Response to Matzke and Padian's Revisionist History and Gloat Parade - Evolution News & Views

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Response to Matzke and Padian's Revisionist History and Gloat Parade

Nick Matzke and Kevin Padian have posted a celebratory rant at the NCSE website against ID and the Discovery Institute. But their rant is so extreme that it gives me reason to leap for joy. If there were any doubts that some people get over emotionally involved with this issue, Padian and Matzke's gloat-parade makes it clear.

With the lights shining brightly this rainy afternoon in Seattle, I offer the following comments:

Thanks for Your Support!
I'll start with a short e-mail I received recently from a professor at a large state university, and also a movie quote.

Recently a profesor responded to question about why he recently chose to join the Discovery Institute:

"Actually, if you must know, after reading Judge John E. Jones III's decision in the Pennsylvania case I became so angry that I thought I'd do something about it and join the Institute. That 139-page diatribe was so full of logical fallacies and non sequiturs it should have prompted others to do the same. I hope so anyway . . ."

The good news is that it has!

In the "infamous" and supremely classic movie "The Three Amigos," Steve Martin gives an inspiring speech to the town of Santa Poco:

In a way, all of us have an El Guapo to face someday. For some, shyness might be their El Guapo. For others, a lack of education might be their El Guapo. For us El Guapo is a big dangerous guy who wants to kill us But as sure as my name is Lucky Day the people of Santa Poco can conquer their own personal El Guapo who also happens to be the actual El Guapo.

The problem with the Dover decision is that it doesn't conquer the NCSE's actual El Guapo: The version of ID "denigrated and disparaged" in the Dover the decision doesn't represent the actual version of ID. Many people like my friend above have recognized that. This is one reason that I am confident that those who understand ID will realize why the Kitzmiller decision doesn't threaten the actual version of ID.

Sadly, Judge Jones fell prey to the misrepresentations of the plaintiffs during the Dover trial, which is why he predicated his entire decision upon the false claim that ID must be a "supernatural explanation." It went downhill from there. But let's look at the way the decision has caused some leading Darwinists to respond.

May your rant go marching on
To demonstrate the degree to which Matzke and Padian are interested in using emotional language, invectives, and gloating to prove their evidence-less points, just take a quick look at the diction they use in their conclusion:

It's over for the Discovery Institute. Turn out the lights. The fat lady has sung. The emperor of ID has no clothes. The bluff is over. Oh sure, they'll continue to pump out the blather. They'll find more funding, at least for a while, from some committed ideologue or another. But no one with any objectivity will take them seriously any longer as scientists. They had their fair chance, and they blew it.

Such kind words from Matzke and Padian might make them feel good. But they continually use invectives and twist what really happened and ignore the facts. Like kids should one day be able to do in all science classrooms, you should look at the evidence and decide for yourself.

Rewriting History
Was Judge Jones' decision activist? Matzke and Padian wrote:

In the DI's lexicon, "activist" means someone who says or does things you don't like: the ACLU, the NCSE, Americans United, and ... oh. A Republican judge from central Pennsylvania.

Actually, John West has already dealt with this claim regarding Judge Jones' alleged perfect vision. He wrote:

Regarding the fact that he is a Republican appointed by a Republican President: So what? The most liberal activist member of the current United States Supreme Court (John Paul Stevens) was appointed not by Bill Clinton but by Republican President Gerald Ford. President Ronald Reagan, meanwhile, appointed a number of judges (at all levels) who turned out to be just as liberal as any Democratic appointees. Only someone with scant knowledge of judicial appointments over the past few decades would claim that the fact that a Republican president appointed a judge would mean that the judge could not be a judicial liberal or an activist.

(Dover in Review: An Analysis of Judge Jones' Flawed Ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District)

For me, personally, I'm not very interested in debating over whether or not Jones was "activist," which could turn on how you define the term. The bottom line for me is this: he got a lot wrong about the nature of ID in his decision. More on this to come in future days...

Matzke and Padian then wrote:

Apparently it's not "activist" for the Discovery Institute to send their own "Icons of Evolution" video to the Dover Area School Board (a video that DASB member William Buckingham apparently bullied teachers to watch -- twice -- and was clearly an inspiration to Buckingham in his various efforts to squelch the teaching of evolution in Dover. Apparently it's not "activist" to send DI staff to Dover to counsel the school board on how to promote ID in science classes.

Ignoring that Matzke and Padian have twisted the meaning of "activist," here, this is an odd accusation coming from the NCSE, given that they regularly organize public opposition to efforts to teach evolution objectively in schools.

Regardless, this represents the rewriting of history to insinuate that the Dover policy was the result of the Discovery Institute's suggestion. They tried to pull off this false claim at the trial as well, as I noted at Closing arguments: Dover Plaintiffs' Counsel Speaks Loudly, Carries Small Stick, plaintiffs' attorneys planted the false notion in Judge Jones' head that Discovery advised Dover to pass its policy. As Seth Cooper notes, the truth is quite different from their fiction:

Further, I never advised members of the Dover Board to mandate the teaching of the theory of intelligent design or to adopt the ID policy at issue in the case. Rather, I strongly urged members of the Dover Board to either drop entirely the issue of alternatives to the teaching of evolution, or to only present scientific arguments both supporting and challenging the contemporary version of Darwin's theory and the chemical evolutionary theories for the origin of the first life. The Dover Board had their own legal counsel in their Solicitor and the public-interest law firm that they later hired. Members of the Dover Board who adopted the ID policy acted completely contrary to my strongest suggestions.

Furthermore, many might think that giving them the "Icons of Evolution" video represents telling them to teach ID. Matzke and Padian should go re-watch that video. The Icons video (like the book) isn't about ID. It's about teaching critical analysis of evolution and says nothing about getting into "replacement theories" for evolution like ID. So the video Dover received was not about ID.

This is something that puzzles me about Darwinists: they claim that teaching criticisms is just a guise for teaching ID. But that's not true. And the proof is in their own behavior: Ohio, which has a "teach the controversy over evolution" policy has stood without a lawsuit for over 3 years. It took the ACLU less than 2 months to sue when Dover explicitly started teaching ID. So there is much difference between simply teaching criticisms of evolution and going so far as to offer a "replacement theory" of intelligent design. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court already recognized this approach as a separate category of teaching origins, and declared legal the teaching of scientific criticisms of prevailing scientific theories in Edwards v. Aguillard:

"We do not imply that a legislature could never require that scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories be taught." (Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987) at 593.)

Some Darwinists just don't get that teaching students that Neo-Darwinism has scientific weaknesses is very different from getting into "replacment theories" like ID. It's not really all that complicated folks.

Matzke and Padian wrote:

The DI staunchly maintains that it never said that ID should be taught as science.

Where did they get that quote from? Again, that's a rewrite of history (or, if you prefer, a lie). Notice, there is no evidence, or even quotation, supporting the Matzke and Padian misrepresentation about Discovery's position. In fact, the Discovery Institute urged Dover not to mandate the teaching of ID for all biology classes. But we never said that ID shouldn't be taught as science. Of course ID is science and is appropriate for the science classroom. We defended this extensively to the Court in our amicus brief. I suggest that Matzke and Padian should retract their claim in light of the following conclusion from our amicus brief:

"Because the inclusion of intelligent design in the science curriculum can serve a variety of important secular purposes, and because it has a primary effect of improving science education and even promoting religious neutrality, the plaintiffs' request for broad and precedent-setting relief should be denied.

Since the Discovery Institute amicus brief openly defends the teaching of ID as science I have no idea where Matzke and Padian got their claim that Discovery "staunchly" refused to defend the teaching of ID as science.

Matzke and Padian also wrote:

"Apparently it's not "activist" to send DI staff to Dover to counsel the school board on how to promote ID in science classes."

Again, that's a falsehood. My friend Seth Cooper, who was then an attorney with the Discovery Institute, did indeed go to Dover, but he counseled them not to mandate the teaching of ID. This is discussed here. Again, I strongly encourage Matzke and Padian to retract this false claim.

Who is really promoting the sectarian viewpoint?
Matzke and Padian wrote:

"don't bother to tell anyone you're teaching a sectarian religious view;"

In response, I provide an important quote from the Of Pandas and People Textbook which makes it clear that ID is not a sectarian view, and that it is compatible with many different religious viewpoints.

"The idea that life had an intelligent source is hardly unique to Christian fundamentalism. Advocates of design have included not only Christians and other religious theists, but pantheists, Greek and Enlightenment philosophers and now include many modern scientists who describe themselves as religiously agnostic. Moreover, the concept of design implies absolutely nothing about beliefs and normally associated with Christian fundamentalism, such as a young earth, a global flood, or even the existence of the Christian God. All it implies is that life had an intelligent source." (Of Pandas and People, pg. 161)

You'd think the Judge would have dealt with this quote in his decision. Unfortunately, this passage was completely ignored by the Judge in the ruling. A more objective ruling would at least cite to this passage and deal with it. But Judge Jones didn't.

It's a historical fact that design proponents have represented a wide range of religious viewpoints. How does Pandas therefore supposedly advocate a sectarian view? For that matter, just what "sect" is it that promotes ID? Matzke and Padian don't say. If one wants to talk about sectarian views, why doesn't the ACLU consider biology textbooks that exclusively promote philosophical materialism:

"Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism, the conviction that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its by-products. Darwinian evolution was not only purposeless but also heartless--a process in which the rigors of nature ruthlessly eliminate the unfit." "Suddenly , humanity was reduced to just one more species in a world that cared nothing for us. The great human mind was no more than a mass of evolving neurons. Worst of all, there was no divine plan to guide us." [emphasis added] (Joseph S. Levine and Kenneth R. Miller, Biology: Discovering Life (D.C. Heath and Co., 1st ed. 1992, pg. 152; this language was not removed for the 2nd ed. in 1994, p. 161))

"Darwin showed that material causes are a sufficient explanation not only for physical phenomena, as Descartes and Newton had shown, but also for biological phenomena with all their seeming evidence of design and purpose. By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous. Together with Marx's materialistic theory of history and society and Freud's attribution of human behavior to influences over which we have little control, Darwin's theory of evolution was a crucial plank in the platform of mechanism and materialism..."
(Douglas Futuyma, Evolutionary Biology (1998, 3rd Ed., Sinauer Associates), pg. 5)

Pandas notes that their ID theory is compatible with "not only Christians and other religious theists, but pantheists, Greek and Enlightenment philosophers and now include many modern scientists who describe themselves as religiously agnostic," whereas Miller (plaintiffs leadoff expert witness) and Levine wrote that believing in Darwin's theory "required believing in philosophical materialism" and Futuyma says "Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous."

Who is really presenting the sectarian viewpoint?

Go back and reread the book.

Matzke and Padian say that because David DeWolf and Steve Meyer wrote: "school boards have the authority to permit, and even encourage, teaching about design theory as an alternative to Darwinian evolution -- and this includes the use of textbooks such as Of Pandas and People that present evidence for the theory of intelligent design." that therefore Discovery counseled Dover to include ID. We made our position very clear to Dover: don't mandate ID. That document does say that it is constitutional to teach ID, but it doesn't recommend mandating ID. Again, this is rewriting of history.

Matzke and Padian then quote something from the so-called Wedge document:

"Once our research and writing have had time to mature, and the public prepared for the reception of design theory, we will move toward direct confrontation with the advocates of materialist science through challenge conferences in significant academic settings. We will also pursue possible legal assistance in response to resistance to the integration of design theory into public school science curricula."

I was taking GE's in college when this was first written, but I find something striking about this quote: It refutes their insinuation that ID was being forced into the curriculum by Discovery because it notes that ID should only be taught when backed by research. Indeed, there is much prestigiously published and peer reviewed work supporting ID (see this link).

Matzke and Padian wrote:

"And yet, when this event finally occurred -- in Dover, Pennsylvania, in 2004, exactly five years after the 1999 Wedge Strategy -- the Discovery Institute claimed that they did not support putting ID into science curricula, and furthermore they had never suggested such a thing."

Again, this is a twisting of the truth. Discovery never claimed that we do not "support putting ID into science curricula"-- we simply claim that ID shouldn't be mandated in science classrooms. But we do support the academic freedom of individual teachers to teach ID in science classrooms at their own discretion. So Matzke and Padian seem to be twisting the facts.

Repaving History's Road
Matzke and Padian wrote:

"They acknowledged under oath that ID cannot qualify as science unless the definition of science is completely changed to admit the supernatural."

I have no idea where Behe said anything like that. But what did Minnich say? When asked if science had to be redefined, he said:

"A. Correct, if intelligent causes can be considered. I won't necessarily -- you know, you're extrapolating to the supernatural. And that is one possibility." (Day 21 testimony, am, pg. 97)

Thus, it only has to be redefined if ID is directly postulating a supernatural cause. But Minnich isn't saying ID postulates a supernatural cause--nor is he extrapolating to the supernatural--that is what the plaintiffs are doing. Judge Jones clearly misunderstood Minnich's testimony on page 30 of his opinion. Matzke and Padian's claim is highly dubious.

Matzke and Padian also claim:

"Behe acknowledged that under his definition, astrology would equally qualify as science."

Again, let's look at the context of what Behe really said. Behe wasn't endorsing astrology. He rather said that astrology may have been scientific, but it wasn't true:

"Q But you are clear, under your definition, the definition that sweeps in intelligent design, astrology is also a scientific theory, correct?

A. Yes, that is correct. And let me explain under my definition of the word "theory," it is -- a sense of the word "theory" does not include the theory being true, it means a proposition based on physical evidence to explain some facts by logical inferences. There have been many theories throughout the history of science which looked good at the time which further progress has shown to be incorrect. Nonetheless, we can t go back and say that because they were incorrect they were not theories. So many many things that we now realized to be incorrect, incorrect theories, are nonetheless theories."

The difference between ID and astrology is that ID is true. Yet even the NAS has a definition which would have admitted "astrology" during the heydey of the theory. The NAS defines "theory" as:

"In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, and tested hypotheses. The contention that evolution should be taught as "theory, not as fact" confuses the common use of these words through the accumulation of evidence. Rather, theories are the end points of science. They are understandings that develop from extensive observation, experimentation, and creative reflection. They incorporate a large body of scientific facts, laws, tested hypotheses, and logical inferences." (Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences, 2nd Ed. (1999), pg. 2)

500 years ago, many scientists would have put "astrology" under the NAS definition of theory (note: we find this incredible today, but in his time, it was not scandalous that Newton was an astrologer!). Today we know astrology is totally wrong, and so nobody wants them taught as science in school. So this is nothing but a red herring being raised by Padian and Matzke.

Padian and Matzke wrote:

"They admitted that ID is more plausible to those that believe in God -- a rather peculiar feature of an allegedly scientific theory."

Here is what really happened. Behe's statements were taken from an article he wrote in "Reply to my critics: A response to reviews of Darwin's Black Box: The biochemical challenge to evolution," a peer-reviewed article published in Biology and Philosophy (Vol 16 (5): 685-709, Nov. 2001). Let's read a more complete version of the text of what Behe wrote:

"As a matter of my own experience the answer is clearly yes, the argument is less plausible to those for whom God's existence is in question, and is much less plausible for those who deny God's existence. People I speak with who already believe in God generally agree with the idea of design in biology (although there are certainly exceptions), those who are in doubt are interested in the argument but often are skeptical, and as a rule those who actively deny God's existence are either very skeptical or wholly disbelieving (Apparently, the idea of a natural intelligent designer of terrestrial life is not entertained by a large percentage of people)." Michael J. Behe, "Reply to my critics: A response to reviews of Darwin's Black Box: The biochemical challenge to evolution," published in Biology and Philosophy (Vol 16 (5): 685-709, Nov. 2001)

Behe was talking about the general psychology of how people deal with accepting intelligent design theory. This is appropriate for a philosophy journal, which looks at how people accept the philosophical implications of various scientific theories. All Behe is saying is that for those who already believe in God, it's often easier for them to accept intelligent design. And Behe qualifies his statements by noting that there are "exceptions" to his experience--showing that he's not talking about hard-and-fast conclusions from ID theory, but the general psychology and philosophical implications that people often find from it. This does not mean that the scientific theory of ID mandates that the designer is God.

If this is the best that can be dredged up to try to claim that Behe believes that ID theory identifies the designer, then the NCSE's case is indeed very weak.

They insisted that the "Designer" does not have to be supernatural, but were unable to come up with any credible account or hypothesis of what such a "natural Designer" would be, or how to test for its existence."

This claim is false. Minnich testified that ID theory permits the possibility that the design resulted from a Crick-ian version of directed panspermia (see Day 20 testimony, pg. 136). Moreover, Matzke and Padian are misrepresenting the focus of ID theory. ID isn't in the business of determining if the designer was natural or supernatural--it doesn't search for designers, it studies natural objects searching for signs that natural objects were designed. William Dembski writes:

"Intelligent design is the science that studies signs of intelligence. Note that a sign is not the thing signified. ... As a scientific research program, intelligent design investigates the effects of intelligence, not intelligence as such." (William Dembski, The Design Revolution, pg. 33)

Similarly, Michael Behe explains that we can detect design without knowing anything about the designer:

"The conclusion that something was designed can be made quite independently of knowledge of the designer. As a matter of procedure, the design must first be apprehended before there can be any further question about the designer. The inference to design can be held with all the firmness that is possible in this world, without knowing anything about the designer." (Michael Behe, Darwin's Black Box, pg. 197 (Free Press, 1996).)

Behe even goes so far as to suggest that "[i]ntelligent design does not require a candidate for the role of the designer." (Michael Behe, Darwin's Black Box, pg. 193 (Free Press, 1996).) Thus intelligent design does not attempt to study the actual intelligent designer, but simply studies objects in nature to determine if they were designed by intelligence. The focus is upon studying the natural object to see if it bears signs of intelligent design.

The gloat parade goes marching on...

Padian and Matzke write:

"Not a single peer reviewed paper proposes any concrete test or advances any solid testable evidence regarding a Designer."

This is the world that Padian and Matzke would like to live in. But it exists only in their own minds. Sure, ID proponents haven't published nearly the mountain of literature by evolutionist scientists. But to say that design proponent have published "not a single" paper or to insinuate that we aren't putting forth research is a Darwinist myth. Meyer's paper proposes to test for ID by finding it as the best explanation for the origin of specified complex biological information. Lönnig explains that you can test for ID by searching for irreducible complexity, and gives 5 criteria for detecting design. And there's plenty of technical literature dealing with how ID is detected.

Matzke and Padian then write:

"Every major scientific organization in the nation has come out against ID, saying that it has no business masquerading as science."

I could end discussion right here and just say "enough said,"--this is clearly politics at work! Against what other theory do science organizations release condemning press edicts? This is completely political and unscientific behavior for these "scientific" organizations. In particular, what business does the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, or Soil Science Society of America have in threshing ID? See Dirty Politics.

"This week, Science magazine, the premier journal of American science, named Evolution as the Scientific Breakthrough of 2005 and specifically lambasted ID as non-scientific."

The microevolution highlighted in that piece was utterly unimpressive. Moreover, the "lambasting" of ID was predicated upon the false notion that Jones decision, in which he wrongly claims ID is a supernatural theory, got it right.

"Dr. Donald Kennedy, editor of Science, said in an interview with Reuters, 'I think what arouses the ire of scientists (about intelligent design) is ... the notion that it belongs in the same universe as scientific analysis. -- It's a hypothesis that's not testable, and one of the important recognition factors for science and scientific ideas is the notion of testability, that you can go out and do an experiment and learn from it and change your idea.'"

Again, this is a false assertion with no discussion of the evidence. ID is eminently testable. Witt and Richards just wrote about this recently.

Matzke and Padian then write:

"That's just not possible with a notion that's as much a belief in spirituality as intelligent design is. For over a decade, the DI has claimed that their notion of ID deserves pride of place alongside conventional evolutionary theory."

What do the following leading pro-ID publications have to do with belief in spirituality? Just look at some of the work Discovery Institute ID advocates have put out.

Stephen Meyer, "The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories" Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 117(2004):213-239.

Lönnig, W.-E. Dynamic genomes, morphological stasis and the origin of irreducible complexity, Dynamical Genetics, Pp. 101-119

Jonathan Wells, "Do Centrioles Generate a Polar Ejection Force? Rivista di Biologia/Biology Forum 98 (2005): 37-62.

Scott Minnich and Stephen C. Meyer, "Genetic Analysis of Coordinate Flagellar and Type III Regulatory Circuits," Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Design & Nature, Rhodes Greece, edited by M.W. Collins and C.A. Brebbia (WIT Press, 2004).

W.A. Dembski, The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

W.-E. Lönnig & H. Saedler, "Chromosome Rearrangements and Transposable Elements," Annual Review of Genetics, 36 (2002): 389-410.

These references treat ID as a scientific theory which says we can find biological structures with the same informational properties we commonly find in objects we know were designed. This is not "spirituality." (See What is intelligent design? for a brief summary of the empirical basis for inferring design.)

Padian and Matzke don't have to agree with the arguments of ID proponents. But there's no denying that its basis is in scientific observations and empirical data -- not belief in spirituality, faith, revelation, or religious texts. Intelligent design is a bona fide scientific approach to studying biological origins. Matzke and Padian misrepresent (dare I say "denigrate and disparage") intelligent design to simply call it a form of "spirituality."

"But they have refused to publish the peer-reviewed papers, to present their "research" at scientific conferences, to be held accountable in the scientific community on any terms whatsoever."

Again, this is the NCSEist false version of history. ID proponents have published peer-reviewed papers. And sometimes they've tried and got rejected simply because ID was outside of orthodoxy. And they have published research at scientific conference. Jonathan Wells recently presented a poster at a Society for Cell Biology Meeting based upon his explicitly ID-based research in Rivista de Biologia.

Matzke and Padian wrote:

"The plaintiffs showed that Behe, who was on the stand for three days, was unaware of published, peer-reviewed evidence that demolished his favorite 'irreducibly complex' notions such as the bacterial flagellum..."

Here Padian and Matzke use mimicry to adopt a bait-and-switch tactic common in Jones' opinion. It goes like this: if Minnich made the point that supported ID, then cite to Behe's lack of testimony and ignore Minnich's statements. Minnich's research helped predict the existence of the Type III Secretory System (TTSS), extensively rebutted all of Miller's allegations that the TTSS refutes irreducible complexity (see Day 21 am testimony), but this is another case Judge ignored this testimony completely. For a good summary of why Miller's arguments fail, see Rebuttal to Reports by Opposing Expert Witnesses by William Dembski.

Padian and Matzke wrote:

"The plaintiffs' testimony about macroevolution, exaptation, natural selection, the fossil record, classification, and homology went completely unrebutted. Moreover, the Judge added (opinion, page 84), "the Court has been presented with no evidence" that either Defendants' testifying experts or any other ID proponents have any expertise in these areas. Which we knew all along."

These are false misrepresentations of what Jones wrote in the opinion. Clearly the decision shows that the Judge specifically was only commenting on paleontology on page 84. Since Padian and Matzke extend their arguments not just to experts that testified but all ID proponents, it's worth noting that ID proponents have expertise in this area--Jonathan Wells and Paul Nelson have critiqued homology arguments for evolution extensively; Behe and Dembski have discussed and rebutted exaptation and natural selection extensively, Paul Nelson has done much work on systematics. Again, Padian and Matzke are doing their dance of joy in a different world.

Come Join our Party!

Matzke and Padian trumped the fact that Dembski said:

"I think the big lesson is, let's go to work and really develop this theory and not try to win this in the court of public opinion . . .. The burden is on us to produce."

But wait--this is precisely what the evil Wedge Strategy ordered in the first place--research! Discovery continues to support scientific research into intelligent design.

There is one statement that Matzke and Padian certainly get right:

Their amicus briefs were ignored by the Judge

The Judge ignored extensive arguments and evidence in our amicus briefs, which rebutted much of the reasoning upon which his decision was based.

I'll just end with the words of some Discovery geek who was recently quoted saying in Nature, "You cannot change the facts of biology through a judicial ruling." (Nature, Jan 5, 2006, pg. 7)

That's why this debate not over. At least not until the NCSE goes to court and fights against the actual version of intelligent design.