Tuesday, April 29, 2008

ID: It's a Creationist Plot

There are people who apparently have a deep-seated need to believe that Intelligent Design proponents are really creationists in disguise, and that once they have control over the nation's schools, they're going to rip off their clever scientist disguises to reveal men in short sleeve dress shirts and horn-rimmed glasses who believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old. Acting on a preordained set of instructions, this view seems to suggest, they will proceed to outlaw any mention of evolution in schools, and will execute plans that involve, among other things, taking students on weekly field trips to Ken Ham's Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky.

It is a frightening vision of the future: a flood of creationism let loose on the nation's schools. The end of science is near, and to ride out the crisis, ID critics are building themselves a rhetorical ark and bringing the fallacies aboard two by two.

The charge that ID is part of some creationist conspiracy was recently reiterated by Larry Arnhart, the author of Darwinian Conservatism. Arnhart, a professor at Northern Illinois University, writes in a recent post about the "Rhetorical Blunder in Ben Stein's 'Expelled'," a blunder which has to do, he thinks, with what is really behind Intelligent Design.

The first thing you should do when you write about someone else's blunders is not to make them yourself in the process of doing so. It just looks silly. But Arnhart makes one that he repeats throughout his entire discourse on the inadvisability of blunders.

Arnhart makes the following statement about "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed":
This movie is the latest project of the Discovery Institute in promoting the political rhetoric of "intelligent design theory" as the alternative to Darwinian evolutionary science.
It is? In fact, Discovery Institute did not produce the movie. It was included in the movie, but so was Richard Dawkins, who, last time anyone checked, wasn't involved in the production of the movie either. If he had been, he would have had one less excuse not to know what the movie into which he walked with both his eyes wide open was about. The movie was actually produced by Premise Media, which has no organizational connection with Discovery.

But Arnhart's main objective in the article is to bolster the "It's a Creationist Plot" theory about Intelligent Design. "The folks at the Discovery Institute," he asserts, "have made a big mistake in their production of this movie." The mistake (which Discovery doesn't make) in making this movie (which it didn't make either) is a contradiction Arnhart claims to have detected:
On the one hand, the rhetorical strategy of the Discovery Institute is to say that "intelligent design" is not a creationist religious belief but pure science, and therefore teaching "intelligent design" in public high school biology classes does not violate the First Amendment's prohibition on establishing religion. On the other hand, the popular success of the Discovery Institute's rhetoric depends on appealing to Biblical creationists who assume that "intelligent designer" is just another name for God the Biblical Creator.
In other words, Arnhart is asserting that a position should be judged on the basis of who supports it, not by what it actually holds. This is rather strange reasoning for someone like Arnhart to use. If we applied this logic to Darwinism, of course, we could conclude that it is really atheism in disguise, since atheists unanimously support it. But if we did that, people like Arnhart would fuss and fume, and point out that a position should be judged on the basis of what it asserts, not who supports it.

Darwinists have clearly not developed a sense of consistency. Maybe Nature is saving that for the next step up in the evolutionary progress of their species.

In "Expelled," which Discovery made but really didn't, this contradiction, says Arnhart, is on full display:
When Bruce Chapman--President of the Discovery Institute--is interviewed by Stein, Chapman says that journalists distort the true position of intelligent design by saying that it's a creationist religious belief, because the "intelligent designer" is clearly God. Chapman vehemently denies this. But then for the rest of the movie, it's asserted that anyone who denies "intelligent design" is therefore an atheist who denies the existence of God!
Asserted by whom? Chapman? Maybe Arnhart could provide some evidence of this. I've seen the movie twice, and I don't recall this assertion being made by anyone in the movie. I could see, if the assertion was really made, that it wouldn't matter who made it, since Arnhart is operating under the assumption that the whole thing was produced by Discovery, and therefore any such assertion could be laid at the feet of Chapman, who is Discovery's director. But then we have already determined that that assumption is erroneous, haven't we?

I think what Arnhart means to say here (I'm trying to bail you out here Larry) is that the movie claims that anyone who is a Darwinist is an atheist who denies the existence of God. But note that it isn't proponents of ID who make this claim in the movie, but proponents of Darwinism in the form of people like Richard Dawkins. This has, of course, sent the ID critics into paroxysms of indignation because they seem to think that casting Dawkins in a lead role is somehow misrepresentative of the public debate over Intelligent Design.

The only adequate response to this is to point them to the sales figures of Dawkins books. And those by his fellow Neo-Atheists--Christopher Hitchins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett--haven't been too shabby either. The Darwinists who disagree with the Neo-Atheists, like Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Educators (NCSE), get upset every time anyone talks to Dawkins about this issue on the grounds that she and her more presentable colleagues are the ones people should be listening to.

Well, maybe they should. But are they? And who is Eugenie Scott anyway? Richard Dawkin's The God Delusion hit #4 on the New York Times bestseller list. How many books has she sold? If Eugenie Scott wants to be a big star in the next Ben Stein movie, then she's going to have to do a better job getting her literary career off the ground. That's all there is to it.

Eugenie, we'll be pulling for you.

To keep asserting that the Neo-Atheists are not at the heart of the debate over ID is to simply have ignored the press coverage of this issue over the last couple of years. These are, in fact, the people who are among the most visible opponents of Intelligent Design. And it isn't as if people like Scott were not included in the movie: they were (despite their lack of star power).

But Arnhart and other critics of the movie feel somehow that the makers of an admittedly partisan movie about Intelligent Design have some kind of obligation to comprehensively state their opponents' case for them in their little hour and a half. Here is a group of people who have control of virtually every scientific professional association, every public university science department, and every secular textbook publishing house--and they want the producers of "Expelled" to use the 90 minutes of equal time they paid for to make the other side look good.

Go figure.

I suppose we should be happy that ID critics have gotten religion on the issue of accuracy in the media, and are now so intent on preaching it to the mulitudes. But their conversion has come a little late, hasn't it? Where were the Defenders of Truth like Arnhart when PBS was doing a hatchet job on Intelligent Design in NOVA's "Judgment Day," which was supposed to be, not a partisan, but an unbiased account of the controversy? Well, the one most like Arnhart--namely, Arnhart himself--was praising it.

Arnhart attempts to sound unbiased on the Intelligent Design debate--a pose he strikes often on his blog:
The problem, however, is that both sides of this debate are caught up in a frenzy of rhetorical posturing that makes it impossible to have a thoughtful exchange of competing ideas.
If Arnhart is serious in his concern for ensuring that the debate over Intelligent Design is being conducted on Marquis of Queensbury rules, he would presumably observe them himself. But when, in the very act of condemning Intelligent Design proponents for misrepresenting evolution, he repeats the tired and discredited argument that ID is really disguised creationism, he descends to the very behavior that he laments in others: misrepresentation.

I'll have to admit, Arnhart does look noble in his objective pose. But if you're looking for an unbiased view of the debate, you'll have to look to someone other than Arnhart, whose claim that he is monitoring both sides of this debate for rhetorical posturing is, alas, a rhetorical posture.


Larry Arnhart said...

So you would say that ID has nothing to do with creationism?

You mention Ken Ham's Creation Museum. Ham has recently praised EXPELLED and spoken about how excited Ben Stein was to hear about the Creation Museum. Would you say that Mr. Ham is mistaken in thinking that EXPELLED has something to do with creationism?

Would you say then that the creationist school board members in Dover who adopted "intelligent design" as a cover for their creationism were mistaken?

Why do you think Ben Stein chose not to interview Ken Miller or Francis Collins? Both are prominent critics of ID who are also Christians. Do you think this was an accidental oversight that Ben Stein did not interview them?

EXPELLED was not produced by the Discovery Institute. But all of the proponents of ID interviewed in the movie are Discovery Institute fellows. Would you say that's an accident and not the result of any influence of the Discovery Institute in the making of this movie?

Anonymous said...

Another question repeated - Martin, do you know why Crocker was allegedly Expelled? Do you know the specifics about her supposed transgressions?

Methinks the producers of the movie speak loud and clear when they promote her to the rank of martyr.

Anonymous said...

ID was recently taught in a school here. The teacher used young earth creationist literature and just whited out "creationism" and wrote in "Intelligent design" in various places. The authors of the ID text _Of Panda's and People_ were caught doing similar editing of older drafts of _Pandas_ at the Dover Trial.

Why are you even keeping up the pretense that ID is not creationism? It is apparent that ID is a ruse to get past the First Amendment. Judge Jones wasn't fooled and neither would be any reasonable person.

Anonymous said...

Martin Cothran said:
"Well, maybe they should. But are they? And who is Eugenie Scott anyway? Richard Dawkin's The God Delusion hit #4 on the New York Times bestseller list. How many books has she sold? If Eugenie Scott wants to be a big star in the next Ben Stein movie, then she's going to have to do a better job getting her literary career off the ground. That's all there is to it.

Eugenie, we'll be pulling for you."

Dr. Scott has written at least two books on the subject that have been published by reputable publishers. I'm fairly certain they have sold more copies than Martin Cothran's impressive homeschool output. Next time Martin could at least look at Amazon.com.

Martin Cothran said...

Did you know that the Communist Party USA endorsed John Kerry when he ran for President? Do you think that was a mistake? And how about the fact that the Louisiana KKK endorsed Ronald Reagan? Isn't that proof that Ronald Reagan really was a cross burning racist?

And you did not address the more pertinent argument I included in the original post: if the fact that support by creationists of the concept of Intelligent Design is proof that Intelligent Design is equivalent to creationism, then why isn't atheist support of evolution proof that evolution is equivalent to atheism?

Obviously all people who, say, believe the earth was created by God in six days would believe in an intelligent designer, since they believe in God and God is an intelligent designer. But it does not follow from this that all people who believe in an intelligent designer must therefore believe that the earth was created in six days. I really am having trouble trying to figure out why anybody would make this argument since the flaw in reasoning is pretty apparent.

You are simply making a logical error if you think you can infer from the statement "All A is B" that therefore "All B is A". From "all cows are mammals," it does not follow that "all mammals are cows."

And how do you account for the fact that there are prominent ID advocates who very plainly are not creationists? Are you denying their existence? Are you calling them liars? If even one supporter of Intelligent Design is not a creationist, then I don't see how your argument doesn't simply fall apart.

And why were Christians who disagree with ID not interviewed for a pro-ID movie? Um, let's see, maybe for the same reason that scientists who disagree with Darwinism are not included in pro-Darwinist programs?

Once again, I'm trying to figure out why it is that people are surprised that a self-evidently partisan movie is putting forth its best case, and not its worst one. What do you expect it to do?

And in regard to your argument that Discovery influenced "Expelled," I really don't know, but I would assume they influenced it a great deal. Is this supposed to be a shocking revelation?

By the way folks, I obviously disagree with Dr. Arnhart, but I should mention that his blog is interesting, thoughtful, and civil. It is also very well-written. It's worth a visit.

Martin Cothran said...


I didn't say Scott hadn't published anything, I was making the point that compared to Dawkins she's a relative unknown. I think my point was clear.

Anonymous said...

About the matter of ID=YEC …

Why is such a proposition put forth by ID critics? Is it because they don’t like the religious implications of ID, or because they are in some way threatened by the prospect of Darwinism collapsing on itself? Of course not. The reasons are much simpler.

The arguments that ID proponents put forth in support of their position – ALL of the arguments – can be traced back to things first espoused by young earth creationists. (There’s a challenge for Martin embedded here – find for his readers one or more that clearly does not trace back to YECism.) Now, it's reasonable to hold that great minds think alike, so it should be no surprise that YEC and ID would share lots of supporting statements. But the problem is that the supporting statements are invariably wrong – at least all of the supposedly scientific claims.

Which is why it is claimed that ID=YEC. By way of analogy, we don’t infer ancestry (in humans or biology) based solely on similarity of function, but rather we factor in the differences seen in living things. Thus, if I were to compare our DNA, Martin, with other samples taken from various flora and fauna, I would conclude that we are both human. Not because of the 30-99% of everything that we share with other species, but because we share, uniquely, a diagnostic set or pattern of “errors” – pseudogenes, junk DNA, and the like. It’s the “errors” that are particularly informative and convincing.

The same holds for ID. It’s not just that ID and YEC share some common set of true or correct tenets, but rather that they share a vast body of long-ago discredited mistakes.

I suppose that one may still argue that this does not establish ID=YEC beyond doubt. Maybe two independent schools of though would come to the same mistaken ideas. But critics are skeptical, and rightly so.

Finally, I’ll admit that this comment is written from the perspective of a scientist, and that it is tainted with a perverse obsession with data. It occurs to me from time to time that other academic persuasions, such as philosophy, may not be so limited in their approach. Which makes me wonder – if, to pull a totally hypothetical example out of my proverbial hat, Adam Smith and Karl Marx had incorporated the same (identical) historical errors into their respective works, might not philosophers and historians have at least suspected a common root for their own theories? If so, then where does one draw the line of independence? If not, whyever so?

Anonymous said...

Martin says:
"There are people who apparently have a deep-seated need to believe that Intelligent Design proponents are really creationists in disguise, and that once they have control over the nation's schools, they're going to rip off their clever scientist disguises to reveal men in short sleeve dress shirts and horn-rimmed glasses who believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old. "

This sounds like young earther and ID advocate Paul Nelson.

Anonymous said...

Of course ID has to do with creationism. All one has to do is look at the plan for ID as laid out in the wedge strategy. From the first paragraph:

"To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God"

So how is that not creationism? ID was born when Pandas and People had to be changed (in 1987 I believe) to exclude any mention of God, so they substituted "Intelligent Designer". Find a formulation of intelligent design before that. The origin of intelligent design is in a legal restriction against mentioning God.

Here's a link to the Wedge Document: http://www.antievolution.org/features/wedge.pdf

Anonymous said...

If ID and creationism are not the same, then please explain the significance of the phrase "cdesign proponentsists."