Creation-Science and Intelligent Design: Different Names for Religious Theory

Calling religion a science—whatever name you use—does not make it so, writes Robert T. Pennock


We saw one such bill introduced in Michigan last year by the same legislators who had previously introduced bills that explicitly used ID terminology. Discovery Institute Fellow Ralph Seelke was brought in to testify in favor of the bill. I listened in disbelief as he told the education committee that this had nothing to do with intelligent design but moments later said how it would allow students to learn about important criticisms of evolution such as those of Michael Behe. This sort of shell game is getting harder for them to pull off, however, as the public is becoming more knowledgeable about such deceptions. (Of seven "academic freedom" bills that creationists introduced last year, only the one in Louisiana passed, likely because of the support from Gov. Bobby Jindal, who seems to have been willing to sacrifice science to political ambition.)

The "academic freedom" argument isn't new either; it has been a creationist staple for decades. The courts have rejected this tactic as well in a series of cases. More recently, in 2001, in the LeVake v. Independent School District #656, the court ruled against a teacher who claimed a right to teach the "difficulties and inconsistencies" of evolution. Everyone agrees that academic freedom is an important value in education, but creationists sully its true meaning and neglect the academic responsibility that must go along with it.

The latest attempt to smuggle in bogus creationist arguments was seen last month in Texas, where ID advocates on the State Board of Education tried to make sure that the "strengths and weaknesses" language (which ID advocates had gotten into the science standards previously) was reinserted. The measure lost in a close vote as moderates declined to go along with the extremists. Consulting their thesaurus, the ID advocates on the board next proposed an amendment that would require students to learn evidence "supportive and not supportive" of a theory. That too was defeated. Late in the meeting, they tried one more time. Students should learn to analyze and evaluate the "sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis, and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record." ("Sudden appearance," by the way, is a relabeling of what creationists had previously called "abrupt appearance theory.") By this time the board members must have just been tired, as this amendment passed. Fortunately this was just a preliminary vote. We may hope that everyone will have their dictionaries in hand when the final vote occurs in March.

Creationism, in whatever guise it has taken to get into the schools, has proven itself to be fundamentally deceptive. When I testified before the Texas Board of Education in 2003 when it last had to deal with ID lobbying efforts, I used another wonderful Texan expression to sum this up: "When it comes to science, the intelligent design movement is all hat and no cattle."

And you don't get cattle by changing what you call your hat.