The Pseudo-Science Amicus Brief in Kitzmiller

From: Pim van Meurs <pimvanmeurs@yahoo.com>
Date: Wed Oct 05 2005 - 02:45:10 EDT

Tim Sandefur has written about the recent Amicus brief filed by 85
scientists in the Kitzmiller case. The brief can be read here
http://scit.us/kitz/kitz-dibrief.pdf

I have read the brief and am appalled by the many errors in the brief.

Also the juxtaposition of statements seems rather ill chosen. Such as:

    Leading design theorist William Dembski was banned from teaching at
    Baylor University and forced into a five year sabbatical. (53) This
    followed after Barbara Forrest wrote letters to dissuade scholars
    from associating with Dembski's Polanyi center at Baylor becuase it
    was the "most recent offspring of the creationist movement".

While not necessarily causally linking the two occurrences, and anyone
familiar with the history of Dembski's short lived Waterloo victory
would know, the real reason for Dembski being placed on 'sabattical' was
his 'victorious' comments. Forrest indeed wrote a letter to Simon
Blackburn which I have included at the end. First I would like to place
some additional quotes from the brief in their context

    Footnote 16
    A movement based on religion does not need the credibility afforded
    by scientific evidence P 314 Forrest and Gross

In context
But no matter: in his more candid moments, Johnson admits that this
purportedly scientific/academic movement is religious to the core. A
movement based on religion does not need the credibility afforded by
scientific evidence. At the reclaiming America for Christ Conference,
Johnson highlighted again the Wedge's driving religious purpose

The objective, he said, is to convince people that Darwinism is
inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism versus
evolution to the existence of God versus the non-existence of God. From
there people are introduced to "the truth' of the Bible and then "the
question of sin" and finally "introduced to Jesus".

And

    This effort to deny academic freedom to intelligent design
    proponents is fostered by the rethoric from the leading critics of
    intelligent design. In Creationism's Trojan Horse for example,
    Forrest and Gross express a "final hope [] that readers will
    consider seriously the question of what they ought to be doing about
    it" the supposed threat from intelligent design
    p 315

In context the statement is quite a bit more constrained however

In the story of the Wedge to date, we see a demonstration of the power
of public relations to shape public opinion and policy on the largest
scale - in ways that have nothing to do with the true state of
scientific knowledge.

The OSC found that the pro-evolution NCSE helped devise a strategy to
have Sternberg "investigated and discredited" (References to Sternberg's
website)

Also the statement based on the OSC letter to Sternberg presents the
'findings' in an incorrect light. No official findings or conclusions
were presented as far as I can tell. The OSC lacked jurisdiction and the
museum was never given a chance to respond.

Desperate times seem to have asked for desperate measures indeed. I hope
that people will read the brief, its claims are quite interesting.
What I find interesting is that the brief asks the judge to not rule on
the scientific nature of ID since such should be decided in the journals
and academia. And yet ID has been pushing for a place inside our
schools. A bit self contradictory. And in fact, if the plaintiffs want
to argue that the lack of scientific relevance of ID is evidence of
other motivations for the school board to have it 'discussed' then the
court should allow such arguments.

Since the lack of scientific merrit is essential in establishing the
case that it was religious motivations and not scientific status that
caused the school board to make the claims, I find it hard to see how
they can argue that the court should reject this approach.

Some samples of statements relevant:

    They did everything you would do if you wanted to incorporate a
    religious point of view in science class and cared nothing about its
    scientific validity, said Eric Rothschild, an attorney representing
    eight families who are challenging the decision of the Dover Area
    School District.

    School board member William Buckingham, who spearheaded the change
    as leader of the boards curriculum committee, has said previously
    that he proposed the change as a way to balance evolution with
    competing theories that raise questions about its scientific validity.

In other words, the scientific relevance of ID is central to the issue.
Is ID a competing theory or not? Why are ID proponents afraid to have
such being decided in court?

Of course the claim that ID is vigorously being debated by scientists is
plainly wrong. Scientifically speaking ID has already been found wanting
and vacuous.

Interesting in its absence on the list are the following names

Dembski.
Behe

Of course, Dembski is on the record that he would love to cross examine
Darwinists on the record. I guess it's ok to have a court reject
Darwinian theory as scientific... But when it comes to ID, where there
really is a case...

    Iím waiting for the day when the hearings are not voluntary but
    involve subpoenas in which evolutionists are deposed at length on
    their views. On that happy day, I can assure you they wonít come off
    looking well.

So far Dembski's batting average seems to be quite poor....

Pim

From: Barbara Forrest

To: Simon Blackburn [invited speaker to Nature of Nature conference]

Date: March 2000

This letter concerns the conference, "The Nature of Nature," hosted by
the Michael Polanyi Center at Baylor University, which you will be
attending in April. The title of this conference and the list of
participants conceal the fact that the Polanyi Center is the most recent
offspring of the creationist movement, the agenda of which is the
destruction of evolutionary theory as the central principle of biology.

Even though I think that the participation--witting or unwitting--of
reputable scholars in the Baylor conference plays into the hands of
Dembski, Gordon, and the CRSC in that it lends them an undeserved
academic legitimacy, I am not trying to dissuade you from going because
I have no right to do that. You are already committed. I do, however,
believe you have a right to know the nature of the atmosphere into which
you are walking.

The director of the MPC is William Dembski, and the associate director
is Bruce Gordon. Although they insist on calling their brand of
creationism "intelligent design theory," its true nature is evident to
anyone who has followed the development of creationism. For a thorough
examination of creationism, including intelligent design, I refer you to
/Tower of Babel/: The Evidence Against the New Creationism (MIT Press,
1999), an excellent book by a fellow philosopher, Prof. Robert Pennock
of The College of New Jersey. Prof. Pennock critiques the work of
Dembski, as well as the intelligent design movement as a whole.

Both Dembski and Gordon are members of the Center for the Renewal of
Science and Culture, the creationist arm of the Discovery Institute, a
conservative think tank in Seattle. It is significant that the CRSC
recently received $1.5 million from wealthy businessman Howard Ahmanson.
See Walter Olson's article at
http://www.reason.com/9901/co.wo.darkbedfellows.html. For over twenty
years, Ahmanson has served on the board of Chalcedon, Inc., an extremist
Christian organization run by R.J. Rushdoony. See Jerry Sloan's article,
"The Man Behind Knight" at
http://www.frontiersweb.com/sfv18iss21/Pages/feat_1.html. You can view
the CRSC site from the Discovery Institute page at
http://www.discovery.org. The page has an announcement about the Baylor
conference and other activities in which Dembski is participating. You
will find links to CRSC articles, including Dembski's.

The establishment of the Polanyi Center at Baylor has aroused the anger
of Baylor science faculty since it was accomplished with no prior
knowledge or input from them. However, the faculty's anger stems
primarily from their recognition that this organization and its
founders, Dembski and Gordon, are creationists with a
religious/political agenda, and they fear that the prominence and
influence of such creationists at Baylor will severely damage the good
reputation the faculty has worked so hard to build there. In fact, the
faculty senate at Baylor scheduled this matter at the top of its agenda
for its March 2 meeting with Baylor University President Robert Sloan.
The first two questions on the agenda, addressed directly to Sloan, were
these:

1. By creating the Polanyi Center has Baylor not institutionalized the
propagation of a position, Intelligent Design Creationism, which is
contrary to the prevailing assumptions of the majority of the world's
scientists, specifically the scientific commitment to methodological
naturalism? Arguing for a controversial position is one thing, but
institutionalizing it is another. Moreover, that those associated with
the center are described by their own colleagues outside of Baylor as
part of a "new generation of creationists" constituting a "coalition to
bring down evolution" is creating serious problems for the reputation of
Baylor's science and pre-medical programs? It is the belief of some of
us that the center was established by the administration without an
awareness of these implications, and it is the hope of others of us that
you will step in and preserve the integrity of the university and its
science programs. Please comment?

2. Since the establishment of an institution such as the Polanyi Center
has far-reaching implications for areas of the university such as the
biology and psychology departments, shouldn't faculty members from those
departments be consulted when such an institution is being considered?

Some history leading up to the Baylor conference:

In 1996, Phillip Johnson, a law professor at Berkeley who has taken it
upon himself to cleanse American education and culture of "naturalistic
evolution," initiated a conference at Biola University called the "Mere
Creation" Conference. Johnson recruited Dembski and a host of others to
help him do this. Dembski was one of the most active organizers of this
conference. You can find a 1996 article about the conference at
http://www.worldmag.com/world/issue/11-30-96/national_2.asp. You can
also view the web site for the Mere Creation conference at
http://www.origins.org/mc/menus/index.html. Please follow the links to
the off-site web pages as well. The nature of intelligent design as
"mere creationism" is unmistakable.

If you go to Dembski's "virtual office" at "Leadership University,"
sponsored by the Christian Leadership Ministries, you can see Dembski's
list of the most important creationist books in the movement, "The
Intelligent Design Movement: A Brief Catalog of Resources," at
http://www.leaderu.com/offices/dembski/menus/reso.html. Among them is Of
Pandas and People, which creationists around the country have tried to
get local school boards to adopt in public school science classes and
which Dembski has defended as a legitimate science text. You can read
the National Center for Science Education's analysis of Pandas at
http://www.natcenscied.org/mianal.htm#pandas. I have also attached a
critique of this book by Dr. Gary Bennett of Idaho, who recently spoke
to Idaho legislators, urging them not to adopt this anti-evolution text.
You can also see at http://www.aclu.org/news/n100298a.html an ACLU press
release regarding the use of this book by Roger DeHart, a public school
teacher in Burlington, WA, where a full-fledged fight against
creationism has developed and is ongoing at this moment. According to
the Burlington-Edison Committee for Science Education, several CRSC
members have become involved in the controversy there on the
pro-creationist side. Dembski recently traveled to the University of
Washington to promote his latest book. While there, he conducted a
book-signing to help Skagit Parents for Scientific Proof in Education, a
parents group working on DeHart's behalf. See
http://www.skagitvalleyherald.com/daily/00/february/08/a3creation.html.

Reflecting its agenda of getting intelligent design creationism into
American schools, the CRSC recently added to its web site intelligent
design lesson plans for teachers. Until sometime near the end of
February, they could be viewed at
http://www.discovery.org/crsc/scied/evol.index.html.Now, however, the
CRSC has restricted public access to them and they are in a "Secured
Administration Area" requiring a name and password. I have found nothing
else on the CRSC site which requires this. The reason is obvious:
restricted access prevents the lesson plans, which are unconstitutional,
from being scrutinized and evaluated, and it allows the CRSC to know who
is getting them. You can, however, see the CRSC document, written by
Gonzaga law professor and CRSC member David DeWolf, outlining the legal
aspects of trying to get ID into public schools, at
http://www.discovery.org/crsc/articles/TeachingTheOriginsControve.html.
The ID creationists are looking for loopholes in Edwards v. Aguillard, a
1987 Supreme Court ruling on a case which originated in my state of
Louisiana and which outlawed creationism in public schools.

The agenda of the intelligent design movement is spelled out in a CRSC
document which surfaced last year and is commonly referred to as the
"wedge document" because of its enunciation of the creationists' "wedge
strategy," the brainchild of Phillip Johnson, who has spoken openly
about this strategy. This document outlines the intelligent design
movement agenda from 1999-2003. My analysis of CRSC's planned activities
as stated in the document shows that they are systematically enacting
every part of their agenda except the only one which would gain them the
legitimacy they so crave: the production of scientific research using
their "theistic science." As I stated earlier, Johnson, Dembski, and
their associates have assumed the task of destroying "Darwinism,"
"evolutionary naturalism," "scientific materialism," "methodological
naturalism," "philosophical naturalism," and other "isms" they use as
synonyms for evolution. (You can see Dembski's articles on a creationist
web site, "Access Research Network," at
http://www.arn.org/dembski/wdhome.htm. One of them is "Teaching
Intelligent Design as Religion or Science?") The wedge document is
available at http://www.humanist.net/skeptical/wedge.html and also at
http://www.infidels.org/org/aha/skeptical/wedge.html. You can also find
an article on the wedge strategy written by Jim Still, manager of the
Internet Infidels web site, at
http://www.infidels.org/secular_web/feature/1999/wedge.html. Another
article written on the wedge document at the time it surfaced is at
http://www.freethought-web.org/ctrl/archive/thomas_wedge.html. This was
done by Keith Lankford, past president of the Sagan Society at the
University of Georgia.

The wedge document specifically includes as one of its goals the
following: "[W]e will move toward direct confrontation with the
advocates of materialist science through challenge conferences in
significant academic settings.... The attention, publicity, and
influence of design theory should draw scientific materialists into open
debate with design theorists, and we will be ready." So the plan of the
ID proponents is to lure legitimate, respected scholars into conferences
they organize. Not only have they managed to "wedge" themselves into the
"significant academic setting" of Baylor, but the MPC web site shows
that they have long-term plans there.

Very important with respect to the MPC and the Baylor conference is an
article on intelligent design's move into the higher education
mainstream (which is the purpose of the newly established Polanyi
Center) at http://www.natcenscied.org/scot171.htm. This was written by
Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education in
Berkeley, CA. And at http://www.au.org/cs4995.htm is an article by
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State in which Johnson
asserts that the wedge strategy "enables us to get a foothold in the
academic world and the academic journals. You have to prepare minds to
hear the truth. You can't do it all at once." This remark in itself
explains the reason for the establishment of the MPC at Baylor and the
naturalism conference you will be attending.

It is interesting to note the following information about the Baylor
conference listings as they appear to date on the Polanyi Center web
site at http://www.baylor.edu/~polanyi. Of the 31 confirmed
participants, at least 10 appear to be part of Dembski's network of
creationists. Of these 10, 7 are members of the Center for the Renewal
of Science and Culture. Of the 11 plenary sessions, 8 have participants
who are creationists (not always as presenters, but with some serving as
moderators). The only plenary sessions without creationists
participating in some way are the one hosted by Stuart Rosenbaum (a
Baylor philosopher), the one in which Simon Conway Morris is listed as
the sole speaker, and the last session, for which the moderator is still
to be announced.

A similar conference was held in 1997 at the University of Texas-Austin,
organized by Robert Koons, a philosophy professor and also a CRSC
member. The title was, like that of the Baylor conference, academically
innocuous: "Naturalism, Theism, and the Scientific Enterprise." See
Koons' web site at
http://www.dla.utexas.edu/depts/philosophy/faculty/koons/main.html/,
which has a link to information about this conference. You can read
Koons' assessment of the conference at
http://www.leaderu.com/real/ri9701/koons2.html. However, Koons'
assertion of the high degree of consensus reached on the feasibility of
and need for "theistic science" was not shared by all attendees.
Legitimate scholars and students sent papers, only to find after they
arrived that they had been lured into an event dominated by creationists
and clearly organized as a platform for them.

I know several people who attended the UT conference in 1997. I have
asked one of them, Wesley Elsberry, to attest to its nature. You may
contact him at welsberr@inia.cls.org. Wesley is one of the most
knowledgeable people in the country about the intelligent design
movement and has extensively critiqued Dembski's work, as has
philosopher Elliot Sober. You will find Wesley's writings, and a link to
Sober's, at http://inia.cls.org/~welsberr/evobio/evc/ae/dembski_wa.html.

Cordially,

Barbara Forrest, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Philosophy Department of History and Political
Science

Southeastern Louisiana University
Received on Wed Oct 5 02:48:19 2005

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