February 20, 2006

"On deck - Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute"

A couple of months ago I noticed this innocuous little piece at the San Diego CityBeat magazine's internet site. In it, Casey Luskin, earlier of the UCSD IDEA club and now a DI shill, offered up the standard ID talking points with little challenge. In response, I sent a letter to the magazine and didn't discover they had printed it until I noticed a rebuttal from Luskin. In this entry I'll post the initial piece and my letter. Soon to follow will be Luskin's reply letter and my response to that.

UCSD, USD alum-lawyer says I.D. advocates are underestimated

by Pat Sherman, 11/23/05

Casey Luskin founded the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Club (IDEA) at UCSD in 1999 as an outlet for students interested in discussing the burgeoning theory of intelligent design. Today, there are more than 20 such clubs on campuses across the country.

Luskin, currently working as an attorney with the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which promotes intelligent design, helped write amicus briefs on behalf of the Dover Area School District board in the pending case in Pennsylvania.

Opponents say “intelligent design,” like its predecessor, “creation science,” is a term coined to cloak creationism in scientific jargon to circumvent a 1987 Supreme Court decision that prohibits teaching of creation on an equal level with evolution.

Luskin, an avowed Star Wars fan and Christian who obtained a bachelor’s degree in earth sciences from UCSD and a law degree from USD, defended the demarcation of the terms.

“It can really blow your mind when you find out that intelligent design is not the way our critics have said it is,” Luskin said. “Intelligent-design theory stops short of trying to identify the designer, whether the designer was the God of the Bible or Yoda or Yahweh or whatever you want to believe.”

The theory also falls in line with many principles of evolution, he said.

“We’re a lot more savvy than people give us credit for,” Luskin said. “Natural selection is very real, and it absolutely happened. But many of the examples we have of natural selection do not really tell us how new biochemical pathways form or how these really complex microbiological machines, how those things originate.”

As a geologist, Luskin also concedes that the earth is older than the typical 6,000-year life span offered by creationists.

“If you want to know how old the earth is, go ask a geologist,” Luskin said. “I happen to be a geologist. I have absolutely no problem with the earth being 4.54 billion years old."

[My letter]

Re: “The Missing Link” by Pat Sherman, 11/23/05

“If you want to know how old the earth is, go ask a geologist,” says the Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin in the November 11th piece by Pat Sherman. Problem is Luskin, like his “Intelligent Design”(ID) cronies, somehow misses or ignores the obvious corollary to this advice. What if the question is “if you want to know about life on earth…?” Whom do you suppose Luskin trusts in this case? Well it’s not biologists.

How do I know this? Because the vast majority of biologists, whose beliefs run from atheism to Zorastrianism, overwhelmingly reject the idea that evidence for intervention of supernatural agency can be found in biological nature. Now to this Luskin would reply that ID proponents do not necessarily infer a supernatural designer. Luskin, in fact, says in the piece “Intelligent-design theory stops short of trying to identify the designer, whether the designer was the God of the Bible or Yoda or Yahweh or whatever you want to believe.” But this is merely tired repetition of deceptive ID talking points. In not one instance where ID “theorists” purportedly identify intelligent intervention do they infer natural agency. In virtually every case in which they “discover” the work of their “designer,” from the installation of universal laws to the manipulation of molecular biology the “skill set” required by the intelligent agency is that of a supernatural entity.

“Intelligent Design” proponents do not demur from identifying the designer on the basis of methodology, they simply avoid saying the word (God) in the interests of maintaining enough ambiguity to allow the appearance of impartiality.

If it’s true that “…intelligent design is not the way our critics have said it is” (Luskin) then this can be no fault of the critics of ID. If one were to ask five different ID theorists for their definition of “Intelligent Design” one would get descriptions covering ideas ranging from the cosmological to the microbiological, from theistic evolutionism to fundamentalism, from acceptance of the value of empirical investigation to a broad rejection of scientific methodology. ID is all over the park. It can be interpreted to say nearly anything precisely because in reality it says nothing beyond the assertion that something is wrong with the modern understanding of biological evolution.

And in this ID is no different from traditional creationism. It is perhaps the most aggravating (to proponents) criticism of “Intelligent Design” to refer to it as creationism, but to ignore this observation is to miss the forest while looking at a couple of trees. No, ID "theory" does not advance the same collection of arguments that traditional creationism does, but it has the same ultimate goals, uses the same tactics, and makes common cause with traditional creationists. This has all been well documented.

ID is very definitely creationism. If it is not all that its critics imply, perhaps Luskin can take this up with his co-proponents of this very nebulous offering. Once they settle into the task of doing some research and developing a coherent “theory,” rather than indulging in sloganeering (e.g. “teach the controversy,” “academic freedom,” and “critics don’t understand ID”) it may be possible to examine their ideas in the appropriate sphere, the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

Until then Luskin, along with his friends from the Discovery Institute, must be seen for what they really are – public relations hacks.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Creationism is not the same as intelligent design, rather is the warped view of fundamentalists who have not carefully read the scriptures. The first 24 hour day (division of light and dark) occurred well into the first creative day after the creation of the heavens and the earth. The entire creation is referred to as happening in a “day” Genesis 2:4. Additionally, we are still living in the seventh day of God’s rest. Creationism is not scholarly and is the enemy of truth and of Intelligent Design.
There was no way to win the Dover case as long as the “Pandas” book was being defended along with ID. The judge was right, religion does not belong in the classroom.

If ID could separate itself from Creationism’s bad association it would no doubt stop getting kicked out of school.

12:58 PM  

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