The truth hurts

I occasionally comment on the blog of Thinking Christian. The writer is a conservative evangelical sympathetic to ID, but does sometimes indicate some ability to look at evidence, thus leading to above-average arguments.

Anyhoo, this afternoon I came across his post “Maybe They Really Can’t Tell the Difference” [between creationism and ID]. TC starts:

Several times in the last few days the term “Intelligent Design Creationism” has crossed my line of sight. It’s a misnomer, a duct-taped concatenation of concepts that overlap somewhat, but not enough to merit being stuck together the way ID opponents have done. Robert Pennock is perhaps the worst, but Barbara Forrest, Richard Dawkins, and P.Z. Myers are also frequent offenders.

The difference between the two terms is straightforward. Creationism begins in Genesis and argues for certain conclusions based on a certain understanding of the Scriptures. It is known for its persistence in seeking scientific data that fits that interpretation of Genesis, and for finding creative but irregular interpretations to help in that search. As such it has gained an unsavory scientific reputation.

Naturally, I have a few thoughts on this topic, and posted them. The whole dirty history of the ID movement seemed to be news to him – at least, it wasn’t addressed in his opening argument, even though some of it seems pretty obviously relevant to discuss for someone who is claiming that ID is clearly different from creationism, and not a variety of it.

Anyway, in the course of the thread, all I got was from TC was the equivalent of “even if that’s true, you’re still wrong and ID and creationism are different.” I summarized my view of the discussion:

So here’s your argument: ID is a religiously-motivated movement, historically derived from creationism by literally a search-replace creation/design word switch, a movement mostly made up of creationists who believe in special creation rather than common ancestry, a movement devoted to challenging evolution, a movement which to this day is after the public schools, which we nevertheless are supposed to think of as a movement obviously different from creationism, and any disagreement raising any of these points is just “worldview blindness.” Yeah, right.

This argument might give you some inkling about why ID has failed so spectacularly in the scientific community, the press, and the courts. Evading evidence with hair-splitting and arbitrary, convenient re-defining terms does not get you very far in any long-term, informed discussion.

A few posts later, the thread was summarily closed, and a post later added by TC accusing me of lying and other reprehensibles. Too bad. With a bit more time, I might have clarified that I was simply describing his argument that he was right about the differentness of creationism and ID, despite him saying that even if I was right about all the historical facts (which are undeniable), I would still be wrong about asserting that ID was a form of creationism.

The interesting thing about the thread was that TC’s original proposal was that people who thought ID was a form of creationism were suffering from “worldview blindness” – immune to any counterevidence. Yet when some of the counterevidence to his position was raised, Thinking Christian first insisted that he was right, whatever the evidence showed, and then shut down the discussion.

I think this thread is an example of how the ID movement hurts its own potential supporters. Anyone who takes seriously the Discovery Institute’s pronouncements about “the” definition of ID and nope-no-way-its-creationism is being set up for a fairly painful and embarassing fall. Even if their confidence in their own position survives, think about how it looks to a neutral observer or someone new to the debate. Basically, TC had to argue “ignore everything that happened 2005 or before, ID is defined by the Discovery Institute’s current definition” – whereas I was able to roll out cdesign proponentsists and the rest. It’s quite a pickle they’re in, and avoiding the issue by ignoring it only works in press releases and very short news clips.