Intelligent design adherents: still as weasely as ever.

Salon has jumped on the bandwagon that acknowledges the two year anniversary of the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District decision on the teaching of intelligent design as equal to the theory of evolution. In the The evolution of creationism, Gordy Slack writes that intelligent design adherents continue to find avenues to attack the teaching of evolution and, well, good science.

Gordy is a little late to the party, but nonetheless here are excerpts of his article below the fold. The full article is available va Salon Premium or whatever genuflection a casual user must perform to get temporary free access.

But like bacteria adapting to antibiotics, creationism has slimmed down once again, this time shedding even a mention of an intelligent designer. A new textbook put out by the Discovery Institute, the Seattle think tank that promotes I.D., doesn't even have the words "intelligent design" in its index. Instead of pushing I.D. explicitly, "Explore Evolution: The Arguments for and Against Darwinism," promoted as a high school- or college-level biology text, "teaches the controversy." Teach the controversy is the new mantra of the I.D. movement.

Er, well, Gordy, "teach the controversy" is a tired old saw from the I.D.ers, but yes, the textbook is new. The title is quite weasely with its marginally more "neutral" wording, but the mustelid musk can't be masked.

"We want to teach more about evolution," says Discovery Institute's Casey Luskin, "not less." The "more" they want to teach, of course, is what they see as evolution's shortcomings, leaving an ecological niche that will then be filled by intelligent design.

Oh, Casey, Casey, Casey. Your disingenuous sentiment that "we want to teach more about evolution" is so slimy that my fingers are slipping off the keyboard. Please stop spraying from your Glands of Equivocacy.

As an aside, an open letter to Casey Luskin from the matriarch of the Chimp Refuge (that would be me) continues to be a popular entry according to the ol' Site Meter. With that old post in mind, I do like Slack's use of "more".

But not all creationists have embraced the strategy. Many responded to the Dover trial by coming out of I.D.'s big tent, which once gave shelter to young earth creationists, old earthers, academics interested in I.D.'s hypotheses, and anyone who wanted to promote a Christian-compatible view of science. Judge Jones' decision was like a lightning strike on the big top, sending many of the constituents running home through the rain. Creationist groups like Answers in Genesis, the Institute for Creation Research, and Reasons to Believe are now attacking I.D. for not having the guts to call its designer God or to be explicit about such key questions as the age of the world. (Answers in Genesis' answer: about 6,000 years.)

Perhaps not surprisingly, the I.D.ers have adopted a persecution complex. "After Dover," Luskin says, "there's been an increase in the boldness of Darwinists who persecute I.D. proponents: researchers, teachers and students. The debate in the academy has intensified radically," he says. "It's just a lot more political." He points to Guillermo Gonzalez, a physicist at Iowa State who failed to get tenure, allegedly because he is an advocate of I.D., and Richard Sternberg, a scientist at the National Institutes of Health who was "attacked" for publishing an article by Stephen Meyer, a proponent of intelligent design, in a peer-review journal Sternberg edited.

Evolutionary biologists respond that hiring a biologist who doesn't accept evolution is like hiring a mathematician who doesn't accept multiplication. That oversimplifies, but for better or worse, the battle has intensified and come out more into the open.

Recently, long retired chemist Homer Jacobson retracted a paper titled "Information, Reproduction and the Origin of Life," which he'd published in the journal American Scientist 52 years ago. Upon Googling himself, the 84-year-old Jacobson found that his old paper was often cited by creationists as evidence of the implausibility of life emerging from the prebiotic soup found on early Earth. Jacobson noticed some errors in his paper (it was a half-century old!) and, in order to keep neo-creationists from engaging in "malignant denunciations of Darwin," he wrote a letter of retraction to the journal. Retraction of a scientific paper is rare, and doing it for political reasons is rarer still. The act provoked accusations of "historical revisionism" from Discovery Institute senior fellow William Dembski.

Historical revisionism? Hardly. It may be that Jacobson could have published an extensive erratum instead of pulling the paper entirely, but my hat's off to Jacobson's strong statement.

Following the Dover decision, some I.D.ers became more timid, or at least more evasive. John Angus Campbell, a Discovery Institute fellow and coauthor of a book about teaching I.D. in the schools, ran for a school board seat in North Mason County, Wash., last week. During his campaign, he intentionally left his middle name out of his election materials and failed to mention his affiliation with the Discovery Institute. The camouflage strategy worked and he was elected.

Yet more weasel tactics. Apparently, the voters didn't do their homework or they didn't care. However, the The Belfair Report (a blog from Belfair WA) writes that the Kitsap Sun should have delved into Campbell's background prior to their endorsement of this school board candidate. Or perhaps the Kitsap Sun indulged in their own bout of weaseliness.

I.D. will also be striking back in "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," a pro-I.D. documentary, to be released in February. Featuring conservative writer and political commentator Ben Stein, it portrays I.D. proponents as a group of iconoclastic firebrand scientists with the guts to go after the dogmatic Darwinists who have, the I.D.ers say, grown lazy and corrupt sitting atop a monopolistic theory with zero tolerance for dissent, within or outside of their ranks.

Stein told the New York Times that Darwin may well have been onto something with his theory of evolution, but that it is isn't up to explaining the origins and diversity of life on its own. Plus, he thinks Darwinism leads to racism and genocide. If Stein had his way, he said, the documentary would have been called "From Darwin to Hitler."

To reiterate my assessment of Ben Stein from yesterday's entry:

What a wanker!

OK, that's none too eloquent, but in his wilfull misinterpretation of the theory of evolution (and its relation to political movements), Stein jumps on to the weasel-train with Luskin, Campbell and their ilk. Ben, better to stick to tormenting those hapless most smartest models.

More like this

"We want to teach more about evolution," says Discovery Institute's Casey Luskin

By which he means, of course, nothing.

Historical revisionism? Hardly. It may be that Jacobson could have published an extensive erratum instead of pulling the paper entirely, but my hat's off to Jacobson's strong statement.

But isn't that exactly what Jacobson did do? He only retracted a few paragraphs. The paper has not been erased from history as Dembski disengenuously claims.

By Chris Noble (not verified) on 13 Nov 2007 #permalink

Right Chris, the original paper is still there.

Dembski is one to talk about revisionism. He's famous for having inconvenient posts on his blog fall down the memory hole, never to return.

Ben Stein has had his head up his own ass for so long he need not fear every turning gray.

By Ann Onymous Weasel (not verified) on 14 Nov 2007 #permalink

Chris and Dave, thanks for the comments. The disposition of Jacobson's paper is still a bit unclear to me. Did he retract only a portion of the paper or its entirety as per this article in the New York Times? Regardless, Dembski's comment is truly disingenuous.

Warren: Indeed. Luskin is the mustelid mascot of the DI.

Ann Weasel: Agreed. I have never found Stein's schtick to be remotely amusing. If I want dead-pan, I opt for Steven Wright.

Did he retract only a portion of the paper or its entirety as per this article in the New York Times? Regardless, Dembski's comment is truly disingenuous.

The article got it wrong. Jacobson retracted only two sentences, and didn't try to erase anything from the record. The retraction letter is here:;jse…Dembski, on the other hand, is an inveterate reviser of history. In addition to erasing blog articles and comments, he recently poofed out of existence a paper that he previously touted as under review with a mainstream journal, and he altered his reported statements from an interview conducted four months ago. And yet he has the nerve to lecture:

Even if it is wrong, it ought to remain on the public record. But by having its author not merely dsavow [sic] its superseded conclusions, but formally "retract" the paper, the effect is to wipe it out of history.Welcome to the world of scientific revisionism.
By secondclass (not verified) on 14 Nov 2007 #permalink

Many thanks, secondclass, for the link to Jacobson's letter, thus highlighting how loathsome Dembski's remarks are.