Creationist Bill in Maine for 2019 — It’s Dead

Creationist bill, road kill

They’re dropping like flies! It wasn’t very long ago when we posted Creationist Bill in Maine for 2019. It was one of those “controversial issues” jobs, that would outlaw any mention in school of anything that any political party regards as controversial.

Now our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) just posted: Maine’s “controversial issues” measure defeated. And get this — they say it “was unanimously rejected by the House Education and Cultural Affairs Committee on February 28, 2019.”

Whoopie — the House committee rejected it unanimously! Well, technically the committee voted “Ought Not To Pass.” Nice phrase.

NCSE also says that besides the bill in Maine there were four other “controversial issues” bills introduced in other states — and all of them have failed. Now, with the defeat of Maine’s bill, they’re all dead. That’s good news indeed!

But there are a few other creationist bills still active in other states, and the legislative season isn’t over yet, so stay tuned to this blog!

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42 responses to “Creationist Bill in Maine for 2019 — It’s Dead

  1. Remind me; how much active DI involvement is there with all this? Or, indeed, any other organisational backing? And have we heard anything from the Thomas More Foundation lately?

    A philosophical thought that I would like comment on. Behe (regarding Darwinian mechanisms), and those inside and outside the DI who deny that mutation can create new information, are guilty of what philosophers call a category mistake. Like someone who has visited the Oxford colleges and libraries, but then turns round and asked “Where’s the University?”, they wrongly imagine that there has to be an entity over and above the things that constitute that entity. So the DI can take a very clear case of the emergence of the novel synthetic pathway leading to antifreeze proteins as the result of known kinds of mutations, but then turn round and say that there is absolutely no evidence that this is due to blind Darwinian forces. And I keep on coming across creationists who argue that any amount of rearrangement of DNA cannot possibly be adding information, as if “man bites dog” contains the same information as “dog bites man”.

  2. Paul Braterman asks: “how much active DI involvement is there with all this?”

    I don’t know how active they are, but they like some of this new stuff — see The Discoveroids’ Latest Campaign.

  3. @Paul Braterman I have lost track of what the DI actually stands for, and what it actually does. Silly me, I “thought” that they were of one mind, had a coherent strategy, etc, but I now find it is more like a circus tent that can accommodates a lot of folk with inconsistent if not contradictory views.

    Their recent racist attack on Joshua Swamidass, Ann Gaeger’s “I have have a testable hypothesis but I can’t do the lab work and I don’t dare tell anyone lest they steal my credit”, or her “the Wedge document has never been DI policy”, Paul Nelson’s short-lived invitation to Swamidass and Lentski to attend the DI Summer School (but everything is confidential).

    The only consistency is the “negative” communication strategy delivered by the Seattle offfice. And that fits nicely with the attempts to undermine education through legislation. Only problem is that it relies on having a loon or two in each State legislature, and loons have a tendency to stand out in a crowd.

  4. @Ted has seen the light: “it is more like a circus tent”
    As long you maintain (preferably as loud as possible) Goddiddid and Darwinism is evil and wrong you’re welcome. So no, you haven’t lost that track, you’ve actually found it.

  5. @tedinoz, many interesting points. The DI was a broad tent from the outset, including Behe, who accepts the historical facts of evolution and common ancestry. IIRC, Johnson in Defeating Darwinism favoured multiple creation of kinds, but accepted evolution within a kind and an old Earth. Nelson is an apologist for young Earth creationism.

    Racist attack; are you referring to the DI’s choice of Swamidass’ University as an example of historical linkage between acceptance of evolution, and human zoos? Here I think the racism is real, meant to hurt, and calculatedly deniable. Did you have anything even more blatant in mind?

    Do you have a link to A|nn Gauger denying that the wedge document was ever DI policy? That would be a beauty!

  6. @Paul Braterman here you go: Ann (“I have never read the Wedge document”) Gauger and Paul (“I’ve never actually read in its entirety”) Nelson on the “wedge document” (

    I suggest that anyone read the entire topic (it’s not too long) because Ann (“I’ve never read it”) Gauger goes on to note that “What I was trying to say was the Wedge was an exaggerated fund-raising appeal.” Paul Nelson similarly insists “it was a leaked fundraising document… []just a load of ambitious plans”. All this provides a rather wonderful contrast to an extract from the wedge itself.

    “Our initial strategy for influencing science and culture (which was first articulated in the “Wedge Document”) has been repeatedly discussed at numerous conferences, in book and articles, on our website and in our brochure.”

    Just to clarify things regarding the racism matter, for the benefit of others.
    Klinghoffer did a write up this week for a John West “documentary” entitled “Human Zoos”. In the documentary, West references, among other things, Washington State University in St Louis where, during the 1904 Worlds Fair, “specially imported human beings, including African pygmies, formed the “anthropology exhibits” at the Fair and that “psychological tests, “including pain testing,” were conducted on native peoples.” As I understand it, none of this disputed.

    The racism taunt was by Klinghoffer who then tweeted ( Joshua Swamidass (a professor at WSU and “owner of PeasefulScient) saying ”you’ve sought common ground. How about a statement on your own university’s and your city’s past, the history of exhibiting Africans to “prove Darwin’s theory of the missing link”. As Nathan Lents (one of the authors of the critical review of Behe’s new book) said, “Here is a spokesman for the DI, a right-wing and overwhelmingly white and Christian organization, attempting to pin some of the sins of white supremacy on a brown person from an Asian country that was brutally colonized by white europeans.” Ironically Swamidass, of all people, reminded Lents, that Klinghoffer “is not a Christian. He is an observant Jew. They also have their own dark experience suffering under racism too.”

  7. @tedinoz, I’ve re-examined the article. its central claim, that Africans were presented as a missing link, is based on two sentences, neither of them involving direct quotation, from the Saint Louis Republic. The tweet remains calculatedly ambiguous, with its reference to “your own university’s and your city’s past”. I’ve discussed this with Swamidass and others, and the general consensus seems to be that while the racist intent is real, publicly protesting could only make things worse, as they would deny it and use the occasion to claim that their accusation is hitting home.

    It is *just possible* that there was no racist intent here, since the DI has gone after others by name on this issue, including Jerry Coyne. I feel sure though that this was intended to be personally hurtful.

    In case anyone misses them, the remarks by Ann Gauger and Paul Nelson are among the top comments on the Peaceful Science post. Risible

  8. Michael Fugate

    Paul, risible indeed. I really don’t see why Swamidass keeps offering an olive leaf to the DI; they make him appear a dupe or a stooge, I am not sure which. He fawned all over on their silly bottleneck of two paper – as if not recognizing their sole point was to promote human special creation. That they had the gall to claim not to have not read the “Wedge” and had no idea who wrote it, but claim they knew what it said and it wasn’t important. What dialogue could one have?

    As for racism, we are all biased explicitly or implicitly and make judgements without knowing an individual. I do it all the time. Almost everyone who claims not to be racist is just not being self-reflective. I try not to act on my biases which is quite different than saying I am not biased. The Guardian has an anti-racism series which as they point out being anti-racist is different than being not racist. To say you are not racist doesn’t mean you are acting to stop racism. In the US most white males have never or rarely been in situations where they were minorities – something that non-white males experience daily. It would help with empathy building to send them into those situations.

    The DI is a prime follower of the creationist scientific method whose only purpose is apologetics.

  9. Michael Fugate

    Paul, risible indeed!
    To claim not to have read the “Wedge”, but claim it is neither discussed nor important? How do they know? Swamidass should ban their lies and stop trying to dialogue with them – he looks either a dupe or a stooge. Why fawn over their bottleneck of two propaganda when there is nothing to support their claim of human special creation? The paper served no other purpose.

    The DI is solely an apologetics outfit and Klinghoffer is there to stir the pot.

    As for racism, we are all biased implicitly or explicitly. I know I am and try not to act on my biases. Most of us are either lying or just not self-reflective if we claim we aren’t biased. The Guardian has an anti-racism series and point out being not-racist is not the same as anti-racist. Claiming one has black friends is not enough. Most white males in the US have never been in situations where they are minorities – something women and people of color find themselves in everyday. It would be a good empathy building exercise to be uncomfortable.

  10. @Michael Fugate: Swamidass is showing a mixture of Christian forbearance (this is important to him) and tactical savvy. The more reasonable he is, the worse they look, and he gives the lie to their claim that they are suppressed or dismissed unheard. Grapevine is that they hate him, an excellent sign. As tedinoz’ first link shows, they also make public fools of themselves when commenting on his site

  11. Indeed, DI was very “hurt” by the critical review of Behe’s book, and Swamidass is firmly in their sights. For Klinghoffer to use the words “you’ve sought common ground” (the very basis of Peaceful Science) in his tweet, there is no mistaking his purpose in targeting Swamidass.

    And as Paul Braterman points out, Swamidass’s refusal to be drawn and his consistent offers for dialogue with the DI, his actual dialogue with Gauger and Nelson – Swamidass and Peaceful Science smell as sweet as a rose, while the DI smells like a sewer rat.

  12. Let me point out, wrt the claim that they are dismissed unheard. They are not heard, if to borrow their rhetoric, because they refuse to speak. They have ample access to media where they could make steps toward explaining what they are talking about. They spend their resources attacking evolution and evolutionists.
    If evolution fails to explain X, what is their attempt to explain X? “That’s the way it is” is no explanation, nor is “God can do anything, and we aren’t to question how or why.”

  13. Michael Fugate

    I still don’t see where there is common ground when the DI are not trying to do science – they know the answer they don’t need to look for it.

  14. Michael Fugate

    Did either of you read his “retire Darwin day” piece? Darwin is too controversial to celebrate? Why don’t we have Newton or Einstein day? How can you take anything he says as serious? My gag reflex kicks in when I visit his site and BioLogos… shudder…

  15. @Michael Fugate, as usual you are far too generous. They are doing science, but deliberately doing it so badly as to come up with the wrong answer because they don’t like the right answer. Behe’s latest book is one example; closely related, Douglas Axe’s probability and time to evolve calculations are another

  16. @PaulB: I beg to disagree. The IDiots are not doing science. Since David Hume the scientific method is synonymous with methodological naturalism. Exactly the Wedge Document makes clear that they reject it and why.

  17. @Paul Braterman
    I don’t understand. How can one be “doing science”, when there is no interest in things like: doing experiments, suggesting thought experiments, working on theories, explaining things, coming up with new ideas. Just think about that last one … nobody has come up with a new idea, even if it is a “something is amiss with consensus science”, rather than “this might be worth examining”, in the last century or so.
    Even “classics” like astrology, ESP, homeopathy, etc. have done more.
    I’m waiting for Behe’s latest to show up in my local library, but I bet that it does not get around to tell what “design” means (if it means anyting other than “working around difficuties”), or how “irreducible complexity” differs from that 18th century support for preformationsim. I do expect that he will come up with yet another humorous blunder, an unintentional apopphasis.

  18. @FrankB, here I think we have a long-standing disagreement. I think that methodological naturalism is pragmatic rather than intrinsic to science, and that we do investigate non-naturalist claims, such as ESP and ghosts, using scientific method.

    Behe is actually looking at data, although he manages only to see what he wants to see, while Axe is doing, all wrong, the kind of calculations that population geneticists do all the time.

    But perhaps it is just splitting hairs between my saying they are doing science badly, and you saying they are not doing science at all because they shape their data to fit a preordained conclusion

  19. @Paul Braterman
    Everyone is perceiving data (excepting those in a vegetative state). The reason that I say that Intelligent Design is not science is that it does ot make any positive claims. They make negative claims that there is some fatal flaw in consensus science, but they do not bother to even attempt to say that they have someting which does not have the very same flaw – if not worse.

    Politicians running a negative ad campaign is not doing science. A revolutionary shouting “down with the king!” even with no proposal for an alternative form of government is calling attention to data – things are bad.

    “About thirty years ago there was much talk that geologists ought only to observe and not theorise; and I well remember some one saying that at this rate a man might as well go into a gravel-pit and count the pebbles and describe the colours. How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service!”
    Darwin, Letter to Henry Fawcett (Sept. 18, 1861)

    If the ID campaigners were looking for regularities for what gods or spirits are apt to do, then there would be a possibilty for making a case that they were doing science. Because they don’t, we don’t have to argue about the solution, if any, to the demarkation problem.

  20. @TomS, on reflection I think they are doing bad science in what they deny, but as you say non-science in what they assert. It was perfectly good science that found that the orbit of Mercury could not be explained by Newton’s laws, even though for a few decades there was no alternative, and if the DI really were able to establish that the known mechanisms of mutation and population genetics were unable to explain evolutionary changes, that would be an important scientific result.

    What is non-science is (a) the cherry picking, of which Behe’s latest is a prime example, and (b) regarding the invocation of design as an explanation of anything, in the absence of any account of how the design is embodied, let alone (as you point out) what the particular set of constraints is under which the designer is operating.

  21. @PaulB: “it is just splitting hairs ”
    No – researching ghosts, when defined as supernatural entities, makes as little sense as researching Grand Old Designers. Je n’ai besoin de cettes hypotheses. I take it a step further than TomS:

    The reason that I say that Intelligent Design is not science is that it cannot make any positive claims. Their main principle is:that both X and -X confirm their non-theory.

    “because they shape their data to fit a preordained conclusion.”
    IDiots don’t have empirical data; at least YECers do.

  22. @FrankB, “The reason that I say that Intelligent Design is not science is that it cannot make any positive claims. Their main principle is:that both X and -X confirm their non-theory.”

    I sympathise with this argument. The poor design of the mammalian eye should be enough to discredit Intelligent Design, which would make it, in my view falsified science. It is only when Behe, in Darwin’s Black box, evokes the counter-argument that we don’t know the designer’s full intent, that it becomes fully immunised against evidence and therefore ceases to be science of any kind.

  23. @Paul Braterman
    Perhaps I am being strident, but …
    The concept of “design”, unless they are using it in some special sense, involves “contrivance” (as was noted by John Wilkins and William Paley). Contrivance, according to nature. The ID advocates pointedly refuse to make such a sense for their central “concept”. And they insist that “design” is not natural.
    Moreover, it is abudantly clear that “design”, in its ordinary sense, is not enough to produce a material object. Fictional, uncompleted, and impossible objects are designed.
    This means that ID falls short of being coherent. It is not scientific, historical, legal, philosophical, theological, etc.
    To talk about the “demarkation problem” of science, or whether science can investigate the prarnormal or non-natural, is to fall for their red herring.

  24. Michael Fugate
  25. @Michael Fugate, regarding the Darwin De piece, Swamidass himself says ‘Without disparaging Darwin’s many contributions, a more “inclusive origins dialogue” might place less focus on idolizing or demonizing him.’ I have said as much myself, most recently at . Indeed, the only reason we have a Darwin Day is because of the irrational opposition to him. Swamidass goes on to give a platform to creationist Jonathan Schultz. Obviously, Swamidass is within his rights to do this, and I also think that his doing so serves a useful purpose.

    The “I agree with Behe” piece is more interesting. Swamidass agrees with Behe, but disagrees with most, perhaps all of us here, only in not being convinced that the evolutionary process occurs without supernatural input. Behe, of course, is convinced that in it does requires supernatural input, but Swamidass dos not go so far. I am not sure where people like Ken Miller or Dennis Venema or Francis Collins stand on this point. Swamidass’ other reasons for not calling himself a Darwinian are reasons that all of us share. If Jerry Coyne can treat Swamidass as an ally, and he does, then so can we.

  26. @TomS, you are not being strident, I am being muddled in my self-expression.

    I agree with you when you say that the positive claim made for ID is not science because it is not coherent. In addition, I say that it is not science because of the escape clause (unknown purposes in the mind of the designer) which makes it impervious to scrutiny.

    In Behe’s latest ramblings, I think there is a further philosophical error. He like other IDiots, writes as if, even after a path has been mapped out for the emergence of a gene in terms of mutation and selection, something additional is necessary to show that it is happening by Darwinian mechanism. This is just like the original example of a philosophical category error, where after touring the laboratories, libraries, and colleges in Oxford, the visitor asks “But where the university?”

    Finally, I point out that Behe’s description of the polar bear genome as derived from the genome of its common ancestor with the brown bear by a process, predominantly, of damaging genes, is refuted by scientific arguments in some detail both by Lenski and by Lents: and . Much same can be said of Behe’s claims of irreducible complexity. Before testing, such claims are speculative science. After failing the test, they are refuted science. To carry on making the claim after refutation is what I call bad science or zombie science, although since the motivation is to advance ID, TomS may prefer to say that there is no science at all. We agree on the diagnosis, and differ merely on a small point of classification.

  27. A slightly updat4ed version of my 3 Quarks daily piece on Darwin Devolves is now up on my own site, at .…ometimes-so-what/

  28. @PaulB: “After failing the test, they are refuted science.”
    Agreed. However “passing the test, hence goddiddid” is pseudo-science, ie not science at all. Even if IC is properly defined and even if something IC is found there are always naturalistic explanations thinkable – we just haven’t thought them up yet. The same for ghosts etc.
    Creationism, to gain any respectability, will have to develop its own reliable methods. Given the crap on their blogs and the secretivness of Annie Green Screen’s lab work I bet I won’t live long enough to see it happen.
    To quote 19th Century ex-theologian Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis once again: “To derive a divine world from our concrete one requires a salto mortale.” The attempts of creationists to “justify” (words like hide and obfuscate are more appropriate) this acrobatics remain laughable.

  29. FrankB says: “Even if IC [irreducible complexity] is properly defined and even if something IC is found there are always naturalistic explanations thinkable – we just haven’t thought them up yet. The same for ghosts etc.”

    There’s much to be said here. One group insists on finding natural causes, and the other insists on supernatural causes. We call the first group scientists. The others (although they insist that they too are doing science) are anything but scientists.

    When natural causes are identified, the scientists are satisfied, as long as no exceptions are encountered. The supernaturalists persist in claiming that supernatural causes are ultimately involved.

  30. @FrankB, @SC, This is helping me clarify my own thinking. When the DI investigate whether evolution at the molecular level is consistent with the natural operation of known causes, they are doing science. When they conclude that they are not, they are doing science badly. So badly, in fact, that we say they are lying to themselves. When they explain their (as it happens, inaccurate) factual conclusions by invoking supernatural causes, they are no longer doing science because (a) there is, as TomS reminds us, no linkage between the design and its material product, and (b) their claims cannot be tested.

    I have always had a difficulty understanding discussions of the supernatural. If it happens, it’s part of nature, and we have expanded our concept of nature accordingly so that it now includes quantum mechanical indeterminacy, the responsiveness of space-time to matter, and force- and energy-fields of various kinds.

  31. The omnipotent is incompatible with design. (So is the omniscient and the omnibenevolent. Someone who has designs on you is not a friend. I’m just curious, is there any omniX that is compatible with design?)

    The supernatural? Is there such a thing as supernatural design?

    Intelligent Design gets more and more unsatisfactory the more you think about it. (No wonder that nobody thinks much about it.)

  32. @TomS, the idea of the omniX is fraught with paradoxes. One strand of evolution theology, as I stand it, put forward by Henry Drummond, maintains that God created laws of nature so chosen as to release the creativity that we observe in evolution. Darwin thought much the same thing, for a while, including when writing Origin, although he abandoned this for a principled agnosticism, holding such matters beyond the capacity of human intellect to resolve. I have referred before, here, to the relevant passage in his autobiography: pp 92-93.

  33. Michael Fugate

    So I guess the only day honoring someone is Christmas – since Jesus was perfect?

    I honestly don’t see why any serious scientist would want to ally with the DI.

  34. Michael Fugate

    But most Christians would appear to believe in an agent God who is constantly mucking around with its creation. And this seems to create major problems for conceptualizing this God. The idea of mutation – divine action balance in population genetics is intriguing, no?

    Paul, you seem to be trying too hard to find common ground with Swamidass – do you think Behe was brave? Do you think Behe is trying to correct misconceptions about Darwin’s views or those of evolutionary biologists? I have no idea what Behe’s motivations are and I can’t even speculate; his behavior makes no sense. What is his point other than thinking his God needs something to do? What has his writing accomplished?

  35. Michael Fugate

    And if Behe and his DI fellow travellers weren’t Christians would there be any common ground?

  36. @Michael Fugate: “– do you think Behe was brave? Do you think Behe is trying to correct misconceptions about Darwin’s views or those of evolutionary biologists?” I think he was brave when he didn’t run away at Dover, and arguably when he first came out as supporting ID. But I don’t think he is showing particular courage now, especially in his choice of language which conceals from his colleagues how deeply he disagrees with them about core issues.

    I find the end of your sentence ambiguous. no, he is not trying to correct misconceptions about what evolutionary biologists think, but yes, he does believe that what they think is based on misconceptions.

    As to the question of common ground, part of what I am trying to do in my own blog piece is to make his fellow travellers aware of just what his beliefs are regarding evolution, in order to embarrass him as he sets about the fundamentally dishonest task of minimising his differences from them.

    Klinghoffer, of course, is Jewish, as is Sarfati. the metastasising cancer of biblical literal creationism has spread from the initial outbreak in Adventism through different religions and denominations

  37. It is surprising that extremist Muslims are borrowing from extremist Christians.

  38. A classic and hilarious example of bad science:

    We probably should keep in mind that the distinction between pseudo-science (ie looking for supernatural causes) and bad science is rather artificial.

    @PaulB: “If it happens, it’s part of nature”
    I propose a simple definition. The fundamental quantities of physics are time, mass, length, electrical current, absolute temperature, amount of substance and luminous intensity. Any phenomenon that cannot be expressed in any of these quantities, even if indirectly (democracy for instance depends on people, who obviously have mass and length) is supernatural. A fine example are Rowling’s ghosts. They can talk and hear (depends on mass of vibrating molecules and on time ao), ie have natural aspects. Still other aspects suggest they are supernatural. The idea of a Grand Old Designer (blessed me MOFO!) faces similar problems.

  39. Michael Fugate

    Brave, simply incapable of embarrassment, or hopelessly delusional? I am not sure I have seen too many people less self-reflective – to know so little about the subjects he claims to discuss is quite simply amazing. And he keeps doing it over and over no matter the humiliation involved. Folly is not brave in my thinking.

    Swamidass is very different than you, he was a YEC and remains a devout Christian. He is reaching out to apologetic ministries because they share his faith – I realize that he changed his beliefs, but individuals are not ministries. Perhaps he can lure people away from ID or OEC – maybe sweet is better than sour – I have yet to see that one is better. In the US, I worry about the parallel culture which relies on homeschooling and Christian colleges to isolate and make escape nearly impossible. It is a culture, not an isolated belief and it often means giving up jobs, church, family to move on. I don’t know. I just get itchy when people start mixing theology and science.

    Klinghoffer is just a paid conservative hack. He does it because he enjoys being a provocateur. It is a paying gig and not much else.

  40. @FrankB
    How about: information, zero, infinity, radian, quaternion, inconsistency, probability, …
    I note that you include “amount of substance” which is a dimensionless number (or is going to be so defined soon).

  41. @Michael F
    Klinghoffer is not much different to someone like Milo Yiannopolous. A hack, as you say, and a provocateur, but in an increasingly terminal position, because they’re led to say more and more outlandish, stupid things, just to be au contraire for the sake of it.

  42. @TomS: The unit of amount of substance is mole.

    “How about: information, zero, infinity, radian, quaternion, inconsistency, probability, …”
    No idea what exactly you are asking, but fundamental quantities they are not (perhaps information is, but now I’m too lazy right to study it).