Casey Rewrites Intelligent Design’s History

Those who care about such things are very much aware of the origin of today’s intelligent design (ID) movement. The facts surrounding ID’s history were thoroughly explored in the Kitzmiller case. We wrote about it here: Kitzmiller v. Dover: Who is the Intelligent Designer? After hearing testimony from both sides, Judge Jones wrote:

… John Haught, a theologian who testified as an expert witness for Plaintiffs [challenging Intelligent Design] and who has written extensively on the subject of evolution and religion, succinctly explained to the Court that the argument for ID is not a new scientific argument, but is rather an old religious argument for the existence of God. He traced this argument back to at least Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, who framed the argument as a syllogism: Wherever complex design exists, there must have been a designer; nature is complex; therefore nature must have had an intelligent designer. [transcript reference]. Dr. Haught testified that Aquinas was explicit that this intelligent designer “everyone understands to be God.” The syllogism described by Dr. Haught is essentially the same argument for ID as presented by defense expert witnesses Professors Behe and Minnich who employ the phrase “purposeful arrangement of parts.”


[E]xpert witnesses Behe and Minnich admitted that their argument for ID based on the “purposeful arrangement of parts” is the same one that Paley made for design. [transcript references]. The only apparent difference between the argument made by Paley and the argument for ID, as expressed by defense expert witnesses Behe and Minnich, is that ID’s “official position” does not acknowledge that the designer is God. However, as Dr. Haught testified, anyone familiar with Western religious thought would immediately make the association that the tactically unnamed designer is God, as the description of the designer in Of Pandas and People (hereinafter “Pandas”) is a “master intellect,” strongly suggesting a supernatural deity as opposed to any intelligent actor known to exist in the natural world.

Also, Judge Jones’ opinion in the Kitzmiller case (pdf file) specifically states, on page 24:

The concept of intelligent design (hereinafter “ID”), in its current form, came into existence after the Edwards case was decided in 1987.

That refers, of course, to Edwards v. Aguillard. Everyone who cares about ID already knows these things. Nevertheless, the Discoveroids are now embarked on a crusade to revise history. At their creationist blog, we find this new essay by Casey Luskin, our favorite creationist: On the Origin of the Term “Intelligent Design”.

It’s a long essay, and we won’t bother you with too many excerpts. Casey begins by simply ignoring Judge Jone’s finding, quoted above. He says, with our bold font added for emphasis:

Critics of intelligent design often allege that the term was invented by lawyers to get around the 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Edwards v. Aguillard which struck down the teaching of creationism because it referred to a “supernatural creator.” This is plainly wrong, and it can’t hurt to explain, not for the first time, why it is wrong.

Casey then attempts to re-write reality by first going on a long and boring romp through history, quote-mining early references to divine design, which allegedly support his claim that the term “intelligent design” has a very old and honorable history. People promoting a cause often latch onto an old word or phrase (e.g., “equality,” “fairness,” “justice,” etc.) and claim (rightly or not) that it applies to their own cause. We’ll skip Casey’s quotes because they’re irrelevant. All that he demonstrates is that in the English language, there are certain words that are often used to describe God. Here’s just one example from his long list:

The terms “intelligent design” and “intelligent designer” have lengthy histories, long predating 1987. Charles Darwin himself referred to “intelligent design” in a 1861 letter:

[Casey claims to quote an 1861 letter from Darwin:] One cannot look at this Universe with all living productions & man without believing that all has been intelligently designed; yet when I look to each individual organism, I can see no evidence of this.

After several other mined quotes, none of which, individually or collectively, establish an intellectual foundation for what actually goes on in the Discoveroids’ “think tank,” Casey says:

But the research and ideas that ultimately inspired today’s ID proponents were conceived in the 1960s and 1970s. Highly influential in this respect was the discovery that life depended upon information, whose structure was not only independent of its physical or chemical form, but whose ordering was not amenable to explanation by physical or chemical laws.

Casey is undoubtedly referring to the discovery of DNA, which the Discoveroids are forever hinting was — like the Ten Commandments — written by the flaming finger of Yahweh (but they’re always careful to say it might have been some other transcendent intelligence who fine-tuned the universe). Let’s read on:

[I]n 1984 — three years before the Edwards ruling — three scientists who did help found the ID movement published a book, The Mystery of Life’s Origin, argued for an “intelligent cause” behind the origin of the information in DNA: [quote omitted]. Those three scientists were Charles Thaxton, Walter Bradley, and Roger Olsen. Soon thereafter, Thaxton, a chemist and academic editor for the textbook Of Pandas and People, adopted the term “intelligent design” after hearing it mentioned by a NASA engineer.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Pandas was the smoking gun that totally destroyed the Discoveroids’ case in Kitzmiller. In the Wikipedia article on Of Pandas and People, scroll down to the section titled Pandas and “cdesign proponentsists” — the transitional fossil of a revision that took place after the Edwards case. As Judge Jones said in Kitzmiller (starting on page 32 of the opinion):

As Plaintiffs meticulously and effectively presented to the Court, Pandas went through many drafts, several of which were completed prior to and some after the Supreme Court’s decision in Edwards, which held that the Constitution forbids teaching creationism as science. By comparing the pre and post Edwards drafts of Pandas, three astonishing points emerge: (1) the definition for creation science in early drafts is identical to the definition of ID; (2) cognates of the word creation (creationism and creationist), which appeared approximately 150 times were deliberately and systematically replaced with the phrase ID; and (3) the changes occurred shortly after the Supreme Court held that creation science is religious and cannot be taught in public school science classes in Edwards. This word substitution is telling, significant, and reveals that a purposeful change of words was effected without any corresponding change in content, which directly refutes FTE’s [the publisher’s] argument that by merely disregarding the words “creation” and “creationism,” FTE expressly rejected creationism in Pandas.


The weight of the evidence clearly demonstrates, as noted, that the systemic change from “creation” to “intelligent design” occurred sometime in 1987, after the Supreme Court’s important Edwards decision. This compelling evidence strongly supports Plaintiffs’ assertion that ID is creationism re-labeled.

Okay, back to Casey’s article on the ancient and noble lineage of ID:

So ID proponents started using the term “intelligent design” for reasons having nothing to do with legal concerns. Nor was the term initiated by lawyers.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! We believe you, Casey! His history revision continues:

It’s simple to understand why the early ID advocates switched to a different sort of terminology — referring to intelligent design. The reason “intelligent design” came into widespread use was because ID proponents knew their project was distinct from creationism in important ways. They sought a new term to make clear that fundamental distinction.

Yeah, right. There were no legal considerations at all. Here’s Casey’s final paragraph:

When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the teaching of creationism in 1987, it did so on the grounds that creationism requires belief in a “supernatural creator.” As we have seen, from its pre-Edwards days, the ID project never claimed to infer a “supernatural creator” from the data. Even when early ID proponents used “creationist” terminology, their nascent theory was fundamentally different from creationism. It lacked, indeed, the very quality that led the Supreme Court to declare teaching creationism unconstitutional.

So there you are. The Kitzmiller case never happened. The evidence in that case doesn’t exist. ID is science, dear reader. You know it’s true because Casey says so.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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39 responses to “Casey Rewrites Intelligent Design’s History

  1. Our Curmudgeon notes

    the Discoveroids are now embarked on a crusade to revise history

    Well, almost correct. In fact, the Discoveroids have always been nothing but a crusade, and not so much to revise history as to reverse it.

  2. It’s always telling when people who claim they have a scientific point to make try to get lawmakers to do it for them by requiring that their ideas be taught alongside established science.

    That suggests that they know perfectly well that those ideas don’t hold water as science, but they want students to be indoctrinated with them anyway and trained to think (that is, suckered into believing) that they are legitimate alternatives.

  3. As our Curmudgeon notes, one should never take a quotation presented by Luskin at face value–though, to his small credit, the Gerb did provide a link to the original letter of Darwin to Herschel (Casey’s mining in bold)>

    Dear Sir John Herschel

    You must permit me to have the pleasure to thank you for your kind present of your Physical Geography. I feel honoured by your gift, & shall prize this Book with your autograph. I am pleased with your note on my book on species, though apparently you go but a little way with me.f3 The point which you raise on intelligent Design has perplexed me beyond measure; & has been ably discussed by Prof. Asa Gray, with whom I have had much correspondence on the subject.— I am in a complete jumble on the point. One cannot look at this Universe with all living productions & man without believing that all has been intelligently designed; yet when I look to each individual organism, I can see no evidence of this. For, I am not prepared to admit that God designed the feathers in the tail of the rock-pigeon to vary in a highly peculiar manner in order that man might select such variations & make a Fan-tail; & if this be not admitted (I know it would be admitted by many persons), then I cannot see design in the variations of structure in animals in a state of nature,—those variations which were useful to the animal being preserved & those useless or injurious being destroyed. But I ought to apologise for thus troubling you.—

    You will think me very conceited when I say I feel quite easy about the ultimate success of my views, (with much error, as yet unseen by me, to be no doubt eliminated); & I feel this confidence, because I find so many young & middle-aged truly good workers in different branches, either partially or wholly accepting my views, because they find that they can thus group & understand many scattered facts. This has occurred with those who have chiefly or almost exclusively studied morphology, geographical Distribution, systematic Botany, simple geology & palæontology. Forgive me boasting, if you can; I do so because I shd. value your partial acquiescence in my views, more than that of almost any other human being.—

    Believe me with much respect | Yours, sincerely & obliged | Charles Darwin

  4. Yes, the Gerb is correct! “Intelligent design” has a long, long history – as creationism. It’s creationism any way you look at it. Of course, we all know that and nobody is fooled by the Tooter’s foolishness.

    Of Pandas and People is, indeed, the smoking gun linking “intelligent design” creationism to its predecessor, scientific creationism. Luskin is fully aware of that which is why he goes so far out of his way to lie about history. Hey, Luskin can’t help it. He’s paid to lie. What’s a Gerbil to do?

  5. Luskin: “Critics of intelligent design often allege that the term was invented by lawyers to get around the 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Edwards v. Aguillard.”

    Note the word “invented.” If any critic (and it’s very few if any) used that word, that individual is as wrong as Luskin pretends that all critics are. The phrase was not “invented,” but hijacked.

    But much more important than the frantic, sloppy, switch from “creation” to “design” (via “cdesign proponentsists) is the “evolution” of “creationism” in the years before 1987. And here is where words themselves make our job harder than necessary, and the IDers’ job easier than they deserve. Simply, and ironically, words, if not their definitions, are “fixed kinds.” So the worst thing we can do is “talk like a creationist.”

    However one defines ID, or that overused word “creationism,” one must never miss an opportunity to call attention to the evolution, and speciation of the anti-evolution movement. It never seriously tried to be science, and is less serious than ever even in it’s pretense at science. Note especially the steady retreat from testable claims about it’s own “theory” – in both the increasingly Omphalos-like Biblical lineage, and the increasingly evasive ID lineage.

    The courts may need to establish that an impartial observer will infer the Judeo-Christian God from ID’s word games, but we don’t need to. Our goal is not to duplicate the courts’ job of restricting the “supply,” but rather to discourage the “demand.” And obsessing about God or religion, or assuming that they “believe this” or “misunderstand that” is not the way to do that, however appropriate and applicable it may be. What will help us in the long run, is to show how ID peddlers bear false witness.

    Everyone needs to ask oneself a simple question: What would a Discoveroid do if he was privately convinced that there was nothing wrong with the science of evolution, but merely paranoid that the “masses” would not behave properly if they accepted it? I for one can’t imagine that it would be anything different than what he’s doing now.

  6. waldteufel

    I’ve read Casey’s scribblings for several years now, and I honestly vacillate between thinking him merely a paid propagandist and a bald-faced liar and/or just incredibly stupid and unable to separate reality from fantasy. The man has a master of science degree in earth science, and yet doesn’t seem to grasp what science is and how it proceeds.

  7. Casey Luskin, you should be ashamed of yourself! How could you allow yourself to sink so low as to prostitute your talents in such a manner?
    To deliberately quote-mine Darwin in such a misleading way when you know full well that his intended meaning is directly opposite of what you try to make it?

    Even if you are a lawyer, I can’t believe you can allow yourself to go on committing such deliberate prevarication without at least some guilt pangs. True story — a close friend of mine in college went on to law school and became a very successful criminal defense attorney (perhaps not as famous as Johnnie Cochran, but just as good at getting obviously guilty criminals “not guilty” verdicts).

    Ultimately, the guilt engendered by his success got to him, and he quit — he just walked away from a profoundly lucrative practice, and followed other pursuits. So, the moral of the story — even lawyers have a conscience.
    When will you find yours?

  8. Ceteris Paribus

    waldteufel mentions: “The man [Casey] has a master of science degree in earth science, and yet doesn’t seem to grasp what science is and how it proceeds.

    That’s what a high school debate coach could point to as an example of a “category error”. Paper academic status is in a separate category to the mental ability to reason, and so status offers no value to the situation.

    Kind of like printing “In God We Trust” on US Dollar currency doesn’t do anything to give the Dollar a higher exchange rate when traded for atheist Chinese Renminbi bills.

  9. Ceteris Paribus: “Kind of like printing “In God We Trust” on US Dollar currency doesn’t do anything to give the Dollar a higher exchange rate when traded for atheist Chinese Renminbi bills.”

    But isn’t that put on our money so you CAN take it with you when you die??

  10. docbill1351

    @FrankJ – The Tooters do this all the time. Regarding the teaching of ID they always claim that they are opposed to mandating the teaching of ID, something they are never actually accused of doing. They always respond this way to critics who oppose their promotion of ID. Create a strawman, knock it down.

    Regarding the Gerb’s brain, well, there’s a reason his “pet” name is the Attack Gerbil – small brain, more squeak than bite, probably eats his own feces, although to be frank (not J) I don’t know anything about the habits of gerbils. From his writings Luskin doesn’t appear to be particularly smart and he’s certainly not attentive as his writings are full of errors, typos, slips of logic and just plain crazy stuff. However, that appears to be a hallmark of the Tooters in general. Come on, now, they’re letting Dense post stuff!!!!

    On the Dumb Scale this is how I’d rate the Tooters from the lowest to the highest:

    Dense – Gerb – Klingers – Meyer – Cockroach

    But, that’s just me.

  11. Casey excelled in his law school class of Newspeak 101.

  12. DickVanstone

    FrankJ: I understand what you are saying, unfortunately many do not mind the lying.

    In God some trust.
    In God many trust.
    In God We Trust.

  13. docbill1351

    Brilliant! Replace “In God We Trust” with “Whatever”

    I think that sums up the 21st Century so far.

    Edgier: “Like Whatev …”

  14. Bluffkin is being either obtuse or disingenuous — or perhaps disingenuously obtuse. To point out that the phrase “intelligent design” was in use prior to 1987, while true on its own terms, is a tricksy dodge because the phrase wasn’t associated with the Discorrhoids’ brand of loonacy until they got hold of it and Stockholmed the bejabbers into it.

  15. FWIW (and I have the honour of having been personally attacked by Luskin; see Casey’s Creationist Christmas I think Casey is a sincere literalist, unable to distinguish between biologists’ commenting on the appearance of intelligent design, and their conceding that his kind of ID has merit. Actually, whoever the Designer is supposed to be, ID is supernaturalist for these reasons; that no mechanism is offered or felt necessary for how the design is to be *embodied*, and that the entire philosophical basis of ID is an attack on the alleged a priori assumption that non-ID science (i.e. real) precludes the supernatural. I maintain it does not; in Lavoisier’s words, “We have no need for that hypothesis” not because we preclude it but because we find that we are better off without it.

  16. OK, lemme get this straight. ID is not creationism, but it used to be called creationism until it was changed in 1987, but that actually happened before 1987, by people who are absolutely not lawyers (no offense Phillip E. Johnson – you are a totally awesome lawyer), and it has nothing to do with G.O.D., except when it does.

    Thanks, Casey. Clear as day.

  17. Paul Braterman: I thought it was Laplace, not Lavoisier. They knew each other and sometimes worked on the same things, but I believe Lavoisier was guillotined before he had a chance to speak those words to Napoleon.

  18. Our Curmudgeon tentatively professes

    I believe Lavoisier was guillotined before he had a chance to speak those words to Napoleon.

    That’s as may be–but I am 100% certain that he did not speak those words after he was guillotined…

  19. Let’s compromise: he said it while being guillotined.

  20. I think we can all agree that if he had no need for that hypothesis, then he certainly deserved to be guillotined.

  21. Mark Germano diplomatically proposes

    Let’s compromise: he said it while being guillotined.

    Sounds reasonable to me, The attribution to Laplace is held by many to be apocryphal in any event, and we can readily suppose Lavoisier’s last words to have been

    Je n’avais pas besoin de–THUNQUE!!!

  22. oh bloody [edited out]! HTML tag thingies got beheaded in previous post…

    [*Voice from above*] It’s not easy, typing with Neanderthal fingers. You’re doing far better than anyone could have imagined.

  23. @Mark Germano:

    You seem to understand that the DI’s game is not to hide the creationism and/or religion connection, but rather to have it both ways. But ~99.9% of critics make the same mistake that they accuse IC/creationists of making, which is to stop asking questions as soon as they get to “goddidit.”
    In the hopes that you’re one of the ~0.1%, I’ll first note that I write not to committed evolution-deniers or fellow critics, but to the majority that’s somewhere between, but misled to some extent, as I was for 40+ years. That said:

    The way to answer “ID is not creationism” is not “Is too creationism!”, regardless of how well one can support that. But rather “Of course it’s not creationism as most people define it, but something much worse in terms of misleading people.”

    The way to answer “The designer is not necessarily God” is not “Is too God!” , regardless of how well one can support that. But rather “Of course the designer is not necessarily God, because if that’s what you intended, Behe is on record, under oath no less, as saying that God might no longer exist!”

    Speaking of Behe’s Dover testimony, he essentially admitted that ID is not science (the astrology connection), and Johnson and Nelson offered similar admission. So that too is not something they try to hide, but rather try to have both ways.

    Most of that majority I refer to above (my target audience, if no one else’s) is potentially very sympathetic to God, Biblical literalism, etc, whether or not they necessarily personally believe any of it. Half of them doubt that they “come from monkeys.” They would be most interested to know that the only origins account ever offered by ID includes ~4 billion years of common descent (Behe’s vague admission in “Darwin’s Black Box”). More importantly, not one major ID peddler has ever challenged him, not even the ones who “seem” to disagree. That means that they know that they do not have any evidence against that, which would be necessary to validate what Biblical literalists desperately want to believe. Committed Biblical literalists don’t need validation of course, but much of that majority does, and that’s who we need to reach, not committed “creationists.”

    To my endless frustration, most critics find it tempting to look for clues that suggest that ID peddlers are Biblical literalists. But that’s the same cherry-picking that anti-evolution activists do to promote unreasonable doubt of evolution! Worse, their cherry-picking helps them, while ours is self-defeating.

    ID peddlers are on a mission. They are deathly afraid that society will collapse if the “masses” accept evolution. If anyone does not believe that, they need to watch “Expelled.” So what would those radical, paranoid authoritarians so if they knew that evolution was as sound as mainstream science concludes, and that there’s no hope of any alternate “theory” that would please Biblical literalists? As I said in the previous comment, playing the same games that they’re playing now.

  24. waldtreufel” “I’ve read Casey’s scribblings for several years now, and I honestly vacillate between thinking him merely a paid propagandist and a bald-faced liar and/or just incredibly stupid and unable to separate reality from fantasy.”

    That has been said by many critics, about many anti-evolution activists. Unfortunately the vacillation usually settles on some baseless assertion that the “creationist” “believes this” or “doesn’t understand that.” There’s really no way to know for sure unless one can read minds, and last I checked, that’s still impossible. But like moths to a flame, critics can’t avoid the “innocent until proven guilty” thing, and too often they just cave.

    But there’s another option, which allows us to still consider them “innocent” but without pretending to read their minds. And that is what I, and almost no one else, has been noting for 16 years, including twice above. No, I am not certain that that’s the case for all ID peddlers (that they tell “nobie lies,” privately accept evolution, but fear that the “masses” can’t handle the truth). For all I know, they could be closet “Darwinists” who just do it for fun and profit, or closet flat-earthers who truly believe that scripture overrules any evidence, for that matter.

    But if one must look for clues as to what they might believe, I think a very safe bet is they if they truly thought that the evidence supported anything that Biblical literalists believe – old earth, young earth, as long as no common descent – they’d be crowing about that evidence nonstop. They’d waste no time recycling nonsense about design or “Darwinism.” Since they’re doing nothing remotely like that…

  25. Doctor Stochastic

    I prefer my fabricated Charles Darwin letter:

    Dear Asa,

    As per our last letter, I am sending you a mongoose. Enclosed with it is another mongoose.


  26. Good letter, Doctor Stochastic, but you left out Darwin’s postscript:

    Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
    Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
    The frumious Bandersnatch!

  27. Or, as Lavoisier said to Robespierre, while trying to escape the guillotine:

    À bien y penser, peut-être je ne dois en effet cette hypothèse oogity-boogity! Par conséquent, je dois vous conseiller:

    Prenez garde du Jabberwock, mon fils!
    Les mâchoires qui mordent, les griffes qui attrapent!
    Méfiez-vous des oiseaux Jubjub, et éviter
    Le Bandersnatch frumieux!

    It’s even more poignant in Neanderthalish, but you folks just wouldn’t understand….

  28. TYPO: Of course I meant Laplace, and it matters, since it was about celestial mechanics and the hypothesis of which he had no need was Newton’s, that God had to intervene on occasion to readjust planetary motions to keep the system stable. More on 3QD at where you will also find a link to some things Laplace certainly DID say

    My only excuse; my formal career was as a chemist, so I think France, revolutionary epoch, Lavoisier.

    There’s a good Wikipedia article on this, suggesting that the saying is genuine, but that L. was so pissed off with the misunderstanding (by people who thought the hypothesis was God in general, rather than this specific intervention) that he couldn’t be bothered to validate it.

  29. Frank J, what Rosenhouse says about traditional creationism (Among the Creationists, p. xiii) applies equally to the IDologues: “[I]t is a mistake in my view to think that anti-evolutionism is primarily about an idiosyncratic interpretation the Bible clung to by a handful of extremists. Of far greater concern are the implications of evolution for human significance, the cruelty of the evolutionary process, and the demise of the traditional design argument.” And your thesis that their IDiocy is linked both to theocentrism and to right wing politics is clear from the preamble to the 1998 Wedge document:

  30. Paul Braterman humbly says: “My only excuse; my formal career was as a chemist, so I think France, revolutionary epoch, Lavoisier.”

    Quite understandable. Lavoisier … Laplace … they’re both French. They eat snails and frogs. It’s easy to get them mixed up. I do it all the time.

  31. SC, speaking of my fellow Neanderthal Megs, “It’s not easy, typing with Neanderthal fingers. You’re doing far better than anyone could have imagined.”

    True enough, but have you seen the size of his keyboard?

  32. docbill1351

    Ah, youth …

    have you seen the size of his keyboard?

    I overheard women saying that about me, many times. It’s twue! It’s twue!

  33. I’m not one to boast, but there’s a good reason why Olivia just can’t keep her hands off my keyboard…

  34. docbill1351

    Have I told you (this month) that I was at college with Olivia? True, she was quite young then but I have fond memories of watching her play croquet on the Queen’s Tower lawn. Plaid wool skirt, white knee socks, shiny black shoes – ah, youth.

  35. Playing croquet–or firing the cannons for the 1812 Overture?

  36. Mega writes: “That’s as may be–but I am 100% certain that he did not speak those words after he was guillotined…”

    How do you know, were you there? 😉

  37. DocBill went to college with Olivia? She was born in 1970.

  38. Docbill was living out the lyrics to “Aqualung.”

    Sitting on a park bench…

  39. Diogenes inquires: “DocBill went to college with Olivia? She was born in 1970.”

    Olivia’s father was on the faculty and she was but an innocent child. DocBill was a lecher, even in his student days.