Crowther Doing What the DI Pays Him For

By | 2008/10/31

Rob Crowther, Discovery Institute spokesperson, has an op-ed in the Vancouver Sun.

Intelligent Design goes beyond biology and encompasses physics, chemistry and cosmology, as well. It is not creationism, nor was it developed to get around court rulings.

Intelligent design is the Logos theology expressed in the idiom of information theory, or so asserts Dr. William Dembski. That would be somewhat beyond biology, one has to admit. Certainly, accepting “intelligent design” as expounded by Dembski and others requires being ready to deny findings in biology, physics, chemistry, and cosmology, especially when it comes to the third rail of the IDC movement, criticism of “young-earth” creationist dogma.

The argumentative content propounded in “intelligent design” creationism is a subset of the argumentative content of “creation science”. It doesn’t provide anything other than what was seen in the creationist ensemble of religious antievolution argument, so it is hard to see why something that is comprised of the same stuff should be considered something completely different.

Crowther does not deal with the clear record that says that, yes, “intelligent design” creationism was developed expressly to get around court rulings. He’d have to deal with “cdesign proponentsists” if he were to actually examine relevant stuff, but he doesn’t do so.

Crowther uses an ambiguity to misinform. Because the phrase “intelligent design” received occasional use in descriptive language prior to 1987, Crowther casts that as putting in doubt the specific post-1987 usage of “intelligent design” to mean a field of study that denies evolutionary science. Unfortunately for Crowther, it is pretty simple to distinguish between the two, and no one used “intelligent design” as a phrase for a field of human inquiry before it popped up as a replacement for “creation science” in drafts of a textbook in 1987.

Oxford scholar F.C.S. Schiller employed the term “intelligent design” in 1897, writing that “it will not be possible to rule out the supposition that the process of Evolution may be guided by an intelligent design.”

Not used as indicating a field of study. Next…

In By Design, a history of the current controversy, journalist Larry Witham traces the roots of the contemporary Intelligent Design movement in biology to the 1960s and ’70s.

Maybe Witham is as confused as Crowther on being able to tell when “intelligent design” was first applied to mean a field of study.

Leading theoretical physicist Paul Davies described the fine-tuning of the universe as “the most compelling evidence for an element of cosmic design.”

That’s not even the same phrase, and it doesn’t refer to “cosmic design” being a field of study, either.

Fred Hoyle, the eminent theoretical physicist and agnostic, followed with The Intelligent Universe (1983). He wrote: “A component has evidently been missing from cosmological studies. The origin of the Universe, like the solution of the Rubik cube, requires an intelligence.”

Again, not the same phrase, and no implication that there’s a field of study being described.

In 1984, one of the first scientific books advocating intelligent design appeared, Mystery of Life’s Origin, which was favourably received by leading scientists and scholars.

Nobody has ponied up an instance of “intelligent design” being used in the sense of denoting a field of study in this text. Nor will they.

Also that year, biologist Ray Bohlin published The Natural Limits to Biological Change, one of the first books to use the term “intelligent design” in its modern sense.

Lane P. Lester and Ray Bohlin used the phrase “intelligent design” as an alternative to “natural design” on pages 152, 153, 156, and 167 in that book. Nowhere did they suggest that “intelligent design” was a field of study as opposed to a simple descriptive phrase.

All of this was before court cases such as Edwards v. Aguillard.

All of that was irrelevant to the claim, too. What happened following Edwards v. Aguillard is well-documented in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial record. The Foundation for Thought and Ethics had a project to produce a creation science supplemental textbook, and in several preliminary drafts used the phrase “creation science” to refer to what they claimed was a field of study. After Edwards v. Aguillard, though, the drafts suddenly replaced “creation science” and similar phrases with “intelligent design”. Given that Edwards v. Aguillard proscribed religious antievolution in general and “creation science” in particular, the clear import to everyone besides lying tools (otherwise known as “cdesign proponentsists”) and the people they manage to dupe is that the search-and-replace operation was undertaken to evade court rulings. The issue is not and never was whether the phrase “intelligent design” had been used before Edwards v. Aguillard in 1987, but rather whether “intelligent design” had been used to indicate a human field of study before then. Crowther’s analysis is completely irrelevant since he never bothers to acknowledge that distinction.

McKnight’s attempt to discredit ID is as far afield as what he says about the Discovery Institute.

Anybody got a link to the McKnight article that set Crowther off? Given Crowther’s defensiveness, it sounds like a good read.

It is a secular think-tank, and our research into intelligent design and evolutionary theory is rooted in science, not religion.

Robert Crowther



Hey, Rob, what research is that? How come Howard Ahmanson, Jr. was the sugar daddy behind the “Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture” if there was only secular stuff going on? And will you ever acknowledge that usage of “intelligent design” to refer to a field of study makes a difference in analysis?

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