Discovery Institute Bleats

In an article discussing Google and the news, the Discovery Institute complains that they are victims of a uniform journalistic culture:

We know from our uniform and repeated experience that once something like intelligent design is misdefined as, and equated t,o[sic] creationism, the label sticks. It sticks for exactly the reason that this story subtly highlights in explaining how hidebound traditional reporting is when compared to the internet age. A newspaper reporter defines the idea, and all future reporters at that publication (and many others when you consider somewhere as influential as the AP) simply copy the definition as the defecto[sic] standard no matter that it may be wrong or completely out of touch with reality. So, eventually you get thousands of reporters with one consensus reading, not five.”

There’s a problem with the bleat, of course: “intelligent design” is a label for a subset of the arguments of creationism, so the people who report “intelligent design” as such are simply “following where the evidence leads”. There is nothing that is argued by “intelligent design” advocates that wasn’t argued previously by “creation scientists” and “scientific creationists” before, either as attempted argument related to agency or in the strategy of general criticism of evolutionary science. This was amusingly well-documented during the 2005 Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District trial, where such things as “cdesign proponentsists” were a topic of discussion, and where the Discovery Institute’s own experts testifying under oath show that we had seen those arguments in religious antievolution before:

[Eric Rothschild] Q. We’ll return to that. In any event, in Pandas, there are arguments for intelligent design of higher level biological life?

[Michael Behe] A. Yes, there are.

Q. And we’re clear, that’s not based on your work?

A. It’s not based on any concept of irreducible complexity. It is based on a concept that I discuss in Darwin’s Black Box, the purposeful arrangements of parts.

Q. That purposeful arrangement of parts, that’s not — you didn’t originate that?

A. No, I didn’t.

Q. At least, it goes back to Reverend Paley?

A. Yes, it does. Further back than that.

And DI Fellow Scott Minnich a bit later:

[Stephen Harvey] Q. Dr. Minnich, I’d like to know whether you know that a man named Dr. Dick Bliss, who was affiliated with the Institute for Creation Research, was using the bacterial flagellum as part of his argument for creationism years before the intelligent design movement picked up on it?

THE COURT: All right. The objection is overruled for the record. You can answer the question.

[Scott Minnich] THE WITNESS: No, I wasn’t aware of it, but I’m not surprised. Again, like I asserted yesterday that, the bacterial flagellum is one of the organelles that we know the most about of any. And so it’s natural to look at this structure as a model for either evolution or irreducible complexity. So I’m not surprised. I didn’t know it, but I’m not surprised.

It’s possible for tropes to become established convention and passed on. Certainly, the religious antievolution movement practices this assiduously. But there’s another reason why things may get repeated once stated, and that is because they happen to be true and well-supported by the available evidence. “Intelligent design” is just a label for a subset of religious antievolution argumentation, and represents nothing but a sham to evade legal rulings against religious antievolution being injected into the public schools. Of course the DI has to say it isn’t so, since admitting forthrightly what the evidence has shown over and over again would be “game over” for any future outings in court. The new news should be just as resistant to accepting propaganda from the self-interested as the old-school journalism was supposed to be.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

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

4 thoughts on “Discovery Institute Bleats

  • 2010/06/02 at 7:26 pm

    Something the DI sent out to supporters:

    CSC Summer Seminars on Intelligent Design Report on 2009 Program

    Biologist Jonathan Wells calmly outlines the case for Darwinian evolution as thirty undergrad and graduate students listen intently.

    At this point, it might be tempting for a critic of Darwin to set up a straw man argument and quickly demolish it, but Dr. Wells carefully quotes Darwin and cites the best evidence for his theory. He spends half his lecture explaining how Darwinists themselves understand evolution before proceeding to expose the tautologies inherent in Darwinism and how textbooks have been cherry-picking the data to support evolution.

    After he presents the evidence against universal common ancestry, one student speaks up. “This is very different than what we’ve been taught.” of course, this was not your average college biology course. This was Discovery Institute’s Summer Seminars on Intelligent Design.

    A screen is shown in a picture, and on it are the words “And a phylogenetic tree based on one molecule may be different from a tree based on another molecule.” The caption for the picture states, “CSC Fellow Jonathan Wells teaches students the problems with Darwin’s tree of life.”

    No strawmen there, not at all. “Darwinism” would never allow for statistical variation between evolving molecules (due to chance or selection)? Not to mention that “quotes Darwin” already suggests a strawman, since few honest biologists would do so except to compare (favorably or unfavorably) with present knowledge.

    Above all, to their supporters they’re highlighting creationist Jonathan Wells’ attacks upon evolution (anyone who’s seen them know how pathetic his attacks are), as he deliberately undercuts the idea of common ancestry. At the same time, they whine that journalists “get ID wrong” by identifying it with creationism.

    Perhaps their Designer is in fact Janus, the two-faced god.

    Glen Davidson

  • 2010/06/02 at 7:38 pm

    Just to be clear, what I quoted above was an excerpt, starting from the beginning. It is perhaps a fifth of the one-page “report.”

    Glen Davidson

  • 2010/06/04 at 12:58 pm

    But I can think of a few differences between Intelligent Design and Creationism. For example, the God that Intelligent Design proffers is far more sophisticated than Creationism’s God. Creationism’s God can only think ahead 6,000 years!

    Also, Intelligent Design talks about much smaller things than Creationism. Intelligent Design is based on things we can’t see which are (allegedly) in DNA and genes and molecules. Creationism doesn’t know about these things!


  • 2010/06/04 at 7:59 pm


    Once again, you demonstrate your ignorance of just about everything.

    “Intelligent design” creationism advocates are rather inconsistent. When in front of a Christian audience, they tend to play up God-talk. However, everywhere else they will go on and on about how IDC does not proffer God as “the designer”, and that maybe it is space aliens, but be sure to [wink wink, nudge nudge]. Further, the one thing they come closer to consistency upon is that they don’t attempt to make any declarations about the nature of “the designer”; this is an important area of research upon which they are determined to do nothing, at least until IDC is widely taught as science in the public schools. That includes any consideration of such things as the age of the earth. The intersection of IDC and young-earth creationist advocates is non-empty, as anyone who has looked at the religious antievolution movement for more than a couple of seconds of scrutiny ought to already know. What’s your excuse? IDC is not equivalent to old-earth creationism.

    Speaking of excuses, what is your excuse for not having read the very post that you replied to? The claim that IDC advocates talk about “smaller things” than creationists is just plain false, and the quote above in the post of Scott Minnich’s testimony proves that it is false. Richard Bliss was a member of the Institute for Creation Research, a major organization pushing creationism around the world, and he was blathering on about flagella well before the establishment of IDC.

    In short, your claimed “differences” between IDC and earlier labels for religious antievolution don’t actually stand up to even a small amount of scrutiny. IDC doesn’t take a stand on the age of the earth (it is still amusing to read the variety of responses from IDC advocates asked about that at the 2005 Kansas SBOE hearings), and IDC is really just a subset of argumentation made under earlier religious antievolution labels.

    Your latest reply sadly continues to reinforce your reputation for trollish ignorance. You might try learning something about these topics before making comments about them.

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