About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Intelligent Design is (a form of) creationism
Of course, Judge John E. Jones III, who presided over the Dover, PA trial in 2005, agrees with my conclusion (if you didn’t already, make sure to catch the NOVA special on Dover). The Judge wrote: “An objective observer would know that ID and teaching about “gaps” and “problems” in evolutionary theory are creationist, religious strategies that evolved [pun unintended, I suppose] from earlier forms of creationism.”
Judge Jones points to an interesting piece of evidence for the claim that ID is simply repackaged creationism, a point emphasized in the NOVA special on the trial that aired recently on some PBS stations (some stations in the South, predictably, thought the show was “offensive” to some of their viewers -- I get offended every time I see George W. Bush on TV, but that doesn’t seem to stop any station from purposefully irritating me). Jones noted that evidence presented at the trial traced significant changes in several drafts of the ID book “Of Pandas and People” by Dean Kenyon and Percival Davis. Besides the fact that the authors are known creationists, and that the publisher, FTE, is classified by the IRS as a Christian organization, there is worse, much worse.
An early draft of Pandas was prepared before the historical Supreme Court decision in the 1987 Edwards case that banned the teaching of creation science because it is a form of religion. As Jones notes, “By comparing the pre and post Edwards drafts of Pandas, three astonishing points emerge: 1) the definition of creation science in early drafts is identical to the definition of ID [in later drafts]; 2) cognates of the word creation (creationism and creationist), which appeared approximately 150 times were deliberately and systematically replaced with the phrase ID; and 3) the changes occurred shortly after the Supreme Court held that creation science is religious and cannot be taught in public school science classes in Edwards.”
In other words, Judge Jones had used a technique similar to Dembski’s “design inference” to conclude that the authors of Pandas engaged in (malicious) intelligent re-design of their book! How deliciously ironic.
There are other reasons to conclude that ID is simply a form of creationism, as I detail in the SI article, but the main one remains that both ID and standard creationism invoke a supernatural agent to “explain” natural processes. This not only is, by definition, not science (because science can only deal with natural explanations), but it also explains precisely nothing (because “God did it” is not an explanation unless we are told how and why she did it). For all the huffing and puffing performed by Dembski & co., they still haven’t progressed intellectually past good old Reverend Paley. And they never will.