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9.0. Matzke (2006): The Story of the Pandas Drafts
by Nick Matzke

The following is an excerpt (pp. 40-41) from Nick Matzke's essay on NCSE's role in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case:

Matzke, N. (2006). "Design on Trial: How NCSE Helped Win the Kitzmiller Case." Reports of the National Center for Science Education. 26(1-2), 37-44.

Some HTML links have been added, otherwise the text is original.

The Story of the Drafts

Barbara Forrest was the expert who would have to make the connection between the ID movement and creationism. She had, of course, coauthored Creationism's Trojan Horse, on the origins and history of the Discovery Institute, the "Wedge document", and the leaders of the ID movement. However, the Discovery Institute only established the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture in 1996. Of Pandas and People, which is the first book to use the terms "intelligent design" and "design proponents" systematically, and which presents all of the modern ID arguments, was published in 1989. The creationist origin of Pandas and the "intelligent design" phraseology was not covered in detail in previous works on the history of ID, so my job was to dig up everything we could possibly find on the origin of Pandas and "intelligent design". The NCSE archives contain several files on Pandas and on the publisher of the book, the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE).

Because Frank Sonleitner and John Thomas had done significant work analyzing the book and tracking FTE's activities in the 1980s and 1990s (see <>), I gathered advice and old files from both of them. I also rummaged through the relevant files in NCSE's archives and looked up various books and articles published by the Pandas authors, working through NCSE's collection of old creationist magazines and newspapers. Finally, I examined three recent books that give histories of the ID movement -- Larry Witham's By Design and Where Darwin Meets the Bible, and Thomas Woodward's Doubts About Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design. Although the role of Pandas in the ID movement is minimized in these sources, they nevertheless contained various useful tidbits from interviews with the "academic editor" of Pandas, Charles Thaxton, and other early players in the ID movement.

Examination of all of these sources together -- apparently something that no one had taken the time and trouble to do before -- revealed some interesting facts about the history of Pandas: (1) Thaxton and the books authors were working on Pandas for about a decade before it was actually published in 1989; (2) in early references to the Pandas project in the 1980s, Thaxton and FTE's president Jon Buell described themselves and their work as "creationist" and about "creation" -- not "intelligent design"; and (3) the label "intelligent design" was chosen for Pandas very late in the evolution of the book, almost as the last change made before publication. This all built a nice circumstantial case that ID developed from creationism, and this case is made in Barbara Forrest's first expert report, filed on April 1, 2005.

On about April 8, NCSE's then-archivist Jessica Moran came across another document in a file in the NCSE archives: a prospectus for a book entitled Biology and Origins, sent to a textbook publisher in 1987. Somehow this ended up in the files of the late Thomas Jukes, a prominent molecular biologist and longtime NCSE supporter. In 1995, Jukes sent the page to NCSE with the handwritten note "I found this in an old file, but it is certainly fascinating!" The prospectus document indicated that Biology and Origins existed in draft form in 1987, and furthermore had been sent to school districts for testing as well as to prospective publishers. The existence of unpublished drafts of Pandas should have been obvious from the evidence mentioned in the previous paragraph, and references to Biology and Origins were known, but we thought of it as just a working title for Pandas. The prospectus document made it clear that Biology and Origins was an actual draft that was widely reproduced and sent out to publishers and reviewers, and also explicitly indicated that the book would "give students the scientific rationale for creation from the study of biology."

This discovery shed light on a rather important historical fact that had somehow been omitted from all previous histories of the origin of the "intelligent design" movement. It has always been obvious that ID arguments derived from creationist sources, but never in the wildest dreams of creationism watchers had it occurred to anyone that the phrase "intelligent design" had quite literally originated as a switch in terminology in an actual physical draft of an explicitly creationist textbook.

I summarized the situation, as I understood it at the time, to the legal team as follows, in a discussion of Dembski's expert report:

Dembski doesn't mention the "version 0" of Pandas, Biology and Origins, which is mentioned in some of the 1980s FTE fundraising letters and other material. I am reasonably sure that the word "creation" would be substituted for "design" or "intelligent design" at many points within that manuscript. This would prove our point in many ways. We have a couple written sources indicating that picking the words "intelligent design" was one of the very last things that Charles Thaxton did during the development of Pandas.

We don't know:

(a) Whether any copies of Biology and Origins still exist, e.g. at FTE in Texas or in the files of Thaxton, Davis or Kenyon;
(b) Whether Dembski has seen them (based on the expert report, Dembski either doesn't know the prehistory of Pandas, or is leaving that out).

At the time, it was far from clear that creationist drafts of Pandas still existed. But Eric Rothschild knew what to do. He immediately issued a subpoena to the Foundation for Thought and Ethics for any documents relating to the origin and development of Biology and Origins and Of Pandas and People.

After a failed attempt to quash the subpoena, FTE coughed up the documents in early July. To our amazement, five major drafts were uncovered, and we were able to trace the switch in terminology from creationism to "intelligent design" to just after the Supreme Court's Edwards v Aguillard decision in 1987. Barbara Forrest included all of this in a supplementary expert report and in her testimony at trial, and it became a key piece of Judge Jones's opinion.

Although the Pandas drafts were obviously important in the Kitzmiller case, it is only slowly dawning on everyone just how significant they are. The drafts are nothing less than the smoking gun that proves exactly when and how "intelligent design" originated. This was probably the biggest discovery in creationism research since the finding that the Coso Artifact was actually a 1920s sparkplug (see RNCSE 2004 Mar/Apr; 24 [2]: 26-30). They prove that the cynical view of ID was exactly right: ID really is just creationism relabeled, and anyone who thought otherwise was either naively misinformed or engaging in wishful thinking.


(These notes are not part of the RNCSE article. They are authored by Nick Matzke, October 3, 2006.)

The now-famous word-count charts used by Barbara Forrest in her testimony, which showed how the "creation" and "creationist" terminology was systematically and suddenly changed to "intelligent design" and "design proponent" terminology, are available online in the exhibits pages of NCSE's Kitzmiller v. Dover documents archive. They are free for nonprofit educational use as long as the source page is cited.

The equally famous "missing link" between creationism and "intelligent design", "cdesign proponentsists", was discovered by Barbara Forrest. Discussion of this discovery, and images of the relevant portions of the exhibits, are available online here.

October 3, 2006