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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: mordo

Carry on Dude.

741 posted on 08/19/2005 7:37:00 PM PDT by cajungirl (no)
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To: AntiGuv
You mean you would have to read my post and understand it? That no doubt is annoying - and challenging, evidently.

That might require you to get off your hobbyhorse and out of your echo chamber. can't have that.

What really annoys you is being disagreed with, that and not being held in the high regard that you hold yourself in.

Again, you argument seems to be "I am a very impressive person, and if you do not agree with me I will bludgeon you with insults." This is not discourse. This is egoism.

That is what is so comic about the evos around here: They think they are "deep scientific thinkers" when I doubt that any of them have even worked in even third tier institutions. I doubt that you have worked in one of any tier.

This amuses: "Toodles." Is that suppose to be clever? Dismissive?

Do you imagine that I am hanging out here looking for your approval?

Too funny.

You know I just got back from a meeting at CERN (tech not science) and twerpish, mediocre and prickly little egoists like you would literally be shown the door in about a half a hour over yonder, and yet you think that you are dealing with "issues of the highest levels of import to civilization," or some such blather. Really, no one that matters is listening to your little echo chamber.

742 posted on 08/19/2005 7:38:46 PM PDT by CasearianDaoist
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To: cajungirl

There is something to be said for living in perfect health until one drops. But part of the marketing of stem cells, is about extending the natural life span. I don't like that aspect. That is really letting the genie out of the bottle. Heck we could have a Senate with 100 Strom Thurmonds.

743 posted on 08/19/2005 7:39:40 PM PDT by Torie
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To: Torie
I don't think geezers should live forever. We need to get out of the way in good and timely order. Thus a stem cell for me is of drastically less interest than that rare and confused nubile curvaceous women who gives me a smile. But that is just me.

I knew there was a reason I liked you.

Long live the fairer sex, but not too long and not at the expense of their progenies potential progeny.

Gotta be a split participle in there somewhere.

744 posted on 08/19/2005 7:48:45 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: Torie
But part of the marketing of stem cells, is about extending the natural life span. I don't like that aspect. That is really letting the genie out of the bottle.

That point of view is virtually certain to be outvoted. The history of such things suggests very strongly that human nature is such that whenever a new technology comes along that offers the possibility of a better or more comfortable life, people will use it, and use it to the absolute fullest extent possible, consequences be damned. Then again, someone has to play the part of Cassandra - it never works, but someone's gotta do it ;)

745 posted on 08/19/2005 7:51:16 PM PDT by general_re ("Frantic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith, but in doubt." - Reinhold Niebuhr)
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To: jwalsh07
not at the expense of their progenies potential progeny.

And that is THE issue in a nutshell. Just how selfish are we is the question.

746 posted on 08/19/2005 7:51:27 PM PDT by Torie
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To: WildTurkey
"hmmm. God decides to create the BTK and knows all the evil and harm the BTK will cause to innocent people but God goes ahead and creates him all the while knowing exactly what he will do.

As a summary, that's fine.

" If the BTK had free will to do otherwise, then God must not know what he will do.

Whaaaat? BTK has a Free will. God's knowledge of what choices he'll make and actions he'll take are independent of BTK's Free will. Where do you get the, "God must not know" from the fact BTK has a Free will? The conclusion is illogical.

" Therefore, either God knows and there is no free will OR God does not know.

The use of "therefore" is irrational, because it follows from and illogical construction. The only way BTK could not have Free will is if God interfered with BTK's sovereignty over his own will.

Perhaps you missed the fact that God foretold of His betrayal at the last supper and before that. God did not interfere with anyone's sovereignty of will, even to His own mortal end. He said to Pilate to whom the betrayer and the "priests" handed Him over in John 19:10-11
"Do you refuse to speak to me?" Pilate said. "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?"
Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin."

The power given from above is the gift of life and sovereignty of will-Free will. Pilate's choices were made in relative ignorance. The betrayer's was not. That is why his sin is the greater sin. Pilate's was just to kill to end a bothersome conflict.

He came to teach. Learning and judgement requires the effort of Free will.

747 posted on 08/19/2005 7:52:58 PM PDT by spunkets
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To: general_re

That suggests a good reason to nip it in the bud, however specious the grounds. Maybe I need to assume the posture a hard line pro lifer. What do you think?

748 posted on 08/19/2005 7:55:59 PM PDT by Torie
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To: curiosity
What next, an article entitled How God Hurts Conservatives (By making us look like crackpots)?

And what's the next step after that; an irreparable Great Schism of the GOP between the atheists and the people of faith?

Of course, I never fail to find amusement in the observation that the Evo crowd simply cannot pass by anything ID or Creationist without comment. It just cannot be done. There's always something; an epithet; derogation; snide monologue -- something. Thankfully, most stop short of brain-dumping the entire chronology of evolutionist thought, so I suppose I must give some credit for restraint.

But, then, I'm just the sort who, knowing all of this, would pose as a Creationist simply for the great theater it evokes.


749 posted on 08/19/2005 7:57:53 PM PDT by HKMk23 (GoT this sweLl tagline on eBay with changE I found in my soFa. It's a "fixer.")
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To: Torie

I think it can't be stopped. Delayed, perhaps, but not stopped. You can shut it all down here - it'd be a heck of a fight, but I think a winnable one - but all you really end up doing is pushing the work overseas, beyond your reach. And then if (when?) significant benefits are realized, most people will find a way to rationalize and accept the repatriation and use of it. They always have. You must remember that we're all in favor of principles, right up until the point where they interfere with us getting something we want, and the person who doesn't want perfect health or eternal youth is a rare bird indeed.

750 posted on 08/19/2005 8:06:08 PM PDT by general_re ("Frantic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith, but in doubt." - Reinhold Niebuhr)
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To: Jorge
I never said all who repeat this accusation are "the Devil".

So maybe the Devil possessed WildTurkey for a bit?

751 posted on 08/19/2005 8:06:41 PM PDT by RightWingNilla
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To: RightWingNilla
So maybe the Devil possessed WildTurkey for a bit?

That's not a very nice thing to say about WildTurkey.

752 posted on 08/19/2005 8:08:49 PM PDT by Jorge
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To: Torie

Well, I have more noted that the marketing is based on the hope of a healthy life span rather than an extended one.

There comes a time when we die mostly because we just wear out if nothing intervenes to drag it out. I think the hope of stem cell research if for the diseases of age that ruin life rather than an extension of a normal life span. Altzheimers, Parkinsonism, kidney failure.

And is a natural life span interfered with by chronic debilitating diseases. I don't want to dodder on into my nineties. But I want my sixties, seventies and early 80's to be pain free and mobile. If my mind goes, that is okay.

753 posted on 08/19/2005 8:14:08 PM PDT by cajungirl (no)
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To: Torie

How does our doddering in our eighties interfere with our progeny's progeny? I mean, do they need our money for college or something?

As long as we can care for ourselves, there is enough space for all of us. And my grandchildren adore me. And I will give them my money so they won't be sitting around wishing me gone.

754 posted on 08/19/2005 8:16:47 PM PDT by cajungirl (no)
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To: cajungirl

A natural life span if everything works is about 100. Granted my great grandmother lived to be 101 (1845-1947), and decided to die, and did, on a dime, when her favorite eldest son died at 79, with her having no apparent health problems per se. She was sentient and ambulatory and active until her final exit. Or so my grandmother told me (grandmother was the youngest of the six who survived to adulthood).

755 posted on 08/19/2005 8:23:40 PM PDT by Torie
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To: Coyoteman
I guess I buy into that. The combination of linguistics and genetics must be fascinating. Good luck with that.
756 posted on 08/19/2005 8:29:17 PM PDT by CasearianDaoist
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To: Torie

So if the natural life span is about 100, why not get there intact? Is it really extending the natural life span or achieving the natural life span in relatively good shape what is motivating the whole stem cell thing. I don't see it as selfish to want that and don't see wanting that as being harmful to our children et al. Unless of course they just want our money and want to have less payout of benefits to old people. And that is understandable but craven. I prefer my craveness to theirs any day.

757 posted on 08/19/2005 8:32:12 PM PDT by cajungirl (no)
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To: CasearianDaoist
I guess I buy into that. The combination of linguistics and genetics must be fascinating. Good luck with that.

Some of my colleagues say "You can't dig up a language."

Wrong. There are correlations between linguistics and genetics in a number of places around the world. Look up the Bantu expansion, for example.

mtDNA is really helping out.

Hard Anthropology can be fun (especially if you're not afraid to get your hands dirty).

758 posted on 08/19/2005 8:35:19 PM PDT by Coyoteman (Is this a good tagline?)
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To: cajungirl
It is the 150 or more natural life span which disturbs me. If that happens, we might go the way of the Spartans. We should NOT go there.
759 posted on 08/19/2005 8:36:29 PM PDT by Torie
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To: Torie

I don't think we could if we wanted to. Really.

760 posted on 08/19/2005 8:38:25 PM PDT by cajungirl (no)
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