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How Intelligent Design Hurts Conservatives (By making us look like crackpots)
The New Republic ^ | 8/16/05 | Ross Douthat

Posted on 08/18/2005 5:17:34 PM PDT by curiosity

The appeal of "intelligent design" to the American right is obvious. For religious conservatives, the theory promises to uncover God's fingerprints on the building blocks of life. For conservative intellectuals in general, it offers hope that Darwinism will yet join Marxism and Freudianism in the dustbin of pseudoscience. And for politicians like George W. Bush, there's little to be lost in expressing a skepticism about evolution that's shared by millions.

In the long run, though, intelligent design will probably prove a political boon to liberals, and a poisoned chalice for conservatives. Like the evolution wars in the early part of the last century, the design debate offers liberals the opportunity to portray every scientific battle--today, stem-cell research, "therapeutic" cloning, and end-of-life issues; tomorrow, perhaps, large-scale genetic engineering--as a face-off between scientific rigor and religious fundamentalism. There's already a public perception, nurtured by the media and by scientists themselves, that conservatives oppose the "scientific" position on most bioethical issues. Once intelligent design runs out of steam, leaving its conservative defenders marooned in a dinner-theater version of Inherit the Wind, this liberal advantage is likely to swell considerably.

And intelligent design will run out of steam--a victim of its own grand ambitions. What began as a critique of Darwinian theory, pointing out aspects of biological life that modification-through-natural-selection has difficulty explaining, is now foolishly proposed as an alternative to Darwinism. On this front, intelligent design fails conspicuously--as even defenders like Rick Santorum are beginning to realize--because it can't offer a consistent, coherent, and testable story of how life developed. The "design inference" is a philosophical point, not a scientific theory: Even if the existence of a designer is a reasonable inference to draw from the complexity of, say, a bacterial flagellum, one would still need to explain how the flagellum moved from design to actuality.

And unless George W. Bush imposes intelligent design on American schools by fiat and orders the scientific establishment to recant its support for Darwin, intelligent design will eventually collapse--like other assaults on evolution that failed to offer an alternative--under the weight of its own overreaching.

If liberals play their cards right, this collapse could provide them with a powerful rhetorical bludgeon. Take the stem-cell debate, where the great questions are moral, not scientific--whether embryonic human life should be created and destroyed to prolong adult human life. Liberals might win that argument on the merits, but it's by no means a sure thing. The conservative embrace of intelligent design, however, reshapes the ideological battlefield. It helps liberals cast the debate as an argument about science, rather than morality, and paint their enemies as a collection of book-burning, Galileo-silencing fanatics.

This would be the liberal line of argument anyway, even without the controversy surrounding intelligent design. "The president is trapped between religion and science over stem cells," declared a Newsweek cover story last year; "Religion shouldn't undercut new science," the San Francisco Chronicle insisted; "Leadership in 'therapeutic cloning' has shifted abroad," the New York Times warned, because American scientists have been "hamstrung" by "religious opposition"--and so on and so forth. But liberalism's science-versus-religion rhetoric is only likely to grow more effective if conservatives continue to play into the stereotype by lining up to take potshots at Darwin.

Already, savvy liberal pundits are linking bioethics to the intelligent design debate. "In a world where Koreans are cloning dogs," Slate's Jacob Weisberg wrote last week, "can the U.S. afford--ethically or economically--to raise our children on fraudulent biology?" (Message: If you're for Darwin, you're automatically for unfettered cloning research.) Or again, this week's TNR makes the pretty-much-airtight "case against intelligent design"; last week, the magazine called opponents of embryo-destroying stem cell research "flat-earthers." The suggested parallel is obvious: "Science" is on the side of evolution and on the side of embryo-killing.

Maureen Dowd, in her inimitable way, summed up the liberal argument earlier this year:

Exploiting God for political ends has set off powerful, scary forces in America: a retreat on teaching evolution, most recently in Kansas; fights over sex education . . . a demonizing of gays; and a fear of stem cell research, which could lead to more of a "culture of life" than keeping one vegetative woman hooked up to a feeding tube.

Terri Schiavo, sex education, stem cell research--on any issue that remotely touches on science, a GOP that's obsessed with downing Darwin will be easily tagged as medieval, reactionary, theocratic. And this formula can be applied to every new bioethical dilemma that comes down the pike. Earlier this year, for instance, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued ethical guidelines for research cloning, which blessed the creation of human-animal "chimeras"--animals seeded with human cells. New York Times reporter Nicholas Wade, writing on the guidelines, declared that popular repugnance at the idea of such creatures is based on "the pre-Darwinian notion that species are fixed and penalties [for cross-breeding] are severe." In other words, if you're opposed to creating pig-men--carefully, of course, with safeguards in place (the NAS guidelines suggested that chimeric animals be forbidden from mating)--you're probably stuck back in the pre-Darwinian ooze with Bishop Wilberforce and William Jennings Bryan.

There's an odd reversal-of-roles at work here. In the past, it was often the right that tried to draw societal implications from Darwinism, and the left that stood against them. And for understandable reasons: When people draw political conclusions from Darwin's theory, they're nearly always inegalitarian conclusions. Hence social Darwinism, hence scientific racism, hence eugenics.

Which is why however useful intelligent design may be as a rhetorical ploy, liberals eager to claim the mantle of science in the bioethics battle should beware. The left often thinks of modern science as a child of liberalism, but if anything, the reverse is true. And what scientific thought helped to forge--the belief that all human beings are equal--scientific thought can undermine as well. Conservatives may be wrong about evolution, but they aren't necessarily wrong about the dangers of using Darwin, or the National Academy of Sciences, as a guide to political and moral order.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Government; Philosophy; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: creationism; crevolist; education; evolution; hesaidcrackhehheh; immaturetitle; intelligentdesign; politics; science
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To: soupcon
The alternative to ID is spontaneous generation. The arguments for ID are logical and well founded. 1. We have never seen something of complexity that didn't have a creator. 2. We can create new life forms through our own intelligence (almost at least). Ergo, Intelligence is responsible for the original creation. The logical arguments for spontaneous generation are, what???
161 posted on 08/18/2005 6:46:15 PM PDT by webboy45
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To: GeorgiaYankee

It can be argued that scientists developed racism. "Notes from Virginia" show how much Jefferson was influenced by the anthropology of his day, and the longer he lived the further he moved from the Lockean view, which was essentially Christian, of the natural equality of man to the 19th century theory of essential differences between races. That is one reason why he supported slavery. Science taught him not to regard his black slave as his natural equal.

162 posted on 08/18/2005 6:47:21 PM PDT by RobbyS (chirho)
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To: gathersnomoss
I for one will take morality over science in a heart beat. When was the last time you saw a book burned in this country? The last great fire I recall was in Waco, TX. I believe that Janet and Bill were both playing with themselves while women and children were burned to death.

Not very moral. My I suggest that this event was more like Hitler taking on the Jews. And the government didn't give a sXXt. I guess it was for the know it takes a fxxking village.

Screw the flaming liberals and their creationism. I go with ID. They will loose!

Words that mean nothing. Actions that should wake many of you up. If you believe that we all came about because of a big BANG and that the gorilla at the zoo is a distant cousin than you do in fact have alot to be afraid of. Fear the unknown.

You speak in gibberish. Take a deep breath, calm down, pretend to be rational, and try again.

163 posted on 08/18/2005 6:49:25 PM PDT by onewhowatches
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To: AntiGuv
Well if that is the issue then ID would not matter anyway, now would it.

Really, you evos and IDers overestimate the publics concern over this all of this.

What if the Pope cam out for ID? What would that do?

Besides, you make it sound like the Dem's tack on the stem cell issue has that much traction. Bush's position is pretty reasonable here, and most people seem to agree with it when they actually find out what it is.

On one have you seem to be saying that the public will side rationally with the eveo side because they "rational, logical positivists" and on the other you seem to be saying that they can be "bludgeoned" with rhetoric, and "tempted with eternal life" (a pretty silly formulation - and a demeaning estimation of the American people, BTW) You cannot have it both ways, it would seem to me.

Believe me, having high school kids in Kansas spend two weeks hearing about ID is not going to move us "back to the dark ages," or somehow "stop bioscience<" and you evos do not help your cause with this sort of hysterical "warnings."

Do you really think the voter believe that this will keep them "from eternal life?"

Do you really think that the voter is so stupid to buy all the outrageous claim coming out from the stem cell crowd, when it is pretty obvious that they are yet again rattling a cup? We have been through the "War on Cancer" and the "War on AIDS," but to little avail. This aspect of the Evo argument seems pretty childish from the outside looking in. As the teacher lobby has begun to be seen as just another interest group at the trough, so do scientist risk this perception the more they are seen as political actor.

Perhaps the Left will be successful here, but it will be a phyrric victory in the end. The self-ipmortant posturings of the Earth sciences crowd, the evo crowd, the gay is biological crowd. the diverity crowd, etc is wearing a little thin. When we have Harvard taking the wholly irrational view that the problem with a "manpower" shortage is some how solved by "empowering women scientist" is is profoundly hard to take the academy seriously when one hears their cries about "the sanctity of science."

I think that you are falling for the Left's notion that they are they "rational; and scientific" ones when they are in fact pretty full of gobbledygook themselves. In fact, ID seems pretty mild here compared to what the left has been up too for years.

As someone with no dog in this fight, I will tell you that the stridency and seemingly mortification of you evos becomes you little in the public square.

It just goes to show that it is not just the Left that has contempt for "the public."

In the end the American people will chose correctly given and honest means of doing so.

164 posted on 08/18/2005 6:50:17 PM PDT by CasearianDaoist
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To: jwalsh07
"...all require life as a prerequisite."

Evolution does not address the creation of life since, as a scientific endeavor, the research activities called science, a methodology of inquiry, has stipulated that the supernatural is beyond science's ability.

165 posted on 08/18/2005 6:50:44 PM PDT by Rudder
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To: curiosity
There's a big difference between an opponent and and an enemy, but more important to your point, I agree with most of Douthat's article. He is not my opponent.
166 posted on 08/18/2005 6:50:46 PM PDT by GoLightly
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To: curiosity; All
The theory of evolution may be in big trouble, according to no less an authority than Charles Darwin, its founder.

“If it could be demonstrated,” he once wrote, “that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, excessive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”

167 posted on 08/18/2005 6:51:01 PM PDT by apackof2 (In my simple way, I guess you could say I'm living in the BIG TIME)
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To: aft_lizard
ID by its first proponents says it is meant to compliment and even explain processes that darwinism, neo darwinism anmd the like cannot explain. It is not meant to replace it, as evolution did to creationism, and you would assert.


168 posted on 08/18/2005 6:51:14 PM PDT by WildTurkey (When will CBS Retract and Apologize?)
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To: curiosity
Yes, and that's preciesely the problem. If it was merely a philosophical outlook, then there would be nothing wrong with it.

This is the part I do not understand. If, life the universe and everything, is the result of a Creator – as opposed to the random collision of atoms – is that not, at some level, a scientific fact? If the supernatural exists than science must be able to explain it.

Or is it specific aspects of ID that you object to?

169 posted on 08/18/2005 6:51:43 PM PDT by Friend of thunder (No sane person wants war, but oppressors want oppression.)
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To: soupcon

As for flaws, they themselves are things of beauty. They provide variation. It's the flaws in a blue diamond that give it the beautiful blue color (ie. electron holes).

170 posted on 08/18/2005 6:51:45 PM PDT by webboy45
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To: RobbyS
Good point. It is nice to see that the debate is finally being discussed in philosophical terms, since it has never been about good science versus bad science.
171 posted on 08/18/2005 6:52:06 PM PDT by Boiler Plate
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To: GeorgiaYankee

I am neither Greek nor Jewish so I guess all that does not apply to me.

172 posted on 08/18/2005 6:52:45 PM PDT by WildTurkey (When will CBS Retract and Apologize?)
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To: WildTurkey
"The creos are running scared"

Scared of what?

The truth is all that matters.

The truth for me is that my faith has given me hope.
It has carried me through hardship.
It has given me peace.
I don't see where that interferes with my creative ability.
In fact it has helped me.
Given me an understanding that God has a purpose for me.
173 posted on 08/18/2005 6:53:07 PM PDT by DaveTesla (You can fool some of the people some of the time......)
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To: RobbyS
Rebels live a hard life, especially intellectual rebels, because scholars more than ordinary people, never change their minds.

That's the truth.

I once saw a presentation by a scientist who was a believer and also a proponent of sound evolutionary theory. He started his presentation by quoting a Gallup poll that stated that 82% of all scientists surveyed believed in some kind of supreme being. He thought it was ironic because a few weeks later he saw a similar poll by Pew (or some other pollster) that stated that 79% of all clergy, pastors, ministers, etc., believed in a supreme being. People are people, eh?

174 posted on 08/18/2005 6:53:56 PM PDT by Tennessean4Bush (An optimist believes we live in the best of all possible worlds, a pessimist fears this is true.)
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To: Hotdog

Where did God come from?

175 posted on 08/18/2005 6:53:58 PM PDT by WildTurkey (When will CBS Retract and Apologize?)
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To: From many - one.
Progress will happen, just not here.

Practically speaking, what would Intelligent Design believers do differently than others, in the lab?

176 posted on 08/18/2005 6:54:03 PM PDT by syriacus (Cindy doesn't want our soldiers to shoot insurgent bombers who are murdering small Iraqi children.)
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To: curiosity
Liberals have always defined themselves by their intellectual snobbery and their embrace of secular humanism. I have no interest in hiding my views in order to make them more palatable to arrogant leftists.
177 posted on 08/18/2005 6:55:18 PM PDT by DouglasKC
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To: webboy45
As for flaws, they themselves are things of beauty.

Tune into Discovery Health Channel to see the beautiful "flaws of God" ...

178 posted on 08/18/2005 6:56:12 PM PDT by WildTurkey (When will CBS Retract and Apologize?)
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To: CasearianDaoist

I'm leaving in a few minutes, and might not get to your post until tomorrow evening. Just a courtesy FYI! I'll be back..

179 posted on 08/18/2005 6:56:28 PM PDT by AntiGuv ("Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." Philip K. Dick)
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To: WildTurkey

You said: That is what the creos/ID'ers are pushing. Just stop the progress and say God did it. Stupid.

Other than Scientologists, few believers in God suggest scrapping all science and research, at least few that I know of.

And not responding to your thread, but others who attack ID by saying that if God had created life, He would have done a better job than He did, I am not so sure. God could have created a world in which there was no death, no pain, nothing negative. Would that have been a better world? Depends on what you think is good. Those of us who believe in God and study our faith (at least those with whom I worship) don't think that life was created for Man, but rather for God. The true good in the world always, or nearly so, comes out of the bad. Healing out of illness; Generosity out of want, etc.

180 posted on 08/18/2005 6:56:41 PM PDT by NCLaw441
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