Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Good article in the New Yorker on the Intelligent Design Movement, which is powered out of Seattle's Discovery Institute. A couple things to keep in mind: Regardless of how its proponents would like to treat it as such, ID is not a scientific theory, as it does not offer any testable hypothesis. It is at best a critique of the perceived shortcomings of Darwinian theory to account for what IDers refer to as "irreducible complexity." There's certainly nothing wrong with such a critique, except that A) it's bollocks, and B) its supporters have consistently been deceptive and dishonest in representing their goals, which are, as stated in the Wedge Document, an internal Discovery Institute media strategy memorandum which was anonymously posted on the web in 1999:

...nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies. Bringing together leading scholars from the natural sciences and those from the humanities and social sciences, the [Discovery Institute's] Center [for the Renewal of Science and Culture] explores how new developments in biology, physics and cognitive science raise serious doubts about scientific materialism and have re-opened the case for a broadly theistic understanding of nature.

Read through the document, it's pretty interesting. As science, I'd say the strategy has failed miserably. The vast majority of the scientific community sees ID for what it is: creationism dressed up in a junk science costume. But, as stated in the Wedge Document, the main thrust of the ID movement has more to do with combatting "materialism" in the political and cultural arena, and in this ID seems, unfortunately, to be making headway.

There's a strong comparison to be made here between Intelligent Design and supply-side economics. Like ID, supply-side is notable for the almost-complete lack of support which it has garnered in academia over the years (though, to be fair, supply-siders actually do offer an actual theory, albeit one for which the conditions can always be to declared to have been "imperfect," or its application "flawed," and thus avoid facing the reality that their theory is, as economists say, really fucking stupid). As with ID, however, this is entirely beside the point. Supply-side was always first and foremost a cover for a particular cultural and political ideology, one which favors the rich at the expense of the poor, which views business and the making of money as the highest possible human endeavor, and which is inherently suspicious of any attempt to regulate enterprise. In this respect, I'd say supply-side has unfortunately been quite successful.

Similarly, ID is a way of using pseudo-science to elevate what is essentially a creationist view to coequal status with the theory of evolution, that is, with actual science, and to have it presented as such to high school students and in the media. Now, I have absolutely no problem with people arguing for their beliefs. If you would like creationism taught in science classes, then argue that. We will probably all laugh at you, but we will at least respect you a little for presenting your view honestly. I have no respect, though, for people who try to wedge their religious beliefs into science curricula through deceptive, wealthy donor-powered grand media strategies, which is exactly what the Intelligent Design movement is doing.

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