Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Wiki’s F – – on ID, 5: Subtly distorting the truth on Discovery Institute’s policy on Education in public schools, multiplied by a failure of due disclosure on judge Jones’ Kitzmiller/ Dover ruling


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Last time, we showed how Wikipedia’s article on Intelligent Design flagrantly distorts the history of the origins of ID as a modern movement. Today, our focus is on a subtler distortion:

From the mid-1990s, intelligent design proponents were supported by the Discovery Institute, which, together with its Center for Science and Culture, planned and funded the “intelligent design movement”.[16][n 1] They advocated inclusion of intelligent design in public school biology curricula, leading to the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial, where U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design is not science, that it “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents”, and that the school district’s promotion of it therefore violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.[17]

This is cleverly and artfully worded, especially through the “They” I have highlighted.

If the misleading statement above is challenged, it can always be pointed out by the ever so clever defenders of radical secularism that the reference to trying to insert ID into schools does not specifically specify the Discovery Institute — where, remember, the article begins by saying Intelligent design (ID) is a form of creationism promulgated by the Discovery Institute, a politically conservative think tank.”

At this stage, on fair and merited comment,  our context for parsing the above must be that — on evidence already laid out — the anonymous authors, editors and moderators of the wiki article have lost all credibility as fair minded people speaking from a neutral, objective point of view. So we can rest assured that he above words are quite intentional and calculated for manipulative impact.

They are not merely a poor piece of writing, an accident by people meaning to be fair.

This, folks, is also part of how false narrative propaganda — there is another and more familiar term, but it is a little brusque — works.

Okay, time to get to our usual point by point steps of thought:

1 –> Basically, one who reads the above without knowing credible facts from elsewhere would not know that the Discovery Institute’s longstanding stated and emphatic policy on education runs essentially as follows:

As a matter of public policy, Discovery Institute opposes any effort to require the teaching of intelligent design by school districts or state boards of education. Attempts to mandate teaching about intelligent design only politicize the theory and will hinder fair and open discussion of the merits of the theory among scholars and within the scientific community. Furthermore, most teachers at the present time do not know enough about intelligent design to teach about it accurately and objectively.

Instead of mandating intelligent design, Discovery Institute seeks to increase the coverage of evolution in textbooks. It believes that evolution should be fully and completely presented to students, and they should learn more about evolutionary theory, including its unresolved issues. In other words, evolution should be taught as a scientific theory that is open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can’t be questioned.

Discovery Institute believes that a curriculum that aims to provide students with an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of neo-Darwinian and chemical evolutionary theories (rather than teaching an alternative theory, such as intelligent design) represents a common ground approach that all reasonable citizens can agree on.

2 –> And, such a naive reader (this is ostensibly an Encyclopedia!) would not know that it has run more or less like this — to my personal observation — since the time of Seth Cooper, the time when the Dover Trial hit headlines seven years ago.

3 –> Nor, would one know that the DI specifically counselled the Dover School Board not to embark on the path of putting forth a statement to be read to students as a caution on origins science studies.

4 –> There is a second piece of speaking with willful disregard to the truth in hopes of profiting by what is said being accepted as essentially true. Namely, the citation of judge John E Jones III, from his ruling, as though what he said about ID were a neutral, objective, well-reasoned, factually accurate characterisation.

5 –> Of course, we have already seen reason to know that Judge Jones’ ruling is wrong about ID being essentially an evolved species of Creationism. As was already pointed out last time:

20 –> . . .  it is appropriate to cite DI’s John West in a 2002 article, Intelligent Design and Creationism just aren’t the Same, on the attempt to equate design theory and Creationism:

University of Wisconsin historian of science Ronald Numbers is critical of intelligent design, yet according to the Associated Press, he “agrees the creationist label is inaccurate when it comes to the ID movement.” Why, then, do some Darwinists keep trying to identify ID with creationism? According to Numbers, it is because they think such claims are “the easiest way to discredit intelligent design.” (2) In other words, the charge that intelligent design is “creationism” is a rhetorical strategy on the part of those who wish to delegitimize design theory without actually addressing the merits of its case.

In reality, there are a variety of reasons why ID should not be confused with creationism:

1. “Intelligent Design Creationism” is a pejorative term coined by some Darwinists to attack intelligent design; it is not a neutral label of the intelligent design movement.

Scientists and scholars supportive of intelligent design do not describe themselves as “intelligent design creationists.” Indeed, intelligent design scholars do not regard intelligent design theory as a form of creationism. Therefore to employ the term “intelligent design creationism” is inaccurate, inappropriate, and tendentious, especially on the part of scholars and journalists who are striving to be fair. “Intelligent design creationism” is not a neutral description of intelligent design theory. It is a polemical label created for rhetorical purposes. “Intelligent design” is the proper neutral description of the theory.

2. Unlike creationism, intelligent design is based on science, not sacred texts.

Creationism is focused on defending a literal reading of the Genesis account, usually including the creation of the earth by the Biblical God a few thousand years ago. Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of design and has no commitment to defending Genesis, the Bible or any other sacred text. Instead, intelligent design theory is an effort to empirically detect whether the “apparent design” in nature observed by biologists is genuine design (the product of an organizing intelligence) or is simply the product of chance and mechanical natural laws. This effort to detect design in nature is being adopted by a growing number of biologists, biochemists, physicists, mathematicians, and philosophers of science at American colleges and universities. Scholars who adopt a design approach include biochemist Michael Behe of Lehigh University, microbiologist Scott Minnich at the University of Idaho, and mathematician William Dembski at Baylor University. (3)

3. Creationists know that intelligent design theory is not creationism.

The two most prominent creationist groups, Answers in Genesis Ministries (AIG) and Institute for Creation Research (ICR) have criticized the intelligent design movement (IDM) because design theory, unlike creationism, does not seek to defend the Biblical account of creation. AIG specifically complained about IDM’s “refusal to identify the Designer with the Biblical God” and noted that “philosophically and theologically the leading lights of the ID movement form an eclectic group.” Indeed, according to AIG, “many prominent figures in the IDM reject or are hostile to Biblical creation, especially the notion of recent creation….” (4) Likewise, ICR has criticized ID for not employing “the Biblical method,” concluding that “Design is not enough!” (5) Creationist groups like AIG and ICR clearly understand that intelligent design is not the same thing as creationism.

4. Like Darwinism, design theory may have implications for religion, but these implications are distinct from its scientific program.

Intelligent design theory may hold implications for fields outside of science such as theology, ethics, and philosophy. But such implications are distinct from intelligent design as a scientific research program. In this matter intelligent design theory is no different than the theory of evolution. Leading Darwinists routinely try to draw out theological and cultural implications from the theory of evolution. Oxford’s Richard Dawkins, for example, claims that Darwin “made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” (6) Harvard’s E.O. Wilson employs Darwinian biology to deconstruct religion and the arts. (7) Other Darwinists try to elicit positive implications for religion from Darwin’s theory. The pro-evolution National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has organized a “Faith Network” to promote the study of evolution in churches. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the NCSE, acknowledges that the purpose of the group’s “clergy outreach program” is “to try to encourage members of the practicing clergy to address the issue of Evolution in Sunday schools and adult Bible classes” and to get church members to talk about “the theological implications of evolution.” (8) The NCSE’s “Faith Network Director” even claims that “Darwin’s theory of evolution…has, for those open to the possibilities, expanded our notions of God.” (9) If Darwinists have the right to explore the cultural and theological implications of Darwin’s theory without disqualifying Darwinism as science, then ID-inspired discussions in the social sciences and the humanities clearly do not disqualify design as a scientific theory.

5. Fair-minded critics recognize the difference between intelligent design and creationism.

Scholars and science writers who are willing to explore the evidence for themselves are coming to the conclusion that intelligent design is different from creationism. As mentioned earlier, historian of science Ronald Numbers has acknowledged the distinction between ID and creationism. So has science writer Robert Wright, writing in Time magazine: “Critics of ID, which has been billed in the press as new and sophisticated, say it’s just creationism in disguise. If so it’s a good disguise. Creationists believe that God made current life-forms from scratch. The ID movement takes no position on how life got here, and many adherents believe in evolution. Some even grant a role to the evolutionary engine posited by Darwin: natural selection. They just deny that natural selection alone could have driven life all the way from pond scum to us.” (10)

21 –> Given such a longstanding reply posted by DI on its site, in all fairness, Wikipedia has a duty to provide solid warrant for rejecting such and for justifying that to use the equation of Intelligent Design and Creationism in its introduction as a prime premise of the point its article makes, is very well warranted indeed. For Wiki is making an accusation — not of error — but one of outright, widespread large scale intellectual fraud.

6 –> But this is not the only or even the main problem with Judge Jones’ ruling and the section of the Wikipedia introduction to its ID article that cites it as though it were objective and authoritative. For, the naive Encyclopedia reader (think, smart 12 year old kid looking for basic, accurate info on a topic, here . . . ) would not have learned from the above, that the following was found to be the case about Judge Jones’ ruling after the fact, on analysis. As I reported in 2006:

A year after the Kitzmiller Decision in Dover, Pennsylvania, the Discovery Institute [DI] has just published a 34 p. article in which it shows, in devastating parallel columns, that Judge Jones’ discussion of the alleged unscientific status of the empirically based inference to design, was largely copied from an ACLU submission, factual errors, misrepresentations and all.

DI summarises its findings thusly:

In December of 2005, critics of the theory of intelligent design (ID) hailed federal judge John E. Jones’ ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover, which declared unconstitutional the reading of a statement about intelligent design in public school science classrooms in Dover, Pennsylvania. Since the decision was issued, Jones’ 139-page judicial opinion has been lavished with praise as a “masterful decision” based on careful and independent analysis of the evidence. However, a new analysis of the text of the Kitzmiller decision reveals that nearly all of Judge Jones’ lengthy examination of “whether ID is science” came not from his own efforts or analysis but from wording supplied by ACLU attorneys. In fact, 90.9% (or 5,458 words) of Judge Jones’ 6,004- word section on intelligent design as science was taken virtually verbatim from the ACLU’s proposed “Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law” submitted to Judge Jones nearly a month before his ruling. Judge Jones even copied several clearly erroneous factual claims made by the ACLU. The finding that most of Judge Jones’ analysis of intelligent design was apparently not the product of his own original deliberative activity seriously undercuts the credibility of Judge Jones’ examination of the scientific validity of intelligent design.

Now, a year ago, Judge Jones of Pennsylvania issued his “landmark” decision on the Dover School Board case, which was indeed hailed in much of the major international media as a death-blow to the Intelligent Design movement (which has of course not gone away!). In effect, he ruled unconstitutional the reading out to students in 9th Grade [roughly, 3rd form] Biology the following statement:

The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

Because Darwin’s Theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves.

With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life to individual students and their families. As a Standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on Standards-based assessments.

That such a statement — in a time in which Darwinian Biology and the broader ideas of evolutionary materialism plainly continue to be scientifically, philosophically and culturally controversial — would be widely seen as an attempt to impose “religion” in the name of “science,” is itself a clue that something has gone very wrong indeed.

7 –> Notice, first: “Judge Jones’ discussion of the alleged unscientific status of the empirically based inference to design, was largely copied from an ACLU submission, factual errors, misrepresentations and all.” So, the proper source for the assertion is not Judge Jones, but the ACLU and most probably Ms Barbara Forrest’s assertions. Not exactly NPOV, and not exactly accurate citation of actual source.

8 –> It is worth going on, to note what I had to say — as one who has taught in the science classroom in a context where the sort of vapours that seem to seize control of thinking when such issues come up in the USA are not an issue — on the sort of situation where such a disclaimer would be thought needed by concerned parents and the like sitting on a district school board, and how it  . . . the actual statement, whatever the underlying motives and attitudes of the School board as may be parsed and blown up in attempts to distract and dismiss . . . has been reacted to as an alleged improper imposition of religion on science education:

. . . it is immediately obvious on examining basic, easily accessible facts, that:

a] The Neo-Darwinian Theory of Evolution [NDT] is just that: theory, not fact. This means that insofar as it is science, it is an open-ended explanatory exercise, one that is subject to correction or replacement in light of further evidence and/or analysis, and one that seeks to summarise and make sense of a vast body of empirical data — in which effort there are indeed key, persistent explanatory gaps.

b] Design Theory, in that light, is a re-emerging challenger as a scientific explanation, one that arguably better explains certain key features of, say the fossil record. (And, let us observe here, that ID should not be confused with, say Young Earth, specifically Biblically-oriented Creationism [YEC], which seeks to scientifically explain origins in a context that often — but not always — makes explicit reference to the Bible, regarded as an accurate record of origins. Nor, is it merely a critique of darwinian thought, but rather a working out of addressing the full range of root-explanations for phenomena: chance, necessity and agency, in light of the only actually known, empirically observed source of FSCI: intelligent agency. For example, design thought, as a movement, does not deny that significant macro-level evolution may well have happened across geological time [NB: YEC thinkers accept that micro-evolution can and does occur], but it is raising and addressing the really central, empirically based, scientific issue: how may we best explain where the functionally specific, complex information in life and in the biodiversity in the fossil record and current came from, given what we know about the observed source of such FSCI?)

c] For instance, as Loennig points out in a recent peer-reviewed paper — a paper submitted to Judge Jones, BTW — on the well-known problem for the NDT that the fossil record is marked by sudden appearances and disappearances, starting from the Cambrian life explosion, and a resulting multitude of “missing links”:

[On the hypothesis that] there are indeed many systems and/or correlated subsystems in biology, which have to be classified as irreducibly complex and that such systems are essentially involved in the formation of morphological characters of organisms, this would explain both, the regular abrupt appearance of new forms in the fossil record as well as their constancy over enormous periods of time . . . For, if “several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function” are necessary for biochemical and/or anatomical systems to exist as functioning systems at all (because “the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning”) such systems have to (1) originate in a non-gradual manner and (2) must remain constant as long as they are reproduced and exist [and also] (3) the equally abrupt disappearance of so many life forms in earth history . . . The reason why irreducibly complex systems would also behave in accord with point (3) is also nearly self-evident: if environmental conditions deteriorate so much for certain life forms (defined and specified by systems and/or subsystems of irreducible complexity), so that their very existence be in question, they could only adapt by integrating further correspondingly specified and useful parts into their overall organization, which prima facie could be an improbable process — or perish . . . .

d] The call to an OPEN [but critically aware] mind in light of knowing the dominant theory and its gaps and that alternatives exist [note that ID was not to be expounded in the classroom!] is not a closing off of options but an opening of minds. (Notice how actual censorship is being praised when it serves the agenda of the secularist elites here.)

e] Given the persistent absence of a credible, robust account of the origin of the functionally specific, complex information [FSCI] and associated tightly integrated information systems at the heart of the molecular technology of life, the origin of life is the first gap in the broader — and, BTW, arguably self-refuting — evolutionary materialist account of origins. Further to this, we must observe the force of the issue Loennig raises in his peer reviewed article on the challenge of viable macro-level spontaneous [“chance”] changes in DNA that express themselves embryologically early bring this gap issue not only to chemical evolution, but to the macro-evolution that NDT is supposed to explain, but does not. And such major explanatory gaps in the account of macro-evolution start with the Cambrian life explosion as Meyer noted in another peer-reviewed article. [Both of these were of course brought to Judge Jones’ attention, and both were obviously ignored, even at he cost of putting out falsehoods and misrepresentations authored by the ACLU in his opinion. No prizes for guessing why.]

f] So, while — as DI argues — ID is too pioneering to be a part of the High School level classroom exposition (as opposed to an issue that legitimately arises incidentally in debates and discussions), the cluster of persistent issues that NDT and wider evolutionary materialism cannot account for, definitely should be; on pain of turning the science classroom into an exercise in manipulative indoctrination. The ongoing censorship of this scientific, philosophical, and cultural controversy is therefore utterly telling.

9 –> Likewise, we need to ask some pretty pointed questions about the wider ruling:

A glance at major features of the ruling itself amply confirms the problem. For instance, observe how the Judge addresses a major concern in the case, revealing that he is indulging in improper activism in his attempt to decide by judicial fiat a matter that properly belongs to the philosophy of science:

. . . the Court is confident that no other tribunal in the United States is in a better position than are we to traipse into this controversial area. Finally, we will offer our conclusion on whether ID is science not just because it is essential to our holding that an Establishment Clause violation has occurred in this case, but also in the hope that it may prevent the obvious waste of judicial and other resources which would be occasioned by a subsequent trial involving the precise question which is before us. [p. 63] (emphasis added)

It is unsurprising to see that, in the 139 page ruling, Judge Jones held — among other things — that the inference to design was an inherently illegitimate attempt to impose the supernatural on science, and so falls afoul of the US Constitution’s First Amendment’s principle of separation of Church and state. He also held, as a key plank in his decision — even though an actual list of such papers was presented to him in a submission by the Discovery Institute [cf Appendix A4, p. 17, here] — that there was no peer-reviewed ID supporting scientific literature.

Further to this, he refused to allow FTE, the publishers of the key book referenced in the case, Of Pandas and People, to intervene in the case to defend itself by participating in the trial, even though their work was being materially misrepresented — which clearly affected the ruling. 

Misrepresented? Yes, this book, in the actually published version [the one that is relevant to determining what the authors and publishers intended and what the impact of the book being in school libraries would likely be] explicitly states:

This book has a single goal: to present data from six areas of science that bear on the central question of biological origins. We don’t propose to give final answers, nor to unveil The Truth. Our purpose, rather, is to help readers understand origins better, and to see why the data may be viewed in more than one way. (Of Pandas and People, 2nd ed. 1993, pg. viii) . . . .

Today we recognize that appeals to intelligent design may be considered in science, as illustrated by current NASA search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). Archaeology has pioneered the development of methods for distinguishing the effects of natural and intelligent causes. We should recognize, however, that if we go further, and conclude that the intelligence responsible for biological origins is outside the universe (supernatural) or within it, we do so without the help of science. (pg. 126-127, emphasis added)

In short — and exactly as the 1984 technical level book, The Mystery of Life’s Origins, the publication of which (claims to the contrary notwithstanding) is the actual historical beginning of the modern design movement [apart from in cosmology!] also argues — we may properly and scientifically infer to intelligence as a cause from its empirically observable traces that are not credibly the product of chance or natural regularities.

But, of course, such an inference — just as its opposite, the philosophically based premise that science “must” only infer to chance and natural regularities on questions of origins — soon raises worldview issues. For, just as darwinian evolution is often used as a support for evolutionary materialism, a credible, empirically anchored scientific inference to design on the cases of: the origin of the molecular nanotechnology of life, that of the macro-level diversity of life and the origin of a finitely old, elegantly fine-tuned cosmos, plainly opens the philosophical and cultural doors to taking seriously what is “unacceptable” to many among the West’s intensely secularised intellectual elites: God as the likely/credible intelligent designer, thence credibly the foundation of morality, law, and justice.

(So, let us pause: why is it that evolutionary materialist worldviews that go far beyond what is empirically and logically well-warranted are allowed to pass themselves off as “science,” thus can freely go into the classroom, but empirically and logically/ mathematically based serious challenges and alternatives to the claims of these worldviews that in fact appear in the peer-reviewed scientific and associated literature are excluded as “religion” [even when this is not at all objectively true]? Is this not blatant secularist indoctrination and censorship? Is not secular humanism, at minimum, a quasi-religion — one that now is effectively established by court fiat under the pretence that we are “separating church and state”? Should we not instead teach key critical thinking skills and expose students to the range of live options, allowing them to draw their own, objectively defensible conclusions for themselves in the context of honest classroom dialogue based on comparative difficulties? [NB: Here are my thoughts on science education, from a science teaching primer that I was once asked to develop. Perhaps, this lays out a few ideas on a positive way forward.])

10 –> On fair comment, something obviously went very wrong in judge Jones’ courtroom and in his study afterwards. (That he is said to have claimed that he would or did watch Inherit The Wind — which severely distorts the actual history of 1925 – 6 [cf. here on] — as apart of his preparation for the trial, is an indicator, but not a very encouraging one, on what this is.)

11 –> Plainly, Judge Jones is not a credible authority, and was not the primary source of the substance of his ruling. Wiki should never have allowed judge Jones’ ruling to cover up the underlying ACLU/NCSE materials that plainly served as the basis for his ruling.


We have now come to the end of the section, and we find in it further but subtler false or misleading narratives of the situation and opinions that clearly trace to one side of a controversy being stated as though they were the last word.

This is not good enough for an Encyclopedia, and it is not good enough for those who parrot much the same misinformation from this and other sources.

Let us hope that Wiki’s contributors, editors, and moderators will have a serious rethink and will clean up the article.

Failing such, they can only work to the discredit of Wikipedia as — despite public correction — harbouring misleading propagandistic misinformation and agenda driven talking points rather than genuinely balanced educational materials, and so being untrustworthy; leading to the linked betrayal of the many honest and diligent contributors to other articles elsewhere. END

PS: Next time, let us look at some statistics on influence, which is why this markup is necessary. This is not a matter of tilting at windmills by any means.