Friday, October 07, 2005

Neo-Creationism Wears an ID Tag

Came across this...

"Book Thrown at Proponents of Intelligent Design"

13:01 06 October 2005 news service
Celeste Biever

"Devastating" early drafts of a controversial book recommended as reading at a US high school reveal how the word "creationism" had been later swapped for "intelligent design", a landmark US trial scrutinising the teaching of ID heard on Wednesday.

The early drafts of the book Of Pandas and People , were used as evidence to link the book to creationism, which it is illegal to teach in government-funded US schools.

"ID proponents have said for years that they are not creationists," says Nick Matzke of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California, which is advising 11 parents who are suing the school board of Dover High School in Pennsylvania for incorporating ID into the science curriculum. "This proves beyond a doubt that this is simply a new name for creationism."

ID proposes that life is so complex that it cannot have emerged without the guidance of an intelligent designer. The school's board voted in November 2004 to encourage students to consider ID as an alternative to evolution and recommended Of Pandas and People .

The parents claim this is a veiled attempt to bring creationism into the school. They are suing on the grounds that it has been ruled unconstitutional to teach anything in US schools that does not have a primarily secular motive and effect on pupils.

Trojan horse

The early versions of the book were displayed to the court by expert witness for the plaintiffs and creationist historian Barbara Forrest of the Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. She suggested that they were strong proof that ID is indeed creationism by another name.

Forrest compared early drafts of Of Pandas and People to a later 1987 copy, and showed how in several instances the word "creationism" had been replaced by "intelligent design", and "creationist" simply replaced by "intelligent design proponent".

"Forrest's testimony showed that ID is not a scientific theory, but a Trojan horse for creationism," said Eric Rothshild of Pepper Hamilton in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

Evolving drafts

Matzke, who was at the trial, points out that the "switching" of the words is also suspicious because of its timing, which came just after the US Supreme Court's decision on 19 June 1987 that it was unconstitutional to teach creationism in schools.

The names of the drafts alone are incriminating, he says. The first draft, in 1983, was called Creation Biology , the next is Biology and Creation , dated 1986, and is followed by Biology and Origin in 1987. It is not until later in 1987 that Of Pandas and People emerges.

His comments infuriated John West, of the Discovery Institute, a think tank based in Seattle, Washington, that supports ID, but which has declined to testify on behalf of the defence in the trial.

West says that Forrest, author of a book called Creationism's Trojan Horse: The wedge of intelligent design has used the drafts selectively and "cherry picked" the pages shown.

Attempts to discredit Forrest as a witness, by the defence lawyers from the Thomas More Law Center, in Ann Arbor, Michigan were not upheld by the judge.

Misconstrued creationism

West says that Of Pandas and People , while supporting ID, does not promote religion but rather leaves open the question of whether an intelligent designer lies within nature, or outside it. But he admits that the book states: "This is not a question that science can answer."

He says that while the timing of the changes in the drafts may not be a coincidence, this does not mean Of Pandas and People is a religious book. "If they did drop out the term creationism, [it is] because people may have misconstrued it," he says.

Forrest will continue to be cross-examined by the defence's attorneys on Thursday. A full report on the trial at its completion will appear in New Scientist print edition.



Lew Scannon said...

"This is not a question science can answer." I think science has answered that question and the enlightened know what it is. Some people choose to keep themselves in the dark, and that's there perogative. However, to ask the public school system to keep everyone's children in the dark because of the superstitions of a few is a blatant infringement on the developing minds of all children. Teach religion at church, not school!

Geo_Chick said...

It is terribly discouraging how the religious out there are trying to hijack school boards. People really don't pay much attention to school board elections, but the results can be serious.

And ID is definately a christian theory. If we teach that we should do so in a religious studies class where all of the creation stories can be taught.

Lily said...

Yes- I liked your point about that, because it seems that there is a tendency to focus on the Christian version, of course. Where is equal representation, balance? A multi-cultural or global view? I'm so tired of what can best be described as "Christocentrism" (fully admitting that its not a real word!!!)

Bill Ziemer said...

I must hang with the wrong crowd, because this shocked me speechless: half of the US believes in creation.
More shocking, the percentage believing in creation has remained relatively stable over the last 20 yrs., rising in the past 5 yrs.

Lily said...

Today I was talking about the subject casually and a person, educated in the traditional sense- said "oh, you believe in Darwin's theories????I don't think we know really." Now I realize there is a big difference between theory and irrefutable law but I am not used to talking with people who are doubtful of evolution in general. Now I am self conscious about religious judgement, I mean- live and let live. But it is a different matter when it comes to what is being taught and endorsed by schools. You should see what the kids learned last week about Saddam Hussein....

Cantankerous Bitch said...

See, but that's the thing -- asserting that evolution is a well supported explanation for life on this planet ISN'T religious judgement. It's the fundamentalists that would have us believe that it is. And I think that when we accept their premise and get into a religionist vs. atheist debate we're effectively playing into the very wedge they're hoping to create.
Instead, I think we have to rebut with explanations of how evolutionary theory doesn't attempt to answer questions about the origin of life, and that it is NOT inherently at odds with religion (excluding young-earth creationism, that is). Accepting such a premise is what seeds the ground for this ridiculous "teach the controversy" bullshit that far too many people buy into.
Further, I think that anytime we hear someone asking "you believe in Darwin's theories?", it's a great opportunity to discuss what the scientific definition of theory IS. That the question is even asked reveals that the speaker thinks theory means "speculative guess", when that couldn't be any less true.

Lily said...

It just stuns me sometimes because I forget- I often spend time with such open minded people that it is often a jolt to remember they are not often...representative. I do not mean people who think like me- I know people who think in decidedly different ways but are thoughtful, intelligent people. I am not a rocket scientist by any stretch but am often blessed by my acquaintances... I am even more thankful for them when I hear the crap I've been hearing on this issue!

Cantankerous Bitch said...

I think we all lean on each other for a little vicarious expertise. You and I have discussed this (my tendency to look to you as a barometer on local green issues, for example) as I have with many others over the years. It's a natural habit, I think, especially in times like the present when there are SO MANY thing to keep track of in the news. It's the reason I'm grateful for the emergence of blogs. I find myself checking MSM and a small number of blogs, in equal measure, to read up on what interests me. And I think that habit, collectively speaking, is what's helping us (i.e. left/progressives) build a new kind of community. "Looking out for your neighbor" takes on a new dimension when what's being guarded against is some new kind of political insanity. While I might focus on issue X for whatever reason, I feel a little better knowing that my neighbor is studying up on issue Y and can get me up to speed as needed. Otherwise, we'd have time for nothing other than reading and writing all day!

Lily said...

umm...Bitch.. Actually I think we DO read and write all day....or at least more than other people who seem to get to watch more flavorful tv than I do... we do what we can...

Cantankerous Bitch said...

Yeah, you're right. My trigger for stepping back a bit is when I'm reading political blogs and news stories while cable news is on in the background (for hours at a time). ACK!
I don't have the stamina of some people (the front pagers and columnists) and have to turn it off in small doses just to stay sane.