|The divine comedy|
“”Evolutionists think the former is correct, cdesign proponentsists accept the latter view.
|—Of Pandas and People, 1987 draft version.|
A crucial piece of the defense (pro-intelligent design) was a book called Of Pandas and People, which was marketed as a science textbook for middle and high school children. During the trial, previous copies of the book were subpoenaed for review. It was demonstrated that, whenever previous versions of the book had the terms "creationist" or "creationism" or some similar form, it had been replaced in almost all cases with the terms "design proponents" and "intelligent design" in later editions.
Example from the trial
Example of earlier creationist edition (emphasis added):
"Creation means that the various forms of life began abruptly through the agency of an intelligent creator with their distinctive features already intact. Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc."
Example of new Improved Intelligent Design edition (emphasis added):
"Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact. Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, wings, etc."
This evidence and things like the Wedge Document helped lead John E. Jones III to his verdict that intelligent design was the same as creationism and that the ID movement was a subversive attempt to inject creationism (and, with it, religion) into the classroom.
In the leadup to the Dover Trial, the plaintiff lawyers subpoenaed the Texas-based Foundation for Thought and Ethics (publishers of Of Pandas and People) for all draft versions of the textbook. They received copies of all draft versions, including those created in 1987 when the Edwards v. Aguillard case was decided (making it unlawful to teach creationism in public schools).
Examination of various draft versions of Of Pandas and People from 1987 showed that after the Supreme Court's decision in Edwards v. Aguillard, all references to "creationism" were replaced with alternate terms.
A particular sentence in an early 1987 draft read as follows:
The basic metabolic pathways (reaction chains) of nearly all organisms are the same. Is this because of descent from a common ancestor, or because only these pathways (and their variations) can sustain life? Evolutionists think the former is correct, creationists accept the latter view.
In one particular draft dated to after the Edwards decision, an editor had apparently copied and pasted "design proponents" over the word "creationists". However in doing so, they had pasted over only part of the latter, resulting in a weird neologism, "cdesign proponentsists".
The basic metabolic pathways (reaction chains) of nearly all organisms are the same. Is this because of descent from a common ancestor, or because only these pathways (and their variations) can sustain life? Evolutionists think the former is correct, cdesign proponentsists accept the latter view.
This typo has been mocked by some as the missing link between creationism and intelligent design, notably ironic considering that creationists don't accept transitional forms. It's possibly this aspect alone that has promoted the meme to be as famous as it is. If they'd consistently used "Find and Replace"[note 1] properly, then this wouldn't have happened.
A new meme
The story has now been promoted to "Internet legend" status, and one can now find versions of this story which claim:
- That every instance of the word "creationist" was changed to "Cdesign proponentsists". In fact, only one word was changed in this way; the rest were "correctly" changed.
- That this particular error was brought up during the trial. It was not, as the transcript shows. The discovery was discussed at length in the PBS NOVA documentary about the Dover case entitled Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial. That discussion is possibly what led to the misconception that the discovery of the error was actually presented as evidence during the Dover Trial.
- To be fair, WYSIWYG word processors were very new back in 1987, and as such, people may not have noticed that function back then. Touche, computer illiterates.
- How the text changed to Cdesign proponentsists
- Missing link: “cdesign proponentsists”. Entry is recommended reading for its hilarity.
- Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District Trial transcript: Day 6 (October 5), AM Session, Part 2. talkorigins.org.
- Actually, it was noticed before the trial, but wasn't used. According to Gordy Slack's (2007) The Battle Over the Meaning of Everything: Evolution, Intelligent Design, and a School Board in Dover, PA, the lawyers for the plaintiffs were told of the "cdesign proponentsists" language, but decided not to use it at trial: "The plaintiff's attorneys, after much discussion, decided not to use that page as evidence [in the trial]. 'It would have rubbed salt into the wound, when the wound was a decapitation', says Matzke." (Slack 2007, p. 215, note 11)