Because the clowns at the creationist Discovery Institute (DI) have too much time on their hands since they don’t do any scientific research (see this analysis to learn how the DI uses only 13% of their tax-free income for “program activities,” spending the other 87% on lobbying, salaries, and overhead), they’re busy doing what IDers do best: attacking those people who lobby for evolution. These include not only Zack Kopplin, the young pro-evolution activist from Louisiana who recently debated Michael Medved and Casey Luskin (both Discovery Institute felllows), but also me. In fact, I seem to have become Skunk of the Week, probably because of the Eric Heiden incident, in which I’m seen as instigating a “witch hunt”.
But they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel with David Klinghoffer’s latest screed, “Jerry Coyne reviews Casey Luskin v. Zack Kopplin debate before it happens.” (Really, these people should stop carping at evolutionists and do some real science—as if they could!) In this post, I am taken to task simply for presuming, before Kopplin’s appearance on the Michael Medved show, that they’d discuss intelligent design (ID) and Louisiana’s Science Education Act. Klinghoffer sees this presumption as my having “reviewed” the show. Here’s Klinghoffer’s take:
If you can evaluate and dismiss a book before it’s been published and before you have an idea what’s in it, why not review a debate on the radio before it’s happened? Sure, there’s no reason to hold back. Jerry Coyne already gave his ludicrous judgment of Darwin’s Doubt, Stephen Meyer’s book that’s out on June 18, and now he reviews the debate between Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin and education activist Zack Kopplin that will happen very shortly today on the Michael Medved Show (1 pm Pacific Time).
“The young (20) anticreationist activist Zack Kopplin, highlighted in a post this morning, will be debating the Clown Duo, Michael Medved and Casey Luskin (both of the Discovery Institute) at 3 p.m. CDT (4 p.m. EDT) on Medved’s radio show. I presume the topic will be evolution versus intelligent design in the public schools.”
First of all, no doubt Kopplin is opposed to creationism, but he’s best known for trying (and repeatedly failing) to defeat Louisiana’s academic freedom law that has nothing to do with actual creationism and everything to do with protecting teachers who let students know about scientific criticisms of Darwinian evolution. As for the debate, the topic could not possibly be “evolution versus intelligent design in the public schools” — if by that Coyne means public high schools — since Casey Luskin and Discovery Institute would strongly counsel against any attempt to introduce instruction about ID into public school biology class.
We’ve said that over and over again. Kopplin would also oppose the idea. So what’s there to debate?
I can only assume Professor Coyne speaks, as he typically does on the subject of anything related to ID, from brazen ignorance. On the other hand, it serves his interests as a Darwin activist not only to confuse the public about the distinction between creationism and serious challenges to Darwinian theory, but to lead the public to think ID advocates are trying to push intelligent design into public school biology classes. The more confused people are about these matters, the better it is for the Darwin Lobby. Misinformation is a favored tactic of theirs.
Well, first of all, a presumption is not a review—got that, Klinghoffer? Second, as anyone with two neurons to rub together knows, Intelligent Design is not a “serious challenge to Darwinian theory,” but pure god-of-the-gaps creationism. The proponents of ID even admit that in their unguarded moments. They try to pretend that ID is a form of science simply because religiously motivated theories can’t be taught in public schools.
What struck me most strongly, though, was Klinghoffer’s forceful insistence that the DI doesn’t even want ID taught in public schools. I haven’t followed the creationist wars too closely since ID’s defeat in Dover, but I thought this stand might be a reaction to ID’s (and the DI’s) loss in that case. Burned by their humiliating defeat, IDers seem to have devised the strategy of questioning evolution instead of pushing ID. That’s what the Louisiana Science Education Act is about. Teach the controversy!
But those amount to the same thing, for in essence intelligent design consists of this claim: There are questions about and features of evolution that science hasn’t answered. Therefore science can’t answer them, and an intelligent designer must have acted during the evolutionary process. Since ID has no positive research program, nor any positive claims, pointing out spurious “problems” with Darwinism becomes equivalent to pushing ID. Its adherents just can’t do the latter in public schools.
I wrote my friend Jason Rosenhouse (writer of EvolutionBlog) about Klinghoffer’s claim, asking him to explain it. Jason, author of Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line, has closely followed legal and educational challenges to creeping creationism. His take on the “no-ID-in-schools” position of the Discovery Institute was good, and I reproduce with permission his email response:
The official position of the DI folks has long been that they are opposed to teaching ID in public schools. They are happy to provide materials to any teachers or school boards that request it, but officially they do not endorse introducing it into public schools. Of course, this needs to be taken with a big pinch of salt. Officially, recall, ID has nothing to do with God and is totally different from creationism.
The official position against teaching ID should be seen as an attempt to give them plausible deniability when some rogue school board makes them look bad. Of course they want ID taught in schools, but they also know that most of the school boards inclined to introduce it are not very politically or legally savvy. When things go wrong, they want to be able to say they were not involved in it.
This is precisely what happened in Dover. Initially they were ecstatic about it. To judge from what they were posting at their blogs, they thought this would be the long-awaited showdown between evolution and ID. At first, a full line-up of ID all-stars was going to testify, including William Dembski. When they found out the judge was a George W. Bush appointee they were downright giddy. But it all started to unravel quickly when it was clear that the Dover school board had been overt about their religious motivations. By the time depositions were taken, the writing was on the wall about how the trial would turn out. That’s when the Discovery Institute folks remembered that they were officially opposed to teaching ID.
The other conceit in Klinghoffer’s post is that “teaching the controversy” is something fundamentally different from “teaching ID.” Officially, they don’t want to teach ID, they just want teachers to present the strengths and weaknesses of evolution. This has been their main mantra since Dover. This allows them to appear very reasonable in public, since who could oppose teaching both the strengths and the weaknesses of any theory?
In reality this is a sham. The difference between teaching ID and teaching the controversy is this: When teaching ID, you present a lot of bogus criticisms of evolution and then end with, “Therefore God did it.” When you teach the controversy, you leave off that last sentence. You present the same bogus criticisms, but then just let your voice trail off at the end, confident that the students will draw the right conclusion.
What a clear thinker Jason is!
h/t: Doc Bill