ID and Creationism: Learning As I Go

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This entry is part 5 of 8 in the series Is ID Creationism?


A few days I posed a tentative question, wondering whether some of those who do not distinguish Intelligent Design from creationism may be exhibiting a kind of worldview blindness, one that causes them to see everyone different themselves as being all the same. That led to one of the highest-velocity discussions I can remember having on this blog, continuing also here.

I posed it as a question, not a dogmatic statement, and I am committed to remaining a learner in this blogging business. Anyone can suffer from worldview blindness; in fact, I’m sure to some extent all of us do. The best antidote I know of is to listen to and learn from people with different perspectives. Having had this discussion, I would not pose the question the same way I did on Sunday.

I’m still in the process, but this is how I would summarize my views following this discussion (so far). Can Intelligent Design be distinguished from creationism? Several commenters said no, for historical reasons. Its roots are intertwined with scientific creationism of the mid-twentieth century. Early writers on ID used the term interchangeably with creationism for a period of time in the 1990s. Some ID proponents are or have been believers in special creation, some of them even believing in young-earth creation. And ID’s most likely and most common interpretation is that the Designer was God, who is believed to have actually created the world ex nihilo.

So there are multiple ways to define creationism. One commenter said creationism was anti-evolutionism, and if so then ID is creationism. I challenged that person’s view: not that it was necessarily wrong, but that it was an essentially private view that most people would not think of when they hear or read “creationism.” Still it demonstrates that there is not just one way of looking at things.

I acknowledge now that there is a sense in which ID is (usually) a form of creationism, broadly construed as the belief that there has or have been some creation event or events outside the course of law- and chance-driven natural processes. In that broad sense of the term I proudly stand up and proclaim myself a creationist. I was wrong in my first post to define it exclusively in the terms that I used then:

Creationism begins in Genesis and argues for certain conclusions based on a certain understanding of the Scriptures. It is known for its persistence in seeking scientific data that fits that interpretation of Genesis, and for finding creative but irregular interpretations to help in that search. As such it has gained an unsavory scientific reputation.

On the other hand, Plato and Aristotle both made inferences to a First Cause or a designer of some sort, so it is obviously possible to draw a design inference without being a theistic creationist. In the first twenty or so comments on the first post it became apparent that we were dealing with an issue of multiple definitions. That issue was still at the forefront early this morning. For without dispute there are different ways of viewing creationism. On Monday morning I began asking the question a different way: given that there are varying meanings attached to the term, which one is relevant? I content that the relevant meaning of the word is whatever springs to most readers’ or hearer’s minds when they encounter the word, and secondarily it is whatever the person who uses the word intends when they speak or write it.

If every person who said “Intelligent Design is creationism” or insisted always on calling it “Intelligent Design Creationism,” had the broad definition in mind; and if every listener understood it that way, then there would be no strong reason to quibble over it. (There would still be technical problems with it, but I wouldn’t argue them myself.) I don’t think that’s the way the world is, though. It’s certainly not the sense conveyed by my chief interlocutor in these two posts, when he famously said, “Intelligent Design is creationism in a cheap tuxedo. If there was a court case, it would not be found constitutional.” It’s not the sense conveyed in a comment like,

Intelligent Design as a term has quite simply been hijacked for the political purposes of sidestepping the First Amendment in education when Creation Science finally failed its constitutional test.

Charlie reminded us of one ID leader’s take on the topic:

Is [Phillip] Johnson a creationist? The trial lawyer answers the question cautiously, demanding to define the term. “In what sense?,” he asks. “The word ‘creationist’ has been turned by the media into a very specialized word: it means a young-earth, six-day, Biblical literalist.”

If he is right (and I think he is), then that is the relevant definition for purposes of the discussion we have been having.

So for now this is where I land:

  1. There are multiple ways of understanding “creationism.” According to one of them, I am a creationist, the vast majority of ID proponents are creationists, and it would be generally fair to describe ID as creationist (with some exceptions I don’t need to worry about here). I say so with no qualms or reservations, provided the appropriate sense of “creationism” is in view.
  2. Most of the time when “creationism” is used in popular media and especially by ID detractors, however, it is intended to communicate something else: young-earth, Genesis-based beliefs, accompanied by irregular scientific interpretations. It also entails rejection of common descent.
  3. Intelligent Design does not entail rejection of common descent, a young earth, or belief in Genesis.
  4. Intelligent Design therefore is not creationism in the sense stated in (2).
  5. Therefore, from (2) and (4), when “creationism” is used in popular media, and especially by ID detractors, most of the time its effect is to communicate something that does not accurately apply to ID.
  6. Nevertheless ID detractors imply or explicitly affirm that ID is creationism, understood as stated in (2).
  7. When ID detractors communicate this way, they are affirming a false proposition.
  8. When ID detractors affirm this false proposition, they do so either knowingly or unknowingly, aware or unaware.
  9. If they do so knowingly, it seems to me the most likely purpose for their doing so is rhetorical manipulation (see here, here, and here), which is essentially dishonest.
  10. If they do so unawares, then one possible explanation for their doing so is worldview blindness. I continue to hold this as a tentative theory, but I am open to other explanations.

I would be interested to hear if anyone else who has been involved in these discussions could point to anything they learned from them.

Series Navigation (Is ID Creationism?):<<< Questions For Those Who Believe ID Is Creationism“ID Creationism:” The Communication Question >>>
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54 Responses to “ ID and Creationism: Learning As I Go ”

  1. Tom, I don’t think you could possibly be any more clear than you have been in this post. My experience is that the word “creationist” is thrown around as a guilt-by-association ploy for those who have no real substantive answers for the challenges posed by the ID arguments. They know that if they use the word creationist, most people will think of bible-thumping Neanderthals and figure “there’s nothing to see here”. It is an entirely disingenuous and cowardly ploy. But I take heart that it is the knee-jerk and go-to response of atheists (and those who don’t want to be hassled by atheists who have academic or professional power over them) who really have nothing better to offer. The more they do it, the less impressed I am with their position.

    The responses they have offered to the very strong challenges to their position that have emerged since the mid 90’s have reeked of failure and desperation.

  2. Hi Tom.
    The situation is exactly as it always has been and, other than seeing your patience and grace on display again, I have seen nothing of interest added by Matzke and friends.
    It still stands that they use the appellation “creationism” as a tar brush and not to clarify or add any new information to the term “ID”.
    I accept that ID is a renaming of scientific creationism, but that is because scientific creationism was not/is not what its detractors said it was and it had outgrown its relationship to “creationism” commonly construed (as the Johnson quote points out).

    The term ID, by the way, predates E v. A, as do the changes to ID in Pandas.

    On that note, although I think it is true that no ID proponent got his views from Pandas, and although I think almost nobody has read it, I have now ordered a copy so that I can know exactly what it promoted as Intelligent Design and what the term “scientific creationism” meant, before its replacement by ID.

  3. Your point, and Matteo’s, that “creationism” means, in reality “anti-evolution, anti-science” (depending, of course, upon obfuscatory use of the word “evolution”) is what allows an opponent to say that Miller and Conway MOrris (depending on P.Z. Myers’ mood that day) are not creationists while Behe, who shares their view of the evolutionary history of the earth, is.

  4. Good link, thanks T’sinadree,

    Rhetorical value aside, such terms cause scientists
    and educators to assume that ID and YEC proponents
    (including students) adhere to the same systems of
    philosophy and theology. In fact, ID and YEC differ
    significantly. Failing to recognize distinctions between
    these and other teleological positions can create barriers
    to constructive discussion,…

    Hence the tactic.

  5. “Intelligent design is creationism in a cheap tuxedo,” said Nick Matzke, a spokesman for the science education group. “If there was a court case, it would not be found constitutional.”

    Heh, I forgot about that quote. That was in 2004 before the start about the Kitmziller case. How did that turn out? Who made the better prediction about the eventual result of the case, me, or the people who said back then that ID wasn’t creationism and that it was constitutional?

    Heck, we didn’t even know about the Pandas drafts back then, and it was still completely clear.

  6. Perhaps a little off topic, but relevant in a sense…

    I was just reading something and came across the name Leslie Orgel, a biologist and evolutionist now deceased. What I checked out his listing on Wikipedia and what I found particularly interesting is highlighted in bold.

    […]

    Together with Stanley Miller, Orgel also suggested that peptide nucleic acids – rather than ribonucleic acids – constituted the first pre-biotic systems capable of self-replication on early Earth.

    His name is popularly known because of Orgel’s rules, credited to him, particularly Orgel’s Second Rule: “Evolution is cleverer than you are”.

    In his book The Origins of Life, Orgel coined the concept of specified complexity, to describe the criterion by which living organisms are distinguished from non-living matter. He has published over three hundred articles in his research areas.

    […]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leslie_Orgel

    Which leaves me wondering, since it was an evolutionist who coined the term to describe what he observed, why is it that evolutionists have since decided that there is no such thing as specified complexity… or at least, that specified complexity cannot be observed?

  7. Heh, I forgot about that quote. That was in 2004 before the start about the Kitmziller case. How did that turn out? Who made the better prediction about the eventual result of the case, me, or the people who said back then that ID wasn’t creationism and that it was constitutional?

    Unhh… Can we say “O. J. Simpson”? How about “Gallileo”? Put not your trust in princes.

  8. But Kenneth Miller has indeed been called a “creationist” by Jerry Coyne. And more than that, Coyne has even stated that, “this kind of talk comes perilously close to intelligent design; indeed, it may well be a form of intelligent design.”

    This was written after citing what Miller wrote here as an example…

    . . . . .the God that we know through Christianity is not someone who acts like an ordinary human being, who simply happens to be endowed with supernatural powers. We are talking about a being whose intelligence is transcendent; we’re talking about a being who brought the universe into existence, who set up the rules of existence, and uses those rules and that universe and the natural world in which we live to bring about his will.

    Tom has already written about Coyne’s beef with Miller but I bring it up because I think Coyne serves as an example of the “worldview blindness” that Tom is referring to. The conflict is not between “evolution” and “creationism” but between “atheism” and “theism,” and anyone who falls in the theistic camp, including “theistic evolutionists” like Miller, are tagged together with the “creationist” label.

  9. Charlie, I think it’s great that you want to see for yourself what is written in Of Pandas and Peoples. This write-up which you may find enlightening deals in part with the pre-publication drafts of Pandas, and addresses the “creationism” to “ID” switcheroo conspiracy.

  10. A few short random points:

    1. “I’m especially curious about your response to my closing question here, Nick.”

    Is the question, did I learn anything in this thread? My answer, sadly, is not really. Your position is essentially identical to that of a fair number of people who exercise wishful thinking about the independence of ID from creationism — generally these people are reliant on the (latest) “official word” from the DI, generally they start out ignoring things like old-earth creationism and the history of ID, generally they start out ignoring or whitewashing the numerous statements and actual detailed beliefs and arguments of ID proponents themselves, etc.

    I had higher hopes at the beginning, but no biggie. Usually I at least hope for some novel argument for the notion that ID is distinct from creationism. A few years ago, the people at Telic Thoughts, for instance, tried to come up with all kinds of clever, but totally ahistorical, ways to divorce ID from Pandas (impossible) and divorce leading IDers from Pandas (also impossible). That was at least good fun…

    My main goal was just to show that your initial charges were highly and rationally disputable, I think I’ve done that, and it seems you’ve basically admitted that.

    2. Since I answered a question, here are two I’d still like an answer to:

    a. You disagree with YEC. How to do explain the popularity of the young-earth view among evangelical laypeople and pastors? Whose fault is this popularity?

    b. Was Dean Kenyon accurate in his definition of creation science in his Edwards affidavit? And, a slightly different question, was he being honest? And — was he describing ID or creation science?

    2. Re: Kendalf’s reference to the DI’s attempts to coverup and whitewash the Great Post-Edwards Label Switcheroo — that’s great stuff. I particularly like how Thaxton and Buell claims that “creation” was used as a “placeholder” for something other than creationism, even when Thaxton & Buell (a) clearly were on the creationists’ side in Edwards v. Aguillard in the mid-1980s, at the very same time they were working on the book, (b) advertised their draft book as having high sales potential if the creationists won Edwards, (c) hired the creationists’ lead expert witness in Edwards, the YEC Dean Kenyon, to coauthor their textbook. Not creationism? Yeah, right.

    But anyway, for a detailed and not whitewashed version of what happened in the 1980s, see:

    Scott, E. C., and Matzke, N. (2007). “Biological design in science classrooms.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 104(suppl. 1), 8669-8676.

    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.” But Is It Science?: The Philosophical Question in the Creation/Evolution Controversy, Updated Edition, Prometheus Books, edited by Robert Pennock and Michael Ruse. Prometheus Books, Amherst, New York, pp. 377-413.

    (Best if read in this order)

    See also Pennock’s chapter in But Is It Science? on the definition of science, demarcation debate, etc. — no discussion of the Kitzmiller/philosophy of science topic is even competent unless this is discussed in depth.

    3. Orgel’s “specified complexity” is not the same as Dembski’s “specified complexity”, which Dembski claims he got from Orgel (actually the IDists used it in Pandas, before Dembski got into the game). Dembski actually plays a weird little game where he switches between two definitions of SC, without telling anyone. In one definition, you can tell something is SC by looking at it, i.e. a coding gene. In the other definition, you can’t tell if something is SC without determining whether or not it is evolvable. If it’s evolvable, then it’s not SC, by definition, says Dembski.

    So when you take a new gene with a new function (and therefore new SC), and show how it evolved, Dembski will just switch definitions and claim that since it evolved, it’s not SC, and therefore he can still maintain that SC is unevolvable, and the existence of SC is evidence against evolution. But it’s just a big tautology and all very silly.

    4. For the subset of ID-defenders who asserted in this and other threads that people like me who combine ID and creationism do it because they lack good empirical anti-ID arguments: you are clueless. The majority of my several years of work on this topic has been on the scientific topics, look up my stuff on the flagellum, immune system, Icons of Evolution, etc. Ditto for Ken Miller, Rob Pennock, etc. And in the Kitzmiller case we spent probably 3 or 4 times as much trial time rebutting the pseudoscientific arguments of ID, as we did on the history.

    Cheers, Nick

  11. Thanks Kendalf, for that link.
    I have read it before and refreshed my memory on it the other day when Matzke was bringing up the textbook again. It reinforces what I’ve been saying about ‘creation science’, early draft versions and Edwards v Aguillard. In fact, it is my source. There are other things I want to look into in the book. I think it is outdated in the sense of discussing abrupt appearances but I want to see if those are just lines of evidences or ultimate claims of their position. If so, ID has obviously moved beyond even the creation science of Pandas, which already neither started from nor ended at a religious perspective.

  12. Hi Nick,
    Re Kenyon and YEC:
    Are you still stating as fact something you don’t know to be a fact or do you have new evidence on your continued assertion?

  13. Tom,

    I think Nick has answered your queries quite well, but I have a tangential question.

    Suppose that by referring to ID as creationism, I was trying to tar ID with a particular brush. What is on this brush?

    Presumably, there would be some attribute of YEC’s that I would be applying to ID proponents. What might these attributes be?

    There must be some popular perceptions of YEC’s that I’m carrying over to ID proponents. What could these perceptions be?

    YEC’s are ignorant.
    YEC’s are stupid.
    YEC’s are unscientific.
    YEC’s prey on people who are ignorant of science.
    YEC’s have a religious or political agenda.
    YEC’s cherry-pick data to support their conclusions.
    YEC’s rely on gaps arguments.
    YEC’s make no predictions and have no scientific research program.
    YEC’s continually push arguments that have been soundly refuted by the scientific community.

    Were I to call ID a form of creationism (as a rhetorical device), what would I be saying about ID proponents?

    Of course, what it means to the average atheist is different from what it means to the regulars on this blog. What do you think it means to your average Christian reader? Do you think your readers think that YEC’s are stupid or ignorant?

  14. Charlie says:
    October 15, 2009 at 12:54 am

    Hi Nick,
    Re Kenyon and YEC:
    Are you still stating as fact something you don’t know to be a fact or do you have new evidence on your continued assertion?

    What are you saying, that you don’t think he’s a YEC? That I’m making this up?

  15. Is The Origin of Species a creationism in a cheap tuxedo?
    In some editions Darwin is seeing God as some kind of creator. In the broad sense of the term creationism that book looks like a creationist book.

  16. “Orgel’s “specified complexity” is not the same as Dembski’s “specified complexity”, which Dembski claims he got from Orgel (actually the IDists used it in Pandas, before Dembski got into the game). ”

    The term “specified complexity” was often used berore Pandas and before court cases. For example in the book Mystery of Lifes origin (1984) Thaxton etc. used it and referred also to Orgel (see for example p. 130).

  17. hmm, we can trace the origin of specified complexity to YECs. See The Design Revelation by Henry Morris.

    This is no surprise. The ID movement arose not because creationists suddenly developed some shiny new (pseudo) scientific ideas. They simply came up with a new strategy (the Wedge).

    At least YECs regularly publish “research journals”. IDers can’t even do that: Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design quietly died back in 2005 and the Journal of Evolutionary Informatics never even took off.

  18. olegt:

    “we can trace the origin of specified complexity to YECs.”

    Perhaps (the idea, but maybe not the term), and also to Paley, Aristotle, Plato etc. and the idea has roots even in the bible (see Gideon story in the Book of Judges (6 & 7). If I remember correctly, Dembski introduced the term by using Gideon as an example of the person who utilized the idea of “specified complexity” (in the book Intelligent Design). But what then? At least Matzke got it wrong, when he claimed that Dembski got the concept from Pandas. And as I see it, it may even be true, that Dembski originally got the concept from Orgel (via Mystery of Lifes origin).

  19. DoctorLogic,

    Good question—thanks.

    I think my readers probably include some YEC’s, and though I disagree with them I certainly do not think they are stupid. I hold to the literal inspiration of Genesis just as they do, and I think that is fully wise and proper; but I do not fully agree with their interpretation of the first two chapters.

    The “tarring” that you have accurately described is intended for a different audience. If Nick, or Forrest or Pennock, refer to ID as ID Creationism, and if they are doing it for rhetorical purposes, it’s not because they’re trying to embarrass ID among the YEC crowd. They don’t care what the YEC crowd think of ID. They’re trying to embarrass ID among those who think YEC is an embarrassment, mostly the scientific establishment. Further, they are trying to attach a specific strong Biblical religious connection to ID, which I think is primarily for political reasons, since everyone (including YECs) knows that the stronger one can connect ID to some religion, the louder one can yell if ID supporters even make a peep about what might be taught in the American public schools.

  20. I am determined, by the way, not to let this discussion go any further in a direction that DoctorLogic himself said might be a tangent. Specifically, this is not going to become a discussion on educational policy. There has been too much fire and heat and smoke and distortion on this for me to care to get into it here.

  21. Nick,

    One of the indicators of a person’s character is how he handles an extended debate like this one: how clearly he can see the other person’s point, where he stands his ground, where he recognizes he could adjust his position, with what respect he treats the other.

    In the end this is what you say you got out of this discussion.

    Your position is essentially identical to that of a fair number of people who exercise wishful thinking about the independence of ID from creationism — generally these people are reliant on the (latest) “official word” from the DI, generally they start out ignoring things like old-earth creationism and the history of ID, generally they start out ignoring or whitewashing the numerous statements and actual detailed beliefs and arguments of ID proponents themselves, etc.
    I had higher hopes at the beginning, but no biggie

    I appreciate your coming into it with higher hopes, and I appreciate the somewhat positive introduction you put on your PT post about me and this blog.

    I note that you did not actually say that I exercise wishful thinking about the independence of ID from creationism, and etc. That was at least appropriately cautious of you, not to assume that would be true of me.

    But you did approach the whole debate as if I were ignoring the history of ID, its connection with creationism, and ignoring ID proponents’ statements and beliefs. You say in the end,

    My main goal was just to show that your initial charges were highly and rationally disputable, I think I’ve done that, and it seems you’ve basically admitted that.

    What have I admitted? I’ve acknowledged that ID’s historic roots are closely connected with creationism, just as you kept saying. I’ve noted that there are varieties of creationism. By one definition, I have quite gladly owned up to be being a creationist, and have acknowledged that ID is generally creationist.

    But that was a refinement of my starting position, a clarification of specific definitions. With those more careful definitions in mind, my starting and ending position are the same, because I’m still convinced the (clarified) position is true: that by the most common and popular definition of creationism, it is irresponsible to equate ID with creationism, and it is probably evidence of either (a) dishonest manipulative intent, (b) a kind of blindness, or (c ) some third option I’ve been asking someone to suggest but no one has offered.

    Furthermore, I think it’s obvious that this is so, because the definitions of ID and of that common view of creationism are quite different. You ought to know that two entities are not identical if they have different properties. That common definition of creationism has the properties of affirming a young earth, denying common descent, and using a particular interpretation of the Bible as a starting point. None of these properties is true of ID, so ID is not identical to creationism in that common sense of the term.

    Therefore to use careless language like “Intelligent design is creationism in a cheap tuxedo,” or to insist on calling it “Intelligent Design Creationism” is to obscure the terms of discussion, obfuscate the issues, and cheapen oneself by so doing.

    I am surprised that you would not see this and make a call to all your comrades to raise the discourse to a more honest, forthright, and productive level. Instead (since you have accused people like me of kowtowing to the DI) I think it is quite likely you are too committed to the NCSE line that obscures discussion with rhetorically manipulative practices.

    You learned nothing from this discussion (that’s your statement, not mine). That’s a shame. You had opportunity to learn that even though creationism and ID are connected in some ways, there is more than one meaning to “creationism,” and that a responsible writer or speaker would want to be clear as to which one he was referencing when he used the term, and to avoid equating ID with something that it is not equal to.

    Regarding the history of ID and creationism, which you ask me to read about in more depth: I’ve read quite a bit of history of ID from the anti-ID side, especially of course Creationism’s Trojan Horse. You keep asking me, imploring me, reminding me, to be aware of ID’s history. I keep acknowledging the facts that you want me to see, and then you ask me to study it again as if I hadn’t acknowledged it. I find this very odd practice on your part. I guess it’s because I don’t draw the same conclusion you draw, which is that having some shared history makes ID creationism.

    Let me repeat: I acknowledge the historic connections. My point from the beginning has been this: there is a current commonly understood meaning attached to “creationism,” and there is a current meaning to “Intelligent Design,” and it is currently inaccurate to equate the two.

    As I said to someone yesterday, if one cannot recognize the current meanings of terms but has to always tie them to their historic roots, then chemistry is “Chemistry Alchemy” and astronomy is “Astronomy Astrology.” There comes a time when the only reason not to give up that kind of thinking is if you want to embarrass chemistry and astronomy for some reason. That time of course is when chemistry and astronomy take on independent definitions of their own that distinguish themselves from their predecessors.

    In the case of ID, black-and-white thinking would either say “ID has cut itself off completely and forever from creationism,” or “ID is just creationism under another name.” Black-and-white thinking is lazy thinking, and both statements are wrong. ID is still closely connected to (almost identical to) a certain understanding of creationism, but for another understanding of creationism it is clearly different and distinct. That other understanding, from which ID is different and distinct, is still the default understanding in most communications, so unless one specifies otherwise, it is what the listener/reader will take the speaker/writer to mean.

    In other words, if you say “ID is creationism under another name,” you are either demonstrating or else carelessly promoting a false conception and black-and-white thinking.

    I hope it’s not too late for you to learn something from all of this.

  22. Hi Nick,

    Nick Matzke says:
    October 15, 2009 at 5:02 am
    Charlie says:
    October 15, 2009 at 12:54 am

    Hi Nick,
    Re Kenyon and YEC:
    Are you still stating as fact something you don’t know to be a fact or do you have new evidence on your continued assertion?

    What are you saying, that you don’t think he’s a YEC? That I’m making this up?

    The question is clear. Given that you are acting like a source of knowledge and factual information here I’m curious if you actually are such.

  23. As I said to someone yesterday, if one cannot recognize the current meanings of terms but has to always tie them to their historic roots, then chemistry is “Chemistry Alchemy” and astronomy is “Astronomy Astrology.” There comes a time when the only reason not to give up that kind of thinking is if you want to embarrass chemistry and astronomy for some reason. That time of course is when chemistry and astronomy take on independent definitions of their own that distinguish themselves from their predecessors.

    and

    In other words, if you say “ID is creationism under another name,” you are either demonstrating or else carelessly promoting a false conception and black-and-white thinking.

    Good points, both of them. There’s a reason why certain people equate the two terms, and it isn’t because they are commonly understood to have the same meaning. There are other motives at work.

  24. Nick wrote,

    …generally they start out ignoring or whitewashing the numerous statements and actual detailed beliefs and arguments of ID proponents themselves, etc.

    Re: Kendalf’s reference to the DI’s attempts to coverup and whitewash the Great Post-Edwards Label Switcheroo — that’s great stuff. I particularly like how Thaxton and Buell claims that “creation” was used as a “placeholder” for something other than creationism

    But Nick, aren’t you the one who is ignoring and whitewashing what ID proponents say when they are speaking directly in response to a particular issue?

    This is Charles Thaxton’s explanation of the shift from the term “creationism” to “intelligent design” in Of Pandas and Peoples. I quoted this in a previous thread, but let me repost it here.

    “Unfortunately for Westerners … anytime you use the word creation it automatically conjures up any of a number of religious discussions. We knew from the beginning of our project, that turned out to be the making of Of Pandas and People, that we wanted to avoid this automatically concluding that what you’re talking about was religion because in fact we were dealing with a biological discussion. So we were trying to operate entirely within the empirical domain. And my thought was, how to arrive at a set of terms that would allow us to traffic the literature and the discussion and build an argument without having to use terminology that would automatically bring one into the religious realm? …Gradually it became clear that there was a real good way that there was a case we wanted–completely within the empirical domain–and we looked for a term that would do this and reading the literature and ah, ‘intelligent design,’ is the most appropriate term. And that’s why we did it”

    This is consistent with what Thaxton said during his deposition for Kitzmiller v. Dover:

    “I wasn’t comfortable with the typical vocabulary that for the most part creationists were using because it didn’t express what I was trying to do. They were wanting to bring God into the discussion, and I was wanting to stay within the empirical domain and do what you can do legitimately there.”

    To me, Thaxton offers a perfectly reasonable explanation for the switch. And though you may say that Thaxton is simply lying and this is all a conspiracy to cover up the fact they are all really closet “creationists,” this doesn’t change the fact that when “creation” and “creationists” was used in pre-pub versions of Pandas, the meaning of those words was clearly distinct from “creationism” as understood by the court in Edwards (ie, “the religious belief that a supernatural creator was responsible for the creation of humankind”). They may have changed the word, but there was no change to the original meaning, and the original intended meaning did not involve religious belief.

    Your responses seem to indicate that you still do not recognize any distinction between the meanings of “creationism” as proposed by Tom and others in this discussion.

    And I’m still trying to understand what your working definition of “creationism” is. In a previous comment you seemed to accept that Hoyle’s position was creationism, though I would be interested if you could show me where Hoyle actually makes an argument for “some Hindu-esque pantheist creator”.

    Would you also call Kenneth Miller and Karl Gibberson “creationists”, and would Forrest and Pennock agree with you on that? If so, can I quote you? If not, then what are the criteria that you are using to distinguish between Miller & Gibberson versus those like Hoyle and ID proponents that you would call “creationists”?

  25. Yes I agree with you ID opponents deliberately equate ID with biblical creationism. This is because it is easy to argue against biblical creationism, much harder to argue against ID.

    But they go farther than that — they equate the word “evolution” with Darwinist evolution. They pretend that ID denies evolution which of course is untrue.

    So they argue for something that is obviously true — evolution — and against something that is obviously false — biblical creationism.

    And they win easily.

    The real argument is not so easy for them to win. Actually it is impossible for them to win, because the evidence and logic does not support Darwinism.

  26. No time, various points:

    1. It’s true that the term “specified complexity” appears in the 1984 Mystery of Life’s Origins, but back then they weren’t arguing for “ID”, they were explicitly arguing for creation and the two-model approach advocated by creation scientists.

    2. Charlie, you are embarrassing yourself, read the PNAS article, which I already referenced, for the stuff on Kenyon.

    3. Tom, you haven’t even shown that YEC is the dominant understanding of the word “creationism”. The various dictionary definitions that have been quoted in these threads so far don’t even support you.

    4. Part of the reason I take the hard line I do on this is that saying “ID is not creationism” leads, and has lead, to all sorts of inaccurate impressions about the ID movement. E.g., a fair number of people, who have read some stuff about ID, but haven’t really studied it in depth, have gotten the idea that ID denies the young-earth view, and is totally cool with common ancestry. This is exactly the moderate impression which the DI hoped people would get, but the truth is that ID is agnostic on the young-earth (which is ridiculous and scandalous and shameful, scientifically speaking), and mostly against common ancestry (everyone except Behe, and Behe has waffled).

    You still haven’t answered my question about how YEC became so popular with evangelicals. I think a large part of evangelicalism was gullible and let itself swindled by the YECs. What do you think?

  27. Kendalf — Thaxton’s “placeholder” argument is latter-day rationalization. If his understanding of “creation” was totally different from the creationists in 1983-1984, why did Thaxton hire YEC creation scientist Dean Kenyon, right then arguing for the Louisiana Balanced Treatment for creation science in the Supreme Court case, to coauthor his textbook? (Coauthor, with another YEC!). Why did Thaxton himself lobby for the two-model approach in the early 1980s?’

    In general, read the chapter in But Is It Science, it goes through 1980-1984 in more depth than any other source. And what happened back then, vs. what they say happened now, is not a pretty story.

    Cheers!
    Nick

  28. That explains my red face, then, doesn’t it, Nick?
    To further my embarrassment I don’t see the link to this article you are talking about that demonstrates that Kenyon is, as a matter of fact, a Young Earth Creationist, as you continually assert and have for many years.
    Last time I saw you discuss it you referred to his testimony for the “creationist” side and his writing a forward for a creationist’s book.
    But I was wondering if you were still stating for rhetorical effect and as a fact this inference you have made (i.e., did not know to be a fact) or if you actually know it to be a fact.

    Do tell me so that I can end my abject humiliation.

  29. Nick,

    3. Tom, you haven’t even shown that YEC is the dominant understanding of the word “creationism”. The various dictionary definitions that have been quoted in these threads so far don’t even support you.

    I don’t think I need to show it through a dictionary. I can show it through quotes like yours, Forrest’s, and Pennock’s. I could look up more, but it would be an academic exercise. You are feinting at a target that I don’t think exists, and I think you know it, and I don’t feel a need to defend it.

    You still haven’t answered my question about how YEC became so popular with evangelicals. I think a large part of evangelicalism was gullible and let itself swindled by the YECs.

    I don’t see how it relates to the topic at hand. You must understand how it works as a blogger. When I post a topic, I don’t insist on anybody responding to it. People can choose what they want to talk about, or not talk about. You exercised that choice when you jumped in on the first entry of this group of three. You have also exercised that choice by not responding to a lot of other blog entries I have posted.

    Just as I do not require any commenter to respond to whatever topic comes to my mind, I also do not take it as my duty to respond to whatever topic comes to a commenter’s mind. Being the blog host here does not obligate me to letting commenters set my agenda for study or for writing. It’s hard enough keeping up with the topics I initiate; I’m can’t let you make me responsible for topics you initiate.

  30. In general, read the chapter in But Is It Science, it goes through 1980-1984 in more depth than any other source. And what happened back then, vs. what they say happened now, is not a pretty story.

    Wow! In one chapter is written the history in more depth than any other source?

    I recently was readin Del Ratzsch’s book The battle of the beginnings. It is very good source, and tells lot about the history of the creationism. As a book written in the beginning of the 1990s and published in 1996, it tells much about that, how history of the creationism has been interpreted before the terminology campaigns.

    Ratzsch shows, how there was not just one creationist movement, but many. And they had very different kind of thoughts: for example about what are species, or which kind of evolution is possible. Because there WAS NOT same categories than now, people themselves described themselves using existent terminology. Because there was not the term ID before it was coined and popularized, it was not possible to use that term. That’s why a few people described themselves as a creationist, even though they were not creationists, if the term was understood in terms of popular interpretation. That’s why even well known evolutionary biologist Dobzhansky (who was theistic evolutionist) said that he is also a creationist. But that was not the most widely used definition of creationism, (also in some court cases were used very special definitions, but by different people: they also doesn’t tell much about how people in fact usually understood the terms).

  31. Link to Nick’s article in PNAS: doi:10.1073/pnas.0701505104. For those who don’t have access to the journal, here is the relevant excerpt:

    Kenyon in 1981 had been scheduled as a defense (i.e., creation science) witness in the McLean trial (although he did not testify). He was to be Wendell Bird’s lead expert in the Louisiana litigation, Edwards v. Aguillard. He also had authored several forewords for creationist books and stated in interviews that he believed there were “no errors in the Bible,” that “10,000 to 20,000 years ago—the entire cosmos was brought into existence out of nothing at all by supernatural creation,” (78) and that he had converted to scientific creationism after reading books by Wilder-Smith and Henry Morris (79).

  32. Yep. Kenyon may have been a creationist at least during the years 1976-1980. (I’m not sure, if the cited words were in fact written as Kenyon himself said them: I have studied journalism as a minor and my teachers have said that in newspaper you must not always cite the person as he or she has in fact said. In newpaper journalist can simplify and summarize the views. I have been personally interviewed some times, and also always have not even recognized the citation from newspaper as my own words :).

    In the referred newspaper article is written about Kenyon’s changing views about evolution (they had been changing 4 years). But I’m not sure, was the changing stopped in 1980. I’ve thought that his views were much more open for the alternative of older universe in the late 1980s.

  33. When I was investigating about marketing I found a lot of definitions (I think there are 160 + or so), but everybody was agree to start with McCarthy, 1950, and with Levitt 1960.

    In IT when you talk about computers the first definitios are babagge’s (1850 or so) and Turing (1930).

    In psychology, you cannot start with it without finding Freud, and I heard that psychoanalisis is somewhat descredited nowadays. But freud is still mentioned.

    In language adquisition when defining it, you refer to skinner (conductist, 30s), piaget (60s,cognitive opposite of skinner), chomsky (80s) etc. I’m saying that even points of view that not longer are mainstream but yet used in certain contexts as skinner are part of a field definition

    When Tom says that ID has changed so much that a 5 year old definitions can’t be used I wonder in which way, so I’d like to ask some link with the 10 year old definition, the 5 year one, and the current one. I want to compare both to see what had changed since you cannot understand something without the time context.

    And Tom giving that example of Physics – Alchemy is not fair, you’re talking about 500 years differences. So you’re saying that ID 5 years ago was in dark ages (since we can’t use it at all) and in few months now is a complete valid science.

  34. Nick, in comment 12 of this thread you summarily dismissed those who consider ID and creationism independent as engaging in “wishful thinking”, and you criticize them for ignoring or whitewashing the “actual detailed beliefs and arguments of ID proponents themselves.” And yet here you are, trying to dismiss Thaxton’s statements as “latter-day rationalization” and basing your conclusion on his cooperation with Dean Kenyon, rather than addressing the actual detailed argument presented by Thaxton himself. Wouldn’t it be reasonable for an unbiased observer to think that you are the one who is ignoring or whitewashing what ID proponents have actually stated?

    I would certainly appreciate seeing the article that quotes Dean Kenyon as a YEC. But even granting for the sake of argument that he is, what would that prove? The position of a book is determined by the written content, not by the personal position of the author(s). You have not addressed any of the actual content of Pandas (both pre and post publication) that has been presented which contradicts your statement that the authors were making a case for a religiously based creationism.

    In addition, is it really difficult to imagine two people who hold different and even opposing positions working together on a book? Dembski and Ruse were co-editors for “Debating Design” even though they certainly don’t agree with each other about ID.

    hmm provides another excellent example with Dobzhansky of the varied meanings of “creationist” and “creationism.” I will be waiting for your answer on whether you (and Forrest and Pennock) would call Kenneth Miller and Karl Gibberson “creationists,” because that will certainly help me to better understand what you mean by that term.

  35. Tom

    I apologize if I insist so much in this and past threads about ID history, but for me when you talk about science you’re talking about something that is constantly moving.

    Just imagine that this debate starts again in 4 years and someone tells you

    “.. Let’s remember what you said 3 years ago…” and you answer
    “.. no, forget what I said 3 year ago, the field has changed, and now this is the deal…”

    When it’s going to stop, how and when will be valid to use past knowledge to explain today (as almost all scientific fields do)

  36. Hector, the point is that currently there is a current way that ID is currently defined, and currently there is a current default way that “creationism” is currently understood by current speakers/writers and current listeners/readers; and that currently the current definition of ID is currently different from that current default usage of “creationism,” and currently to support the current default usage of “creationism” as if it were currently the same as the current meaning of ID is currently bound to cause current confusion and current misunderstanding among current people involved in current discussions, and so those who want to reduce current confusion and enhance current excellence in current dialogue would do well to cease currently being currently careless about their current choice of terms.

    Have I made myself currently clear?

    I have tried and tried to make this point. I have acknowledged over and over and over and over and over again the historical piece of the discussion. There are commonalities and there are distinctions, both historically based, and both with current ramifications. Over and over again I have dealt with the distinction that matters for the sake of dialogue and debate, which I have done again just now. If this doesn’t make my point abundantly plain, then I will give up trying: not because the point can’t be made or hasn’t been made, but because some people refuse to recognize that what we’re dealing with here is a current debate with current realities.

  37. Creation science is not correctable, dynamic, tentative or progressive : Creationism professes to adhere to an “absolute Truth”, “the word of God”, instead of a provisional assessment of data which can change when new information is discovered. The idea of the progressive growth of scientific ideas is required to explain previous data and any previously unexplainable data as well as any future data. It is often given as a justification for the naturalistic basis of science. In any practical sense of the concept, creation science is not progressive: it does not explain or expand upon what went before it and is not consistent with established ancillary theories.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creation_science#Scientific_criticism

    Who’s moving the goalpost now?

    Just imagine that this debate starts again in 4 years and someone tells you

    “.. Let’s remember what you said 3 years ago…” and you answer
    “.. no, forget what I said 3 year ago, the field has changed, and now this is the deal…”

    When it’s going to stop, how and when will be valid to use past knowledge to explain today (as almost all scientific fields do)

    “Science” is “tentative” by definition. “Creationism” is (supposed to be) “dogmatic” by definition. “ID” offers “tentative” theories about the phenomena we observe. (so does “creation-science”). As I have noted previously, the difference between materialistic science and creation science is not “scientific” but metaphysical. ID and creation-science both offer tentative analyses of observed natural phenomena and both change their analyses as their knowledge of nature progresses.

  38. 1. I already said in one of these threads that I think the best/most accurate/historically original/found in dictionaries/most representative of the debate at all times between Darwin and now definition is that creationism = invoking special creation in biology. So Miller, Giberson, etc. are not creationists on that definition, whereas Behe etc. are.

    There is a vague way in which any theist who thinks God created the universe is a “creationist”, of course, but even Dobzhansky, Miller, etc., explicitly acknowledge that this is an unusual usage because they disagree with creationism in the special-creation-events-in-biology sense.

    These understandings of the words are all pretty much the consensus amongst scholars who’ve studied the debate for awhile, what I’m saying is not at all unusual.

    2. Re: Thaxton, read my articles, I’m not going to repost the whole thing here.

  39. Nick wrote:

    I already said in one of these threads that I think the best/most accurate/historically original/found in dictionaries/most representative of the debate at all times between Darwin and now definition is that creationism = invoking special creation in biology. So Miller, Giberson, etc. are not creationists on that definition, whereas Behe etc. are.

    So if ID theory does not invoke special creation in biology, will you then stop calling it Intelligent Design Creationism? Note that I am speaking about ID as a theory, not the personal beliefs of ID proponents, who may indeed accept special creation.

    From Michael Behe’s book, Edge of Evolution:

    “The possibility of intelligent design is quite compatible with common descent, which some religious people disdain. What’s more, although some religious thinkers envision active, continuing intervention in nature, intelligent design is quite compatible with the view that the universe operates by unbroken natural law, with the design of life perhaps packed into its initial set-up” (166)

    The purposeful design of life to any degree is easily compatible with the idea that, after its initiation, the universe unfolded exclusively by the intended playing out of natural laws. The purposeful design of life is also fully compatible with the idea of universal common descent, one important facet of Darwin’s theory” (232).

    From Behe’s reply to Shanks and Joplin, which is actually found on the NCSE website, so you should have no reason to not be familiar with this:

    “I have no reason to think that a designer could not have used suitably modified pre-existent material. My argument in Darwin’s Black Box was directed merely toward the conclusion of design. How the design was effected is a separate and much more difficult question to address. Although creation ex nihilo is a formal possibility, design might have been produced by some other means that involved no discontinuities in natural law, even if the designer is a supernatural being.

    One possibility is directed mutations. As noted by Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller in Finding Darwin’s God (New York: HarperCollins, 1999), “[t]he indeterminate nature of quantum events would allow a clever and subtle God to influence events in ways that are profound, but scientifically undetectable to us. Those events could include the appearance of mutations…” (p 241). I have no reason to object to that as a route to irreducibly complex systems. I would just note further that such a process amounts to “intelligent design”, and that while we may be unable to discern the means by which the design is effected, the resultant design itself may be detected in the structure of the irreducibly complex system.

    The core claim of intelligent design theory is quite limited. It says nothing directly about how biological design was produced, who the designer was, whether there has been common descent, or other such questions. Those can be addressed separately. It says only that design can be empirically detected in observable features of physical systems.” (link)

    So ID is consistent with a view that design was incorporated right at the beginning of the universe, with no subsequent break to natural law, and thus no special creation. By your definition then, ID is not creationism, because it does not require special creation. At most you can say that there are some Intelligent Design Creationists (the way we can refer to theistic evolutionists), but you cannot refer to Intelligent Design Creationism as an accurate term to describe ID theory.

  40. Eh, of course I’ve heard all of this before. Here’s the standard reply.

    First, Behe has said other things in other places — e.g. he once said the flagellum originated in a puff of smoke.

    Second, even just rearranging preexisting molecules or atoms would still be special creation — it would violate conservation of energy, even if conservation of mass wasn’t violated. “Atoms flashed into living matter” as Darwin put it. And of course in the Bible, specially created critters don’t come from nowhere, God creates them out of clay, etc.

    Third, Behe’s whole argument originally was that IC structures couldn’t originate gradually, because they wouldn’t be functional until complete. This directly suggested all-at-once assembly. He still maintains this argument. Thus it is extremely difficult to see how the front-loading suggestion can be taken seriously as anything other than another red herring thrown out there precisely to dodge the creationism charge.

    I mean really, how do you front-load the flagellum into the Big Bang, such that natural processes inevitably produce it later? It’s like Scotty said in the 2009 Star Trek movie:

    Look, even if I believed you — where you’re from, what I’ve done — which I don’t — we’re still talkin’ bout slingshotting aboard while she’s going faster than light. Without a proper receiving pad, that’s like tryin’a hit a bullet with a smaller bullet, wearing a blindfold. On a horse.

    …except unimaginably worse.

    Remember, Behe can’t use natural selection to help — and it’s the only serious possibility for a natural process that could help — because natural selection is specifically what he is arguing against!!

    Fourth, against the all-natural-process-ID-proposal, we have to weight the innumerable statements by Behe and the rest of the ID movement inveighing against naturalism and criticizing the idea that natural processes can explain the flagellum and everything else complicated in biology. Are we just suddenly supposed to forget about all of that, like it never happened?

  41. Nick, there are standard replies to everything.

    Your only reply here, now or in the past, has been, “I’m right, you’re wrong.”

    My approach as often as possible (which isn’t every time), is, “that’s worth thinking about, I’ll take what you’re saying into account, and I’ll learn from it; but of course where your argument isn’t strong against mine I’ll stick with my position.” You know I did that with Midgley in our prior interactions, by the way.

    Have you ever said anything like that on any ID-oriented blog? Or is everything ever said by any ID supporter or sympathizer always stupid, wrong, and not worth bothering with?

  42. Nick Matzke wrote:

    “First, Behe has said other things in other places — e.g. he once said the flagellum originated in a puff of smoke.”

    When addressing an argument, one should accurately represent it in its strongest form. Are you really basing your claims on a sentence (quoted in many places, but I don’t know, what else Behe actually originally said in the first place), which was originally a joke and said after a long night of drinking?

    According to Larry Arnhart, the history of this “puff of smoke” quote went like this:

    “After Michael Behe’s lecture, some of us pressed him to explain exactly how the intelligent designer created the various “irreducibly complex” mechanisms that cannot–according to Behe–be explained as products of evolution by natural selection. He repeatedly refused to answer. But after a long night of drinking, he finally answered: “A puff of smoke!” A physicist in the group asked, Do you mean a suspension of the laws of physics? Yes, Behe answered. Well, that’s not going to be very persuasive as a scientific answer. And clearly Behe and other ID proponents prefer not to answer the question.”

  43. Nick, I’ve already granted that there are ID proponents who believe in special creation. Your response does nothing to address the point that ID theory does not require special creation and therefore by your definition of creationism you cannot call ID creationism.

    The vast majority of evolution proponents are atheists; would this mean it is appropriate to call it “evolutionary atheism” or “atheistic evolution”?

  44. “Are you really basing your claims on a sentence (quoted in many places, but I don’t know, what else Behe actually originally said in the first place), which was originally a joke and said after a long night of drinking?”

    Well, yes, of course he’s going to base his claims on such a thing. That’s what one does when one has a weak case.

  45. ” The vast majority of evolution proponents are atheists; would this mean it is appropriate to call it “evolutionary atheism” or “atheistic evolution”? ”

    The phrase with equivalent bigoted rhetorical connotations would be even worse: “heathen biology”. A reasonable common-run scientist would find this to be an asinine, uncool, woefully inaccurate term to use. If so, he’d have a good grasp of just what “intelligent design creationism” means to those who would like to have a rational discussion on the merits. Either term simply amounts to trying to use “f*ck you” as a compelling scientific argument. Tellingly, the vast majority of precisely this kind of foolishness is coming from one side of the argument and not the other.

    I, for one, view the rhetorical use of the term “intelligent design creationism” to be an open admission of defeat. Invariably, those who use it simply have nothing valuable to add to the discussion. Further, the rhetorical use of “cdesign proponentists” has become the quintessential badge of know-nothingism.

  46. Hi Nick (Matzke)

    I found this statement interesting…

    First, Behe has said other things in other places — e.g. he once said the flagellum originated in a puff of smoke.

    Ohhh the irony… It “originated in a puff of smoke!” That’s actually quite witty. Which is easier: to say, ‘It evolved,’ or to say, ‘It originated in a puff of smoke’?
    Matthew 9: 4-6

  47.