To: Discovery Institute;
Re: Creationist Tactics Pre-Dating the Exposure of ID as a Fraud

The folks at the Discovery Institute have been expending a lot of energy responding to a blog post I recently wroteabout a record number of creationist bills introduced in state legislatures since January. I write numerous posts about intelligent design and the Discovery Institute’s disingenuous attacks on evolution education, so I’m not sure why this particular post has gotten them so hot and bothered.

First, David Klinghoffer had a bit of a snit on DI’s Evolution News last week over the issue of peer-reviewed intelligent design research—a topic I’ll revisit soon.

This week, DI fellow and spokesman John West is upset over the fact that I didn’t appropriately credit those at Discovery for their creationist tactics.

West objects to this paragraph:

As always, since intelligent design was ruled unconstitutional in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the introduced bills rely on such creationist code words as “teaching the controversy,” “academic freedom,” or “critical analysis.”

His argument is that the Discovery Institute was promoting “critical analysis” long before intelligent design was exposed as nothing but revamped creationism.

(One of the most problematic elements of intelligent design is its proponents’ argument that those searching for proof of God’s existence no longer need faith, since ID provides scientific evidence. But, as ID defender and scientist Michael Behe testified during the Dover trial, the evidence only takes one so far and, in the end, one really does need faith.)

Still, West is correct. Discovery Institute folks had long been promoting critical analysis – when they weren’t busy also promoting intelligent design. As is their modus operandi, they switch between intelligent design and coded phrases like “teach the controversy” when it serves their purposes.

For an example of their promotion of intelligent design in public school science class, see their 1999 booklet Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curricula: A Legal Guidebook.

Also, in the case of Dover, Discovery initially sent pro-ID DVDs, such as Signature in the Cell, to school board members. But when it looked like the case was headed for a First Amendment trial that they would inevitably lose, they dropped back to urging board members to adopt “teach the controversy” language.

Still, I never wrote that the critical analysis strategy was invented in the wake of Kitzmiller. What I wrote was that the proposed “critical analysis” and “academic freedom” legislation emerged after Dover; in other words, legislation after Kitzmiller now featured these code words prominently. Even West has to admit this is true, because the bills are based on sample legislation that the Discovery Institute wrote in 2008.

West’s post opens with a few recollections of my coverage of the Dover trial commenting that, “it was pretty clear what side of the controversy she was rooting for,” demonstrating just how trapped he is in his own hype. After all, you can’t be on any side of a controversy when there really is no controversy to begin with—not for the roughly 99.95% of scientists with relevant expertise, anyway. That’s in fact the whole point.

In any case, he then recounts a rather nasty disagreement that we had on the phone during the Dover trial back in 2005. I have to admit his recollection is pretty accurate. At one point he said, “How dare you say that we’re stupid.”

I told him that I wasn’t calling him stupid. Not at all. I was calling him dishonest.

With regard to that account, he and I are in agreement.