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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: DesertSapper
Using the generally-accepted definition above and the fact that we can observe the validity of "micro-evolution" (natural selection and adaptation within the "kind") . . . I say . . . yep! "provable" works quite well.

Observing the validity of "micro-evolution" doesn't prove any scientific theories. Scientific theories are not proven, and your attempt to use rhetoric to distract from the original point does not change this.

The only people who ask that a scientific theory be "provable" are those who do not understand science.
641 posted on 08/19/2005 12:31:45 PM PDT by Dimensio ( <-- required reading before you use your next apostrophe!)
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To: BibChr

Great blogsite.

I especially enjoyed your review of Ebert.

Question: Chaos? Is that the French film being referred to?

642 posted on 08/19/2005 12:33:18 PM PDT by eleni121 ('Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!' (Julian the Apostate))
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To: F.J. Mitchell
I have read the theories about evolution(now being taught to our children as facts rather than mere theories) and survival of the fittest and in my opinion they are as full of holes and overwhelmed by so many could not have happeneds, that in my opinion it should be listed under science fiction.

Could you offer an actual counter rather than the fallacy of argument from incredulity?

Each cell in this warm and functional human body could not survive outside a very limited range of temperature variation that can only be maintained by the temperature controls designed into this human body and that of other species.

So? No one claims that human cells survive on their own, individually, in hostile environments.

It could not exists, except upon a planet, designed to supply it's every need.

Except that you're ignoring that the theory of evolution suggests that life evolved to fit their environments, not that environments were shaped to fit life. It's not that our environment was "designed", it's that our bodies evolved in such a way as to fit within the environment in which we live. Another environment may not have supported life at all (in which case we wouldn't be having this discussion) or it might have supported life in a different configuration, in which case the life in it would have evolved to look and behave differently.

The anthropic principle argument is nothing more than question-begging.
643 posted on 08/19/2005 12:37:16 PM PDT by Dimensio ( <-- required reading before you use your next apostrophe!)
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To: visually_augmented
Fundamentally, evolution relies on the hypothesis that all life forms (or certainly most life forms) trend to higher complexity.

Evolution says no such thing. Higher complexity only comes about where it's able due to environmental selection pressures. In environments where higher "complexity" is of no benefit or even detrimental to reproduction, you'll see lower "complexity" reigning.

So the big question in my mind is why only primates evolved to become sentient. Why are there not a vast array of higher order being? You know, monkey-man, horse-man, cat-man, and maybe even roach-man?

Your confusion is based on a false premise.
644 posted on 08/19/2005 12:38:53 PM PDT by Dimensio ( <-- required reading before you use your next apostrophe!)
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To: visually_augmented
If that is the case, then "science" should stay out of that business.

What "business" exactly?

Theories should be discussed and debated, of course, but we should never lose site that they are theories - not dogma...

Every explanation in science is theory, always subject to change. There is nothing in science greater than theory.
645 posted on 08/19/2005 12:41:42 PM PDT by Dimensio ( <-- required reading before you use your next apostrophe!)
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To: MitchellC
As for why God would create a world that would fall, what is the point of the question? Is it impossible that a perfect God would do such a thing?

It really depends on your definition of "perfect". Perfect simply means conforming to a standard with no deviation whatsoever. Perfect by itself, with no qualifications regarding the standard, is meaningless, so given specific standards it is possible for a "perfect" God to create a world that would fall, even if this "perfect" God was completely capable of creating a world that would not fall. It just depends on what you mean by "perfect".
646 posted on 08/19/2005 12:43:33 PM PDT by Dimensio ( <-- required reading before you use your next apostrophe!)
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To: eleni121

I don't think it's French. here is his original review of the movie.


647 posted on 08/19/2005 12:44:13 PM PDT by BibChr ("...behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them?" [Jer. 8:9])
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To: CasearianDaoist
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.

Good thoughts. The true hard sciences (physics, chemistry, etc.) are rigorously testable in ways that evolutionary biology is not. Fossil evidence can be examined to improve the soundness of one's guesses about what happened in the past, but they are still educated guesses.

Other 'soft' sciences like archaeology & anthropology allow for -- necessitate, even -- the assessment of 'intelligent design' to differentiate man-made artifacts (tools and such) from naturally occurring features, so it's not as though such an idea is completely alien to science.

648 posted on 08/19/2005 12:44:36 PM PDT by Sloth (History's greatest monsters: Hitler, Stalin, Mao & Durbin)
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To: From many - one.

I've come to the realisation that mordo isn't exactly altogether sane. Attempting rational discussion with the totally irrational is pointless.

649 posted on 08/19/2005 12:44:53 PM PDT by Dimensio ( <-- required reading before you use your next apostrophe!)
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To: MNJohnnie
And this differs from the arrogant declaration that "Science" proves "Evolution" is a "Fact" how?

Well, I for one acknowledge that no explanations in science are "proven". Got something that isn't a strawman?
650 posted on 08/19/2005 12:46:13 PM PDT by Dimensio ( <-- required reading before you use your next apostrophe!)
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To: Tribune7
If we teach that there is a design to life and the universe, and a reason for our existence beyond chance, and truth is real and findable, we will have smarter kids and better scientists.

Why lie to our children and say that we've demonstrated some "design to life" and that we know that there's a reason for our existence beond chance? How will lying to children in htis way make them smarter?
651 posted on 08/19/2005 12:51:28 PM PDT by Dimensio ( <-- required reading before you use your next apostrophe!)
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To: BibChr

OK I will find out about it. There is another film called Chaos (French) and I have heard it is excellent.

652 posted on 08/19/2005 12:58:52 PM PDT by eleni121 ('Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!' (Julian the Apostate))
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To: spunkets

Your version does NOT accurately translate what the original actually says.

653 posted on 08/19/2005 1:01:58 PM PDT by Just mythoughts
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To: Just mythoughts

So the Hebrew Bible I linked to and their translation is wrong?

654 posted on 08/19/2005 1:13:56 PM PDT by spunkets
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To: Dimensio
No Dimensio,

I have come to the conclusion that you are not really about any kind of dialog. That is one thing that can be drawn from your replies, no sincere desire for any kind of dialog. That is is what I laugh at.

Now we'll go back to that time you cut in on LifeOrGoods? and I tried to get you to answer some of the same questions you ask, but no you ran off again.

Hey Dimensio!! Don't run away again!! There are questions to be answered!

See.. remember LifeOrGoods?

He made a statement, and you converted that into an assumption that life is "working" according to a design and that he has not demonstrated this.

And so I asked Well what about you?

Are you assuming life is "working" yes/no?
Is life "working" according to a design yes/no?
What is your position?
What is your design?
What is your description of a design?
Does it 'look like' evolution? yes/no?

Interesting. You have made a demand that he demonstrate, but who shall it be to?

655 posted on 08/19/2005 1:15:44 PM PDT by mordo
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To: curiosity
The appeal of "intelligent design" to the American right is obvious.

I read that and stopped reading.

656 posted on 08/19/2005 1:17:58 PM PDT by Frapster (Don't mind me - I'm distracted by the pretty lights.)
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To: Dimensio; visually_augmented
visually_augmented wrote: Theories should be discussed and debated, of course, but we should never lose site that they are theories - not dogma...

Dimensio replied: Every explanation in science is theory, always subject to change. There is nothing in science greater than theory.

The only folks who seem to "lose site [sic] that they are theories - not dogma..." are the CS/ID folks.

They accuse evolutionists of teaching theories as if that is a negative. They refuse to learn how science works, even when corrected (as Dimensio does here), because then they would have less to argue against.

Can you say "straw man" boys and girls? I knew you could!

657 posted on 08/19/2005 1:35:19 PM PDT by Coyoteman (Is this a good tagline?)
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To: Dimensio

Dimensio: "There is nothing in science greater than theory."

Except maybe experimental evidence?? There are certain things that are observational and should be identified as fact. Certainly this is a part of science that many pure Darwinists have forgotten. Seems they have misrepresented the theory as experimental evidence.

I am not necessarily endorsing ID but certainly we need to be spending more time on the investigation of alternate theories since many of the essential elements of Macro evolution are still lacking. Most aspects of this theory are still inferred.

Some have condemned the ID folks saying they are against science. That the proponents of ID will just throw their hands up at some point and say "we're done, no more study required because we have the answer". This is hogwash since the very foundations of science came about by men who desired to better understand God's creation. Personally, I think a view of science that is God centered would tend to motivate us further since most all God-fearing individuals realize we can never completely understand God nor His creation completely. I expect that some scientists presume a day will come where study will end because they have discovered it all! The very fact that we cannot and will not "figure it all out" is probably evidence in itself there is a creator. The created can never surpass or equal the creator.

Much of science is observational and hence we don't necessarily need to reproduce an event to describe how it occured or the results. For example, just because we can't create a chromosome doesn't mean we cannot distinguish the different types. This is why I think both sides of this debate are scientific. Granted, both sides use deception and bad science along the way but that does not mean they are not valid approaches to scientifically examine the existence of life as we now know it.

658 posted on 08/19/2005 1:44:38 PM PDT by visually_augmented (I was blind, but now I see)
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To: visually_augmented
Except maybe experimental evidence??

Experimental evidence is used to build theory. Experimental evidence alone is nothing special, it's just an observation. You use combined exprimental evidence to create theories.

There are certain things that are observational and should be identified as fact.

"Objects fall to earth" is an observation. It is a fact that objects fall to earth. It is not a fact that objects will always fall to earth. The explanation for why objects fall to earth and why we should assume that it will be the case that objects within proximity to earth will fall to it is theory. Theories are built upon facts, but anything that can be called "fact" is too simplistic to have any broad meaning in itself.
659 posted on 08/19/2005 1:48:28 PM PDT by Dimensio ( <-- required reading before you use your next apostrophe!)
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To: doodlelady
In the same way a little Christmas tree light has the whole power of the Hoover Dam behind it.

Care to flesh this out a little more? Expound upon this profundity?

Or is it more 'best of the best' contributions and stupid irrational mordo cant get it.., yeah thats the ticket.
660 posted on 08/19/2005 1:52:58 PM PDT by mordo
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