Sunday, March 19, 2006

Daily Kos : : Know Your Creationists, Know Your Allies

In the wake of the Kitzmiller V. Dover trial at which she was an expert witness, Dr. Barbara Forrest offers a detailed debunking of the Intelligent Design scam and some pointed remarks on the politicization of science:

...Their attack on evolution symbolizes their contempt for public education, modern science, and ultimately the Enlightenment ideals on which American constitutional democracy is based...

The government has politicized science committees. The American people have consequently lost the valuable expertise of scientists who have either left or were removed from these committees. The federal government's credibility in science-related policy matters has been severely undermined.


Blogger Management said...

In the recent victory for both sanity and scientific integrity in the Kitzmiller Vs Dover case concerning Intelligent Design Creationism, the presiding judge utterly hammered the opposition over what he clearly judged as attempts to repackage creationism under the guise of ID. One of the key contributors to establishing the position that IDC is simply creationism redux was DR Barbara Forrest. Barbara is coauthor of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (A must read for anyone who wishes to take on school boards if and when creationism rears its ugly head in the local area). Research and data garnered from writing that book allowed Barbara to undercut and falsify the defendants (Intelligent Design Creationists) using their own on the record statements. The damage inflicted to the creationist's credibility was so damaging that the presiding judge, John E. Jones III, chastized them severely in his decision:

[The Panda's Thumb"Waterloo in Dover] Judge John E. Jones wrote: The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

The end result was a landmark defeat for creationism, the anti-science movement, and, sadly, a one-million dollar legal bill for the good taxpayers of Dover, Pennsylvania, all courtesy of a few anti-science wackos on the Dover School Board who got them caught up in this mess. I had a chance to ask Barbara about her role in the trial, creationism, the new packaging called Intelligent Design, and the anti-science movement in general. Please join me below for her responses and warnings, join me in congratulating her for a job well done, and wish her luck in the many battles ahead she and her associates will wage on behalf of all Americans.

DarkSyde (DS): How did you become interested in the Evolution Vs Creationism issue?

DR Barbara Forrest (Barbara): In 1981, my state of Louisiana passed the "Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction Act," which required teaching creation science whenever evolution was taught in a public high school. I participated in a panel discussion about the Balanced Treatment Act at Southeastern Louisiana University, where I am on the faculty. Much later, in 1994, creationists tried to persuade my children's school system to adopt a creationist curriculum guide. I was the only parent to protest this in a parish of over 70,000 people. My effort succeeded, but I had to become knowledgeable about the various aspects of creationism in order to stop it. This was the first time I heard "intelligent design" used to refer to creationism. (See my article about this experience here.) As this effort was winding down in 1996, I learned from the National Center for Science Education about the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture (CRSC), now called the Center for Science and Culture (CSC). I had become acquainted with other anticreationists, and we began to watch the CRSC's activities and to share information. We suspected that intelligent design creationists would be the ones with whom we would now have to contend. We were right.

DS: How did Intelligent Design come about, who cooked this up?

Barbara: It's important to distinguish between the development of the ID creationists' Wedge Strategy, which I describe below, and the development of the ID movement itself. The ID movement began in the early 1980s with the publication of The Mystery of Life's Origin (MoLO 1984) by creationist chemist Charles B. Thaxton with Walter L. Bradley and Roger L. Olsen. Thaxton worked for Jon A. Buell at the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE) in Texas, a religious organization that published MoLO. When FTE published MoLO, work had already begun on the book that later became Of Pandas and People, written by creationists Dean Kenyon and Percival Davis. Thaxton was the Pandas project chairman and academic editor. Thaxton called a 1988 conference, "Sources of Information Content in DNA," which attracted creationists such as Stephen C. Meyer, who later helped Discovery Institute president Bruce Chapman establish the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture (1996). In December 1988, Thaxton decided to use the label "intelligent design" instead of creationism for his new movement. He was the ID movement's most important early figure. He and Bradley later became Discovery Institute fellows at the CRSC.

It is important to note that both Thaxton's conference and his decision to use the term "intelligent design" occurred after the 1987 Edwards ruling. In addition, as I showed during my testimony in the Kitzmiller trial, the terminology used in Pandas was changed after the Edwards v. Aguillard ruling in 1987: the term "creationism" and its cognates were changed to "intelligent design."

All of this activity marked the beginning of the post-Edwards transformation of creation science to "intelligent design." ID proponents knew they could not continue to call themselves creationists. But Kenyon, who had been an expert witness as a "creation scientist" in the Edwards case at the same time he was writing Pandas, has plainly stated that "Scientific creationism, which in its modern phase began in the early 1960s, is actually one of the intellectual antecedents of the Intelligent Design movement" (Source).

In 1987, Stephen Meyer had met Phillip E. Johnson, a law professor at the University of California-Berkeley, while Johnson was on sabbatical in England and Meyer was completing his Ph.D. at Cambridge. Meyer told his fellow creationists about Johnson, who had undergone a religious conversion and decided to devote his life to crusading against evolution. After Johnson returned to the U.S., Meyer and his creationist associates united under Johnson's leadership, and Johnson developed his "Wedge Strategy." As I mentioned above, the ID movement was deliberately crafted, with Johnson as chief strategist, to avoid the constraints of the Edwards decision.

The "Wedge Strategy," Johnson's term for his plan to split open the "log of naturalism," began with Johnson's 1991 book Darwin on Trial. He rejects science's naturalistic methodology and wants to alter the definition of science to include the supernatural. He wants to reinstate in the public mind a pre-modern-- and pre-Darwinian-- understanding of science. Johnson considers his early work to be the "thin edge of the wedge," creating an opening for the work of younger ID creationists to gain entry into the science curriculum. Moreover, working with Religious Right groups such as Focus on the Family, American culture will be "renewed," i.e., returned to what ID proponents regard as its properly Christian foundation. (This reveals their agenda not only to subvert evolutionary theory, but secular constitutional democracy. See "The Wedge of Intelligent Design: Retrograde Science, Schooling, and Society," which Paul Gross and I wrote for Noretta Koertge's book, Scientific Values and Civic Virtues, Oxford University Press, 2005.)

After the 1996 establishment of the CRSC, ID creationists began to execute the Wedge Strategy in earnest. They sketched out their goals for the next twenty years in a tactical document entitled "The Wedge Strategy." Intended as a fundraising tool, it was leaked by Matt Duss, a part-time employee of a Seattle company who was instructed to photocopy it. His friend, Tim Rhodes, posted it on the Internet in February 1999. The Discovery Institute did not directly acknowledge ownership of the document until 2002. I had independently authenticated it in early 2000 during my research for Creationism's Trojan Horse. The "Wedge Document," as it is familiarly known, has served as a yardstick by which to measure the ID movement's advancement of its strategy.

DS: So, is there even a theory of Intelligent Design?

Babara: No. A scientific theory is a well-established scientific explanation of natural phenomena using abundant data acquired through rigorous scientific testing and research. ID proponents have produced absolutely nothing except a spate of books aimed at the popular audience. They have produced not one scintilla of scientific data because they have no scientific research program. ID is nothing more than a slightly repackaged extension of pre-Edwards creationism, advanced through the Discovery Institute's political connections, lucrative donor funding, Religious Right allies, and a slick public relations program. The Discovery Institute recently hired Creative Response Concepts, the same PR firm that represented Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Although scientific research is listed as the first goal in Phase I of the Wedge Strategy (probably as reassurance to potential donors), no scientific research on ID has even been attempted in any meaningful way by ID proponents. No scientific data supporting ID has ever been published in a peer-reviewed science journal. If such data existed, the Discovery Institute could make it readily available on one of its many websites. Of the relative handful of scientists who have endorsed the ID agenda, not a single one uses intelligent design as a working, professional scientist. Even biochemist Michael Behe, ID's premier scientist, has produced absolutely no scientific data to support it, nor does he himself use ID as a scientific theory in his own professional work as a scientist. Kenneth Chang's August 22, 2005, New York Times article on the ID movement refers to an ID research center called the Biologic Institute. But no announcement of it is posted on the Discovery Institute's website. An Internet search turns up neither a website or a phone listing. I suspect that the Discovery Institute tossed this out in advance of the Dover trial, which began one month after the article appeared.

DS: I understand that in the Dover Intelligent Design trial, you presented or were responsible for some evidence that was considered crucial, what was that about?

Barbara: I had two responsibilities as an expert witness, reflected in my Expert Witness Report and my Supplemental Report, respectively. First, I had to demonstrate, based on my research for Creationism's Trojan Horse, that intelligent design is (1) a religious belief and (2) creationism. Second, I had to examine earlier drafts of Of Pandas and People to determine if they contained anything significant. I discovered several earlier drafts dating back to 1983 which showed that Pandas had very clearly been written as a creationist textbook.

There was more at stake in this trial than the immediate question of the constitutionality of the Dover School Board's ID policy statement. The attorneys for the plaintiffs wanted to cover this case comprehensively, demonstrating not only the board's policy statement was unconstitutional but also that ID is creationism and, as such, is a religious belief. My reports contained information important to their ability to do this. All of the expert witnesses had different responsibilities. Scientists Kevin Padian and Kenneth Miller explained to the judge the compelling evidence for evolution and critiqued the putative scientific claims of ID creationists. Philosopher Robert Pennock explained the naturalistic methodology of science. Brian Alters, an expert in science education, explained why teaching evolution is important and why the Dover board's policy would have been so damaging to Dover students. John Haught, a theologian, blew apart the idea that accepting evolution threatens religious faith.

My role as an expert witness was unique because of the extensive empirical research I had done for my book to establish that ID is both a religious belief and another form of creationism. Creationism's Trojan Horse is the only book that does this. My co-author Paul Gross and I have concentrated a great deal of information about the ID movement in the book, and we have explained the significance of all this information. In addition, at every opportunity I have used the ID creationists' own words to disprove their claims that ID is a secular, scientific theory. For instance, I use the words of Phillip Johnson and William Dembski, ID's chief intellectual and apologist, to show that ID is just as biblically based as young-earth creationism. Instead of basing ID on the first chapter of Genesis, Johnson and Dembski base ID on the first chapter of the Gospel of John. In my report, I used an interview featuring Dembski and young-earth ID proponent Paul Nelson in which Nelson actually admitted in 2004 --thirteen years after the beginning of the Wedge Strategy-- that ID creationists have neither a scientific theory nor even a research program: "Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don't have such a theory right now, and that's a real problem. Without a theory, it's very hard to know where to direct your research focus."

It's amazing that these guys make statements like this in print and apparently think that no one will bother to track them down. But I had exposed ID as the con game it really is, using its proponents own words. I had also done the research showing how the terminology in Pandas had been changed after the Edwards ruling.

The Discovery Institute knew how damaging my testimony would be, not only to the defense's case but also to their ID program itself, so they tried to discredit me even before I arrived in Harrisburg to testify. On September 29, 2005, the Discovery Institute posted on its website a sophomoric "parody" of an interview between "Dr. Barking Forrest" and "Marvin Waldburger." The Thomas More Law Center also filed a motion to have me excluded as an expert witness. The Discovery Institute's fingerprints were all over the brief, which referred to me as "little more than a conspiracy theorist and a web-surfing, `cyber-stalker' of the Discovery Institute." A few days before I left for Harrisburg, the judge denied the motion. After I arrived, defense attorneys again tried to have me disqualified to keep me from testifying. They failed again, and I testified on October 5-6, 2005.

DS: The wedge strategists sound like they're interested in taking over a lot more public policy processes than simply K 12 biology/evolution. Do you feel that other science/policy matters are in danger and if so, can you give you an example?

Barbara: More is at stake in the ID issue than science education, though that's important enough by itself. ID creationists must not be viewed in a vacuum. The insidious feature of ID is not only its attack on public education, but the fact that ID creationism is another column in the Religious Right's decades-old attack on secular, constitutional democracy. And ID proponents are plugged into the conservative political and Religious Right power structure. As most people now know, their supporters include the president of the United States. They also include U.S. senators (Rick Santorum, Bill Frist, John McCain, Judd Gregg, and Sam Brownback) and congressmen (e.g., House Majority Leader John Boehner). Three state governors, Ernie Fletcher of Kentucky, Mark Sanford of South Carolina, and Rick Perry of Texas, have announced their support for teaching ID in public school science classes. The Discovery Institute creationists are the most politically well-connected creationists with whom we have had to deal. This is what makes ID a significant and dangerous phase in the history of American creationism. Their attack on evolution symbolizes their contempt for public education, modern science, and ultimately the Enlightenment ideals on which American constitutional democracy is based. The Wedge Document clearly shows that ID creationists want to overthrow secular culture and public policy, to which the only alternative is some type of theocracy.

DS: The anti-science movement in general and ID movement specifically have received a few setbacks recently, or at least they're not making much ground for the time being, where do you see them going from here?

Barbara: Clarifying the meaning of "anti-science movement" would be helpful here. The ID movement is certainly part of a broader anti-science contingent. However, although the ID movement has suffered severe setbacks lately (in Dover, Ohio, and California), I don't think the same can be said regarding anti-science efforts in general. The government has politicized science committees. The American people have consequently lost the valuable expertise of scientists who have either left or were removed from these committees. The federal government's credibility in science-related policy matters has been severely undermined. This is the direct result of the influence of the Religious Right in the Bush administration, and every American should be concerned since matters of life and death are at stake here. An example of this is the decision by NASA scientist James Hansen to blow the whistle about efforts by political appointees to influence what he can tell the public about global warming. As a resident of post-Katrina Louisiana, that example of political interference with the flow of scientific information is especially ominous to me.

As for the ID movement in particular, Judge John Jones's ruling in the Dover case was a big loss for them, despite their post-ruling spin. Although the ruling is binding only in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Judge Jones crafted it so clearly and comprehensively that it is going to serve as a legal guidepost in future cases. It has already had a deterrent effect. The Ohio Board of Education reversed itself and deleted a creationist lesson plan from the state science curriculum and also deleted part of a benchmark in state science standards for which that lesson was written. The El Tejon Unified School District reversed its decision to allow a soccer coach to teach ID under the guise of a philosophy course in Lebec, California.

But I doubt that ID creationists are going to give up. I have never seen creationists yet who would take "No" for an answer. They will keep pushing for a legal case in a district where they think they can win. They will keep shifting and sanitizing their terminology. They are reluctant to support policies like Dover's that overtly refer to "intelligent design" because they know that this term is now a liability for them. They have strategically altered their terminology and now are pushing for teachers to be permitted to discuss the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution, or to require "critical analysis" of evolutionary theory. ID creationists are culture warriors of the Religious Right, and the Religious Right isn't going away. They will be a problem until enough Americans realize the danger in their agenda and refuse to support politicians who are helping them carry it out.

Dr. Barbara Carroll Forrest coauthored Creationism's Trojan Horse with Paul R. Gross. After receiving an M.A. in philosophy at Louisiana State University in 1978, Dr. Forrest was awarded a Ph.D. in philosophy at Tulane University in 1988. Under the direction of Tulane philosopher Andrew Reck, her doctoral dissertation on American philosopher Sidney Hook examined the influence of Hook's philosophical naturalism on his philosophy of education. Dr. Forrest has taught philosophy at Southeastern since 1981 and presently holds the rank of professor in philosophy in the Department of History and Political Science.

4:15 AM  

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