The Discoveroids’ Fourth of July

Buffoon Award

In our last post, Fourth of July Weekend Free Fire Zone, we said:

One thing we always watch for is when the Discoveroids, as they usually do on the Fourth, continue their gruesome campaign of intellectual body-snatching and quote-mining by hijacking one of America’s Founders and claiming him as one of their own.

And lo, it has come to pass! We present to you, dear reader, some excerpts from Intelligent Design Is “Based on Religion”? Tell That to Thomas Jefferson, which appears at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog — written by John West. He’s a Vice President of the Discovery Institute, a Senior Fellow, and Associate Director of their creationism think tank, the Center for Science & Culture, which makes him one of the chief Keepers of their wedge strategy. Around here we affectionately call him “Westie,” and we always look forward to his output. Westie was an early winner of the Curmudgeon’s Buffoon Award, thus the jolly logo above this post.

Here are some excerpts from Westie’s post. The bold font was added by us:

Next time someone tells you intelligent design is “based on religion,” you might point him to American Founder Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence. As I explain in a special July 4th edition of ID the Future, Jefferson not only believed in intelligent design, he insisted it was based on the plain evidence of nature, not religion: [link to something].

Aaaargh!! How many times before this have the Discoveroids made the bizarre claim that they are continuing the intellectual legacy of Jefferson? We’ve written about a few of them. In 2008 we wrote Usurping the Fourth of July. In 2009 we wrote Thomas Jefferson Joins The Discovery Institute!, and also Another July 4th Hijacking. But that’s not all. In 2013 we wrote Discoveroids Again Hijack the Fourth of July. In that one we discuss the mined quote from Jefferson’s letter to John Adams, from Monticello, April 11, 1823, which Westie mentions in today’s Discoveroid post.

Okay, let’s return to Westie’s latest. He says:

Ironically, the critics of intelligent design often think they are defending the principles of Jefferson. The National Council for the Social Studies, for example, claims that intelligent design is religion and then cites Jefferson’s famous Letter to the Danbury Baptists calling for a “wall of separation” between church and state. The clear implication is that Thomas Jefferson would agree with them that intelligent design is religion. In reality, Jefferson did not believe that intelligent design was a religious doctrine. In a letter to John Adams on April 11, 1823, he declared: [quote omitted].

We’ve already discussed that letter in a prior post. At most, Jefferson was groping toward what amounts to Paley’s watchmaker — which wasn’t altogether unreasonable in Jefferson’s generation. Let’s read on:

In sum, Jefferson believed that empirical data from nature itself proved intelligent design by showing the natural world’s intricate organization from the level of plants and insects all the way up to the revolution of the planets.

To know how Jefferson really thought, see Thomas Jefferson on Young-Earth Creationism. Westie continues:

As I document in my book The Politics of Revelation and Reason, Jefferson was hostile toward traditional Christianity and lashed out in private at those who believed in the divinity of Jesus. He even created his own redacted version of the New Testament from which he cut out the miracles. So he certainly can’t be accused of trying to promote “Christian fundamentalism.”

That’s true. Why does Westie mention it? He explains:

That makes his defense of intelligent design as based on unassisted reason rather than divine revelation all the more powerful.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Even if that were an accurate description of Jefferson’s thinking (it isn’t), there’s no way he would hold to that conclusion today, given what’s been learned since then about geology, evolution, and astronomy since he wrote that letter. Only creationists continue to hold fast to what may have seemed reasonable, albeit unscientific, conclusions in Jefferson’s time. And now we come to the end:

If more people knew about Jefferson’s real views on intelligent design, they might not be so quick to accept bogus claims that it is simply repackaged theology.

But as all the world knows, intelligent design is repackaged theology. Anyway, there you have it — another Discoveroid Fourth of July.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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20 responses to “The Discoveroids’ Fourth of July

  1. Ken Phelps

    OK then, ID is state-of-the-art 18th century science. Got it.

  2. michaelfugate

    Pathetic.

  3. Voltaire also used the watchmaker analogy.

    The Clockmaker God is a signature of Deism.

    If the Intelligent Design movement wants to be treated as an ally of Deism, so let it be understood.

    But the analogy goes back to Classical Antiquity. It isn’t Paley’s, or the 18th century’s, property.

  4. As I document in my book The Politics of Revelation and Reason, Jefferson was hostile toward traditional Christianity and lashed out in private at those who believed in the divinity of Jesus. He even created his own redacted version of the New Testament from which he cut out the miracles. So he certainly can’t be accused of trying to promote “Christian fundamentalism.”

    Of course not, since Christian fundamentalism didn’t become an organized o=movement until the early twentieth century (though some sects we would call fundamentalist today emerged earlier).

    If more people knew about Jefferson’s real views on intelligent design, they might not be so quick to accept bogus claims that it is simply repackaged theology.

    But in Jefferson’s day, evolutionary thought was in embryo. He died more than thirty years before The Origin of Species was published and would have had no real alternative but to believe in creation–especially since not doing so, and saying so aloud or in print, would have turned the [bleep]storm he endured over is miracle-free Bible into a hurricane.

    In any case, Jefferson never defended creationism, since that “theory” emerged only in modern times as an end-run around court decisions striking down the teaching of Biblical creation as science in public schools.

  5. From your essay on Thomas Jefferson cited above from 7 November 2011:
    “This is the man the creationists claim as one of their own. Will they continue to do so? Sure, for at least two reasons: (1) they don’t know any better; or (2) they do know, but it doesn’t bother them to lie.”

    You sure got that right, Curmie!

  6. Meant to add this to my post above:

    If Jefferson had been a contemporary of Darwin’s, he most certainly would have been one of his earliest and most ardent supporters.

  7. “Next time someone tells you intelligent design is “based on religion,” you might point him to American Founder Thomas Jefferson,”
    Go ahead, if you want to look like a fool. I don’t recognize TJ as an authority on this matter. His education did not contain the study of biology. Whatever he thought about biology is totally powerless.
    Sometimes it’s handy to be a disrespecting Dutchie.

  8. docbill1351

    The Tooters must be a very lonely bunch; desperate for attention.

    First, they unleash the Slasher to fling a bunch of [edited out], stinking up the place.

    Then the Attack Gerbil sleepwalks with a posse of imaginary friends.

    And, finally, Old Westie who hasn’t had an original thought in 30 years (probably longer) pulls out of the crypt another dead person who supports, would have supported or quite possibly would have invented “intelligent design” creationism. Thank you, Westie, for clarifying that the number one criterion for being an “ID” creationism supporter is to be dead. Probably explains why your donations are flagging.

  9. @mnbo
    While I am quite willing to admit that Intelligent Design shares the religious outlook of the 18th century deists like Voltaire and Jefferson …
    This argument is not citing Jefferson as an authority on biology. It is arguing that the Analogy of the Watchmaker is not based on religion because one supposedly non-religious person used the analogy.
    One need not argue the point. For non-religious people have used religious analogy. Just as non-athletic people have used athletic analogies. Non-mathematical people often use mathematical language.

  10. michaelfugate

    I can never remember which story they want us to believe –
    is it evolution is religion because creationism/intelligent design obviously is
    or is it creationism/intelligent design is science because evolution obviously is?

    Hume knew that the design argument was bogus at the time of Jefferson – he just had no good alternative.

  11. Dave Luckett

    The short answer to the last is that they want either, or both, but probably even the DI isn’t hopeful enough to think that “we” will follow on. It’s enough if their support base does. In fact, given the “big tent”, it’s enough if some of the support base does.

    As Daffy Duck remarked at one point, “Ehhh. It’s a living.”

  12. A biologist called the Discovery Institute “Crackpot Central”.

    In Louisiana many incompetent biology teachers actually read the Bible to their students to explain why magical creation is true and evolution is false. Their science teachers are science deniers. They get away with this lunacy partly thanks to Crackpot Central which designed the law that has made teaching magical creation in science classes possible.

    The theocrats should be taken to court but nobody complains. Perhaps most of the Louisiana population is not too bright.

  13. Dave Luckett

    If that is true, bobcur, and some population of teachers in Louisiana “read the Bible to their students to explain why magical creation is true and evolution is false”, then I find it astonishing that there has not been a suit brought, at least since LSA was passed. They can’t all be Biblical inerrantists, not even in Louisiana, and it only takes one suit.

  14. “They can’t all be Biblical inerrantists, not even in Louisiana, and it only takes one suit.”

    Now imagine yourself having lived in one location for a long time with one or more children in public school, while the majority of the neighbors in your area endorse creationism. Do you really want to subject yourself and especially your children to the harassment and threats that will quickly follow? A family can even have their house burned down. None of this is hypothetical, simply Google for examples:

    http://americanhumanist.org/Press/Naughty_Awareness_Ads/Stories
    http://www.amybhollingsworth.com/blog/when-creationist-teachers-bully-their-students-everyone-loses
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/03/16/after-school-district-pushes-creationism-jesus-the-bible-on-students-a-buddhist-family-finally-prevails-in-court/
    http://www.rawstory.com/2013/04/louisiana-governor-ive-got-no-problem-with-creationism-in-public-schools/
    http://www.alternet.org/christian-teacher-burned-crosses-students-arms-and-pushed-creationism-now-hes-claims-his-free-speech
    etc.

  15. Dave Luckett

    Zetopan, to take your links from the top, we have:

    1) Nationwide, in eight years, four reports of community backlash against students or parents who complained about public religious exercises in schools – prayers or banners and the like. This backlash took the form of verbal abuse and/or harassment. There was in this item no specific allegation of religious doctrines such as creationism being taught in the classroom. This is not to excuse such exhibitions, of course, and still less the backlash.

    2) A blog post by a Christian teacher of science deploring the behaviour of a science teacher and a school principal in teaching and allowing the teaching of Biblical creationism in a Louisiana classroom.

    3) A fuller treatment of the same case as #2, which reports that the complaint against the teacher and the principal succeeded, and the School Board agreed to discipline and retrain them, and to pay damages.

    4) Jindal saying that he didn’t mind “intelligent design” being taught in Louisiana schools. Though the man’s willingness to pander is deplorable, there is no implication that he would condone harassment.

    5) A reference to the infamous Freshwater affair in Ohio, where a middle-school science teacher was first warned not to teach creationism and not to use creationist supplements, then required to remove religious materials from his classroom, then fired when he in effect refused, and who took his case to the State Supreme Court and lost.

    I quite agree that conflict with one’s neighbours is a powerful disincentive. Harassment and threats are worse – but I see no references to houses being burned down, and the suits that were brought succeeded and provided some remedies.

    Still, perhaps I make too light of it. It would be a severe cultural shock to me to live in a society where my neighbours cared about my religious beliefs or lack of them, or thought them any of their business, or, worse, imagined that they had any right to enforce theirs on me. But if you say that this is the case in at least some parts of the US, I accept the fact with deep commiserations to all who suffer from it. Nevertheless, the law is unequivocably on the side of secular public education. It only remains to bring a case. Despite intimidation, it will take only one.

  16. @TomS: “This argument is not citing Jefferson as an authority on biology.”
    The little snag is that IDiocy claims to be a theory on biology. But no, as a disrespectful Dutchie I don’t recognize TJ as an authority on philosophy either.

    Also as someone with Dutch courage

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_courage

    I’d rather move from Louisiana (well, I would never enter it to live there in the first place) than sue those reliigious bigots, thank you very much. So I greatly admire the ones who do – the Zack Kopplin’s of that weird country called the USA.

  17. @mnbo
    I don’t think that the argument depends on Jefferson being an authority on philosophy, either.
    It goes like this:
    J used the analogy of the watchmaker.
    J was not religious.
    Therefore, the analogy of the watchmaker is not a religious argument.

    `

  18. D. L.: “Nevertheless, the law is unequivocably on the side of secular public education.”

    Maybe so, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the courts will follow the law.

    The Indiana Supreme Court found that the state’s voucher program was all fine and dandy even though state money was clearly going to church-owned schools teaching creationism. Their excuse — the parents of the students decide where the money goes, not the state.

  19. A fitting term for the Discoveroids’ penchant for resurrecting famous dead people to claim as one of their own: deja voo-doo.

  20. Darwin himself was a fan of Paley’s ‘Natural Theology’ (a precursor to ID), before the evidence led him elsewhere. So given that Jefferson died well before he could be exposed to that evidence, his opinion on the matter is hardly relevant.

    Calling anybody a “creationist” or an ID supporter who died before the publication of ‘On the Origin of Species’ is quite simply dishonest. But then, who expects honesty from creationists.