Misinformation and mischaracterization are rampant in the media coverage of the debate over evolution. Because Discovery Institute’s views and positions recently have been inaccurately reported, and because Discovery Fellows have been maligned in the media in the past, over the past few years we have published a number of Truth Sheets to set the record straight.
We have gathered all of these Truth Sheets here to make it easy for the public to learn the truth about the Institute, its Fellows and the work it supports. For answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Institute, the Center for Science & Culture, and its positions on issues related to the debate over evolution click here.
Overview: A favorite Darwinist conspiracy theory is to claim that education policies requiring critical analysis of evolution are simply a guise for teaching intelligent design (ID). For example, Professor Patricia Princehouse was quoted saying “critical analysis is intelligent design relabeled, just as intelligent design was creationism relabeled.” This truth sheet provides five solids reasons why teaching critical analysis of evolution is very different from teaching about intelligent design.
Overview: No. The ACLU, and many of its expert witnesses, have alleged that teaching the scientific theory of intelligent design (ID) is unconstitutional in all circumstances because it posits a “supernatural creator.” Here we provide several actual statements from intelligent design theorists that the scientific theory of intelligent design does not address metaphysical and religious questions such as the nature or identity of the designer.
Overview: Many critics of intelligent design have argued that design is merely a negative argument against evolution. This could not be further from the truth. Leading design theorist William Dembski has observed that “[t]he principle characteristic of intelligent agency is directed contingency, or what we call choice.” This brief piece shows that observing the sorts of choices that intelligent agents commonly make when designing systems, a positive case for intelligent design is easily constructed by elucidating predictable, reliable indicators of design.
Overview: Across the United States the debate over how to teach evolution is reaching a fevered pitch. Newspapers are daily reporting on one aspect or another of whether to teach evolution, whether to teach criticisms of evolution or even whether to teach alternatives such as the emerging theory of intelligent design. In the midst of all this reporting several misconceptions seemed to have caught on and continue to be repeated with little regard for truth or accuracy. Here are six of the most popular myths debunked.
Overview: Periodically certain Darwinists make false and unsubstantiated claims that Discovery Institute advocates “theocracy” or is part of the “radical Christian right” or supposedly supports something called “Christian reconstructionism.” These charges are little more than smears, and they show the bankruptcy of the Darwinists’ own position. Rather than argue about the substance of the scientific debate over neo-Darwinism, all Darwinists can do is engage in baseless ad hominem attacks.
Overview: In 1999 someone posted on the internet an early fundraising proposal for Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture. Dubbed the “Wedge Document,” this proposal soon took on a life of its own, popping up in all sorts of places and eventually spawning what can only be called a giant urban legend. Among true-believers on the Darwinist fringe the document came to be viewed as evidence for a secret conspiracy to fuse religion with science and impose a theocracy. These claims were so outlandish that for a long time we simply ignored them. But because some credulous Darwinists seem willing to believe almost anything, we decided we should set the record straight. For a more detailed response please read “The Wedge Document: So What?”.
Discussions about how evolution should be covered in school curricula should focus on science and evidence, not on personal attacks. Unfortunately, when you try to improve the teaching of evolution in your school district, groups opposed to teaching any criticisms of evolutionary theory may attack your motives, your sources, and your honesty. They may also seek to smear the personal characters of leading scientists who are skeptical of neo-Darwinism. This has happened to Dr. Jonathan Wells repeatedly. Here are some resources for responding to some of most common attacks you may encounter:
Overview: Since the publication of Icons of Evolution (2000), biologist Jonathan Wells has been subjected to a smear campaign by Darwin-only lobbyists, who have attacked everything from Dr. Wells’s integrity as a scholar to his personal religious beliefs. This fact sheet rebuts some of the most outrageous smears.
Alan Gishlick and National Center for Science Education (NCSE) Misrepresent Jonathan Wells’s Science Credentials.
Overview: In 2002, NCSE Officials Kevin Padian and Alan Gishlick misrepresented Jonathan Wells’s science credentials, and they still refuse to correct the record. In The Quarterly Review of Biology (March, 2002), National Center for Science Education (NCSE) officials Kevin Padian and Alan Gishlick published false and defamatory information about Jonathan Wells’s science credentials. Although Padian and Gishlick have been presented with documentation about their false claims, they still refuse to correct the record.
Overview: In 2002, Discovery Institute prepared for the Ohio State Board of Education a bibliography of 44 peer-reviewed science journal articles written by evolutionists that discussed unresolved questions about various aspects of neo-Darwinism. In response, the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) surveyed the authors of the articles and purported to show that Discovery Institute had misrepresented the articles. In fact, the NCSE was the one engaging in misrepresentation. Its so-called “survey” completely mischaracterized the Institute’s bibliography, and it failed to substantiate the charge that the bibliography was inaccurate.
Overview: Like the boy that cried “Wolf!,” the National Center for Science Education (NSCE) and its supporters repeatedly charge that scientists affiliated with Discovery Institute misquote or otherwise misrepresent the research of evolutionary biologists. On closer inspection, however, these charges turn out to be groundless. They are an intimidation tactic employed by the NCSE to stifle legitimate scientific debate over neo-Darwinism. If the NCSE wants to be taken seriously, it should stop inventing false charges of misquotation and start answering the arguments offered by Darwin’s scientific critics.
Overview: In the midst of the Texas State Board of Education’s review of classroom biology textbooks in 2003, Jonathan Wells’ Icons of Evolution was distributed across the state, exposing the false evidence that these textbooks contained. Encouraging the board to present Icons of Evolution in the classroom, these letters from Dr. Dean H. Kenyon, Dr. Marvin J. Fritzler, and Dr. Paul K. Chien addressed to the Texas Board of Education demonstrate their doctoral approval of the book.
The ACLU’s Selective and One-Sided Advocacy: Ignoring Biology Textbooks that Promote Philosophical Materialism
Overview: The ACLU is quick to file lawsuits to censor scientific evidence that they think advances theistic religious viewpoints in schools. Yet they selectively ignore the explicit promotion of philosophical materialism included in textbooks around the nation. Though even leading Darwinists admit that philosophical materialism constitutes a religious viewpoint, this sheet lists many instances of promoting philosophical materialism in textbooks. Why doesn’t the ACLU file lawsuits against using these textbooks?
The ACLU’s Selective and One-Sided Advocacy: Ignoring Biology Textbooks that Disparage Intelligent Design
Overview: The ACLU challenged a biology textbook that presents intelligent design favorably as a scientific theory as unconstitutional, claiming it represents an “inherently religious view.” Constitutional law states requires the “principal or primary effect” of a law “must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion.” (Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 612 (19971).). Why does the ACLU selectively challenge only textbooks that favorably discuss intelligent design yet never file lawsuits that bash what they consider to be a religious viewpoint? Their hypocrisy reveals their true intention: not to protect religious rights, but to censor evidence that challenges evolution.
Overview: Teaching students about intelligent design can serve many genuine secular purposes in the science classroom. This list of reasons to teach intelligent design extends from informing students of competing scientific ideas, to developing critical thinking skills, to ultimately enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction.
Alan Gishlick and National Center for Science Education (NCSE) Misrepresent Jonathon Wells’s Science Credentials
Overview: In The Quarterly Review of Biology (March, 2002), National Center for Science Education (NCSE) officials Kevin Padian and Alan Gishlick published false and defamatory information about Jonathan Wells’s science credentials. Although Padian and Gishlick have been presented with documentation about their false claims, they still refuse to correct the record.
Overview: Should schools teach students about both scientific strengths and weaknesses of Neo-Darwinism? Authorities ranging from U.S. Congress, to the U.S. Supreme Court, to the U.S. Department of Education and many State Department of Educations say YES—you can and should teach about problems with Darwin! According to authorities listed here, even Charles Darwin himself would support teaching about scientific criticisms of Neo-Darwinism.
Overview: Some critics have accused intelligent design proponents of inventing terms such as “Darwinism,” or “Darwinist”. The reality is that these terms are commonly used by mainstream scientists in the scientific literature – often exclusively to describe evolutionists when combating a pejoratively used term which they nearly exclusively use: “anti-evolutionism.” Below are results of searches of leading journals revealing the common usage of these terms in the mainstream scientific literature.
Overview: Adopted in November 8, 2005, the Kansas State Science Standards incorporated critical analysis of evolution into the curriculum and teach students about both scientific strengths and weaknesses of Neo-Darwinism. As this FAQ explains, the standards to not teach intelligent design, and answer numerous questions such as “What is the scientific basis for the changes?” or “How do parents want evolution taught?” This document also responds to circulating criticisms and misinformation on the decision to adopt these science standards.
Overview: This list compiles direct quotes from several state science standards on the topic of evolution. Many states specifically outline a requirement of student critique and evaluation of the scientific supporting or challenging data for evolution. More than just encouraging analysis, these standards emphasize exposing weaknesses and challenging the generally accepted theory.