Third edition of “But Is It Science?” out

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I’ve just heard that the new third edition of But Is it Science, edited by Ruse & Pennock, is now available. Pennock has a great new chapter on the definition of science, methodological naturalism, and Larry Laudan’s anti-demarcationism and the uses creationists/ID advocates put it to. I have a (great new) chapter on the historical origins of the ID movement, focusing on the years 1981-1984, which were really key for developing the various weird features of ID ideology, although the actual term “intelligent design” was adopted later. My main conclusion is that creationists’ reactions to the McLean defeat in 1982, and especially their attempt to survive court challenge in the Edwards case, 1981-1984 (before appeals), were key in explaining the stripped down version of creationism that became ID.

Link to book

32 Comments

A blatantly self-serving request: if you’re going to buy it from Amazon, please click on the “I’d like to read this book on Kindle” button below the picture while shopping. It won’t ask for any personal information or otherwise affect your purchase. It just helps Kindle users get it faster. Thanks!

Unless I misread the cover of the book shown in the link, “Philosophical” is misspelled – a big zit for such a large type title

Whoa! The publishers (or marketers, or whoever) really slipped up on that misspelling!

But you bet I’ll read it anyway.

Heh, I hadn’t seen that. I imagine it is fixed in the published version, there was a delay in the book coming out, maybe that mistake was part of it…

Isn’t there a joke about a non-deleterious mutation in there somewhere?

Nick Matzke Wrote:

My main conclusion is that creationists’ reactions to the McLean defeat in 1982, and especially their attempt to survive court challenge in the Edwards case, 1981-1984 (before appeals), were key in explaining the stripped down version of creationism that became ID.

Last summer I had a brief exchange with Wesley Elsberry (more like a debate, which I lost) and he gave me an interesting link from the ’70s (you might be aware if it; if not I’ll try to find it) where Henry Morris himself started backpedaling from some of the more explicit pro-YEC claims. Elsberry’s point, which I have no reason to dispute, was that the beginning of the “strip down” can be traced back to the 1968 Epperson defeat.

I second Nick, in that Pennock’s new chapter is really worth reading. The whole book is very useful.

WAY OT, but I was writing this up for my blog and it was just such a good case of evolution in action that I had to crosspost someplace on PT:

THE ECONOMIST has an interesting article about feral hogs. It is an interesting observation that some animals have suffered badly due to the spread of human society, while others have found it beneficial, and hogs have been doing very well for themselves. There are from four to five million feral hogs in the USA, spread across 38 states; the biggest population is in Texas, but states from Florida to Oregon have a problem as well.

Spanish conquistadors introduced the hogs, taking herds of pigs along with them on their journeys into the North American continent. Later, sportsmen released hogs for commercial hunting. The animals produce large litters, and they will eat almost anything – which means they not only have access to a generous food supply, they are also extremely destructive. They grow into huge hairy monsters with fearsome tusks, and they can be aggressive. One gunned down in Georgia in 2004 was called “Hogzilla” and supposedly weighed in at 450 kilograms (1,000 pounds). Some think that was an exaggeration, but they can get big and nasty enough.

In 2000, Missouri gave hunters a year-round open season on hogs, allowing them to be shot on sight. In other places, traps, poison, and snares are set, and “hog dogs” have been trained to hunt them down. However, the hogs keep breeding fast enough to maintain their population. They are canny beasts to begin with, and the offensive against them seems to have done little but to select for smarter hogs. Not only have some beasts adapted to humans, they have done it well enough to give us a run for our money.

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net

Frank J said:

Last summer I had a brief exchange with Wesley Elsberry (more like a debate, which I lost) and he gave me an interesting link from the ’70s (you might be aware if it; if not I’ll try to find it) where Henry Morris himself started backpedaling from some of the more explicit pro-YEC claims.

Now that I would be interested in seeing. Henry also seemed so fanatically self-delusional in his writing - capable of convincing himself of such ridiculous stuff - that I would have thought any capability of self-correction beyond him.

JimF:

I found some references:

From Elsberry:

Morris and Parker’s “Scientific Creationism” textbook fully laid out the strategy of separating “biblical creationism” and “scientific creationism” in the 1970s. They went so far as to produce two editions in simultaneous production, one for Christian schools, and the other for public schools. The public school edition had all biblical references expunged from it.

From Dean Kenyon’s 1984 affidavit for what became “Edwards v. Aguillard”:

“Creation-science does not include as essential parts the concepts of catastrophism, a world-wide flood, a recent inception of the earth or life, from nothingness (ex nihilo), the concept of kinds, or any concepts from Genesis or other religious texts.”

Because most people who pay little attention to the “debate” associate “creationism” with “honest belief in a 6-day creation,” rather than “any strategy to promote unreasonable doubt of evolution,” I’m still hesitant to say that ID “is” creationism, at least without showing how IDers bait-and-switch the definitions. But I am convinced now, if not before, that deception (of others if not to oneself) was a key element of anti-evolution activism from very early in its pretense as science.

Frank J said:

From Dean Kenyon’s 1984 affidavit for what became “Edwards v. Aguillard”:

“Creation-science does not include as essential parts the concepts of catastrophism, a world-wide flood, a recent inception of the earth or life, from nothingness (ex nihilo), the concept of kinds, or any concepts from Genesis or other religious texts.”

I can’t think of any aspect of creation science that he has not deleted here. What did he feel was the essence of the concept?

Richard Simons said:

Frank J said:

From Dean Kenyon’s 1984 affidavit for what became “Edwards v. Aguillard”:

“Creation-science does not include as essential parts the concepts of catastrophism, a world-wide flood, a recent inception of the earth or life, from nothingness (ex nihilo), the concept of kinds, or any concepts from Genesis or other religious texts.”

I can’t think of any aspect of creation science that he has not deleted here. What did he feel was the essence of the concept?

Hmmmm…

That “Evolution is wrong because I say the Bible said so”?

Richard Simon Wrote:

I can’t think of any aspect of creation science that he has not deleted here. What did he feel was the essence of the concept?

By “he” do you mean Kenyon?

Either way, the important point is that even committed YECs are on record as far back as the ’70s for abandoning some positive claims of YEC. And I don’t just mean the designer’s identity but the “whats and whens” that are crucial if they’re ever to have an alternative to evolution. As you probably know, even AIG later abandoned some of the sillier pro-YEC arguments that Hovind still peddles. So there has been a constant retreat by anti-evolution groups in general, not just the ones that “evolved” into ID groups.

I now concede that the only hard evidence we have of motivation for the change in strategies is the legal defeats starting with Epperson, but I can’t help wondering if, “behind closed doors” they slowly realized that the evidence for young earth, young life and independent origin of “kinds” just was not there. Plus OEC groups were not going away, so even without legal defeats I can’t help thinking that the trend would have been inevitably in the direction of “don’t ask, don’t tell what the designer did, when or how.”

Stanton Wrote:

That “Evolution is wrong because I say the Bible said so”?

Again, it’s not something I can defend with hard evidence, but I would guess that most AIG people believe that “in their hearts,” whereas most DI people really do think that the Bible neither counts as evidence (Behe admitted that outright) nor is necessarily validated by independent evidence. Of course even if some DI people (Nelson?) do believe that, they are not about to admit it.

Frank J said:

Richard Simons Wrote:

I can’t think of any aspect of creation science that he has not deleted here. What did he feel was the essence of the concept?

By “he” do you mean Kenyon?

Yes. Without going to a creationist site and going through page by page, it seems to me that they concentrate on Flood geology, discussions about baramins that never actually get anywhere, trying to force the evidence to fit a 6000 year time frame and reassurances that ‘6 days’ really does mean 6 days. What else is there?

Richard Simons Wrote:

What else is there?

Plenty. None that holds up to scrutiny of course, which is why IDers don’t demand a true critical analysis (if that’s even possible given the limited classroom time devoted to evolution). But AIUI even YEC groups these days concentrate more on “holes” in evolution (Haeckel’s embryos, peppered moths, Piltdown Man, 2LOT, etc.) than actually trying to support their particular version of “what happened instead.”

Google “Index to creationist claims” to see more gems.

Richard Simons said:

What else is there?

* “Darth Vader was a DARWINIST” and of course the vilification of evo science as evil atheism in general, with a specific focus on Dawkins, the arch-devil.

* Gaps in the fossil record (“there are no intermediate fossils”).

* Genetic entropy (“all mutations are bad”).

* The ever-reliable Second Law of Thermodynamics (and its new derivative “the Law of Conservation of Information).

* “Were you there?”

* Cambrian explosion.

* Microevolution good (sort of), macroevolution bad.

* Paley arguments on the elaboration of the eye, bombardier beetle, archerfish, plant pollinators, etc, etc, etc.

* Haeckel’s bogus embryos and, Bob help us, Piltdown man.

* Punctuated equilibrium shows Darwinism in state of confusion.

* Darwinism is dead (“the windmills are weakening”), many scientists not named Steve are questioning evo science.

OK, I could keep on going, but I’m bored now. Many of these arguments are recycled in ID literature – see Lenny Flank at http://newsgroups.derkeiler.com/Arc[…]sg01820.html Essentially ID is creationism with uniquely YEC ideas trimmed out and religious rhetoric toned down (somewhat).

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/tadarwinw.html

Frank J said:

Stanton Wrote:

That “Evolution is wrong because I say the Bible said so”?

Again, it’s not something I can defend with hard evidence, but I would guess that most AIG people believe that “in their hearts,” whereas most DI people really do think that the Bible neither counts as evidence (Behe admitted that outright) nor is necessarily validated by independent evidence. Of course even if some DI people (Nelson?) do believe that, they are not about to admit it.

Well, several months ago, when Sal Cordova, of the Discovery Institute, was visiting a thread devoted to dissecting a particular instance of his bullshitting, he made an indirect, but unsubtle hint that he found the idea of all terrestrial life originating from Mount Ararat four thousand years ago more convincing than the hypothesis that the current beetle diversity took about 280 million years to achieve. Of course, when I pressed him on it, he proceeded to ignore me, instead making a moronic nuisance of himself by focusing and crowing on a mathematical typo another commentor made, to the point that one of the moderators closed the thread.

In other words, I don’t trust what the Discovery Institute staff say at all, especially when it comes to any sort of mention of the Bible and science. If Behe, Dembski and Cordova really don’t think that the Bible should be used in a science classroom, they shouldn’t be prostituting themselves to Christian fundamentalists who want to turn the US into a theocratic dictatorship, nor should they be making snide, underhanded statements that betray their ultimate goals.

Frank and mrg,

I agree that those are ‘arguments’ that they use, but I have never thought of them as the essential parts of their ideas. Perhaps Dean Kenyon really has given up on the positive claims of creationism and has retrenched to ‘Darwinism is wrong.’ Or perhaps I should just forget about consistency.

Richard Simons said:

Or perhaps I should just forget about consistency.

I would encourage that.

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/tadwarinw.html

Now that I think of it, you really have hit one of the nails on the head for the difference between creationism and ID. Classic creationism actually had a story to tell – the Book of Genesis. ID hid the story away and kept all the negative arguments.

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/tadarwinw.html

Reply to Richard Simons. For some reason it’s not letting me use quote boxes:

RS: “Perhaps Dean Kenyon really has given up on the positive claims of creationism and has retrenched to ‘Darwinism is wrong.’”

I’m not sure what Kenyon thinks or admits nowadays, but as of 1993 “Pandas” still said: “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, etc.” AIUI, no major IDer would commit to that today, so Kenyon’s view at the time was apparently “transitional” (like “cdesign proponentsist”).

As I said, most anti-evolution groups seem to have given up on some positive claims (or restricted them to private audiences known to be sympathetic?). We can only speculate on whether they privately realize that those claims are unsupportable, or have abandoned them only to get around the court decisions. Apparently even the testable “what and when” claims that don’t specifically refer to a designer/creator are too close for comfort to popular interpretations of Genesis, so the safest option is to just leave them out even if they honestly believe them.

Neverthelsss, I still can help thinking that if William Jennings Bryan was comfortable with OEC back when it was legal to teach creationism and not evolution, and back when there was far less evidence for old-earth-old-life, I see no reason why anyone today who gives it more than a passing thought (IOW the activists, as opposed to the rank & file) can’t do the same. In fact, many do, and some even concede common descent, comforted by a belief that the Creator/designer still tinkers with cells. But the trend is to avoid challenging anyone who shares one’s prior commitment to criticizing evolution.

RS: “Or perhaps I should just forget about consistency.”

Anti-evolution activists – and I really wish people would use that term to distinguish them from rank & file creationists - depend on being inconsistent.

Mr G: “Classic creationism actually had a story to tell – the Book of Genesis.”

Several mutually contradictory stories, in fact.

Frank J said:

Mr G: “Classic creationism actually had a story to tell – the Book of Genesis.”

Several mutually contradictory stories, in fact.

With not a single point relevant to Biology or Science…

Then again, Classic Creationists refuse to acknowledge that a complete lack of relevancy is a problem.

Stanton said:

With not a single point relevant to Biology or Science…

I never said it was a good story. Then again, at least they had the directness to actually take a stand for something instead of playing “pseudoskeptic”.

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/tadarwinw.html

mrg: “I never said it was a good story.”

Stanton: “With not a single point relevant to Biology or Science…”

But it is - or more accurately they are - “just so” stories. Calling evolution’s testable hypotheses “just so stories” runs the risk of a simple response of “they’re not, but yours are, and here’s why.” That won’t impress most rank & file evolution-deniers, but eliminating the mutually contradictory “just so stories” plays it safe.

“Pseudoskeptic” - I like that word. I’m betting that it has already been defined as “so open-minded that your brains fall out.”

Frank J said:

“Pseudoskeptic” - I like that word. I’m betting that it has already been defined as “so open-minded that your brains fall out.”

Not exactly. It was coined by sociologist Marcello Truzzi, one of the founders of CSICOP. It’s the ploy sometimes seen among lunatic fringers of pretending to be an impartial skeptic: “I don’t have a dog in the fight.”

“Ah, that explains why you’re expending all your ammo on the white dog and completely ignoring the black dog.”

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/tadarwinw.html

Frank J said: From Dean Kenyon’s 1984 affidavit for what became “Edwards v. Aguillard”:

“Creation-science does not include as essential parts the concepts of catastrophism, a world-wide flood, a recent inception of the earth or life, from nothingness (ex nihilo), the concept of kinds, or any concepts from Genesis or other religious texts.”

Wow what a complete about-face. In McLean vs Arkansas (1982; two years before the above statement) creation science was defined by the Arknasas act to be:

Creation-science includes the scientific evidences and related inferences that indicate: (1) Sudden creation of the universe, energy, and life from nothing; (2) The insufficiency of mutation and natural selection in bringing about development of all living kinds from a single organism; (3) Changes only within fixed limits of originally created kinds of plants and animals; (4) Separate ancestry for man and apes; (5) Explanation of the earth’s geology by catastrophism, including the occurrence of a worldwide flood; and (6) A relatively recent inception of the earth and living kinds.

McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education Decision, section III, from TalkOrigins Archive

That’s what I call ideological whiplash.

2) The insufficiency of mutation and natural selection in bringing about development of all living kinds from a single organism;

What about from a married organism? :p

eric Wrote:

Wow what a complete about-face.

I see it more like trying to have it both ways for ~25 years, longer if you count Morris’s two versions of “Scientific Creationism.”

One of these years I’ll find a way to say it that won’t get the usual “but…” reaction from my fellow “Darwinists,” but the fact is that IDers knowingly and willingly bait-and-switch 2 definitions when they say that “ID is not creationism” - the definition that critics use (any strategy to promote unreasonable doubt of evolution and proposes a design-based alternate “explanation”) and the one that most people infer (an honest belief in a 6-day, ~6000-year ago abrupt appearance of universe, earth, and “kinds”). Reacting only with “ID is too creationism” plays right into IDers’ hands, especially when there are “pseudoskeptics” in the audience. On that note:

mrg Wrote:

It’s the ploy sometimes seen among lunatic fringers of pretending to be an impartial skeptic: “I don’t have a dog in the fight.”

“Ah, that explains why you’re expending all your ammo on the white dog and completely ignoring the black dog.”

Yes! I’ve heard the exact “dog” phrase from some people who then go on to rattling off the usual “holes” of “Darwinism” while ignoring the real holes in YEC and OEC. Those “kinds” are very common on Talk.Origins, but don’t stick around long.

I’m not sure what Kenyon thinks or admits nowadays, but as of 1993 “Pandas” still said: “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, etc.” AIUI, no major IDer would commit to that today, so Kenyon’s view at the time was apparently “transitional” (like “cdesign proponentsist”).

Kenyon was writing in YEC publications until the late 1990s at least, which is when he retired IIRC.

“Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, …

Well, the premise that life was deliberately engineered would seem to at least suggest that, or at least make it seem more likely than otherwise. Course, the number of species out there that do have predecessors with most of the same traits would seem to make such a claim somewhat counterproductive.

Henry

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on January 7, 2009 1:49 PM.

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