Friday, March 04, 2011

Casey Luskin Invokes Need for Tennessee HB 368

In Evolution News and Views, Casey Luskin has endorsed the need for Tennessee House Bill 368. He writes:

Why do we need academic freedom legislation like Tennessee's HB 368? In case biology lecturer Allison Campbell decides to relocate to the United States. Sadly, even if she remains in New Zealand, there are already people here who don't allow for the free flow of ideas, especially when it comes to discussion of evolution.

Biology lecturer Allison Campbell at the University of Waikato in Hillcrest, New Zealand, exemplifies a mindset that is tragically common in academia. She openly boasts that if a student were to use standard ID arguments such as the irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum, that student would be "marked down."
He then argues that she has gotten a number of points wrong. Lets see what he writes:
She capitulates to the conspiracy theory that ID is creationism because of the editing of the Pandas textbook, ignoring the fact that prepublication drafts of Pandas used the term "creationism" in a way that is very different from standard formulations of creationism that caused it to be declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. (For details, see here or here.)
In the first document that Mr. Luskin cites, he argues that a blanket designation of “creationist” is inappropriate:
It is important from the outset to understand that labeling ID “creationism” simply because many of its proponents believe God created the universe would define the term so broadly as to make it largely meaningless. For example, biologist Kenneth Miller, one of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses, conceded on the witness stand that he was a creationist when “creationist” is understood to mean anyone who believes that the universe was created by God.
There are two problems here. The first is that calling Kenneth Miller a “creationist” is not meaningless. Kenneth Miller is a creationist. So am I. We are both evolutionary creationists. Casey Luskin, William Dembski and Hugh Ross are Intelligent Design Creationists. Ken Ham and John Morris are Young Earth Creationists. This tree might be instructive:
Note: I have since adopted the term “evolutionary creationist” as being preferable to “Theistic Evolutionist.”

The second problem is that Luskin and others consistently use the terms “Darwinist” and “evolutionist” in their writings and, by doing so, fail to make the same distinctions that he claims are not being made about the use of the word “creationist” (see here, here, here, and here). What he and other writers of the Discovery Institute and Young Earth Creation groups mean when they use these terms is those individuals who are philosophical naturalists, but they do not make this distinction. There are many evolutionists who are also Bible-believing Christians. That is not a very useful distinction when you are trying to denigrate evolution, however.

Also, in his defense of the idea that ID is not creationism, Mr. Luskin never addresses the “smoking gun” problem of the “cdesign proponentsists.” which clearly linked the terms “creationists” and “design proponents.”

He continues:
She rants about the "Wedge document" even though its actual text is far more benign than she realizes, ignoring the fact that leading evolutionists have expressed their own motivations in the debate over ID and evolution.
Luskin fails to mention the fact that there are serious objections to the way in which Discovery Fellows like Michael Behe define science (his definition of science would accept astrology) or the fact that Phillip Johnson wants to abandon the entire scientific enterprise or that the ID movement is, in William Dembski's words, "just the Logos of John's Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory."1 While I also accept the word of God, the Bible is not a scientific textbook, nor was it meant to be. The text of the Wedge Document is not benign with regard to dismantling the scientific enterprise.

He finishes up by writing:
Dr. Campbell might not realize it, but she just heartily endorsed what is perhaps the most illiberal and anti-freedom aspect of the Kitzmiller ruling. In America, Judge Jones' logic is usually immediately seen as bigoted because the fact that someone believes in God should never be taken as a reason to dismiss or ban their scientific views. (For a discussion, see here or here.)
More smoke and mirrors. That is not what Judge Jones did. He said absolutely nothing about belief in God. He decided that ID was religiously-based, a conclusion that was very easy to draw based on the testimony of the defense, some of whom lied in the court room about their reasons for wanting ID taught in the schools. Furthermore, I have read the book that the defense trucked into the schools in the dead of night, Of Pandas and People. The book is awful and if this is representative of the supplementary material that the supporters of this bill want to use, then the opponents of this bill have every right to voice their opposition.

I would like to have an open mind about HB 836. It is certainly true that critical thinking is required in Any scientific endeavor. Doesn't it seem odd, though, that only evolution is being singled out? Sure seems odd to me.

1William A. Dembski, (1999) Signs of Intelligence: A Primer on the Discernment of Intelligent Design, Touchstone, July-August, 84.

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  1. Anonymous8:57 AM

    Interesting article. I had never seen the "Cdesign proponentists" thing, I got a good chuckle out of that :]

    I'm atheist but I respect your approach to this issue. The only part I took some exception to was the bit about desiring to have an open mind about HB 368 (you accidentally typed "HB 836" at the end). Let's not encourage them, lol.

  2. Yes the “cdesign proponentsists” is quite a howl and a good catch phrase to keep handy whenever an ID supporter states that there is no connexion between ID and recent earth creationism.

    As I said, I “would like” to have an open mind about the bill. Since it has been yanked, the point is moot, but in truth, I never did have an open mind about it. Every bill I have ever seen that has been drafted to promote “academic freedom” has been a smokescreen to try to eradicate teaching of evolution.

    This is one of the reasons that Steve Matheson dislikes the ID movement so intensely: it is not clear that they are above board about anything they do.