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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: doodlelady
Nonsense, the Constitutional provision for freedom of religion gauenttes no such thing, and your assertion does not logically follow in the least, nor is it supported by the historical record. I challenge you to prove otherwise

You are just throwing out pseudo intellectual gobbledygook, and when you are called on it you just want to throw a little tantrum about it. You are engaged in the philosophical equivalent of stopping your heels. That might have worked with Daddy, but that does not work in th real world at all.

There is no thought with out metaphysics, and there is not civilization without ethics.

Your fellow citizens will have their say, get used to it, sister. You need to understand that, as you need to get over your self importance - what do you think, you just pontificate and everyone that disagrees with you just goes away?

Too bad about that ego of yours - the immaturity too.

561 posted on 08/19/2005 8:32:55 AM PDT by CasearianDaoist
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To: CasearianDaoist

Are you or are you not free to choose your child's private education?

562 posted on 08/19/2005 8:36:11 AM PDT by b9
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To: F.J. Mitchell

That takes a fair amount of background in biology to explain.

563 posted on 08/19/2005 8:39:20 AM PDT by From many - one.
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To: cajungirl

I agree completely.

Madrassas or our own Medieval period.

564 posted on 08/19/2005 8:41:44 AM PDT by From many - one.
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To: syriacus

565 posted on 08/19/2005 8:44:13 AM PDT by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch is der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: TheClintons-STILLAnti-American

ID has nothing to do with theology.

566 posted on 08/19/2005 8:45:35 AM PDT by soupcon
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To: plain talk
"What you were taught is not relevant. I quoted the text from my son's 2002 Biology textbook. The terms are being taught now."

Sorry, but all that shows is the effect of memetics. If you want to win your point, show me a biology text from pre-1980 that uses "micro" and "macro".

"And watch your language."

I say exactly what I mean--it's called "plain talk".

567 posted on 08/19/2005 8:45:52 AM PDT by Wonder Warthog (The Hog of Steel)
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To: soupcon

Natural theology, Like Plato's

568 posted on 08/19/2005 8:46:44 AM PDT by RobbyS (chirho)
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To: MNJohnnie

ID is more applicable to UFO's than to either science or theology. Complexity can be found in countless lifeless entities.

569 posted on 08/19/2005 8:49:08 AM PDT by soupcon
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To: cajungirl
And if you read this thread the insults hurled at anyone who differs with them are shocking...But it was bullying and hateful. That has no place in a study of Science.

Speaking of insults and hatefulness....I wonder how many Freepers took a look at the title of this thread....

How Intelligent Design Hurts Conservatives (By making us look like crackpots)

and decided they didn't need to be aggravated, so they skipped this thread entirely.

I think I am being helpful to the evolutionists, by letting them know that they aren't helping their cause by being "unscientifically" emotional.

570 posted on 08/19/2005 8:50:00 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: Doctor Stochastic
Cool crackpot. Is that image "doctored"?


571 posted on 08/19/2005 8:53:13 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: doodlelady
Your assertion goes far beyond education,

If fact it is cognitively, intellectually, socially and politically impossible to have "freedom from religion,"

Our entire internal world, our civilization and our political foundations are deeply shaped and informed by it. Too suggest otherwise is just preposterous, and a thoroughly narcissistic and solipsistic understanding of what civilization is, or what the human is.

Likewise you notion of "choosing your children's private education is both spurious and specious.

1) Why should parents be forced to withdraw from public schools rather than decide to change them? Are the not coerced in to supporting them? Are they mere serf? hardly seems democratic or "public" to me.

2) There are no value neutral curriculum - they do not exist in a vacuum. Some group of people decide these things, and that group promotes its own believes and agenda. It is intellectually dishonest to suggest otjherwise, and it is arrogant for you to imagine that you have the right to foist your believe system on others without any political form or political outcome.

3) Secular humanism and Socialism are really just other belief systems and apply a quasi-supernatural mandate to their core beliefs as well. "Socialist man," Scientific materialism, "Scientism" or even the efficacy of reason as an ultimate moral arbiter are no less mystical or religious assertions than a belief in the Virgin Mary, and a great deal more harmful, I might add. Nothing could be clearer from the history of the 20th century.

4) In principle, no, parents cannot chose if there are economic. geographic or logistical limitations placed on them. This is a particularly specious formulation, and for obvious reasons.

5) You assume that your position is the majority position birth nationally and regionally. I fail to see how this is so.

So, based on what you have articulated, I find you position faulty in its whole and its parts, and not a serious position whatsoever.

572 posted on 08/19/2005 9:03:03 AM PDT by CasearianDaoist
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To: CasearianDaoist

This is still a free country, thank goodness.
Yes, you do have the freedom to be creative with your child's private education.

At least for now.

573 posted on 08/19/2005 9:09:54 AM PDT by b9
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To: From many - one.
No, it's not cross pollination

Research Areas: Physics and Mathematical Biology

The university's physicists and mathematical biologists are creating a dynamic interface between physical and biological disciplines that is already leading to fruitful new approaches to biological problems as well as new directions in physics.

Theoretical and experimental condensed matter physicists at Rockefeller contributed heavily to the recent vanguard in nonlinear dynamics, which they apply to the analysis of biological systems. Other studies conducted by physicists at Rockefeller hone existing tools such as information and systems theory, statistics and probability theory in order to examine biological problems.

574 posted on 08/19/2005 9:12:37 AM PDT by syriacus (You are shouting so loudly that I can't "hear" you.)
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To: doodlelady
You are completely missing my point, and your response was so fast that you could not have possibly digested my post.

You in fact completely ignored it.

Do you think this is just an echo chamber?

Why even bother with you?

And no, it is not a free country when the NEA and the Left controls the public school system. That is just the point.

575 posted on 08/19/2005 9:13:15 AM PDT by CasearianDaoist
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To: From many - one.
Who's the "large donor" who wants to replace the Constitution?

I forget names, but I saw an article about him within the last two months. Apparently he's one of the largest donors to the Discovery Institute (which to it's credit does other valuable conservative things outside of attacking evolution). Apparently this guy is a gung ho creationist among other things, and just like the lefty non-profits do what their donors want, DI does as well.

Money is money.

576 posted on 08/19/2005 9:13:46 AM PDT by narby (There are Bloggers, and then there are Freepers.)
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To: CasearianDaoist

You may be missing my point.
You have far more creative power than you realize.

You are an individual, not a pawn of the left.

577 posted on 08/19/2005 9:17:17 AM PDT by b9
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To: GSHastings
Jesus performed a lot of miracles, with a lot of witnesses

The only proof of any such miracles is the Bible. That is hardly what I would call an unbiased source.

Jesus was killed for, and while, proclaiming Himself to be the one true God, and the only path to God.

Jesus was killed for getting involved in a complicated political, imperial, religious, social and colonial situation. In all honesty, the Romans didn't care that he proclaimed that there was only one God. In their mind, he was just another crackpot in Judea.

Jesus resurrected himself, and that event was reliably witnessed by hundreds of people.

Again, the only source for this claim is the Bible.

Countless people have accepted Jesus' words as truth, and have found that simply by doing so, amazing things have occured in their lives.

That can be said of any other religion. Even Islam.

578 posted on 08/19/2005 9:24:18 AM PDT by Modernman ("A conservative government is an organized hypocrisy." -Disraeli)
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To: doodlelady
There is a vast difference between being a pawn and being a cincerned citizen unwilling to cede the public square to the enemies of one's civilization.

Receding from that fight in that square may be "creative," but it is most certainly cowardly.

Lastly, you have no notion of the depths of my creativity.

579 posted on 08/19/2005 9:28:45 AM PDT by CasearianDaoist
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To: syriacus

"...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...."

Seems totally reasonable to me.

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

The word "evolutionist" is usually used as an epithet implying an unreasonable belief in evolution, sort of like being a fan of some losing sports team (notice howI carefully avoid naming one. Most of the posters I read defending the correctness of evolution are scientists or engineers. Most of the opposition seems to come from those not educated any relevant field.

What type of PR lessons would you suggest?

580 posted on 08/19/2005 9:28:52 AM PDT by From many - one.
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