FTE Defends ‘Of Pandas and People’

It’s been 8 years since the Dover trial took place, resulting in an overwhelming victory for science over creationist scheming, and now the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, which published the textbook Of Pandas and People at the center of that case, are trying to “set the record straight” and tell the “untold story” — by which I mean continuing to lie about the book.

The document is very long and I won’t got into all of it. I just want to point out one particular argument that I find highly amusing. Faced with the undeniable fact that the early, pre-publication versions of the book all used the terms creation, creation science, creationism, etc, while the later versions all use the terms intelligent design, design theory and the like, they claimed then and are claiming now that they only used those cognates of “creation” as a “placeholder” while they did their oh-so-rigorous research to compile the book.

Indeed, from its inception, Pandas was fundamentally distinct from creationism or creation science.

Why then would early drafts use the word “creation” at all?

But FTE’s insistence on a heavily discoursed, well researched case necessarily entailed the provisional use of placeholders. In 1980, when Charles Thaxton joined a group of American scientists visiting Seoul, South Korea, he used the terms “a generic origin” and “generic origins,” and in both his trial deposition for Kitzmiller and my own, we independently described the temporary use of the word ‘creation’ in early drafts of Pandas as a “placeholder.”

Oh yes, of course. And the placeholder term they used just happened to be the same one that all of the contributors to the book had argued for for years, sometimes decades, and that was creationism. And it just happened to be the same word used in the law that the Supreme Court struck down in June, 1987, the exact moment when that “placeholder” term was replaced by the much more vague “intelligent design” in the pre-publication drafts of the book (and the final published version). Nothing to see here, move along. This is purely coincidental.

Then they try another argument, essentially claiming that their use of that word was generic, referring to anyone who believes in God. And they quote this passage from Ken Miller’s cross-examination in which he agrees that by a very broad definition of the term, he could be called a creationist as well:

Q. Sir, in the ordinary meaning of the word a creationist is simply any person who believes in an act of creation, correct?

A. Yes, I think I would also regard that as the ordinary meaning of the word creationist.

Q. And you believe that the universe was created by God?

A. I believe that God is the author of all things seen and unseen. So the answer to that, sir, is yes.

Q. In a sense that would make you a creationist using the definition —

A. In the, as I think you and I discussed during the deposition, in that sense any person who is a theist, any person who accepts a supreme being, is a creationist in the ordinary meaning of the word because they believe in some sort of a creation event.

Q. And that would include yourself?

A. That would certainly include me.

But they conveniently leave out the part of that testimony that contradicts their argument. Miller was speaking here about the ordinary meaning of the term, not the meaning of the term in the context of a debate over evolution. And he made that clear just a few minutes later in the same testimony:

Q. And starting at line 3 the question was asked, “When you were writing material on evolution, did you add any information on creationism? And then you answer begins at line 5. Would you please read your answer from line 5 down to line 24, please?

A. Okay. “Answer: No, we did not, and the reason that once again is that there is no scientific evidence that supports the idea of creationism. Now, it’s very important to define what one means by creationism. I’m a Roman Catholic for example, so I believe the universe was created, and you could always say that means you’re a creationist. But in the modern usage of that language in the United States the word creationist means something quite different, other than a person who simply believes in a supreme being and thinks that there is meaning and order and purpose to the universe.

“In the current usage in the United States creationist is taken to mean someone who thinks that the earth is six to ten thousand years old, that all living organisms were simultaneously created during a very brief period of time, perhaps six days, and that the entire geologic record is an illusion, a column of flood deposition from the single forty day flood that has been misinterpreted for 250 years by the geological sciences as a series, a system of geological ages.”

In the context of disputing evolution, “creationist” does not just mean anyone who believes in God, it means someone who rejects evolution and believes that God created life on earth through direct intervention. This is distinct from a theistic evolutionist like Miller. And indeed, comparing the drafts of the book in question makes this quite clear. Here is now the early draft of the book defined “creation” in 1986, when it was called Biology and Creation:

“Creation means that the various forms of life began abruptly through the agency of an intelligent creator with their distinctive features already intact. Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc.”

And here is how the published version, written after the June, 1987 court ruling in Edwards v Aguillard, defined “intelligent design.”

“Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact. Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, wings, etc.”

It could hardly be any more clear than that. This was an explicitly creationist textbook until the Supreme Court declared creationism to be inherently religious and therefore prohibited in a public school science classroom. Then it was suddenly an “intelligent design” textbook, a transparently ridiculous attempt to get around that court ruling. I’d say the Foundation for Thought and Ethics has a serious problem with both thought and ethics. They have no problem lying about their work as long as it suits their agenda.

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  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    My apologies, Ed, but I just couldn’t read all of your post: my mind keeps shorting out every time I see that the book’s publisher calls itself the Foundation for Thought and Ethics.

  • blf

    You can always count on cdesign proponentsists for the trooth.

  • raven

    my mind keeps shorting out every time I see that the book’s publisher calls itself the Foundation for Thought and Ethics.

    They love their Orwell 1984 instruction manual. As well as the Humpty Dumpty principle.

    They’ve done with the words “Thought” and “Ethics” what they did with “Family” and “Values”. In Fundiespeak you can substitute “wild eyed religious fanatics” for “family” and not go wrong.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    But they conveniently leave out the part of that testimony that contradicts their argument. Miller was speaking here about the ordinary meaning of the term, not the meaning of the term in the context of a debate over evolution. And he made that clear just a few minutes later in the same testimony:”

    Well, if he was so clear, then why did they conveniently leave it out, hmm? Checkmate, Darwinists!

     

    I’d say the Foundation for Thought and Ethics has a serious problem with both thought and ethics.”

    To be fair, they never said it was good thoughts or good ethics.

  • matty1

    It’s a simple mistake anyone can mix up the words for and against so I don’t see why the Foundation against Thought and Ethics should get so much stick for it.

  • John Pieret

    necessarily entailed the provisional use of placeholders

    Gee, if I was looking for for biology or science, I might use “biology” or “science.”

    If you weren’t doing creationism or creation science just why would you use those words as placeholders?

    Congratulations on devising a spectacularly stupider explanation than ‘my dog ate my homework’!

  • John Pieret

    Somehow dropped out: “Gee, if I was looking for PLACEHOLDERS for biology or science…”

  • eric

    @6: its even simpler than that. Remember, some of those early versions were published, not just in-house drafts. If a published textbook is using a placeholder term, then the text will say “hey students, this is a placeholder term.”

    Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact. Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, wings, etc.”

    …and that’s the true killer of the “its a placeholder” argument. Because the religiosity of OPAP does not hinge on the term it uses to describe the alternate idea of special creation. The religiosity hinges on the content of special creation itself.

  • colnago80

    This is distinct from a theistic evolutionist like Miller.

    I would point out that Miller, in a comment posted on Larry Moran’s blog specifically rejected the term theistic evolutionist as applied to himself. He described himself as a philosophical theist and a methodological naturalist. He, apparently, considers that the two ideas are distinct and separated, much like Gould’s non-overlapping magisteria.

  • pacal

    Re: Matty No. 5.

    It’s a simple mistake anyone can mix up the words for and against so I don’t see why the Foundation against Thought and Ethics should get so much stick for it.

    Nope it was not a “simple mistake”, but a damn obvious piece of deception. It is abundantly clear that “creation” was dropped and replaced by “intelligent design” as soon as “creation science” was thrown out by the Courts. Of course nothing else replaced except the term “creation” with “intelligent design” proving that creationism and intelligent design are basically the same thing and in this case exactly the same thing.

  • matty1

    Yet again the internet fails to convey attempted humour. Yes the replacement of “creation” with “intelligent design” was a deliberate deception. It was also not what my post referenced. I was referring to the irony of a group that is unethical and clearly don’t think much using the name “Foundation <i<for Thought and Ethics” by suggesting they got the words “for” and “against” mixed up.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I have read Of Pandas and People. Ignoring the argument about whether intelligent design = creationism, it is a terrible book. The stuff about cytochrome C sequence comparisons is completely, totally wrong.

  • caseloweraz

    For what it’s worth, Matty1, I got it the first time.

  • caseloweraz

    …they claimed then and are claiming now that they only used those cognates of “creation” as a “placeholder” while they did their oh-so-rigorous research to compile the book.

    They should have used ETAOIN SHRDLU as I am wont to do when I need a placeholder. (Only in private documents, of course — except that one time…)

  • Nihilismus

    Evolutionists should write a textbook that not only accurately explains the science behind evolution, but also explicitly debunks creationist claims. It should also use logical and philosophical counterarguments to theistic claims in general, explain how other fields of science also point to the lack of an interfering deity, and discuss the history of the politics and deception in the debate.

    That way, if the creationists even win with the “teach the controversy” argument for including their crap in a “science” course, we’ll have a comprehensive multi-subject textbook ready to go. The creationists might be so scared that students will learn all the other ways (besides creationism) that religion is nonsensical that they (the creationists) might stop pushing their agenda in public schools altogether.

  • pacal

    RE Matty1

    Yet again the internet fails to convey attempted humour. Yes the replacement of “creation” with “intelligent design” was a deliberate deception. It was also not what my post referenced. I was referring to the irony of a group that is unethical and clearly don’t think much using the name “Foundation <i<for Thought and Ethics” by suggesting they got the words “for” and “against” mixed up.

    I missed the “against” and so missed the joke. My bad.

  • paulburnett

    We should also never forget that the president of the Foundation Against Thought and Ethics, Jon Buell (an ordained minister), repeatedly lied under oath in his pre-Dover trial testimony, denying that his company was a Christian publisher, even after being shown his signature on their IRS tax exemption declaration form, AND a “begging” letter they sent to churches, AND the Foundation’s articles of incorporation, article 5 of which states:

    “The purposes for which the corporation is formed are, 1) the primary purpose is both religious and educational, which includes, but is not limited to, proclaiming, publishing, preaching, teaching, promoting, broadcasting, disseminating, and otherwise making known the Christian gospel and understanding of the Bible and the light it sheds on the academic and social issues of our day.”

    Here is Jon Buell’s sworn testimony on July 14, 2005:

    “Q Okay. Is the Foundation for Thought and Ethics a religious organization?

    A No, it’s not.

    Q What kind of organization is it?

    A Well, it’s an educational organization.

    Q And does it seek to provide any — promote any Christian message in that education?

    A No, it does not.

    Q Any religious message at all?

    A No, none at all.”

    The willingness of these religious fanatics to Lie For Jesus (TM) must not be underestimated. They have lied to us before, and they will continue to lie to us.

  • dingojack

    Placeholders?

    Kinda reminds me of:

    “Blessed be the placemakers for they shall be called the children of God”.

    : Dingo

  • caffeineme

    Clearly the real placeholder being used by this group is “Ethics”, and perhaps “Thought” as well.

  • David C Brayton

    Wow, eight years….How’s Michael Behe’s career proceeding? Did he ever get anything published regarding irreducible complexity? In a peer-reviewed journal, that is?

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY OT, but schadenfreudlicious:

    Ender’s Game opened last Friday and had first weekend grosses of $27.6M. It cost over $100M to make, according to several nebulous guesstimates.

    Here’s hoping it tanks like a remake of Ishtar with the original cast from Gigly.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    demo: It’s spelled “Gigli.” Show some respect when you’re talking about spectacular flops, you Philistine.

  • Childermass

    I guess they are getting less honest over time.

    After all, if they had lied during Kitzmiller discovery and said “we did not keep any old drafts” they would not had the embarrassment that those old drafts gave them.

    It certainly been a far more believable lie than what they are trying now.

    The moral is, of course, creationists can’t afford to tell the truth ever. They need to lie from the start and never stop. It is their only hope.

    And people wonder why creationist lie so damn often.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    David C. Brayton #20: Wow, eight years….How’s Michael Behe’s career proceeding? Did he ever get anything published regarding irreducible complexity? In a peer-reviewed journal, that is?

    Well, he did co-author a paper on population genetics with an astronomy professor and get it accepted in a journal specializing in protein chemistry, but that was back in 2004. You might be wondering why a journal specializing in protein chemistry would accept a paper in population genetics. So am I.

    Hey, I see he recently (March 2012) got something into the journal Review of Metaphysics.

  • eric

    @14:

    …they claimed then and are claiming now that they only used those cognates of “creation” as a “placeholder” while they did their oh-so-rigorous research to compile the book.

    They should have used ETAOIN SHRDLU as I am wont to do when I need a placeholder. (Only in private documents, of course — except that one time…)

    If you’re going to put placeholder text in your document, do it right.

    :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/joseph.stricklin josephstricklin

    More like “The foundation for Twatfuckery and Eatshittery”

  • lclane2

    Not to worry. “Foundation for Thought and Ethics” is merely a placeholder for “Foundation for Irrational Thought and Dubious Ethics.”