A bunch of scrambled game board pieces with letters imprinted on them, focusing on Words with a shallow depth of field.

Dover Trial Witness Plays Misleading Word Games In Effort to Redefine Intelligent Design

Seattle, Oct. 6 – “Forrest is playing word games, without looking at the meaning of the words,” said Casey Luskin, program officer for public policy and legal affairs at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, in response to an intelligent design opponent’s testimony.

Plaintiff’s witness, Dr. Barbara Forrest, pointed to the word “creation” in early drafts of the supplemental textbook Of Pandas and People which in her opinion is evidence that intelligent design was the same thing as creationism.

“At the time the authors began work on Pandas, there was no widely accepted way to describe the scientific position being advocated there,” said Luskin, “namely that there are indicators of design in nature, that scientists should remain open to the possibility of intelligent causes, and that such evidence does not tell us the identity of the designer.”

But the term “creation” also had a very specific and quite different meaning, namely those who start with a religious premise (their specific interpretation of the Bible is true) and then read nature in light of their reading of Scripture. Proponents of this position were called “creationists,” and it was this approach, “creationism” that was held by the Supreme Court to be problematic from an Establishment Clause perspective. 

“It was only in that very generic sense that the book used the notion of “creation” — that is, that signs of plan, purpose, and intelligence in nature point to an intelligent cause,” added Luskin. “Pandas makes it explicitly clear in many instances that they are not postulating a supernatural cause, because to do so would go beyond the limits of science. No ‘word-processor-conspiracy-theory’ from Forrest can change the fact that Pandas’ arguments were always distinct from those of traditional ‘creationism’.”

Once that term had been so defined, it’s understandable and perfectly appropriate that people trying to use the term in a completely different way (reasoning from scientific evidence to design) would be all the more interested in finding a term that more precisely fit what they were actually doing. Without changing the substance of their argument (from evidence in nature to intelligence, and not speculating about the supernatural), the authors found a more generic term that was less likely to be misunderstood.

“Now the plaintiffs and their witnesses are complaining that the decision to use a more precise and clear term, distinguishing the intelligent design position from another very different position, was some kind of sleight of hand or conspiracy,” said Luskin. “Forrest should be praising design theorists for constructing a clearly scientific argument. Her motives for constructing this conspiracy theory are suspicious”

“We hope that the Court will see through the plaintiffs’ obfuscation to the real issue — what did the book say about science, not what word was used to summarize a scientific theory open to intelligent causes,” said Luskin.