Saturday, November 19, 2005

Social Conservatism: George Will waxed splenetic (for him, anyway) on those who cannot distinguish "Intelligent Design" from science.
The storm-tossed and rudderless Republican Party should particularly ponder the vote last week in Dover, Pa., where all eight members of the school board seeking reelection were defeated. This expressed the community's wholesome exasperation with the board's campaign to insinuate religion, in the guise of "intelligent design" theory, into high school biology classes, beginning with a required proclamation that evolution "is not a fact."

But it is. And President Bush's straddle on that subject -- "both sides" should be taught -- although intended to be anodyne, probably was inflammatory, emboldening social conservatives. Dover's insurrection occurred as Kansas's Board of Education, which is controlled by the kind of conservatives who make conservatism repulsive to temperate people, voted 6 to 4 to redefine science. The board, opening the way for teaching the supernatural, deleted from the definition of science these words: "a search for natural explanations of observable phenomena."

I'm not here to shoot down the ID crowd. (In fact, I've tried to stay out of it even as people whose opinions I tend to respect get this horribly, horribly wrong.) But it's becoming clear that ID is, contrary to its claims, either a stalking horse for the religious right's big toe, which wants to get in the public school door, or at least fairly unresistant to being buggered into the same role. Creation science is obviously not science. Does the theory of evolution answer all our questions? Nope. But to say that it is "just a theory" is like saying the same of Newton's theory of gravitation. Newton didn't, after all, explain what gravity is, where it comes from, or at what level of matter it inheres. He just noted it as a property of bodies, and measured it pretty damn well. Now, Aristotle said that rocks fall to the ground because that's where they are meant to be, whereas birds fly up into the air because that is where they are meant to be. This, too, is a "theory" and, in the logical terms of ID, as equally valid as Newton's. But it's not the same thing. Darwin explained evolution more clearly than Newton explained gravitation -- yet, for the most part, nobody f*cks with Newton, perhaps because (with an exception or two) they end up on their asses. Those who dispute evolution do too, but less obviously.

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