Casey Luskin admits that Intelligent Design is religious

Here’s the entirety of a letter that Casey Luskin, Discovery Institute flack, had published in the Muncie Star-Press yesterday.  Muncie, of course, is the home of Ball State University (BSU), where University president Jo Ann Gora, who’s retiring in June, announced that intelligent design (ID) could not be taught as science in science classes. (Note: she did not, as some IDers are maintaining, “ban discussion of ID from campus.” Presumably it’s still a valid topic in classes in the sociology or philosophy classes, or in “contrasting viewpoints” classes that aren’t science classes.) Here’s Luskin’s screed:

CASEY LUSKIN

Discovery Institute, Seattle

In “Lawmakers probe religion vs. science at BSU,” Tony Proudfoot touts three chapters from a BSU honors course textbook, “What’s Your Dangerous Idea?” as religion-friendly. This is a gross misrepresentation. The first chapter he cites (“Science May Be Running Out of Control”) has nothing to do with religion; the other two are deeply anti-religious.

In the second chapter, self-professed atheist Jesse Bering predicts “Science Will Never Silence God,” not because he’s happy about that, but out of his “fear” that religion will persist and “banish” scientific progress. He concludes: “As scientists, we must toil and labor and toil again to silence God.”

In the third, “Religion is the Hope that is Missing in Science,” Scott Atran calls himself “an atheist” and argues that rather than being inspired by God, “Religion … is an evolutionary byproduct.” Atran maintains, “Human beings are accidental and incidental byproducts of the material development of the universe,” and that religion exists merely to help us endure that harsh truth.

The introduction to “What’s Your Dangerous Idea?” is by new atheist Steven Pinker, the afterword by Richard Dawkins, and its editor (John Brockman) was ranked among “the 25 most influential living atheists.” None of its 108 chapters advocates traditional religion. BSU’s attempt to spin this book as religion-friendly is a shameless falsehood.

Indiana taxpayers and BSU donors should be asking: Why did BSU cancel Eric Hedin’s honors course that discussed evidence for intelligent design, while simultaneously defending an honors course whose sole textbook is an anti-religious polemic?

Note that Luskin characterizes the book as an “anti-religious polemic,” citing the atheists Pinker, Dawkins, and Brockman. I don’t have a copy of the book here, though one of the essays is mine (and not an anti-religious one!), but I have read Pinker’s introduction and it is not in the least anti-religious. Neither is Dawkins’s afterword, which you can read here. Luskin is simply blowing hot air by listing those names. Just because an atheist writes something doesn’t mean that what he or she writes is “pushing atheism.”

What’s especially telling about Luskin’s letter is his tacit admission that ID, if it’s to be criticized in any class, must be balanced with “traditional religion”. If ID isn’t religious, and is, as the Discovery Institute claims, purely science, and if its scientific conclusions point to the existence of a designer with intelligence, why on Earth would that have anything to do with “traditional religion”?  I believe Michael Behe said that the designer could have been a space alien. Worship of aliens is not “traditional religion.”

The reason Luskin and other DI flacks are going after supposedly “atheistic” courses is because ID has been identified as a religiously motivated viewpoint—a form of creationism—which is why it was, properly, rejected by Judge Jones in the Dover case. It’s also bad science, and has been rejected as such by the scientific community. But if ID were shown to be true, and there were strong evidence for a designer, then ID could indeed be taught as science—so long as there’s no attempt to identify the designer, without evidence, as the Abrahamic God.

What ID should be doing, and what they initially promised to do, was scientific research demonstrating unequivocal evidence for design. We all know they haven’t done that, and so they’re reduced to grousing about evolution and saying that if anti-religious stuff is taught anywhere in a university, so must ID (or its apparent equivalent, “traditional religion”).

At any rate, the stuff supposedly promulgated in that non-science honors class (taught by Paul Ranieri, a devout Catholic and advisor to BSU’s student Catholic group!) wasn’t anti-ID material but atheism.  And there’s not the slightest evidence that the Catholic professor was pushing atheism on his students. He was merely exposing them to a group of divergent viewpoints on all kinds of issues. This is the point made by the commenters below, and their comments are heartening.  This is a refreshing contrast to the usual pack of yahoos who comment on letters like this.

I like the last comment, which makes the point that Gora didn’t ban ID at BSU—just its teaching as science and the endorsement of religion (or antireligion) in the teaching of its faculty. We already know that Eric Hedin endorsed religion and ID in his science class. We have absolutely no information about the “Dangerous Ideas” class. And, given Ranieri’s Catholicism, I strongly doubt whether he endorsed atheism in his course!

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55 Comments

  1. Diana MacPherson
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Seems the DI is walking a fine line here – by attacking something written by an atheist as pushing atheism solely because the writer is an atheist not only exposes the DI’s desperation but also comes dangerously close to exposing them as bigots.

    • gbjames
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      It is a fine line between delusion and insanity.

      • Kevin
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

        No line needed, just a bucket of warm poo to hold DI together.

    • moarscienceplz
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      It’s that ol’ right-wing projection: They know that they are militant Christian creationists pushing creationism in everything they do (the Dover trial correctly identified ID as nothing more or less than creationism in a science-colored wrapper), so they automatically presume an atheist must be pushing atheism all the time.

  2. NewEnglandBob
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    I doubt Luskin will read the comments. Too bad, because they eviscerate him quite well.

  3. docbill1351
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    ” This is a refreshing contrast to the usual pack of yahoos who comment on letters like this.”

    Hey, I resemble that remark!

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      Fortunately we are not on Yahoo, but on WEIT. I guess we are a gnu form of herd, of “weits”.

  4. eric
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    The DI still pays lip service to the “not religion” protestation, but their heart seems to have gone out of it some time after Dover. Now they’re mostly (back to?) appealing to creationists in explicitly creationist language.

    My guess is that Ahmanson only ever just tolerated the ‘this is not about God’ line because of the legal possibility that it might work. But he never liked it, and post-Dover, he’s perfectly happy for them to use his money to explicitly argue for more religion in science/schools.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      So maybe that was the last attempt of “christian science” to rear its ugly head.

  5. francis
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    //

  6. Sastra
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I never read Brockman’s What’s Your Dangerous Idea? book, but it was on my wish list because I’m a fan and occasional reader of The Edge.

    It would be perfectly reasonable for Luskin and his cohorts to insist that Intelligent Design be included in the “Dangerous Idea” course. Reasonable, but not wise. As anyone who reads The Edge knows, the disagreements in the comments section usually come from other experts in the field. So it would be quite in keeping with the theme to invite both ID AND rebuttals to ID — and ask experts in the field. Teach the controversy.

    The original “science” course wasn’t teaching any controversy. Judging by the reading list, it was presenting ID, period. Now let’s see how eager the IDiots are to enter a field of honest debate in a philosophy-style class which can bring in science.

    • eric
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      Such a book (about ID) already exists. Pennock’s Intelligent Design Creationism and its Critics contains essays by many of the leaders of the ID movement, and essays by mainstream critics of them (and for some essays, counter-responses by the IDers to the criticisms).

      Its a hefty tome, its dry, and its now a few years old. But it strikes me as still being a pretty good textbook for an academic class wanting to cover the subject.

      • Sastra
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        A DI review of that book (from another source but reprinted) is tepid, with concerns that it’s “slanted” and complaints about the the “tone of disdain, mockery, and personal attack” which pervades many of the articles. They’d probably object to it being used for student study.

        • Moarscienceplz
          Posted March 21, 2014 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

          There must be a Creationist’s Thesaurus somewhere where under the item “disagreement” you would find the synonyms “disdain, mockery, personal attack”.

  7. Timothy Hughbanks
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    What ID should be doing, and what they initially promised to do, was scientific research demonstrating unequivocal evidence for design. We all know they haven’t done that,…

    Not that I think they can, but how would they do that? Showing that some phenomenon can not be the consequence of otherwise understood naturalistic laws or at least the consequence of some other empirically reproducible phenomena (not yet understood with existing theory) is a project I wouldn’t even know how to begin.

    Of course, I’m scientist, so what do I know?

    • Sastra
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      I’ve always enjoyed imagining a genuine research project for the Discovery Institute: PK (psychokenesis.) The IDiots should get into paranormal research and establish that minds can move matter through no other method or connection than their mere intention. Or, better yet (since this is my imaginary lab), set up experiments where people actually create items simply by thinking about them.

      “Think of a key.” Pop! There’s a key.

      “Now think of a cell.” Pop! There’s a cell.

      Think of a bacteria flagella.” Pop! And now we know how the “machine” got put together.

      If they can think a dog into existence, then we’ve proceeded from Intelligent Design and are going into Young Earth territory.

      If people can will physical things into existence — or move molecules around using only the force of their willpower — then wow. Just wow.

      With research like this, Intelligent Design will have established a mechanism for Intelligent Design. AND they’ve connected it to mental power. It would be reasonable — even conservative — to consider this a major breakthrough.

      You know that if they COULD do this then they totally would.

      • moarscienceplz
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 10:59 am | Permalink

        And, a la Bill Murray in Ghostbusters, every time they fail to create items with their mind, they get a good jolt of electricity!

      • Timothy Hughbanks
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

        Sometimes regular ‘ol science professors get criticized for making their grad students stay too long working on “impossible” projects. How’d like to be the grad student who has to make those projects work.

        It is projects like these that Templeton money should fund – we’d never have to endure hearing about any of their BS. Instead, there would just be these really short annual reports: …still waiting…

    • eric
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      Precambrian rabbit, is how.

      IOW they would have to hypothesize some testable concept that not only is inconsistent with evolution, but which could be reasonably predicted under a well-characterized design hypothesis. Then go test that hypothesis, and find the data that design predicted.

      Do that a bunch of times. In fact, have other (non-ID) scientists repeat it and confirm it, and you’re on your way to having your hypothesis accepted.

  8. Posted March 21, 2014 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    “Worship of aliens is not “traditional religion.””

    Isn’t that scientology?

    • Rikki_Tikki_Taalik
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      Actually it’s the opposite. Aliens are the antagonists in their scenario. The alien intergalactic overlord Xenu conquered his enemies who then transported and destroyed them here on Earth turning them into “body thetans” that are the scourge of man. Prior to learning this it’s all about healing your “engrams” which are past events that have negatively effected you.

      Of course your average Scientologist will call this nonsense because it’s something you do not learn until you’re approximately 10 years in and have paid on average $400,000 US to the cult for previous “courses.” They’re forbidden to discuss what they are learning with each other, even between spouses, as it will “ruin” their “case” (ie: progression on “the bridge” to total freedom.) Yeah, you read that right. Hubbard is/was selling them a bridge.

      OT III (wall of fire) is where you learn all this and are told that sharing it or doing the “course” incorrectly can lead to severe illness and death. Coursework materials are required to be kept locked in a safe, etc. Like most cults, paranoia is drilled in very early on.

      Did you know that their “courses” are tax deductible in the US? The whole “religion” is one big rabbit hole and can be pretty addicting to learn about once you start investigating it.

      Operation Clambake

  9. Daoud
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Sorry I found your title misleading, I thought there might be a new smoking gun like the Wedge document or something. I am not familiar with the book in question, but I read through Casey Luskin’s letter twice (and your post), I still don’t see how the claim “CL admits ID is religious” is substantiated.

    The last thing I am is a defender of ID and the Discovery Institute, and obviously it is religious and religiously-motivated, I know they’re lying weasels.

    • moarscienceplz
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      Read this bit again:
      “Indiana taxpayers and BSU donors should be asking: Why did BSU cancel Eric Hedin’s honors course that discussed evidence for intelligent design, while simultaneously defending an honors course whose sole textbook is an anti-religious polemic?”

      Luskin is conflating the “attack” against the ID-laden course with the support of the “anti-religious” course, so he is claiming BSU only went after ID because it is religious.

      • moarscienceplz
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        sorry, last bit should read:
        so he is claiming BSU only went after ID because it is religious.

      • Daoud
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:14 am | Permalink

        Ah, I guess I am not really aware of the context of that letter, was this course by Eric Hedin that discussed evidence for ID a science course? Though it may be inferred, still a distance from an explicit or clear “admission”.

        • Sastra
          Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:32 am | Permalink

          The course was a science course and it didn’t even just “discuss evidence for ID” within a wider context which presented works both for and against Intelligent Design. No, every single thing on the assigned reading was pro-ID. Hedin was teaching ID as science.

          If the ID proponents were serious about ID being a science theory, though, then they would have defended it by saying that cutting-edge and unproven science theories like String Theory were also being taught. By instead complaining that it’s “not fair” if ID is removed from the science department but atheism is presented in a social philosophy class, Luskin is letting on where his real concern lies: bringing God into science.

          • Daoud
            Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:40 am | Permalink

            Ah ok, that fills out the situation more. BSU is a proper, accredited, real university? How the hell did they end up with a guy teaching ID as science in a science class? Wow! I guess, good for them for cancelling it, how long had it run?

            • Moarscienceplz
              Posted March 21, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

              This has been a long-running soap opera, much discussed on this website. Use the search tool to look up “Ball State”. You’ll find the whole sordid history.

            • Reginald Selkirk
              Posted March 22, 2014 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

              How the hell did they end up with a guy teaching ID as science in a science class?

              Two guys. What a coincidence!

              Presumably it is an inside job. The cuplrit has not been outed.

    • eric
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      Luskin’s last sentence (“Why did BSU cancel Eric Hedin’s honors course that discussed evidence for intelligent design, while simultaneously defending an honors course whose sole textbook is an anti-religious polemic?”) directly contrasts ID to anti-religious polemic.

      Now, if you want to be a grammer pedant, its possible to interpret this as a non-sequitur on Casey’s part – analogous to “why did BSU cancel a class on Shakespeare when they allowed a class whole sole-textbook is anti-fishing?” But the far more natural reading of that sentence is that Casey is saying its unfair for BSU to cancel a class that teaches X when it allows a class that teaches anti-X.

      • Posted March 21, 2014 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

        “grammer pedant”

        lol

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted March 22, 2014 at 10:20 am | Permalink

          Spelling pedent ;-)

  10. Mel
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Having watched yet another debate between a creationist and an atheist last evening, I’ve come to the conclusion that only sn evolutionary biologist can effectively debate a creationist.

    Some debates are disasters because the pious are able to “teach” huge amounts of unchallenged irrational epistemology. Last night, “proof is all relative” was taught but not challenged.

  11. Richard Olson
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

  12. Mel
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    ID = A non-natural undesigned designer is the only way to explain life.

    • Moarscienceplz
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      No, that’s what they WANT you to think their position is. Their REAL position is that Yahweh did it, but they know that goes against the 1st amendment, so they pretend they have no idea who or what the designer is.

      • Mel
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

        They leave the listener to figure out who the undesigned designer is. That’s how they hope to get away with it.

  13. Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I posted this at http://www.thestarpress.com/comments/article/20140321/OPINION03/303210018/Not-religious-friendly but I want to say it here as well.

    If ID is science, why would an anti-religious stance matter? If ID is religious, why teach it in a science class?

  14. Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    “Worship of aliens is not “traditional religion.””

    Of course it is. Haven’t you seen Star Trek TOS? The ep “Who mourns for Adonis”, for example.

    • noncarborundum
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      Pedantry alert, trekkie edition: “Who Mourns for Adonais?”

    • Tulse
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      And “The Paradise Syndrome”, where Kirk goes native (American).

      And if we include the animated series as canon, “How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth”.

      (Man, I am such a geek…)

      • Filippo
        Posted March 29, 2014 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

        “My skies are green and glowing,
        Where my heart is,
        Where my heart is,
        Where the scented lunar flower’s growing
        Somewhere beyond the stars,
        Beyond Antares;

        I’ll be back, if it takes forever,
        Forever is just a day,
        Forever is just another journey,
        Tomorrow a step along the way.”

        Join the club!

  15. Barry
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    There is no joy in Seattle – mighty Casey has struck out.

    • Posted March 21, 2014 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      +1!

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      There is plenty of joy in Seattle, just not at the Disco ‘tute.

  16. Observer
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Right. Luskin was not the one to say ID is religious. The BSU president said Intelligent design is overwhelmingly deemed by the scientific community as a religious belief. Luskin is complaining about BSU attitudes towards religion, so she is quire right to compare treatment of ID and atheism.

    • noncarborundum
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      She is a he.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      Where to start? It’s as if you hadn’t read anything on this subject, especially the post.

      – Luskin is a he.

      – The course Luskin complains on isn’t atheist (nor anti-religious). It is taight by a Catholic, by the way.

      – Luskin isn’t complaining because intelligent design was deemed religious by science and US courts both, and so admitted by its high echelon like Dembski. He is complaining because Hedin’s course was cancelled.

      • Observer
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

        Luskin is complaining that BSU is teaching anti-religion courses, and at the same time, has canceled a class on the grounds that it included content (ID) that the president of BSU says is religious.

        It doesn’t matter to Luskin’s argument whether he regards ID as religious. The president of BSU has come to that conclusion, and used that as an excuse to censor one of its professors.

        • Jesper Both Pedersen
          Posted March 21, 2014 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

          …that the president of BSU says is religious.

          From the OP: “…ID has been identified as a religiously motivated viewpoint—a form of creationism—which is why it was, properly, rejected by Judge Jones in the Dover case.”

          Did you read the post, the whole post and nothing but the post, so help you Voldemort?

          • Observer
            Posted March 21, 2014 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

            That’s right, Jerry argues that ID is religious, and that is why he is so eager to censor it from BSU classes. Where he errs is in inferring from Luskin. Luskin doess not say whether his opinion is that ID is religion or not, but only alludes to the conclusions of others.

  17. Nadir
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/03/21/creationists-demand-equal-airtime-on-neil-degrasse-tysons-cosmos-to-provide-balance/#.UyyGLva4Oy8.facebook

    “Creationists demand equal airtime on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ‘Cosmos’ to provide ‘balance’ “

  18. Mark Joseph
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    If I might be permitted to go meta for just a minute, it’s not only that the DI complains when evolution is taught, but also that they don’t complain when creationism is. The Sensuous Curmudgeon has a terrific post about that here; the money quote is:

    “Perhaps you haven’t noticed, because it’s difficult to see what doesn’t happen, but whenever a creationist school expels (or doesn’t re-hire) a science-oriented faculty member, the Discoveroids are silent. They never defend the academic freedom of such people by organizing protests, encouraging letters to the editor, promoting legislative inquiries, and staging campus demonstrations invoking their “Teach the Controversy” and “Academic Freedom” slogans. They never insist that the “strengths and weaknesses” of “both sides” should be taught at creationist schools. Why? It’s because they’re happy when creationism — and only creationism — is taught at such places. They really don’t want the “controversy” taught and they don’t want academic freedom. They want everything and everyone to be creationist.”

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 23, 2014 at 5:26 am | Permalink

      That’s a really good point that we keep overlooking even though it’s right in front of us! Thanks for bringing it up!


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