The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Creationism is Evolving Again

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 23, 2009

Well folks, those wacky creationists are at it again. Once more, their tactics to push their religious beliefs as science have evolved in response to the changing environment. Let’s take a brief look at the recent history of the creationist movement in the United States…

then a miracle occurs

1987 – In Edwards v. Aguillard, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “scientific creationism” (SC) was not science, but a religiously-motivated concept which had no place in public school science classes. This is because SC was based upon literal interpretations of the Bible as espoused by certain denominations of Christianity, so policies pushing SC in public school science classes were clearly a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

1987 to early 1990s – Shortly after this ruling, unable to thrive in the legal environment of the day, the creationist movement in the United States mutated to promote a new species of creationism, namely so-called “intelligent design” (ID). Interestingly, rather than formulate testable hypotheses, perform experiments, and publish the results in peer-reviewed scientific journals as a way of promoting their views, the creationists chose to simply re-label SC as ID (presumably because “intelligent design” sounded more scientific). The biggest push for ID came from an organization called the Discovery Institute, which clearly outlined its real goals (hint: it isn’t to teach science) in an internal memo – the now infamous Wedge Document (get an actual copy of the “Wedge” at this link). Among other things, the “Wedge” states…

Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.

And the “Wedge” illustrates as its 20-year goals:

* To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science.
* To see design theory application in specific fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in the natural sciences, psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities; to see its influence in the fine arts.
* To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.

[emphasis mine]

Hmmm – so the creationists specifically want to see their version of Christianity “permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life”? Yup, that sure sounds like science to me!

1990s to 2004 – ID is pushed hard by the Discovery Institute, and the creationists publish numerous popular books (not peer-reviewed articles in science journals) in an effort to advance their religious agenda.

2004-2005 – The creationists finally attempt to push ID in the public schools in Dover, PA. This move backfires on them badly, as evidenced by the smack-down they received in the Kitzmiller v. Dover ruling by Judge John Jones in December of 2005. In part, Jones found that ID also violated the First Amendment by attempting to promote religion as science in public school classes. Here are some excerpts from the ruling (which can be found at this link in its entirety)…

“The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory.”

“Throughout the trial and in various submissions to the Court, Defendants vigorously argue that the reading of the statement is not “teaching” ID but instead is merely “making students aware of it.” In fact, one consistency among the Dover School Board members’ testimony, which was marked by selective memories and outright lies under oath, as will be discussed in more detail below, is that they did not think they needed to be knowledgeable about ID because it was not being taught to the students. We disagree.”

And here’s the real money shot…

“After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980’s; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community.

[emphasis mine]

So what happened next? Did the creationists at the Discovery Institute admit their views weren’t scientific? Did they respond by publishing rigorous, peer-reviewed research in science journals which supported ID? Nope!

2007-2008 – After a little time flailing in the wilderness, the creationists realize that the phrase “intelligent design” is synonymous with “scientific creationism”, so their tactics mutate once again. They decide to cease actively promoting ID (that is, their religious beliefs) in public science classes, and instead they push to “teach the weaknesses of evolution.” Of course, this is an obvious logical fallacy, because even if there were fatal “weaknesses” in evolutionary theory (there aren’t), it would do nothing to actually promote ID-creationism.

The creationist attack on science took another turn in 2008 with the release of the creationist propaganda “documentary” named, ironically, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Starring Ben Stein, the movie is a horrid compilation of standard creationist gobble-de-gook, revisionist history (“Darwin was responsible for the Holocaust”NOT!), and outright strawman arguments regarding those who accept evolutionary science (“accepting evolution makes you an atheist”NOT!).

Aside: To show just how nutty Ben Stein got when promoting Expelled, check out this story where Stein says, “Science leads you to killing people.”

At the same time Expelled came out, so-called “Academic Freedom” laws were being pushed in many states in mid-2008. The argument was that teachers should have the “freedom” to teach “alternate views” – such as crappy notions like ID-creationism. Such a law did pass in Louisiana, so now I assume that in addition to teaching ID-creationism in biology class, it’s now acceptable in Louisiana to teach geocentrism & astrology in earth science/astronomy classes, psychics & ESP in physics class, the debunked theory of phlogiston and the Four-Element version of chemistry, and so on! See here for more humorous examples of “academic freedom” gone wild.

2008 to present day – The creationists have further pushed their current agenda in the state of Texas. Because Texas is such a huge market for textbooks, the state has a disproportionate influence on nationwide textbook selection. Unfortunately, the governor of Texas (a staunch creationist) has tried to stack the State Board of Education with enough creationists to push their agenda in the textbook selection process. This battle in Texas is ongoing, with some interesting developments (some good, some bad) taking place just today. (If you’re interested in learning more or getting involved, I strongly encourage you to look up the Texas Freedom Network or the Texas Citizens for Science, who are both fighting against this anti-scientific nonsense)

texas BoE

Last Word: Lest you think those wacky creationists are done, they’re not. In recent days, I’ve seen indications that our pals at the Discovery Institute are evolving their anti-science rhetoric yet again. What was once “scientific creationism” mutated into “intelligent design” – and it now seems that ID is mutating into “front-loaded evolution” (FLE). Be on the lookout for this latest bit of creationist-speak – it could pop up at a school board meeting near you.

3 Responses to “Creationism is Evolving Again”

  1. sykik said

    Wow!

    We’re seeing blind fundamentalism as the source of the world’s problems. These staunch-ist views don’t do the world any good. This is not too different from the Islamic propaganda of religious superiority. Messing up the education system will produce a seriously flawed citizenry in the future, one bred on absolute lies and an exclusivist mind set. That is not good in any way.

    Creationism is seen as a theistic viewpoint, while those that deny it (or accept evolution) are seen as atheists, or anti-theistic. That is not true, and is serious misinformation. Hinduism and Buddhism, mentioned as two of many examples, have large room for the acceptance of evolution.

    In an age where we should be thinking of standardizing education curricula in the entire world, it is sad to see the world’s alpha democracy still embroiled in a controversy of this nature.

    I am certain that good sense will prevail, sooner than later.

  2. […] Creationism is Evolving Again « The Skeptical Teacher […]

  3. […] by mattusmaximus on February 4, 2009 Note: Read up on my recent post, Creationism is Evolving Again, for the full context of this […]

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