Tom Gilson

More evidence for miscommunication

Thank you, Larry Fafarman, for answering this, written by Nick Matzke at Panda’s Thumb:

Just last week over at the Thinking Christian blog there was a huge stink raised over the alleged inappropriateness of linking ID to creationism. After much argument the anti-linkage people more or less conceded that there were some good reasons to link ID to a somewhat generic definition of creationism (relying on special creation), but still protested loudly about how inappropriate it was to make the linkage, because most people (allegedly) would assume that creationism = young-earth creationism, and linking ID to young-earth creationism was oh-so-wildly unfair.

Larry wrote,

No, the “huge stink” was not “over the alleged inappropriateness of linking ID to creationism” — the huge stink was over the term “ID creationism,” which represents the notion that ID and creationism are so intimately linked that ID cannot or should not be mentioned without also mentioning creationism in the same breath.

That is correct. Note that Nick acknowledges we got somewhere at the end of all the discussion. (Thank you for noticing, that, Nick.) But he got it wrong.

I did not protest that “linking ID to young-earth creationism was oh-so-wildly unfair.” I never said, “unfair;” I said, “confused, and poor communication.” I said that to carelessly link ID to creationism, without specifying what you mean by it in context, is to obfuscate issues that should not, must not, be made more muddled than they already are. It is poor communication because it is so likely to be misleading. False conceptions abound on both sides of this issue, and for ID opponents to be careless with their terminology this way is no help.

For Nick to be so careless with his assessment of our discussion does not speak well either for his own awareness of what is going on, or else for his willingness to address it honestly.

In fact it is no help to his own position. In any conflict, dispute, or battle, the last thing a wise contender wants to do is to enter with a distorted view of the other side’s position. Military commanders want to know the enemy’s true strength and position, not some watered-down version that makes them look weaker or stupider than what is real. To see a conflict falsely is to reduce your own readiness for it. Thus the more that opponents misunderstand and misrepresent ID or its proponents, the easier they make it for us in the long run.

So do I think it’s “unfair” that ID gets distorted by careless, unspecified linkage to creationism? Sure, it’s an annoyance: I think in the short run its effect is detrimental to ID’s position, because of the time we have to waste on clearing away misconceptions. In the long run, though, ID’s opponents are the ones being damaged; they’re hurting themselves with it.

In other words, Nick, you’re being unfair to yourself.

55 thoughts on “More evidence for miscommunication

  1. Good grief. I cannot believe that you linked to that post without commenting on the substantive issue that it raised. Let’s get the rest of the post on the table:

    Comment portion edited by siteowner. See below.

    So let’s get this straight. A prominent figure in the ID movement endorses a YEC conference. This isn’t “careless, unspecified linkage to creationism”, it’s deliberate, specific and enthusiastic linkage to creationism – isn’t it? But do you criticize Dean Kenyon? Of course not; according to you, Tom, the fault lies with “ID opponents” like Nick being “careless”, and that “ID’s opponents are the ones being damaged.”

    It’s amusing to compare your treatment of Dawkins from that of Kenyon. If you can twist Dawkins’ actions into a lack of commitment to science, how do you feel about Kenyon’s? Don’t be shy….

    Geoff (in Shenzhen, trip extended for another two weeks)

    Siteowner is suitably impressed that commenter is in China again.

  2. Thus the more that opponents misunderstand and misrepresent ID or its proponents, the easier they make it for us in the long run.
    ….
    In the long run, though, ID’s opponents are the ones being damaged; they’re hurting themselves with it.

    A similar situation has been going on for a very long time. The misunderstanding/misrepresentation of Christian faith as blind faith, anti-science, anti-reason, superstitious nonsense, etc. It ruffles the feathers for a while, but then people get tired of correcting the misunderstanding/misrepresentation because it becomes clear to everyone that the intent is to distort the truth rather than to understand it.

  3. If a Christian endorses a science conference, will you link the two together, Geoff? Or how about an IDist endorsing a conference on evolution?

  4. SteveK: If a Christian endorses a science conference, and his previous positions are consistent with a scientific world-view, I will happily describe him as a “Christian scientist”. (Or, rather, I would if that phrase had not been hijacked by a bunch of wackos; I guess I’d need to find some equivalent circumlocution.) What’s so strange about that? Of course that kind of “careless, unspecified linkage” is what gets Tom so upset, but that’s his problem.

  5. Geoff,

    You wrote,

    Good grief. I cannot believe that you linked to that post without commenting on the substantive issue that it raised. Let’s get the rest of the post on the table:

    No.

    My purpose in linking to it was not to discuss Dean Kenyon or a conference about which I have no corroborating information. My purpose was to respond to what Nick said about our prior discussion here. This blog will not be hijacked to complain about something that you bring up, for which I have claimed no responsibility, and which is likely to cause a whole lot more smoke and heat than light.

    I’m editing out the rest of your comment and the related discussion.

  6. To be as concise and specific as possible: it is not just the anti-ID commentators who are making explicit links between ID and YEC, it’s also the pro-ID contributors and commentators at the best known pro-ID blog.

  7. Geoff:

    How do I feel about Kenyon linking ID and YEC? If he communicates clearly what he means by creationism and ID, then I think he’s doing a fine job of communicating, unlike Matzke et al.

    But I haven’t read enough of what he says in context to comment any further on what he is saying or not saying.

  8. Regarding my editing away some comments: It was not very long ago that I observed the strange phenomenon that any mention of any specific ID-related was considered an opportunity to jump all over every other aspect of ID. I do not support that practice here.

    This blog post is about whether the careless, unspecified attachment of “creationism” to ID is helpful to the debate. (The title is about communication, if you did not notice.) It is not about whether some ID proponents are young-earth creationists, or whether they should be or not. If they are (or are not) and are careless in communicating the relation between ID and creationism (in any of its forms), then I think they make the same error that Matzke made. But I don’t see that happening.

  9. I’m confused: what precisely is this thread about, if it is not about the increasing linkage between ID and YEC among both anti-ID and pro-ID commentators and contributors, specifically at Panda’s Thumb (where Nick Matzke’s blog appeared) and Uncommon Descent (where the post about the YEC conference in Italy appeared)?

  10. It is about carelessness in communication. The entire 6-post series that Nick was referring to there at PT was about carelessness in communication, especially the latter half of it, to which Nick was referring.

    See my previous comment for more.

  11. In my experience, one person’s “carelessness in communication” is another person’s “Freudian slip”, exposing an underlying belief/worldview which the “slipper” does not wish to publicly express (or sometimes even acknowledge). If ID supporters consistently and repeatedly link ID and YEC (as I pointed out, with citations, in the comments that you deleted), doesn’t this qualify as evidence that such linkage is not “carelessness”, but rather a clear indication of the ID supporter’s underlying sympathies/biases/worldview? If so, then Nick Matzke’s assertion that ID is conceptually and politically (and, perhaps, religiously) linked with creationism is indeed supported by the evidence, isn’t it?

  12. Allen McNeill:If ID supporters consistently and repeatedly link ID and YEC (as I pointed out, with citations, in the comments that you deleted), doesn’t this qualify as evidence that such linkage is not “carelessness”, but rather a clear indication of the ID supporter’s underlying sympathies/biases/worldview?

    Tom,
    Allen brings up a good point here. Aren’t you making the ‘no true Scotsman’ argument? Your argument seems to go something like this:

    Tom: ‘No clear communication links ID and creationism.’

    Nick: ‘Dean Kenyon, senior ID fellow and primary author of the ID textbook OPAP links them in a recent communication.’

    Tom: ‘Then that wasn’t clear communication.’

    To demonstrate that Dean is being careless or unclear, you have to give evidence that is independent of your claim. I.e. you must come up with some evidence (that he is being careless) separate from his linkage of the two terms. Otherwise your are merely assuming what you are trying to prove.

  13. Eric and Allen, please see this comment.

    More specifically, Eric, you are addressing a problem you think I have, which I do not have. I have never said, “No clear communication links ID and creationism.” I don’t agree with that statement at all (see the point labeled #1 here).

    What I have said is that when ID antagonists link ID and creationism without being clear about what they are saying, then communication is obfuscated. This is not because there is no link between ID and creationism, but because “creationism” has multiple different denotations and connotations, and some of them accurately apply to ID, some accurately apply to segments of ID proponents, and some do not apply to ID properly at all.

    And if IDers make the same mistake—I haven’t seen it happen, but I acknowledge it could—then I’ll point it out with them, too.

    If you need more background and insight on this, I invite you to read the discussion in the series on ID and creationism that began with this post and continues through five more, totaling (with comments) the equivalent of 400 single-spaced word processor pages. Matzke participated in much of it and (based on my blog logs) saw all of it. And in the end he still misrepresented it. It’s not because I didn’t say it clearly, and certainly not because I didn’t say it often enough.

  14. Tom: What I have said is that when ID antagonists link ID and creationism without being clear about what they are saying, then communication is obfuscated….
    And if IDers make the same mistake—I haven’t seen it happen, but I acknowledge it could—then I’ll point it out with them, too.

    Do you consider Dean Kenyon to be an ID antagonist or an IDer? Because it seems factually true that Dean Kenyon (a) wrote a textbook on ID and (b) links ID to young earth creationism.

  15. Eric, why do you keep asking about this? Do you realize you’re not getting what my post was about, or my subsequent comments?

    It’s not about whether some ID proponents are or are not YEC proponents. It’s about… well, I’m not going to say it again, because I said it in my last comment, and the one before that, and the one before that, and in dozens of comments and posts preceding these in the past few weeks.

  16. Geoff,

    If a Christian endorses a science conference, and his previous positions are consistent with a scientific world-view, I will happily describe him as a “Christian scientist”. (Or, rather, I would if that phrase had not been hijacked by a bunch of wackos; I guess I’d need to find some equivalent circumlocution.) What’s so strange about that?

    There’s nothing strange about that. You are making Tom’s point here and I suspect you don’t even realize it.

    You said the term “Christian scientist” applies as a descriptor, but because that term/phrase is already commonly understood to mean something else, you might want to use another term/phrase.

    EDIT: Or, at the very least, clarify what you mean by the term so there is no confusion.

  17. Tom: It’s about… well, I’m not going to say it again…

    I will. Your point of seven posts was that the term ‘ID creationism’ muddies discussion about how ID and creationism may or may not be related. Your point of this post is that Nick was wrong to think that the other seven posts were about the links between ID and creationism, because they were about terminology.

    I get it, I’m just disappointed. I thought that the purpose of defining terms was to use them to discuss substantive issues. I guess that’s next post.

    But consider Nick’s post for your next post. Here’s a conference, touted by its participants as discussing “both sides” of the evolutionary debate. Dean Kenyon, one of ID’s founding fathers, is commenting on the value of geological evidence for a young earth. This seems a perfect opportunity to use your ID term to get at some meat. Do you think the ‘other side’ referred to by the conference organizers is ID, or creationism? Or do you think this is a good example of the muddying you want to avoid? Do you think toppling evolution’s \twin pillars of the geological time-scale and the fossil record\ supports Design, or Creationism? Or both? Or neither, because of the contrived duality implied?

  18. Allen, I saw this on PT:

    I agree, and find Tom Gilson’s heavy-handed censoring of the thread responding to Nick Matzke and me to be an example of the kind of anti-intellectualism that so often passes for “debate” among many of the anti-evolution/pro-ID web. The web is virtually free and so is the extra bandwidth to leave up polite, if sometimes somewhat off-topic comments. Gilson’s knee-jerk removal of any and all comments that do not adhere strictly to his definition of the subject of a thread speaks more eloquently to his intolerance of differing viewpoints than anything Nick or I posted there.

    I won’t respond to this there because of nice people like “Registered User” on that blog. (Thank you, Nick, for calling him on that.) But I will address what you said here.

    First, if you want evidence that I run from differing viewpoints, try here, and especially this on how that site got started. Or look at my extended discussion with Tom Clark.

    Yes, bandwidth is free, but bloggers can have different approaches to blogging. I put mine in writing, including this:

    3. You are welcome to comment on any topic raised in the blog entry to which your comment is attached. This is not the place to share just anything that’s on your mind, though. Comments introducing tangential or completely new topics for argument may be edited or deleted. (This applies especially to material that is deemed to be mere advertising for other sites.)

    I have recently led a discussion which, as you know because I said it in a prior comment on this thread, extended to the equivalent of 400 single-space word processor pages. I will now explain my editing of your comments in light of what I have just said.

    1. It was not motivated by anti-intellectualism or a censorship mood. I have shown that I am very open to strong differences of opinion.
    2. It was exactly what I said it was: keeping the conversation on topic.
    3. My motivation for keeping the conversation on topic is two-fold:
    a. I prefer to keep discussions focused, because they are more productive that way.
    b. That recent 400-page discussion on the same topic recently was plenty for me. I wouldn’t have blogged on it again now, except I didn’t like being misrepresented on PT. (Not that I should have expected anything other than that.)
    4. You were calling on me to explain and/or defend things written on Uncommon Descent, as if being an ID proponent makes me responsible to do that. But I have a life of my own to live, and keeping things on topic helps prevent me from being made responsible for every little or big issue that a commenter might ask me to write about.

    I’m not hopeful that you’ll change your opinion about me based on this, but I can at least hope that other readers will recognize, based on abundant evidence, that when I edit comments it’s not because I can’t handle disagreement. In fact whenever I edit a comment (or ban a commenter), I explain why I do it, and believe it or not, when I do that, I tell the truth. If you want to know the real reason why your comments were edited, please just read the thread. It’s right there for you.

  19. SteveK: I am certainly not making Tom’s point for him. My use of “Christian scientist” would be linguistically unexceptional, right alongside “Buddhist scientist” or “French scientist” or “left-handed scientist”. A simple combination of a noun and an adjective which provides more information than the noun alone. Unfortunately, the phrase “Christian scientist” has been adopted as a brand name in an unrelated context, so I need to disambiguate.

    I’m pretty sure that “ID creationism” has not been trademarked or otherwise pre-empted for some unrelated purpose. Therefore, those who want to use the term to describe a position in which the salient features of ID and creationism are combined can do so without fear of what computer scientists would call a “name clash”.

    Tom’s position seems to be that this combination is “careless” and “not helpful”. Dean Kenyon’s recent action provide clear evidence that the phrase “ID creationism” is a meaningful term – that there are people who hold the view which it describes. That’s why we find Tom’s position so illogical.

  20. This is such a strange, strange, discussion.

    Geoff, “ID creationism” is a meaningful term. Let’s agree on that, okay? Now, what does it mean? What does it mean to Kenyon? What does it mean to Nick Matzke or Eugenie Scott? What does it mean to Robert Pennock or Barbara Forrest? What does it mean to Casey Luskin? What does it mean to Dean Kenyon? What does it mean to the average Internet or newspaper reader who sees it in a news report?

    To some it means “ID idiocy growing out of the stupid mindless biblical fundamentalism of anti-science anti-intellectual jerks.” That would be Forrest, at least. Do you think that’s what Kenyon would mean by it? I have owned that there is a certain sense in which I gladly accept the description of creationist (do I have to find that link for you?): that is that, I believe that God’s hand was in the creation of the universe and the appearance and development of life. Do you think that’s quite the same as Forrest’s position?

    Why then is it so hard to see that this term also needs disambiguation?

    Don’t you see (are you so blind??) that people like Forrest and Scott are banking on “creationism’s” unsavory scientific reputation for rhetorical purposes? Don’t you see that not all “creationism” is the same? Don’t you see how manipulative it is to pretend it is?

  21. If an ID supporter stands up and endorses YEC, it seems reasonable to describe his position as “ID creationism”. Nobody said it had to make sense

    Categories are necessarily imprecise tools. Carve up the world, and you can be sure that someone will argue that you’ve drawn a line in the wrong place. Yet it turns out to be a useful thing to do, particularly when it comes to human communities. This is probably due to the desire to belong: it’s uncomfortable sitting on the fence, and when you pick one side or the other you want to justify yourself, retroactively.

    From my perspective, OEC and YEC are both obviously falsified by the plain facts; “theistic evolution” makes no testable predictions that could distinguish it from pure naturalism; and ID is a combination of the Argument from Incredulity and God of the Gaps: a self-described “science” which has never actually even offered a hypothesis that could be tested, much less generated a true one or disproved an earlier one.

    Now you seem to dislike my referring to those who oppose naturalistic evolution by these simple labels, and combinations thereof. What has been remarkable about your position is that you have failed to identify a single substantive issue for which our “crude” and “thoughtless” categorizations actually makes a difference. Take the observed relationship between human DNA and that of chimpanzees. What accounts for that relationship? Would OEC, YEC, SC and ID have different answers? Presuming that this was so, what confusion would my categorization introduce? Pick any other topic which you think makes your point better – but please pick something concrete, something factual and significant.

    Otherwise I will simply conclude that you want to make a distinction without a difference, and I’ll ignore you.

  22. Tom,

    You object to the term IDC on the grounds that “it is so likely to be misleading”. But is it? Do you have evidence of people being misled by it? And what have they been misled into believing? That ID is synonymous with YEC? I doubt it. As Cameron pointed out in the “Maybe They Really Can’t Tell the Difference” thread, the ID in IDC acts as a restrictive qualifier. IDC refers to the ID variety of creationism, just like YEC and OEC refer to the young earth and old earth varieties of creationism respectively.

    If you mean that people have been misled into thinking that ID is pseudoscience, then you’re missing the point. ID critics say that ID is pseudoscience, so to create that impression is not misleading. You would be right, however, in saying that it’s a rhetorical move. The term IDC carries within it the implication that ID is pseudoscience. It’s not a neutral term. If an ID critic used that term in a serious discussion about the merits of ID, you would be justified in objecting to the use of a term that pre-judges the question at hand. IDC is a rhetorical term for use in the political discussion of ID. It is intended to alert the listener to the fact that ID is religiously-motivated pseudoscience, along previous creationist lines. There’s nothing wrong with that. It was ID advocates who made this a political issue.

  23. Geoff, you said,

    If an ID supporter stands up and endorses YEC, it seems reasonable to describe his position as “ID creationism”.

    Geoff, Geoff, Geoff, you are stubbornly refusing to get it. If there is a clear position being stated, such as “an ID supporter stands up and supports YEC,” then the position is clearly stated and no disambiguation is needed.

    Now you seem to dislike my referring to those who oppose naturalistic evolution by these simple labels, and combinations thereof.

    I dislike manipulative usage of terminology. Don’t you?

    Nobody said it had to make sense

    I say it has to make sense. There. Now somebody has said it. But I don’t say it on my own authority. I say the same thing I said at the end of my last comment: it’s about whether you think it’s okay to be manipulative or dishonest. If that’s your position, then I’m sure I can’t disabuse you of it.

  24. Richard, that’s the most honest reply I’ve seen here in a long time. You admit it’s a rhetorical move, intended to cause the hearer to think of ID as pseudoscience. You also admit that ID critics do not properly use the term in serious discussions about ID.

    Now, I was just checking in briefly here before playing a game of ping-pong with my son and then going on to some other things. So I’ll put the question out for others. Has anyone seen ID critics using the term IDC in what was purported to be a serious discussion about ID?

    (Hint: would a courtroom be considered a place for serious discussion?)

  25. If Mr. Gilson wouldn’t mind, I suppose I might try to take a crack at this:

    Take the observed relationship between human DNA and that of chimpanzees. What accounts for that relationship? Would OEC, YEC, SC and ID have different answers? Presuming that this was so, what confusion would my categorization introduce?

    Actually, while I’m no expert on creationism, intelligent design, or “intelligent design creationism,” I’m fairly sure Young-Earth Creationism would have at least somewhat different answers than an intelligent design advocate might give. A YEC would say something like, “God created humans and chimpanzees exactly 6000 years ago, and it just so happens He decided to make our genomes relatively similar.” An Intelligent Design advocate might say, “Chimp and human genomes are similar because human beings descended from chimps, with God presiding over the process.” At the very least, Intelligent Design doesn’t deny the age of the earth or common descent, which seems to make it a fair deal different than Young Earth Creationism.

    By the same token, ID seems to be a good deal more similar to Old Earth Creationism, but even then I’m not sure the answers would be indistinguishable. OECs tend to rely on the Bible very heavily to explain these sorts of things, whereas IDers tend to identify the “Designer” in considerably more vague terms. You could argue that this is just a political ploy (there is some evidence for that), but I would still argue the difference is significant, if only for the fact that Intelligent Design’s vague, nebulous rhetoric makes it more inclusive–and thus, more of a dangerous opponent–than even Old-Earth Creationism. After all, so long as the IDers, whatever their personal convictions, continue to refer to an undetermined “external intelligence” rather than the Biblical God, they can draw support from Muslims, Hindus, Deists, and even believers in extraterrestrial intelligence, which is something garden-variety Christian creationists can’t. Thus, from your position, I would argue that conflating Intelligent Design with creationism might actually be counterproductive, because ID can draw upon a much wider base of support rather than attracting only those of one particular religious viewpoint, and thus must be fought against even more strenuously.

    Otherwise I will simply conclude that you want to make a distinction without a difference, and I’ll ignore you.

    Er…pardon my ignorance, but was this referring to Tom Gilson, or someone else? I was under the impression that Tom was the proprietor of this blog, so I can’t see how you would be able to ignore him, at least not if you wanted to continue commenting here. Does he not have the power to ban people or anything? Pardon me if you were talking to someone else or if Mr. Gilson actually doesn’t run things here, I'[m new ’round these parts.

  26. Tom Gilson said (#27) —

    Has anyone seen ID critics using the term IDC in what was purported to be a serious discussion about ID?
    (Hint: would a courtroom be considered a place for serious discussion?)

    Excellent point, Tom! A courtroom is not only a place for serious discussion, but is also a place for objective discussion — for example, a judge did not allow anti-abortion activist Randall Terry to use the loaded term “aboratorium” in courtroom testimony.

    However, your “hint” implied that you already knew how to answer the question that you raised, so I don’t understand why you didn’t give an answer. Anyway, I will answer the question.

    Barbara Forrest used the term “intelligent design creationism” in her testimony at the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial:

    I made a chart showing the line of development from the young earth scientific creationism of the 1970’s through the 1980’s to intelligent design creationism in the 1990’s to the present. — from
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dover/day6am2.html#day6am539

    But that’s not all — note that she used the term “scientific” in connection with YEC but not in connection with ID! She didn’t say “intelligent design scientific creationism” or “intelligent design creation science.”

    I am going to repeatedly stick this testimony in the faces of the Darwinists. This is a bigger smoking gun than “cdesign proponentists.”

    BTW, you were right about Robert Pennock. He used the term “IDC” repeatedly in his Dover testimony (e.g., http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dover/day3am.html#day3am6). He sometimes used the term casually and not just when referring to his anthology that has “IDC” in the title. Do Darwinists think it would be OK for a witness to use the term “evolution atheism” in a courtroom? After all, Richard Dawkins said that evolution theory made it possible to be an “intellectually fulfilled atheist.”

  27. Are there any so disingenuous as militant Darwinists? They use the term “intelligent design creationism” because slanderous misdirection of the most transparently obvious sort is the best argument they have. The more they keep it up, the more vindicated I find the ID position to be. They fool only those who want to be fooled and no one else.

  28. Nick Matzke at Panda’s Thumb:

    Just last week over at the Thinking Christian blog there was a huge stink raised over the alleged inappropriateness of linking ID to creationism.

    This is so wearisome and unnecessary. Creation is focused on God (the creator) and all else (God’s creation). There is no need to link a causal trail of physical evidence inferring the relationship between God and his creation. It can be done but is not an essential element of creation. Creation can stand on scriptural grounds alone.

    Not so with ID. ID is explicit about the relationship between a designer and what is designed. The relationship is an inference based on physical evidence. The physical evidence is not optional. It is an essential tenet of ID.

    This has been explained ad nauseum. When it is deliberately misunderstood by those who should know better be aware that mischief is afoot.

  29. William: your crisp distinction between creationism and ID would make debate so much easier if it reflected reality. Those who rest their case on physical evidence would be in the ID camp; those who rely on scripture would be creationists. Since scripture and the physical evidence are blatantly incompatible, there can’t be any ambiguity.

    Neat. Clean.

    So how do we categorize someone like Kenyon, who argues for ID based on the evidence but also endorses scriptural positions which are flat-out contradicted by the physical evidence? His position may be incoherent, but it’s far from uncommon.

    Do I contradict myself?
    Very well then I contradict myself,
    (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

    I prefer to use words to describe the world as we find it, rather than as we would like it to be. And in the real world, people often hold contradictory ideas, or adopt hybrid positions that blend elements which rest on incompatible premises. I’m writing this while looking out of the 20th floor window in a luxury hotel in “Communist” China, across a city that’s bursting with capitalist energy. I’m sure that far-left purists like the Barefoot Bum would complain about my use of the phrase “Communist China” – it’s not real communism, it’s a misleading rhetorical device, etcetera – but that’s no reason not to use the term (and milk it of every drop of irony as we do so).

  30. I don’t think William was saying that there can’t be overlap between the two camps of people. There certainly is, and no one denies it. The question is whether there is a useful and meaningful distinction between the two conceptions, ID and creationism.

    One mark of intelligence is the ability to make distinctions accurately while also recognizing ambiguities. You have shown you can do it with respect to Communism and capitalism. If you don’t do it with ID and creationism, then why not? Is it because, to quote you, to be careless about it is a misleading rhetorical device?

  31. Thanks for the reply, Tom.

    You wrote: “You admit it’s a rhetorical move, intended to cause the hearer to think of ID as pseudoscience.”

    I don’t consider it an admission, because I don’t consider there’s anything wrong with it (as I said). A group of creationists decided to repackage their creationism as ID to make it look more like a genuine scientific theory and less like a religious movement. The term IDC helps expose the true nature of the ID movement.

    Perhaps I should clarify something. I don’t consider it a rhetorical move to say that ID is a type of creationism. That’s merely a judgement, and a valid one in my opinion. It’s just the use of the term IDC that I call a rhetorical move. In straightforward non-rhetorical discussion, terms should be as neutral as possible, and not used for conveying judgements.

    “You also admit that ID critics do not properly use the term in serious discussions about ID.”

    I’m not sure if you’ve got my position precisely. Let me put it a little differently. The use of IDC as a synonym for ID implies that ID is a type of creationism. It’s possible to have a serious discussion about ID using the term IDC in place of ID. But it would be impolite and provocative to use it in a discussion with an ID advocate (who rejects the judgement implied by the term), and therefore its use would not be conducive to serious discussion in that context.

    “(Hint: would a courtroom be considered a place for serious discussion?)”

    No, cross-examination is not discussion. Ideally expert witnesses would give their testimony in a straightforward, non-rhetorical way. But the occasional use of the term IDC was hardly a big deal. Everyone knew Forrest and Pennock were arguing that ID is a type of creationism. What significant difference did it make that they used a term which implied as much?

    Larry Fafarman asked: Do Darwinists think it would be OK for a witness to use the term “evolution atheism” in a courtroom?

    I’m not sure what the term “evolution atheism” is supposed to imply. Perhaps it’s that evolutionary theory is a type of atheism. If a witness really believes that, let him go ahead and use that term. I think he would just make himself look silly, because it’s such an absurd idea.

  32. I said a while ago I would respond to eric’s questions from Friday. He asks, “Do you think the ‘other side’ referred to by the conference organizers is ID, or creationism?” As I look at it, the other side being referred to there is a young earth view of natural history. Now, is that “ID” or is that “creationism”? Eric only gives me two options. Is it one, or the other?

    This looks a lot like another attempt to make the world black-and-white? In another context I wrote to Nick about that at the end of this comment. I haven’t been arguing for a black-and-white distinction between ID and creationism, have I? I’ve been saying that when terms are ambiguous, we need to define them when we use them. At least I think that’s what I’ve been saying. Maybe I wasn’t emphatic enough about this being the topic under discussion. After all, in the recent six-part series on this topic and the associated discussion, the root “defin~” was only used 422 times in ten days (that’s an actual count, including uses both by myself and others).

    Is this a good example of the muddying I want to avoid? Heavens, no! They don’t use the terms ID or creationism ambiguously, at least not at the web page I saw. In fact, they don’t use either term at all! Do I think that Kenyon’s being an ID supporter and apparently also a young-earther muddies up the concepts? Well, that depends on what he says when he talks about them. This is about the use of language and rhetoric.

    o you think toppling evolution’s \twin pillars of the geological time-scale and the fossil record\ supports Design, or Creationism?

    Well, both, obviously, in different ways. Intelligent Design does not depend on this toppling, for its basic premises do not require a young earth. But if by some research a young age of the earth were established, it would hardly hurt the Design case, would it? Put it this way: there can be evidence favoring ID that does not favor young-earth creationism, but there can be no evidence favoring young-earth creationism that does not also favor the inference to an Intelligent Designer.

    Or neither, because of the contrived duality implied?

    Contrived? Duality? What are you saying, eric? That there is no duality, no difference, or that it is merely contrived? Are you saying that ID and young-earth creationism are the same thing? I would certainly hope better of you than that!

    Or are you saying that ID and all creationism are the same? I would hope better of you than that, too. Just what could you mean by “all creationism” that could be said without affirming contradictory things all at once? The only thing that can be affirmed of all varieties of creationism is a commitment to creation by a Creator. Other than that, there are all kinds of different Creationisms: scientific, pseudo-scientific, anti-scientific, old-earth, young-earth, day-age, gap, framework, relativistic-both-young-and-old; Christian, Moonie, Muslim, Jewish; there is creationism that calls on natural evidence and there is creationism that hates natural evidence. There is creationism as used rhetorically by ID-haters just in order to spew embarrassment on ID indiscriminately for rhetorical purposes.

    I still don’t see what’s hard to understand about the proper use of language in discourse here….

  33. Richard, you wrote,

    A group of creationists decided to repackage their creationism as ID to make it look more like a genuine scientific theory and less like a religious movement. The term IDC helps expose the true nature of the ID movement.

    A. “A group of creationists” is itself an ambiguous and, when used indiscriminately, loaded phrase.
    B. ID is less of a religious movement.
    C. ID is more of a scientific movement.
    So therefore if it looks less religious and more scientific, don’t you think it’s possible what you’re seeing is honesty, and not mere repackaging? (By the way, B and C are true even if you want to say, “But it’s still religious!” or “But it’s still not really science!” I hope you can lift yourself out of black-and-white thinking far enough to see that this is true.)

    Now, I agree with this and appreciate it:

    I’m not sure if you’ve got my position precisely. Let me put it a little differently. The use of IDC as a synonym for ID implies that ID is a type of creationism. It’s possible to have a serious discussion about ID using the term IDC in place of ID. But it would be impolite and provocative to use it in a discussion with an ID advocate (who rejects the judgement implied by the term), and therefore its use would not be conducive to serious discussion in that context.

    I would add, though, that it is inappropriate also for use in any context where the “type of creationism” implied in it is not specified; for the term admits of too many possible misunderstandings, and a responsible communicator would recognize that and try not to use it falsely, manipulatively, to his own advantage.

  34. Richard Wein: A group of creationists decided to repackage their creationism as ID to make it look more like a genuine scientific theory and less like a religious movement. The term IDC helps expose the true nature of the ID movement.

    There was no conspiracy. There was a non theist named Michael Denton who authored Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, a book which very much influenced another influential early IDist Phillip Johnson. What occurred was a group of disparate individuals in different geographical locations, writing and speaking about ideas which came to characterize Intelligent Design. There is however a movement and it is well orchestrated. It motivates its followers to play up an ID hobgoblin. I doubt Reid and Pelosi even know what the DI is. It’s certainly not a concern of the President. This is all about hobgoblins and very timely for Halloween.

  35. Tom,

    So therefore if it looks less religious and more scientific, don’t you think it’s possible what you’re seeing is honesty, and not mere repackaging? (By the way, B and C are true even if you want to say, “But it’s still religious!” or “But it’s still not really science!” I hope you can lift yourself out of black-and-white thinking far enough to see that this is true.)

    Thanks, but I’m not thinking in black-and-white terms. I agree that there are issues of degree here. Yes, ID doesn’t go as far as YEC. Yes, the motivations of the founders of ID were probably mixed. I wouldn’t describe Behe as a creationist. I’m talking about the predominant nature of the ID movement, not about every claim, every argument and every adherent. The ID movement is overwhelmingly made up of creationists (in the sense of believers in divine special creation of species or groups of species), is primarily motivated by religious belief, and its arguments are predominantly pseudoscientific nonsense, being mostly variations on arguments made by earlier self-described creationist movements.

    I would add, though, that it is inappropriate also for use in any context where the “type of creationism” implied in it is not specified; for the term admits of too many possible misunderstandings, and a responsible communicator would recognize that and try not to use it falsely, manipulatively, to his own advantage.

    I come back to the question I asked you in my first post here. What do you think people have been misled into believing?

    P.S. I’ve just been given the Captcha “court amputees”. I’m not sure whether that’s dating advice or a reference to tennis for the disabled.

  36. Tom: As I look at it, the other side being referred to there is a young earth view of natural history. Now, is that “ID” or is that “creationism”? Eric only gives me two options. Is it one, or the other?

    I was asking your opinion of what the conference organizers meant by “both sides.” Since you accuse me of giving you a false binary choice, I’ll step back and open it up: what theory, hypothesis, or general idea do you think the conference organizers have in mind when they say “both sides?” I think we can safely assume that one side is evolution, given that the Vatican earlier sponsored a similar conference on that.

    Contrived? Duality? What are you saying, eric? …Are you saying that ID and young-earth creationism are the same thing?

    Contrived duality was the term used by Judge Overton in the 1982 McLean case to describe the creationist argument. It refers to creationist attempts to contrive a false duality between creationism and evolution wherein evidence against the latter is assumed to be evidence for the former. It doesn not refer to a contrived duality between creationism and ID. I apologize, I thought you’d be familiar with the term.

    The reason I brought it up is that it sure looks like Dean Kenyon’s focus on evidence against evolution relies on this same 25 year old creationist argument for a false binary choice. And to the extent that you think any evidence disfavoring evolution – e.g. CSI, a young earth, fossil record, etc.. – favors design, you are making the same argument made by creationists since 1982.

  37. Richard,

    What do I think people have been misled into believing? How about your own statement: “The ID movement … is primarily motivated by religious belief, and its arguments are predominantly pseudoscientific nonsense, being mostly variations on arguments made by earlier self-described creationist movements.”

    Eric, you wrote,

    Since you accuse me of giving you a false binary choice, I’ll step back and open it up: what theory, hypothesis, or general idea do you think the conference organizers have in mind when they say “both sides?”

    Apparently they are exploring evidences for a young earth. All I know is what I read on the one web page.

    On contrived duality, you misquoted me. You wrote:

    And to the extent that you think any evidence disfavoring evolution – e.g. CSI, a young earth, fossil record, etc.. – favors design, you are making the same argument made by creationists since 1982.

    But I had said,

    Put it this way: there can be evidence favoring ID that does not favor young-earth creationism, but there can be no evidence favoring young-earth creationism that does not also favor the inference to an Intelligent Designer.

    If the earth were only 10,000 years old, then there would be no explanation for life other than design. Thus any evidence favoring a young earth favors design. What’s contrived about that?

  38. Tom, do you think it’s manipulative (your word) to say explicitly “ID is pseudoscience”? Or do you only think it’s manipulative to imply that ID is pseudoscience by linking ID with creationism?

    I’m trying to establish whether the real issue here is that ID critics are saying things you strongly disagree with, or that they are implying those things by linking ID with creationism.

  39. “Pseudoscience” is your word, Richard. You asked me what I thought people were being misled into believing, and that was (part of) my answer. Manipulation in this context has to do with using rhetoric dishonestly. If one honestly thinks ID is pseudoscience, then saying so using direct language isn’t manipulative. But if one is using ambiguous language to communicate dishonestly, in this case by creating an inaccurate mental linkage to something that is more widely thought to be pseudoscience, that’s being manipulative.

    The issue in this series has been communication and especially definitions of terms. I thought I had made that clear. See the final post, for example:

    This last discussion has been focused on a very specific question: whether calling Intelligent Design “creationism” (without specifying what is meant by that) is helpful to clear communication and productive communication, or whether it is a source of confusion; and if it is a source of confusion, what motivates ID antagonists to keep calling it that.

  40. When I say that ID is a type of creationism I mean that the ID movement has enough core characteristics in common with creationist movements to be considered one. In particular, the ID movement is overwhelmingly made up of creationists (in the sense of believers in divine special creation of species or groups of species), is primarily motivated by religious belief, and its arguments are predominantly pseudoscientific nonsense, being mostly variations on arguments made by earlier self-described creationist movements.

    The issue here is not primarily a matter of definition. I think people who hear the term IDC understand that this is the sort of thing that’s meant. (What else would they think?) The real issue here is whether the beliefs are true, i.e. whether ID really does have these characteristics. If it does, then no one’s being misled. If it doesn’t, then people are being misled whether I say “ID is a type of creationism” or I say “the ID movement is overwhelmingly made up of creationists (in the sense of believers in divine special creation of species or groups of species), is primarily motivated by religious belief, and its arguments are predominantly pseudoscientific nonsense, being mostly variations on arguments made by earlier self-described creationist movements.”

  41. Richard,

    I think people who hear the term IDC understand that this is the sort of thing that’s meant. (What else would they think?)

    You’re lacking in imagination. Your definition of “creationism” is not the only one out there, and the characteristics that you assign to it are not the only ones that are likely to come to mind. For example, most people when they think of creationism are going to think not only of something religiously motivated, but something that is quite tightly tied to the book of Genesis. ID is not tightly tied to the book of Genesis. Hence the mis-definition and the miscommunication.

  42. Hello Richard

    Before we speak of pseudo-science perhaps we should consider what is, and what is not, science and to what purpose we conduct our scientific investigations.

    Is science founded upon the ideas of experiment and observation? If we find conduct experiments and observe results consistent with our philosophical assumptions does that validate the assumption? If we conduct experiments and observe results which may attenuate our philosophical assumptions should we suppress the data?

    Do we practice the art of science to discover truths about the world in which we live or do we practice the art of science to advocate a philosophy? If we are seeking truth then experiment and observation, no matter the philosophical implications, is valid science and should be admitted as such. If we are merely advocating a philosophy then we must, a priori declare particular observation and particular hypotheses “pseudo-science” and truth be damned.

    When I say that ID is a type of creationism I mean that the ID movement has enough core characteristics in common with creationist movements to be considered one.

    If, by “core characteristics”, you mean the realization that many of the phenomena we observe are better explained as artifacts of design or intentionality then ID could qualify as creationism. But that is a rather broad brush with which you paint and includes also many avowed atheists who have observed the peculiarly teleological nature of reality even while denying it’s actuality. “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” “…biologists must constantly remind themselves that what they see was not designed but evolved.”

    These admonitions (iterated by Richard Dawkins and Francis Crick respectively) are not, and cannot possibly, be founded upon experimentation or observation. They are founded upon a philosophical commitment to naturalistic explanations and, while it may be “true” within the context of that particular philosophy, are not, nor can they be, demonstrated. Within the confines of naturalistic philosophy these follow as night follows day, but there is no means by which we might affirm naturalism as true, it is an assumption.

    In particular, the ID movement is overwhelmingly made up of creationists (in the sense of believers in divine special creation of species or groups of species), is primarily motivated by religious belief, and its arguments are predominantly pseudoscientific nonsense, being mostly variations on arguments made by earlier self-described creationist movements.

    Let us consider the argument from another angle…

    In particular, the [evolution] movement is overwhelmingly made up of [atheists] (in the sense of believers in [naturalistic evlolution] of species or groups of species), is primarily motivated by religious belief, and its arguments are predominantly pseudoscientific nonsense, being mostly variations on arguments made by earlier self-described [atheist] movements.

    (For the well documented evidence read Moral Darwinism freely available here at Google Books.

    The “creationist” argument you denigrate as “pseudo-science” is, in fact, the product of experimentation and observation in the fields of hydrodynamics and sedimentation which are documented and may be repeated by anyone who cares to take the time and trouble to repeat the experiments. The conclusions drawn by the researchers vis a vis the age of the earth may or may not be valid, but means by which they aquired their data fit within the usual concensus of what constitutes “science”.
    Analysis of the Main Principles of Stratigraphy on the Basis of Experimental Data

    Simply labeling data aquired by experimentation and observation “pseudo-science” because you dislike the conclusions is an a priori philosophical rejection. The data are there, offer another hypothesis and place it under the same skeptical microscope you place the hypotheses you dislike. In other words, prove them false.

  43. I never liked the term “intelligent design” because it implies the existence of an intelligent designer — then people start asking, “Who is the intelligent designer?” or “What does the intelligent designer look like?” I get away from creationism by thinking of ID as the study of whether things in nature give the appearance of being designed instead of being the products of chance — in biology, for example, ID could be the study of the probability that living things arose solely from natural genetic variation and natural selection. Expressing things in terms of probabilities can be scientific — for example, DNA testing labs sometimes report that there is one chance in several billion that two DNA samples that appear to be from the same person actually came from two unrelated people. There are words and expressions called “idioms” that do not actually mean what they literally appear to mean — to me, “ID” is an idiom. Judge John E. Jones III ruled in Kitzmiller v. Dover that “ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.” Well, I have news for you, Judge Jones — I just uncoupled them. The relationship of ID to creationism should be treated as non-justiciable, that is, unsuitable for resolution by a court. A question is non-justiciable when there is “a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving the question.” Vieth v. Jubelirer, 541 U.S. 267 (2004). The question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin is an example of a non-justiciable question.

  44. Tom,

    For example, most people when they think of creationism are going to think not only of something religiously motivated, but something that is quite tightly tied to the book of Genesis. ID is not tightly tied to the book of Genesis.

    Are you now saying that people have been misled into thinking that ID is tightly tied to the book of Genesis?

  45. Dave,

    I say that ID is pseudoscience, not science, because science must be based on rational inferences, and the ID inference is not rationally justified. Moreover, much of the case made for ID is nonsense. It’s not an a priori philosophical rejection.

  46. Hello Richard

    I say that ID is pseudoscience, not science, because science must be based on rational inferences, and the ID inference is not rationally justified. Moreover, much of the case made for ID is nonsense. It’s not an a priori philosophical rejection.

    I do not see any rational inferences here, all I see are your (so far) unfounded assertions. I can quote you chapter and verse from several disciplines reasons (the basis of rational inference) for considering the design hypothesis. I eagerly anticipate your argument (reason) that random processes can produce complex specified information systems such as the biological cell. I look forward to your elucidation of the ‘singularity’ with which it (allegedly) all began and your explanation of how we get something (everything?) from nothing.

    Actually, I would even settle for a monkey typing one line of Shakespeare.

  47. Tom: If the earth were only 10,000 years old, then there would be no explanation for life other than design. Thus any evidence favoring a young earth favors design. What’s contrived about that?

    There could be many explanations. That is the point. Evidence that would make evolution less likely does not automatically make design more likely. “Evidence for design” means observable support for a claim that the hypothesis of design makes. And design makes no claim about the age of the earth. Evolution does, but design doesn’t.

    Now, if you are saying that the new post-Dover hypothesis of Design claims a young earth as one of its predictions, I am glad to hear it. But unless you are willing to say that, the age of the earth is relevant only to the validity of the evolutionary theory, not the design idea. But less validity for evolution is not the same as more validity for design.

    All of which, however, just derails my original point, which you didn’t respond to. The purpose of defining terms is to use them to discuss substantive issues. You’ve spent 8 web pages defining your term. I concede for the sake of argument that ID is not creationism. Now – what substantive issue do you want to discuss?

  48. Eric, I think this is contrived:

    There could be many explanations. That is the point. Evidence that would make evolution less likely does not automatically make design more likely.

    And there are too many logical errors in the rest of your post for me to take the time to address them.

    You’ve spent 8 web pages defining your term. I concede for the sake of argument that ID is not creationism. Now – what substantive issue do you want to discuss?

    Don’t worry, I’ve had plenty in the past, and I’ll have plenty in the future. You’ll see them in the usual locations, i.e., mostly as new blog posts.

  49. — from comment #53:
    (quoting Tom Gilson) — If the earth were only 10,000 years old, then there would be no explanation for life other than design.

    (eric responded) — Evidence that would make evolution less likely does not automatically make design more likely.

    Evolutionists argue that evolution is possible because it had millions — even billions — of years to take place. I think that what Tom was arguing was that if the earth is only 10,000 years old (or less), that does not leave enough time for evolution to occur, at least not the normal, slow kind of evolution. Judge Overton in McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education and Judge Jones in Kitzmiller v. Dover tried to discredit creationists and ID proponents by accusing them of “contrived dualism,” i.e., the idea that there are only two possibilities, evolution and creationism, or evolution and ID, and that therefore all that is necessary to prove creationism or ID is to disprove evolution. In other words, what these beetlebrained judges were essentially saying is never mind if evolution is disproven, just so long as such disproof is not claimed to be proof of creationism or ID!

    eric said,

    I concede for the sake of argument that ID is not creationism.

    Well, then you have conceded the whole original issue, which was whether the term “intelligent design creationism” is appropriate.

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