The Discovery Institute's Misplaced Outrage

John West, associate director of the Discovery Institute's Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture, the most prominent ID think tank in the world, is mad as hell and he's not gonna take it anymore. It seems that a state legislator in Utah has submitted a bill in that state to give equal time in state science classrooms to teaching "divine design" along with evolution - and that just will not do. West is quite verklempt about the whole thing:

While it's frustrating when critics of intelligent design mischaracterize what ID is about, it's even worse when people billing themselves as friends of ID do the same thing. As the term "intelligent design" has increasingly entered the public discourse, the number of people misusing the term to advance their own agendas by calling it "design" has increased. Take the recent proposal by a Utah legislator for something he calls "divine design," by which he clearly seems to mean creationism...

I'd like to give a clear message to those who are trying to hijaack the term design in order to promote something else: Stop!

And he quotes himself being quoted in a Salt Lake Tribune article on this bill:

"We get very upset when supposed friends are claiming far more than what the scholars are saying," says John West, associate director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture in Seattle...

"We wish [Buttars] would get the name right and not propose something he doesn't understand," West says.

Let me join West in expressing my outrage at Buttars' presumptuous "hijacking" of the term "intelligent design". I mean, where on earth could Buttars have ever gotten the idea that ID had something to do with "divine design" or anything to do with notions of God and divinity at all? He clearly hasn't been listening to the Discovery Institute's scholars, but only to us evilutionists who are bent on distorting their true intent. Shame on him!

On the other hand, perhaps Buttars is not "hijacking" the phrase "intelligent design", and is instead simply relaying the plain meaning that the fellows of the Discovery Institute Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture have given to it over the past several years.

Maybe he got that idea from prominent ID scholar William Dembski who famously said:

The world is a mirror representing the divine life. The mechanical philosophy was ever blind to this fact. Intelligent design, on the other hand, readily embraces the sacramental nature of physical reality. Indeed, intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory."

Or perhaps he got it from prominent ID scholar Nancy Pearsey, who says:

By providing evidence of God's work in nature, it (intelligent design) restores Christianity to the status of a genuine knowledge claim, giving us the means to reclaim a place at the table of public debate. Christians will then be in a position to challenge the fact/value dichotomy that has marginalized religion and morality by reducing them to irrational, subjective experience.

Or perhaps directly from Phillip Johnson, the man most responsible for putting ID on the intellectual map and the primary architect of the Wedge strategy itself:

The Intelligent Design movement starts with the recognition that "In the beginning was the Word," and "In the beginning God created." Establishing that point isn't enough, but it is absolutely essential to the rest of the gospel message.


The objective [of the Wedge Strategy] is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism vs. evolution to the existence of God vs. the non-existence of God. From there people are introduced to "'the truth" of the Bible and then "the question of sin" and finally "introduced to Jesus."


Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get the issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools.

Or perhaps Buttars simply looked to the Wedge document itself, which describes in vivid detail the aims of the very organization that West represents and on whose behalf he is writing:

Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies. Bringing together leading scholars from the natural sciences and those from the humanities and social sciences, the Center explores how new developments in biology, physics and cognitive science raise serious doubts about scientific materialism and have re-opened the case for a broadly theistic understanding of nature.

See, the problem here for West is not that no one is listening to the ID scholars; the problem is that we are listening to them and their own words are in direct contradiction to the tactical marketing campaign that the DI is trying so desperately to run. It's the same catch-22 they've always been in. For legal purposes, they absolutely must separate ID from religion and they must pretend that ID is purely a scientific matter that deals with inferences of design, but the designer has nothing to do with God, it might just be an alien or something. But for fundraising purposes, they have to convince their followers that they are striking a blow against atheism and standing up for God - that's how you get the money flowing in.

So the fact is that they have had to keep up this silly charade for years now, where they pretend that ID has nothing to do with God and hope no one notices the enormous trail of writings and speeches and fundraising letters they've left behind that conclusively disprove that notion. And when someone does notice it, they accuse them of bias and ignorance, but they never bother addressing the evidence itself. So you'll pardon me for not taking West's feigned outrage seriously. Buttars is saying nothing different than what ID scholars have said a thousand times. The fact that it contradicts your current rhetorical and marketing strategy does not establish their ignorance, it establishes your duplicity.