Gross Error at the NY Times
There have been many misrepresentations of intelligent design in the media and much knocking down of straw men, but the Op-Ed piece by Verlyn Klinkenborg in the August 23, 2005 New York Times is perhaps the most egregious example, and I find it simply comical. He shows amazing ignorance of the intelligent design movement by stating that its proponents question the common scientific understanding of the age of the earth and the length of time life has appeared on it:
Nearly every attack on evolution - whether it is called intelligent design or plain creationism, synonyms for the same faith-based rejection of evolution - ultimately requires a foreshortening of cosmological, geological and biological time.
In fact, none of the leading proponents of intelligent design question the age of the earth or the length of time life has been on it- Not Dembski, not Meyer, not Behe, not Johnson. (Young earth creationists do, and this is one of the many differences between them and the ID folks.) But that is not what makes his error so remarkable. His gross misrepresentation of intelligent design was explicitly contradicted by a New York Times news article the day before, and he spends no less than eight paragraphs of his patronizing essay focusing on this issue.
But here is the greatest irony: the force of one of the leading arguments for intelligent design depends on a very old earth. One of the arguments that flows from the Cambrian Explosion in the fossil record is that life has been on earth for 3.5 billion years, yet nearly all the animal phyla and complex animal body plans "exploded" onto the scene in a relative geological moment of 5-10 million years (sometimes called "Biology's Big Bang"). That is .2% of the history of life on earth. This, of course, is not what Darwinian theory would predict. Shorten the 3.5 billion year part and the argument gets weaker, not stronger.
As noted, the critique based on the Cambrian Explosion appeared in a sidebar in the Times the day before. It was also the subject of the Meyer's article that lead to the Sternberg witch hunt at the Smithsonian.
It is becoming clearer and clearer that many of the people at the Times have not done any reading of the primary literature of the ID movement, and have no intention of doing so, or even informing themselves of the basics by taking a few minutes of web research, or even reading their own news articles. The former "paper of record" is fast becoming an excellent record of the way the Darwinian fundamentalists use ignorance, misrepresentation and obscurantism, either intentionally or through gross negligence, to further their cause.
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For a short summary of the peer-reviewed scientific literature on the Cambrian Explosion, go here.
For a less scholarly post on the Sternberg witch hunt and Monty Python, go here.
Post Note: The Klinkenborg article is, as of writing, the number five most emailed article at the Times over the last 7 days. Lots of people are being very misled, and, apparently, loving it.
Post Note 2: I did not even bother to refute his ridiculous statement that "intelligent design" and "creationism" are "synonyms." Many evolution advocates acknowledge very important differences. But this kind of misinformation is a very important tactic for the Darwinian fundamentalists, because they know they have a much easier time attacking traditional creationists. Why fight the real thing when your blissfully gullible readers are more than happy to let you fight a straw man?