More lessons, this time from the California Science Center

The First Amendment is often inconvenient. But that is besides the point. Inconvenience does not absolve the government of its obligation to tolerate speech.
–Justice Anthony Kennedy (1936 – )

This is going to be a quick post, at least for now, due to my time limitations.

Yesterday, the California Science Center (CSC), a public institution and affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, settled a lawsuit against it filed by the American Freedom Association (AFA). AFA had claimed that CSC had breached a contract for AFA’s rental of CFC’s IMax theater to show a pro-intelligent-design film. CSC claimed that AFA breached the contract first by falsely publicizing, through the Discovery Institute, that the event was sponsored or endorsed by CSC. AFA, in turn, claimed that it had no control over the Discovery Institute’s publicity of the event. More importantly, AFA claims that the CSC cancelled the showing because of the content of the film, and that it therefore violated AFA’s First Amendment rights.

I can’t express an opinion on the lawsuit itself, since I have not seen any of the court documents, the original rental agreement, the discovery from the lawsuit, or the publicity that was allegedly a breach of the contract. But I do want to correct some misperceptions and answer some questions raised in PZ Meyers’s excellent post (does he have any other kind?) on the topic, and in the comments to that post.  I will add links and references tonight, time permitting.  [Update: I don’t have the time tonight, but I have made some minor edits.]

Pseudo-scientists have just as much right to speak out as skeptics do. The first comment to PZ’s blog suggests that the CSC should simply not rent to organizations like the AFA. That, however, would be a blatant First Amendment violation. If a government institution makes space available to outside organizations to engage in speech, it cannot pick and choose arbitrarily what kinds of organizations it will rent to. There are two levels of First Amendment analysis here. The first level looks at the ability (or inability) of a government organization to choose what it would allow to be shown based on the subject matter of the speech. For instance, if the CSC has made a clear policy that it will only rent its theater to organizations showing films relating to science, it will likely be able to successfully defend any claim that it must require a knitting club to show the movie, “How to Knit a Killer Sweater.” If, however, the CSC simply made its theater available to all non-profits, then it can’t later choose to exclude a film on abortion because it’s squeamish about the subject.

The second level looks at the ability of the government organization to choose the organizations to which it will rent based on the viewpoint of the speech. Another commenter on PZ’s blog asks whether “what Luskin [the Discovery Institute’s lawyer] says about the First Amendment (i.e. that it “forbids government preference for one viewpoint over another”) sound like complete shite…?” No, it’s not baloney. It’s entirely accurate. The worst thing a government institution can do is discriminate on the basis of viewpoint. The CSC cannot say, “We’ll rent to films explaining evolution but not to films arguing against evolution.” Can it refuse to show any films about evolution? Maybe, given its ability to regulate the subject matter to some extent, but if it starts to make policies excluding only controversial science subjects, then the courts will question their purpose in making those policies, and if the intent was to suppress speech with which the CSC did not agree, then the courts may require the CSC to change its policies.

PZ himself asks in the comments,

You can’t have a general license agreement that spells out a list of things you will intentionally discriminate against, without discriminating. I wonder, though, if there aren’t models for exclusion that could be used. If the KKK asked to lease the IMAX theater, would they do so?

Again, this depends on the policies and the purposes behind those policies. If the KKK wanted to show a film arguing that there is scientific evidence that people of African descent have inferior intellect, and the CSC’s policies state that it will rent out the theater to organizations showing films on scientific subject matter, then the CSC would likely have to rent the theater to the KKK. There are “models for exclusion,” as PZ puts it. Public libraries around the country deal with this kind of problem (limiting the use of meeting rooms) all the time, and the American Library Association has some guidance for libraries on its website.

One commenter answers PZ by saying,

KKK is classified as a hate group so if fits into an entirely different legal area.

Obviously, the fix for this is to get these creationist groups categorized as hate groups. Then the museum would be legally backed up in saying they don’t want to associate with homophobic, patriarchal, lying bastards.

Well, not quite.  There is no such legal “category” as “hate groups.”  There are things called hate crimes, but the key is that whatever you’re doing has to be a crime in the first place.  Then the sentence or penalty can be enhanced if your motive was “hate.”  In other words, if you just beat the crap out of someone for fun, then you may only serve up to five years in jail.  But if you beat the crap out of them because they’re gay, then you may spend up to ten years in jail.  But the government can’t treat someone differently just because the person hates gays.

Many comments make the point that the CSC should have allowed the AFA to show the film, but engaged in its own speech to counter the message presented by AFA.  Some commenters suggested holding a lecture before or after AFA’s film, or putting up posters around the theater, or otherwise publicizing that the event was not sponsored or endorsed by the CSC.  I couldn’t agree with these comments more.  People much smarter than I have recognized that the marketplace of ideas will take care of itself.  The best way to counter speech with which you do not agree is to engage in more speech.

Speaking of more speech, I’ll post more later.  I’ve got to get back to work now.

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “More lessons, this time from the California Science Center

  1. Ah, I beg seriously to differ. “Shite” is a real word, any any Irishman or Scot will confirm. Hence my own usage of the neologism “webshite” to describe a badly designed website purveying complete and utter crap.

    More to the point: you’re right, free speech is a thorny and often unpleasant subject. That companies like Google should restrict it by insisting on the use of personal identities on Google+, on the basis that some trolls post anonymously, shows how bad things can get.

    I think the real problem arises when people start advocating violence or even murder, not before. Being Bloody Stupid is infinitely regrettable, but not a crime.

  2. Kagehi

    Well, the market place of ideas can **sort of** take care of itself. The problem is when things get unbalanced, then it becomes the same sort of Libertarian circus that politics and commercial marketing is. The only message that makes it through the noise is the one best funded, with the catchiest campaigns, and the loudest ranters. Talk radio is a good example of why *not* requiring some sort of balance is bad. I doubt it has changed recently, but most talk radio is AM band, and as of like 2004, something like 95% of it was conservative/right wing politics. This was a direct result of the ending of the “fairness” doctrine for broadcasting, which stated you had to present an alternative view to anything that might be well.. fringish, or controversial. Imagine if the DI was required to do that… lol But, the other reason, I tend to strongly suspect, is that every one of those programs is owned, or funded, by various companies/methods that either promote that type of speech specifically, or hide their real agenda from the public, while “donating” part of what they take in to such right wing talk radio.

    While I agree that the law doesn’t effectively handle situations like this, letting someone rent your theater to show things that undermine the museum itself, makes about as much sense as renting a room at the local library, for a meeting by people that promote the burning of books. I would think, just from the standpoint of general public interest, not to mention the whole purpose of the institution that owns what is being rented, that **some** limited allowance for exclusion would make some sort of sense. And, frankly, this, it seems to me, is even more the case when the organizations involved have already been deemed to be lying, in court, and about a subject that does in fact directly undermine the museum. Or, do we allow “free speech” to say.. bank robbers, to rent rooms in banks, to talk about safe cracking, unless its very clear that they are doing so to discourage it?

    Sometimes “free speech” isn’t just inconvenient. Its inconvenient when everyone is playing fair. When one side isn’t, its dangerous, and there bloody well ought to be some way to deal with situations where there is clear evidence that the people are involved are not merely stating opinion, but actively lying to promote things. For business, its called “false advertising”. For everyone else, including apparently “religious non-profits”, its “protected speech”. Imho, that is pure bullshit. Sadly, it seems like its as much about “who” sues who, as what the actual facts are. It would require their own damn audience to buy a clue, and sue them for falsely advertising the content of the show. The renter, ironically, can’t do more than, apparently, get the same results as a traffic accident, i.e., “no fault”.

    • Actually, I think most libraries would gladly rent a room to an organization that advocates the burning of books. You won’t find a more vociferous group of supporters of free speech than librarians.

      I understand your point about the film being contrary to the Center’s mission, but think about this: Imagine that Rick Perry or Michelle Bachmann is elected President. He or she then issues an executive order declaring that one of the missions of the Smithsonian is to promote Intelligent Design as a legitimate science. Would you then feel that the Smithsonian had a duty to prevent films on evolution from being shown in its museums or at its affiliates?

      This is why viewpoint discrimination by government is so insidious: the government’s viewpoint is determined by a relatively small number of individuals, and it harms society for those few people to control what everyone else hears.

      And yes, the degree of “freedom” one has in speech does depend on the type of speech. Of all legal speech (excluding, for example, obscenity and “fighting words”), commercial speech has the least protection, and political speech the most.

  3. “The worst thing a government institution can do is discriminate on the basis of viewpoint.”

    Exactly.

    Viewpoint discrimination was the issue in this case.

    In 2009, the state-run California Science Center cancelled a contract with the American Freedom Alliance to screen a pro-ID documentary, Darwin’s Dilemma. A lawsuit was filed for unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination. That lawsuit was recently settled. By the terms of the settlement agreement, the Science Center paid $110,000 and again opened its doors to the film, an invitation that was acknowledged as an apology, thanked, and then respectfully declined by the American Freedom Alliance for reasons known best to them. True, the Science Center did not explicitly admit in the settlement agreement that it engaged in viewpoint discrimination, and has issued a press release on this point, but the large payout and invitation may be taken as an implicit admission that its defense to the viewpoint discrimination claim was weak, and that public trial should therefore be avoided. Indeed, it was wise for the Science Center to settle, because the world and a jury would have seen emails that pointed plainly to viewpoint as the basis for cancellation. On that, as one Science Center VP aptly summarized, “[AFA’s] topic of Darwinism and the nature of their controversial approach is likely not a good fit with a science center,” for “the main problem is that [AFA] is an anti-Darwin/Creationist group.” These emails and other evidence form part of a growing public record that demonstrates unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination at work against intelligent design in the taxpayer-funded academy. Whatever your position on the origin and development of life, if you cherish your American right to dissent from orthodoxy, you are right to feel outrage.

    For more on this case, please see here: http://www.discovery.org/a/17401.

    • Whether this case was a case of viewpoint discrimination, or a legitimate rescission of the contract due to the AFA’s breach, I have no way of knowing based on what I have read. There is obviously a strong factual dispute here.

      But I’m not convinced that the settlement can be taken as an implicit admission. Parties settle for many reasons, although their chances of success at trial is certainly a strong consideration in any decision whether or not to settle.

      I would love to have access to all of the discovery from this case to enable me to express a more educated opinion.

      • Skeptical Lawyer:

        Setting the return-invite to one side to focus only on the payout, consider that if you and I get into a serious car accident and my insurer pays all your damages, yet neither you nor your insurer pay me anything, then the payout may be taken as a strong indicator that I’m completely at fault, assuming of course that you and I have not conspired to defraud my insurer. Actually, there are any number of other assumptions that must also hold, but that’s the way it is for any proposition, and not just the proposition that the pro-AFA settlement amounts to an admission by CSC that CSC’s defense to viewpoint discrimination would have been unavailing. In any event, Discovery may make the discovery from this case publicly accessible in the near future. Stay tuned!

        Best,

        Josh

  4. Kagehi

    He or she then issues an executive order declaring that one of the missions of the Smithsonian is to promote Intelligent Design as a legitimate science. Would you then feel that the Smithsonian had a duty to prevent films on evolution from being shown in its museums or at its affiliates?

    No, because even SCOTUS, with the number of right wingers that are on there now, would have a hard time justifying such a massive abridgment of Church and State, never mind the whole issue of promoting information the is verifiability false, based on misinformation, promoted through lies and deception, etc. If such a thing happened, at least on such a scale (there are plenty of “minor” abridgements of the law of exactly the same sort, all the time, since “religious” speech is, sadly, even more protected than political, the later of which actually involves opinions sometimes, not just self referencing assertions of truth, and claims the only sound less crazy than Harry Potter because no one got around to writing the later until a few thousand years too late), there would be hell to pay for it, from just about everyone except the crazies pushing it. The first thing that would likely happen is that the Smithsonian would, over night, see its entire staff strike, or tender resignations, and a *lot* of people, other than the government, suddenly pull any and all support for it.

    Its possible one of these clowns might crow about victory, or the vast conspiracy to promote their fantasy version of the non-existent cult of Darwinism, but it would be as short lived as Nixon’s political carrier, after his not nearly as stupid actions, or Clinton’s, after he made the mistake of not being a) right wing, b) keeping his indiscretions to public restrooms, c) opting to do it with a woman (most of the scandals seem to imply that you need to be pursuing gay sex, not the opposite sex, to do it right as a elected official..), and d) actually getting caught at it while there was a budget surplus that was embarrassing the Republicans (mind, this is only a guess, but given how forgiving they seem to be to nearly everyone else, if they are the right party, and support the right party politics… Just saying.).

    No, I don’t think there is a chance in hell of that happening, unless we keep letting these lying assholes push religious persecution, until the public is actually so dumb that a) they don’t know why the film being shown “should” be a problem, and b) they start believing the cries of persecution. And given its the US we are talking about here, we have an uncomfortable head start already, because, despite the very clear suggestion that the government *does* have some right to determine what defines “qualified” in everything from biochemists, to doctors, to engineers, somehow, this “standard” isn’t enforced outside of colleges (which often results in 4 year programs taking 6-8, the extra time spent “re-teaching” the shit they where supposed to know from grade and high school), and then not even always there, if its “altie medicine” or some theological college. Worse, in some states, its practically common practice to undermine *everything* that underlies the basic knowledge needed to be certified as not being a complete incompetent, when it comes to those professions, because there is no requirement that someone be able to “use” anything below a college level to solve problems, other than test questions.

    Heck, Perry is a good example. He couldn’t pass classes to become a doctor, so tried to become a vet, which is a bit like not being able to understand bicycles, so deciding you would be better off in a career building aircraft carriers. Now, he uses his ‘vast’ C/C+ expertise in both fields to pontificate on exactly the subject of this film, which is, “Shit we can’t comprehend, or refuse to understand, or have made up our own mythological explanation of, which even half the theologians, and most scientists, understood better, and considered reasonable, if disturbing to some of them, 150 year ago, before we even discovered DNA, or bacterial flagellum.”

    As someone once put it, forget “religious tests” for election, or things like education tests for voting, but why can’t we at least check to make sure the guy being elected can pass an 8th grade test (and I don’t mean the “special ed” version).

    Heck, as I pointed out somewhere else recently, less than 1/4 of the way into the book, Darwin himself gave these clowns an explanation of diversity, which could, without hardly even needing to alter any words, distort the meaning, or clip sections out (i.e. quote mine), **is** ID. Basically, in essence, stating that without competition, or threats from predators, a species will expand geometrically, so that in very few generations, it would be found everyplace on the entire planet. This “few” is still more than ID proponents would allow for, and still ignores a lot of basic problems (like making sure your predators don’t eat the herbivores, until the former has filled up most/all of the niches all over the planet. lol), but, its 100% compatible with ID and “kinds” and the whole, “all forms showed up very recently”. The only thing that Darwin stated that doesn’t support ID, is that those damn geologists suggested that this took place over a bloody long time, not in a few hundred generations, and having no reason to distrust all the “Christian” geologist at the time, who where scratching their heads over why the hell everything was so damn old.

    In short, Darwin’s original theory could, with very little modification, be adapted to fit the ID explanation. Its only “inconvenience” is that it was framed in long time scales, and that modern biologists say he was the starting point for modern evolution (instead of the holy text they refer to, as a means to determine “orthodoxy”. Logically, they should be bloody arguing that his original work, and those passages which talk about the geometric expansion of species, are true, that all “adaptations” to new forms happened after they spread out and started competing, and that he only got the “descent from earlier forms”, and the time scale, wrong. But, since not one damn one of them every read the book, as their attacks on things he never wrote, said, implied, etc. shows, its hardly a surprise they attack modern theory, based on a gibberish understanding of a 150 year old theory, that could have “allowed” for something like ID, as a means of introducing something that sounds like something Darwin might have thought up, if he had been a bloody intransigent theologian, instead of an honest scientist.

    • “In short, Darwin’s original theory could, with very little modification, be adapted to fit the ID explanation.”

      I’m reading the book, and I haven’t found anything to support that statement so far. I *have* found a slap in the face to creationists and ID types, in the bit where he’s discussing the tendency of the various species of equine to produce stripes, expecially in hybrids:
      “To admit this view [each species created with a tendency to vary] is, as it seems to me, to reject a real for an unreal, or at least for an unknown, cause. It makes the works of God a mere mockery and deception; I would almost as soon believe with the old and ignorant cosmogonians, that fossil shells had never lived, but had been created in stone so as to mock the shells now living on the seashore.”
      Charles Darwin: On the Origin of Species

      • Kagehi

        Strictly speaking, this is true. However, one of their “arguments”, in an attempt to save the whole thing, is that species could have started as “kinds”, and spread out to fill all the gaps. Darwin himself estimated that, if you remove predation, disease, and competition, you could have even elephants, in a span of a few hundred years, slow breeders or not, produce millions of themselves, and one other example he fiddled with the numbers on would have produced “billions” in an even smaller time frame.

        If you are going to argue for “kinds produced every sort of cat on the planet”, “micro-evolution does happen”, and, “god can flood the whole earth, without enough water to do that, for 40 days, then make it all dry up magically”, there is hardly any argument that can be made against the ideas that these small number of “kinds” didn’t compete significantly, had plenty of food (maybe they became temporary herbivores again, or something), and didn’t eat each other for food, so the fact that elephants only show up, post flood, in Africa, could be explained by them only having say 100 years to spreed that far, instead of millions of years, while other more prolific breeders could have easily produced “billions” of offspring, and spread all over the place. All changes since being “micro evolution”, from them filling in all the holes, and only “then” having to compete with each other.

        Its certainly the argument I would use, if I supported the nonsense DI does, and if a) there was one scrap of evidence for their view, b) everything in modern biology didn’t say it was total bullshit, and c) other parts of Darwin’s work didn’t contradict it too. The last one is, however, hardly a major issue. Much of his book contradicts modern biology as well, so finding bits that couldn’t be “adapted” to ID is hardly amazing.

        But, yeah, for the most part, the whole book calls them liars and clueless. But, it could have gone either way, if the vast majority of all other evidence wasn’t against it. That it could have, makes their whining about Darwin, who didn’t know *anything* close enough to have conclusively contradicted their “micro evolution” nonsense, make them attacking “his” work as the center stone of what they don’t like absurd, in my view, even without the vast amount of other evidence that exists in contradiction, since it was written.

      • Kagehi

        Actually, thinking on it, it might even be funnier than hell to create a competing “pro-Darwin” site that actually made such arguments, supporting the “the earth isn’t that old”, and a few other nonsense ideas, but calling ID wrong, because it attacks evolution, just to watch these idiots stare in confusion at it, and try to figure out who to really attack now. lol

        As things stand, all they have to do is say “Darwin” and *Bingo!*. Take that away from them, and they would have to either try, unsuccessfully, to argue that Darwin said something else (which you could quote otherwise), or re-brand who the enemy was. Not sure if it would be worth the risk, or the laughs you would get from seeing them scramble to solve their new problem.

  5. Lisa R.

    Would it be permissible for the CSC’s policy to say that it would only show films based on scientific theories generally regarded as valid? Sort of like a Daubert standard, then – the question would become whether the theory at issue is “generally accepted” among scientists.

    It seems like it ought to be possible to distinguish between viewpoint discrimination where the opposing views are essentially political, compared to where only one of the views is empirically supportable.

  6. The claim that ID is just “creationism” is another obfuscation of this article by “The Skeptical Lawyer.”

    From: http://www.discovery.org/a/7501

    In order to address claims that ID is creationism, we require a working definition of “creationism.” Even ID’s leading critics admit that ID is not creationism when creationism is defined as young earth creationism (“YEC”). As Eugenie Scott writes, “most ID proponents do not embrace a Young Earth, Flood Geology, and sudden creation tenets associated with YEC.”17

    There are more general definitions of “creationism” than the widely-known YEC view. Leading scholars on both sides of this debate agree that creationism defined generally holds that “supernatural” powers created life.18 Indeed, in its 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court basically adopted this definition, finding that creationism was religion because it referred to a “supernatural creator.”19 Under this broad definition of creationism, ID still is not creationism. This is because, as we have seen, ID does not try to address questions about whether the designer is natural or supernatural, and in fact within biology explicitly allows that the designer could have been natural. For this reason, intelligent design lacks the key defining characteristic that caused creationism to be both unscientific and unconstitutional.

    Creationists base their claims upon faith or divine revelation. But as I argued in my first opening statement (“Intelligent design (ID) has scientific merit because it uses the scientific method to make its claims and infers design by testing its positive predictions”), ID makes its arguments using the scientific data, and not faith or divine revelation. ID should not be considered the same as creationism.

    From its early days, the ID-project has made empirically-based arguments that stayed entirely within the empirical domain and avoided religious questions about the supernatural. Thus, in a desperate effort to tie ID to creationism, Darwinists resort to weak semantic or “guilt by association” arguments, rather than substantive arguments, to claim that ID is creationism.

    In this regard, Darwinists have often cited language in early pre-publication drafts of the Pandas textbook that used the term “creation” and later pre-publication drafts as well as published editions that used the term “intelligent design.” They alleged the terminology was switched merely in an effort to evade the Edwards ruling, which found “creation science” unconstitutional.

    Conceptually, early drafts of Pandas, although they used the word “creation,” did not advocate “creationism” as that term has been defined by the Supreme Court and most scholars in this debate.

    Before the Edwards ruling, pre-publication drafts of Pandas specifically rejected the view that science could determine whether an intelligent cause identified through the scientific method was supernatural. A pre-Edwards draft argued that “observable instances of information cannot tell us if the intellect behind them is natural or supernatural. This is not a question that science can answer.”20 The same draft explicitly rejected William Paley’s eighteenth century design arguments because they unscientifically “extrapolate to the supernatural” from the empirical data. The draft stated that Paley was wrong because “there was no basis in uniform experience for going from nature to the supernatural, for inferring an unobserved supernatural cause from an observed effect.”21 Another pre-publication draft made similar arguments:
    “[W]e cannot learn [about the supernatural] through uniform sensory experience . . . and so to teach it in science classes would be out of place . . . [S]cience can identify an intellect, but is powerless to tell us if that intellect is within the universe or beyond it.”22

    By unequivocally affirming that the empirical evidence of science “cannot tell us if the intellect behind [the information in life] is natural or supernatural,”23 it is evident that these pre-publication drafts of Pandas meant something very different by “creation” than did the Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard, in which the Court defined creationism as religion because it postulated a “supernatural creator.”

    Unfortunately, in his Kitzmiller v. Dover ruling, Judge Jones bought into the revisionist history of ID that claims ID is just repackaged creationism, and the Judge presented a sharply truncated and inaccurate view of the intellectual history of design. A correct history will make it clear that “intelligent design” was not a term invented to avoid the Edwards ruling, but a project that has always been distinct from the core claims of creationism.

    Judge Jones traced the origins of ID back to the natural theology of William Paley and the arguments of the thirteenth century Catholic philosopher Thomas Aquinas. Even some critics of ID admit that “design arguments are not new,”24 for the debate over design in nature began at least as early as the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers.25 The Greek philosophers Heraclitus, Empedocles, Democritus, and Anaximander believed that life could originate without any intelligent guidance.26 Plato and Aristotle, both advocated that a mind was required to explain life’s existence.27 In more modern times, Isaac Newton asked in his treatise Opticks, “Was the Eye contrived without Skill in Opticks, and the Ear without Knowledge of Sounds? […] And these things being rightly dispatch’d, does it not appear from Phænomena that there is a Being incorporeal, living, intelligent, omnipresent…”28

    The debate over design continued vigorously among scientists and philosophers–not just theologians–at the time of Darwin in the 19th century. Zoologist and geologist Louis Agassiz, a critic of Darwin, invoked an “intellectual power”29 to explain the diversity of living organisms in his “Essay on Classification,” published in the late 1850’s, near the time that Darwin published Origin of Species. The term “intelligent design” was invoked as a plausible alternative to blind Darwinian evolution in 1897 by Oxford scholar F.C.S. Schiller, who wrote that “it will not be possible to rule out the supposition that the process of Evolution may be guided by an intelligent design.”30 Even the independent co-discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection, Alfred Russel Wallace, concluded that it was possible–and appropriate–to detect design in nature.31

    The research and ideas that ultimately inspired ID proponents were conceived in the decades and years prior to the Edwards ruling.32 Highly influential behind ID arguments was the discovery that life depended upon information, whose structure was not only independent of its physical or chemical form, but whose ordering was not amenable to explanation by physical or chemical laws. As the chemist Michael Polanyi wrote in an article titled, “Life’s Irreducible Structure,” published in the journal Science in 1968:

    “Suppose that the actual structure of a DNA molecule were due to the fact that the bindings of its bases were much stronger than the bindings would be for any other distribution of bases, then such a DNA molecule would have no information content. Its code-like character would be effaced by an overwhelming redundancy. […] Whatever may be the origin of a DNA configuration, it can function as a code only if its order is not due to the forces of potential energy. It must be as physically indeterminate as the sequence of words is on a printed page.”33

    The term “intelligent design” appears to have been coined in its contemporary scientific usage by the atheist cosmologist Dr. Fred Hoyle, who in 1982 argued that “if one proceeds directly and straightforwardly in this matter, without being deflected by a fear of incurring the wrath of scientific opinion, one arrives at the conclusion that biomaterials with their amazing measure of order must be the outcome of intelligent design.”34 The term “intelligent design” was also used by non-scientist James E. Horigan in his 1979 book Chance or Design? where Horigan used the term “intelligent design” and framed his argument as an empirical one, “without resort to biblical or other religious references,” and without investigating questions about “ultimate purpose.”35

    Horigan and Hoyle, however, did not become part of the later ID movement. But in 1984–three years before the Edwards ruling–three scientists who did help found the ID movement published a book titled The Mystery of Life’s Origin that made arguments for an “intelligent cause” in the origin of the information in DNA:

    “We have observational evidence in the present that intelligent investigators can (and do) build contrivances to channel energy down nonrandom chemical pathways to bring about some complex chemical synthesis, even gene building. May not the principle of uniformity then be used in a broader frame of consideration to suggest that DNA had an intelligent cause at the beginning?”36

    Those three scientists were Charles Thaxton, Walter Bradley, and Roger Olsen. Soon thereafter, Thaxton, a chemist and academic editor for the Pandas textbook, adopted the term “intelligent design” after hearing it mentioned by a NASA engineer.37 Thaxton’s adoption of the term “intelligent design” took place pre-Edwards and therefore could not have been an attempt to “evade” a court decision. Rather, his adoption of this terminology was done to distinguish ID from creationism, because, in contrast to creationism, ID sought to stay solely within the empirical domain. As Thaxton testified during his deposition in the Kitzmiller case:

    “I wasn’t comfortable with the typical vocabulary that for the most part creationists were using because it didn’t express what I was trying to do. They were wanting to bring God into the discussion, and I was wanting to stay within the empirical domain and do what you can do legitimately there.”38

    Thaxton, who is a scientist and not a lawyer, adopted “intelligent design” terminology out of a desire to respect the limits of scientific inquiry, not as some conspiracy to avoid a Supreme Court ruling. When recounting the history of why he adopted “intelligent design” terminology, Thaxton explains that his goal was not to avoid any court decisions but to help people understand that their argument was “trying to operate entirely within the empirical domain”:

    “Unfortunately for Westerners … anytime you use the word creation it automatically conjures up any of a number of religious discussions. We knew from the beginning of our project, that turned out to be the making of Of Pandas and People, that we wanted to avoid this automatically concluding that what you’re talking about was religion because in fact we were dealing with a biological discussion. So we were trying to operate entirely within the empirical domain. And my thought was, how to arrive at a set of terms that would allow us to traffic the literature and the discussion and build an argument without having to use terminology that would automatically bring one into the religious realm?”39

    Thaxton continues, saying “we did what we could do to stay within the empirical domain and make legitimate inferences.”40 He then explains the terminology that was originally in the early pre-publication drafts of Pandas:
    “I realize that the charge was that we were trying to just use a substitute word for creation, but that isn’t the case at all. In the early days of writing the Pandas book for example, although we understood what we were doing, most other people who we were talking to didn’t know our objectives really. And if you have a whole culture that knows about creation as a term … So we used that word early on, not for deception so we could later switch on them but because we wanted the materials to be understood that we were focused on. It was always clearly within the empirical domain, even the things that we wrote early on.”41

    Thaxton completes his account by recounting that after speaking widely on the subject of origins that “gradually it became clear that there was a real good way that there was a case we wanted–completely within the empirical domain–and we looked for a term that would do this and reading the literature and ah, ‘intelligent design,’ is the most appropriate term. And that’s why we did it.”42

    In conclusion, the term “intelligent design” not only long pre-dates the Edwards ruling, but the basic arguments for design pre-date Christianity. Moreover, modern members of the ID movement started using the term “intelligent design” not to evade a court ruling, but because they sought terminology that would accurately communicate their project’s original intent to remain entirely within the empirical domain and avoid investigating religious questions about the supernatural. Since the U.S. Supreme Court declared creationism to be a religious viewpoint because it postulated a “supernatural creator,” it seems that regardless of what wording was used early on, the ID project has always been substantively distinct from creationism. Any arguments that ID is creationism because early pre-publication drafts of the Pandas textbook used “creation” terminology are false conspiracy theories based not upon substance, but semantics and revisionist history. The very fact that Darwinists must resort to such arguments shows just how weak is their case that ID is creationism.

    Any readers interested in learning about the true history of the origin of intelligent design might benefit from listening to two podcast interviews with Charles Thaxton on this topic at:

    The Mystery of Life’s Origin: An Interview with Dr. Charles Thaxton, Part One
    http://www.idthefuture.com/2008/07/the_mystery_of_lifes_origin_an.html

    The Mystery of Life’s Origin: An Interview with Dr. Charles Thaxton, Part Two
    http://www.idthefuture.com/2008/07/the_mystery_of_lifes_origin_an_1.html

  7. Kagehi

    Its still a) religion and b) creationism, just “old earth”, and advocates for the teaching of things that are **purely** religiously motivated (thus illegal) and contradictory to the facts. There are no magic “kinds” that god created a small number of, then allowed to “diverge” into other variants. There is no strange, undefinable, mechanism that prevents a group of the same species, in isolation from the rest of them, from developing traits so unique, or genetic changes so extreme, that they become a different species. The claim that you can have ID without it being creation, is pure bullshit.

    Worse, as you prove, quite handily James, Evolution isn’t about where, or how, life “started”, its about how it bloody changed since it got here. So, offering ID as an alternative to that is **absolutely** religious, and creationist, since it both accuses evolution of being physics, astronomy, and a whole mess of other things it isn’t, accuses it of claiming to say how life started at all, and accuses it of being wrong about the formation of species. The first two accusations are false, and the only explanation given being “God did it.”, which is ***creationism***, old earth or not. The last one, is just plain ID bullshit assertions, which every time they claim they found irreducible complexity, or some other “gotcha”, has been explained, shown not to be true, or even verified in a lab as happening “in spite” of the claims that it can’t happen without someone “inventing it”.

    The only people using “revisionist” history here are the ID people. Its not just Pandas and People that showed their true colors, it was the testimony of virtually every idiot they had on the witness stand, who pretty much all admitted it was religion they where basing it on, not some great new idea.

    ID is arguing against an theory no one uses, using a theory that all the evidence shows isn’t even coherent, explains nothing at all, and can’t even be tested (the best they manage is to take stuff other people come up with, and intentionally misunderstand it, and claim that is “research”), all with the single, sole, motive, as admitted, over and over, by their own staff, being to introduce some form of, “God did it, we just can’t say so legally”, into schools. Its blindingly transparent, to everyone except those being equally dishonest. There is no evidence of other intelligent life at this point, all physics implies that its nearly, if not totally, impossible to travel between star systems, in any sense that would allow space aliens to do it. There is no evidence of prior civilizations on earth, which could have “created life”. They have ***no*** explanation, at all, for what mechanism would have produced such life, allowing it to come here are “create ours”. That leaves you with what exactly as an explanation? Hmm… God, perhaps?

    Stop lying! The only people that believe you, or will believe you, are already as ignorant of the evidence, the science, and the real theory being attacked by ID, as you either are, or pretend to be, so you can attack some non-existent one, which no one actually uses for anything. When you can’t even get what Darwin himself really said right, and attack some made up nonsense version of that, its hardly a surprise that 100% of all output from the DI has been mangling of other people’s research, a laundry list of assertions, no evidence or research, of any kind, of their own, from one of those silly things people call “labs”, and every single thing they have claimed “proves” their version, or disputes what 90% of the rest of the world agrees with, does neither.

    And no, Pandas and People was merely the biggest damn joke in the whole thing, it was hardly the corner stone of the whole case. You also have your terminology wrong. **Revisionism** is where you go back and **personally** change the contents of something, so it says something else, which is what was done “to” the book in question. Pointing at that someone did so, and connecting that to the admission by other witnesses that they don’t think anything other than Jesus could be behind “creating” life, is called, “presenting facts”.

  8. Kagehi

    Shorter version of James nonsense – We don’t dispute that Evolution happens, we just dispute that it can a) create species, and b) that this other theory, called eavolution (written way to distinguish their fictional version from the real thing), is wrong, because it includes things like abiogenesis (Evolution doesn’t), and a whole list of other things we claim it includes (but Evolution) doesn’t, and doesn’t explain (never mind that Evolution does) things we imagine seeing, but don’t do any actual research on, at all, instead of cherry picking other people’s actual work, and getting that wrong. Besides, space aliens could have done it (physics says this is damned unlikely, if not impossible), not just the God that our own people admit they think did do it. Therefor eavolution is wrong, long live Evolution (whoops, sorry, I mean Intelligent Design), but with God monkeying with the boot loading program.

    Uh, huh.. No religious based, Christian centric, “creationism” there…

    • Perhaps friend James could provide us with the name and address of this “natural” designer? I’ve got a bone to pick with him/her/it about quite a few aspects of mammalian body plans. Just for starters.

      My own take on the whole thing is that CSC was wrong to refuse the film, as it would have been a perfect chance to thoroughly debunk the whole ID nonsense by presenting the film as a summary of fallacious arguments, and even providing post- (or pre-) showing talks to explain why the whole thing is impossible. A great educational tool.

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