Intelligent Design Overview For US Science Teachers

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Here's something I slapped together to present to the science faculty at Boston Latin School.

Intelligent Design Overview For US Science Teachers Mike Huben 5/19/06

Contents

Intelligent design is:

  • A creationism masquerading as science.
  • Supported by two main pseudoscientific theories: irreducible complexity and specified complexity.
  • Unconstitutional to teach as science.
  • A sophisticated public relations campaign, called the Wedge Strategy.
  • Part of a larger US fundamentalist movement to create a god-centered society.
  • Part of a conservative strategy to attack and discredit opponents.

Creationism:

  • ID is a slight variation on the “argument from design” of William Paley and many earlier creationists.
  • The only way ID differs from any other creationism is that it tries to hide its religious bias behind an ambiguous “designer”.
  • 99% of creationism consists of attacks on evolution. (The rest is unscientific and/or theological.)

The great fallacy of creationist argument.

They believe successful attacks on evolution would:

  • Make creationism scientific.
  • Mean creationism must be right.

They must be delusional.

Irreducible complexity.

  • The idea that complex systems could not have arisen through evolution, and thus must have been designed. Mousetraps, bacterial flagella and blood clotting systems are their favorite examples. Note this is not based on evidence of design or any other evidence.
  • Orgel's second rule: "Evolution is cleverer than you are."
  • "Never say, and never take seriously anyone who says, 'I cannot believe that so-and-so could have evolved by gradual selection.' I have dubbed this kind of fallacy 'the Argument from Personal Incredulity.' Time and again, it has proven the prelude to an intellectual banana-skin experience." Richard Dawkins

Specified complexity.

  • Mathematical and philosophical nonsense designed to be outside the expertise of most biologists, and thus difficult for them to refute.
  • Claims to infer design.
  • Design is an evolutionary process: simply non-biological. If specified complexity worked, it would be an evolutionary process detector.


Pseudoscientific.

  • There are no peer-reviewed studies supporting intelligent design in the scientific research literature.
  • Funding is dedicated to public relations, not research.
  • "...it's a strange scientific revolution that seeks to establish its position in secondary school curricula before the research itself has been accomplished."
  • A callous disregard for accuracy and extraordinary misquotation and misrepresentation in the ID literature.
  • Bogus institutional affiliations of researchers and affiliates.

Unconstitutional.

  • Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District
  • Judge Jones barred intelligent design from being taught in public school science classrooms.
  • A humiliating and thorough defeat.
  • All those Dover school board members are out of office now.
  • Judge Jones said: The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory.

1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; 2) The argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980's; and 3) ID's negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community.

Wedge Strategy.

  • Set forth in a leaked Wedge Document.
  • Goals: To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural, and political legacies; to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.
  • Outlines a public relations campaign meant to sway the opinion of the public, popular media, charitable funding agencies, and public policy makers.
    • Phase I: Scientific Research, Writing & Publicity,
    • Phase II: Publicity & Opinion-making, and
    • Phase III: Cultural Confrontation & Renewal.
  • Created by Phillip E. Johnson, author of "Darwin on Trial".
  • Authored by the Discovery Institute, a conservative Christian think tank.
  • Run by the Center for Science and Culture (a subsidiary of the above.)
  • Legal front groups: Thomas More Law Center, Alliance Defense Fund, and Quality Science Education for All.
  • A creationist production company Discovery Media.
  • Illustra Media, a front group for Discovery Media.
  • Textbook “Of Pandas and People”.


Conservative/Fundamentalist Movement.

  • Attempt to create a God-centered society, with Biblically-based laws and values.
  • Vague “designer” makes ID compatible with mainstream churches, such as Catholocism, and evades conflict between old earth and young earth creationists.
  • Major Funding from extreme right-wing Christians and foundations:
    • Howard Ahmanson Jr.
    • Philip F. Anschutz
    • Richard Mellon Scaife
    • MacLellan Foundation

The other Abrahamic religions also have creationism.

  • Islam – Christian creationist arguments (including ID) are widely parroted by Muslim fundamentalists to attack westernism and secularism.
  • Judaism – creationist teaching in orthodox-dominated public schools in Israel.

Combatting ID.

  • Ridicule: Flying Sphaghetti Monster
  • Teach the controversy: in a social studies class as an example of how public relations are used by special interests to sway public opinions.
  • Debate only for the audience: you cannot convince the ID believer. Show the audience the fraud and errors, ignore the attacks on evolution.
  • Do not debate without extensive preparation. They’ve prepared far more than you have. Read successful debate strategies at talk.origins.
  • Beware of their framing: ignore their frames and impose those of science.
    • “Evolution is a theory in crisis.” No, creationists are desperate.
    • “Teach the controversy.” There is only religious controversy about this.

References.

  • Wikipedia has surprisingly good articles and references to both sides.
  • University of Ediacara, http://www.ediacara.org/ (talk.origins FAQs)
  • Skeptic’s Dictionary, http://skepdic.com/
  • Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism by Matt Young (Editor), Taner Edis (Editor)

Comic

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal 8/14/2012

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