April 23, 2001

Inherit the Wind in Reverse


The past month has been the best ever for the Intelligent Design movement. On March 25 the Los Angeles Times had a good story about us on page one, featuring the "Inherit the Wind in reverse" Darwinist persecution of high school teacher Roger DeHart. DeHart has been ordered by administrators to stop trying to open the minds of his students, by (among other things) distributing Stephen Jay Gould's article in Natural History, which acknowledges that the embryo drawings in the biology textbooks are fraudulent. The drawings purport to show that the vertebrate embryos are highly similar at the early stages, and become dissimilar only at later stages, thus confirming the Darwinian prediction of how embryonic development should occur. In reality the embryos are highly dissimilar at the earliest stages and become only slightly similar at a middle stage. These similarities were grossly exaggerated in drawings by Darwin's German disciple Ernst Haeckel, who didn't believe that the facts should stay in the way of promoting Darwinism. Insiders have known about the fraud for over a century, but the textbooks continue to use the drawings as proof of Darwinism's prediction.

While we are on the subject of Haeckel's fraud, University of Chicago evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne published a thoroughly nasty review in Nature of Jonathan Well's book Icons of Evolution. (Sorry, the Nature web site is open only to subscribers.) Wells details the Haeckel fraud among other examples of textbook errors and falsehoods. Coyne's review is mostly ad hominems, but he does treat us to a hilarious example of Darwin-think in its declining years. The embryos really are basically as Haeckel depicted them, says Coyne:

"Embryos of different vertebrates tend to resemble one another in early stages, but diverge as development proceeds, with more closely related species diverging less widely. This conclusion has been supported by 150 years of research."

Then switching wildly to the other pole, Coyne notes with pride that some embryologists have known for over a century that Haeckel's drawings were fraudulent, while acquiescing in their use in the textbooks. To prove that loyal Darwinists uncovered the fraud, Coyne cites a 1997 article in Nature revealing that the embyos aren't at all as Haeckel portrayed them, which actually proves how effectively the truth was hidden even from biologists throughout the twentieth century. I think we should feel sorry for Jerry Coyne. His own work has contributed to the destruction of Darwinism, and he seems to be suffering from a condition I call metaphysical panic, resulting from the shaking of a worldview he had always assumed to be unchallengeable. Persons suffering from metaphysical panic tend to lash out in impotent rage while making wildly illogical arguments. I encounter this sad condition regularly.

That brings me to the big story. On Sunday, April 8, the front page of the New York Times featured an article on the Intelligent Design Movement by science writer James Glanz. It was a pretty good story, but the most important things were that it was from the science desk (not the religion desk) and it was on page one. That convinced just about everybody that the ID movement has arrived in the mainstream intellectual world, and from now on it will be much more difficult for the Darwinists to brush aside the evidence and the arguments as tainted by "religion." So I felt justified in publishing a "Progress Report" announcing that the initial goals of the Wedge strategy have been achieved. The concept of intelligent design in biology is now on the intellectual table for consideration. All we have left to accomplish is to win the debate - and that is the easy part.

Glanz had a hilarious sidebar on the Haeckel embryo fraud, by the way. He asked Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences, why the fraudulent drawings still appear in the latest edition of his own molecular biology textbook (and most other biology textbooks). The drawings arent exactly fakes, responded Alberts, but merely overinterpreted. Depends what you mean by fake, as Bill Clinton would say. Alberts promised to remove the drawings from the next edition. Can you imagine what the Darwinists would say if they caught creationists in a similar pattern of deception?

Finally, we come to the feature article attacking "The New Creationism," by journalist Robert Wright, in Microsoft's Slate.com webzine. Wright is best known as a champion of evolutionary psychology, which left-wing Darwinists like Steven Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin correctly regard as a pseudoscience on the level of phrenology. Wright has retaliated by dubbing Gould (in the New Yorker) as "The Accidental Creationist," because Gould has published so many foolish concessions (e.g., fossil stasis is the "trade secret of paleontology") that have encouraged public skepticism towards Darwinism. In an attempt to counter the favorable publicity in the New York Times, Wright turned his scorn on Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, and William Dembski, in a rant that can best be described as a comedy of errors.

It isnt worth my time to refute Wright point by point, but you can get an idea of his general reliability with one example. He tells Slate's readers that he is critiquing Darwin on Trial, but in fact he describes only a book review I published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1992. Maybe reading a whole book was too much for him. Anyway, by not naming the book review he was criticizing, Wright avoided having to include a link to it. It wouldn't be good for readers to be able to check out the review for themselves; they might like it. It's at: www.arn.org/docs/johnson/raup.htm.

Wrights concluding put-down is that "Intelligent design theory is just a fresh label, a marketing deviceand, evidently, an effective one. I'll take that! When even our most vehement adversaries concede that were being effective, we must be doing something right.

Copyright 2001 Phillip E. Johnson. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
File Date: 4.23.01