Sunday, December 07, 2008

Creationists - dumb and dishonest

The 2005 Dover trial was a re-run of the Scopes monkey trial - except that the creationists had created a modern vernacular in the so-called "intelligent design".

The broad brush strokes are easy to recall. Reason (rationalism) was ultimately triumphant again, and the Pennsylvania township's creationists on the school board were unceremoniously dumped at the first opportunity.

But a documentary aired tonight (Judgment Day - Intelligent Design On Trial) was particularly adept at the nuances of the case, for which a bald reading doesn't do justice.

For one thing, it gave a clear depiction of the skill of the prosecutors of the case in opposing Intelligent Design's presence in the science curriculum.

It could also be said that the judge was to be commended for not being swayed by the creationists' attempts at obfustication: it's easy to imagine that in both this and the original Scopes trial, the hands of less rational judges would have directed more anti-science a verdict. However, it could equally be said that appeals would ultimately have carried the day in each case anyway.

Particularly funny was a joke that must have done the rounds of evolutionists the world over. The book that was foisted on the school, the ID tract Of Pandas And People, was a core aspect of the defendants' argument that it wasn't about religion. The prosecutors subpoenaed all draughts of the book, and painstakingly analysed them. Turns out the publishers, in their hurry to substitute intelligent design for creationism, slipped up in one cut-and-paste, and ended up publishing the phrase "cdesign proponentsists" - ie someone had attempted to paste in "design proponents" over the top of the word "creationists" (full details here). The joke was that they had found the missing link between creationism and intelligent design.

That wasn't the only creationist dishonesty exposed in the case. The other one (that I remember) came when defendants tried to disguise the funding of the creationist book purchases. When the creationist bagman was caught out in a lie in the trial (no, I did not know the source of the funding), he fumbled for a while before falling back on the excuse that he "mis-spoke". Personally, I believe that there would have been numerous other examples of dishonesty amongst creationists involved in that trial, but it begs the question of what they believe versus what they want to believe. The Discovery Institute must be a seething cauldron of cognitive dissonance.

I very much doubt any other OECD country experiences significant creationist pressure. Only in the USA; and even there it's as much an issue of right wing ideology as it is religion.

Fortunately Obama - a religious man - has been unequivocal in his support for rational science, and evolution in particular.

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