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How Intelligent Design advocates turn the sordid lessons from Soviet and Nazi history upside down
By Wesley R. Elsberry and Mark Perakh
Posted April 20, 2004
- Wesley R. Elsberry and Mark Perakh, Introduction
- Wesley R. Elsberry, The Biologist's Tale: Where
Analogies to Lysenko Fail or The High Cost of Politically Sanctioned Biology
- Mark Perakh. Under the Party's Thumb: A Physicist's Memoir of Life Under Politically Sanctioned Science, or
Who Really Are More Like Stormtroopers?
- Wesley R.
Elsberry and Mark Perakh, Conclusion
Wesley R. Elsberry and Mark Perakh
"Intelligent design" is a form of
antievolution that is a proper subset of the openly religious forms of
creationism which have been popular in the USA for decades, dropping explicit
references to God in the hope that jurists will fail to notice the identity of
design" advocates (IDAs) are quick to cry "Foul!" when they find themselves at
the short end of a sharp piece of rhetoric. But they are just as quick
to use invidious comparisons that are intended to discomfit their critics. This
article documents several such cases. For example, the intelligent design advocate
William A. Dembski has compared biologists critical of "intelligent design" to
the former Soviet regime. Specifically, Dembski has compared his critics to Trofim Denisovich Lysenko and his cronies in
the Soviet hierarchy during Stalin's reign. Every reasonable person must take
umbrage at this comparison. We will present here views aimed at revealing the
insidious and underhanded nature of the attack made by Dembski and some of his
the part contributed by WRE approaches the matter from a standpoint of a
biologist offended by the preposterous comparisons of mainstream biologists to
Lysenko's cohorts who shamelessly suppressed genuine biological science, the
part contributed by MP draws on his personal experiences both in the Soviet
empire and with regard to the very similar totalitarian system maintained by
the Nazis in Germany. There are certain instructive redundancies in this
twice-told tale that indict IDAs who engage in casual, self-serving abuse of
Wesley R. Elsberry
An article by
Stephen Goode  reported William Dembski comparing the Fellows of the
Discovery Institute's Center of Science and Culture (CSC), (formerly the Center
for the Renewal of Science and Culture) to the freedom and democracy movement
in Eastern Europe, and the current evolutionary science to the former Soviet
Union. Specifically, the CSC Fellows allegedly resist the Darwinian
explanations in evolutionary biology as the Freedom movement resisted Soviet
hegemony in Europe.
reported analogy struck me as glib and self-serving, so I contacted Jay Wesley
Richards, the vice-president of the Discovery Institute and Senior Fellow of
its CSC, to ascertain whether any liberties had been taken in Goode's report of
Dembski's position. Although
Richards commended my hesitation to simply accept Goode's report at face value,
he confirmed that Dembski actually uses that analogy in his lectures, as do
others of the Fellows of the CSC.
is what Richards says about the matter (personal communication):
Dembski and many other design theorists do see Darwinian
evolutionary theory as a moribund 19th century intellectual enterprise. And,
like the Soviet Union, we predict that it will go belly up in what after the
fact will seem like a very short time. Dembski himself has said as much in
public lectures. (I should add, of course, that the point of the analogy is not
to call Darwinists 'communists' or some such thing. It is a
sociological observation about a seemingly invincible intellectual hegemony
which nevertheless collapsed quickly.)" [emphasis in original]
stated point of the analogy, alas, seems to get lost in transit, if Goode's
article is any guide to what listeners take away from these lectures. Goode
mention whatever of the demise of the Soviet system, and thus there is no
comparison to rapid collapse.
more recent appearance of the analogy is found in a book by William A. Dembski
"In the current intellectual
climate it is impossible to get a paper published in the peer-reviewed
biological literature that explicitly affirms intelligent design or explicitly
denies Darwinian and other forms of naturalistic evolution. Doubting Darwinian
orthodoxy is comparable to opposing the party line of a Stalinist regime. What
would you do if you were in Stalin's Russia and wanted to argue that Lysenko
was wrong? You might point to paradoxes and tensions in Lysenko's theory of
genetics, but you could not say that Lysenko was fundamentally wrong or offer
an alternative that clearly contradicted Lysenko. That's the situation we're
in. To get published in the peer-reviewed literature, design theorists have to
tread cautiously and can't be too up front about where their work is leading.
Indeed, that's why I was able to get The Design Inference published with
Cambridge University Press but not No Free Lunch, which was much more explicit
in its biological implications."
to Richards, this statement has nothing to do with projected rapidity of
collapse of the opposition.
Instead, it has everything to do with an invidious comparison between
biologists and the repressive former Soviet regime.
to Richards, the Soviet Union collapsed
suddenly, and the IDAs hope that Darwinian evolutionary theory will do
likewise. The former Soviet Union
defended its position against the challenge of the freedom and democracy
movement. Biologists defend their
position against the challenge of the IDAs. That is, Group A defended itself against criticism, and so
does Group B. By this token, the analogy could with equal
justice be reversed: evolutionary biologists criticize the IDAs, and then the
IDAs respond with Soviet-like defensiveness and will eventually crumple
with Soviet-like suddenness. The basis of Richards' analogy is extremely weak, as seen by the ease
with which the entities on one side may be exchanged.
we consider the less benign form of the analogy as deployed by Dembski, the IDAs represent the underdog anti-establishment
pitted against the implacable opposition of entrenched ideology. That looks just perfect to some
people. But it leaves out some
details, such as the many significant points of disanalogy. The Soviet Union
employed less than civil means of suppressing dissent, like exile,
imprisonment, torture, extortion, starvation, and assassination. Evolutionary biologists can hardly be
said to do the same in their defense.
Analogies that come loaded with such convenient polarizing baggage
should be justified in more detail or sharply delimited and qualified.
Soviets also provide us with an experiment in accepting a teleological
biology. We don't have to project
what wondrous advances might be made without the albatross of the biology of
the west; the Soviets were kind enough to try it out for us. This chapter of history tells us what
the consequences of politically mandated
biology really are like. We would
profit in learning from this lesson in history rather than re-living it for
ourselves. Dembski has apparently learned the name by which to reference this
episode of history, but has failed to take its meaning.
1925, the same year as our own Scopes trial,
a different kind of trial was beginning in the USSR. That was the year when a young Soviet biologist named Trofim
D. Lysenko graduated and set about making a career for himself. Unlike many of his peers, Lysenko was
politically astute and had a feel for what those in power wanted to hear. Lysenko began a campaign to purify
Soviet biology and remove traces of bourgeois science. That meant that chance-based and
capitalist-inspired doctrines like Morganism, Mendelism, and Weismannism had to
go. And go they did, sometimes by
the expedient of denying research in that vein, but also by exiling or executing those researchers with the bad
fortune to use such principles in their studies. Lysenko became director of the Institute of Genetics of the
USSR Academy of Sciences in 1940 and retained that post until 1965. Lysenko was also head of the Lenin
Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
Lysenko's career included having the favor of Stalin during Stalin's
rule but also having the flexibility to survive
political change at the top.
one might ask what sort of research occurred under the leadership of
Lysenko. Lysenko preferred a
teleological approach to biology called Michurinism, which had much overlap with the ideas of the French zoologist
Jean Baptist de Lamarck. In
particular, Lysenko asserted that "vernalization" of wheat, a process
that helps deal with short growing seasons, could be made into an inherited
character via a Lamarckian process. Many consecutive five-year plans for agriculture were based on
Lysenko's favored approach. Many
of these resulted in abject failure.
The whole concept of centralized five-year plans became an object of
derision here in the west, where the term "five-year plan" became
synonymous with "blueprint for failure", but Lysenko's political
savvy kept him in place and in power until the 1960's. After decades of crop
failures and widespread food shortages, the Soviets had had enough. Lysenko was
out, and suddenly non-Lysenkoist biologists were yanked out of cold storage in
Siberia to get back to work. But it was hard to turn around over a generation
of mismanagement and pseudoscience, and the Soviets paid for their long
experiment in politically determined biology with
continued dependence on foreign food and discontent over food shortages at
home. The Cold War was waged in terms of economics, and the legacy of
Lysenkoism had but one positive outcome: it hastened the collapse of the Soviet
regime which had adopted and nurtured it.
Lysenko's legacy might produce something of value, if only we have the wisdom
to get the message. The Discovery
Institute's CSC Fellows have been assiduously promoting "Intelligent
Design" as a cure-all for biological science. While some small effort has
gone into developing academic support for ID, the majority of the effort
appears to go into various political maneuvers. This should hardly come as a surprise, since the Discovery
Institute's mission is political action on a variety of fronts. Biology decreed by political mandate,
whether through appeal to a central party elite or through appeal to democratic
populism, is bad biology. As the
Soviets learned, bad biology has a high price tag. Let us hope that the
consumers of the west will have the good sense to read the reviews of
politically sponsored science and not actually have to buy it before realizing
that it's a lemon.
ideas have undergone severe scientific test and review over the past one
hundred forty years. The theories
have changed, adapted, evolved since Darwin's time to better fit the observed
reality of living organisms. The insights of the Modern Synthesis have produced positive results in
epidemiology, evolutionary medicine, medical research, and agriculture. We can
even see the benefit of Darwinian views of evolution in the field of computer
science, where researchers and engineers use "evolutionary
computation" to accomplish difficult tasks in optimization and
design. One thing that we know is
true about Darwinian evolutionary theory is that it works.
the other hand, the "Intelligent Design" pushed by the IDAs has yet
to produce even one hypothesis that has undergone a field test, much less any hypotheses that have withstood empirical research. There is nothing to suggest that any such
hypothesis based upon ID will be forthcoming in the future. Indeed, even Trofim
Lysenko was one-up on the IDAs, since he at least had a hypothesis to
test. His hypothesis turned out to
be false, and his methods of research were appalling, but Lysenko put forward
an actual testable hypothesis.
Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture is an extraordinarily
well-funded interest group that spends freely on publicity and whose paid
Fellows travel frequently for talks and meetings. I would suggest to the Fellows of the Discovery Institute's CSC
that they cut the travel budget by half and use the money saved to fund a pilot
study to develop, research, and test at least one scientific hypothesis based
upon Intelligent Design. It
doesn't have to be as ambitious or potentially useful as inducing the inheritance of vernalization in wheat. It just needs to provide an example of
how Intelligent Design can produce good empirical science in one of the fields
of study where the IDAs claim that current evolutionary theory is impeding
research. Given the demanding
lecture schedule that many of the Fellows seem to keep, this tactic would likely
result in better funding than is available in the typical start-up National
Science Foundation grant. The CSC
Fellows might even write up such a proposal for the Discovery Institute in the
form of a five-year plan.
The Intelligent Design advocates regularly resort to
comparing their pro-evolution opponents to Nazis, Soviet Communists and the
like, while depicting themselves as fighters for freedom of expression and of
unbiased exploration of reality.
short collection of such venomous verbal protuberances emitted by the ID
generals, has, for example, been presented on a website . We find on this website quoted
utterances by ID advocates Phillip E. Johnson, William A. Dembski, Stephen S.
Meyer, Jonathan Wells, Mark Hartwig, and John Calvert who compare their
opponents either to the Nazis or to the Soviet communists.
is one example from that collection.
the report about a meeting in Ohio on March 11, 2002, where ID advocates
Jonathan Wells and Stephen S. Meyer encountered opponents of ID Kenneth R.
Miller and Lawrence Krauss, Wells writes,
in private, Steve Meyer kept repeating Miller's pompous declaration with a
heavy German accent, sounding for all the world like Heinrich Himmler,
Hitler's propaganda chief." .
statement, besides its low taste and rudeness, reveals how poorly the ID
advocates are equipped to make such comparisons. Heinrich Himmler had little to
do with the Nazi propaganda machine; he was the head of SS (often referred to
by a slightly misleading term of stormtroopers ) and of the Gestapo,
the dreaded secret police; Hitler's propaganda chief was Joseph Goebbels.
the ID advocates are fond of wrapping themselves in togas of alleged
impartiality and honest pursuit for truth, in fact it is they whose behavior is
often redolent of that by the suppressors of biological science in the former
USSR, or by the Nazis.
Bits of a personal experience
I have lived through the years of the Soviet regime and was
myself a victim of its repression.
system of government in the former USSR was officially based on the so-called
Marxism-Leninism. Of course, the bloody upheaval of 1917 in Russia, although
proclaimed to follow the teachings of Marx and Engels, had in fact almost
nothing in common with the blueprint provided in the writing of these founders
of Marxism. Likewise, the extreme form of a monopolistic state capitalism which
was built in the USSR under the deceptive label of socialism, had little
resemblance to Marx-Engels's prescriptions. However, the ideology of
Marxism-Leninism was ostensibly upheld in the USSR very much like a godless
religion. No critique of its officially approved tenets was tolerated. It
required worship in whose rituals every citizen was forced to participate.
such ritual demanded that every member of the
"intelligentsia" endlessly study "Marxism-Leninism." In particular, the people
possessing higher education diplomas and scientific degrees were forced to study, along with their regular work as teachers,
scientists, physicians, or engineers, in the so-called Evening Universities
took these courses in the early
fifties. Although I completed the studies with the highest grades, the result
was contrary to the goals of the indoctrination -- I did not become an adherent
of Marxism -- in fact the opposite was true. However, I may claim that I have a reasonable knowledge of Marxism in all of its
my experience both with Marxism and with the realities of the Soviet system, I
can assert that in the dispute between the Intelligent Design advocates and
their opponents, including pro-evolution scientists, it is ID advocates whose
behavior is reminiscent of the oppressive Soviet regime. Indeed, the Soviet
oppressive system worked under a decorum of a dogmatic religious-like
conceptual set, which was very similar to the attitude of the ID advocates who,
sometimes surreptitiously, but often explicitly, base their attitude on an
inherently anti-scientific commitments (see, for example, Phillip Johnson's The
Wedge of Truth , or part 3
in William Dembski's Intelligent Design ). Like the Soviet satraps,
the ID advocates often demonize their opponents, not shying away from ad
hominem attacks, rude derision, misquotations and outright distortions (as
I will demonstrate by quotations a few lines down).
How ID advocates
use the ghost of Lysenko
Since the dispute between the ID advocates and their
opponents often narrows to the biological problems, they frequently invoke the
image of Trofim Denisovich Lysenko whose long reign in the Soviet agriculture
is allegedly an analog to the Darwinian "officially established" dogma reigning
in the mainstream biology. In his book  William Dembski wrote,
"Doubting Darwinian orthodoxy is comparable to opposing the party line of a Stalinist regime. What would you do if you were in Stalin's Russia and wanted to argue that Lysenko was wrong? You might point to paradoxes and tensions in Lysenko's theory of genetics, but you could not say that Lysenko was fundamentally wrong or offer an alternative that clearly contradicted Lysenko. That's the situation we're in."
in the case of Wells talking about Himmler, this quotation also reveals the
actual dismal level of Dembski's knowledge of the subject he discusses. If Dembski thinks that Lysenko's opponents were
allowed to "point to paradoxes and tensions in Lysenko's theories of genetics,"
he has very little understanding of the situation in the USSR at the time of
Lysenko's reign. Any utterance which would fall short of an unbounded
admiration of Lysenko's pseudo-theories would result in immediate severe punishment,
not to mention any attempts at even an extremely mild and cautious critique of
any elements of Lysenkoism.
does Dembski see any similarity between the merciless persecution of biologists
in Stalin's USSR and the critique of the ID theories by their opponents? Are
the ID advocates really muzzled by officialdom? Are they not publishing their
numerous opuses day in and day out, unrestricted and unrestrained? Are they
arrested? Exiled? Executed?
the above quotation where Dembski compares the ID advocates to the biologists
in Stalin's USSR is ironic because, in fact, Lysenko's ideas had little in
common with Darwinian theories. Many elements
of Lysenko's pseudo-biology were Lamarckian. Lysenko's theory carried
the label of a Michurinian biology, after a Russian self-educated selectionist
Ivan Michurin. Michurin was known for developing several hybrid brands of fruit
but not for any scientific work. Lysenkoism was completely inimical to the
neo-Darwinian synthesis, very much like the modern ID advocates' views are. The
label of Morganist-Mendelist-Weissmannist had all the connotations of anathema
pronounced by church leaders in regard to excommunicated apostates. The
anti-Lysenkoist stand of the ID advocates is therefore ludicrous given the
similarity of their denial of Darwinian biology to the denial of the
neo-Darwinian synthesis by the Lysenkoists.
Although I am not a professional biologist, I happened to be
rather close to the events related to Lysenko's rise to power and to the
destruction of the biological sciences in the USSR under his leadership, and I
can attest that the very behavior of ID advocates is often reminiscent of that
by Lysenko and the rulers of the USSR.
the World War 2 I lived in the city of Odessa, in the Ukraine. There was at
that time in Odessa a Children's Biological Station, located close to the
Arcadia suburb. It was a fine educational institution with two divisions, one
botanical/agricultural, and the other zoological. Kids from 8 to 16 could come over at any time and conduct
simple biological experiments, under supervision of several instructors, in a
small zoo, terrarium or aquarium, or in the several hectares of fields adjacent
to the station. I used to come to the station where I conducted experiments,
some with fish mimicry, and in some others attempting to hybridize peanuts with
various other plants (I was 12 at that time and the experiments did not have
such a comic sound as they have from the standpoint
of my present age). I did not become a professional biologist (which I might
have if the war did not interfere in June of 1941 and force me to pursue a very
different path), but I have preserved a fascination with biology.
those years, Lysenko was not yet the omnipotent president of the Academy of
Agricultural Sciences in Moscow, but only the director of the Institute of
Agrobiology in Odessa. Even in this capacity, he was already a very powerful
figure in the Soviet hierarchy. His theory of "Yarovization" (i.e. of vernalization)
of winter crops was already much acclaimed by the docile Soviet press. His
institute has experimental fields next to the Children's Biological Station. On
a few occasions Lysenko happened to walk in the vicinity of our Station. I
remember his somber looks, piercing eyes in a bony, sharp-nosed peasant face,
and the obvious discomfort our instructors experienced when seeing the
unfriendly Academician reviewing his possessions.
jump over almost twenty years, to the early fifties, when the destruction of
the Soviet biological science was nearly complete. At that time I was a docent
(the equivalent of an associate professor rank in the US) at an Institute in
Stalinabad (now Dushanbe), the capital of Tajikistan (now an independent
country, but at that time a part of the USSR). Our institute included an engineering school where I taught
physics (and occasionally mathematical physics), as well as a school of
agriculture, and a school of animal husbandry. I had many acquaintances and
some friends among the faculty of these two schools. Many of them came to
Stalinabad/Dushanbe after being kicked out from universities and research
institutes in the Ukraine and central Russia.
was well aware of the preceding events of 1948 when Lysenko, who enjoyed direct
support from Stalin, eliminated most of the prominent biologists and became an
omnipotent viceroy in charge of biological science in the USSR. I learned
firsthand the ugly stories of my colleagues' persecution. These persecutions
did not stop when these biologists found what at first seemed to be a haven in
the remote mountainous country of Tajikistan. It was a very depressing picture
of these fine scientists being subjected to continuous denunciations, verbal
assaults, derision, and ultimately to dismissal from their positions for
allegedly adhering to the "bourgeois pseudo-science of
Mendelism-Morganism-Weissmannism." Jews were subjected to especially severe
treatment, mostly resulting at best in their dismissal and at worst in arrests.
I was not a biologist, the vigilant KGB found a way to get to me as well. In
1958 I was arrested, convicted by a kangaroo court of "anti-Soviet propaganda"
and sent to a Siberian prison camp. In the prison camp I met many outstanding
writers, scientists, artists, and engineers. We discussed the oppressive and
repressive system in the USSR, the stifling atmosphere of one-party control,
the atrocities of the KGB and many other subjects, so that every participant in
those discussions acquired an immense amount of knowledge far exceeding the
individual experience of a single person.
what about the comparison of their opponents to Nazis, stormtroopers, Goebbels
(or Himmler) and the like, to which the ID advocates resort along with the
comparison to Lysenko and the Soviet oppressive system? 
1941, when I was 16, I volunteered to fight the Nazi assault on Russia. In the
immediate aftermath of the war I served in the Soviet Zone of Occupation in
Germany. In the mess that followed the fierce battles of the war, piles of
German documents, letters, old newspapers etc. lay around here and there. Being
fluent in German, I spent many hours inspecting these documentary remnants of
the monstrous Nazi regime. I was struck by the amazing similarity of the Nazi
propagandistic language and ritualistic behavior to those of the Soviet
authorities. Often, just replacing the name of Hitler with that of Stalin would make a document perfectly
suitable for use in the USSR.
My experience shows clearly that behavior and methods of
dispute of the ID advocates are much closer to the
behavior of Lysenkoists, Soviet authorities, or Nazis, than is the behavior of
illustrate my claim, let us review certain facts. I'll now look at two features
of both groups' behavior. One feature is how the disputants speak about
themselves, and the other feature is how they speak about their opponents.
How ID advocates
speak about themselves
In a blurb on the dust cover of Dembski's book Intelligent
Design, Rob Koons, who is a professor of philosophy at a Texas University,
writes, "William Dembski is the Isaac Newton of information theory, and since
this is the Age of Information, this makes Dembski one of the most important
thinkers of our time." . Reportedly, Koons repeated the same accolade at a
conference at Calvin college a few years later.
an introductory note to Dembski's The Design Inference another
anti-Darwinist, and a writer of popular books on mathematics, David Berlinski
praises Dembski's work in similar superlative terms .
Behe, a biochemist acclaimed by the ID advocates as a pioneer in the modern
revival of the ID concept, in the foreword  to Dembski's Intelligent
Design, dabbles in prophecies predicting the triumph of the ID which will
occur thanks to Dembski's great insights. He writes, "...[U]ntil Dembski,
thinking about how we detect design was like writing before the alphabet or
calculating before Arabic numerals." (page 9). On page 12 he adds, "I expect
that in the decades ahead we will see the contingent aspects of nature steadily
shrink. And through all of this work we will make our judgments about design
and contingency on the theoretical foundation of Bill Dembski's work."
supporter of the ID movement, Charles Colson seems to be especially fond of the
epithet "brilliant" regarding the literary output of the ID advocates. In a
blurb on the cover of Phillip Johnson's Defeating Darwinism by
Opening Minds, Colson asserts that Johnson's analysis is "brilliant" .
In a foreword to William Dembski's book titled The Design Revolution,
Colson again uses the same epithet, telling the readers that Dembski is a
"brilliant thinker." .
a blurb for Dembski's No Free Lunch, Andrew Ruys of Australia,
who is introduced as a "Queen Elizabeth II fellow in bioceramic engineering"
refers to Dembski's "formidable intellect." . As Ruys tell us, Dembski's law of conservation of
information has implications "which are revolutionary in their significance for
the study of life sciences in the new millennium." It looks like the ID advocates and friends are loath to
speak in terms of periods of time shorter than millennia. For Ruys, Koons, and
their fellow travelers, the devastating critiques of Dembski's alleged law of
conservation of information from a number of scientists seems to have left no
impression on them, so, instead of giving a thought to the critique, they
prefer to indulge in a much more pleasant mutual admiration which often segues
Budziszewski, a philosopher at the university of Texas and of course a fellow
of the Discovery institute, in a blurb for Dembski's Intelligent
Design predicts that "the toppling of the Berlin wall will be small in
comparison with the impending demolition of scientific naturalism." . Who
or what will actualize such a demolition? The work of Dembski, of course, which
Budziszewski is pleased "to extol." Again, the ID advocates are not content
with viewing their impending achievements as simply certain steps in the
development of philosophy or science -- their alleged breakthroughs are always
on a par with the revolutionary historical events.
many of the ID advocates do not shy away from self-praise. In William Dembski's
early publication , he already compares himself to Kant and Copernicus. In Intelligent
Design and The Design Inference, Dembski uses expressions such as
"having profound significance for science" when referring to his own ideas. He
is not stymied by the obvious puffery of his statements wherein he asserts that
his concept has an "enormous advantage" over existing ideas.
provides another example of self-admiration. In Darwin's Black Box
(page 232-233) Behe writes that study of cells has led to indisputable proofs
of design, and that this discovery "...[m]ust be ranked as one of the greatest
achievements in the history of science. The discovery rivals those of Newton
and Einstein, Lavoisier and Schroedinger, Pasteur, and Darwin." . Since his concept of "irreducible
complexity" is presented by Behe as the most decisive proof of design on
molecular level, it makes his claim to sound as an unfettered self-praise.
challenge the ID advocates to quote legitimate scientists ever using such
self-aggrandizing puffery. In the scientific literature such an exaggerated
praise of achievements of colleagues is unheard of, not to mention a scientist
explicitly praising himself or comparing himself to Newton or Einstein.
these displays of memberships in mutual admiration clubs as well as of the self-admiration
sound very familiar if we recall both the Soviet and the Nazi propaganda.
the early fifties Stalin decided that Russian "patriotism" (read: chauvinism)
generously sprinkled with anti-Semitism would be a more potent force than
internationalism. One of the results of that decision was a nauseating
explosion of books, articles, lectures, etc., full of exaggerated acclaims of
everything Russian. Textbooks were re-written (as the ID advocates urge us to
do with biology textbooks) wherein the names of Western scientists and
inventors were replaced with the names of hitherto unknown Russians who
supposedly preceded the Westerners in every field of science and technology.
For example, it was claimed that Lavoisier's law in chemistry was in fact discovered
by Mikhailo Lomonosov, the steam engine was invented not by James Watt but by
Ivan Polzunov, the radio invented not by Guglielmo Marconi but by Ivan Popov,
the first airplane built not by the Wright brothers but by Alexandr Mozhajski,
and even that Achilles of Greece was a Russian Prince! The endless stream of books was full of
unlimited praise for incomparable virtues of the Russian culture and great
genius of its practitioners, in terms similar to those used by ID advocates.
(The real great contribution of Russian culture, including science, to the
mankind requires no proof; the appalling feature of the described propaganda
campaign was in its unbounded exaggeration.)
similar picture emerges if we review the main features of Nazism. Like
communists whose Bible was the writing of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, the Nazis
had their own Bible -- Mein Kampf by Hitler plus a number of lesser
sacred texts such as the racist opuses by Alfred Rosenberg. Like ID, Nazism was
inherently anti-science. The Nazis denounced, for example, Einstein's
relativity theory as a "Jewish pseudo-science." A prominent physicist, Nobel
laureate of 1905, Philip Eduard Anton Lenard, who was a devout Nazi, vigorously
denied the validity of relativity theory only because it seemed to be contrary
to his religion which was Nazism.
official Nazi philosophy included the concept of the inherent superiority of
the so called Aryan people to whom civilization owes all its achievements
(sounds familiar if we recall the Russian priority campaign in the USSR, does
it not?). The German nation was officially proclaimed to be the most authentic
incarnation of these mythical Aryans, and everything German was acclaimed in
superlative terms very much like the ID advocates incessantly praise themselves
and their colleagues. Their opponents never do so. Neither do legitimate
scientists in general.
from the viewpoint of how each group speaks of itself, it is the ID advocates
who behave in a way similar to the Soviet communists and the Nazis, the two
groups sent to the ash heap of history.
How ID advocates
speak of their opponents
Phillip Johnson is considered the leader of the ID
movement. The notorious "Wedge" document is usually attributed mainly to him
. Johnson's books and articles are vivid examples of the manner the ID
advocates treat their opponents. Perhaps the most amusing example of the ID
advocates' attitude to anybody who is not within their ranks is found in
Johnson's book The Wedge of Truth, where (page 92) he pronounces his
verdict on some statement by Einstein, asserting that Einstein "was apparently
unaware that his own statement was both immodest and
hardly matters which statement by Einstein is Johnson referring to. Johnson
teaching Einstein modesty and logic -- a really fantastic picture. The Russians
have an adage for such occurrences -- they call it a dream of a gray mare.
Throughout Johnson's books we encounter time and time again derision in its
utmost rude form when he refers to scientists. "Wild nonsense" is his favorite
epithet regarding the views of biologists and computer scientists (see, for example,
page 74 in Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds ).
is not far behind Johnson. For example, in his replies  to Richard Wein's
and Erik Tellgren's critiques  of Dembski's No Free Lunch (critiques
which, in reasonably polite and restrained
language, pointed to faults in Dembski's use of the No Free Lunch theorems of
Wolpert and Macready  and of his "law of the conservation of information")
Dembski resorts to language which would be more suitable to an exchange of insults between
members of rival mafia families. In his
response to Wein, Dembski repeats several times the word "rubbish" in regard to
Wein's arguments. A closer look at Dembski's opus reveals the paucity of real
argumentation which therefore is replaced with irrelevant references to Wein's
having no advanced degrees. In his response to Tellgren, Dembski refers to
Erik's mathematical analysis which reveals inconsistencies in Dembski's logic,
as "ugly mathematics." I believe
this telltale expression alone deprives Dembski of the right to the title of a
recently, Dembski published  a critical review of an article by Nicholas
Matzke . At least 1/3 of that review is an irrelevant discussion of
Matzke's education, affiliation and pen names. Based on these data, Dembski
asserts that Matzke is allegedly not qualified to tackle the topic of his
article -- the scenarios for the evolution of a bacterial flagellum. Dembski
seems not to notice the irony of his argument -- he himself is not a biologist but nevertheless endeavors
disputing arguments of professional biologists. Look, for example, at Dembski's
(see Dembski's No Free Lunch) of the probability of the flagellum chance
generation, which is based entirely on a scenario no biologist ever suggested
Many more rude personal assaults
displaying Dembski's unfounded contempt of his opponents are scattered through
Dembski's extensive literary output.
The Soviet and Nazi
propaganda, while being implacable enemies of each other, used very similar
both the Soviet and the Nazi propaganda machines facts were of no interest.
Their goal was to brainwash rather than to find the truth, and one of the tools
of both propaganda machines was throwing mud on everybody who was not promoting
their line. In the early fifties, the common phrase the Soviet propaganda used
when mentioning Harry S Truman, was "The drummer of war." Konrad Adenauer was a
"warmonger and revanchist." The biologists in the USSR who did not
enthusiastically shout pro-Lysenkoist mantras, were denounced as adherents of
the false theories of Mendel, Morgan and Weissmann, and the style of those
denunciations abounded in derogatory terms and rude personal insults.
propaganda had its own versions of derogatory labels. The Western democracies
were "Jewish-Capitalist entities." Name-calling was the permanent feature of
both the Soviet and the Nazi disinformation machine.
is hard to find in the scientific literature, as well as in sources critical of
the ID theories, rude personal attacks or ad-hominem remarks. They happen but are exceptions. Such
remarks, though, are a staple in the pro-ID literature.
example, in the same report  where Wells referred to Himmler as "propaganda
chief," we find the following statement,
"Although I felt afterwards (as
I usually do after dealing with people like Krauss and Miller) that I needed a
the Soviet communists and the Nazis widely used cartoons where whoever they
chose to claim to be their enemies were depicted as ugly creatures whose very
looks were designed to invoke an extremely negative image of the objects of
their attack. Perhaps especially ugly were the Nazi cartoons showing
curve-nosed Jews drinking blood of their gentile victims, and committing other equally
disgusting deeds. When Wells writes that after meeting Miller and Krauss he
needs to take shower, it is an equivalent of those Nazi and Soviet cartoons
except that this time the picture is in words rather than in graphics.
Not all ID advocates
resort to the explicit name-calling and verbal abuse of their opponents, and
those who do are not always so ill-spoken. However, ugly examples are by no
mean uncommon in the ID advocates' output.
How tolerant are ID
advocates and their opponents?
Two main tools of the Soviet communists were the
informational vacuum in which they kept the people and the merciless hand of
the Cheka, GPU, NKVD, MVD, MGB, and finally the KGB -- as the apparatus of
intimidation and persecution was sequentially renamed during the seventy-three
years of the communist rule. The Nazis ruled for a much shorter time, and their
apparatus of suppression never developed to such an omnipresence as the KGB
enjoyed, but the Gestapo and other security branches of the Nazi machine were
every bit as merciless as their communist counterparts. The slightest expression
of discontent was immediately crushed so no voices of anti-Nazi or anti-Soviet
feelings or views had a chance to be heard.
now at the situation in the ID-related controversy.
ID advocates have conducted several meetings of their adherents, such as the
"Mere Creation" conference at Biola university in 1996 , and similar events
elsewhere. Not a single voice of the ID opponents was allowed to be heard at
those events. Moreover, anyone not explicitly belonging to the ID society of
mutual admiration had a hard time trying just to attend the ID advocates
meetings as listeners. To have access to the
ID advocates' meetings, one must share their philosophy and religious
The behavior of the
opponents of the ID is different. Here are just a few examples. Michael Behe,
the originator of the "irreducible complexity" concept, repeatedly repudiated
by the ID opponents, was scheduled to give a talk at the Science and
Religion meeting in Atlanta, GA in November 2001. The meeting was organized
by the CSICOP (The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the
Paranormal) which is squarely on the side of the ID opponents . Behe did
not show up, but this was not the meeting organizers' fault. Some other
CSICOP's opponents (such as Owen Gingerich) gave their talks, unfettered by the
conference organizers and the audience. William Dembski, one of the leading
figures in the ID movement, together with another prominent member of the ID
group, Paul Nelson, were invited to talk at the World Skeptics meeting in Burbank, CA in June 2002 (and they
did talk there). Unlike the gatherings of the ID proponents, no ID advocate was
ever prohibited from attending the meetings of their opponents.
In the thick anthology edited by Robert T. Pennock,
 who is a known ID's opponent, there are reproduced, along with articles by
many ID opponents, also numerous articles by Alvin Plantinga, William Dembski,
Phillip Johnson and other ID adherents. Another anthology, Science and
Religion: Are They Compatible?  edited by Paul Kurtz, who is a
prominent figure in the Skeptic and Rationalist movement, includes Dembski's
presentation to the meeting in Burbank despite the absence of substance in that
piece of sheer polemics. The ID advocates never published an anthology
containing a single article by their opponents.
ID advocates have no Gestapo or KGB at their disposal, so they can't muzzle
their opponents as the Nazis and the Soviet communists did. However, as becomes
clear from their publications (see, for example Johnson's Darwin on Trial
), putting their opponents on trial (whose outcome -- a verdict of guilty -
would be easily predictable) is the ID advocates' sweetest dream.
more could be said about the tolerance and behavior of ID advocates and their
opponents. The readers can decide themselves who are more like the stormtroopers
in the dispute between the ID advocates and their opponents.
Dembski expanded his collection of alleged prototypes of vicious Darwinists,
this time comparing evolutionary biologists to the judges at the Salem witch
trials who sentenced people to death despite being aware of their innocence .)
How ID advocates
predict the future
Both the Soviet communists and the Nazis were fond of
claiming the imminent total victory of their "revolutions." Likewise, the writings of the ID
advocates abound in such claims, asserting the inevitable collapse of the
theory of evolution and the rapidly approaching complete victory of their ID
concept, and often even announcing, in fits of self-admiration, that their
revolution has already vanquished their opponents, that evolution is a dead (or
dying) theory, etc. It is worth remembering that claims of the imminent death
of Darwinism have been constantly and triumphantly announced by
anti-evolutionists of various brands during all those over 140 years since The
Origin of Species was first published. Nevertheless, evolution theory is
not only alive and well, but the evidence supporting it constantly grows,
buttressing its profound theoretical insights.
his latest book titled The Design Revolution  Dembski
maintains that the critique of his work is just what all geniuses and
innovators have always been subjected to by the orthodox priesthood of the
established science. He claims with an amusing aplomb that his intelligent
design theory will inevitably and soon lead to a revolution in which science
will be completely overhauled according to his and his cohorts' ideas. Well,
let us wait and see. To my mind, Dembski and Company's epochal revolution in
science more reasonably can be expected to result in their landing in the same
ash heap of history where the theories of phlogiston, caloric fluid, vitalism ,
and other discarded concepts already reside. A consolation for Dembski and Friends will perhaps be that they
will have company of such great thinkers and discoverers as Velikovsky and
Wesley R. Elsberry and Mark Perakh
Our culture appreciates rhetoric and wit and cheers on even those
we disagree with if they but express themselves well. But in trying to paint an
unappealing picture of biologists as oppressors of truth, certain "intelligent
design" advocates have indulged in unseemly polemics when they liken biologists
to Trofim D. Lysenko and his comrades or to the
Nazis. The lessons to be learned from actual knowledge of Lysenko's
career and the subservience of science to politics in the Soviet Union and Nazi
Germany should give pause to those enamored of "intelligent design." The costs of politicized science are high, both
in terms of economics at the scale of nations (reflected in the long-term food
shortages that the people of the Soviet Union endured) and in the personal
equations of lives taken or grossly and unjustly disrupted in the dubious
pursuit of purity of policy in science.
We would like to thank Matt Young, Brendan McKay, Paul R.
Gross, Nicholas J. Matzke, and Glenn Branch for their comments on the draft of
 Stephen Goode, April 19, 1999, "Scientists find evidence of
God," Insight on the News. http://www.arn.org/docs/insight499.htm, last
 William Dembski. The
Design Revolution. (Downers
Grove, Ill. InterVarsity Press, 2004): 302-303.
 Quotations illustrating the penchant of ID advocates to
compare their opponents to Nazis and Soviet communists can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/g384.
 This quotation from Jonathan Wells's report can be seen
 Hitler's Nazi party (its official full name was National
Socialist German Workers Party) had several militarized wings. One of them
(often referred to as Brown Shirts) was the SA (Sturm Abteilungen, i.e. "Storm
Detachments") notorious for vicious violence against the Party's adversaries;
it was prominent in the early years of the Nazi's rise to power; its members
are properly called stormtroopers. Many of them, including their chief
Ernst Röhm, who could become a potential rival to Hitler, were murdered on
Hitler's order in 1934. The other was the SS (Schutzstaffeln, i.e.
"Guard Echelons") also referred to as Black Shirts, whose role and influence
greatly exceeded that of the SA after the Nazis took power; their chief was
Heinrich Himmler; they committed unspeakable atrocities in the countries
occupied by the German army in 1940-1945; although they were not the proper
"stormtroopers," sometimes this label is metaphorically extended to them as
 Phillip E. Johnson, The Wedge Of Truth (Downers
Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2000).
 William A. Dembski. Intelligent Design: The Bridge
Between Science and Theology. (Downers Grove, Ill.:
InterVarsity Press, 1999).
 Rob Koons.
The blurb on the dust cover of William A. Dembski, Intelligent Design: The
Bridge Between Science and Theology. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity
 David Berlinski. Introductory note to
William Dembski's The Design Inference (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1998); the page has no number.
 Michael J. Behe, "Foreword," in William A.
Dembski, Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science &
Theology, (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1999).
 Charles Colson, the blurb on the cover of
Phillip E. Johnson, Defeating Darwinism By Opening Minds (Downers
Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1997).
 Charles Colson. Foreword to William A.
Dembski, The Design Revolution, (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2004). Here is the
quotation from Colson's foreword (p.17): "Dembski is a pioneer and a brilliant
thinker who is making a tremendous mark."
 Andrew Ruys, the blurb for William A.
Dembski, No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased
Without Intelligence (Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002).
 J. Budziszewski, the blurb for William A.
Dembski, Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science And Theology
(Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsiy Press, 1999).
 William A. Dembski, 1991. "Randomness by Design", http://www.designinference.com/documents/2002.09.rndmnsbydes.pdf , accessed on June 3, 2003.
Michael J. Behe, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge To Evolution,
Simon and Schuster, 1996).
 Barbara Forrest. "The Wedge
At Work: How Intelligent Design Creationism Is Wedging Its Way into the Cultural and
Academic Mainstream." In Robert T.
Pennock, ed., Intelligent Design and Its
Critics: Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001). Also,
see Brian Spitzer, "The Truth, the Whole Truth, and
Nothing But the Truth?" at www.talkreason.org/articles/honesty.cfm where the biologist and believing Christian Spitzer thoroughly documents numerous
distortions, misquotations and misrepresentations of the opponents' views
typical of the literary production of Phillip Johnson (posted on August 4, 2002,
accessed on October 3, 2003).
 Phillip E. Johnson. Defeating Darwinism By Opening Minds.(Downers
Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1997).
 William A.
Dembski, "Obsessively Criticized But Scarcely Refuted: A
Response To Richard Wein." www.designinference.com/documents/05.02.resp_to_wein.htm; Dembski, "The
Fantasy Life of Richard Wein: A Response to Response." www.designinference.com/documents/2002.6WeinsFantasy.htm, accessed
on December 26, 2002; Dembski,
"If Only Darwinists
Scrutinized Their Own Work as Closely: A Response To Erik." www.designinference.com/documents/2002.08.Erik_Response.htm. Accessed on
January 16, 2003.
 Richard Wein. "Not a Free Lunch But a Box of
Chocolate." www.talkreason.org/articles/choc_nfl.cfm, posted on May 6, 2002, accessed on
October 3, 2003; Wein, "Response? What Response? How Dembski Avoided
Addressing My Arguments." www.talkreason.org/articles/response.cfm, posted
on May 27, 2002, accessed on October 3, 2003; Erik Tellgren. "On
Law Of Conservation Of Information." www.talkreason.org/articles/dembski_LCI.pdf. Posted on June 30, 2002, accessed on October 3, 2003. (The byline of this essay contains only Tellgren's
 David H. Wolpert and William G. Macready. 1997. "The No Free Lunch
Theorems For Optimization." IEEE Trans. Evol. Comp. v.1, no 1,
 William Dembski.
"Biology in the Subjunctive Mood: A Response to Nicholas
Dated Nov. 11, 2003.
 Nicholas J. Matzke. "Evolution in the (Brownian)
space: a model for the origin
of bacterial flagellum." www.talkreason.org/articles/flagellum.cfm, posted on Oct.
11, 2003, updated on Nov. 10, 2003 (actually posted on Nov. 12, 2003).
(Nicholas J. Matzke, a long-time follower of the evolution/ID debate,
has a double
B.S. in biology and chemistry. After earning his Master's degree in
geography, he painstakingly reviewed every recent scientific publication
to the evolutionary origin of the bacterial flagellum. The flagellum is
the IDA's favorite example of
"irreducible complexity," the evolution of which is supposed
to be impossible or wildly unlikely. Matzke carefully synthesized the data to
produce a detailed model for how the flagellum originated. Matzke's article was
thoroughly discussed and highly acclaimed by many experts in the
 For the proceedings of the
1996 conference at Biola university -- see Dembski,
ed. Mere Creation (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity
 Paul Kurtz, ed. Science And Religion: Are They
Compatible? (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books).
 Robert T. Pennock, ed. Intelligent Design and Its
Critics: Philosophical, Theological, And Scientific Perspectives.(Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press, 2001).
 Phillip E, Johnson. Darwin on Trial. (Downers Grove,
Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1993 ).
 The comparison of
evolutionary biologists to Salem judges is found in William
Dembski's foreword to a book by Geoffrey Simmons titled What
Darwin Did Not Know, Harvest House Publishers 2004 (this foreword can be seen at http://www.arn.org/docs2/news/Dembski013004.htm)
. As is often the case with Dembski's invidious comparisons, he seems not to realize that
for an unbiased reader Salem judges appear in fact like
spiritual twins of Dembski and his cohorts rather than of biologists. Indeed,
Salem judges were religious zealots as Dembski and his friends essentially are. That
the characterization of Dembski as a religious zealot is not just an arbitrary
asseveration can be seen for example, from what Dembski said in his lecture on March
7, 2004 in the Fellowship Baptist Church (in Waco, Tx): "I
think at a fundamental level, in terms of what drives me in this is that I think God's
glory is being robbed by these naturalistic approaches to biological evolution, creation,
the origin of the world, the origin of biological complexity and diversity. When
you are attributing the wonders of nature to these mindless material mechanisms,
God's glory is getting robbed." He continued, "And so there is a cultural war
here. Ultimately I want to see God get the credit for what he's done -- and he's not getting
it." (Dembski's lecture was taped and the tape is available on request). Like
Salem judges, Dembski has never admitted a single error in his discourse despite the critique of his ideas by many scientists.
He avoided answering such critique as, for example, that by David Wolpert,
the co-author of No Free Lunch theorems who revealed Dembski's egregious
misunderstanding and misuse of these fine
theorems. Comparing evolutionary biologists to merciless Salem judges Dembski has once again
demonstrated his true character of a pseudo-scientist who
would not shy away from any device, however underhanded, to win the battle
regardless of which side the truth is on. Indeed, in his latest post at http://www.designinference.com/documents/2004.04.Backlash.htm
Dembski with a surprising frankness describes various subterfuges he utilizes
in order to "have the last word" and to win the battle (like posting to the
internet preliminary texts of segments of his forthcoming books to see what his
critics may say, then modifying the final text in a way preempting critical
comments, and deleting portions of the posts subjected to critique). Apparently
he does not mind that his readers may construe such a behavior
as not exactly fitting the requirements of intellectual honesty and pursuit of
 William A. Dembski. Preface
to The Design Revolution. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2004.
 (a) The term "phlogiston"
(stemming from Greek and meaning "burned") was introduced at the beginning of the
18th century by Georg Ernst Stahl. It denoted a hypothetical component of all
combustible materials (as well as of corrosion-susceptible metals). According to
Stahl's hypothesis (which has its origin in the theory of Johann Joachim Becher
suggested in 1669), oxidation (including burning) is a process wherein
phlogiston is released from the material, leaving "ashes". The theory of phlogiston
was abandoned by science as it did not conform to experimental evidence.
"Caloric" is the term that denoted a hypothetical fluid whose flow between various
bodies was the essence of the heat transfer. The work of the Anglo-American chemist
Benjamin Thompson (Count Rumford) at the end of the 18th
century led to the demise of the caloric hypothesis -- the heat was understood to be a form of motion;
subsequently the thermodynamic science explained heat as the energy
transfer via interactions of randomly moving particles constituting physical
(c) vitalism is a theory (stemming from ancient philosophical systems, e.g.
from the ideas of Aristotle) which explained the nature of life as allegedly
resulting from a vital force peculiar to living organisms, whose essence is
principally different from any other known physical or chemical forces. The development
of natural sciences has led to the vitalism's losing its prestige as it has been
abandoned by modern science, although its vestiges are still present in some
 (a) Immanuel Velikovsky was
the author of several sensational books (e.g. The Worlds in Collision, New York,
Macmillan, 1950) wherein he suggested various ideas having no foundation in
facts but pretending to be scientific breakthroughs. He enjoyed a short-lived notoriety spread by
popular media, but was never taken seriously by scientists.
(b) René Prosper Blondlot (1849-1930)
was a French physicist who claimed to have
discovered a new type of radiation, shortly after
Roentgen had discovered X-rays. He called it the N-rays. In fact, no
such radiation exists; this was a
notorious example of false claims based on a crank scientist's self-deception.
This essay is also available in PDF format at http://www.antievolution.org/people/wre/essays/eandp.pdf.