President Bush, Science Teacher

President Bush, having trashed our Federal budget, destroyed our credibility on international affairs, turned environmental protection over to the polluters, and given us the Ethics Lesson known as Karl Rove, now seeks to enlighten the teaching of science. When asked last week whether intelligent design should be taught, Bush said:

“I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes.”

Intelligent design is essentially an attempt by the Christian Right to provide an explanation for how we came to be, other than the “Poof-Bang!” explanation offered by Bishop Usher, who claimed in his 16th century work Annales veteris testamenti, a prima mundi origine deducti (“Annals of the Old Testament, deduced from the first origins of the world”), that the Earth and all life forms were created on the evening preceding October 23, 4004 BC. Why he didn’t just say October 22, 4004 BC is not recorded, but perhaps Creation was accomplished by time zone, and so therefore a relative time reference (“the evening before”) was better than giving an actual time, because then we would have Baptists and Anglicans and Eastern Orthodoxians arguing about whether it was Greenwich Mean Time or Moscow Standard Time or Central Daylight Time. (Would Central Daylight Time even have relevance when daylight had just been created?)

Anyway, the Christian Right now wishes to proclaim that no, maybe the Earth wasn’t created in 4004 BC, but that whenever it was created, the various lifeforms and physical processes we now see came about because God was pushing the buttons and turning the cranks and pouring the plastic into the Great Cosmic Creepy Crawler molds. Actually, they don’t want to proclaim this, they want it taught in science classes right alongside evolution and germ theory and gravitational attraction. But what is it, exactly, that they want taught? I mean, after you teach evolutionary processes as an explanation of how thigns got to where they are now, you could say “and some people believe that behind these processes, behind natural selection and survival of the fittest, there was an intelligent designer”. Because the real proponents of intelligent design don’t take it any further than that. They even allow for the possibility that aliens could have been that intelligence. William Dembski wrote in his book “The Design Inference” that God or an alien life force could be responsible. So, anyway – once the teacher has said that, what exactly is it that you would teach? And let’s not even think about the labs. How you would create an experimental environment for a God-creature is problematical at best.

I’m not anti-religious. I’m a good, Southern, United Methodist boy. But I believe that among the things God created were reason, rationality, and science. Is Intelligent Design nothing more than a belief that God can be partly understood and approached through science? Is that too pantheistic? The problem is that ID has become a religious-social movement based on a way people wish things were. It avoids troubling questions; it avoids having to understand your faith in new ways. It makes things simple, almost as simple as believing that the Earth was created in 4004 BC. But believing that the Creation was 6,000 years ago requires ignoring things that science tells us are fact. Fossils dated back past that point must be explained away as either forgeries, mistakes, or deliberate attempts at deception by some cosmic force. The great sin of Intelligent Design is that it removes the requirement of investigation and understanding from the equation. Things are how they are because God or the gods or aliens made them to be that way, and if you accept that then there’s no reason to explore further. It isn’t understandable past that point.

Kung Fu Monkey has other thoughts on this topic.

August 8, 2005 В· Harry В· 4 Comments
Posted in: Science

4 Responses

  1. scott - August 8, 2005

    “Is Intelligent Design nothing more than a belief that God can be partly understood and approached through science?”

    No, *science* is an extension of the belief that God can be partly understood and approached through reason applied to empirical data.

    At least, that’s how it got rolling…but anyway…

  2. Brian S - August 8, 2005

    If I’m not mistaken, science is a process for evaluating empirical knowledge ie. the scientific method, and the organized body of knowledge gained by this process.

    It doesn’t attempt to prove or disprove god, God or gods.

    It is a way to understand the world/universe around us.

  3. scott - August 9, 2005

    Perhaps I should have said “science began as” instead of “science is”. The point being, yesterday or today, your view of God is logically anterior to how you do science.

  4. Irate Savant - August 11, 2005

    As I noted but an hour ago upon my own humble blog, Intelligent Design is naught but affirmative action for the feebleminded.