Discovery’s Luskin and Witt: “let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth”

| 25 Comments | 2 TrackBacks

On October 6th, the Discovery Institute issued a press release titled Dover Trial Witness Plays Misleading Word Games In Effort to Redefine Intelligent Design.

The release declares

“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.” …

Luskin’s comment is funny, because Discovery’s Jonathan Witt said the exact opposite recently!

In an October 1, 2005 article titled “The Origin of Intelligent Design:A brief history of the scientific theory of intelligent design” (the complete article is here), Witt says

Critics of the theory of intelligent design often assert that it is simply a re-packaged version of creationism, and that it began after the Supreme Court struck down the teaching of creationism in Edwards v. Aguillard in 1987. In reality, the idea of intelligent design reaches back to Socrates and Plato, and the term “intelligent design” as an alternative to blind evolution was used as early as 1897. …

What is the origin of the theory of intelligent design?

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.”

Here’s Witt’s reference:

F.C. S. Schiller, “Darwinism and Design Argument,” in Schiller, Humanism: Philosophical Essays (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1903), 141. This particular essay was first published in the Contemporary Review in June 1897.

Summary: On October 1, 2005, the Discovery Institute’s Jonathan Witt declared that the term “Intelligent Design” had been in use for over a century. Five days later, the Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin declared that, in the 1980’s, there were simply no terms besides “creation” and “creator” to describe the concepts of “Design” and “Designer.”

Yep - it’s another case of the Right Hand not knowing what the Left Hand is doing!

Hat tip to Andrea Bottaro for the Witt article.

2 TrackBacks

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

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... Read More

25 Comments

Coming from the same people who, without batting an eyelash, declare that creation science is “good science”, but that both evolution and creationism are nothing more than faith-based religions, this surprises you? It’s not a case of the left hand not knowing what the right is doing – it’s a case of expedient political rhetoric without regard to scholarship or ethics.

Mike Plavcan Wrote:

but that both evolution and creationism are nothing more than faith-based religions

That’s not just the DI. Many religiously motivated evolution opponents somehow think that anything that does not favor their very literal versio nof religion must itself be religion.

This from the latest (Oct 12) article in the York Daily Record:

When Bertha Spahr opened the box containing Dover Area High School’s donated copies of “Of Pandas and People” last year, she also found inside a catalogue from the publishing company listing the pro-intelligent design textbook under the heading of creation science.

… Other people thought that if the teachers didn’t support the board’s decision, it was because they were atheists, Spahr said. This was particularly upsetting to the teachers, Spahr said, “because two of the teachers are the son and daughter of ministers.”

Not to mention that this presupposes either the left hand or the right hand actually know what they themselves are doing, which I think may be giving them too much credit. It’s like asking a schizophrenic’s conspiracy theories to be internally consistent.

This brings to mind the phrase: He’s dancing as fast as he can. These guys seem to neither know nor care what they say, they are pure sophists.

Coming from the same people who, without batting an eyelash, declare that creation science is “good science”, but that both evolution and creationism are nothing more than faith-based religions, this surprises you?

No, I don’t think any tortured rhetoric coming from the Disco. Inst. surprises any Thumb regulars. But it’s important to broadcast, loud and clear, their inconsistencies. Especially in light of the attention being paid to Dover. A lot of folks will be focusing on ID and the DI for the first time. PT is an effective tool for spreading the word.

I see where you are getting at with this, but it’s ultimately irrelevant. If intelligent design is shown to “go back to Plato”, it is still bad or non-science for the same reason that Ptolomy’s concept of a terracentric universe should be rejected despite its antiquity.

Joel Sax Wrote:

If intelligent design is shown to “go back to Plato”, it is still bad or non-science for the same reason that Ptolomy’s concept of a terracentric universe should be rejected despite its antiquity.

There’s the scientific argument of Intelligent Design (for which there is none). Then there’s the current court case for proving that Intelligent Design does not represent a religious sentiment that can’t be preached in public schools.

Granted, Witt’s observation contradicts the statements currently being made in court about ID as a phrase not existing when Panda’s was being drafted. But if the ID people want to include Schiller’s statement as proof that ID is hardly “new”, then they have to have the baggage that goes with it – did Schiller, elsewhere in that essay, equate the Intelligent Designer with a God (or more specificaly, the Christian God), or did he mean to use the concept of Intelligent Design as being equitable with Scientific Creationism, such as it was at the time. If so, then it is in the best interests for the ID side to ignore Witt’s commentary entirely (and in the interests of the plaintiffs to bring Schiller up ASAP).

It would be interesting to know if Witt quote-mined Schiller to have the reference while leaving out the gory details that Schiller clearly meant for the Designer to be God.

Anybody on PT want to research this?

Luskin and Witt are cut from the same cloth that made the tuxedo of “intelligent design.” It doesn’t matter what anybody says to “correct” their bilge. It just doesn’t matter to them. The bilge keeps coming. Conflicting views, schmonflicting views. You can correct them until the evolved cows come home and until you are blue in the face because the “Intelligent Designer” wasn’t smart enough to enable you to breathe through your skin.

However, all that said, if there’s anything the Discovery Institute has proved, it is that the “intelligent designer” is without a doubt a lawyer.

And, once His Noodly Appendage is served with a sopeona the Universe is doomed.

Ramen.

There’s a certain irony (Igor! The meters!) in this thread coming immediately before one on the Cambrian explosion. Here, something appeared suddenly from nothing while simultaneously existing beforehand – and of course, both states support ID.

On the Cambrian explosion side, they’ve only got as far as the first bit – “all these forms appeared at once, which evolution is powerless to explain” – but given the intellectual suppleness they’ve shown here they should have no problem in simultaneously declaring that the evidence for much of the Cambrian variation existing beforehand “is the designer at work, washing his brushes and loading his palette prior to creating his masterpiece”.

In fact, “something appearing from nothing while also existing before” does seem to be a bit of a theme - especially with those people who cling to the interesting idea that mutations are merely organisms selecting from some huge invisible internal pre-loaded store of options. Could this be the first clue towards a true theory of ID?

Darn, I should convert to the dark side… once you shed that pesky business of caring about consistency, evidence, logic and truth, it’s so much easier. One bit of purple prose equals twenty megabytes of real data.

R

Anybody on PT want to research this?

Wikipedia has this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_design but I can’t find (with google) any sign of an online copy of the whole 1903 book/essay - even though it would probably now be out of copyright.

Any thinking person can see that postulating a “designer” merely begs the question “Where did the designer come from?”

Judges are thinking people… ergo the law suit is a lost cause. The DI must know this.

So why are “they” pursuing the case?

Simple: For the Publicity! Why? It’s advertising. Because they get their ‘funding’ from the faithful. (This can be said of all organized religion, IMO)

Publicity means that they reach more potential adherents and expand their “tithe-base”.

I’ll bet you a gross of “Protostome Pilsner” that if you looked at their financial records, you’d see that every time they launch a law-suit like this, their income spikes.

derek lactin wrote: “Judges are thinking people… ergo the law suit is a lost cause.”

I challenge that assumption with this evidence: Judge Roy Moore:

http://www.cnn.com/2003/LAW/11/13/m[…]ommandments/

One of these days the IDers will get a Roy Moore.

note that Moore was removed from office by a panel of his peers.

note that Moore was removed from office by a panel of his peers.

Note also that Moore is attempting to get back into a different office through the will of the voters - and stands a pretty good chance of doing so. The office he was removed from was also an elective office. The warning he embodies should be taken seriously. Place a couple more like him into higher positions, and he doesn’t get removed, he gets applauded.

Much as I believe the Discovery Institute and IDers in general are sophists making a political attack on science, I have to ask: Are Witt and Luskin actually making contradictory claims?

Luskin’s assertion is that there was no “widely accepted” name to hang on the “scientific position” when Pandas and People was written. (This is plainly false, since the term “bogus” has been well-known for many years. But never mind.)

If you accept that ID as a concept independent of creationism had been floating around the intellectual ether for over a century, (which I think is what Witt is saying) and that the authors of P&P were taking design as a scientific position without using that particular terminology because it wasn’t “widely accepted”, (which I think is what Luskin was saying) then the two positions don’t exactly contradict.

I don’t find this persuasive, but that’s because it’s crystal clear to me that P&P has been a creationist effort from the start, and that they basically ran a global search-and-replace of “design” for “creation” in the recent edition(s). Just trying to be fair, even to people and positions that don’t deserve it.

This perhaps belongs on another thread, but it’s definitely another case of the self-contradictory nature of ID, so I thought I’d mention it here. Over on the “Evolution News & Views” blog, Bruce Chapman has just linked to an article which was apparently just posted on the DI Web site by Jonathan Wells. The article is meant to rebut Jerry Coyne’s recent article in The National Review. In that article, Coyne points out that many facts of biology– transitionals in the fossil record, vestigial structures and genes, and pretty much all of biogeography– are explained by evolution but make no sense as the products of design.

Wells retorts that Coyne can’t rule out design like that: we can’t be sure about any of the methods or goals of the designer; design could have been through gradual slight changes rather than ex nihilo creation; design might have happened all at once or at many different times; and ID isn’t saying which or how many aspects of the biological world were designed and which took shape through natural mechanisms.

Exactly.

One of these days the IDers will get a Roy Moore.

This is actually similar to what happened in Jafree v. Wallace, the case regarding school prayer. The trial judge actually ruled that the First Amendment only applied to congress, but that individual states were free to establish their own state religions. Clearly he had never read the Fourteenth Amendment, probably because the Reconstruction Amendments are an even less popular topic in Alabama than evolution.

The point, however, is that regardless of whether these guys get another Roy Moore at trial, such a decision would still be overturned on appeal. In fact, such a result has the advantage that an overruling opinion on appeal applies over a larger jurisdiction. And in a situation like this, where there is already a controlling judicial opinion, and a recent on at that, from Edwards, even if a “Roy Moore” type ruling were issues at a district level, an appellate court would be required by law to apply Supreme Court precedent, and could even issue a summary ruling to that effect without needing oral arguments. They might be able to find one district court judge willing to make a dumb ruling, but there is no way in hell that they’d be able to find an appellate panel or a State Supreme Court panel willing to disregard recent US Supreme Court precedent, regardless of their actual personal views. In this situation, judicial precedence is more important to a justice, especially those above the district court level, than personal political views.

“Whatever people say about America, it is still one of the most wonderful countries in the world, despite the politics, religion and everything else that goes on.”

The wookiee has spoken.

http://www.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/Mov[…]p/index.html

Someone tell Lyin’ Luskin. He’s a fan.

Dave Thomas said that Luskin claims:

the 1980’s, there were simply no terms besides “creation” and “creator” to describe the concepts of “Design” and “Designer.”

What Casey actually said:

At the time the authors began work on Pandas, there was no widely accepted way to describe the scientific position being advocated there

There was no lie or contradiction. What you have done is misinterpret and misrepresent the spirit of what was said. There is difference between saying “no terms” and “no widely accepted way”. The terms may have been there, but they may not have been accepted for standard use. That would be a reasonable way to interpret what was said.

What has been in evidence however is that the folk’s here at pandas thumb are quick to render their misunderstandings as truth.

gees, you really define the term “brainwashed”, sal.

are you really trying to imply that ID is an independent derivation?

sad.

it is yourself who is trying to render your misunderstandings and misinterpretations as truth, not the rest of us.

you can lie to yourself all you want, the rest of us will continue on in reality.

What has been in evidence however is that the folk’s here at pandas thumb are quick to render their misunderstandings as truth.

Here’s some truth:

Pandas in: 1983 Creationism 1986 Creationism 1987 Creationism 1989 Intelligent Design 1993 Intelligent Design

Hmmm.…wonder what could have happened around 1987.….

What Casey actually said:

At the time the authors began work on Pandas, there was no widely accepted way to describe the scientific position being advocated there

Sure there was — it was called “creation science”.

Alas for them, the Supreme Court ruled that “creation sciecne” was illegal to teach, right in the middle of writing the manuscript.

Hey, nothing a couple of keystrokes in a word processor can’t change, right Sal?

Oh, and hey, Sal, I still have a couple questions pending for you:

*ahem*

1. What is the scientific theory of intelligent design, and how do we test it using the scientific method?

2. According to this scientific theory of intelligent design, how old is the earth, and did humans descend from apelike primates or did they not?

3. what, precisely, about “evolution” is any more “materialistic” than weather forecasting, accident investigation, or medicine?

4. do you repudiate the extremist views of the primary funder of the Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture, Howard Ahmanson, and if so, why do you keep taking his money anyway? And if you, unlike most other IDers, are not sucking at Ahmanson’s teats, I’d still like to know if you repudiate his extremist views.

5. Why are you undermining your own side by proclaiming here that ID is all about defeating “atheism” and “anti-religion”, while your side is desperately trying to argue in court that ID has nothing at all whatsoever to do with religion or religious apologetics? Are your fellow IDers just lying under oath when they testify to that, Sal?

By the way, if you happen to run into your pal Paul Nelson anywhere, let him know that I still have some questions pending for HIM, too . …

Oh, and hey Sal, while you’re here, perhaps you’d like to make an excuse for another one of DI’s dishonest lies.

In his recent whining press relrease about the Dover Debacle, West sniffles:

According to West, creationism is focused on defending a literal reading of the Genesis account, usually including the creation of the earth by the Biblical God a few thousand years ago. Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of design and has no commitment to defending Genesis, the Bible or any other sacred text.

Yet, in the Wedge Document, under the heading “Five Year Objectives”, the Discovery Institute lists:

* Mainline renewal movements begin to appropriate insights from design theory, and to repudiate theologies influenced by materialism

* Major Christian denomination(s) defend(s) traditional doctrine of creation

A simple question for you, Sal:

What exactly is the “traditional doctrine of creation” that you want “major Christian denominations” to “defend”. Does “traditional doctrine of creation” mean . . well … “the Genesis account, usually including the creation of the earth by the Biblical God a few thousand years ago”? Does this entail “defending Genesis, the Bible, or some sacred text”?

Which is it, Sal. Is West lying to us when he says that DI isn’t interested in defending creationism, or is the Discovery Institute lying to us in the Wedge Document when it says that one of its goals is “defending traditional doctrine of creation”.

Of course, Sal, I realize that you don’t have the ping-pongs to answer this simple question. That’s OK —- the question makes its point all by itself. I don’t need your cooperation.

Sal is just a messenger boy, just a Dembski sycophant; he can’t answer questions unless authorized to do so by the clergy.

Sal is just a messenger boy, just a Dembski sycophant; he can’t answer questions unless authorized to do so by the clergy.

He can’t answer questions, period.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dave Thomas published on October 12, 2005 12:44 PM.

Origin of the Novel Species Noodleous doubleous: Evidence for Intelligent Design was the previous entry in this blog.

The Cambrian Revisited is the next entry in this blog.

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