In the wake of the holiday season, I would like to visit the intelligent design debate at least once. I might have been willing to keep my fairly liberal ideas to myself, if I hadn't by chance witnessed Pat Robertson's inane
comments on the "good people of Dover". But I am getting ahead of myself.The Evolution of ID
Intelligent Design as defined by The Discovery Institute
is the theory "that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." (Note that the Discovery Institute is one of the main proponents of the idea) Basically, they seem to agree (or at least not to directly challenge) that life on this planet has been evolving for awhile now. Where they differ from traditional evolutionary theory is that instead of evolution being the result of random mutation guided by natural selection, the IDers believe in a guiding something
which has directed evolution up until now.Compromised Creationism?
The Discovery Institute maintains that ID is not an evolved incarnation of creationism. "Intelligent design theory is simply an effort to empirically detect whether the 'apparent design' in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause) or is simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations." Sounds official right? In case you're not sure of the nuance attached to the word empirical, you should know that Merriam-Webster defines empirical
as "capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment". Hmm. I was really trying to debate the application of this 'theory' in education and not the validity of the 'theory' itself, but they make it so hard.
So (can't help myself), are these IDers saying that through experimentation we could possibly determine the nature of this guiding force (which may or may not be God...They are intentionally vague on this point)? If they could devise such an experiment to observe this force then we would all have to indeed concede ID as science. I would even advocate possible Nobel considerations. But I have yet to hear (or read) of anything of substance from the discovery institute. True, they propose a few valid scientific questions on the Discovery Institute's website. I'll share one of my favorites from their list of "Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher About Evolution"
:"Why do textbooks use pictures of peppered moths camouflaged on tree trunks as evidence for natural selection -- when biologists have known since the 1980s that the moths don't normally rest on tree trunks, and all the pictures have been staged?"WHAT!?
What are you so-called textbooks, if those truly do be thine names, trying to pull over on us?
Et tu, McGraw-Hill?
Don't you see the pure science of it all?
Well, my cynical friend, if you are still not convinced about the validity of ID I highly recommend checking out the rest of the questions. They are all similarly childish in their attack of textbooks (No joke...8 of the 10 questions start out with "Why do textbooks...").Back to the Debate
Ok, please forgive my immature descent to Pat Robertson's level (More on the depth of that level later). The question isn't whether or not you believe that ID is correct (the level of science required to understand even their most basic arguments requires at least a five-year-old's knowledge of the "are too" defense). The question is whether or not it is legally allowed to be part of a curriculum. This question was just recently addressed by the good people of Dover, Pennsylvania and the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
"On October 18, 2004, the [Dover] school board voted 6-3 to add the following statement to their biology curriculum:Students will be made aware of the gaps/problems in Darwin's theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of life is not taught.'"
What followed was the resignation of the three dissenting school board members, the refusal of teachers to read the statement, and a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of eleven parents of students from the Dover school district. On December 20, 2005 (that was so
last year) Judge E. Jones III, a GW Bush appointee, ruled that the Dover mandate was unconstitutional and barred ID from being taught in public schools. The Dover Institute released a statement that very day (please read this
) denouncing Jones, a conservative and an active church-goer, as an "activist federal judge [trying] to stop the spread of a scientific idea and even to prevent criticism of Darwinian evolution". The statement goes on to say that Jones "makes it clear that he wants his place in history as the judge who issued a definitive decision about intelligent design. This is an activist judge who has delusions of grandeur." (It should be noted that the author of that particular comment is John G. West
, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Seattle Pacific University and a Senior Fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute. (Obviously he used empirical data to arrive at his 'theory' regarding Judge Jones' psychosis.) Following the ruling the new
Dover school board president said that they would not seek to appeal the ruling. Just in case you missed my emphasis on the word new
, it was in fact a way of slyly letting you know that every one of those Dover school board members that voted for the ID mandate was removed from office this past election cycle. Seems as though ID not only lost in the US District court, but also in the Dover court of public opinion.Mr. Robertson Goes To Town...On Dover
Thus ends the question of ID for Dover (for now). I understand that I will come off as unsympathetic to the ID cause, but I really do believe that people should be free to believe that if they want. That being said, I also believe that ID is really religion in a cheap lab coat, and has no place being required learning anywhere outside of a Discovery Institute orientation film (and only after a significant signing bonus). Ok, please fell free to chastise me as you see fit regarding my criticisms of ID, but please keep your defense of Pat Robertson to yourself. Really. I don't want to hear it. I find humor enough in life without reading why God wants us to kill Hugo Chavez.
Never one to be left out of a 'secular' debate, Pat Robertson, that inveterate finger-pointer, occasional assassination advocate, and all-around holy swift boat preacher for truth decided to weigh in on the debate. I wonder how the school board members felt when Pat Robertson decided to lend his support. Were they relieved? More than a little embarrassed? I imagine that the might have felt like a group of southerners defending an offensive flag for 'traditional' reasons must feel when the klu klux klan shows up to lend their support. Uhh...you guys are on our side?
Or even better: We're on your side??
Well luckily for the ejected school board members, they can find redemption in their mutual destruction; cause when Pat Robertson condemns a town, he condemns the whole town. Listen to the man of God himself:"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God -- you just rejected Him from your city.""And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there."
Later in the day he clarified his remarks saying that:"God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in his eye forever."
He suggests in the advent of such a disaster that the 'good people of Dover' should instead pray to Darwin. Wow, do you feel the loving embrace of the 700 Club? All of this just in time for the Christmas season. Well, I would just like to leave with a question of my own for your biology teacher (Discovery Institute feel free to use this):Why do textbooks want us to think that Pat Robertson is evolved from an ape, when he's clearly more closely related to a horse's ass?