Tuesday, August 02, 2005
The green cheese argument
August 2, 2005
The country’s in the very best of hands—Where was Al Capp when we need him. Our Esteemed Leader said yesterday he believes intelligent design (Creationism lite) should be taught in schools along with Darwinian evolution. That’s actually not new; as governor of Texas, George Bush supported creationism in the classroom as well. “I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought,” he said. “You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes.” We could, of course, announce the moon was made of green cheese and then demand that be included in a science curriculum so people can be exposed to different ideas, but what the hell. Christian reactionaries are trying to get intelligent design not science classes on grounds it is an equally valid theory to Darwin’s.
The National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have both concluded that there's no scientific basis for intelligent design and oppose its inclusion in school science classes. "The claim that equity demands balanced treatment of evolutionary theory and special creation in science classrooms reflects a misunderstanding of what science is and how it is conducted," the academy said in 1999. "Creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science."
UPDATE—No sooner did the media catch up to this story (I was a day earlier, thank you), than the reaction began. The groaning sound you heard early on come from John Marburger, the president's science advisor who said something like, well, he didn't mean it or say anything new. Marburger, an actual scientist, said that "evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology" and "intelligent design i not a scientific concept." He said Bush's comments should be taken to mean that intelligent design should be taken to mean he thinks it should be part of the social context in science classes. Right.
"It's what I've been pushing, it's what a lot of us have been pushing," said Richard Land, the president of the ethics and religious liberties commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Land, who has close ties to the White House, said that evolution "is too often taught as fact," and that "if you're going to teach the Darwinian theory as evolution, teach it as theory. And then teach another theory that has the most support among scientists."
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, called the president's comments irresponsible, and said that "when it comes to evolution, there is only one school of scientific thought, and that is evolution occurred and is still occurring." Mr. Lynn added that "when it comes to matters of religion and philosophy, they can be discussed objectively in public schools, but not in biology class."
How about this? Everybody has a right to ignorance. Everyone even has a right to pass their ignorance on to their own children, alas. What they don't have the right to do is insist on passing on their ignorance to my children.
For those of you who want to learn more, that wonderful blog The Panda’s Thumb, points out that the Geological Society of America will hold session on creationism at its annual meeting in Salt Lake City in October. See here.
And for a review of scientific efforts to create a tree of life, see this in the American Scientist.
You might also want to try Carl Zimmer's piece in the excellent blog Corante here.