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How To Bring Christianity Into The Public Schools
Great piece by Andrew Gumbel in City Beat, where he explains why the local fight over getting "intelligent design" into schools is actually a national fight. First, it's actually not just Kansas, and second, the battle to mess with textbooks in Texas -- a major market, the second biggest after California, which affects a textbook's financial viability -- was almost won:

The ID-ers have a phrase that they are fond of, “irreducible complexity,” which they use to describe phenomena they believe too intricate to be plausible by means of natural evolution alone. This, though, is a profoundly anti-scientific notion – that just because we don’t know how something works we have to conclude that we will never know. It took a while for humankind to figure out that the Earth was round, and a lot of people, especially influential church leaders, found the notion utterly ridiculous even once the proof was thrust under their noses.

Another manifestation of the misdirection of the ID movement is the ludicrous notion that high schools are the appropriate venue for intricate debate about the finer points of evolutionary science. Any public school science teacher will tell you it’s already a minor miracle if a 16-year-old can accurately summarize The Origin of Species, or pinpoint the Galapagos Islands on an atlas. Raising questions about the cellular structure of the flagellum is unlikely to exercise most students until grad school.

The only reason for raising such questions before state education authorities is not to deepen the scientific understanding of teenagers but rather to sow deliberate confusion. It is about denigrating mainstream science as biased against religion – which it is not; it merely regards questions of the supernatural to be outside the realm of scientific inquiry – and by extension bringing God and open avowals of faith into the public school system.

The hearings in Kansas made that abundantly clear. The state school board members who sat in on the witness testimony – Christian fundamentalists all – were so ignorant of the subject matter it was laughable. Board member Connie Morris talked about the Darwinian notion of a prebiotic soup like a patron in a restaurant who decides to launch an irrational boycott campaign against mulligatawny. “There was a speck that landed in the soup?” she asked one witness. “What was that? Was it a cell?” Her colleague Kathy Martin admitted on day two she hadn’t even read through the competing science standards documents before her.

The interest of such elected officials is not Darwin so much as what he represents – the ultimate wedge issue in the culture wars pitting what they see as decent, hard-working, god-fearing heartland Americans against snobbish heathen elitist big-city liberals. This, though, is not a war about the tastefulness of Hollywood movies, or even the morality of abortion, on which reasonable people can disagree. It is, much more seriously, an attack on rational thought itself, an insane attempt to promote the political ambitions of biblical literalists and their sympathizers over and above the advance of world civilization.

More on "intelligent design" in the New Yorker, by H. Allen Orr: "Why Intelligent Design Isn't."

Posted by aalkon at May 26, 2005 8:12 AM

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