Origins of “Intelligent Design” … Again
The traveling Discovery Institute roadshow featuring a double bill of John West and Casey Luskin got some attention when ERV and others attended the proceedings at the stop in Oklahoma.
At After the Bar Closes (the online bulletin board that itself was featured in the talks), “carlsonjok” also attended and is delivering a set of annotated notes from the event. Here are excerpts that caught my eye.
“carlsonjok”‘s annotations are in square brackets.
Center for Inquiry has ID timeline – it starts in 1983 (after McLean v. Arkansas?) Not true, ID goes back to the Greeks and Romans like Socrates and Cicero. [Hold this thought because we are going to hit Casey Luskin over the head with it a bit later on. Don’t these guys coordinate their messages? Srsly.]
He seems to accuse Darwinists of taking an anti-intellectual view of Western Civilization by not allowing questions. [I’ll get a little more into West’s tactics in the Q&A session that belie the notion that West is interested in questions. Also see comments above about why doesn’t EN&V allow comments.]
Ron Numbers, distinguished anti-ID scholar thinks the ID=creationism equivalence is a rhetorical device to de-legitimize ID and is nothing more than a smear so people won’t look at evidence. [West talking about rhetorical equivalences as smears conjures up images of pots and kettles. Making such equivalences will become a recurring theme in the rest of West’s talk.]
And my response:
The “intelligent design” timeline… is irrelevant.
The issue isn’t whether somebody put “intelligent” next to “design” before 1987, like the old Reese’s commercials discussed putting “chocolate” next to “peanut butter”. The issue is about the use of “intelligent design” as if that meant a field of human inquiry. Plenty of people before had used “intelligent design” as a descriptive phrase about a property that they attributed to certain phenomena. That sloppy, unfocused sort of rhetoric does indeed have a long, long history.
But “intelligent design” meaning a field of study, a scientific field of study that would have a place in a K-12 science classroom? That usage uniquely first appears in the just-post-Edwards v. Aguillard decision period in the draft manuscript that eventually got published as Of Pandas and People.
West may be able to handwave fast enough in front of a debate audience to obfuscate the vast difference there, but in a courtroom this will be developed at length and such that there is no confusion left for the IDC advocates to hide behind.
So far as I can tell, the Thaxton claim that anybody in the movement had a notion to push “intelligent design” rather than creationism in the pre-Edwards run-up to OPAP is completely lacking in substantiation. If they actually had that, do you suppose they would not have presented it during the Kitzmiller trial?
No, neither do I.
Ron Numbers does think that there is a distinction between creationism and “intelligent design”. It’s becoming an increasingly fringe position. For almost everybody else who actually studies the antievolution movement, the evidence from the Kitzmiller case completely demolished the notion that “intelligent design” represented a legitimate field of scholarly inquiry. And it wasn’t “the Darwinists” that put them in that position; it was the record of their actions, painstakingly analyzed and presented to the court. They only have themselves to blame. They could have taken their own rhetoric in the Wedge document seriously and convinced the scientific community first, if they were going to. They chose to give that a pass and push on with the culture war. It’s not our fault that they did their own cause damage that way, and it is not our fault that they absolutely make it necessary to lay all this out in the plainest of terms.
19 thoughts on “Origins of “Intelligent Design” … Again”
The entire presentation, Wests and Caseys, was historical revisionism. They tried to explain away cdesign proponentsists, Dover, the Wedge– they ‘meant’ to do all of it, and anyone who brings up Pandas/Dover/Wedge are using ‘weak arguments’.
On the bright side, it gave me the opportunity to introduce a bunch of OU undergrads to Barbara Forrests work, the PBS documentary on Dover, etc :)
“So far as I can tell, the Thaxton claim that anybody in the movement had a notion to push “intelligent design” rather than creationism in the pre-Edwards run-up to OPAP is completely lacking in substantiation.”
Thaxton didn’t push the thing, which was defined as “creationism” in Edwards. It was something else.
And there is lot of places, where the term “intelligent design” was in fact used before Pandas. James Horigan was for example one of earlier users of the term. He used the term “intelligent design” very many times for example in his book “Change or Design?” (Philosophical Library, 1979). Even Tipler and Barrow used the concept “intelligent design” in their book “The Anthropic Cosmological Principle”.
Thaxton certainly did push the thing known as “creationism”, or more precisely, “creation science” that was referenced in Edwards. Oh, that’s right, you haven’t read “Creation Biology”, the original 1983 draft of the FTE textbook eventually known as “Of Pandas and People”.
Perhaps you missed this bit in my post above?
I can repeat it until it is comprehended.
Despite the persistent cognitive inability of antievolutionists to differentiate the use of a phrase as being broadly descriptive and it supposedly referring to a field of study, rest assured this will not be a general failing of judges given a synopsis such as I gave above.
Yep. I have never seen a book called “Creation Biology”. I’ve heard it was never published, and that’s why it is very difficult to get a copy of it, and review what was actually written in it.
But if you have seen it, please tell me
1. was it written by Thaxton?
2. was Thaxton pushing creationism (6000 year etc. as the term was defined in court) in it, and not allowing any forms of theistic evolution?
Two bits about authorship… The early-1980s notice in “Bible Science Newsletter” identifies Thaxton as the author of the to-be-published textbook from the Foundation for Thought and Ethics. Did they lie then? Thaxton was identified by Buell under oath in court as the academic editor. Did he lie then?
Other bits about Thaxton and creation science … Dr. Forrest discussed the Buell and Thaxton essay on “teaching creation” that was in a 1989 FTE newsletter. Were they lying then? Thaxton was co-author of “The Mystery of Life’s Origins”, in whose epilogue an explicit argument for special creation is made. Was he lying then?
The 1987 SCOTUS decision in Edwards v. Aguillard was about Louisiana’s law titled “Creationism Act”.
Louisiana certainly equivalenced “creationism” and “creation science”. Own goal.
The court’s held opinion is far broader than your comment admits.
The Edwards decision is as contrary to calling “theistic evolution” science as it is for so calling “creation science”. It also put paid to “intelligent design” creationism in the Kitzmiller case.
It would be good to get acknowledgment that you got my point that “intelligent design” has been deployed in two distinguishable ways, a descriptive way that pre-dates 1987, and as a way that was first seen in 1987 where it described a field of inquiry.
Any chance of that happening?
Dean Kenyon’s amicus curiae brief to the SCOTUS for the Edwards case is also useful.
As can be seen there, the “creation science” that was rejected by the SCOTUS has exactly the same features as the current version of creationism. It gainsays evolutionary science and fails to reject young-earth creationist dogma.
“Two bits about authorship… The early-1980s notice in “Bible Science Newsletter” identifies Thaxton as the author of the to-be-published textbook from the Foundation for Thought and Ethics. Did they lie then? Thaxton was identified by Buell under oath in court as the academic editor. Did he lie then?”
I was just asking. Not claiming that you or some other were lying. I’ve heard that Thaxton was “academic editor”, but the title “academic editor” does not mean, that he actually wrote the book himself. I’ve never heard, who were writing earlier versions of Panda. And that’s why I was asking.
“It would be good to get acknowledgment that you got my point that “intelligent design” has been deployed in two distinguishable ways, a descriptive way that pre-dates 1987, and as a way that was first seen in 1987 where it described a field of inquiry.”
Horigan also saw it as a field of inquiry… but you have never read his texts, am I right?
And what about the citation from Kenyon. It was Kenyon’s opinion. Judge didn’t agree with him, and didn’t understand things that way. It was not a part of decision. In the decision was written (1987, from your link):
“After hearing testimony from numerous experts, the District Court in McLean concluded that “the parallels between [the definition section of the model Act] and Genesis are quite specific.” Id., at 1265, n. 19. It found the concepts of “sudden creation from nothing,” a worldwide flood of divine origin, and “kinds” to be derived from Genesis; “relatively recent inception” to mean “an age of the earth from 6,000 to 10,000 years” and to be based “on the genealogy of the Old Testament using the rather astronomical ages assigned to the patriarchs”; and the “separate ancestry of man and ape” to focus on “the portion of the theory of evolution which Fundamentalists find most offensive.” Ibid. (citing Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97 (1968)).”
“teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to schoolchildren might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction. But because the primary purpose of the Creationism Act is to endorse a particular religious doctrine, the Act furthers religion in violation of the Establishment Claus”
So, judge said, that the problem was “purpose… to endorse a particular religious doctrine”. Judge said, that teaching other altenatives is OK, if it is done primary with secular purpose. And then ID movement began.
The concept “creation” had had different meanings for Kenyon and for judges. Perhaps because Kenyon’s opinion was so different than judges had in their mind when they heard the word “creation”, they changed the concept.
You left out a word, so I’ve inserted it for you.
IDC is not science.
IDC has no secular purpose.
IDC is still just a subset of religious antievolution arguments dressed up to go to court. The costume didn’t work at the last outing; I doubt that further tries are going to fool others.
To get the basic facts about the Pandas drafts, what happened in the 1980s, etc., you need to read these:
Scott, E. C., and Matzke, N. (2007). “Biological design in science classrooms.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 104(suppl. 1), 8669-8676. May 15, 2007.
Matzke, N. (2009). “But Isn’t It Creationism? The beginnings of ‘intelligent design’ and Of Pandas and People in the midst of the Arkansas and Louisiana litigation.” Book chapter for the Updated Edition of But Is It Science?: The Philosophical Question in the Creation/Evolution Controversy, Prometheus Books, edited by Robert Pennock and Michael Ruse.
My comments on Horigan are here:
analyysi: I have read Horigan’s book and article.
(a) Show me someone, anyone, in the early ID literature actually citing the guy. You can’t, in 2007, just dig up an obscure reference and then claim it was influential without any evidence that it actually was influential, especially when probably a dozen “histories” of ID have been published, many of them pro-ID, and none of them have ever cited Horigan as a source AFAIK. Ditto for the 1897 Schiller reference and other things dug up after Kitzmiller and retrospectively inserted into apologetic histories of ID. In the vast expanse of english writing some people will occasionally stick the two words together when discussing the Design Argument (e.g. Darwin), and these instances can be found with computer searches (e.g. Horigan’s article comes up when you google the ASA website, probably no one would know about it otherwise) but this is not necessarily at all relevant to the actual history of the modern ID movement and their adoption of “intelligent design” as a term.
(b) Horigan freely mixes in creationist and Bible terminology, whereas denials of exactly this are associated with the ID of the ID movement
(c} Ain’t in a glossary and not an official term in Horigan. Pandas came along and said what “intelligent design” was, instead of just using it in passing. Behe came along and said what “irreducible complexity” was. Horigan did nothing like this for his pairing of the words AFAICT.
Regarding Kenyon & the Edwards decision: precisely because Kenyon, Wendell Bird, & the creationists tried to water down “creation science” to make it less Biblical in order to camouflage its religious origins, the Supreme Court ended up issuing a very broad decision that basically said anything invoking a Creator was religious. The Edwards decision was much broader than the McLean decision. So the creationists really shot themselves in the foot there (and also nuked ID later, since ID was just a relabeling of that vague version of creation science).
Just to inform the discussion:
Percival Davis, Dean Kenyon, and Nancy Pearcey were the primary authors of the 1989 Pandas. They were all YECs
John Buell & Charles Thaxton of FTE managed/edited the project, they apparently decided the word switch, and Thaxton wrote a “Note to Teachers” chapter.
In 1993 Stephen Meyer (now head of the Discovery Institute ID program) & Mark Hartwig (a DI fellow at various points) added a chapter. They are both OECs.
And in 1993 Michael Behe wrote half of a revised chapter 6.
Jonathan Wells & William Dembski produced the 3rd edition of Pandas, “The Design of Life”, in 2006.
And all notable players in the ID movement enthusiastically endorsed Pandas in writing as a good ID textbook.
So they’re all tied to it.
Thanks for the pointer to the PT discussion. I hadn’t realized that “a” had already been corrected on this stuff before.
I have read Horigan’s 1983 JASA article, which uses “intelligent design” exclusively in the descriptive mode typical of pre-1987 antievolution rhetoric. It would seem odd that Horigan would fail to use “ID” in the sense of a field of inquiry in 1983 if that’s what he was pushing in 1979.
And the quotes your provided from the 1979 book on PT in 2007 likewise only show usage of “ID” in the descriptive way common to all pre-1987 antievolution literature.
Your assertions didn’t magically become true since 2007. Why are you repeating them?
“It would seem odd that Horigan would fail to use “ID” in the sense of a field of inquiry in 1983 if that’s what he was pushing in 1979.”
“Intelligent design” was not only term he used. And he perhaps used it with many meanings. (In Pandas the term But he used the term also with quotes, which means that he really saw it as a concept (and saw that others had also been using the same concept before him).
When I first read Thaxton’s article in ASA Journal 1990, I was a bit surprised. I had heard about Matzke’s history of origin of the term. Thaxton didn’t use “intelligent design” as a term in his article, which was his reply to criticism about Pandas. He once wrote words “intelligent design”, but 11 times the form was “intelligent cause”. And “intelligent cause” was the term he used with quotes:
“For Geisler, our offense in using the term “intelligent cause” seems to have been that we did not make a definitive statement as to philosophical category when we used it. We did not do so on purpose. We meant to be equivocal. When someone affirms by experience that some phenomenon had a natural cause, does it automatically inform us as to his or her metaphysical commitment? Of course not. This has been and is part of the genius of modern science. Both theists and atheists can practice science. Theistic scientists may say to themselves that God is above or behind the recurring natural processes they describe, and atheistic scientists may mumble under their breath that nature is all there is. What they say in print or utter in public forums, however, is that the particular phenomenon under discussion is explicable in natural cause terms. We only want the same courtesy extended to intelligent cause, where experience justifies, to use it in a generic sense without it automatically being used to determine one’s metaphysical stance.”
“It seems to me the Bookwatch reviewers merely assumed that by intelligent cause we meant supernatural creator, and objected. Geisler, on the other hand, saw the claim that science does not apprehend the supernatural, and concluded we were denying the supernatural. We tried to limit ourselves to what could be legitimately said on the basis of experience, without regard to metaphysical stance, just as above in the case with natural cause.”
Why he was talking about term “intelligent cause” in his reply (1990)? Didn’t he know, that “intelligent design” was the “official” term in a glossary of Pandas (1989)? Or is the history more complicated than you or Nick presents?
” You can’t, in 2007, just dig up an obscure reference and then claim it was influential without any evidence that it actually was influential, especially when probably a dozen “histories” of ID have been published, many of them pro-ID, and none of them have ever cited Horigan as a source AFAIK. … Horigan’s article comes up when you google the ASA website, probably no one would know about it otherwise) but this is not necessarily at all relevant to the actual history of the modern ID movement and their adoption of “intelligent design” as a term.”
It is not just digging. I know that Thaxton had in fact read Horigan’s book.
Horigan’s book was used at least in one ID book: it was used as a reference in the book “Mere Creation”.
(It is interesting to notice that Thaxton himself used the same (small) publisher as Horigan: both Horigan’s book and Mystery of Life’s origin were published by Philosophical Library)
But why the ASA and it’s Journal perhaps is not irrelevant?
Because ASA was not some unknown organization for earlier ID movement. Thaxton was a member of ASA, like Walter Bradley and many others. Thaxton was obviously one who read ASA’s journal. As you can see from link I provided, he even wrote in ASA Journal about Pandas. If the concept “intelligent design” actually was used often in ASA’s journal before Pandas, it is one possible source, how the term could have become into ID movement.
If someone is finding, whether there the concept “intelligent design” was used before Pandas, there may be also other possible sources. If the concept “intelligent design” was often used for example in Alvin Plantinga’s (whose philosophy has been read by many ID proponents) discussions, then it could be possible source also etc. Unfortunately most of his publications are not available in electronic form. If someone had potential to check, whether the concept “intelligent design” was in fact used in Plantinga’s discussions written or spoken before Pandas was out or not, I would like to know the results.
“Ain’t in a glossary and not an official term in Horigan.”
What is an “official term”? I’m not sure if Horigan had any “official term” in his book, if the requirements are what you were asking. There was not a glossary in Horigan’s book, and if something can be “official term” only, if there it is in books glossary, then it was not “official term” in Horigan. Even though “intelligent design” was perhaps not “official term” in your terms, it was a term for him. And Horigan used it very often.
You told just about history after 1989. Do you know Nick, who were writing the book “Creation Biology”? It could be interesting to know.
Putting quotes around something is not the same as a change in usage. Perhaps English is not your first language. You provided several quotes in that PT thread, but none that support your claim. You obviously have the source handy. It’s your claim to support or abandon, and it seems you prefer to abandon it. Cough up the quote you think actually serves up what it at issue. Nick has read that source and didn’t find ID as field of inquiry therein, so I’m inclined to believe that it isn’t there, just as it wasn’t there in the ASA article that you linked. You could easily prove Nick and I wrong if you were in fact correct. That you don’t do so is telling.
Too much media and internet attention on intelligent design makes it harder for scientists to take seriously those aspects of intelligent design theory which are not religious and do not conflict with evolution. Scientists who take this approach are too often made to look guilty by association in the public eye.
When a board of education tries to present intelligent design as an alternative to Darwin’s theory, they are damaging science and only trying to further the culture wars. Naturalistic versions of intelligent design stay out of the limelight and out of the controversy. They integrate easily into the public education system, partly because they have no interest in the supernatural, and partly because they form such a tiny piece of any course and are nothing upon which to build a curriculum.
Just as Hitler’s program to promote the Aryan race, and social or medical “survival of the fittest” strategies would be bad places to look to learn about evolution, so the Wedge Document, the Dover statement, and now the Texas state school board discussion are bad places to look to learn about intelligent design, for anyone who takes science seriously.
Instead of putting so much focus on the Discovery Institute, how about devising ways to test for intelligence in systems other than neural systems?
Don’t BS us, Glenn. There is no “naturalistic intelligent design”, there’s just “intelligent design” creationism. Pretending that there was anything there, or is anything without the Discovery Institute and their IDC advocates is delusional.
People have worked out how to distinguish chance from the result of a simple computational process. It’s called “the universal distribution”. By “people”, I mean working scientists. It owed nothing to the batch of folks associated with the “intelligent design” creationism movement. This is something that you would already know if you were serious about understanding these issues, or even if you had done your homework in researching “intelligent design” creationism, since the universal distribution gets prominent mention in the 2003 Elsberry and Shallit online essay and again in the 2004 chapter by Shallit and Elsberry in “Why Intelligent Design Fails”.
If you hadn’t noticed, the Discovery Institute is still out to undermine science education and public confidence in scientists and the practice of science. You might, if you had bothered to read the post, have noticed that the speakers were representatives of the Discovery Institute, and the argument made by them is hosted on the Discovery Institute website. Other people reading the post might not wonder why the Discovery Institute comes in for some attention as a result. They actually have some facility in reading comprehension.
Hi again — I didn’t see the rest of this thread until now, but thanks to ann. for pointing out the reference to Horigan in the Mere Creation volume. That’s the first reference I’m aware of.
However, the reference is late (1998) and by Del Ratsch, who is not really “in” the ID movement, more of a commentator on it. And, he is not making a statement that this book was historically important in his or anyone else’s views on the history of ID.
I agree that it is quite plausible that Thaxton read at least Horigan’s ASA article in the ASA journal, because Thaxton was an ASA member, etc. However
(a) there is no positive evidence (such as a citation) for this. For all we know he was on vacation and missed that issue.
(b) Thaxton didn’t switch from creationist language in 1984, he switched after 1987
(c) the Horigan piece is pretty clearly in the tradition of discussion of the Argument from Design, which goes back hundreds of years and where the phrase “intelligent design” or “intelligent Design” occasionally appears, amongst all the other words that are occasionally put in front of the term “design”. Pandas and the “intelligent design” movement tried to disassociate themselves from this stuff, which was an explicit apologetic for God — which is what Horigan is doing too.
(d) Thaxton himself says he came across the term only in 1988 when the “face on Mars” stories came out, and various sources say that switching in the ID term was about the last thing they did before sending to the publisher.
“You told just about history after 1989. Do you know Nick, who were writing the book “Creation Biology”? It could be interesting to know.”
Percival Davis (YEC) and Dean Kenyon (YEC), under the direct of Charles Thaxton, the editor. They all had the same roles when Pandas finally came out.
Wow. I had forgotten about this, but also read Geisler’s 1990 critique:
“Further, it has now been 130 years since Darwin wrote, not 125 as the authors state on page 94.”
Heh, that’s because this passage was written in 1984 or so, not 1989.
“Not the least of these is that it is the first credible attempt of its kind to offer the scientific case for a creationist view in a text intended for public schools and published by a secular publisher.”
Whoops, Geisler’s on my side!
“The age of the earth question is handled very well, not siding in particular with either the young or old earthers.”
Young-earth and old-earth can only refer to creationists.
“Comments on Terminology
The authors of Pandas avoid the word “creation” like the plague. Presumably, this is to avert rejection of the text by the secular market. But why should we be paranoid about the word “creation”? Evolutionists use the term. Darwin even called it the “theory of creation” several times in Origin. Synonyms such as “intelligent design” won’t fool the enemies of creation and may alienate many of its friends. Anti-creationists will see words like “made,” “design,” or “artisan” as synonyms with “creation.” Sharper opponents to creation will view references to an “intelligent cause” who “made” some “creatures” as verbal hide-and-seek (p. 25). Why not come right out and admit this is a book defending creationism?”
Perceptive comments, there.
“Furthermore, by trying to appease one’s enemies we may lose our friends. If we water down our view so much, other creationists may not recognize it as a defense of creation, or consider it so anemic that it is ineffective. What is more, the text is not consistent in avoiding the word “creation.” It slips in twice on page 133 and once on page 59. Even “special creation” occurs once (p. 107). It would not have diminished the effect of the book to interchange the word “creation” with “design” throughout the book.”
Oh, the irony!!
“Avoiding the word “creator” leads to some cumbersome expressions like “master intellect,” “intelligent artisan” and even “primeval intellect,” all of which leave something to be desired. Since the word “creator” has always had a non-religious connotation in our language, there is no reason to avoid it like the bubonic plague.”
Sure, there’s a reason — Edwards v. Aguillard!
“Further, the text claims that the creationist’s view is not based on “gaps” in the fossil record (p. 100), yet the word “gaps” is used in the heading on the same page and elsewhere in the same context without any quotes around it (pp. 96, 107). This appears to be inconsistent and plays into the evolutionist’s hands in ways which creationists wish to avoid, since “gap” may imply that evolution is true but only some evidence is missing.
The authors claim that intelligent design and evolution are considered opposites (p. viii), and yet the possibility of theistic evolution is admitted (p. 113). But since theistic evolutionists believe that the Creator used evolution to design the world, this will seem inconsistent to them.”
Etc… this follows the pattern that several of the important 1980s guys synonymized creationism and intelligent design. Geisler does this to this day, see his 2007 book.
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