Inherit This, You Godless Evolutionists

The San Francisco Chronicle has a story this morning about a school board near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, that has directed biology teachers to poke holes in the theory of evolution and instruct their students in something called “intelligent design.” The people who promote this curriculum or superstition or whatever you want to call it soft-peddle the religious aspect of it. They call their idea “the science of design detection” and seek to explain “living things and other natural phenomena that exhibit function or purpose.” They say they’re seeking the scientific truth behind life and the universe without philosophical or religious assumptions. That’s all great. But they tip their hand when they state they have an end in mind: “constitutional neutrality”; meaning they need to come up with a creation story that’s got enough science in it to jam into classrooms without raising the church/state alarm. And what creation story might that be? Hindu? Navajo? Norse? Or that god got bored watching Monday night football and fashioned the world out of a Cheeto for halftime amusement?

If the promoters of intelligent design try to obscure their Bible-centric agenda, the folks in Pennsylvania sure understand what it’s about. The Chronicle quotes one of the board members as saying she doesn’t believe in evolution and disapproves of teaching that suggests “we come from chimpanzees and apes.” A kid from one of the district’s high schools says, “There’s only one creator, and it has to be God.” Asked about what she’s learned about evolution, she said, “Evolution — is that the Darwin theory? I don’t know just what he was thinking!”

The Chron accompanies its story with some findings from a Gallup poll taken earlier this month. Looking at the numbers sparked a “what’s going on in this country?” moment for me. The survey found that 83 percent of respondents think God — not the bored Cheeto god, but the very industrious Jewish-Christian one — had a hand in creating man (13 percent said they didn’t think God had a role). It makes you wonder how the Scopes Trial would come out if William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow went at it again today. “Inherit the Wind,” my ass.

3 Replies to “Inherit This, You Godless Evolutionists”

  1. The Chronicle story reminded me of last month’s National Geographic, and its cover story: “Was Darwin Wrong?” Excerpt here:
    http://magma.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0411/feature1/
    What was interesting about the NG articles to me is that the further in time we move away from Darwin’s seminal “Origin”, the more muddled the evolution argument gets. I’ve never read Origin, but I do know it’s not as simple as “Once we were apes.” But, of course, there’s little room in science class curriculum to discuss the complexity of Darwin’s logic and theories. It’s all here, if anyone wants to do some light reading:
    http://www.literature.org/authors/darwin-charles/the-origin-of-species/
    Furthermore, the NG article goes to great lengths to remind us that Darwin’s argument is theory derived by the scientific method. So, since science involves quite a lot of theory, then why bother studying anything science related (since much can’t be proven outright) at all? Ah, well, I’m forgetting that Faith is far more powerful than piddly theories.

  2. Hey, Endo!
    Wow — great stuff. Interesting thing mentioned in that National Geographic excerpt: That Gallup polling going back more than 20 years has been consistent in finding the high level of belief that we’re the result of a creator’s work.
    But the other point that both you and the NG piece make is the importance of understanding the scientific context. Yes, the Copernican model of the solar system, Newtonian physics, Einsteinian relativity, our understanding of atomic structure, and evolution all spring from theory; the crucial step that the creationists have paid only lip service to is that scientists proceed to test theory by amassing evidence. Some theories stand, some don’t, some evolve as the experimental results come in.
    It’s easy to turn science into dogma. But at its heart, science is an open-minded approach to explaining phenomena. “Creationism” is closed and exclusionary: the goal is to find support for tenets of a received faith, and it rejects findings that don’t accord with that end.
    All the evolution stuff aside, how was your holiday?

  3. Way down in the midle of the Chronicle article they get to the heart of the matter. The fundamentalists are using this attack on evolution as the warm-up for a lot of other items on their agenda. Abortion, school prayer gay marriage among them. If you can teach a creation myth that fits your religeous/moral outlook in a biology class then it would make sense that you can impose a whole menu of other moral imperatives dressed up as science. According to the article, some huge majority of Americans believe the creationist story. Evolution seems to be a good spot to get some purchase for the rest of the Christian agenda. Another part of the article I found interesting was the guy in the diner, describing how he had been shouted down by an angry creationist. And the waitress was a good touch too. The message is that social pressure (ie. ostracism, threat of damnation) will be brought to bare on anyone that disagrees with the fundamentalist point of view.

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