GOE round-up: Intelligent design is ‘not’ anti-evolution? Really?

Intelligent design is "not" anti-evolution... O RLY?

Today, I’m headed up to Portland to do some organizing for OUR FIRST EVENT. If you haven’t heard about it yet, it’s a peaceful demonstration against the Northwest Creation Conference, which is held annually in our fair city and describes itself as “the longest running, best attended conference on creationism on the planet.” I seriously doubt the claim, but that’s what they say.

Anyway, you can check out the event’s Facebook page for more information if you like (feel free to weigh in on the discussions or offer some moral support, even if you can’t make it in person!). With my time otherwise occupied with that — and the seemingly never-ending task of chopping firewood for our wood stove — I didn’t have time for a full post this week. But I did want to do a quick round-up of a few items of interest for you.

First of all, I’d like to draw your attention to an interesting essay on intelligent design over at the blog Smilodon’s Retreat. The article is in response to an Uncommon Descent post that attempts to argue ID is “not anti-evolution.”

That’s right. The ID proponents at Uncommon Descent apparently think that intelligent design is pro-evolution, pro-Darwin, and probably a big supporter of world peace, just for good measure. However, using the very words of the leading lights of the ID movement, the Smilodon blogger points out that intelligent design is, in fact, anti-evolution.

Making that point is not as easy as you might think. Since ID is not really a scientific movement, but a political one, it resides in the murky semantic gray area long used by politicos to avoid being pinned down by cold, hard facts.

But fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective), this chameleon act ultimately works against them. Because, after all the vague, ethereal, ever-changing definitions of “intelligent design” have canceled each other out, you are left with nothing but the fact that it’s an “alternative” to the theory of evolution, which I think can be simplified quite reasonably to “anti-evolution.”

If you have a few minutes, click over to Smilodon and peruse the full, illuminating feature. If you’re more limited on time, then just check out our latest meme, which was inspired by it:

dr-evil-airquote MEME

The above statement would, of course, be followed by a long, drawn-out, incredibly sarcastic “Riiiiiiiiiiight” that only Mike Myers could do full justice to.

The Interwebs has been abuzz the past couple weeks with the news that CREATIONISM IS BEING TAUGHT IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS (cue scary suspense music). Much of the impetus for the concern can be traced back to two pieces in Slate, one an investigative expose by science activist Zack Kopplin on the curriculum of Texas charter schools, and the other, a map that purports to show “tax-funded creationism” across the country.

I applaud Zack for his good work on the first piece, which brought an important issue to light, and may even do some good.

I thought the second was misleading and embarrassing, since it was based not on confirmed reports, but on the laws and practices of the education systems in each state. In other words, the Slate reporter actually has no idea what, exactly, is being taught in the science classes of each school that appears on his bespeckled map. In reality, the map only shows schools that may be teaching creationism, in which case it should probably include every school in the country. Because, obviously, some rogue teachers, and even districts, will do whatever they want regardless of what the law says.

Let me be clear. I do not support the teaching of unscientific nonsense as scientific fact in public schools. Allegations like these, if true, are disturbing and despicable — not to mention wildly unconstitutional.

However, the problem I had with both Slate pieces is the media’s increasingly hazard application of the term “creationist” to anything that runs counter to the mainstream view of evolution. The term is way too imprecise, for one thing. If what one means by “creationist” is “a person who believes the universe has a creator,” then I’m a creationist, for heaven’s sake! And if what one means, instead, is “a person who believes the fossil record is ‘sketchy’ and evolution is a ‘dogma,'” (which comes from Kopplin’s article), then I must ask, “What the heck does that have to do with the Bible’s teachings on creation?”

Intentionally or not, the willy-nilly use of such a loaded word foments anti-religious sentiment and further entrenches the Christianity vs. science paradigm. My preferred descriptor is “anti-evolutionist.” It may not be quite as sexy or headline-friendly, but it’s far more accurate, and it’s laser-targeted: Its use includes only those views that are relevant to the discussion.

You might be interested to know that one of our commenters is, evidently, a future Nobel laureate. I currently know him only as Xabithedon, but he claims to have evidence that disproves the theory of evolution. I encouraged him to publish his findings and collect his prize as soon as possible.

And finally, I wanted to direct you to a conversation we’re having on our Facebook page with a good friend who thinks my belief in the “God of evolution” is biblically untenable. Feel free to join in, if you’d be so inclined, and please “like” the page while you’re there, so you won’t miss any of our latest updates.

Tyler Francke

  • Tyler, I am not scientifically-minded, but I have read listened to some of the ID folks (e.g. Stephen Meyer), and it seems clear to me that they distance themselves as much from the YEC’s as they do from the new atheist evolutionists. Yet you seem as antagonistic toward them as you are toward the YEC’s. What is your thinking behind that?

    • Hey Mike! I disagree that I am “as antagonistic” toward ID proponents as I am toward YEC proponents. I write about young-earth groups like Answers in Genesis far, far more often than I do the Discovery Institute or the intelligent design movement. This is because groups like AiG are Christian groups that I feel misrepresent the gospel, which is a serious concern for me. I also oppose the taxpayer-funded teaching of unscientific tenets in science classes, which brings me into some conflict with ID proponents, but this is a really a secondary concern in my view.

      I mention the ID article quoted herein because I found it interesting and noteworthy within the creationism/evolution debate to which this website is dedicated. ID proponents explicit present their “theory” as an “alternative” to evolution, so any claim that intelligent design is “not anti-evolution” is just semantic hand waving.

  • Tyler,

    Your first paragraph convinced me that your antagonism toward ID is not as great as it is toward YEC. Your second paragraph, however, left me wondering if the difference was at all material.

    I heard Stephen Meyer speak for over an hour and he showed far more deference toward Darwin and Darwinists than I’ve ever heard from a YEC. Nor did I take this deference to be mere lip service. There seems to be a strong tide of opinion that any respect ID shows toward evolution is insincere. As a bystander, this is puzzling to me.

    • My response was aimed at an essay that is linked to in the original article, which attempted to argue ID is “not anti-evolution.” If there are ID proponents that do not make that claim, then neither my response or the one I shared from the Smilodon’s Retreat blog would apply to them.