Intelligent design advocates’ chief claim holds that where a pattern may be discerned, there is someone with intelligence scheming away.
That explains a recent spattering of activities in Texas that otherwise are just blots of minor, irritating news. It points to animus against science in top religious and political circles in Texas — if, of course, there is anything at all to intelligent design’s chief premise.
Scientists and citizens for good government, and parents concerned about good education, should note these recent actions:
First, ID advocates tried to establish a stealth toehold at Baylor University. The Waco Tribune explained the otherwise odd events surrounding Bill Dembski’s latest foray into Baylor — he got himself designated as a “post-doc” student for an engineer’s project, and a website featuring a new sciency term, “informatics,” quickly appeared. School administrators were not satisfied with the transparency and legitimacy of funding for the project, and pulled the plug on it, producing wails of “oppression” from the ID harpy chorus.
Dembski is a professor at the Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. Had he been collaborating with Robert Marks at Baylor, one would think that collaboration from his professorial position would carry more clout, attract more funding, and generally make a lot more sense than having the multiple-degreed Dembski do post-doc work in engineering, a field he’s not yet got a degree in. Apart from the sheer humor of Dembski pursuing one more degree that is not biology in order to try to get the credentials to assault biology, the sheer stupidity of the affair has put scientists off-guard, satisfied that Baylor’s integrity watchdogs have protected science adquately. I’m not so sure.
Second, without much fanfare outside extreme fundamentalist circles, the Institute for Creation Research moved most of its operation from California to Dallas. The stated reasons include proximity to DFW Airport, which makes sense for a corporation like J. C. Penney or Exxon-Mobil, but doesn’t really make a lot of sense for a “school” that has fought to get the right to grant graduate degrees in California.
Third, Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s appointment of a stiff-necked creationist to be the chairman of the Texas State Board of Education produced concern among educators and scientists, especially remembering Chairman Don McLeroy’s positions on creationism and evolution in the last biology textbook approval round, in 2003 (not to mention his anti-disease prevention stance on health books in 2004). Concern was defused by a Dallas Morning News article in which McLeroy and other creationists on the board said they would not work to put intelligent design into the curriculum.
But reports from meetings of the SBOE in the past week make it clear that the creationist agenda is still very much alive, with McLeroy working with other creationists to break standard procedures for curriculum review, and to stack panels reviewing science standards with people who will work against evolution, cosmology, environmental protection and wildlife management, and disease prevention. Politics of Christian dominionists appear to dominate the discussions at the education board, rather than the rigor of the curriculum or how best to teach students so they can ace federally-mandated state tests. Pedagogy takes a back seat to religious politics.
Individually, each of these events is just another in a long string of nuttiness. The moving of ICR to Texas, however, means that ICR representatives would have the Texas citizen’s right to testify at textbook hearings. These may be unconnected events of wingnuttery, or they may be initial moves to be in the right place to gut science textbooks in the next round of Texas textbook approvals.
It is best not to assume intelligent design where mere incompetence also provides an sufficient answer.
But watch what happens next.