To Distinguish Creationism from ID, Try Evolution as the Outgroup

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outgroup.jpg

After the unit on Creationism and Intelligent Design in my Critical Thinking/Science and Pseudoscience class at New Mexico Tech (Psych 189), I asked the students to write an essay on the question

Is “Intelligent Design” just another version of Creationism? Why?

Along came student Elaine, who included this comment in her essay:

It seems that if you are only comparing Intelligent Design against Creationism, there are enough subtleties to identify one or the other. However, if it is a case of arguing Intelligent Design vs. Creationism vs. evolution, the contrast between evolution and the other two is so great that Intelligent Design and Creationism become indistinguishable in their respective arguments. The only giveaway would be a reference to Genesis, the use of “God” rather than “Creator/Designer”, or some explicit differentiation between the two. In contrast, no one could ever possibly confuse an evolution argument with any other.

I remarked that the student had used evolution as an outgroup to correctly root the evolution/creationism/ID tree, and gave her an “A” for the assignment.

Discuss.

271 Comments

cdesign proponentsists

Obviously, for many of them it makes no difference.

And the primary reason for differentiating them at all is a legal one.

Beyond that, it’s pretty much sectarian squabbling, not very interesting to anyone not of their theological proclivities.

I mean, surely there might be considerable differences between geocentrists, theologically and apologetically, but what’s that to anyone who honestly seeks the best answers?

Glen Davidson

Elaine deserved that A. Good choice of essay topic too.

My own distinction: an Intelligent Design proponent is a Creationist who winks whenever he mentions “The Designer”.

aw, she forgot to include the extinct transitional species, cdesign proponentsists. that would have made for the A+ ;-).

Don’t see it at all myself. I don’t think the data have any sort of nested, hierarchical structure. Nebulous as ID is, we shouldn’t even consider it a terminal taxon. There are many characters uniting some IDiots with mainstream evolution, and others uniting them with creationists. Behe would of course be more difficult to place than Dembski. Just goes to show that processes that don’t involve descent with modification are not well modeled by trees.

John Harshman said:

Don’t see it at all myself. I don’t think the data have any sort of nested, hierarchical structure. Nebulous as ID is, we shouldn’t even consider it a terminal taxon. There are many characters uniting some IDiots with mainstream evolution, and others uniting them with creationists. Behe would of course be more difficult to place than Dembski. Just goes to show that processes that don’t involve descent with modification are not well modeled by trees.

Well, there’s a friendly and respectful disagreement between science supporters here, then.

To me, ID is 100% a case of descent with modification, and adaptation due to selective pressure.

Now, it is true that ID is “Lamarckian”. “Creation scientists” decided that they “needed” to evolve into “cdesign proponentists”.

The Supreme Court selected against “creation science” in Edwards v Aguillard, and almost overnight, some “creation scientists” mutated into “design proponents”.

(Why are there still monkeys creation scientists? Because speciation doesn’t mean that the ancestor population necessarily goes extinct.)

Why didn’t the Dover asteroid impact trial cause more dramatic selection? Well, it did to some degree (“academic freedom” and “critical thinking” language emerged). But also, evolution is constrained. There’s only so far that you can go, and still be an evolution denier who sells books to right wing nutjobs.

John Harshman said:

Don’t see it at all myself. I don’t think the data have any sort of nested, hierarchical structure. Nebulous as ID is, we shouldn’t even consider it a terminal taxon. There are many characters uniting some IDiots with mainstream evolution, and others uniting them with creationists. Behe would of course be more difficult to place than Dembski. Just goes to show that processes that don’t involve descent with modification are not well modeled by trees.

The existence of horizontal meme transfer doesn’t invalidate common descent. :}

Evolutionary biology isn’t an outgroup in the phylogenetic sense. The reality is more like special creation of independent lineages. Evolutionary biology arises out of the science. It is an independent lineage compared to your other two categories of creationism and the intelligent design creationist scam. As in special creation you expect to not see evidence of common ancestry between the science and religious notions. Any commonality is due to chimerism that you expect in created entities like the centaur. Creationism and the intelligent design creationist scam just borrow from each other and from the science. You literally have a man’s torso stuck onto a horses body. Something that you would not get by natural biological means.

So the outgroup analogy fails.

Why an A! If its all about the great idea of a great thinking being having created the universe/earth/biology then ID is creationism. It seems there is just an attempt to say any conclusion of a thinking being, a God, behind the universe is a wrong conclusion. So illegal. I’m sure North America does not agree. Prohibition of Genesis is based on a prohibition of particular religious doctrines by particular sects etc. The people do not agree its settled fact and therefore to be illegal to say there is a creator/God. if so then the preamble to the constitution/or bill of rights (I forget) should also be censored.

Its all about teaching the truth on origins. Censorship means either truth is not the motive of the education on a subject or its officially not true what is being censored. if its official that God/Genesis is not true then I understand this is illegal for the state to so impose.

Yes some ID folk just think evolution is wrong and are vague about a God. Its about truth and opinions on subjects that gov’t/law say they can judge. Its political, social, religious, and stupid. Its about conclusions on a few subjects dealing with mutual origins. There has been a rebellion and the rebellion of late has taken more territory and threatening the old empire. We are in the middle of a story. Perhaps even a bigger story about our civilization since ww11.

Byers, take your tinfoil hat off and read the post again. It was a question in a psychology class. It’s not illegal to discuss actual, real-life socio-political phenomena like Creationism and ID and their relationships with each other and with evolution, their avowed primary target. Hell, those two movements are so chock full of cognitive dissonance, denial and projection that you could spend an entire unit of a Psych class on them.

But hey, if you want to talk illegality, we can always mention the fact that ID was invented - yes, invented - in order to skirt US Constitutional prohibitions on religious privilege and wedge sectarian theology into science classes after “creation science” failed in Edwards v Aguillard - and then was soundly routed in Kitzmiller v Dover, where not only was ID ruled to not be science but its awoedly creationist proponents also deemed to be acting dishonestly and borderline illegally from the get-go.

So, yeah, go on. I’m sure the Panda assembly would be pleased as punch to talk about creationism and illegality within the context of education.

Even if one didn’t have evolution as an outgroup one could look at the “genes” of creationism and ID.

Creationism and ID have exactly the same fundamental misconceptions about basic scientific concepts; ID inherited them from “scientific” creationism and bent them to include molecules.

These particular misconceptions are characteristic of only these groups, so you know they have a common ancestor.

Byers said:

“It seems there is just an attempt to say any conclusion of a thinking being, a God, behind the universe is a wrong conclusion. So illegal.”

“The people do not agree its settled fact and therefore to be illegal to say there is a creator/God. if so then the preamble to the constitution/or bill of rights (I forget) should also be censored.”

What exactly is a “thinking God?” Isn’t thought a human attribute? Or is Byers merely reflecting human attributes on his deity, just as humans created it in their image in the first place?

Byers is erroneously referring to the preamble or bill of rights of the Constitution, not the Declaration of Independence, the document meant to sever political ties with the King of England, and like kings everywhere, declare their thrown sacred and given to them by their God, thus the reference to God. Since Darwin wasn’t around, the founders used general terms couched in religious verbage. Given that, the founders wanted to declare an appeal to the highest court they knew, at the time, which was some divinity. Declaring independence out of the blue just didn’t cut it, they had to undercut the King’s authority in America. Even in the preamble it was Creator, which could be, and is, interpreted in many ways.

I think the original diagram only works if you assume that Creationism is a single monolithic group. If you allow sub-categories of Creationism – YEC, OEC, Progressive, Day-Age, Gap (and maybe some others), you will probably find that ID is far closer to Progressive, than either is to YEC, and quite possibly that ID is a subtype of Progressive.

harold said: Why didn’t the Dover asteroid impact trial cause more dramatic selection? Well, it did to some degree (“academic freedom” and “critical thinking” language emerged). But also, evolution is constrained. There’s only so far that you can go, and still be an evolution denier who sells books to right wing nutjobs.

So ID is to Creationism as birds are to dinosaurs? :p

And next time, don’t forget to factor Theistic Evolution – especially that mixed-up BioLogos business – into those Psych 189 essay questions.

Let’s see who gets an “A” when THAT stuff shows up on the unit test!

FL :)

Actually, I covered that in class, FL, so it could indeed be on the test. I showed class the sheer irony of articles from the Discovery Institute, which supposedly relies entirely on science and not religion, that went after heretic Jews, Protestants and Catholics who have no problem accepting evolution as God’s Work (a.k.a. Theistic Evolution). Why should the DI even care at all about what some religious sects believe about biology? Oh yeah, the DI wants everyone to believe that Biology is ATHEISM, and the fact that some religious folks accept evolution proves the Disco Institute to be flat wrong. So of course, those “heretics” must be exposed and uprooted instead. “The Theistic Evolutionists just haven’t thought through the implications like we IDers have…” Yeah, Right.

FL said:

And next time, don’t forget to factor Theistic Evolution – especially that mixed-up BioLogos business – into those Psych 189 essay questions.

Let’s see who gets an “A” when THAT stuff shows up on the unit test!

FL :)

At least the “Theistic Evolutionists” get the science right.

On the other hand, the sectarians behind the ID/creationist socio/political movement not only get it wrong always, they get it wrong in characteristic ways that identify them unmistakably.

Furthermore, most mature Christians are aware of the huge disparities in sectarian dogmas within just Christianity alone. ID/creationist sectarians take the immature, absolutist stance and believe themselves to be the arbiters of “the one true dogma.”

When one considers that there have been, and still are, thousands of other religions as well, the probability that these more judgmental and absolutist sectarians are right about anything approaches zero rather quickly. Therefore, your sectarian opinions are not worth considering.

Forgive me if this has been covered in some of the above comments, but it’s impossible to answer the “Is ID Creationism” question unless all concerned agree on the definition of “creationism*.” If the definition is that used by critics, which is essentially:

“Any strategy to promote unreasonable doubt of evolution that seeks and fabricates bogus ‘weaknesses’ of evolution, proposes some design-based alternative, and optionally adds its own testable claims of ‘what happened when instead’.”

…then “creationism” would be “the genus that includes species A and B,” and ID would a subset of creationism. But as the diagram shows, one still can’t say it “is” in the sense of “one and the same.”

However, if the definition is that used by the general public, which is essentially:

“An honest belief in a design-based alternative to evolution that agrees with a common interpretation of scripture in terms of ‘what happened when’.”

… then “creationism” would be only “species A,” and ID would not be creationism, the whole or a subset. The most one can say is that ID, being a “big tent” strategy, indirectly promotes creationism. And I would add, more effectively than the strategies that promote one brand of “creationism” directly.

The outgroup does have value, if only to show the “domains” of science and pseudoscience.

*Actually one would have to agree on the definition of ID too, as the current scam is radically different from that of Rev. Paley 200+ years ago. But that’s just one more issue where the DI is more than glad to pull a bait-and-switch.

hrafn.startssl.com said:

I think the original diagram only works if you assume that Creationism is a single monolithic group. If you allow sub-categories of Creationism – YEC, OEC, Progressive, Day-Age, Gap (and maybe some others), you will probably find that ID is far closer to Progressive, than either is to YEC, and quite possibly that ID is a subtype of Progressive.

Another chance for a mild, respectful, civil disagreement between science supporters, in order to stimulate interesting discussion.

It’s easy to see why science supporters tend to model ID/creationism as a group of competing hypotheses, each with passionate supporters who insist on the details. That’s how science tends to work. When some major issue is still being worked out, leaders in the field tend to be associated with one of the main hypotheses, and gather supporters. In the end, the questions are ultimately decided by the evidence, and everyone moves on.

ID/creationism does not work like that. You might think a bunch of authoritarians would, in fact, make war on one another over ideological details. And they would, except that authoritarians prioritize.

The overwhelming priority is denial, distortion, or omission of the theory of evolution (and also some other topics) in public school science classes. Any methodology is acceptable. Direct teaching of only YEC creation science, “equal time” for YEC creation science, direct teaching of ID, teaching evolution and then fake “critical thinking” about made-up “weaknesses” of evolution, or merely never teaching evolution, have all been proposed and supported by the same community of creationists.

ID/creationism has to be understood in the social/political context. The “religious right” is primarily a backlash against the liberal consensus of mainstream religion during the Vatican II/civil rights era, but also against secular trends like women’s equality. Prior to about 1968 evangelicals tended to oppose right wing economic policies, the emergence of the “religious right” trend made it possible to add them to social/political alliance that is today represented by Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, the current Republican/Tea Party, etc. Individual ignorance and superstition cuts across all boundaries, but the organized, political science denial movements in the US are emanating mainly from one party - climate change denial, evolution denial, HIV denial, and the still extant cigarettes/disease denial, are mainly supported by one major party. Among evolution deniers, people who claim to adhere to some form of explicit or implicit “Biblical literalism” are the vast majority, and keeping them engaged is a major goal of organized, political creationism. When the talking heads of the movement don’t express themselves in direct YEC terms, that’s understood by the followers as a ruse to insert evolution denial into public school science classes without running directly afoul of Edwards.

Science supporters don’t tend to be sensitive to weasel words and plausible deniability. If someone is talking about the Cambrian Explosion, even talking anti-scientific nonsense about it, we tend to assume that this means that they strongly support the mainstream dating of the Cambrian Explosion, and will strongly criticize the idea that it could have happened 6000 years ago. It does not necessarily mean this, however. Evolution deniers tend to like the model “A formerly accepted detail was found to be wrong in science so therefore all of science must be wrong”. It is understood by the rank and file that denying evolution as an explanation of the fossil groups known, for better or worse, as the CE, does not mean accepting the consensus about the CE expect arguing for some detailed difference 530M years ago. Rather, it is a thinly coded way of arguing that scientists are completely wrong about the CE in the broadest possible way.

I know this model works because when I first encountered creationism, I hadn’t figured it out, and when I did figure it out, I became able to understand and predict their behavior. This model may not apply forever, but it works right now.

Science supporters don’t tend to be sensitive to weasel words and plausible deniability.

And people say that ID doesn’t have something to teach the scientific community. ;)

I would suspect that the subset of the community that are also creationism-watchers learn this sensitivity rather quickly. For myself if anybody other than a paleontologist mentions the Cambrian Explosion, I rather quickly suspect that they may be an OEC of some stripe (similarly discussion of “information” being inserted into contexts where its an odd fit will lead to me suspecting IDC).

harold said: Evolution deniers tend to like the model “A formerly accepted detail was found to be wrong in science so therefore all of science must be wrong”.

“…and therefore my particular flavor of creationism must be right.”

Do science and pseudoscience really have a common ancestor? What would that look like? And how would the speciation event be described?

Matt G said:

Do science and pseudoscience really have a common ancestor? What would that look like? And how would the speciation event be described?

William Paley would appear to be a common stepping-off point for both Charles Darwin and for ID. Darwin completely rejected and superseded Paley in a few scant decades, but ID’s ‘evolution’ from his ideas would appear to be fairly superficial, in spite of the passage of a couple of centuries.

Why should the DI even care at all about what some religious sects believe about biology?

For the very same reason, I would imagine, that a currently-taught university evolution textbook like Evolutionary Analysis 4th ed. (Freeman and Herron), “cares about what some religious sects believe about biology.”

Here, take a look:

“In 1996, for example, Pope John Paul II acknowledged that Darwinian evolution was a firmly established scientific result and stated that accepting Darwinism was compatible with traditional Christian understandings of God.

“If the fact of evolution and the validity of natural selection are utterly uncontroversial, and if belief in evolution is compatible with belief in God, then why does the creationist debate continue?”

–EA 4th ed (2007) p. 105.

Now, notice something here. You’ve got a RELIGIOUS position, in fact the main claim of Theistic Evolution (and Jack Krebs always acknowledged that TE was a religious position not a scientific position anyway), being taught and promoted in a current university evolution textbook that’s supposed to be all about teaching SCIENCE.

Pope John Paul II was not a biologist, not even a scientist, but you see the evolutionists making sure that his specific RELIGIOUS theistic-evolution position (“accepting Darwinism is compatible with traditional Christian understandings of God”) is transmitted directly to biology and evolution students via their textbook.

And you’ll notice that the claim is presented as fact WITHOUT attempting to examine, evaluate, or even mention any other statements or nuances given by Pope John Paul II in regards to evolution.

****

I’m pointing this stuff out, not to complain about the above stuff, but rather simply to call attention to it, in order to answer your given question there.

When it comes to “relying entirely on science and not on religion”, it’s rather clear that YOU EVOLUTIONISTS simply aren’t in any position to accuse the Discovery Institute of failing to do so.

Indeed, (on top of the EA4 example), at Eugenie Scott’s website (the NSCE), you’ll find plenty of theistic-evolution “religious sects” that she’s happy to promote and quote for saying the very same TE claim given by Pope John Paul II which was promoted in EA4. And the NAS book “Science, Evolution, and Creationism” includes a reference to that NSCE religion section.

Therefore, since you evolutionists clearly feel that YOU have the right to exploit promote, and teach what various theistic-evolution “religious sects” believe about biology/evolution, and even textbook-teach those religious TE positions in supposed-to-be-science textbooks when it suits you, there is nothing wrong, nothing ‘ironic’, and even nothing unscientific, regarding the Discovery Institute critically examining and rejecting the theistic-evolution positions of those various TE “religious sects” as well.

(By the way, I do have a copy of the DI’s book “God and Evolution”, so I know what it is you’re talking about, regarding the DI’s critiques of said “sects.” Of course, the arguments presented by the DI on this TE thing are quite strong and quite accurate, there’s really no disputing about that. I’m also glad that you at least were willing to allow your students to at least see some of what the DI is saying, even though you oppose the DI.)

FL

Hey FL, just out of curiosity, did you read any of the rest of that book or just the quote from the pope?

I suspect you’ll find that the book is filled with actual evidence. On other hand, no other notion on the diversity of life has any supporting evidence.

You can call it what ever you like. Evolution STILL works. ID STILL doesn’t actually do anything.

All hail FL, King of Out-Of-Context Quotes.

FL -

I completely agree with you.

Theistic evolution, which we both define here to mean acceptance of the theory of evolution, while retaining religious belief, is a religious position.

The theistic part, not the evolution part.

It’s kind of a silly term. You’re probably a “theistic gravitationist”. You may even be a “theistic heliocentrist”, although I wouldn’t want to presume too much. Other Christians just accept a little bit more of obvious physical reality, and become “theistic evolutionists”.

You say it contradicts the Bible, they say it doesn’t.

Your primary objective is to tell other Christians what they can and can’t believe.

You wish to be accepted, by other Christians, as an authority on Christianity.

Lots of luck with that.

ogremk5 said:

Hey FL, just out of curiosity, did you read any of the rest of that book or just the quote from the pope?

I suspect you’ll find that the book is filled with actual evidence. On other hand, no other notion on the diversity of life has any supporting evidence.

pp. 97-105 of the book are “3.7. The Debate over ‘Scientific Creationism’ and Intelligent Design Creationism,” in which much space is devoted to the ID argument and a science-based rebuttal. Following that is a brief discussion of a handful of other creationist claims. The science presented is straight-ahead mainstream biology with no theistic or anti-theistic slant. The authors give creationism far more space than it deserves and treat creationist claims, from my quick read, as respectfully as one can treat long-discredited arguments in a university-level science text.

After reading this material, a reasonably attentive student will probably wonder why anyone who actually cares about science would make any of the creationist arguments presented in the book. Thus, Section 3.7 closes with a few paragraphs on p. 105 entitled “What Motivates the Controversy?” To frame this question, the text points out that many scientists and many religious people see no conflict between evolutionary biology and their faith. (Note that it’s “many” and not “all” scientists and theists, no unqualified claim that that they’re compatible.) FL’s quote follows that as part of framing the concluding paragraphs of the discussion.

It’s clear from the context that the authors are not promoting any theological position, regardless of the protestations presented above.

I should also make my ritual complaint about the term “theistic evolution.” The structure of English makes it reasonable to characterize me as a “theistic evolutionist” since I’m a theist who accepts the mainstream conclusions of modern biology as the best available scientific explanation for the fact of evolution. But the explanatory framework I accept is not “theistic evolution,” it’s just “evolution.”

Matt G said:

Do science and pseudoscience really have a common ancestor? What would that look like? And how would the speciation event be described?

Well, a recent common ancestor of western science, and western science denial, would probably look a lot like William of Occam or Thomas Aquinas, operating at a time when using research and logic to do things like predict astronomical events, and using research and argumentation to defend sectarian positions, had not yet fully separated.

William Paley would appear to be a common stepping-off point for both Charles Darwin and for ID

For Charles Darwin, a stepping off point. Not so much for ID.

However, I do think comparing ID to Paley is unfair. Unfair to Paley that is.

Paley was probably something of a cynical defender of the status quo, but he wasn’t trying to use weasel words to sneak dogmatic science denial into public school science classes. Let alone taking the cynicism even one step further, and literally pretending to be trying to use weasel words to sneak dogmatic science denial into public school science classes. while actually doing virtually nothing, in order to bilk donors. It’s anachronistic and unfair to compare the deeply cynical machinations of the DI to the comparatively naive activities of Paley. There is a similarity of argument, but it’s somewhat superficial.

Well, it’s been fun. Closing this thread, don’t want to babysit two at once.

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This page contains a single entry by Dave Thomas published on March 27, 2013 2:20 PM.

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