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A Partisan Affair (Part 4): False Attacks on Traipsing Into Evolution in Edward Humes’ Pseudo-History of Kitzmiller, “Monkey Girl

[Editor’s Note: For a full and comprehensive review and response to Edward Humes’ book, Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, and the Battle for America’s Soul, please see A Partisan Affair: A Response to Edward Humes’ Inaccurate History of Kitzmiller v. Dover and Intelligent Design, “Monkey Girl.]

In his book Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America’s Soul, Edwards Humes says that, “if the evolution wars are to continue, let the combatants be armed with facts, not fiction.” (pg. viii.) Yet as discussed in my previous post, it seems that Humes is more interested in mud-slinging against intelligent design (ID) proponents than providing a balanced discussion of the facts. In particular, Humes engages in name-calling in response to Traipsing Into Evolution, our rebuttal to the Kitzmiller v. Dover ruling, calling it the “rant of a sore loser” and claiming it was an “an adaptation of angry Internet postings” wherethat we “just made [things] up” and engaged in “complete fabrication.” But I agree with Humes that what matters most are the facts. If the facts are on his side, why must Humes resort to such name-calling? This post will therefore compare the facts with many of the false claims that made during…

Humes’ Attacks on Traipsing Into Evolution:

  • My first hint that Humes was stretching for ways to attack our book Traipsing Into Evolution came when he complained about the definition we gave for the word “traipse” (a word Judge Jones used in his ruling) at the beginning of the book. Our definition came from a 1982 edition of the American Heritage Dictionary as “[t]o walk about idly or intrusively.” Apparently for Humes, that definition is too old, and the definition of “traipse” has changed in the past 25 years. For the record, the definition of “traipse” hasn’t changed. The 2006 edition of the American Heritage Dictionary uses a near-identical definition (“To walk or tramp about; gad”) and Random House Unabridged Dictionary, published in 2006, defines “traipse” as “to walk or go aimlessly or idly without finding or reaching one’s goal.” It seems that Humes was a little too eager to attack our book.
  • Humes then develops much harsher attacks against the book, claiming that Traipsing Into Evolution made a “complete fabrication” by claiming that Judge Jones tried to “conflat[e] ID with fundamentalism.” Since Humes apparently doesn’t want to acknowledge how Judge Jones tried to connect ID to fundamentalism in the Kitzmiller ruling, I’ll trace the connection clearly and show that our claim was not “fabricated” at all. In the Kitzmiller ruling, Judge Jones wrote that “opposition [to evolution] grew out of a religious tradition, Christian Fundamentalism,” and he then went on to show that creation science was tied to Fundamentalism, stating, “The terms ‘creation science’ and ‘scientific creationism’ have been adopted by these Fundamentalists as descriptive of their study of creation and the origins of Man.” He then tried to explicitly tie ID to Genesis-based creationism, stating that “ID is a form of creationism [because] ID uses the same, or exceedingly similar arguments as were posited in support of creationism … the words ‘God,’ ‘creationism,’ and ‘Genesis’ have been systematically purged from ID explanations,” and therefore “ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism,” and “ID is a form of creationism.” The connection that Judge Jones tried to make is simplistic (and false, when one digs deeper): Judge Jones tied fundamentalism to creation science, then he tried to tie ID to creationism. He did this for legal purposes because he wanted to conclude that the Dover School Board’s promotion of ID arguments would, in the eyes of Dover community members, endorse “fundamentalism.” Thus, Jones specifically argued that under the endorsement test, Dover’s ID policy would ”communicat[e] to those who endorse evolution that they are political outsiders, while communicat[ing] to the Christian fundamentalists and creationists who pushed for a disclaimer that they are political insiders.”
    The word “conflate” means “to bring together” — and that’s exactly what Judge Jones tried to do with respect to ID and fundamentalism. He did it for legal purposes so that supporting one could be seen as endorsing the other. Humes’ harsh attacks on Traipsing Into Evolution are false, and it certainly cannot be fairly argued that our claim was a “complete fabrication.” Can that same charge be made against Humes’ false accusations against the book?

    For a refutation of Judge Jones’ false history of ID, see Traipsing Into Evolution, “Intelligent Design will Survive Kitzmiller v. Dover,” or “ID Does Not Address Religious Claims About the Supernatural.”

  • Humes’ one real substantive critique of Traipsing Into Evolution is his listing of about 4 or 5 different types of arguments to claim that ID requires supernatural creation, thereby arguing that Traipsing Into Evolution “fails to address” (pg. 344) the evidence Judge Jones cited on this point in the Kitzmiller ruling. In contrast, it is Humes and Judge Jones who are “failing to address” the evidence and arguments we raised in Traipsing Into Evolution — evidence which was also put before Judge Jones. Humes’ weak examples include:
    (1) Out-of-context quotations from Michael Behe where Humes tries to switch philosophical implications of ID with the actual scientific content of the theory;
    (2) Comments by Behe about the definition of science which had NOTHING to do with claiming ID was supernatural;
    (3) False claims that Scott Minnich said that the ground rules of science had to be changed for ID to be considered science;
    (4) Irrelevant comments by Steve Fuller and William Dembski attacking methodological naturalism, and
    (5) Irrelevant comments about Of Pandas and People (Pandas) that ignore what Pandas actually said.
    I’ll treat each one of these arguments separately:
    1. Humes’ Out-of-context quotations from Michael Behe: Humes observes that Behe said that it is “implausible that the designer is a natural entity,” but this small snippet is a quotation that is taken grossly out-of-context. The citation is to where Behe is writing in a PHILOSOPHY journal about the philosophical implications of ID, where he is arguing that, on a philosophical level, there must be a regress back to some non-natural designer. Behe thinks such a regress can be made on a philosophical level, but he’s not making a scientific argument, nor is he discussing the actual scientific conclusions of ID. In fact, Humes ignores that Behe’s same article leaves open the possibility that, philosophically, humans were directly designed by a natural designer, as Behe states: “I should add that there is nothing in the previous reasoning to rule out the hypothesis that we terrestrials were designed by a natural designer which was itself designed by a supernatural designer, or that there was a series of designers between the supernatural one and us, or some variation of this. It simply means that at the beginning of the chain, input from beyond nature was required.”

    In his response to Judge Jones’ ruling, Behe explained that the court blatantly misrepresented his views, and the theory of ID, because this quote was simply looking at the philosophical implications of ID:

    “Again, repeatedly, the Court’s opinion ignores the distinction between an implication of a theory and the theory itself. If I think it is implausible that the cause of the Big Bang was natural, as I do, that does not make the Big Bang Theory a religious one, because the theory is based on physical, observable data and logical inferences. The same is true for ID.”

    (Michael Behe, “Whether Intelligent Design is Science: A Response to the Opinion of the Court in Kitzmiller vs Dover Area School District“)

    Additionally, Humes ignores the fact that Behe has clearly explained in multiple places that the scientific theory of intelligent design does not require the supernatural:

    “The conclusion that something was designed can be made quite independently of knowledge of the designer. As a matter of procedure, the design must first be apprehended before there can be any further question about the designer. The inference to design can be held with all the firmness that is possible in this world, without knowing anything about the designer.” (Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box, pg. 197.)

    “The most important difference [between modern intelligent design theory and Paley’s arguments] is that [intelligent design] is limited to design itself; I strongly emphasize that it is not an argument for the existence of a benevolent God, as Paley’s was. I hasten to add that I myself do believe in a benevolent God, and I recognize that philosophy and theology may be able to extend the argument. But a scientific argument for design in biology does not reach that far. Thus while I argue for design, the question of the identity of the designer is left open. Possible candidates for the role of designer include: the God of Christianity; an angel–fallen or not; Plato’s demi-urge; some mystical new age force; space aliens from Alpha Centauri; time travelers; or some utterly unknown intelligent being. Of course, some of these possibilities may seem more plausible than others based on information from fields other than science. Nonetheless, as regards the identity of the designer, modern ID theory happily echoes Isaac Newton’s phrase hypothesis non fingo.” (Michael Behe, “The Modern Intelligent Design Hypothesis,” Philosophia Christi, Series 2, Vol. 3, No. 1 (2001), pg. 165, emphasis added.)

    “most people (including myself) will attribute the design to God–based in part on other, non-scientific judgments they have made–I did not claim that the biochemical evidence leads ineluctably to a conclusion about who the designer is. In fact, I directly said that, from a scientific point of view, the question remains open. … The biochemical evidence strongly indicates design, but does not show who the designer was” (Michael Behe, “Philosophical Objections to Intelligent Design: Response to Critics,”

    So Behe has been very clear that intelligent design itself does not require a supernatural designer. In fact, he gave clear and direct testimony at the trial, which Judge Jones ignored, explaining that ID does not require the supernatural:

    Q. So is it accurate for people to claim or to represent that intelligent design holds that the designer was God?
    Behe: No, that is completely inaccurate.
    Q. Well, people have asked you your opinion as to who you believe the designer is, is that correct?
    Behe: That is right.
    Q. Has science answered that question?
    Behe: No, science has not done so.
    Q. And I believe you have answered on occasion that you believe the designer is God, is that correct?
    Behe: Yes, that’s correct.
    Q. Are you making a scientific claim with that answer?
    Behe: No, I conclude that based on theological and philosophical and historical factors.

    (Behe, October 17 AM testimony, pgs. 94-95.)

    Thus, Judge Jones (and then Edward Humes) misconstrued the actual theory of ID — which Behe makes clear does not require the supernatural — with the philosophical implications that Behe has drawn from the theory.

    2. Humes’ misconstrual of Behe’s definition of science: Humes’ comment about Behe’s definition of science (with respect to ID and astrology) is again grossly out-of-context because this segment of Behe’s testimony had absolutely nothing to do with whether ID required supernatural intervention. In fact, evolution fits under Behe’s definition of science, but that doesn’t mean that evolution requires the supernatural any more than it means that ID requires the supernatural.

    3. Humes’ uncritical misconstruals of Scott Minnich’s testimony: Humes parrots Judge Jones (who copied and pasted from the ACLU) quoting pro-ID biochemist and Kitzmiller expert witness Scott Minnich out-of-context, stating that “Professor Minnich testified that for ID to be considered science, the ground rules of science have to be broadened so that supernatural forces can be considered.” No, Dr. Minnich NEVER said anything like that and in fact testified that ID does not require the supernatural. The citation is to page 97 of Minnich’s Nov. 4th AM testimony. I was in the courtroom when Minnich gave this testimony and I remember clearly what he said, and the context of the exchange. Here’s what Minnich actually said in the segment cited by Judge Jones, as it was recorded by the court reporter:

    Q. Well, the answer to my question, and I understand you had a qualification, was true. For intelligent design to be considered science, the definition of science or the rules of science have to be broadened so that supernatural causes can be considered, correct?

    A. Correct, if intelligent causes can be considered. I won’t necessarily — you know, you’re extrapolating to the supernatural. And that is one possibility.

    Thus, Minnich’s comment about changing the definition of science (which they claimed was methodological naturalism) is conditional — science only has to be redefined if one defines mere intelligent causes to be supernatural. But Minnich isn’t saying ID necessarily postulates a supernatural cause because the supernatural is “one possibility” and, as he points out, the hostile attorney was “extrapolating to the supernatural,” but Minnich “won’t necessarily” do that. Minnich, however, made it clear that he was not “extrapolating to the supernatural,” as will be seen by looking at various excerpts from Minnich’s testimony:

    Q. Do you have an opinion as to whether intelligent design requires the action of a supernatural creator?
    A. I do.
    Q. What is that opinion?
    A. It does not.
    (Minnich November 3 PM testimony, pgs. 45-46, 135.)
    Q. Is it — does intelligent design tell us how many designers there are? Is it just one or could it be more?
    A. It could be more.
    Q. So it could be a whole family of designers, right?
    A. I suppose so.
    Q. It could be competing designers? We could have one designer who’s designing good things and another designer who’s designing bad things, right?
    A. I don’t — yeah, what’s your point?
    Q. Well, does intelligent design tell us whether there could be —
    A. No, no.

    (Minnich, November 4th AM testimony, pg. 94.)

    Q. Now, the conclusion that something was designed, does that require knowledge of the designer?
    A. No. Absolutely not.
    Q. Why not?
    A. Well, I mean, we can infer design, but the science isn’t going to tell us anything about the designer unless it’s, you know, signed on one of these components, and we haven’t found that yet.
    Q. So is it accurate for people to claim or to represent that intelligent design holds that the designer is God?
    A. No, absolutely not.
    Q. Has science answered this question, the source of design —
    A. No.

    (Minnich, November 3 PM testimony, pg. 57.)

    Again, during cross-examination, we see that Minnich says that ID permits a supernatural creator, but doesn’t require it:

    Q. Would it be fair to say that intelligent design does not exclude the possibility of a supernatural cause as the designer?
    A. It does not exclude.
    Q. And, in fact, a designer could be a deity, correct?
    A. It could be.
    Q. And that would clearly be supernatural, right?
    A. Right, but that’s — that would be a philosophical addition to that science isn’t going to take, isn’t going to tell us. I think I made that clear.

    (Minnich, November 4 AM testimony, pgs. 95-96.)

    Thus, Minnich makes it clear that the science of ID cannot tell you if the designer is natural or supernatural. Here, again, is exchange cited by Judge Jones (and thus, by Humes), which comes soon after this last quote given above:

    Q. Well, the answer to my question, and I understand you had a qualification, was true. For intelligent design to be considered science, the definition of science or the rules of science have to be broadened so that supernatural causes can be considered, correct?

    A. Correct, if intelligent causes can be considered. I won’t necessarily — you know, you’re extrapolating to the supernatural. And that is one possibility.

    (Minnich, November 4 AM testimony, pg. 97.)

    In his answer, Minnich makes it clear that methodological naturalism only excludes ID to the extent that it excludes “intelligent causes” by considering them to be “supernatural” — this is why he says “correct, if intelligent causes can be considered…” He attributed the extrapolation that ID requires a “supernatural cause” to the Darwinist attorney, Mr. Harvey, because Dr. Minnich had already made it clear that the science cannot tell you if the designer is natural or supernatural. It is “one possibility” that the designer is supernatural, but Minnich makes it clear that the scientific theory does not tell you that. The implication of Dr. Minnich’s logic is that if methodological naturalism does NOT exclude merely intelligent causes then, the Mr. Harvey’s answer is incorrect — if intelligent causes cannot be considered excluded.

    Minnich also makes it clear that ID goes no further than inferring intelligence, stating, “So we’re looking at the empirical evidence. We find irreducible complex systems. When we find these in any other context they’re the product of intelligence, we infer by standard scientific inference or reasoning that these systems are also the product of intelligence, and we leave it at that.” (Minnich, Nov. 3rd Testimony, pgs. 49-50.) In one final exchange from his direct testimony, Minnich makes it clear that methodological naturalism doesn’t exclude ID because ID doesn’t require supernatural action:

    Q. Does intelligent design require the action of a supernatural creator acting outside the laws of nature?
    A. No.
    Q. Does intelligent design rule out a natural explanation for design foundation?
    A. It doesn’t.
    Q. We heard quite a bit of testimony during the course of this trial about methodological naturalism, and I believe you indicated in your deposition you see that as placing limits on intelligent design, is that correct?
    A. It does. It can. In the sense that it limits explanations it can be advanced, but it has the same kind of stricture on other avenues of scientific research as well.
    Q. Does methodological naturalism necessarily exclude intelligent design from the realm of science?
    A. No, it doesn’t.
    Q. Why not?
    A. Again, I mean, there could be a natural cause for the systems we’re trying to explain.

    (Minnich, November 3 PM testimony, pgs. 135-137.)

    Thus, Minnich once again makes it clear that methodological naturalism does not exclude design unless design is appealing to a supernatural creator. But he has made it clear that intelligent design is not an explanation to the supernatural, so it isn’t excluded by methodological naturalism. Dr. Minnich’s position should now be clear: he doesn’t think that methodological naturalism excludes ID unless you (a) wrongly extrapolate that ID requires a supernatural explanation, or (b) classify all intelligent causes as “supernatural” such that methodological naturalism would exclude any intelligent causes. This is because Minnich was clear that “we infer by standard scientific inference or reasoning that these systems are also the product of intelligence, and we leave it at that.” Humes, following Judge Jones, misrepresented Minnich’s testimony.

    4. Humes cites irrelevant discussions from Steve Fuller and William Dembski: Humes quotes Steve Fuller and William Dembski bashing methodological naturalism, but we explain in our book (in a section that Humes apparently ignores) why, even if methodological naturalism is a correct criterion of science, that it does not disqualify ID from being science:

    Whether methodological naturalism is really a foundational ground rule for the operation of science has been sharply disputed by historians and philosophers of science. Assuming ad arguendo that Judge Jones is correct [that science should be defined by methodological naturalism], his argument proves far less than he believes. Intelligent design, properly conceived, does not need to violate methodological naturalism, a point that expert witness Scott Minnich made clear at trial. To understand why this is the case, one needs to understand how a design inference is drawn. Intelligent design theory assumes that intelligence is a property which we can understand through general observation of intelligent agents in the natural world. An intelligent agent exhibits predictable modes of designing because it has the property of intelligence, regardless of whether or not the agent is ‘natural’ or ‘supernatural.’ Thus, the theory of intelligent design does not investigate whether the designing intelligent agent was natural or supernatural because it assumes that things designed by an intelligence may possess certain perceptible properties regardless of whether that intelligent agent is a natural entity, or in some way supernatural. Contrary to Judge Jones, intelligent design is clearly based upon an explanatory cause whose behavior is understandable and yields predictable evidence that it was at work. … Intelligent causes can be inferred through confirmable data. The types of information produced by intelligent causes can be observed and then measured. Scientists can use observations and experiments to base their conclusions of intelligent design upon empirical evidence. Intelligent design limits its claims to those which can be established through the data. In this way, intelligent design does not violate the mandates of predictability and reliability laid down for science by methodological naturalism (whatever the failings and limitations of methodological naturalism).
    (Traipsing Into Evolution, pg. 37.)

    5. Humes’ Misrepresentations of Pandas: Humes claims that the Pandas textbook shows that “ID is a supernatural, religious idea.” (pg. 344.) But Humes somehow misses that Pandas makes precisely the opposite claim — that the science of ID cannot determine whether the intelligence behind life is natural or supernatural, as these excepts from Pandas demonstrate:

    “If science is based upon experience, then science tells us the message encoded in DNA must have originated from an intelligent cause. But what kind of intelligent agent was it? On its own, science cannot answer this question; it must leave it to religion and philosophy. But that should not prevent science from acknowledging evidences for an intelligent cause origin wherever they may exist. This is no different, really, than if we discovered life did result from natural causes. We still would not know, from science, if the natural cause was all that was involved, or if the ultimate explanation was beyond nature, and using the natural cause.” (Of Pandas and People, pg. 7, emphasis added.)

    “Surely the intelligent design explanation has unanswered questions of its own. But unanswered questions, which exist on both sides, are an essential part of healthy science; they define the areas of needed research. Questions often expose hidden errors that have impeded the progress of science. For example, the place of intelligent design in science has been troubling for more than a century. That is because on the whole, scientists from within Western culture failed to distinguish between intelligence, which can be recognized by uniform sensory experience, and the supernatural, which cannot. Today we recognize that appeals to intelligent design may be considered in science, as illustrated by current NASA search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). Archaeology has pioneered the development of methods for distinguishing the effects of natural and intelligent causes. We should recognize, however, that if we go further, and conclude that the intelligence responsible for biological origins is outside the universe (supernatural) or within it, we do so without the help of science.” (Of Pandas and People, pgs. 126-127, emphasis added.)

    “The idea that life had an intelligent source is hardly unique to Christian fundamentalism. Advocates of design have included not only Christians and other religious theists, but pantheists, Greek and Enlightenment philosophers and now include many modern scientists who describe themselves as religiously agnostic. Moreover, the concept of design implies absolutely nothing about beliefs and normally associated with Christian fundamentalism, such as a young earth, a global flood, or even the existence of the Christian God. All it implies is that life had an intelligent source.” (Of Pandas and People, pg. 161.)

    Indeed, at one point, Pandas even seems to adopt methodological naturalism, stating that “intelligence . . . can be recognized by uniform sensory experience, and the supernatural . . . cannot.” (pg. 126.) Somehow Humes must have missed those passages where Pandas makes it clear that ID does not require the supernatural. For more details on Pandas, see “Response to ACLU ID FAQ: Part 1” and “Intelligent Design will Survive Kitzmiller v. Dover.”

Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



Edward HumesKitzmiller v. Dover Area School DistrictMonkey Girl