“Teach the controversy, not Intelligent Design”

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).

Coyne writes:

“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

38 Comments

  1. docbill1351
    Posted June 7, 2013 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Kink can haz hat tip!

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 7, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      Kink winks and razzes at the same time!

  2. Ralph C. Groomden
    Posted June 7, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Klinghoffer is one of the DI’s most dishonest commentators, and that’s saying something. He has a reckless disregard for truth; everything is spun for his extreme political-religious agenda.

  3. Posted June 7, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Klinghoffer and company also complained that I had reviewed Darwin’s Doubt before it was published and without having seen it.

    What they were complaining about was a post I made at Panda’s Thumb where I noted the outrageous claims being made for the forthcoming book and suggested that we all “help” its author by suggesting what topics should be covered and what arguments should be made. Not a soul in that thread claimed to have read the manuscript of the book. Perhaps the author, Stephen Meyer, had already anticipated those issues and perhaps he had already brilliantly refuted our arguments.

    Klinghoffer and the other DI spokespeople seem to have trouble telling the difference between our thread and a real review. They have problems with the word “witchhunt” too.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 7, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      I think it’s safe to say they have a problem with truth.

  4. eric
    Posted June 7, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    IOW, “I work for the Design Institute you stupid scientist, whatever made you believe I’m promoting design?”

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 7, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    The Discovery Institute’s distribution of funds (87% devoted to forcing their bad thinking and beliefs into main stream teaching) is no surprise given it is just one institution within a very organized, global and well financed evangelical movement with the goal of moving the evangelical agenda forward. This slimey “official” stance about ID in schools illustrates their ability to manipulate.

    Now that seems worrisome but this is what really worries me — if Klinghoffer is cocky enough to use a quote from Jerry (“I presume the topic will be evolution versus intelligent design in the public schools”) as evidence that Jerry was reviewing the debate, and do this right on the same page so there is no confusion between the quote and the statement, what does that say for Klinghoffer’s opinion of his followers? He must surely know they won’t question what he says and therefore have no ability to discern fact from lies. So, what does that say about the likelihood that these same people (a lot of people) will see the truth and move away from this tripe?

    Time to get all up in their grill and keep it real! :D

    • docbill1351
      Posted June 7, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      If you really want a romp in the gutter go over to Dembski’s blog, Uncommon Descent, and pick a thread, any thread and read what the denizens of delusion have to say, especially if they’re challenged by science. They will deny, ignore, change their story, call you a liar, rinse and repeat.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted June 7, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

        For a giggle…

        Click Uncommon Descent FAQ & then click on WEAK ANTI-ID ARGUMENTS:- Intelligent Design does not carry out or publish scientific research

        • Notagod
          Posted June 8, 2013 at 6:07 am | Permalink

          Hey (straw) now! That page is filled with honesty.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted June 8, 2013 at 6:42 am | Permalink

          Thanks for that – I’m going to keep it as a reference. I couldn’t bear to go through it in any detail but from what I read it seems well written & it’s a shame these people put so much effort and creativity into such deceptions.

  6. Posted June 7, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Good job exposing these anti-science fanatics.

    It is almost impossible to overstate just how pathetic and intellectually bankrupt the DI and entire creationist movement truly is.

  7. Posted June 7, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Still in shock after all this years!!!!!

  8. John K.
    Posted June 7, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Is there any part of ID that is NOT just a criticism of Evolution by natural selection? I guess they just want to criticize evolution, not espouse an ideology that exists only to criticize evolution.

    ??

    • eric
      Posted June 7, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      Actually there was a lot of positive predictions and claims. But their science suddenly, um, “advanced” right after Edwards vs. Aguillard and then again right after Kitzmiller vs. Dover.

      Those are just convenient time markers, of course. Correlation is not causation, dont’cha know.

    • Marcoli
      Posted June 7, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      Their ‘teach the controversy’ is ALL about promoting critical thinking by discussing weaknesses of evolution with students, so students be open to other points of view (which are not dwelled on).
      [Excuse me, I just threw up in my mouth a little writing that].

  9. Posted June 7, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    I agree that Jason is generally a very clear thinker and I thoroughly enjoy his blog/website, but wouldn’t it follow from his thoughts in the Ball State case that he should have no problem with teaching ID in schools, because of academic freedom? I mean, he would think it is stupid, but still should be allowed, right?

    • eric
      Posted June 7, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      He has a post on the BSU case, if you want his opinion I suggest you visit his site (besides, his site has all sorts of other chunky goodness). But the short version would be: he thinks its constitutional but that the department could disapprove it (and should).

  10. Posted June 7, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Hey, question: In the debate, Luskin said that he could quote “hundreds” of examples of serious flaws found in Darwinism that have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Does anyone know what he was talking about? Was this just another one of their lies or was he just misrepresenting those articles because he doesn’t know science? Thanks!

    • Marcoli
      Posted June 7, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      h/t from the Sensuous Curmudgeon, who is also following these recent events:
      IDSupportedResearch
      In case you are worried, don’t. They are a JOKE.

      • Posted June 8, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

        Thanks! It looks like most of them were published by their own ID journal BIO-Complex. But a few of them look like real science journals. No? Do they just address issues that aren’t really related to evolution?

  11. DV
    Posted June 7, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    >>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 klasses. The more confused people are about these matters, the better it is for the Darwin Lobby. Misinformation is a favored tactic of theirs.
    <<

    There are 2 possiblities here:
    1) Klinghoffer is so deluded he actually believes what he is saying.
    2) Klinghoffer is lying for Jesus.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 7, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      The term, “Darwin lobby” is always amusing. Like there are actual groups like the DI who spend a bunch of money to send lobbyists to push Darwinism like the push ID. This false equivalency seems to be one of their favourite method of deception.

      • docbill1351
        Posted June 7, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

        I’m really pissed off that the Disco Tute has switched from the “Darwinian Pressure Group” to the Darwin Lobby as an explicit attempt to avoid royalties to Delta Pi Gamma for which I am President for Life. The way I see it, the Tute owes me a red BMW i5 fraternity car. For official business, of course.

        Bunch of cheapskates!

  12. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted June 7, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    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.

    Says the most dishonest member of the Dishonesty Institute, best known for trying (and repeatedly failing) to defeat the Constitution. Never mind that “academic freedom” laws are few and Lousiana’s are steadily loosing ground, now down to a 3-2 marginal win, the latter in no small way attributable to Kopplin.

    More to the point, what is needed is to let students know about accepted scientific criticisms of creationism/ID, e.g. evolution, and of “academic freedom”, e.g. educational quality standards. The first is usually a historical review of early ideas in biology, but educators need freedom to make such under the second.

    Why is the non-think tank so concerned with basic biology? Why don’t they push for protecting teachers that let student know of analogous “scientific criticisms” of Einsteinan gravity, e.g. “intelligent falling”? Or analogous “scientific criticisms” of mathematics, e.g. asking “you can’t explain where numbers came from” or in other words “Kalam theory”.

    • RFW
      Posted June 7, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

      “Why is the non-think tank so concerned with basic biology?”

      The answer isn’t completely straightforward.

      When Darwin published On the Origin of Species, the reaction from the religious establishment was immediate, witness Soapy Sam’s debating it with Thomas Huxley. [For details see Wikipedia's article on "The 1860 Oxford Evolution Debate".]

      Ever since then, the religious establishment has been unceasing in its attacks on the theory of natural selection, never mind that as the years have passed, increasing amounts of evidence from many fields supporting the essential truth of Darwin’s hypothesis has led to its widespread acceptance as The Truth.

      Notice that while the fundagelicals object to some other modern science, it’s evolution that really gets their goat as it clearly falsifies the bibblical account. Relativity, quantum mechanics, you name it, etc are all small potatoes in comparison.

      In more recent years, the con-man/grifter brigade has exploited this faux controversy to better fleece fundagelical believers. Going after QM or relativity just wouldn’t be as lucrative. QED

  13. Posted June 7, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    “I can only assume Professor Coyne speaks, as he typically does on the subject of anything related to ID, from brazen ignorance.”

    I wonder if this chappie would also consider an esteemed professor of astronomy as being typically and brazenly ignorant about astrology, or a respected professor of medicine as being just as brazenly ignorant about blood-letting, or a well known professor of geology flaunting brazen ignorance about dowsing…

    Being accomplished and distinguished in one’s field of science is equivalent to being able to confidently discard pseudoscience, like ID.

  14. Rick Graham
    Posted June 7, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    “Jerry Coyne Reviews Casey Luskin v. Zack Kopplin Debate Before It Happens”

    Priceless storyline coming from the Liars for Jesus.

    Isn’t it hypocritical of them to condemn ‘before it happens’ when they do *science* that presupposes a biblical worldview.

    Just sayin’.

    And, of course, no comments allowed on their stupid *blog*.

  15. Posted June 7, 2013 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    And don’t forget to regularly mention “cdesign proponentsists.”

  16. Marcoli
    Posted June 7, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Any opinions out there on how to litigate a ‘teach the controversy’ case? Litigating creationism in schools was easy — it was clearly based on Judeo-Christian religion. ID was less easy, but thanks especially to the Dover school board and clear ancestry of the ID textbook (“cdesign proponentsists” ), it too fell before the first amendment. But ‘teach the controversy’ has been laundered of its religious roots. We all know where it came from, but cases are best decided on provable facts. So how might this one fare in court?

  17. angst the ontological oddity
    Posted June 7, 2013 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    You people are so fucking lost! Id has been around for ever! Yeah, like zeus is made up! Keep dreaming you Agodist! Science is overrated! Walking on water is way cooler….
    Relax friends its friday Im just having fun;p

  18. Stephen P
    Posted June 8, 2013 at 1:49 am | Permalink

    No, of course ID has nothing to do with creationism. And Bill Dembski didn’t do this interview on the Uncommon Descent blog, and the words “I’m an old-earth creationist” don’t occur in it.

    (For added amusement, go down a couple of paragraphs further where Dembski says “Ken Ham has gone ballistic on it – literally”.)

  19. ivy privy
    Posted June 8, 2013 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Burned by their humiliating defeat, IDers seem to have devised the strategy of questioning evolution instead of pushing ID.

    That has been one of their strategies since before the Dover decision.

    “What’s being pushed is to have Darwinism critiqued, to teach there’s a controversy. Intelligent design itself does not have any content.” – George Gilder, 2005.

  20. Mark Joseph
    Posted June 9, 2013 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    Just a correction: In Rosenhouse’s analysis quoted above, it says that Jones “was a George W. Bush appointee.” Actually, it was the first Bush who appointed him.

    Pedants will be pedants…

    And in response to the commentators who have pointed out that ID is religious-based creationism, that actually goes all the way back to the Wedge document; details are in Forrest and Gross’s book Creationism’s Trojan Horse.
    Their sleaziness in preaching it in the churches, and pretending they are all about science in the courts, is, well, sleaziness.

  21. Wayne
    Posted June 10, 2013 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    Klinghoffer has responded again:

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/06/darwin_defender073051.html

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 10, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Wow, this post really upset him.

      • Diane G.
        Posted June 10, 2013 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        That’s why Discovery Institute staff have produced two entirely different textbooks and curricula, Explore Evolution and Discovering Intelligent Design, that deal with the two separate subjects. The first deals with the strengths and weakness of Darwinian theory, the second, emphatically not intended for public schools, deals with the scientific case for ID.

        Emphasis mine, obviously. Doesn’t that qualification sort of give the whole game away?


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