Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Intelligent Design

Hi Gang,

There are a lot of more or less a-political people out there who vote for Republicans because they assume that the Republicans are simply the party of small government and low taxes. They are either ignorant of or not concerned about the influence of the religious right. They tell themselves that really there is no serious problem with the fact that the GOP is dominated by religious fundamentalists both at the leadership level and the activist/grass roots level.

But I believe that issues like the so called "Intelligent Design" movement show exactly what the problem is. The Republican party has been taken over by an anti-modern social movement bent on the destruction of modern, Western civilization. These people argue that they have scientific evidence that life, the universe, and everything could not have come about by any means other than by design. Here is the website for the Intelligent Design Network. Here is a link to the Discovery Institute, another intelligent design website, with more detail about their political agenda. Here is a link to a debate about intelligent design. Here is an essay about intelligent design by Victor Stenger, a physics professor at U. Hawaii.

Why does this matter? Because "encouraging" the teaching intelligent design is the law of the land in Ohio (although I hear from my friends that suburban school districts are largely continuing as before while rural districts have changed) and Kansas Republicans on the state school board are currently pushing for this in Kansas schools.

Question: Is intelligent design the last step? Will these people stop when they get permission for sympathic teachers to teach it? Or will they wait a while then push for 100% commitment to their views. A hint as to what their agenda is that "Young Earth" creationists are supporting the "Intelligent Design" movement in Kansas. Why? Because "Intelligent Design" is acting as a vanguard movement, a foot in the door if you will.

I'm interested in hearing the legal, theological, and scientific/logical perspectives on this from the other Citizens and our friends.


Dr. Strangelove said...

We scientists belong to all cultures and all faiths, and we never wanted this fight. We never wanted to disagree with anyone's religious belief. We never wanted the pain.

But the evidence from nature is bountiful and clear, and every day we find more. What we are discovering, written in the rocks, the bones, our genes, and the heavens, is a story more detailed, more beautiful, and more wonderful than we have dared to dream.

"Creation science" or "intelligent design" is not a reasonable scientific debate: it is a witch hunt. What little evidence they can scrape together that might support these "theories" is but a drop of rain lost amid an ocean of evidence that contradicts them and instead speaks to the evolution of life and the cosmos.

To insist we teach these "theories," ignoring the weight of two centuries of discovery, is unscientific in the extreme. That the proponents of teaching a particular brand of Christian creationism do not also want to teach Hindu or Eskimo creation myths as equally valid gives the lie to their claim to open-mindedness.

When faced with the thorns of truth or the comfort of tradition, the history science teaches that we must endure the thorns. For those who would deny this truth would cast us into another Dark Age.

Anonymous said...

"Intelligent design" makes my skin crawl. When I was in high school (public, 'burbs, MD), the right-wingers called it "creationism," and it was pretty well-entrenched.

The only statement any of our public high school science teachers would say is, "Evolution is a theory about how the world was created. Creationism is a deeply held religious belief that the wonderful true Christians among us hold as a paramount tenet of their faith. And that's all that will be on the exam."

I was absolutely delighted when my college biology teacher stood up and said, "Evolution is a theory. It's a theory like gravity. If you want to believe in creationism, go talk to those professional debaters who come over here every few months. But don't ever ask me to defend it as a theory. Everything I say about evolution could show up on the exam."

One more thought - "Inherit the Wind" is an excellent film about the Scopes trial, and lots of fun to watch. Netflix it!

-Seventh Sister

Anonymous said...

"Inherit the Wind" is one of my favorite movies. It accurately depicts (in broad terms) the roles played by that famous advocate of libertarian Republicanism, H.L. Mencken. The movie also rightly shows the Scopes "Monkey" trial as a kind of transition from the old Democratic Party to the new one. William Jennings Bryan argued the cases against teaching evolution. Clarrence Darrow defending teaching evolution. Both men were prominent Democrats. Today, the William Jennings Bryan ideology is alive and the Republican Party. If H.L. Mencken were alive today I doubt very much if he would be a Bush supporter! He'd probably be out giving speaches defending Howard Stern. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

The VAST majority of Christians do not believe that the creation stor(ies) in the book of Genesis must be taken absolutely literally. After all, Sunday school kids have long liked to ask about where Cain and Seth's wives come from.

It is important to recognize that even though fundamentalist Christians represent a high proportion (20-40%) of US Christians, they are a small minority worldwide. The Catholic Church, for example, representing about 60% of all Christians, embraces scientific explanations of human origins (e.g., evolution) while maintaining that, somehow, it was divinely inspired. Similar beliefs are held by most mainstream Protestants.

Biblical literalism is a disease contained to evangelical sects, and among those to the under-educated. 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

According to :

55% of all Christians say YES to "Do you believe that every word of the Bible is literally accurate -- that the events it describes actually happened?" That number is 83% for Evangelicals, 47% of non-Evangelical Protestants, 45% of Catholics.

An ABC poll found that 61% of adults believe that the world was created in 6 days by God.

However, a Gallup poll of adults generally found that only 34% believe that the Bible is the actual word of God.

The numbers are pretty varied in the different polls. Given the political nature of religious belief in this country, that doesn't surpise me.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

The same polls show that 90% of Americans claim to believe in God but only 50% take religion very seriously. These aren't good polls - people are plainly trying to respond in a culturally appropriate way.  

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

I recently had the misfortune to see Michael Behe speak the university that I am pursuing my PhD (in biology). I am not lying why I tell you that his "data slide" was a Far Side cartoon and his evidence consisted of mocking typos by his collegues. I was so angered by what I heard, and not even because he so causually dismissed all the evidence for evolution. I believe anyone can believe what they want to believe.

What really angered me was that everything he presented were half-truths at best, outright lies at the worst. He presents Intelligent Design as a scientific theory, but it is at its core fundamentally unscientific. Science is about hypothesis testing. If you can't test it, it cannot be a scientific theory because it is not subject to the same standards of scientific rigor as say, oh, I don't know, molecular evolution.

The real danger is that Behe has three important letters after his name ... PhD. He is also on the faculty at Leigh University as a biochemist. These distinctions give him the illusion of authority in so much as he can just say that ID is science and people who do not understand the scientific method well and cannot critically judge his "evidence" will accept that this is real science or that many scientists are questioning Darwinism.

And if they get their way, and the public accepts ID as *the way* the world and life was started, what does that bode for applied science. If it is all under control of the Designer, then why bother worrying about extinction, pollution, or global warming? 

// posted by AMM

Anonymous said...

Sadly, that is precisely, AMM, why conservatives and Republicans already do not care about extinction, polllution, or global warming.

Oddly enough most Americans are anti-intellectual, and I suspect they are not particularly swayed by the Ph.Ds of the intelligent design people. Those who believe the bible literally don't care who has a doctorate. It, rather, is the smaller stratum of educated Americans, who otherwise would be quite hostile to mythmaking, who are in danger of letting them get away with this. They're the ones who think "Gee, a Ph.D? Maybe there's something to this after all." 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

I agree with LTG that the anti-intellectualism of most Americans - especially the ones prone to believe in the literal truth of the Bible - makes them unlikely to be convinced by a PhD.

That said, I share AMM's frustration at this Behe guy. I found his website here . He gives his recent publications and I have to admit he's published in some credible places. He claims to have "experimental evidence for design inferences." If I were organizing a debate about this stuff, I'd want this guy to argue the "intelligent design" side.

It's a problem I guess that he's from Lehigh. Lehigh is one of those universities that everyone has heard of because of sports and/or its undergraduate reputation but really isn't a major center of good research. Schools like this often try to get noticed in various fields by seeking controversy for its own sake. You can see the entire Lehigh faculty here

// posted by Raised By Republicans