Evolving Thoughts

Evolution, culture, philosophy and chocolate! John Wilkins' continuing struggle to come to terms with impermanence... "Humanus sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto" - Terence

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The ID Know Nothing Party

One of the more quirky aspects of American political history I have come across - admittedly without really looking very hard - is the Know-Nothing Party of the 19th century, mostly in the north east states like Massachusetts.

These people had a fairly simple set of policies - basically, keep out the Irish. But they came from a set of rather disreputable and shady groups, and so when they were asked what they knew about these groups, they would say "I know nothing about it". Hence the name. Of course, they knew perfectly well what they were about; but in order to get elected, which they did for a short time, they hid their real agenda and affiliations.

Does this sound at all familiar? Intelligent Design proponents spin the line they are not really talking about God... unless they are talking to their supporters, in which case it's all about getting God into the classroom and the social debate. But to the rest of the electorate, and the media, they know nothing about the Designer...

And blow me down, but the media are swallowing it. Slate has published two Op-Ed pieces - one by Daniel Engber, who says that ID is not creationism (oh, fancy that! the Discovery Institute is one of his sources), and one by William Saletan, Slate's chief political correspondent, who gives ID unwarranted credibility in a terrible article, and who swallows the "evolutionists" line, as if it were a political position rather than a scientific stance.

Paul Myers, of course, has something to say about this, as does editor of Scientific American, John Rennie. But let us consider this in the context of American polity - they are indeed the new dissemblers, the new Know-Nothings. And all this is because they are trying to find a way around the Establishment Clause. Just don't mention "God" and you can get away with it, right?

There is another similarity with the original Know-Nothings, too. They did manage to get elected, and even held seats in Congress. What did they achieve in their time there? Nothing. What actual science has ID put forward? Nothing. No worked out cases, no experiments, just selective reviews and ersatz philosophizing, together with impressive looking (but only looking) mathematics that in the end appears to reinvent wheels, only now they are irregular shapes.

Again I note that the battle here is not for control over science, but for control over education. They want this stuff taught in schools. They want this so that people won't be informed enough to reject their religious views, so they can control public debate. This is not about science and it's not about philosophy. It's about cultural hegemony.

God help us all.