John Angus Campbell’s Election Campaign Gets a Boost from the Kitsap Sun

Discovery Institute Fellow John Angus Campbell picked up a recommendation from the Kitsap Sun newspaper recently, in an apparent “anyone but the incumbents” bright-line choice that overlooks the baggage the non-incumbents may be carrying with them. In other words, reading the endorsement makes it clear that the Sun’s evaluation of Campbell went no further than the fact that Campbell is challenging the incumbent and has stated that he wishes to improve education for the children. The latter seems a trite superfluency when one considers that these are all people running for school board positions.

The Seattle Weekly ran an article pointing out Campbell’s record of advocacy for “intelligent design”. Campbell has responded on his campaign website, saying that of course he is not an advocate of “intelligent design”, but merely favors “classical liberal education” that might include arguments that “challenge ideas I personally favor”.

Wow. For someone who claims to “personally favor” “Darwinian” views, one would be hard-pressed to find any evidence of such favoritism on Campbell’s part. On the other hand, one finds Campbell has been a productive apologist for the goals and aims of the Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, co-editing books described as “wedge books” and offered as evidence that IDC has “peer-reviewed or peer-edited” content.

There’s more good stuff in Ian Ramjohn’s article on the topic, pointing out that Campbell has offered an explanation for his withdrawal from the Kitzmiller v. DASD case as an expert witness that is at odds with the account offered under oath by DI CRSC director Stephen C. Meyer. Campbell casts it as a matter of principle, where his withdrawal was premised on a fundamental philosophical disconnect with the aims of the Dover Area School Board. Meyer recounts it as a disagreement over whether Campbell and other DI Fellows could be represented personally by DI-affiliated lawyers during the proceedings, insistence upon which the Thomas More Law Center, quite properly, objected to. [At least o]ne of them is lying to us… North Mason School District voters, do you feel lucky pulling the lever for Campbell? Further, there was the interview in 2006 with DI head honcho Bruce Chapman, who stated that he had requested the five DI-affiliated expert witnesses withdraw from the case because of his assessment that the Dover defendants were going to lose. That sounds a lot more like political expediency rather than philosophical principle. While the case was unfolding, we were treated to three different, and fundamentally incompatible, versions of why DI CRSC Senior Fellow William Dembski dropped out of the case, so this multiplicity of remembrances is no novelty when it comes to what can be spun from the mess.

But I think Campbell’s version of things rings hollow all on its own. The Dover case did not substantially change during the brief period of Campbell’s being part of the defense team. The points at issue there were the policy and the supplemental textbook, Of Pandas and People, neither of which changed in the period between Campbell’s submission of his expert report supporting the Dover policy and choice of text, and his purported philosophizing leading to the parting of the ways. In his expert report, Campbell asserts,

Acknowledging the legitimacy of different perspectives – such as those offered by advocates of ID – is one of the defining marks of a master teacher as traditionally understood in the context of a liberal education, and, therefore, advances education, and, in this case, a better understanding of Darwinism.

All of that, it turns out, is wrong. “Acknowledging the legitimacy of different perspectives” is not a matter that defines a “master teacher”; it is a matter of discrimination that the field in question must determine. Campbell’s advocacy here is to have no standard whatsoever for what is considered “legitimate” and what is claptrap. A master teacher, in my view, doesn’t go out of his or her way to leave the impression with their students that falsehoods are legitimate. And advocates of IDC have offered up falsehood after falsehood when it comes to discussing evolutionary science. These do not advance education, and they lead students to misunderstandings of evolutionary science, a primary one being that there is some specific current stance called “Darwinism”.

But Campbell is still proceeding exactly on DI lines. In his rebuttal to the Seattle Weekly article, Campbell states in conclusion:

But I will support teachers and administrators who, in accord with their best judgment, strive for educational excellence.

And the DI?

Luskin: While ID shouldn’t be mandated, it also shouldn’t be banned by court order. Science teachers should have the freedom to discuss it precisely because ID is based on science, not religion.

And here:

1. Discovery Institute’s science education policy has been consistent and clear. We strongly believe that teaching about intelligent design is constitutionally permissible, but we think mandatory inclusion of intelligent design in public school curricula is ill-advised. Instead, we recommend that schools require only that the scientific evidence for and against neo-Darwinism be taught, while not infringing on the academic freedom of teachers to present appropriate information about intelligent design if they choose.

North Mason School District voters: the Seattle Weekly was right. “Educational excellence” for Campbell would encompass teachers passing along IDC arguments as if they were science, even though those ideas are narrowly sectarian religious doctrines and have no accountability in the scientific literature. The Kitsap Sun dropped the ball here and shirked their duty to inform the public.

Wesley R. Elsberry

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