Turning a Card, Part 1

I want to take up an issue out of an essay by Orson Scott Card on “intelligent design”. While Card usefully concludes that “intelligent design” is not yet science and thus does not merit attention in science classrooms, he unfortunately is behind the times on the issue of the identity and continuity of antievolutionary argumentation that flows from natural theology through creationism, scientific creationism, creation science, into intelligent design, and on to whatever the next convenient label may be, “teach the controversy”, “strengths and weaknesses”, “sudden emergence”, “intelligent evolution”, etc. There is ample evidence that “intelligent design” is simply a subset of arguments made by the advocates of “creation science” before it, and that in the instance of the supplemental high school textbook Of Pandas and People one finds a nexus between advocacy of “creation science” that morphed into “intelligent design”. This goes so far as to link even many of the high-profile advocates of “intelligent design” to earlier advocacy of “creation science”.

First, I’d like to note something good and serviceable that Card wrote in his essay:

Intelligent design uses the evil “must” word: Well, if random mutation plus natural selection can’t account for the existence of this complex system, then it must have been brought into existence by some intelligent designer

Why? Why must that be the only alternative?

Just because the Darwinian model seems to be inadequate at the molecular level does not imply in any way that the only other explanation is purposive causation.

There might be several or even many other hypotheses. To believe in Intelligent Design is still a leap of faith.

But even in this the student of antievolution can recognize a parallel between the argumentative structure of “intelligent design” and “creation science”. Creation science’s bid for legal standing to enter public schools was based upon the concept of “two models”, known as the “two model approach”. Creation science advocates told the public, and the courts, that there were only two possible models: creation or evolution. Thus, in this approach, evidence against evolution must and only could be evidence for creation. Card’s reaction to having this “logic” show up in “intelligent design” is just the reaction Judge William Overton had in the McLean v. Arkansas case. There, he called the “two model” approach a “contrived dualism”, and rightly scorned it. As is evident, “two model” reasoning underlies both “creation science” and “intelligent design”. It was also noted by Judge John E. Jones III in his decision in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case late in 2005:

ID is at bottom premised upon a false dichotomy, namely, that to the extent evolutionary theory is discredited, ID is confirmed. (5:41 (Pennock)). This argument is not brought to this Court anew, and in fact, the same argument, termed “contrived dualism” in McLean, was employed by creationists in the 1980’s to support “creation science.” The court in McLean noted the “fallacious pedagogy of the two model approach” and that “[i]n efforts to establish ‘evidence’ in support of creation science, the defendants relied upon the same false premise as the two model approach . . . all evidence which criticized evolutionary theory was proof in support of creation science.” McLean, 529 F. Supp. at 1267, 1269. We do not find this false dichotomy any more availing to justify ID today than it was to justify creation science two decades ago.

More later.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

3 thoughts on “Turning a Card, Part 1

  • 2006/01/25 at 10:59 am
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    “Just because the Darwinian model seems to be inadequate at the molecular level does not imply in any way that the only other explanation is purposive causation.”

    This may be more honest than 95% of ID supporters, but he still throws out the bizarre ID/creationist tenet that molecular biology poses a problem for natural selection. Time and again I see creationists spin some variant on this line, often saying that the discovery of the structure of DNA (often they say the discovery of DNA, being ignorant) cast evolutionary theory into disarray or some such tripe. But I’ve never seen an explanation why they think DNA or molecular biology poses a problem, when in fact the opposite is true. Unless they’re thinking of their ridiculous “tornado in a junkyard” analogy, I have no idea what they imagine the problem to be.

  • 2006/01/26 at 10:29 am
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    I’m still stuck on the “not yet science” part. How can something be “scientific” (as the IDists claim), but just “not yet”? Either the concepts are drawn following the methodology of science, or not. If not, why should we expect it to ever be science?

  • 2006/01/27 at 4:35 am
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    Mr. Elsberry,

    Nick Matzke is coming to a town near me for Darwin Day. I was wondering, would you be able to give me his contact info by email so that I could see if I can interview him for my radio show when he comes to town?
    Didn’t know who else to ask.
    Karl

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