Monday, December 14, 2015

Did Kitzmiller v. Dover kill Intelligent Design Creationism?

The 10th anniversary of Judge Jone's decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover is coming up on Dec. 20, 2015. See the post at Panda's Thumb: Kitzmas is Coming!.

ID proponents are also marking the event in various ways. If you are interested in the discussion, you should read the posts on Evolution News & Views covering the Ten Myths about Dover. The first one (#10) is Ten Myths About Dover: #10, "The Intelligent Design Movement Died After the Dover Decision".

Of course the ID movement didn't die after Kitzmiller v. Dover. From the outside (i.e. not in the USA) it seems to be as strong as ever. State legislatures all over America are still trying to suppress the teaching of evolution and promote creationist perspectives. The movement has captured the attention of many (most?) prominent politicians and much of the American public still believes that scientists are wrong about evolution.

There's been a small shift in public opinion toward rationalism but that's only evident in the last five years. You could easily argue that it has more to do with the attention given to atheism than to any legal decision made in a Pennsylvania court room.

It seems to me that the "movement" is as strong as ever. It may be losing but it sure doesn't look dead.

Does anyone disagree? Is it true what Sarah Chaffee claims in the ENV article; namely, that some scientists think the ID movement was severely damaged by Kitzmiller v. Dover? Yes, it's true. There ARE some evolution proponents who think like that. Here's what Kevin Padian and Nick Matzke said in 2008 [Discovery Institute tries to "swift-boat" Judge Jones].
The fact is, the Discovery Institute took a terrible beating in this trial. "Intelligent Design," their main industry, which they have peddled relentlessly for over a decade as the Next Great Idea in science, was revealed as religion, not science at all. The DI's "wedge strategy" was exposed and established as a crypto-fundamentalist Christian ideology of politics and social change. Their alleged "experts" withdrew, leaving the defense in confusion. Their amicus briefs were ignored by the Judge, and their attempt to append the "expert witness report" of Stephen Meyer, who had canceled his testimony, was angrily rebuffed. And after the trial, the DI's Washington office head, Mark Ryland, publicly squabbled with the TMLC's Richard Thompson, who claimed that the DI had promised support and then cut and run.

It's over for the Discovery Institute. Turn out the lights. The fat lady has sung. The emperor of ID has no clothes. The bluff is over. Oh sure, they'll continue to pump out the blather. They'll find more funding, at least for a while, from some committed ideologue or another. But no one with any objectivity will take them seriously any longer as scientists. They had their fair chance, and they blew it.

And in the end, they couldn't have done anything else. Because there is no science to ID; it's just polemics. And now that's been settled in Federal Court.
I think this is extremely naive. Intelligent Design Creationism is a movement not a science. Yes, it's true that ID proponents talk the language of science and it's true that they promote some of their ideas as science but that's not what the movement is all about.

It's about religion. It's apologetics. It's an attempt to rationalize a scientific worldview with the idea that gods exist and they made humans in their image. Their supporters are convinced that scientists are fools who don't know what we are talking about when it comes to evolution. They don't trust scientists and they don't believe in naturalism or materialism.

Most ID supporters are Young Earth Creationists—they don't care about science or they wouldn't believe in a young Earth.

None of that changed after Kitzmiller v. Dover in 2005 just like it didn't change after any of the other court victories over the past century.

Besides, most of what ID proponents do is criticize evolution and, in my opinion, most of that counts as science. Even the part that proposes an intelligent designer counts as science,1 in my opinion, because I don't accept the claim of methodological naturalism.

Look at the recent "scientific victories" claimed by Casey Luskin last January. It's a bunch of bull but ID followers lap it up. They don't care about the truth and they never will. (Although that shouldn't stop us from exposing the lies, whenever possible.) If you want to see how I think the movement should be attacked then see: Ten years after Dover - an excellent decade for Intelligent Design Creationism?.

1. It's bad science.


  1. "Because there is no science to ID; it's just polemics. And now that's been settled in Federal Court."

    There, in my opinion, is a major flaw in their approach to this issue. Those of us who defend science have often tried to make the point that matters of science are not decided by the legal system, but by the self-correcting nature of science itself. Padian and Matzke seem to want it both ways.

    Dave Bailey

  2. But Larry, you must admit that they've made no inroads into science at all in 10 years. The only exception being Guillermo Gonzalez getting a job at, IIRC, Ball State? One real job for one IDer in 10 years.

    William Dembski just announced he was giving up promoting ID.

    Seriously, nobody in science cites Stephen Meyer's philosophical claims that ID isn't really God of the Gaps. His "Darwin's Doubt" had zero influence among paleontologists. It didn't even give religious nuts new arguments they didn't have before.

    Their main forum for discussion, Uncommon Descent, is "moderated" by an ethically challenged accountant and lawyer and most of the commenters are the mentally ill who have no access to science labs, except as test subjects.

    Even in US politics, ID's victories have been few and far between. Two US states, Louisiana and Tennessee, passed laws implementing the DI's "teach the controversy" strategy. After 10 years of intense lobbying, the DI focusing all their efforts on political lobbying and not scientific opinion, that's just terrible. And Louisiana's system of funding creationist religious schools through vouchers was just struck down by a judge, and the people voted in a Democratic governor. Other US states implemented progressive curricula.

    You have to compare the DI's achievements against their goals clearly described in the Wedge Document. They didn't just want to be popular with religious fanatics, they wanted to influence mainstream, secular culture. They wanted to capture many, if not most, university science departments and philosophy departments. Now, they've forgotten about capturing departments; they got one job for one guy, Gonzalez, and lost Dembski. Dembski is unemployable outside the Christian world. That's failure.

    10 years later, it's still true that their only influence is with religious fanatics. By their own definition of success, that's failure. Presumably why Dembski bailed on them.

  3. Speaking only about the United States, old fashioned creationism (Biblical literal, young earth, old earth, scientific creationism, etc) is all over the place. I would guess that all fundamentalist Christian schools and colleges, Sarah Chaffee's Patrick Henry College, for example, that require signing a Statement of Faith, believe in a literal 6-day creation and require any science taught to be couched in those terms.

    And not just colleges and schools. There are quite a lot of creationist organizations: Reasons to Believe, Institute for Creation Research, Answers in Genesis, and lots of little Mom & Pop creationist outfits. I remember in the 70's listening to Garner Ted Armstrong's radio program, "The World Tomorrow," bashing evolution. Comedy gold, we always tuned in for a good laugh.

    The study of creationism is one thing, but I'm going to focus only on the US constitutional restrictions regarding promoting religion in public schools. That's where things get sticky. In short, attempts to teach creationism, however couched, in public schools have ended up in court, and in every court case the creationists have lost. One notable Supreme Court case, Edwards vs Aguillard, 1987, a Louisiana law requiring creationism to be taught if evolution was taught (so-called "balanced treatment" act) was ruled unconstitutional because it promoted a religious point of view, creationism, in public schools. “Scientific Creationism” was supposed to be the constitutional sidestep, but it didn’t work. Creationism is creationism.

    Also in 1987 the Foundation for Thought and Ethics was writing a creationist textbook, Of Pandas and People, authored by Discovery Institute fellows Dean Kenyon, Mikey Behe and Stephen Meyers, among others, intended for use in public schools. Following the Aguillard decision FTE revised Pandas by simply replacing all occurrences of "creationism" with "intelligent design" and in the process creating the famous transitional fossil "cdesign proponentists."

    The stage is set for Kitzmiller, 2004. "Intelligent design" creationism differs from the bog standard creationism because its foundation and the hub of the movement is a single organization, the Discovery Institute. ID creationism was "created" explicitly to get around Aguillard as a way to sneak creationism in to public schools. The Disco Tute consulted with the school board in Dover, Pennsylvania and provided them with documentation and videos expressing their opinion that "intelligent design" could be taught in public school legally and without constitutional entanglements. Of course, the legal opinion of the Disco Tute is worth less than a bucket of warm spit.

    Surprisingly, the Dover Area School District took the bait, and Pandas, and the Disco Tute was heading for a court showdown they most certainly didn't want. Come on, the Disco Tute may be crazy but they’re not totally stupid. They know ID is a scam; they created it! The last thing the Disco Tute wants is a public court case. Before trial both parties agreed that the "scientific standing" of ID had to be established before a constitutional violation could be determined. During the trial the religious antecedents and intent of ID were documented as was the religious intent of the school board and a constitutional violation was ruled.

    What this means for the ID movement is that their intentions have been documented in court with a legal precedent established. From a constitutional reference ID promotes a particular religious viewpoint as does all the other strains of creationism. ID is locked out of public schools in the US and that is what is meant by "ID is dead as a doornail." All that remains of ID now is the squabbling and mudslinging against the theory of evolution that's been going on for decades.

    1. From a constitutional reference ID promotes a particular religious viewpoint as does all the other strains of creationism. ID is locked out of public schools in the US and that is what is meant by "ID is dead as a doornail."

      My Facebook timeline is full of stories about high school coaches leading school prayers, and preachers giving speeches at graduations, and nativity scenes in the school yards, and teachers who are afraid to teach evolution.

      I would be very surprised if creationisms has been locked out of the biology classroom in those schools.

      This is a battle for hearts and minds and bringing lawyers to that kind of fight is pretty much useless.

      There's great danger in believing that all you have to do is win court cases in order to defeat Intelligent Design Creationism. That strategy hasn't worked for almost a century and it's not going to work now.

    2. True enough, Larry. No quibble there. They get stamped out one by one but it's a continuous process. Neither ID nor creationism are "locked out" for the reasons you mention. However, if brought to trial they inevitably lose which is the "dead as a doornail" condition.

      What I find fascinating (and heartening) about Dover was that the science teachers balked at bringing ID to the classroom citing "professional ethics" not to teach nonsense as science. It was the administrators who took time in biology classes to read a two paragraph statement about ID that triggered the suit.

      I agree that ID creationism can not be defeated in court, but it must be taken to court every time it arises.

      One final comment about Dover. At a school board retreat one of the members reported a conversation he had indicating that he would vote for the ID policy "just to get it over with." He was told that ID was just the start and was handed a copy of a David Barton (pseudo-historian, Christian educator) book revising American history. "Social studies is next, then literature." So, yeah, fun times!

    3. This is a battle for hearts and minds and bringing lawyers to that kind of fight is pretty much useless.

      Let's start at the beginning.

      First of all, the Thomas More Law Center went looking for a test case allowing the teaching of Intelligent Design Creationism as science in schools. If you think for a minute this would have stopped at teaching ID alongside evolution and leaving students to think for themselves, you would be very wrong. That was only the entering wedge (from which the Wedge document took its title). What the TMLC was after was teaching kids in public school classes to fear and revere God the Creator of the Universe and of all life on Earth. And then not only would teachers fear to teach evolution; kids would fear to speak logically or scientifically in school, with all the power of the government behind the Creationist majority. (As you know, Creationists are a plurality of the American public, and a majority in many school districts. To try to ensure kids can learn about good science, it is necessary to protect them from a fervent majority that believes it has God on its side, and with which politicians would readily side if they were not legally restrained from doing so.)

      The TMLC found Dover. The school board readily sided with them. A handful of teachers, students and parents braved death threats to bring suit to vindicate their rights to teach and learn good science.

      Thus this has nothing to do with any global strategy by those in favor of good science. Rather, it was a vindication of personal rights by individuals who were having those rights infringed by their government.

      With regard to the cross-examination: Attorneys and courts in the United States, Canada and England work within a judicial system that recognizes what's called stare decisis, the power of precedent. The precedents ruling the Dover case all drew a bright line dichotomy between science and religion. Thus the attorneys presented their case and conducted their cross examination in a way that brought their case foursquare within the ruling precedents, making it as easy as possible for the judge to rule in favor of vindicating their clients' rights against the government. It is not an easy thing to challenge one's government in court and to prevail. The lawyers had no right to make it less likely their clients would win in favor of having a discussion about science as a way of knowing. If they'd done so, their clients would rightly have sued them for malpractice, for having violated their legal and moral obligation to represent their clients zealously within the bounds of the law.

      Viewed from the perspective of a successful challenge by a few brave individuals to a government edict that would have been the entering wedge to an eventual prohibition on the teaching and learning of good science, Dover was a fabulously successful case. Had the TMLC prevailed, there were plans to take such challenges nationwide. Instead, not only were there no other such cases, the defendants did not even attempt to appeal the trial court's decision. Of course as you've noted, with the judicial route unsuccessful, where they are in the majority Creationists have attempted to enforce the will of the mob through state legislatures. In these states, too, sadly it has been necessary for people wanting to teach and learn good science to brave death threats from "good Christians" and make their challenges through the refuge of the embattled minority, the courts and the US Constitution they uphold.

  4. I have a proposal:

    Let's turn the table around and put the anti-ID movement on the stand (as if in court) and let ALL the supporters of the anti-ID movement provide evidence to support their case NOT AGAINST ID, BUT THE ALTERNATIVE TO ID THAT IS APPARENTLY SCIENTIFIC, and see if it is going to pass all the requirements of the definition of "science".

    What blog could hold such a "court case"?

    Larry would never do it. Maybe PZ Myers would do it just to improve the ratings of his blog.

    NickM, can you handle it? The way I see it, this is your one of the very few chances to defeat ID. What do you say?

    1. In case it escaped you, Kitzmiller v. Dover was a case about Constitutional Law. ID lost.

      Since you want to put it to trial, what laws are broken by teaching the Modern Evolution Synthesis?

    2. In this case both sides must be force to either provide a better scientific model and theory to explain INTELLIGENT CAUSE than the one that already exists (by me) or admit that they have nothing scientific at all then leave the table.

    3. In case it escaped you, Kitzmiller v. Dover was a case about Constitutional Law. ID lost.

      Scientific theory is not supposed to be decided by legal courts. That's madness. But I can understand why you go along with the hypocrisy, anyway.

    4. A better model than a single critter that never dies and never procreates but, when probed from outside, changes its behavior within the designed parameters?

      There's something called evolution, it relates to actual organisms that live, procreate and die. I think that would qualify for a better scientific model.

      Just saying.

    5. There's something called evolution,

      And snotty remarks about "evolution" are out of bounds in a scientific discussion pertaining to models for demonstrating what standard naming convention would qualify as an INTELLIGENT CAUSE.

    6. You conveniently missed something:

      Of course I did, since it wasn't referenced anywhere in the page you did link.

      You seem to omit any mechanisms that would write to the "biosphere’s interconnected collective", so it's a bit hazy how anything that neither dies or procreates manages to contribute to that but I'm sure you have a link for that too.

      Anyway, my comment here was a response to putting Modern Evolution Synthesis to trial. Madness, as you say, but it was suggested.

    7. The theory is included with the ID Lab computer model. But you probably did not download or study any of it.

    8. The theory is included with the ID Lab computer model. But you probably did not download or study any of it.

      I did, over a year ago. Back then it contained no mechanisms for cross-generational information transfer.

      If this has changed since then, feel free to elaborate. Preferably in actual statements instead of links.

    9. The molecular/genetic level was always part of the theory, I first wrote down in around 1992. Developing the "Theory of Intelligent Design" was in response to my having become able to, at a time when giving everyone what they asked for was most needed.

    10. The molecular/genetic level was always part of the theory, I first wrote down in around 1992.

      I was kind of hoping for a factual statement, but ... whatever.

      So, at some point in these 23+ years, your theory of Intelligent Design went from simulating a designed individual with occasional tune-ups to a theory of actual populations. Why, then, are you still only linking to models of the individual? Where are the methods of inheritance? Where do we find the simulated population in ID? How does your model account for, say, your parents?

      Even you must admit that there's more than one individual in the real world and that progenitors do, in fact, exist.

      You might also want to take a closer look at the biochemistry of Euglenophyta and what that tells about your four 'circuit requirements.'

    11. CatMat you are still dodging the fact that I have a programmable model for "intelligent cause", while you have none.

      How speciation works in the multilevel model was outlined in this illustration:

      It is very rude to expect million dollar models from someone who only gets millions of dollars spent somewhere else that only works hard to scientifically destroy me.

    12. "Hello NIH, I'd like to get a research grant to destroy Gary Gaulin. Who, you ask? Gary Gaulin, you know-- he defined "Intelligent Cause."

      Yes, the famous Gary Gaulin. How much will you give me? Five million dollars? That's not nearly enough to destroy Gary-- he has a blog. And on his blog, he defines words.

      Yes, eight million will do nicely, thank you. Direct deposit, please."


  5. There's great danger in believing that all you have to do is win court cases in order to defeat Intelligent Design Creationism. That strategy hasn't worked for almost a century and it's not going to work now.

    No, but it is a necessary part.

    1. Why is it necessary? Lot's of other countries are doing a better job of defeating creationism even though they allow religion into the public schools.

      Maybe the emphasis on using courts to keep religion out of the schools is actually counter-productive because it makes so many Americans distrust the public school system and dislike the legal system.

    2. Lot's of other countries are doing a better job of defeating creationism even though they allow religion into the public schools.

      How do you measure success in defeating creationism? Are you counting only the current proportion of creationists? If so, how is that a valid measure? I think the U.S. started out in a hole compared to those "lots of other countries".

    3. If you go back one hundred years I doubt there was much difference bewteen the USA and, say, Canada in terms of the percentage of the population that believed in a creator god. Yet today, there's no serious threat to teaching evolution in Canadian schools and Canadian politicians who oppose evolution are mocked, not respected.

      This happened in spite of the fact that religion can be taught in Canadian public schools. That suggest to me that just winning court battles to keep religion out of public schools in the USA isn't sufficient or even necessary.

    4. I think with regard to the court route you have cause and effect turned around.

      Most of the court cases have occurred where states have passed laws permitting or requiring the teaching of some form of Creationism. (The others have concerned individual school districts doing so.) So as with the Dover case, this is not a matter of those in favor of good science strategically planning to wipe out Creationism in the courts. Rather it's a matter of defending individuals' rights to teach and learn good science.

      I'm very much in favor of working to show people how terrific science is, and trying to turn public opinion around. Until that happens, you're absolutely correct that the situation in the USA is unlikely to change appreciably for the better.

      However, unfortunately that doesn't mean the courts are unnecessary, unless you feel it's acceptable to let a generation or two of students and teachers be forced by the state to teach and learn bad science while we wait for public opinion to change. My thinking is that these people deserve the chance - in fact, have the right - to teach and learn good science every bit as much as my teachers had the chance to teach it and I had the chance to learn it.

      So I would say that while I agree defending the rights of individual students and teachers in court is plainly insufficient, I think it is also clearly necessary.

  6. CatMat,

    Is it lawful to call ID not science and provide as alternative unscientific hypothesis, fairy tales or excuses, such as: " we don't know now, or can't provide experimental evidence for our claims but in the future we will"? How is that science?

    Would these excuses stand in real court of justice? If I sue the school board in Peel Region for teaching bad science based on Darwinian beliefs without evidence, wouldn't the real court of justice call it not science but evolutionary, Darwinian religion?

    1. No. In fact, there have been MANY court cases in the USA in which crazy people sued a school district claiming either that 1. "Darwinism" is a religion or 2. Evolution entails atheism, and atheism is a religion. This has been argued before many courts, and always badly-- the plaintiffs always invoke terrible arguments, just legally terrible, not just scientifically terrible-- their lawyers are idiots or insane, and they're always totally unaware of all the precedents where the same argument was made before and lost in court. Each plaintiff thinks he's a genius and the first one to try this kind of suit. They always lose.

      The conclusions of US courts are: "Darwinism" is not a religion. Atheism is not a religion, but can be treated as one in some cases to confer First Amendment protections to atheists. As for humanism, court decisions are mixed: some courts say it can be treated as a religion, others say not.

      It's been tried many times. Casey Luskin wrote up a review of such cases at Evolution News and Views. It's a loser, but knock yourself out. Call gravity theory a religion too while you're at it.

    2. "...teaching bad science based on Darwinian beliefs without evidence..."

      Without evidence? Have you gone and confused the words in your head with reality again?

    3. The first law of creationism: If you can say it, it's a controversy.

    4. Diogenes,

      Would you like to play a Darwinian Court Game of "yes" and "no"?
      If you score 3 out of 10 of the Darwinian paradigm, you win. Keep in mind that I'm not asking you to provide experimental evidence for your whatever. Are you in?

    5. "If you score 3 out of 10 of the Darwinian paradigm" Please read the things you write to see how cranky they sound.