The Discovery Institute Does More Myth-Making: Looking at #10

Incredibly butt-hurt over Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District almost ten years after their reaming, the Discovery Institute has a series of advent devotionals that they are calling, I kid you not, “Ten Myths About Dover“. Yes, they make the pretense that they are deconstructing myths others have made, but when one reads the content, one finds far too much misrepresentation, special pleading, and just plain fiction to suspend disbelief.

It appears that this is being done as a countdown.

First up, at #10, is Sarah Chaffee’s Ten Myths About Dover: #10, “The Intelligent Design Movement Died After the Dover Decision”.

Chaffee quotes Kevin Padian, Nick Matzke, and Barry Lynn opining after the Kitzmiller decision was released that “intelligent design” was dead as a strategy to incorporate religious antievolution content into public school classrooms. Chaffee responds that, no, that isn’t true at all; see the “academic freedom” and “critical analysis” bills and policies that have sprung up since Dover:

But in December 2015, the ID movement is not only still alive — it’s thriving. This holds true across the board, in education, science, and the public dialogue.

Over the past decade, academic freedom and objective education on evolution have advanced, reflecting the growth of scientific research and scholarship critical of neo-Darwinian theory and supportive of intelligent design.

I have to thank Chaffee for this clear statement. After all, when I tell people about the role that “oppositional dualism” plays in religious antievolution, they note that as the antievolutionists recalibrate and winnow the subset of creationist arguments that they present for public school science class inclusion, it should become more difficult to establish the provenance of those arguments. But remarks like Chaffee’s above make it clear that the new generation of labels for the same shoddy, discredited content is, in fact, linked directly to the previous iteration of the same dishonest sham they’ve been pulling since 1968’s Epperson v. Arkansas SCOTUS decision.

Of course, that also means that while Chaffee acts like she has responded to Padian, Matzke, and Lynn, she has in fact produced a non sequitur: the “success” due to other marketing ploys (academic freedom, critical analysis, strengths and weaknesses) does not set aside the failure of the marketing ploy at issue (intelligent design).

P.Z. Myers has already responded to Chaffee’s gloating over some lawsuits and a meager set of publications. Back in 2006, I pointed out that mere publication quantity doesn’t demonstrate scientific status:

Last month, I got on the Web of Science database search and looked up the term “cold fusion” and it came up with 900 papers there. “Cold fusion” is the poster child for the “not-ready-for-prime-time” physics theory, something that is not ready for going into 9th grade biology, no, physics textbooks. We see the process of science in things like plate tectonics, and the endosymbiotic theory, the neutral theory, and punctuated equilibria, these are things that have earned a place in the textbooks, because the people put in the work, they convinced the scientific community that they had a point, and that’s why they’re in the textbooks. So, what I’d like to hear from both of you is, is there a justification for giving intelligent design a pass on this process?

Cold fusion is still not a curriculum item in high school physics, and it still has many multiples of the number of publications that Chaffee is bragging about. The notion that mere publications make for accountable science is a non-starter, much like “intelligent design” today.

Chaffee offers some items from Casey Luskin. One of these concerns pseudogenes, and the point that Miller is still correct on this providing evidence of common descent is ably made by Larry Moran.

Chaffee ignores the fact that actually using “intelligent design” as a label for a field of human study worthy of attention in K-12 public school science classrooms has been a loser ever since Dover. It even lost in Ohio in 2006 as merely the thing implicit behind the “critical analysis” language there. Chaffee doesn’t point to people saying “intelligent design” as the thing at issue in various policies since Dover because it isn’t there. Yes, we know (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) that these other labels (academic freedom, critical analysis, strengths and weaknesses) are simply papering over ever-smaller heapings of the same rotten rhetoric that was old when Henry Morris and Duane Gish were mouthing it. With a hat tip to Jerry Coyne, intelligent design is the creationism that dares not speak its name.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

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

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