Dec 20, 2004
The school district of Dover, Pennsylvania voted last month to force science teachers to teach "intelligent design" alongside evolution in science classes.
The Dover school district was the first in the country to require the teaching of intelligent design, but it's not the only one. The Grantsburg School District in Wisconsin now requires it, and the issue has been raised in 24 states just this past year.
Earlier this year, the school board for the entire state of Ohio okayed new standards that encourage teaching intelligent design alongside evolution.
"Intelligent design" states that life is so complex that it must have been brought about and developed by some "intelligent agent." It's really a newer, more vague form of Creationism, which holds that the Christian God created the world along the lines laid out in some books of the Bible.
Those who support intelligent design claim it to be a scientific theory, just like Darwin's theory of Evolution by Natural Selection is a theory. They say it's only fair to present one theory alongside another.
The problem with the "scientific theory" of intelligent design is that there's absolutely no science to support it. It's not at all a theory in the scientific sense, something like Einstein's Theory of Relativity–an explanation of what we can observe about the world that has proven more powerful than any other known explanation. These theories are able to be tested against new observations, and they're able to make predictions about what we can expect to see.
Natural Selection is a true scientific theory: everything we know about the natural world, we've been able to understand by applying Darwin's theory – from sickle cell anemia to the development of antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis.
"Intelligent design" hasn't been able to explain anything, or stand up to any scientific tests. Nobody's been able to make any predictions based on what it says. It doesn't do anything to advance our understanding of the world. To present such a "theory" in a science classroom is to make a mockery out of science. Creationism is nothing more – or less – than a myth.
But that hasn't stopped the people who support it, because it's not about science for them; it's really about religion. They don't like the fact that a scientific understanding of the development of life undermines their religious view of the world. And they want to get rid of that understanding by any means possible – including the most dishonest talk about "theories."
Today, these forces of the fundamentalist religious Right are pushing even harder than usual, because – they say – they won the November election.
THEY didn't win the election. Poll after poll has shown that these people with their reactionary religious attitudes are nowhere near the majority in this society. They're not even anywhere near the majority of those who voted for Bush!
But they're doing their best to throw the entire society backward, to a day when NOTHING in the world can be explained – because everything is "explained" by pointing to a god.
These forces throwing society backward sound louder and louder, only because the forces that can move society forward have grown quieter.