Discovery Institute: Stealth Operative Francis Beckwith

CONSIDER the career of Francis Beckwith, an active but not well-known advocate of intelligent design (ID) — a teaching which everyone knows is nothing but cloaked creationism. Beckwith provides us with an excellent lesson in what lies below the visible tip of the ideological “think tank” maintained by the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids).

It seems that as part of the public relations campaign of the ID movement, described in The Wedge Document, they want to create the appearance that their movement is gaining momentum in the academic community. In accordance with this scenario, Beckwith has been assuming the posture of an independent scholar who just happens to support ID. It’s a clumsy disguise, and he’s been complaining when his ties to the ID movement are disclosed.

Beckwith’s pretense of independence reminds us of those old, clumsily-scripted events staged by the KGB to foster “spontaneous” student uprisings to help destabilize certain political regimes. Each “separate” activist group in the movement would begin with a pre-selected student “leader” who would, according to plan, gather up a group of brain-dead followers, give them a rousing speech about some grievances, and then, by pre-arrangement, they would storm the office of a “respected” professor — an under-cover KGB operative on campus — to seek his “advice” about their frustrations. The professor, following the script, would sympathize with their complaints, offer to advise them as they formed a movement, etc., etc. Thus, before the eyes of the dull-witted, unsuspecting student followers, the legend of the “spontaneous” origin of their movement would be created.

Morons — including most of the participants — would actually believe that such movements were the result of numerous grass-roots, independent uprisings. Outside observers, knowing the ways of the KGB, knew better.

The old Soviet Union is gone, but the lessons they taught to revolutionaries have not been forgotten. Their techniques can be adopted by any ideology, and today we can see this in a number of different movements. Essentially, the idea is to create chaos and then to assume power by offering a “solution.” The game plan is to identify some target as the enemy. The target’s innocence is irrelevant — in fact it’s preferable, as they’ll be unprepared. The revolutionaries develop a propaganda barrage to sew doubts, spread lies, and stir up discontent — all the while pretending to be above it all with a ready-made solution.

To make the plan work, it’s useful to create the appearance of broad support. The Discoveroids are practitioners of such tactics, with their faith-based network of accomplices — card-carrying creationists, fellow travelers, and useful idiots — occupying posts in various school boards and legislatures around the country. You recognize the Cold War terminology? It’s quite useful when when observing the actions of any ideology that has adopted the techniques of the left.

Which brings us back to Francis Beckwith. With all the clues he’s left lying around, it’s about as silly for him to deny his ID connections as it would be for, say, Michael Behe to make such a claim. It isn’t working for Beckwith, of course, but it’s fun to watch the pretense disintegrate. Over at Panda’s Thumb they have an article about him, written by Barbara Forrest, in which she rips into his denialism: Forrest Responds to Beckwith. Here’s a sample:

My assessment of Dr. Beckwith as an ID supporter stands with the evidence, which is substantial. His published work, both as a fellow of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture and as a scholar, seemed to have received comparatively little scrutiny—less than that of anyone who has been prominently involved with the Discovery Institute; this was an important gap that needed to be filled in the critical scholarship concerning intelligent design creationism. Close scrutiny of his published work and his actions shows that his denials are not the least bit believable. For the better part of a decade, he has rendered logistical support to the Discovery Institute’s promotion of intelligent design through his published work stating that teaching ID is constitutional.

Yes, but he’s not a supporter of ID, right? Never mind that in the past, he was a proud fellow of the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute. Although not a lawyer, he has been writing essays promoting the idea that teaching the ID version of creationism is constitutional. See: Law, Darwinism, and Public Education: The Establishment Clause and the Challenge of Intelligent Design, by Francis J. Beckwith (Amazon listing). It’s not surprising that Beckwith’s work is promoted by the Discoveroids, as can be seen here: Essential Reading: Law, Darwinism, and Public Education. Excerpt:

… Beckwith contends that design is not religion as conventionally understood because it derives its support from empirical data and philosophical arguments. Intelligent design, Beckwith explains, is distinct from creationism, for it derives its support from the scientific argument rather than religious texts such as the book of Genesis.

Rather typical Discoveroid stuff. They’re not creationists, really they’re not. And Beckwith isn’t one of them, right?

Back in 2003, Beckwith assumed the guise of an independent scholar when he was one of a group of creationists who signed a letter presented to the Texas Board of Education about the alleged legitimacy of teaching intelligent design as a scientific topic. This “independent” scholarly testimony was announced in a Discoveroid press release: Texas Professors Urge State Board to Fully and Completely Teach Evolution. Beckwith was one of a group of “scholars,” including William Dembski, who signed the letter. The Discoveroid press release quotes Beckwith, but makes no mention of his connection to the Discovery Institute. These are Beckwith’s words:

Contemporary criticisms of neo-Darwinism are borne of rigorous scholarship, published in respected venues, and offered by credentialed scholars who hold academic appointments at leading institutions of higher learning. They can’t be dismissed as being based on religion.

Surely you believe him, don’t you? As you would believe any Discoveroid. Back to Barbara Forrest’s article:

[H]is [Beckwith’s] claim to be nothing more than a disinterested constitutional analyst of the question of whether ID can be taught in public schools is at odds not only with his words but his actions.

Beckwith was a fellow at the Discovery Institute’s creationist Center for Science and Culture from 2000-2007. He had his name removed in July 2007 only after an earlier article that I wrote highlighted his involvement in the ID movement. …

From 2002-2003, he served on the advisory board of Casey Luskin’s IDEA [Intelligent Design & Evolution Awareness] Center, for which a requirement was then and still is that advisors must “take a pro-intelligent design perspective to their academic and professional work” …

In July 2003, Beckwith testified before the Texas Board of Education during the much-publicized textbook selection process, into which the Discovery Institute inserted itself. Although he claimed not to be representing the Discovery Institute …

Barbara’s take-down of Beckwith is really a masterful, two-fisted job, and it’s well-deserved. Another excerpt:

Not only has Beckwith provided support to the Discovery Institute’s promotion of ID for the better part of a decade, but he continues to do so even today. On February 4, 2009, in the company of Darrell White, an operative with the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), which is an affiliate of Focus on the Family, Beckwith was at the Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to give a talk with the same title as his 2007 article, “Intelligent Design, Religious Motives, and the Constitution’s Religion Clauses.” …


Beckwith’s attempt in his Baton Rouge talk to distance himself from the ID movement, and now his protestations about being called an ID supporter, are merely an attempt to perpetuate his charade as a disinterested scholar concerning ID. …

Beckwith wants to have his cake and eat it, too. On the one hand, over a period of almost ten years (given the February 2009 talk in Baton Rouge, it’s fair to include the present), he wants to publish articles and a book and make public appearances that any reasonable person would interpret as pro-ID, while on the other hand, he wants to deny that he is an ID supporter. But he doesn’t get to have it both ways.

Click over to Panda’s Thumb and read it all. It’s not only a lesson in how ideological movements try to to simulate the appearance of independent support by means of hidden operatives, it’s also a lesson in how to deal with this tactic.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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6 responses to “Discovery Institute: Stealth Operative Francis Beckwith

  1. longshadow

    … Beckwith contends that design is not religion as conventionally understood because it derives its support from empirical data and philosophical arguments. Intelligent design, Beckwith explains, is distinct from creationism, for it derives its support from the scientific argument rather than religious texts such as the book of Genesis.

    “cdesignproponentists” moles burrow deep into the fabric of Evolutionary Imperialism…..

  2. So much of the failure of today’s world stems from the basic failure of education. If people were not so ignorant of science, math, history, social studies (without religious bias), they would be able to distinguish between science and religion. Using other nomenclature to try to disguise it is nonsensical. Unfortunately, ignorance can be cured with education, stupidity is a terminal illness.

  3. carlsonjok

    Dembski doesn’t seem to think much of him.

  4. The Curmudgeon wrote: “…intelligent design (ID) — a teaching which everyone knows is nothing but cloaked creationism. ”

    I like to think of it as “build it youself” creationism. ID supplies the “parts” in the form of the usual arguments that misrepresent evolution to promote unreasonable doubt, and the audience assembles them however they please. Some can build a bare-bones version like Behe’s, others customize it with alternatives to common descent, and some (most?) prefer the fully souped-up young-earth version.

  5. Alt Numlock

    Drowning in bigoted paranoia, much?

  6. Francis? Is that you?