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Darwin Defenders and the Technique of the False Equation

Darwinists use the propaganda technique of the false equation with great skill and persistence. Equating creationism (A) with intelligent design (B), and creationism (A) with any scientific critique (C) of Darwinian theory, is absolutely routine for them. It's the bread and butter of Darwin lobbyists and activists. Their approach is to say: Since A = B and A = C, therefore anyone who rejects A must also reject B and C. Ergo, if you don't buy Biblical creationism, you are enjoined from considering scientific criticisms of Darwinism or scientific alternatives to it.

It was a novelty for me, however, to find Jerry Coyne and his Darwin-blogging cohort Jason Rosenhouse advancing a false equation that dispenses with the usual boogeyman, creationism (C), and tries to directly equate what I've labeled A and B: intelligent design and any scientific criticism of Darwinism.

They did this last week ("Teach the controversy, not Intelligent Design”). The context was Coyne's angry response to my having pointed out that he revealed his ignorance in a blog post "presuming" (his word) to know what Discovery Institute's Casey Luskin and Darwin activist Zack Kopplin would debate on the Michael Medved show ("Jerry Coyne Reviews Casey Luskin v. Zack Kopplin Debate Before It Happens"). Coyne was indignant that I loosely termed his pre-debate "presumption" a "review" of what had not yet been said. He had previously presumed, absurdly, to know what will be in Stephen Meyer's book Darwin's Doubt.

Well, first of all, a presumption is not a review -- got that, Klinghoffer? Second, as anyone with two neurons to rub together knows, Intelligent Design is not a “serious challenge to Darwinian theory,” but pure god-of-the-gaps creationism.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

He prognosticated for his readers that Zack and Casey would be talking about teaching intelligent design in public schools. But in reality, Luskin and Kopplin would have nothing to debate there: Discovery Institute has long been on record as firmly opposing any push to try to introduce instruction about ID in public school science classes. Instead, we advocate protecting the academic freedom of teachers who wish to enlighten students on the fact that there's a lively debate about Darwinian evolution going on in mainstream science. That's quite different from talking to them about the positive scientific case for ID.

Coyne has now taken up the cause of trying to use the weapon of the law to strike at Ball State physicist Eric Hedin, who teaches about ID at the university level. If successful, he would undoubtedly put Dr. Hedin, who is untenured, out of a job. (By the way, take a moment to sign the petition for Dr. Hedin!)

So Coyne is deep into the controversy about academic freedom, to the point where he's put another man's career on the line. Given that, and given that he wrote a book and currently writes a blog about "Why Evolution Is True," Jerry Coyne should know something about the ideas and institutions he opposes, the cause he seeks to blunt. But he manifestly does not.

Coyne writes about how he emailed Rosenhouse, who's supposed to be a big expert on ID, for support. Rosenhouse obliged, claiming that teaching about ID and teaching about the evolution controversy are really pretty much the same thing:

The other conceit in Klinghoffer’s post is that “teaching the controversy” is something fundamentally different from “teaching ID.”  Officially, they don’t want to teach ID, they just want teachers to present the strengths and weaknesses of evolution.  This has been their main mantra since Dover.  This allows them to appear very reasonable in public, since who could oppose teaching both the strengths and the weaknesses of any theory?

In reality this is a sham.  The difference between teaching ID and teaching the controversy is this: When teaching ID, you present a lot of bogus criticisms of evolution and then end with, “Therefore God did it.”  When you teach the controversy, you leave off that last sentence.  You present the same bogus criticisms, but then just let your voice trail off at the end, confident that the students will draw the right conclusion.

Therefore Coyne was not far off in telling his readers that Casey would be advocating teaching ID in schools! More importantly, when Discovery Institute says we're against teaching ID in public schools, that must be a lie since we admit we support teaching about the evolution controversy, and B = C.

EEsmallcover.jpegLook, the literature about the science behind ID is considerable, and the literature in mainstream scientific journals and other sources criticizing Darwinian theory is substantial, but they are two different things. That's why Discovery Institute staff have produced two entirely different textbooks and curricula, Explore Evolution and Discovering Intelligent Design, that deal with the two separate subjects. The first deals with the strengths and weakness of Darwinian theory, the second, emphatically not intended for public schools, deals with the scientific case for ID. Rosenhouse would only need to examine and compare the respective textbooks to see that, like them or not, they present different arguments and different evidence.

DIDsmallcover.jpegOr take the book I mentioned in the same post for which Coyne criticizes me, Mutation-Driven Evolution by Masatoshi Nei, which will be published this week by Oxford University Press. Dr. Nei, a molecular evolutionary geneticist at Penn State, is among those researchers seeking an alternative to what he regards as the inadequate theory of orthodox neo-Darwinism. Masatoshi Nei is no advocate of ID, as far as I know, but simply an example of those researchers now debating what comes next after Darwinism. But by the analysis of Jason Rosenhouse, to introduce students to his critique of Darwinian theory is, in effect, to make a case for intelligent design. After all, B = C! Will someone please alert Dr. Nei and see if he agrees?

Do I expect Coyne to go out and educate himself about the arguments offered by contemporary advocates of intelligent design? Not really. The author of Why Evolution Is True, published in 2009, admits he backed off from following the controversy about evolution (or "creationism," as he prefers) in 2005 with the Dover verdict: "I haven’t followed the creationist wars too closely since ID’s defeat in Dover." In fact, he betrays his ignorance whenever he writes about this topic.

So Coyne wrote a book trying to buttress Darwinian evolution, meanwhile by his own admission having given up on earnestly researching the scientific objections to the theory some four years earlier. University of Chicago biologist though he is, the man is just not a serious person, not on this subject, the one to which he attaches his main fame in the world.