Discovery's Luskin and Witt: "let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth"

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.