Tuesday, November 13, 2007

is intelligent design dead?


I just had the pleasure of watching PBS's fabulous 2-hour NOVA special on the most recent assault to the theory of evolution, namely, the "theory" of intelligent design. The show did a remarkable job of summing up not only the debate that has existed of late between proponents of evolution and proponents of intelligent design, but of the dramatic court case that took place in Dover, Pennsylvania a couple of years ago, which put the legality of teaching intelligent design in American public schools into question. I had read with interest about the trial as it was happening, and also had the opportunity to hear a lecture from one of the star witnesses for the prosecution, Brown University Professor of Biology Ken Miller, at a function for Brown alumni shortly after the trial wrapped up. I won't spoil all the juicy details for those of you not yet in the know, but I will say that the entire case, and the NOVA special in particular, makes me feel a whole lot better about the state of science education in this country, especially in the wake of the havoc wreaked on our scientific government agencies by the current administration.

So the question is, is intelligent design officially dead? You'd think that after the Dover fiasco, it would be. The judge in the case, John Jones, is a known conservative, hand-picked by George W. Bush to preside over the bench in his Pennsylvania district. But the fervor with which he made his legal opinion, denouncing intelligent design as nothing more than creationism in sheep's clothing, seems like it may just have been the silver dagger in the hearts of the pro-intelligent design camp. Doing a bit of research, I even found this blog for a group called Conservatives Against Intelligent Design, which, despite its horrible layout, has a very nice logo. This may not represent the end-all be-all, but surely if you've got right-wing Republicans railing against intelligent design, there has to be something right going on for a change. (By the way, if you're looking for some pro-evolution zingers, toons, or logos, this page has a bunch of good ones.)

I guess the bigger question, really, is what the next iteration of creationism-in-the-classroom will look like—for we all know that there are still tons of people out there who are outraged that creationism isn't given equal time in schools. I watched the documentary Jesus Camp recently, and it was pretty clear that there is some serious home-schooling going on that's brainwashing kids into thinking that creationism is "how it went down." So I can't imagine it'll be long before another set of irate fundamentalist parents tries again to breach the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution (which calls for the separation of church and state). Although, come to think of it, there was talk about a Flying Spaghetti Monster a while back...and frankly, I think a trial to keep old Spaghetti Man out of 9th grade biology would make an even more entertaining NOVA special, so bring it on! (Kidding, kidding.) Anyway, if you didn't get a chance to see the show, check out the NOVA website, where you can watch the entire thing or view the online-only extras.

3 comments:

  1. 15 Answers To Creationist Nonsense. It's an old article, but an interesting archive of a slightly different tactic--casting enough doubt on regular science to allow the consideration of Creationist alternatives. I haven't really heard these arguments in a while, probably because someone finally realized how short-sighted this strategy is--Creationism (even Creation "Science") really wouldn't hold up all that well under criticism one third as dumb.

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  2. Nice article. Most of these points were made in the documentary...basically, the pro-evolution lawyers knew in advance that the ID people would make some or all of these arguments (since, uh, those guys are so clever that they're always thinking of new things to say!), so their case was basically going down the list and asking their scientist witnesses to respond to pretty much each one. Some of the same answers were brought up, but others - like Ken Miller's mousetrap tie clip - were even more unique (and funny)

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  3. Well, I just finished the entire NOVA program. It's late and I'm way too tired to formulate a literate response, but I am reminded of a t-shirt I saw for sale in the online store for the XKCD web comic:

    "SCIENCE. It works, bitches."

    I loved the mousetrap rebuttal, and got an especially giddy kick out of the flaws found in the revisions to the Pandas book. Oh man, I can only imagine the murmurs in the courtroom when that was presented. Heh.

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