By now you have probably already heard (the hazards of not blogging for a few hours) that Presiden Bush has endorsed the inclusion of intelligent design in public school curricula:
President Bush said Monday he believes schools should discuss “intelligent design” alongside evolution when teaching students about the creation of life.
During a round-table interview with reporters from five Texas newspapers, Bush declined to go into detail on his personal views of the origin of life. But he said students should learn about both theories, Knight Ridder Newspapers reported.
“I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought,” Bush said. “You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes.”
The theory of intelligent design says life on earth is too complex to have developed through evolution, implying that a higher power must have had a hand in creation.
Christian conservatives — a substantial part of Bush’s voting base — have been pushing for the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. Scientists have rejected the theory as an attempt to force religion into science education.
I am beyond offended by the stupidity of this statement and President Bush’s position, and I am sort of glad I was too busy to write about this earlier, because it gave me a little time to cool down. Fat load of good it did, because I am still hopping mad. My days of defending this President are over.
To have the leader of the country, the leader of the party, and the person who proclaims that he wants to be known as the ‘education president’ to state, even casually, that he thinks intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution is lunacy of the first order. First, the facts:
1.) Intelligent design is not a theory. There is no theoretical basis to it. It is not scientific theory, and it is not just bad scientific theory, it is simply not theory. It is ascientific. It is a flight of fancy. It is a call to discard mountains of evidence, throw up ones hands, and state: “This is all too confusing and complex, and science is hard, so some ‘intelligent designer’ must be behind all this.”
2.) Intelligent design is creationism. It may not be quite as audaciously stupid as the nonsense peddled by the ‘young earth’ crowd, but it is creationism. Just who do you think this ‘intelligent designer’ is? One more time, let’s review who the candidates are for the title of ‘intelligent designer’ is:
Its advertising to the contrary notwithstanding, “intelligent design” is inherently a quest for the supernatural. Only one “candidate for the role of designer” need apply. Dembski himself—even while trying to deny this implication—concedes that “if there is design in biology and cosmology, then that design could not be the work of an evolved intelligence.” It must, he admits, be that of a “transcendent intelligence” to whom he euphemistically refers as “the big G.”
The supposedly nonreligious theory of “intelligent design” is nothing more than a crusade to peddle religion by giving it the veneer of science—to pretend, as one commentator put it, that “faith in God is something that holds up under the microscope.”
The insistence of “intelligent design” advocates that they are “agnostic regarding the source of design” is a bait-and-switch. They dangle out the groundless possibility of a “designer” who is susceptible of scientific study—in order to hide their real agenda of promoting faith in the supernatural. Their scientifically accessible “designer” is nothing more than a gateway god—metaphysical marijuana intended to draw students away from natural, scientific explanations and get them hooked on the supernatural.
No matter how fervently its salesmen wish “intelligent design” to be viewed as cutting-edge science, there is no disguising its true character. It is nothing more than a religiously motivated attack on science, and should be rejected as such.
That “Big G” he was referring to isn’t Gaia, although injecting nonsensical druidic mysticism into science makes about as much sense as teaching intelligent design ‘alongside evolution.’ No, you can guess who the “Big G” might actually be.
3.) Teaching ‘intelligent design’ as science, or as a viable theory, or whatever you want to call it other than bullshit, is to assault science. Criticism of evolutionary theory is always welcome, but attempting to replace evolutionary theory with fanciful tales is to assault not only the senses, but to attack the very manner science itself is conducted.
4.) People don’t want ‘intelligent design’ taught because it is a viable scientific theory, they want it taught because it is tailored to fit their pre-existing religious beliefs. The introduction of ‘intelligent design’ into the class room will be seen as a blow to the ‘evil secularists.’ It will be just another step in ‘taking back the culture.’
The culture of stupid.
This assault on science is not a new thing- there have been groups creating their own ‘science’ establishments to do research that produces the ‘right’ results to aid the political/social cause du jour. Their most notable production of these folks is their recent ‘report’ that was used as a basis to forbid same-sex couples from becoming foster parents:
Last week, the Texas House of Representatives passed a child-services bill with an amendment that would make Texas the first state in the nation to prevent same-sex couples from becoming foster parents. The state Senate passed a conflicting bill without that measure, and the two bodies are debating how to proceed.
The proposed ban attracted national media attention, and several “pro-family” groups seeking to drum up support for the bill have been circulating some troubling stats about gay parents. Among the most striking, stated during a CNN program: children in foster homes with same-sex parents are 11 times as likely to be sexually abused as those with heterosexual parents.
To get on CNN, that number snaked through a twisting path, from a little-noticed Illinois study published by an antigay scientist/activist in a psychological journal, to several conservative Web sites, to, finally, the attention of a Texas activist who presented her misinterpretation of the study on national television, essentially unchallenged. It’s a textbook example of how flawed numbers can gain national attention if advocates work hard enough—especially when there aren’t widely-known conflicting estimates.
I have no problem with a brief fifteen minute discussion of intelligent design as part of a religious/philosophy class, provided schools offer those courses. But I don’t think that is what Bush meant, and to teach intelligent design alongside evolution (which, by itself is difficult enough to teach high school students, and usually isn’t taught well enough), as a ‘school of thought’ is simple idiocy. And that won’t change no matter how many press releases the jackasses at the Discovery Institute release.
Maybe Bush just said this to play to the base. I don’t care. It was stupid, irresponsible, and he should be widely castigated for even suggesting that this be taught. In short, the next time President Bush asks “Is our children learning,” I know what I will be thinking to myself:
“Maybe, but no thanks to you, jackass.”
Von at Obsidian Wings: Dumbing it Down
Rick Moran at Right Wing Nuthouse: Mr. President, Shut Your Yap!
Glenn Reynolds Link Fest
According to this CBS news poll, 65% of the country supports teaching creationism and evolution together in schools. That total includes 56% of Kerry voters. In fact, 37% of the country supports teaching creationism instead of evolution. Thus, if the United States were to have a national referendum about Intelligent Design in schools, the position that the President expressed today might win in a landslide.
*** Update ***
From the comments:
I like to use the following classification scheme: First we distinguish between scientific theories and nonscientific theories. Then we subdivide the scientific group into viable and nonviable theories. We end up with three possibilities:
Viable scientific theories (like evolution)
Nonviable scientific theories (like biblical creationism)
Nonscientific theories (like intelligent design)
The most critical and distinguishing feature of scientific theories is that they are vulnerable to evidence. The theory of evolution is a dramatic case in point. It makes stringent postdictions that rule out an enormous variety of otherwise possible observations. Just for instance, as Haldane points out, the discovery of a single fossil rabbit from the Precambrian era would constitute very strong evidence against evolution. Indeed, evolution is a viable scientific theory because no such clearly falsifying evidence has been discovered.
Biblical creationism is ALSO a scientific theory. It too makes stringent postdictions. Specifically, it rules out the existence of Earthly things more than 6000 years old. Indeed, because the evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary, the theory is a nonviable scientific theory.
[Note that this is not the same as saying that biblical creationism is not “true.” (There’s no way of being certain, for instance, that the evidence wasn’t rigged by “God” as a test of faith.) Science simply does not deal with the question of “truth.” It only deals with the question of viability. It subjects its theories to tests, tests that are only possible because the theories are vulnerable to evidence. Theories that fail those tests lose acceptance and are ultimately rejected for better theories, theories that pass more tests. But no amount of “test passing” will ever establish that a scientific theory is “true.” It merely confers greater viability.]
Intelligent design on the other hand is a nonscientific theory for the simple reason that it is invulnerable to evidence. Proponents like to say that there is a lot of evidence FOR intelligent design and indeed there is—the world is a truly remarkable place—but that is simply irrelevant for purposes of judging ID’s scientific credentials.
[Again, note that this does not mean that Intelligent Design is not “true.” It simply means it is not science and has no place in the science curriculum.]
In my opinion the primary reason that fundamentalists have moved to embrace ID is precisely because it is nonscientific and does not suffer the fatal flaw of biblical creationism, the flaw that actually makes it a scientific theory—vulnerability to evidence.
And, while we are at it, what Ace said:
With apologies to the religious, Intelligent Design is not science. It’s not science when you’re basing your “theory” on thousand year old books, and there is no way you offer to falsify your claims, etc…
Science deals in natural, not supernatural, forces. It cannot explain or analyze supernatural phenomena, even if such phemomena were proven to exist or have existed in the distant past.
Pretty much. Ace concludes:
Religion and science do not need to be in conflict. But if some of the religious continue insisting on pushing them into conflict, I’m afraid I’m going to have to side with science.
And he sounds a lot like Charles Krauthammer the other day:
But nothing could do more to undermine this most salutary restoration than the new and gratuitous attempts to invade science, and most particularly evolution, with religion…
To teach faith as science is to undermine the very idea of science, which is the acquisition of new knowledge through hypothesis, experimentation and evidence. To teach it as science is to encourage the supercilious caricature of America as a nation in the thrall of religious authority. To teach it as science is to discredit the welcome recent advances in permitting the public expression of religion. Faith can and should be proclaimed from every mountaintop and city square. But it has no place in science class. To impose it on the teaching of evolution is not just to invite ridicule but to earn it.
If schools want to encourage discussions of intelligent design in religion and philosophy classes, fine. That is where they belong; that would be appropriate. But to pretend that intelligent design deserves to be taught along side evolutionary theory in science classes is something that should be stopped anywhere attempts to do so are made.
For a different take, go check out Macho Nachos brand new digs:
This suggestion that schoolchildren should be exposed to more than one theory of the origins of life, is sending a bunch of otherwise reasonable people apoplectic with rage that is, frankly, shameful. You could read this or this or this or this, but I can pretty much save you some time and boil all the screaming hysteria down thusly: “Intelligent Design is faith, not science! You can’t teach faith in science class! Anybody who doesn’t believe in macroevolution is stupid and deserves our ridicule!”
The most hysterical pronouncements of the Spanish Inquisitors hardly look less reasonable than the stuff I’m seeing flying around the right blogosphere today. Suspiciously absent from any of these rants is any engagement on the facts or merits of Intelligent Design – it’s just all ridicule, all the time.
We’ll just have to disagree on the ‘merits’ of Intelligent Design as a competing scientific theory.