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Excerpt from Dr Shermer's "Skeptic" magazine

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  • Tamara
    Intentional Deception: Intelligent Design Creationism A review of Creationism s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design by Barbara Forrest and Paul R.
    Message 1 of 3 , Jun 1, 2004
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      Intentional Deception: Intelligent Design Creationism
      A review of
      "Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design"
      by Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross, Oxford University Press, 2004, 401 pp., ISBN 0-19-515742-7

      Bruce Grant

      "Those who cavalierly reject the Theory of Evolution, as not adequately supported by facts, seem quite to forget that their own theory is supported by no facts at all."
      -Herbert Spencer, 1820-1903

      ABOUT SIX YEARS AGO the editor of a national journal in the biological sciences sent me a manuscript to referee that purported to review the literature on the evolution of melanism in peppered moths. No new data were presented. The author had not published in this field previously, and had not produced any research of his own. But science is an open enterprise, and anyone who has something valid to offer should be welcomed and encouraged. So, I read it with care, and offered this commentary to the editor:

      I have served as a reviewer of manuscripts submitted to biological journals for over 30 years...and in all of that time I have never encountered a manuscript with so many errors. Some of this can be attributed to poor scholarship...and some might be attributed to differences of opinion.... This happens. Certainly I've made my share of errors in print. Who hasn't? But this essay...is different. His 'errors' tend to be of selective omission and appear to be consistently crafted to support his arguments. I think this tactic is more common in the field of law in which the objective is to win the argument rather than to find the truth. To readers not intimately familiar with the primary literature in this field it might appear that [he] has assembled a strong indictment against the widely held view that natural selection is chiefly responsible for the temporal and geographic variations observed in peppered moth populations. [The] list of references cited in his essay is both long and impressive. But based on his account of this work in his essay, I am left wondering whether he has actually read the papers and books he cites, or whether he has read them carefully. Perhaps my impression is wrong; perhaps he has mastered the literature in this field. If so, then I am forced to entertain the disquieting notion that [his] distortions of the controversies in this field have been deliberate. Whatever the cause, ignorance or dishonesty, [his] essay certainly does not qualify as objective scholarship.

      My critique went on for seven more pages, enumerating in detail my specific complaints. Instead of making corrections and submitting a revision to the journal, that author posted his rejected manuscript, still brimming with the same errors, on the Internet! Later, a much abridged but still error-ridden version appeared as an op-ed piece in The Scientist, escaping the scrutiny of peer reviewer. And, unrepentant, that same author incorporated yet another version of his essay as a chapter in his book, an overly ambitious and mendacious attack on evolution published in 2000.

      At the time I refereed the original manuscript I was unaware that its author was affiliated with the Discovery Institute, an organization promoting "intelligent design" (ID) creationism. I did suspect he was hiding an agenda, but my job was to review his science, not his motives. My arguments were directed solely at his flagrant misrepresentation of the literature in my field. When it comes to debating points of science with the scientists who do the actual work, ID creationists might as well challenge Yo-Yo Ma to a cello contest. At least that's what I thought until I read Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, by Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross, a book that documents in painstaking detail the recent history and ongoing programs of neo-creationists who seek to subvert science education and transform society. They might have titled their book after Al Franken's Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them), since it features practitioners of ID creationism masquerading as scientists hoping to be taken inside the cloistered walls of academe.

      The book is not so much about the ID argument as it is about the current ID movement, called the "Wedge," dating to 1992. (The "Argument from Design" dates back to 1802 in William Paley's treatise, Natural Theology, and was refuted 57 years later by Charles Darwin in The Origin of Species, and more recently by Richard Dawkins in The Blind Watchmaker.) Neo-creationists imitate Paley's designed-watch metaphor and peddle it like a Hong Kong Rolex, insisting it is authentic science and not religion. But of course it is religion: the intelligence in Intelligent Design demands the existence of a supernatural force or agent, so we might as well call that agent God, for short.

      Briefly, the ID claim is that complex adaptations cannot have evolved by so simple a process as natural selection acting upon heritable variation. ID biochemist Michael Behe argues that many structures or molecular assemblages are irreducibly complex (IC) such that the removal of any component causes complete loss of function. A number of reviewers have exposed the logical flaw in Behe's contention that only ID can explain IC. Forrest and Gross cite evolutionist Jerry Coyne in rebuttal: "[B]iochemical pathways did not evolve by the sequential addition of steps to pathways that became functional only at the end. Instead, they have been rigged up with pieces co-opted from other pathways, duplicated genes, and multifunctional enzymes" (p. 81). As the IC argument poses no challenge to Darwinism, evolutionist H. Allen Orr pronounced the idea "dead" and suggested that the ID community should give it a "proper burial" (Boston Review, Summer 2002).

      Forrest and Gross devote considerable space to the powers of obfuscation of ID theorist William Dembski, who dazzles naive audiences with mathematical footwork. Dembski doesn't equivocate about the role he sees for religion in science: "Christ is never an addendum to a scientific theory but always a completion" (p. 85). They alert us to his latest opus, No Free Lunch, in production at the time of their own writing, but it too has since been routed by critics (see REPORTS of the National Center for Science Education, vol. 23, nos. 5-6, 2003). In particular Allen Orr disassembled Dembski's argument that ID can be detected as the occurrence of events of "specified complexity" that cannot be accounted for within statistical reason by random processes or by "goal-directed" search algorithms producing pre-specified targets when all possible fitness functions are averaged. The problem with Dembski's analysis is that search algorithms are flawed analogies of Darwinism, so Dembski's calculations are irrelevant. Darwinian evolution by natural selection has no "goal," or pre-specified target. As Orr put it, "Nice answer, wrong question."

      Whatever ID is, it's not science if we judge by the new information or discoveries it has produced: "The dearth of scientific results in support of ID was confirmed in George W. Gilchrist's 1997 survey of the scientific literature.... He reports that 'this search of several hundred thousand scientific reports published over several years failed to discover a single instance of biological research using intelligent design theory to explain life's diversity.' The situation has not changed since 1997" (p. 38).

      Forrest and Gross point out that the literature of science is replete with refutations and technical dismissals of ID claims, and they provide references to many of them. But the thorough debunking of ID nonsense by experts in various fields of science and philosophy has not been nearly enough to combat the ID movement. Indeed, ID-movement founder, lawyer Phillip Johnson, boasts that "'the wedge is lodged securely in the crack' between empirical science and naturalistic philosophy..." (p. 10). Considering ID's abject failure as a scientific program, how can Johnson make this claim? On the practice of science ID has had no impact, but on selling the ID story to the public, the Wedge has made alarming inroads. With apologies to Abe Lincoln, one needn't fool all the people all the time, just enough of the people at the right time.

      ID creationists don't really expect to win arguments with scientists about science, but they do want to have arguments with scientists so the public might think they have a substantial case. They want the public, not scientists, to judge. What could be fairer? Unfortunately, it's easy to sound like a scientist among people not well versed in a particular specialty.

      Unlike Behe and Dembski who actually attempt to construct arguments in support of ID-however wrong they are-ID biologist Jonathan Wells offers nothing except underhanded ridicule of research in evolutionary biology. Of himself, Wells says: "Father's [the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's] words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism.... When Father chose me...to enter a Ph.D. program...I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle" (p. 85). Wells, an active theologian in Moon's Unification Church, does battle by scanning the scientific literature in search of controversies that he can distort. He misleads audiences into believing that Darwinism is built on a house of cards, that it is a dying concept sustained by fraud perpetuated by "establishment" conspirators who are in a panic to cover up Darwinism's failure to explain the diversity of life. Wells' book, Icons of Evolution, has been refuted point by point by legitimate experts. But how can well-meaning people on school boards, including professional scientists who are not thoroughly knowledgeable of the primary literature, decide who is right and who is butchering evidence?

      Forrest and Gross concede that our American tradition of fair play and to let all parties be heard, unfortunately plays against us because in this debate not all parties are playing fair. I can understand that people in the ID movement, or in any movement, want to present their views, but I cannot excuse their deliberate misrepresentation of my views. Evolutionists have contemplated the putative adaptive value of cheating among social animals, but don't God-fearing creationists ever worry about bearing false witness?

      The Wedge's work to promote ID creationism in mainstream culture as a bona fide scientific alternative to Darwinism is gaining strength, not through any scientific achievements, but through aggressive marketing. Marketing, of course, costs money, and the Wedge is exceedingly well funded. Forrest and Gross report that the allotment of funds from the Discovery Institute to its Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture (the banner organization for the Wedge movement) was, by 1999, roughly three times the revenues of the National Center for Science Education. Additional funding from Fieldstead and Co., the Stewardship Foundation, and the Maclellan Foundation fattened the Wedge bankroll to about three million dollars by 2003.

      The marketing program includes giving lectures, sponsoring conferences, infiltrating curricula, advertising on the Internet, publishing books and brochures, recruiting political support, and keeping their propaganda in the news. They have cracked the mainstream news organizations with op-ed pieces in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Frequent attention in The Washington Times "may spring from its being owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon" (p. 171). Moon also purchased UPI in 2000. "Through his numerous front organizations, Moon has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into a plan to replace American democracy with a Unification theocracy" (p. 171).

      According to Phillip Johnson, the Wedge movement is right on track, its initial goals have been accomplished, and although it is "not the beginning of the end, ...it is the end of the beginning" (p. 10). Johnson sees the Wedge as a long-term project. "It'll take decades...and we won't be around to see the final days... In the meantime, the goal is to stay on the offensive and thus wear down the opposition" (p. 313). The chilling end they seek won't be completed by worming ID theory into the classroom, along side Darwinism (as if that's not bad enough). Their mission requires expunging Darwinism from biological education as a step toward discrediting the whole of naturalistic methodology and replacing it with theistic science. Combating creationism in its various guises continues to divert limited resources away from public education, and takes time away from enjoyable scholarship. But what choice do we have? To fight effectively, we must know our enemy. The most thorough introduction to that enemy is Creationism's Trojan Horse. Its authors are heroes.

      About the author:
      Dr. Bruce S. Grant is Professor of Biology Emeritus at the College of William & Mary where he taught genetics and evolution for 33 years until his retirement in 2001. He has done research with Drosophila species and parasitoid wasps, but since 1983 his research has focused on the evolution of melanism in peppered moths, a field in which he remains active. His recent publications are listed at: http://faculty.wm.edu/bsgran/


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • rlbaty50
      Tamara, I found a number of things in that articles quite interesting. There are quite a few similarities between my feeble attempts to consider the
      Message 2 of 3 , Jun 2, 2004
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        Tamara,

        I found a number of things in that articles quite interesting. There
        are quite a few similarities between my "feeble attempts" to consider
        the "young-earth, creation-science" promotions and what is generally
        considered inherent problems with that movement.

        Some may remember that I have been embroiled in the "Peppered Moth"
        controversy from time to time, though I currently have forgotten most
        of that discussion. "Moth" does start with "M", you know, and "M"
        has been my issue; Maury, moon-dust, mammoths, moths, Mikell, etc.

        I also long ago ran across the ID (intelligent design) controversy
        and Behe's little book, "Darwin's Black Box". I was humored a bit by
        how "young-earth, creation-science" types thought that was some kind
        of big deal; considering Behe is no "young-earth, creation-science"
        type and ID seems to typically accept a very ancient age of things
        and the evolutionary process commonly accepted by the scientific
        community.

        Here are some of the excepts from the article that I liked (look for
        characteristics that seem common to how Dr. Bert has handled his
        problems):

        > His 'errors' tend to be of selective omission and
        > appear to be consistently crafted to support his
        > arguments. I think this tactic is more common in
        > the field of law in which the objective is to win
        > the argument rather than to find the truth. To
        > readers not intimately familiar with the primary
        > literature in this field it might appear that [he]
        > has assembled a strong indictment against the widely
        > held view that. . .

        > I am forced to entertain the disquieting notion that
        > [his] distortions of the controversies in this field
        > have been deliberate. Whatever the cause, ignorance
        > or dishonesty, [his] essay certainly does not qualify
        > as objective scholarship.
        >
        > My critique went on for seven more pages, enumerating
        > in detail my specific complaints. Instead of making
        > corrections and submitting a revision to the journal,
        > that author posted his rejected manuscript, still
        > brimming with the same errors, on the Internet!

        > Later, a much abridged but still error-ridden version
        > appeared as an op-ed piece in The Scientist, escaping
        > the scrutiny of peer reviewer. And, unrepentant, that
        > same author incorporated yet another version of his
        > essay as a chapter in his book, an overly ambitious
        > and mendacious attack on evolution published in 2000.
        >
        > I did suspect he was hiding an agenda
        >
        > Forrest and Gross point out that the literature
        > of science is replete with refutations and technical
        > dismissals of ID claims, and they provide references
        > to many of them. But the thorough debunking of ID
        > nonsense by experts in various fields of science
        > and philosophy has not been nearly enough to combat
        > the ID movement.

        > On the practice of science ID has had no impact, but
        > on selling the ID story to the public, the Wedge
        > has made alarming inroads. With apologies to Abe
        > Lincoln, one needn't fool all the people all the
        > time, just enough of the people at the right time.
        >
        > ID creationists don't really expect to win arguments
        > with scientists about science, but they do want to
        > have arguments with scientists so the public might
        > think they have a substantial case. They want the
        > public, not scientists, to judge.

        > What could be fairer?

        > Unfortunately, it's easy to sound like a scientist
        > among people not well versed in a particular specialty.

        Sincerely,
        Robert Baty
      • Tamara
        I noted those same similarities. It s a very interesting magazine, quite enlightening. Best, Tamara ... From: rlbaty50 To: Maury_and_Baty@yahoogroups.com
        Message 3 of 3 , Jun 2, 2004
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          I noted those same similarities. It's a very interesting magazine, quite enlightening.

          Best,
          Tamara

          ----- Original Message -----
          From: rlbaty50
          To: Maury_and_Baty@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Wednesday, June 02, 2004 8:02 AM
          Subject: [Maury_and_Baty] Re: Excerpt from Dr Shermer's "Skeptic" magazine


          Tamara,

          I found a number of things in that articles quite interesting. There
          are quite a few similarities between my "feeble attempts" to consider
          the "young-earth, creation-science" promotions and what is generally
          considered inherent problems with that movement.



          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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