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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: WildTurkey
"Where did God come from?"

That's my point...He gave me enough intelligence to be inquisitive and allow myself to share His beauty with limitations but at the same time not be so stupid as to draw conclusions that contradict His.
201 posted on 08/18/2005 7:08:34 PM PDT by Hotdog
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To: apackof2

202 posted on 08/18/2005 7:08:36 PM PDT by js1138 (Science has it all: the fun of being still, paying attention, writing down numbers...)
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To: Dimensio

Why would God allow his chosen come out and lie about evolution?

203 posted on 08/18/2005 7:09:29 PM PDT by WildTurkey (When will CBS Retract and Apologize?)
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To: qam1
Well I am not sure it is BS, it is just poorly cast as an argument.

It is really a epistemological criticism of Macro evolution, and they have some points from this angle.

The real problem, of course is that much of the evo argument cannot be really be approached from the empirical, experimental methodology that can be found in the so-called "head science" (which from my point of view is really science proper,) while at the same time the Evo side want to claim the surety of "hard science." I really think that some areas of Biology were if fact better characterized by our forebears as "Natural Philosophy."

I see a lot of rhetorical and philosophical hanky panky on both sides, and some of it seems to be even unwitting. I imagine if this get thrust into public scrutiny this will come to the fore and the whole argument will shift completely. You evos might be surprised at the outcome and who you end up arguing against.

My background is in Mathematics and Philosophy, and from that viewpoint, I find much of the claims of much of what we call "science" on today's campuses do have some dubious value, and built on some methodologically unsound footings.

You people imagine that all educated people are scientist, or buy the claims of science without analysis.

In this the IDers have sensed something: You too have a "religious" bent as well.

The public sense this as well. or so it seems to me.

You give some of your own prejudices away here by somehow implying that the "blue state voter" is somehow more intelligent that the "red stater." The admission is as striking as it is inadvertent

Evos to not seem to grasp the broader implications outside of science that the IDers somehow intuitively grasp, and those implications need to be addressed, though perhaps the conflict between the two sides here is not the place to do so.

204 posted on 08/18/2005 7:10:02 PM PDT by CasearianDaoist
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To: Dimensio
Why would a perfect creation create sin?

Because the perfect creation is perfect in its own, limited, way and not perfect like God.

205 posted on 08/18/2005 7:10:28 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: apackof2
What God created was are forgetting what man "created"......sin

Hmmm. Man created sin. Maybe man created God?

206 posted on 08/18/2005 7:11:08 PM PDT by WildTurkey (When will CBS Retract and Apologize?)
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To: Dimensio
Science is the study of the natural and only the natural. Anything supernatural is outside of the explanatory power of science by definition.

So if we live in a created universe it is beyond the powers of science to confirm it?

207 posted on 08/18/2005 7:11:15 PM PDT by Friend of thunder (No sane person wants war, but oppressors want oppression.)
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To: curiosity

Wow, you've really stirred up the "The Bible says it, I believe it, That settles it." group of posters.
I'm also a believer, but treating a 2,000+ year old philosophical text that has been through multiple translations as literally as an automobile repair manual or calculus textbook definitely reflects a certain want of intellect.

208 posted on 08/18/2005 7:11:47 PM PDT by ExcelJockey
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To: curiosity

It would not shake my faith either, if a scientist could create life from non-life. The next task would be to create something from nothing. But I don't see a great chance of that happening, it has been tried for over 5 years with no success. As for the "crevices" or "gaps" in science, when they are present, they may in fact be wide chasms. I don't suggest that God is "hiding" at all, and that doesn't sound like a very scientific statement.

209 posted on 08/18/2005 7:12:00 PM PDT by NCLaw441
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To: Dimensio
Why would a perfect creation create sin?

I was referring to physical (the body) creation, not purposes, intent, desires, emotions

210 posted on 08/18/2005 7:12:08 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: onewhowatches
" are very ignorant of science, evolution, and other closely related subjects."

You're right. The dealer said that I could be that way and still operate the vehicle. He said that a monkey could drive the vehicle if monkeys were still around. Unfortunately, they all evolved into human beings.

211 posted on 08/18/2005 7:13:17 PM PDT by FlingWingFlyer (We did not lose in Vietnam. We left.)
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To: WildTurkey
Why would God allow his chosen come out and lie about evolution?

Why don't you ask Him?

212 posted on 08/18/2005 7:13:54 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: qam1
head science= hard science.

Too funny...a freudian spellchecker.

213 posted on 08/18/2005 7:14:04 PM PDT by CasearianDaoist
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To: apackof2
I believe that if God had designed life, rather than letting it happen at random, he would have done a much better job.

What God created was are forgetting what man "created"......sin

It was sin, that set in motion the deterioration (sickness, disease)of the perfect creation

And so man cause the very genetic material of every living creature to degerate into the mess it is in now?

God help you, because it's for sure reason can't reach you.


214 posted on 08/18/2005 7:14:27 PM PDT by Servant of the 9 (Those Poor Poor Rubber Cows)
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To: FlingWingFlyer
"All these things were here before man arrived on the scene. How come cars weren't here waiting for us when man showed up on this planet?"

God gave you horses and camels, amongst other things. All else was to be from your own hands. Including your science and engineering books.

215 posted on 08/18/2005 7:14:37 PM PDT by spunkets
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To: WildTurkey

And maybe man created evolution

216 posted on 08/18/2005 7:14:47 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: DaveTesla

"God does not play dice."
Albert Einstein

hmmmmm, well there you would have some issues.

The classical view, put forward by Laplace, was that the future motion of particles was completely determined, if one knew their positions and speeds at one time. This view had to be modified, when Heisenberg put forward his Uncertainty Principle, which said that one could not know both the position, and the speed, accurately...One could calculate probabilities, but one could not make any definite predictions... God still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

217 posted on 08/18/2005 7:14:54 PM PDT by JNL
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To: onewhowatches
Real IDers don't need no stinkin' lab. They already know all the answers!

Are you kidding?

218 posted on 08/18/2005 7:15:12 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: Hotdog

How do you resolve the fact that the Bible is not the same as it was thousands of years ago. Parts have been added and removed to suit the times. Many times these edits have been made by a "vote". Since man has "free-will" these "votes" represent the will of man, not God. You have been had.

219 posted on 08/18/2005 7:16:04 PM PDT by WildTurkey (When will CBS Retract and Apologize?)
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To: syriacus

You said: He might have called it "Eden."

As we know, God left the possiblity of sin open in Eden. That's why we're in the mess we're in. God could have, if He wanted, made Eden without the tree of knowledge of good and evil, so that no sin was possible. But He chose to give us free will, which we promptly used to sin against Him.

220 posted on 08/18/2005 7:17:01 PM PDT by NCLaw441
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