FTE Defends ‘Of Pandas and People’

FTE Defends ‘Of Pandas and People’ November 3, 2013

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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