The Republican War on Science author and Seed Magazine correspondent Chris Mooney was in Seattle yesterday to debate lapsed biologist and “intelligent design” (ID) creationist Jonathan Wells on Michael Medved’s radio show. The previous night, Mooney gave a talk at a bookstore and the audience included Casey Luskin, an attorney and one-time geology student who is one of the premier mouthpieces for the Seattle-based Discovery Institute (DI), the
“think tank” bullshit mill which serves as the chief advocate of ID the downward-spiraling non-theory famously excoriated by ACLU lawyers and a conservative judge, the extremely honorable John E. Jones III (see his ruling), in a Pennsylvania courtroom last year.
In response to Mooney’s chapter on ID (which I just finished myself) and his odious presence in the DI’s own back yard, Luskin has excreted one doozy of a floating turd of a press release, or something — a spectacularly boring 31-page PDF laced with every conceivable talking point ID proponents have deployed over the years, most of which have been thoroughly marauded, are stereotypically devoid of intrinsic content but heavy on anti-evolution aggresssion, and make no sense — matters which rarely faze those whose agenda is dogmatically publicity-centered rather than truth-oriented. To access all of the relevant content, see Mooney’s post on the affair at The Intersection.
Without overly trivializing this “debate,” it’s worth mentioning that complaining of “major errors” regarding ID creationism, as does Luskin, is akin to bemoaning the scientific liberties taken by George Lucas in the Star Wars franchise. Because ID proposes nothing, predicts nothing, encompasses no observations, and otherwise does not even properly mimic science, Luskin’s boisterous claim that Mooney misrepresents ID is little different than a sci-fi author bemoaning an unfavorable book review.
Unfortunately, the gulf between the public’s understanding of ID and that of scientists and close followers of the whole misguided movement could not be more vast. The average citizen, faced with sufficiently a scholarly-looking presentation, automatically assumes that at a minimum its proponents have generated something worthy of scientific consideration. Getting their foot in the academic and cultural door is all ID aficionados want — for now. It’s plain from both the DI’s own admission and its every move that the fundamentalist and evangelical Christians comprising the majority of the
brain trust propaganda assemblers behind this lightly repackaged brand of special creationism have aims no different than those of the original “creation scientists” whose efforts were delivered a lethal 7-2 blow in the 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard SCOTUS decision banning the teaching of special creation in public schools.
ID itself is hurting after the heavily one-sided Kitzmiller v. Dover trial that ended nine months ago, but as always, religious ideologues are always happy to allow their non-theories to evolve into similarly hollow but novel-sounding concepts superficially suitable for intromission into the public consciousness. Most Americans are sufficiently parochial-minded or incurious to unassumingly or even eagerly embrace empty outcries such as “Teach the controversy!”, so scientists will quite likely be forced to divert valuable resources toward simply staving off the implacable machinations of those whose singular aim is to corrupt the entire process of genuine rational inquiry.
What most people do not grasp — largely owing to independent cultural factors but also thanks to the DI’s strategic whining itself — is that defenders of science are just that; few who proclaim atheism (and not all capable scientists do) would bother speaking ill of literalist religious belief — no matter how silly it seems — if one of its primary applications in America did not expressly revolve around the irrational interference with people who simply want to do their jobs and advance the state of human knowledge. I think people who believe that wearing special magnetic bracelets to heal injuries or try to conjure up the spirits of the dead are just as intellectually misguided, but since they aren’t mounting a noisy, full-scale assault on reason itself, progressive-minded people are just not apt to complain or even notice.