Monday, January 10, 2005

Dover: The New Monkey Trial

The New Monkey Trial By Michelle Goldberg 2005-01-10 News

How it all started

But Bill Buckingham, a new board member who'd recently become chair of the curriculum committee, had an objection. "Biology," he said, was "laced with Darwinism." He wanted a book that balanced theories of evolution with Christian creationism, and he was willing to turn his town into a cultural battlefield to get it.

"This country wasn't founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution," Buckingham, a stocky, gray-haired man who wears a red, white and blue crucifix pin on his lapel, said at the meeting. "This country was founded on Christianity, and our students should be taught as such."

Casey Brown and her husband, fellow board member Jeff Brown, were stunned. "I was picturing the headlines," Jeff said months later.

"And we got them," Casey added.

The switch to 'intelligent design'

Although Buckingham first argued for teaching creationism in Dover biology classes, he soon started using the phrase "intelligent design" instead. The change in language was significant because intelligent design was created in part to circumvent the Supreme Court ruling that made it illegal for public schools to teach creationism. Masquerading as a science, it aims to convince the public that evolution is a theory under fire within the scientific community and doesn't deserve its preeminent place in the biology curriculum.

I am glad to hear that the author recognized that Intelligent Design is NOT a science but rather an argument from ignorance.

About Irreducible Complexity

Indeed, some "scientists" do believe this -- the ones who work at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. Outside the precincts of the religious right, though, the scientific consensus about evolution is very close to unanimous. For decades, biologists at the world's major universities, and in esteemed peer-reviewed journals, have proven that cellular processes have indeed evolved in sync with Darwin's theories. In November 2004, National Geographic ran a cover story asking, "Was Darwin Wrong?" Its subhead provided the answer: "No. The Evidence for Evolution Is Overwhelming."

The Wedge Strategy

The Center for Science and Culture also aims, in a far more elliptical way, to put God at the center of civic life. Originally called the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, CSC usually purports to be motivated by science, not religion. At times, though, it's refreshingly candid about its true goal -- a grandiose scheme to undermine the secular legacy of the Enlightenment and rebuild society on religious foundations. As it said in a 1999 fundraising proposal that was later leaked online, "Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies."

The proposal was titled "The Wedge Strategy." It began: "The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built ... Yet a little over a century ago, this cardinal idea came under wholesale attack by intellectuals drawing on the discoveries of modern science. Debunking the traditional conceptions of both God and man, thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud portrayed humans not as moral and spiritual beings, but as animals or machines who inhabited a universe ruled by purely impersonal forces and whose behavior and very thoughts were dictated by the unbending forces of biology, chemistry, and environment. This materialistic conception of reality eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and art."

The Center for the renewal of science and culture

Oddly enough, although Santorum is supporting the Dover school board's policy, the Center for Science and Culture isn't. On Dec. 14, CSC put out a statement calling Dover's policy "misguided" and saying it should be "withdrawn and rewritten." The statement quoted CSC's associate director John West as saying that discussion of intelligent design shouldn't be prohibited but it also shouldn't be required. "What should be required is full disclosure of the scientific evidence for and against Darwin's theory," said West, "which is the approach supported by the overwhelming majority of the public."

This, of course, is a departure from the position laid out in "The Wedge Strategy," which specifically calls for the integration of intelligent design into school curriculum.

Why the change? Matzke, from the National Center for Science Education, is convinced that the CSC wanted to wait for a better test case and a friendly Supreme Court, which they'll get if Bush is able to nominate a few new justices. The Dover policy, Matzke said, probably won't survive a court challenge right now, and if it's overturned, the precedent will be a setback for the missionaries of intelligent design.

"Their current strategy is not to have an intelligent-design policy passed," Matzke said. "They just want a policy that says students should analyze the strengths and weakness of evolution." CSC did not return calls for comment.

Read more!