Deciphering Intelligent Design

Proponents of “intelligent design” — which is another way of saying “opponents of the theory of evolution” — were pleased by President Bush’s recent remarks that “both sides ought to be properly taught” in public schools. Here was the most powerful person in the world lending credence to a wacky notion that has been widely discredited since at least 1802, when William Paley posited the idea that irreducibly complex structures MUST have had a designer other than Nature. Even Bush’s own science advisor, John Marburger III, speaking before the National Association of Science Writers, said, “intelligent design is not a scientific theory.”

So what is it that’s so appealing to Dubya?

The modern incarnation of intelligent design is creationism-lite a pared down version of the God Is Responsible For Everything Cuz the Bible Says So school of thought. (Or, more precisely, lack thereof.) Although the National Academy of Sciences warned in a letter to its members that there’s a “growing threat to the teaching of science through the inclusion of non-scientifically based ‘alternatives’ in science courses throughout the country,” our President said, “I think it’s an interesting part of knowledge [to have] a theory of evolution and a theory of creationism. People should be exposed to different points of view.” (Even if one of the points of view has zero scientific credibility.) One wonders if evangelicals like Bush would feel the same sense of intellectual equitableness if the subject in question were Satanism or the sociology of lesbianism.

Many religions seek to answer questions that our human minds can’t fathom. Instead of admitting the obvious — that we don’t know, but we’ll apply the scientific method to try to figure it out — religions tell us compelling stories that help make sense out of otherwise incomprehensible concepts. It’s no coincidence that one of the most “faith-based” administrations in American history is also one the most anti-science. Bush’s intelligent design endorsement is more of the same. Apologists call I.D. modern science. On the contrary, it’s merely Christian politics, the goal of which seems to be to further diminish the teaching of science and promote religious dogma. Since the heathen science community refuses to embrace creationism/intelligent design, proselytizers must rely on influential leaders like church pastors and our President to sway the masses. This technique worked well in the last election and, earlier, in selling the Iraq War to the American consumer. Our credulity, strained though it is, shall be tested again.

Truly intelligent people are content to acknowledge that the more they seem to know, the more they realize how little they understand. Our President and many of his most enthusiastic supporters aren’t that type.

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