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

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Politics, Bush and ID

I suppose I can't allow Dubya's stupid statement that Intelligent Design ought to be taught "so people can understand what the debate is about" to pass unremarked, although Pharyngula has given the arguments against and listed a number of blogs that comment upon it, but this is really the best example yet that ID is all about politics, not science.

Bush, as is well known, panders to the evangelical right. He may even believe it. One of the ways he does this is to support, verbally at least, their hobbyhorses, such as gay marriage prohibition, antiabortionism, and so on. This is just the latest of these clearly political maneuvrings of his, and should be taken as such. What is more worrying is that it suggests we ought to teach this in science classes.

But there is no "there" there. No science, no explanation, no research program, nothing. There is an inverse relationship between science and political posturing. ID has one - count them, one - paper published in a peer reviewed journal, and they had to corrupt the editorial process to get that. But it has millions of dollars, provided by such supporters as Howard Ahmanson, to spin, play the media, and drum up political support in various ways.

Real science, on the other hand, has very little funding, and all of it goes into generating actual scientific papers. Books are secondary and rely upon research articles. All ID has is a slew of books published by self-proclaimed experts.

So, where should we teach ID? In politics classes, of course. The movement provides a very real case study of the corruption of public discourse in favour of a religious power play. As such it should be taught. We need to know that science is under threat. And we need to teach our children how to spot the difference.

Like that's going to happen in America any time soon.

But it may happen in other countries. India and the rest of the subcontinent are rather more intimately familiar with religious wars than the US right now (despite their history, which itself seems to be taught with a political spin, from what I gather, in public schools). Perhaps they might be able to recognise how ID is just another attempt by religious fanatics to undercut the basis of knowledge in favour of control. Or Asian nations. Or south American nations. I fear that the Islamic world is as lost as America.

The times I have visited America I have been struck by the generosity and hospitality of the citizens (excluding NY cops, of course). It is a complex and fascinating country. But it has a serious problem with what I called "know-nothingness" before. And knowledge of the natural world suffers for it.

All one can do is sigh.