the willingness of the Wedge’s architects to associate themselves with religious extremists like James Dobson and D. James Kennedy, among many others, who make no secret of their desire for a Christian theocratic state.
Woodward intends here to focus our attention very narrowly. He wants to pretend that ID consists, in its entirety, of the specific scientific assertions made by people like Behe, Dembski and Wells, and ignore the vast and powerful social network that backs them. If ID were just an issue of a handful of gadflys making bizarre scientific assertions, then no one would pay it any mind. After all, you don’t see scientists getting worked up about Nostradamus supporters or Loch Ness Monster enthusiasts. ID is significant only because of its political pretensions.
But what about the part about the Taliban? I mean, it’s one thing to say that ID is supported by Christian extremists, but the Taliban? That’s just crazy talk, right?
Indeed it is. So it’s nice that we have Barbara Forrest’s testimony in the Dover trial to clarify precisely what she meant in using the term “theocratic state.” This is during her cross-examination by Defendant’s attorney Richard Thompson:
Q. Okay. We also believe that its ultimate goal is to create a theocratic state. Do you believe that?
A. Yes, I do. I think the Wedge document indicates that that is the goal. It’s stated in the Wedge Strategy.
Q. And so your belief is that this Wedge strategy, which you have outlined in detail during your direct examination, is there to create a theocratic state?
A. I think if the goals of the Wedge Strategy were fulfilled, that is what we would have. The Wedge Strategy makes very strong statements that what they hope to do is to overturn the culture that has been degraded by scientific materialism and moral relativism. They hope to reestablish it or renew it on a foundation based on their own religious beliefs.
Q. Well, in your deposition, you also indicated that you felt that that statement meant they were taking over all three branches of government?
A. No, I did not say they were taking over all three branches of government. I indicated that one understanding of theocracy is when people in government are put into positions of political authority, and those positions are determined or their position there is determined by their religious beliefs.
Q. That becomes a theocratic state?
A. If the government is controlled by people who are in position in order to act on their own religious beliefs, yes, that would be a theocratic state, to fashion policies around those religious preferences.
Q. And, as you know, there are three branches of government, correct?
A. There are.
Q. And one individual or one branch of government does not have absolute power as to what’s going to happen in this country, isn’t that correct?
A. It’s not supposed to.
Q. Well, you have the legislative branch of government that may make a law, which the judicial branch of government says is unconstitutional, is that correct?
A. Under the constitution, we have a system of checks and balances. The constitution sets that up.
Q. And before a theocratic state could be implemented, it would mean that all three branches of government would have to cooperate with the Wedge Strategy, is that correct?
A. In its totality, yes. There are areas, of course, on a smaller scale in which people in positions of authority could be acting on their own political preferences. So I would say that you would have degrees of that. It’s not a matter of all or nothing.
So Forrest and Gross say, “If the ultimate goals of the social network promoting intelligent design are fulfilled, we will have a government in which people are placed in power based on their religious beliefs, to enact policies aligned with those beliefs,” and Woodward turns that into, “If ID wins, then we will have a Taliban theocracy.” What a charming fellow.
From here Woodward turned to more pressing concerns, like establishing that he is, at least, an expert in something. So he whipped out some rhetorician jargon, and informed us that the Darwinians are promoting “fantasy themes.” The idea here, apparently, is that people go from boredom to excitement on an issue when they get a glimpse of what the future might be. He graciously conceded that the ID folks engage in this activity as well. Woodward went on to say that he prefers the term “projection themes” since “fantasy” in this context is not meant to imply that the themes are entirely, or even largely fictitious.
He went on about this for a few minutes, but I’m not sure what point he intended to make here. Obviously he thinks the claims of anti-ID folks are overblown and based far more on fear and fantasy than on fact, but you don’t need a digression on rhetorical theory, complete with name-dropping and anecdotes, to make that point. So let’s move on.
Woodward introduced his trichotomy of players in the ID debate. There are the evolution skeptics, who he also described as the besieged ID heretics. Interestingly, after criticizing certain evolutionists for overblown rhetoric, Woodward went on to suggest that ID proponents are “hunted down like wild animals, often.” Fantasy themes indeed.
Group two consists of the courageous enquirers. Woodward doesn’t spend too much time on them in his writing, because they are the folks behind the scenes, listenting with interest to what the ID folks have to say. They don’t dare stick their heads out too far, you see, lest they have them chopped off.
Hunted down? Heads chopped off? This from the man protesting when evolutionists use war-like rhetoric.
Woodward did, at least, give one vague example of the members of this second group. He mentioned the three phantom reviewers of the infamous Stephen Meyer paper for The Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. Though Woodward described them as “deep cover” and stated explicitly that his understanding is that their identity has not been revealed, he was keen to describe them as not being pro-ID. Of course, if Woodward does not know who these people are, one wonders how he knows they were not ID proponents.
We also get an anecdote about, you know, some evolutionary biologist who is at a university whose name would make us fall out of our chairs, were he to reveal it, which he was uninclined to do, and there is a physicist at the same university, and these folks say that the ID critique of evolution is right on, and that they should soldier on. Convincing stuff.
Group three? The zealous inquisitors. They write “bunker-buster books.” There’s that war-like rhetoric again.
We are now very close to the thirty-minute mark of Woodward’s talk, and he decided this would be a propitious moment to enlighten us with his history of important ID books. (1) The Mystery of Life’s Origin by Thaxton, Bradley and Olsen. (2) Evolution: A Theory in Crisis by Michael Denton. (3) Darwin on Trial by Phillip Johnson. (4) Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe (this is when the dam broke, FYI) (5) Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells. (6) A reference to all of Dembski books, too many to list individually. There was also a mention of Behe’s new book The Edge of Evolution.
Interesting here is the omission of Of Pandas and People, the first big ID textbook. One suspects the reason for its omission is the unambiguous evidence from the Dover trial that it was merely a creationist textbook in a very thin disguise. We will revisit this point in the Q&A.
Woodward also mentioned the main anti-ID books, mentioning Miller, Pennock, Forrest and Gross, Shanks, Perakh, Edis and Young, and the John Brockman anthology Intelligent Thought.
After giving a chapter by chapter summary of his book, Woodward launched into a discussion of his favorite talking points (his term). This, we will save for the next installment.