Of Pandas and People: Creation Relabeled

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One of the items available via the new NCSE resource on Kitzmiller v. DASD is the court transcript of testimony in the FTE motion to intervene. There is a telling interchange between the Foundation for Thought and Ethics President Jon A. Buell and Pepper Hamilton lawyer Eric Rothschild, showing precisely the relationship between “intelligent design” and “creation”: it’s the very same thing, defined in exactly the same way.

In the following section taken from the court transcript, “Q” indicates Eric Rothschild and “A” indicates Jon A. Buell. The book is Of Pandas and People, the supplemental textbook published by FTE.

Q Actually in this version of the book it describes who creationists are, doesn’t it, if you look at pages 22 and 23 and 24. It says there’s different types of creationist’s literature. There are older [old earth] creationists, younger [young earth] creationists, agnostic creationists, right?

A Yes. We were trying to give some articulation to the breadth of what that term means.

Q And then if you could turn back to page 22, you explain that “Creation is the theory that various forms of life began abruptly, with their distinctive features already intact: Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers and wings, mammals with fur and mammary glands.” That’s how you defined creation, correct?

A Yes.

Q All right. And I would like to take – you to take a look at an excerpt from Pandas and People. Turn to page 99 in the excerpt I gave you.

A All right.

Q Says, “Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact: Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings, et cetera.”

Do you see that?

A I see it.

Q So that’s pretty much the exact same sentence substituting creation for intelligent design, isn’t that right?

A The reason that you find the similarity in the two passages is because this obviously was at a time when we were developing the manuscript. We had not chosen the term “intelligent design” at that point. We were trying to – this was just a place holder term until we came to grips with which of the plausible two or three terms that are in scientific literature we would settle on. And that was the last thing we did before the book was revise – I mean was sent to the publisher.

Q It was creation, creation, creation until the end and then it was intelligent design.

(Court transcript, pp.97-99)

3 TrackBacks

Man, this is so damning: it's a transcript that describes the history of revisions of the book "Of Pandas and People". See if you can tell the difference. First, an early edition: Creation is the theory that various forms of life began a... Read More

Question! from stranger fruit on September 24, 2005 2:02 PM

A quick question ... What is the theory that various forms of life began abruptly, with their distinctive features already intact: Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers and wings, mammals with fur and mammary glands? A. Creation, or B. Intell... Read More

They hate it when you tell the Intelligent Design creationists that their whole schtick is just warmed over creationism—at Behe's recent talk, one of the questioners amused me greatly by expressing her anger that scientists call it creationi... Read More

27 Comments

btw, there’s a decent story on MSNBC called “Why Scientists Dismiss Intelligent Design”

http://msnbc.msn.com/id/9452500/

This is good stuff. As I understand it, the case hinges not directly on whether the intelligent design notes the board includes are bogus science, but rather whether the plaintiffs can demonstrate that it is religious, as in creationism. There are two very different things, the first being far easier than the latter. Fortunately, the creationists seem inclined to shoot themselves in the foot on this issue. The fundies will probably be outside the courtroom in force, making the IDist’s lawyer’s claim that the design inference is scientific and not religious untenable on both fronts.

Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but I think this case should go well. Does anyone see a way we lose in this circumstance?

It’s always possible to lose a court case.

Here, the defense will do their best to convince the judge that teaching ID (though they won’t *call* it teaching) has a secular purpose. If they manage to do so, then nothing else is going to matter. Fortunately, no court has ever held teaching falsehoods to be a valid secular purpose.

That’s an important point Wesley. Teaching “junk science” or “psuedo-science” does not serve a secular purpose and thus fails one of the three lemon prongs. Is it necessary to have the others?

Though I haven’t entirely thought it through, I think there is a sense in which ID/Creationism can be viewed as “junk science” and also a sense in which they can be viewed as religion.

The specific theories that derive from ID/Creationism “life forms emerged fully formed at point x in time” or “there are structures which are in principle non-evolvable” when viewed in isolation are testable statements. But any tests of them mean that they fail to account for widely accepted evidence. They do not save the phenomena, they do not offer explanation. They make no novel predictions Thus they should not be accepted, supported or pursued.

In a wider sense, Creationism/ID are sociological phenomena and when their theories are viewed in a context of the community of researchers, and how the community of researchers function, it becomes very clear that they do not meet the generally accepted standards of biology as defined today.

Aguillard and McLean, the relevant precedents, were decided on the Establishment clause, correct?

If so, there’s no good reason to pursue any other legal strategy than convincing the judge that ID is just as much a religiously motivated movement as creation science before it.

Asking a judge to assess what is and is not “junk science” is asking for trouble, you ask me. Stick to the precedents, stick to the Constitution, and I don’t see how we lose.

…I think there is a sense in which ID/Creationism can be viewed as “junk science” and also a sense in which they can be viewed as religion.

It’s an argument from ignorance (often in their dreams, e.g. ‘science can’t explain IC’ as if evolution didn’t naturally lead to co-adapted parts) to The Designer (formerly known as God) of the gaps.

… or “there are structures which are in principle non-evolvable” when viewed in isolation are testable statements.

There is no theory of Design, and the fundamental claim (The Designer did it) is not testable. But creationists make many testable, but false, claims: see the Index to Creationist Claims, Talk Design, and of course Talk Origins.

Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but I think this case should go well. Does anyone see a way we lose in this circumstance?

Let’s see … if the court rules as we expect, then one possible way ultimately to lose the case is if the following purely hypothetical scenario were to occur:

1) An idiot who is sympathetic to creationism is elected (more or less) to a position of power in which he can appoint U.S. Supreme Court Justices. (In this purely hypothetical case, let’s say the idiot is from a state in which the idiot’s political party has a plank in its platform advocating the teaching of creationism in public schools).

2) Enough idiots to constitute a majority are elected to the Senate to give a pass to any creationist Justice that the idiot in 1) appoints, per the Senate’s role to advise and consent in the process.

3) The court case is appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court after the idiot in 1) has appointed enough Justices who will ignore the 1st Amendment and become activist judges for Religious Right Fundamentalists (after backers of the #1 idiot launch an Orwellian campaign against so-called “activist judges” who dare to actually defend the Constitution).

4) A Supreme Court loaded by the #1 idiot hears the appeal and hands the creationists a victory.

As you can see, the chances are extremely remote that the creationists will ultimately win. How could the #1 idiot be put in power of the most powerful country on the planet, so as to be able to load the highest court in his country at his whim? Few people (aside from creationists) would be stupid enough to vote for such an idiot, right?

As you can see, the chances are extremely remote that the creationists will ultimately win. How could the #1 idiot be put in power of the most powerful country on the planet, so as to be able to load the highest court in his country at his whim? Few people (aside from creationists) would be stupid enough to vote for such an idiot, right?

Ah, I see you’re somewhat depressed/disgusted with the current state of American politics…

I think you should add the answer (or part of it) to your excerpt. It doesn’t make things any better for the witness, but ending with a question makes you appear to be “hiding” something.

BTW, the answers that follow are, in my opinion, much more damning. They show the witness flying down to try to convince lawyers to change the terminology, that one of the authors had previously not used the term ID but after losing earlier matters changed his label from creation science to ID. Great stuff.

Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 17, column 126, byte 854 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

Believing something which comports with your senses doesn’t take much ‘faith’. Faith is more like where the evidence says the universe is billions of years old, you admit that the evidence says that, but you believe it’s a few thousand years old, because your magic book says so, a la Paul Nelson. Now that is high octane faith.

And that’s what faith should be. If it’s a valid route to knowledge, it needs to be able to hold its own against reason. The fact that it can’t, tells you it’s not a valid route to knowledge.

Onespeed wrote:

GreenHat= “Where is the evidence that repeatibility is a valid measure?

Where is the evidence that your senses are accurate and should be believed?

Where is the evidence that what happened in the past followed the same rules as what happens today?

There is NONE. So much for your overwelming evidence.”

How can you argue with ignorance like that? :(

Actually, the guy’s right, although if he carried his argument to its logical consequences, he’d give up on it.

Science does indeed base itself on the unproven assumptions that our senses (and our logical/analytical powers) give us a limited but reasonably objective (at our scale) impression of the world, and that the natural world works according to rules that are consistent. It is also necessarily based on reproducibility, simply because if everyone can make the same observation regarding the same phenomenon, we can all agree on the results (this doesn’t mean that irreproducible events are not real, simply that we cannot study them effectively).

Of course, if one gave up on the reliability of our senses and on the constancy of natural laws, one should give up on religion as well. The Scriptures claim to be entirely based on direct or indirect testimony (even Genesis, since it was dictated by God to a human), which would be worthless if human senses regularly betrayed us. And of course if natural laws changed whimsically in time, we’d have no way of telling what is miraculous and what is normal, what is due to divine intervention and what is perfectly natural.

Indeed, if we could not trust our senses and the constancy of natural laws, our entire life would be uninterpretable. As a matter of fact, however, we know that if we suspend a rock over our head, and let it go, we can reasonably expect that it will fall, and it will hurt. We can also safely assume that cavemen also would have hurt if they dropped rocks on their heads, even if we cannot know for sure.

So, while those assumptions are indeed unproven, science is not exceptional in making them. Even anti-science fundamentalists make them, implicitly, every day.

If the issue in this case becomes whether ID is good science or junk science the defendants win, and they should. Which ever side you are on you should not want judges deciding that issue.

Plaintiffs can only win if the issue remains whether ID is science or religion. And ID need not be purely religion for the plaintiffs to win if ID involves a substantial entanglement between the school board and religion.

I don’t know a thing about the judge in this case, but if the case were being heard by John Roberts I think the plaintiffs would certainly win. I think that because Roberts is an honest and brilliant legal scholar who will follow the law whether or not it accords with his personal beliefs. Exactly the sort of judge we should want, in my view.

If the plaintiffs’ lawyers present the case properly any honest legal scholar will recognize ID as disguised religious dogma.

Anyone who thinks the “idiots” are on the loose can relax. The scenario they fear won’t happen.

“4) A Supreme Court loaded by the #1 idiot hears the appeal and hands the creationists a victory.”

Even if both of Bush’s nominees vote against the precedent, creationism would still lose 5-4. Rehnquist was in the dissent.

Ken Willis Wrote:

If the plaintiffs’ lawyers present the case properly any honest legal scholar will recognize ID as disguised religious dogma.

Supposing instead it goes to a legal scholar who has said:

Scalia Wrote:

The people of Louisiana, including those who are Christian fundamentalists, are quite entitled, as a secular manner, to have whatever scientific evidence there may be against evolution presented in their schools

and:

At least at this stage in the litigation, it is plain to me that we must accept appellants’ view of what the statute means. To begin with, the statute itself defines “creation-science” as “the scientific evidences for creation and inferences from those scientific evidences.” If, however, that definition is not thought sufficiently helpful, the means by which the Louisiana Supreme Court will give the term more precise content is quite clear – and again, at this stage in the litigation, favors the appellants’ view. “Creation science” is unquestionably a “term of art,” and thus, under Louisiana law, is “to be interpreted according to [its] received meaning and acceptation with the learned in the art, trade or profession to which [it] refer[s].” The only evidence in the record of the “received meaning and acceptation” of “creation science” is found in five affidavits filed by appellants. In those affidavits, two scientists, a philosopher, a theologian, and an educator, all of whom claim extensive knowledge of creation science, swear that it is essentially a collection of scientific data supporting the theory that the physical universe and life within it appeared suddenly and have not changed substantially since appearing. These experts insist that creation science is a strictly scientific concept that can be presented without religious reference. At this point, then, we must assume that the Balanced Treatment Act does not require the presentation of religious doctrine.…

and other similar pronouncements?

Jeremy valiantly tries to reassure us by noting

Even if both of Bush’s nominees vote against the precedent, creationism would still lose 5-4. Rehnquist was in the dissent.

Per item 3) (“… after the idiot … has appointed enough Justices …”), I didn’t assume that the #1 idiot would be limited to 2 appointments before an appeal is heard, but I do appreciate the intended words of comfort.

While I hope the 1-vote barrier against the Religious Right will hold, we’ve already seen this disaster flood the other branches of the U.S. Government. It’s not very reassuring that it all comes down to a 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court. That should not be how presidents are selected, nor should it be how public school science topics are determined.

I think we’ll win in Dover, and I’ll be optimistic that the win will stand. It would also be nice to see Jon Buell of the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (more Orwellian doublespeak there!) punished for his “bearing false witness” (to use the RR’s vernacular) under oath.

Roberts is an honest and brilliant legal scholar

Then how did he get nominated by a dishonest and stupid ideologue like Dubya?

Ken Willis: …Roberts is an honest and brilliant legal scholar who will follow the law…

“Brilliant” he may be, just as the same might be said of Karl Rove, but in terms of elementary judicial ethics, John Roberts seems about as honest as “Jeff Gannon” or Ahmed Chalabi.

Dear Ken, An elementary lesson you might attempt is to rediscover what that joint on your arms - the big, middle one - is called, and to then ask an honest, knowledgeable person how it differs from the big, soft part you are sitting upon.

Screw any attempt at debating with anyone still willing to excuse, much less defend, ANY action of the current criminal distortion called the Republican Party, as such a person has lost everything but a misplaced, propped-up-by-sticks pride.

Don’t for get this earlier thread: Creationist Credibility

Buell said his organization is “not at all” Christian or religious in nature. But attorney Eric Rothschild with the Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton pointed out that the not-for-profit organization’s Internal Revenue Service tax exemption form says their primary purpose is “promoting and publishing textbooks presenting a Christian perspective.”

Buell blamed the “error” on a new accountant who was “not even from the state of Texas.”

He said he had never seen the form until Rothschild pointed out that his initials were on the bottom of one page.

The organization’s Articles of Incorporation from the state of Texas also mention religion, Christianity and the Bible.

Speaking of pandas & people, this is as good a place as any to note that prurient persons are perforating panda privacy: Satellites to monitor panda sex.

No wonder Prof. Steve Steve spends so much time travelling!

sanjait Wrote:

This is good stuff. As I understand it, the case hinges not directly on whether the intelligent design notes the board includes are bogus science, but rather whether the plaintiffs can demonstrate that it is religious, as in creationism. There are two very different things, the first being far easier than the latter.

I disagree … the religious intent of ID is MUCH easier to prove. Proving ID to be junk science would first require educating the judge about the scientific method and falsifiability and how evolution complies with the scientific method while ID does not. Proving the religious intent behind the movement only requires entering the “Wedge Document” into evidence and hammering home this point in the DI’s OWN words:

The Discovery Institute Wrote:

Goals Governing Goals

* To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies. * To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.

Case closed.

I have to sit back and laugh at some of the comments. I am for Intelligent Design, since we are creators ourselves. After all, Dolly would not exist if our own kind would not have created her ourselves. It goes without saying that Darwinism has endured great trials and tribulations to its introduction as a new science in its time. I guess Intelligent Design must endure the same. We all know that Darwinism has it gaps and flaws since it is just a theory. Similarly, ID is just a theory with it gaps and flaws. All theories have the same fallibility. My only concern would be, what if Darwinism is wrong and ID is right. If we close our minds to this supposing theory, we could loose something valuable. Besides, haven’t we created several different new species of vegetables and fruits, which we consume from time to time. AAH let me guess, they just evolved that way.

regarding appeal to the USSC: it’s troubling that opening a can of legal whup-ass on the theocrats in district court could be reversed by a gang of judicial activists, it’s true.

But there are other avenues, still. Are the Dover taxpayers happy with the way that their school taxes are being used for an ideological/religious battle, rather than running the schools? Those local elections are mostly-uncontested and with low turnout. Dig some dirt and run some ads and those fundy board members will be out on their ignorant asses.

The teachers seem to be rather united in opposing ID, what happens if they refuse to teach it? Or if they *do* teach it, but in a derisive manner (“today, class, we’ll look at Flat Earthers, ID, and other moronic frauds”)? If the board takes action against the teachers, there are union issues, academic freedom issues, religious and free-speech issues. What happens when *students* pipe up with their objections? This is by no means the last lawsuit that the Dover board will have to defend.

And finally, I’d hope that the plaintiffs in the Dover case manage to get the district court to make some “findings of fact” that nail down the constitutionally unacceptable nature of ID. Appeals court deal in disputes of law, but issues of fact are settled in district court. Nail down the facts, and even a USSC of Scalia-clones would have a hard time overturning the verdict.

GreenHat= “Where is the evidence that repeatibility is a valid measure?

Where is the evidence that your senses are accurate and should be believed?

Where is the evidence that what happened in the past followed the same rules as what happens today?

There is NONE. So much for your overwelming evidence.”

What’s interesting about this is not the fact whether or not the creationists are right in presenting the facts (they are) but whether they are indoctrinating students with the Bible. The evidence against evolution and the evidence foir a young earth suggests that we should revise the generally accepted age of earth and the fact that complex organisms spring from single celled amoebas.

Posted by Jeremy on February 3, 2006 08:47 PM (e)

What’s interesting about this is not the fact whether or not the creationists are right in presenting the facts (they are) but whether they are indoctrinating students with the Bible. The evidence against evolution and the evidence foir a young earth suggests that we should revise the generally accepted age of earth and the fact that complex organisms spring from single celled amoebas.

What is the evidence for a young Earth?

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Wesley R. Elsberry published on September 24, 2005 9:59 AM.

Uncommon Dissent: The Game was the previous entry in this blog.

Insight Into Eye Evolution Deals Blow To Intelligent Design is the next entry in this blog.

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