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But Wasn’t Eugenie Scott PAID to Confuse People?

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Casey Luskin is currently critiquing a 2007 talk by Eugenie Scott, then head of the National Center for Science Education (the Darwin in the schools lobby).

Re ID vs. creationism, Luskin writes:

Yesterday, in the first installment, I noted that the former National Center for Science Education executive director conflates intelligent design with creationism.

That’s a familiar fallacy, as anyone who’s read some ID literature should know. For example, one of the leading ID theorists, Michael Behe, explains clearly in his books that he never was a creationist. He’s a Roman Catholic who has no particular theological objections to evolution and fully accepted it prior to being persuaded of intelligent design by the evidence. To this day Behe finds the evidence for common descent persuasive, but he objects to the thesis that natural selection (or other unguided mechanisms) can account for all of the complexity of life. As he wrote in Darwin’s Black Box (published some 11 years prior to Scott’s talk) …

Scott never mentions these facts about Behe’s views. Yet his acceptance of common descent, combined with skepticism about the creative power of natural selection, has an ironic consistency with Scott’s own framing of “evolution” in her lecture. She notes that the “pattern” of common ancestry and descent with modification is just one part of evolutionary biology. The other part is the “mechanism” which generates that pattern. That, she says, is driven by natural selection but also includes other forces like genetic drift, etc.

Presumably, therefore, one may accept one part of evolutionary biology (or at least not necessarily challenge it) but be skeptical of the other. This is precisely what ID does, except Scott gets ID’s approach exactly backwards.

Lumping ID with “creationism,” she claims ID only objects to descent with modification but accepts selection so long as it operates within “created kinds.” That may be what classic young earth creationists do, but it is the opposite of ID theory’s approach. As Behe, myself, and many others have noted, intelligent design is compatible with common ancestry. Where ID is skeptical of evolution is the claim that unguided mechanisms — driven by selection and random mutation but also including drift and other blind forces — can explain life’s whole show.

Casey Luskin, “Eugenie Scott Gets Intelligent Design Backwards” at Evolution News and Science Today (January 19, 2022)

But if Scott had so far forgotten her disinformation mission that she actually made distinctions between ID and creationism, she would end up triggering the thing she would most want to avoid: Serious reasons why a reasonable person might doubt Darwinism. Her organization’s mission was to prevent that.

You may also wish to read: At Evolution News: Darwin in the schools campaigner got it all wrong on pseudogenes. When you think about it, it’s a better long-term strategy to predict that something has function than that it doesn’t.

2 Replies to “But Wasn’t Eugenie Scott PAID to Confuse People?

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    This conflation even happens among sympathetic observers. We definitely need to continue deconflating. It may be boring to those of us who have been thinking about the question for a while, but it’s still crucial for outsiders to see the distinction sharply.

  2. 2
    Fasteddious says:

    The term “common descent ” can be a bit fuzzy. Darwinists assume it means “descent from natural parents by natural means”. For it to be consistent with ID, it must mean “descent from natural parents by artificially assisted means”. That is, the injection of new genetic or other information to create new species must be done by the designing intelligence somehow. Some speculation about this can be found at:
    If the added information was engineered into an otherwise normal offspring of natural parents, as suggested at then we could call this “descent with modification”, and could claim common descent is true, making a good fit to the fossil record. The alternative, to avoid the actual descent from parents, would require each species to be created de-novo with no precursors. That seems like a lot more effort than adjusting pre-existing genomes and using natural reproductive methods. Of course all this is just speculation, but there may be ways to weigh the alternatives in order to begin delving into the “how” of ID theory.

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