Conflicting Explanations from the Discovery Institute

I was going to write about this, but Dave Thomas did such a good job I'll just refer you to his work. In the Dover trial, as you'll recall, Barbara Forrest testified that the book Of Pandas and People originally used the term "creation" to describe the idea that species appear abruptly with all their major features intact, then after the Edwards decision they simply changed it to "intelligent design". This is incredibly damaging testimony, and the TMLC attorneys were not the only ones frantic to come up with a response to it. The Discovery Institute has been busy throwing explanations at the wall, hoping one of them will stick. The problem? Their explanations contradict each other.

On October 1st, DI spokesman Jonathan Witt wrote an article saying that Forrest was wrong because intelligent design is an old idea that goes back long before the Edwards decision:

Opponents of the theory often insist that intelligent design emerged as a conspiracy to circumvent the 1987 Supreme Court decision, Edwards vs. Aguillard. There the Court struck down a Louisiana law promoting the teaching of creation science in public school science classes. The theory of intelligent design, critics insist, is merely a clever end-run around this ruling, biblical creationism in disguise.

The problem with this claim is the intelligent design predates Edwards vs. Aguillard by many years. Its roots stretch back to design arguments made by Socrates and Plato, and even the term "intelligent design" is more than 100 years old. Oxford scholar F.C.S. Schiller employed it in an 1897 essay, writing that "it will not be possible to rule out the supposition that the process of Evolution may be guided by an intelligent design."

But on October 6th, the DI issued a press release quoting another of their spokesman, Casey Luskin, saying that Forrest is wrong because the idea is so new that no one really had a term for it:

"Forrest is playing word games, without looking at the meaning of the words," said Casey Luskin, program officer for public policy and legal affairs at Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture, in response to an intelligent design opponent's testimony.

Plaintiff's witness, Dr. Barbara Forrest, pointed to the word "creation" in early drafts of the supplemental textbook Of Pandas and People which in her opinion is evidence that intelligent design was the same thing as creationism.

"At the time the authors began work on Pandas, there was no widely accepted way to describe the scientific position being advocated there," said Luskin, "namely that there are indicators of design in nature, that scientists should remain open to the possibility of intelligent causes, and that such evidence does not tell us the identity of the designer."

It takes some real chutzpah to issue these two contradictory explanations and then accuse someone else of playing word games, doesn't it? This is just another example of the ID movement as Roman mythology, with their Janus-like speaking out of two different faces.

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This is what stops me from completely bugging out over the creeping theocracy. These guys are supposed to be crack commandos in the fight against the materialist-atheist-communist conspiracy, and they're utterly incompetent. If this is the best the fundamentalists have to offer, then we don't have to worry as much as I once thought.

By Ginger Yellow (not verified) on 13 Oct 2005 #permalink

See also Nick Matzke's PT item . He notes the DI's attempts to counter the (then) upcoming Barbara Forrest testimony and how Forrest's nicely-illustrated points convincingly show a wholesale flip from "creationism/creationist" to "intelligent design" in 1987 after Edwards v. Aguillard.