Happy Kitzmas. This is the sixth anniversary of the famous decision in Kitzmiller vs Dover School Board, which really exposed the duplicity of those in the Intelligent Design creationist movement. Judge Jones, who many did not see as a particular ally to those fighting this incursion of religion into American schools, actually provided a exceptional smack-down of the devious and dishonest strategy taken by those wishing to push Intelligent Design creationism as science. This has led to many US-based bloggers to conclude that Intelligent Design creationism is something of a ‘busted flush’. But in reality, this is only true in the USA, where publicly funded schools are prohibited by the Constitution from teaching or promoting religion. In contrast, here in the UK we have a government that actively encourages the development of faith schools, and via its ideologically driven Free Schools raises the spectre of increasing the presence of creationism in our nation’s schools.
I have been re-reading much of the Dover trial transcripts and associated material available on the web, and quite frankly the hopelessness of the Intelligent Design creationists’ position should have been evident from the start. In fact it was obvious to the Discovery Institute, who with drew their ‘big guns’ from the case. Crucial to the case was the testimony of Barbara Forrest, who’s book Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (written in collaboration with Paul Gross) clearly demolishes any pretence that Intelligent Design is in any way different from any other religious ideology. Indeed, the underlying history of the ID creationist movement is littered with creationist and religious outpourings by ID creationist principals, all of whom I suspect clearly recognise where their support (particularly financial) was to be sourced.
The Discovery Institute did their best to prevent Forrest’s testimony. In an article written a few months after Jones handed down his verdict, Forrest makes some interesting points, including the appearance of a faked interview (later flagged as a ‘parody’) – unfortunately this appears to have been ‘disappeared’ from the web. Interestingly, one reads that William Dembski attended Forrest’s deposition – and withdrew from the case four days later.
So, why do I not recognise this as the end of Intelligent Design creationism? Because in the UK, we are seeing an upsurge of interest in religiously motivated schools, using the government’s Free School programme. This of course is seen by some as pushing at the open door labelled ‘Faith Schools’. If the Catholics and Church of England can run so many schools, why can’t the more aggressive evangelical arm of creationism do the same? (There are some other kinds of faith school, but this article is concerned mostly with those of a christian focus.) The British Humanist Association is most concerned (More creationist Free Schools planned for 2013 opening), as is the BCSE.
One possible source for creationist material is the Centre for Intelligent Design (C4ID). C4ID is based in Glasgow, is run by a triumvirate of evangelical christians (at least one of whom preached the literal truth of the creation as described in Genesis), and funded by unclear means. It seems to be largely a conduit for pushing the kind of material produced by the Discovery Institute. Recent events organised by C4ID have included an especially secret Intelligent Design conference, a lecture tour (mostly of churches) by American ID proponent Michael Behe, and last month a lecture by the senior Discovery Institute figure Stephen Meyer. I was invited to the latter event, and blogged about the reasons I didn’t go - also see this follow-up article. On the ground, we have a young man, Jonathan McLatchie, with a strange internet presence. I don’t think he’s officially part of C4ID, but he is clearly part of the ID creationist machine, frequently posting his garbled and distorted accounts of biology in attempts to make evolution look unfounded. Amusingly, McLatchie often cross-posts his material over at a christian website, where his other postings make interesting reading. His latest biology related drivel can be seen at the (bizarrely named) Evolution News and Views blog: Treasure in the Genetic Goldmine: PZ Myers Fails on “Junk DNA” (in which McLatchie has another go at PZ Myers – see Moran and Myers’ take at Sandwalk) and Animation Reveals Engineering Elegance of RNA Interference (in which McLatchie seems somewhat overawed by an animation of molecules in action). I do worry that all this blogging activity will jeopardise his progress towards gaining his Masters in Evolutionary Biology. Yes, Jonathan McLatchie, a person who choses to believe that evolution is wrong and that life is due to the efforts of a supernatural entity, appears to be studying for a Masters in Evolutionary Biology. When my irony meter subsides, two thoughts cross my mind – firstly, whether McLatchie seeks to emulate Jonathan Wells (who’s misapprehensions of Junk DNA he frequently parrots), and secondly, how he presents his belief system while at university.
So, Merry Kitzmas to my American colleagues. Not such a Merry Kitzmas over the pond in Blighty, where an entrenched faith school system coupled with ideologically driven educational policies leave British kids vulnerable to being taught bullshit as an alternative to evolution. With any luck, the C4ID crew will botch things as badly as did the defendants back in 2005.
Update: I forgot to include this link to an article in the New York Times revealing how the Thomas More Law Center sought a case like this. The article (In Intelligent Design Case, a Cause in Search of a Lawsuit) begins…
For years, a lawyer for the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan visited school boards around the country searching for one willing to challenge evolution by teaching intelligent design, and to face a risky, high-profile trial.
It’s worth a read.