ID proponent on ‘following where the evidence leads’

President Obama may have inadvertently endorsed intelligent design last month by using a phrase that's as old as Plato. (photo by Rachel Brody, courtesy the National Academy of Sciences)

I sometimes like to follow the work of the good people at the Discovery Institute. The institute, or the Disco ‘Tute, as I’ve heard it called, is a nonprofit think tank that advocates for intelligent design, or in the words of their staff, “an interdisciplinary community of scholars and policy advocates dedicated to the reinvigoration of traditional Western principles and institutions and the worldview from which they issued.” Barf.

Anyway, like I was saying, I follow their work sometimes. Doing so doesn’t exactly give me a front-row seat to new scientific discoveries or anything like that, but I do learn a lot about how intelligent-design proponents think of themselves (which tends to be pretty highly).

For an example, let’s turn to Disco ‘Tute staffer Casey Luskin who posted this gem on the center’s misnomered blog Evolution News earlier today. Luskin was discussing a speech President Barack Obama gave before the National Academy of Sciences on April 29.

Luskin wrote his piece based off the transcript released by the National Academies Press, which is strange, since I’m sure many Disco ‘Tute supporters are also members of the prestigious NAS and could have just told him what the president said. Luskin’s main gripe with the speech was Obama’s use of the phrase “follow where the evidence leads.” Here’s the quote:

And more important than any single study or report, the members of this institution [the NAS] embody what is so necessary for us to continue our scientific advance and to maintain our cutting edge, and that’s restless curiosity and boundless hope, but also a fidelity to facts and truth and a willingness to follow where the evidence leads.

Why does Luskin object to the phrase? Apparently, ID proponents have the copyright. Luskin writes:

That last phrase — ‘a willingness to follow where the evidence leads’ — sounded strangely familiar. Proponents of intelligent design have used it for years, largely because we’re passionate about being faithful to the scientific evidence, and also because we’re acutely aware that materialists are often not willing to follow the evidence when it leads to detecting non-material causes behind life’s development.

Now, to be fair, Luskin tries to get in front of the incredibly obvious response to his claim, namely, that the phrase has been in popular usage for literally thousands of years. He even admits the saying is a paraphrase of “follow the argument wherever it leads,” one of Socrates’ quotes from Plato’s writings circa the fourth century B.C.

He also stresses that he is not suggesting the president or “anyone else in his administration” endorses ID. Which leaves this reader wondering, what is Luskin getting at, exactly? What was the point of the 450 words Luskin dedicated to Obama’s eight?

Was it simply a blatant effort by ID proponents to make their ideas seem relevant and avant-garde, an underhanded attempt to inject themselves into the national conversation on science? Surely not.

— Tyler Francke