01 October 2005

Some musings on science and intelligent design

I wasn't really planning to be blogging right now. In fact, I was planning on being asleep right now. I put in a nice, relaxing, 13-hour day in the lab today, so I was feeling a bit tired by the time I was ready to go home. Unfortunately, the caffine is still with me, and I was too wired (and too tired) to get to sleep right away, so I decided to take a few minutes to catch up on some of the things that I'd missed during the last couple of days of the Dover trial. Boy, was that a stupid idea. Now, I'm too wired to get to sleep, too tired to get to sleep, and way, way too pissed off to get to sleep.

Strangely, though, it took me a while to figure out exactly why. The quotes from creationists that popped up in the articles weren't really anything that I hadn't seen hundreds of times before. Some complete schmuck of a lawyer asserts that evolution requires atheism:
Creationism requires a student to first affirm the creed that God created the heavens and the earth, and the theory of evolution requires that a student affirm the creed that there is no God. Both are exclusive claims, neither is scientific, neither can be empirically verified.

An utter jackass of a columnist tries to simultaneously argue that Intelligent Design isn't a scientific theory, and that it is science:
In truth, intelligent design isn't a scientific theory but a restatement of a timeless argument: that the regularity and laws of the natural world imply a higher intelligence -- God, most people would say -- responsible for its design. Intelligent design doesn't argue that evidence of design ends all questions or disproves Darwin. It doesn't make a religious claim. It does say that when such evidence appears, researchers should take it into account, and that the weaknesses in Darwinian theory should be acknowledged as forthrightly as the strengths. That isn't primitivism or Bible-thumping or flying spaghetti. It's science.

A second idiot with a law degree tries to paint the ID proponents as being on the side of America, mom, and apple pie:
As the courtroom drama unfolds in Harrisburg, consider the words of one parent — a mother of five — who lives in the school district.

Sheree Hied told a reporter: “I think we as Americans, regardless of our beliefs, should be able to freely access information — because people fought and died for our freedoms.” That’s what America represents — the freedom to explore all sides of an issue.

For some reason, I don't even find it as funny as usual that, despite all the assertions that Intelligent Design isn't religion, pretty much everyone pushing it is a proud member of the Christian right.

None of this is news to me. I'm used to seeing people who call themselves Christians pissing in the well of truth in a frantic effort to discredit evolution. I'm used to seeing assertions that evolution is a weak theory, packed with gaps. I'm used to reading the argument that when it comes to learning about evolution, students shouldn't be taught what the right answer is, they should get to pick whatever answer they believe is best.

So why, tonight, am I so totally pissed off?

It's probably got something to do with reading that bullshit after putting in a very long day, on a weekend, doing original research in evolutionary biology. It might have something to do with seeing a pair of lawyers and a columnist confidently, despite their own lack of scientific credentials, expressing the opinion that the work I do is nonsense. It might just be that I've finally reached the end of my patience. Or all of the above. Or all of the above, coupled with the revelation that a Dover High School janitor was apparently allowed to get away with burning a mural depicting human evolution.

Actually, after reading that last article again, I'm starting to feel my anger fade away a bit. More than anything else, it clarifies the issues for me, and reminds me that this really isn't about science. This is a conflict between worldviews, pure and simple. On one side, we have empirical fact. On the other, we have a group of people who find themselves, sadly, feeling threatened by what they believe empirical fact is telling them. I could almost feel sorry for them, if it wasn't for the way that they keep demanding that my children be exposed to the version of "reality" that they've cooked up to save their own religious perspective.
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