Thursday, January 06, 2005

Intelligent Design

This whole "intelligent design" thing is really starting to get on the one remaining nerve I have in my body.

You're not hep to the concept? It's easy -- "intelligent design" (ID) is a fundamentalist code phrase for biblical creationism. And it's creeping into the science curriculum at a taxpayer supported public school district near you:

PHILADELPHIA - A Pennsylvania school district on Wednesday rejected charges that plans to include references to an alternative to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in high-school biology classes would be illegal.

The Dover Area School District near Harrisburg is the first in the United States to introduce “intelligent design,” a concept proposing that the natural world is so complex it must have been made by an intelligent being, into a science curriculum.

Listen, we already know that the Bush Administration and its core support groups are adamantly opposed to any advancement of scientific endeavor (unless said development will cure erectile dysfunction in aging legislators or fundamentalist clergy). So, why ID?

SCOTUS ruled sometime back that creationism can't be taught as a scientific counterpoint to Darwin's theories in public school systems, because creationism is biblically based hypothesis and would violate the constitutional precept of separation of church and state. The upshot of the ruling was: if a parent wanted their child to learn about creationism, well and good, send the kid to Sunday School class at church. Sounds reasonable to me. As a taxpaying parent, I want my kid to learn about scientific concepts based on empirical evidence and observation, not mysticism and incantations. Still, if we're actually going to take this route, well then, we need to at least be inclusive:

First, if we're going to teach intelligent design as an alternative to evolution, then why not also teach the Chinese creation myth in which P'an Ku grew inside a gigantic, cosmic egg.

And, here's the kicker. In every instance when creationism-v-evolution has been brought before a high court, evolution wins, with the proviso that a parent objecting to teaching of Darwin's theory can exclude their child from the class (at no penalty). So what's the fooking problem?

The problem is: this wasn't good enough for the fundamentalists. In case you missed it, the fundies have organized and staged (once again) a quiet coup of many local school boards, the state-level mechanism for approval of textbooks, and state mandated educational curriculum development. They want the children to be saved.

So, they dressed creationism up in a new suit: Intelligent Design.

These guys are like the Taliban. I've bloviated here previously on how Muslim culture has an institutional memory that spans generations rather than the latest fashion trend at Hot Topic. The fundie movement is no different. They were more than willing to wait a generation, until the kindygarders of the '80s became the graduating class of the new millennia. And now they're springing the trap on the MTV generation parents whose kids are just starting to mainstream into the public education system.

Intelligent design, indeed.

Listen, I'm old enough to be very comforted by the fact that my kids are, for all intents and purposes, out of the public school system at this point. Still, I'm really concerned about what this means in the years and decades going forward.

By America's quiet acquiescence to this educational devolution, of which ID is just the tip of the iceberg, are we enabling at least a generation of scientific endeavor to be skipped?

Reference points: Return of the Hut People (; Panda's Thumb (a resource devoted to slaying the ID dragon)