Exposing the "Critical Analysis" Con

One of the standard talking points from ID advocates these days is that us evolution advocates are just plum crazy to even suggest that policies requiring schools to teach "critical analysis of evolution" are a way to get intelligent design into the classrooms. DI shill Casey Luskin even coined a phrase in February when he claimed that those who think this way are suffering from "false fear syndrome" and exhibiting paranoia. Luskin writes:

This is simply another instance of Darwinists attempting to oppose critical analysis of evolution by pretending that it is equivalent to teaching intelligent design. This is a political tactic based upon misinformation, misrepresentation, emotions, and false fears.

Now, anyone who's watched the ID movement since its start laughs at this ridiculous claim and knows full well what's really going on. Luskin knows full well that the "critical analysis" language is designed specifically to get ID into science classrooms. Whether it's mandated by the state is absolutely irrelevant. And a few years ago, they were happy to admit that.

In 2000, the Ohio state school board voted down a proposal for a "dual model" curriculum that would have taught both evolution and intelligent design in public schools in that state. The DI had put signifant resources into Ohio to get that measure passed, but it failed 9-4. So in 2002, they came back with a different proposal - rather than teaching intelligent design, they wanted to "teach the controversy" concerning "scientific criticisms of Darwinism." This has now become the standard policy choice nationwide, and the DI is now pushing it in several states, including Kansas and Michigan.

The trick here is that they claim such a policy doesn't mandate the teaching of intelligent design, it just allows it - as if that somehow makes a difference in terms of the legality. Whether it's mandated by the state, or whether they merely encourage it through "critical analysis" language and leave it up to local school districts to actually implement the policy, teaching ID is unconstitutional; the Kitzmiller ruling made that very clear. Here's what they were saying in 2002 when Ohio passed the first such policy. First, Stephen Meyer admitted that this policy change was suggested and advocated by the DI:

Recently, while speaking to the Ohio State Board of Education, I suggested this approach as a way forward for Ohio in its increasingly contentious dispute about how to teach theories of biological origin, and about whether or not to introduce the theory of intelligent design alongside Darwinism in the Ohio biology curriculum....First, I suggested--speaking as an advocate of the theory of intelligent design--that Ohio not require students to know the scientific evidence and arguments for the theory of intelligent design, at least not yet.

Note that he also implies that this is just a first step to what they really want with the "at least not yet" comment. He further admits that while the policy does not mandate the teaching of ID, it does allow it:

Ohio's new evolution standard does not require teaching the theory of intelligent design. "In recent weeks some have mischaracterized the new language as an effort to mandate teaching the theory of intelligent design in the classroom, but that is not accurate and is not what we asked for," said Dr. Meyer. "The new standard requires students to learn about the evidence for and against Darwin's theory. It does not mandate that students be tested about the theory of intelligent design, though it does leave teachers free to discuss it."

John Calvert of the ID Network acknowledges that such language allows schools not only to teach ID, but to test on it, in a press release titled "Ohio State Board adopts Science Standards that permit the discussion of intelligent design":

The Board also added the following clarifying statement to the benchmark and indicator: "The intent of this indicator does not mandate the teaching or testing of Intelligent Design." This has major significance since the implication of the statement is that the "teaching or testing of intelligent design," is permitted.

So the ID apologists are simply relying on this false distinction between mandating the teaching of ID and allowing the teaching of ID. The critical analysis language is designed, intelligently or otherwise, to allow the teaching of ID and encourage local school districts to incorporate ID into their lesson plans. This essentially leads them into what we call a Dover Trap - encouraging schools to do what has already been declared unconstitutional in Federal courts. The costs of falling into that trap as quite high, of course.

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Even better, Ed: Dembski's research assistant, Joel Borofsky, said the Kansas standards were "ID in disguise". No, I'm not kidding, I just emailed Jack Krebs about it.


the relevant bits:


My hope is that ID will be taught properly in Kansas. Having been born and raised there I would love to claim to be from the first state to teach ID. There is a lot of movement among science high school teachers to never teach ID, even if it becomes a law because "we don't know how to teach philosophy."

It would be nice to see them learn. I worked in a school and grew tired of hearing them speak of how it's wrong to point out the weaknesses in Darwin's theory because, "even if it is weak, it's still the best theory out there." (Shades of Dawkins anyone?)

Comment by Joel Borofsky -- July 30, 2006 @ 10:08 am


Joel - Are you thinking that this is about ID? My impression is that this is about teaching the theory of evolution in a more balanced, less dogmatic way.

Comment by DaveW -- July 30, 2006 @ 1:06 pm



It really is ID in disguise. The entire purpose behind all of this is to shift it into schools...at least that is the hope/fear among some science teachers in the area. The problem is, if you are not going to be dogmatic in Darwinism that means you inevitably have to point out a fault or at least an alternative to Darwinism. So far, the only plausible theory is ID.

If one is to challenge Darwin, then one must use ID. To challenge Darwin is to challenge natural selection/spontaneous first cause...which is what the Kansas board is attempting to do. When you do that, you have to invoke the idea of ID.

Comment by Joel Borofsky -- July 30, 2006 @ 9:04 pm

Suck my balls, Casey Luskin.

I think it would be a shame if we allowed IDers to appropriate the term 'critical analysis' in this context. The teaching of evolutionary theory _should_ be critical, encouraging students to ask awkward questions, and then using the opportunity to model sound scientific reasoning.

By bob koepp (not verified) on 31 Jul 2006 #permalink

Steve S - Great comment... and thanks to my tap on NSA's downloads, I was able to hear Casey's comeback: "Oh yeah? Well kiss my hairy butt, Joel! And it's NOT hairy because we share a common ancestor with great apes either... it's only hairy because the Designer made it that way.

I am baffled by this statement about presenting "...evidence for and against Darwin's theory...". If there was actual "evidence" against the so-called Darwin's theory, then the theory has in fact been refuted. The ABSENCE of some forms of evidence, such as an incomplete fossil record, or molecular genetic data from Cambrian period lifeforms, in no way directly contradicts evolutionary theory. Theories are about explaining observed phenomena; if evolution deniers have observed something that I've missed, I'd love to hear about it.


That is part of the rhetorical strategy of the IDers - an argument or claim that evolution is a flawed theory is presented as evidence against evolution.