One of the fun things about traveling to strange places like Seattle is getting to meet new and interesting people — or, at least, people who are made of meat rather than the more familiar bit patterns of the net. I’ve had a few occasions now to talk to Alan Boyle, who has just summarized my NWSA talk…and done a pretty good job of it, too.
One thing I want to expand on a little bit is something I brought up for the Seattle audience: I think the Discovery Institute is toast, and are going to be increasingly irrelevant. The Wedge document is dead and gone; their strategy of pretending to have a secular goal has failed; and everyone can see through their claim that “Intelligent Design” is something other than creationism. All along, the buzzword has been a front for old school creationism, of the type favored by more traditional, openly Biblical groups like Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research, and what’s driving the base is not the attenuated rationalizations of the DI, but the Jesus-lovin’ evangelical beliefs of its supporters.
I should have said more about a remaining concern. Creationism is not dead, but is still a dangerous force for ignorance. And of course, the Discovery Institute is going to be trying hard to reinvent itself. We’re looking at several new strategies already: there’s the clamoring for “academic freedom” bills, and also the magic words of “strengths and weaknesses”. Note that they still have the common thread of misleading with labels — their version of “academic freedom” isn’t about freedom at all, but about giving preferential treatment to ideological inanity, and when they talk about “strengths and weaknesses”, they intend to overlook the strengths of modern biology and focus on imaginary weaknesses invented by ignorant creationists.
So more accurately, what I should have said is that one line of rhetorical noise is failing fast, but that they’re rapidly generating new clouds of obfuscatory squid ink that they hope will stick and confuse another generation of innocent students. Liars and con men just have to keep moving to keep their misdeeds from catching up with them, and the DI is going to have to scramble to redefine their intellectual swindle.