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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: F.J. Mitchell

Most of us like choices, that's why restaurants have menus and colleges have electives.

The schools can teach all the intelligent design they like, in an elective class and not in a required science class.

541 posted on 08/19/2005 6:56:07 AM PDT by From many - one.
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To: Right Wing Professor

Fair enough.

In my humble opinion , it is a stretch to the breaking point to give science credits for studies in evolution and I am sure that credits for basket weaving classes would benefit the student of science fiction , more, as well. But choice, has, been hailed as the acme of human progress, for the past thirty years and now we of anywhere to the right of the extreme left, are claiming our own right to choice.

542 posted on 08/19/2005 7:01:38 AM PDT by F.J. Mitchell (If John Roberts is unfit for this Supreme Court,-this Supreme Court is unfit for the USA.)
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To: Trimegistus
And nobody has ever explained to me how evolution by natural selection is inherently Godless.

The ID advocates aren't interested in the mechanisms of evolution per se. They are interested in discrediting the methods and findings of science itself, as they pertain to casting doubt on the literal historical accuracy of Genesis.

543 posted on 08/19/2005 7:06:51 AM PDT by js1138 (Science has it all: the fun of being still, paying attention, writing down numbers...)
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To: Tribune7; Right Wing Professor
ID is basically the claim that objective evidence (observations, probability calculations etc.) indicates that the universe (and life) is designed.

Uh, how do you want to detect design if you don't even have a model of the designer?

544 posted on 08/19/2005 7:10:26 AM PDT by BMCDA (Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must be silent. -- L. Wittgenstein)
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To: From many - one.

I understand that. What I am unable to understand is why the fairy tale of evolution is taught in what is strangely defined as a required science class.

545 posted on 08/19/2005 7:11:07 AM PDT by F.J. Mitchell (If John Roberts is unfit for this Supreme Court,-this Supreme Court is unfit for the USA.)
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Comment #546 Removed by Moderator

To: spunkets

Your hermeneutics are disasterous (as if that matters to you). At least make an effort to put this verse in context. He was referring to His messianic claim being challenged by a skeptical ruling class. To insinuate that the Lord Jesus Christ was saying anything at all supportive of the evolution argument is defamatory and scurrilous. You must be utterly vile to make such a suggestion.

547 posted on 08/19/2005 7:20:55 AM PDT by Zechariah11
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To: js1138

Right. The ID movement is a mask.

548 posted on 08/19/2005 7:36:13 AM PDT by cajungirl (no)
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To: From many - one.

And of course they can teach devil worship, scientology, properties of spirits.

In the religion department, not in the science department.

549 posted on 08/19/2005 7:37:58 AM PDT by cajungirl (no)
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To: jwalsh07
Great Dodge

550 posted on 08/19/2005 7:40:03 AM PDT by qam1 (There's been a huge party. All plates and the bottles are empty, all that's left is the bill to pay)
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To: curiosity


551 posted on 08/19/2005 7:41:03 AM PDT by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: F.J. Mitchell

Students are free to pursue Religious Studies as they wish. But Religious Studies do not lead to a Bachelor of Science in Engineering or Biology.

552 posted on 08/19/2005 7:41:08 AM PDT by cajungirl (no)
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To: From many - one.

The battle reminds me a lot of the censors in Iran who urged translators of western literature to substitue words to make the literature more acceptable. One example in Reading Lolita in Iran was the taking of the word "wine" out of I do believe a Henry James novel.

This is very similar to the Madrassas if you ask me. Just a matter of degree.

553 posted on 08/19/2005 7:43:47 AM PDT by cajungirl (no)
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To: Zechariah11

You are vile to call him vile. And how do you know what Jesus thinks of evolution? You got some kind of pipeline?

554 posted on 08/19/2005 7:46:34 AM PDT by cajungirl (no)
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To: From many - one.
Because once ID is what is taught, and believed, virtually -all- research in biology grinds to a halt since every currently unanswered question becomes answered by "the designer did it"

How many people would actually believe it? Won't their be any naysayers? Why do you imply there will be a "winner takes all" outcome to the struggle between evolutionists and IDers?

But here is my underlying question

Why are evolutionists using overkill and using personal attacks on IDers?

As I've said above, ID is news to me. For 40 years I've been comfortable with a personal belief that any evolution that has taken place has occurred within a Universe set up by God, which operates according to His rules.

I'm an average person, who's skeptical of people who need to pound their opponents into the ground.

Like other average people, I find it necessary to cover my ears, when someone is ranting.

The evolutionists need PR lessons.

555 posted on 08/19/2005 7:46:41 AM PDT by syriacus (Cindy doesn't want our soldiers to shoot insurgent bombers who are murdering small Iraqi children.)
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To: syriacus

Because the ID movement involves a religious belief that God is on their side, the real poor PR is their movement, founded on a lie. They are fascist at heart. And if you read this thread the insults hurled at anyone who differs with them are shocking. For so called Christians.

I do believe one poster last night referred to the second coming and taunted one who differed with him on ID that one day we would all be on our knees. Now that is his belief. But it was bullying and hateful.

That has no place in a study of Science.

556 posted on 08/19/2005 7:49:55 AM PDT by cajungirl (no)
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To: MizSterious
Do your own legwork. References are there is you want to find them. Looking might open your mind a little, in fact.

You made a claim, but now you refuse to back it up with evidence.

That would lead an objective observer to conclude that there is no evidence for your claim, other than your opinion.

557 posted on 08/19/2005 7:58:25 AM PDT by Modernman ("A conservative government is an organized hypocrisy." -Disraeli)
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To: Wonder Warthog

What you were taught is not relevant. I quoted the text from my son's 2002 Biology textbook. The terms are being taught now.

And watch your language.

558 posted on 08/19/2005 8:06:12 AM PDT by plain talk
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To: muawiyah
To make a long story short, the 9 Sa'ami languages have one additional cognate language ~ and that's ancient Sumerian, and possibly one Indian language in California.

Do you have a reference for this? Thanks.

559 posted on 08/19/2005 8:10:47 AM PDT by Coyoteman (Is this a good tagline?)
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To: CasearianDaoist

It's not a play on words, it's a fact.
If you want your child to have moral teaching you can choose private education. Parents must be creative.

560 posted on 08/19/2005 8:16:55 AM PDT by b9
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