Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Intelligent design

ID, that’s what they’d prefer you to call the conjecture. It’s a Madison Avenue technique to create the appearance of widespread acceptance through the use of a hip sounding nickname. ID is also the first two letters of the word IDIOT.

The proponents of this product, for that’s what it is, recognize that while the evidence for origin of species through evolution is not complete, it’s none the less massive and growing. They know that there is no evidence for any other explanation of speciation so they resort to a specious speculation. As far as I remember from Logic 101, there is no specific name for this fallacy, perhaps because it is almost too stupid to justify giving it a title, but it boils down to: I don’t know everything about Y, so X must be a better explanation. A quick wave of the reductio wand gives us “I don’t know your blood type, so you must be the Queen of Sheba.” I don’t know, therefore. . . It’s a very short step to the absurd. It’s only a theory based on incomplete evidence, so let’s replace it with a conjecture based on the inability to understand. Seems like a fair alternative, no?

True, it would be hard to assimilate all that is known about evolution in the macro and micro scales of observation, just as it is hard to assimilate all that is known about math or particle physics or cosmology, yet we would be embarrassed to assert that since we never passed 8th grade math, it’s all hokum, or since I can’t see protons, everything is solid. The proponents of Intelligent Design know this of course and some of them were not born stupid. They are simply salesmen and salesmen will say absurdities with enough speed and confidence that you won’t notice. They’re selling you a religion, the religion that passes for Christianity in America.

The fact that Jesus had nothing to say about the origin of species and the fact that St Augustine, who contributed a great deal to subsequent Christian thought, cautioned Christians not to hang on to ridiculous ideas about nature for fear of making them foolish, is lost on the proponents of Intelligent Design. They know that their constituency is ignorant and wants to feel righteous about it. They know that you don’t know and they have a product that will make you feel certain about the unknowable and take away the shame of ignorance at the same time.

What’s in it for them? Well as Salmon Rushdie said: “Fundamentalism isn’t about religion, it’s about power.” In our case it’s about taking over a secular, liberal democracy, so roll that big wooden thing right through the city gates. It’s comfortable, it’s traditional, it will put the infidel in his place. Salvation is only one non-sequitur away!


Crankyboy said...

Another good one. You may be my guest blogger soon.

d.K. said...

What is so surprising to me about more assertive role of religion, in this case Christian fundamentalism, in U.S. society is the speed at which it has taken hold. Twenty, even ten years ago it seems to me most people still looked at the movement as sort of a fringe curiosity, except in a few pockets within the country. It now seems so much bigger, stronger, and angrier than just a few years ago. I hope it's just the pendulum swinging and that it corrects course soon, but so many people in their 20s appear to be part of the greater movement that I have my doubts.

Capt. Fogg said...

You're right, DK. Once people used words like "holy roller" or "Jesus freak" to describe the extremists. Now you are more likely to have to call them Mr. President.

Petunia McGillicuddy said...

Do you remember a while back when the NY Times did a continuing segment on class in America? I remember in particular an article about the rise in status of evangelicals... they aren't getting more numerous, but they are gaining in power and it's a strategic move.

ok, since it was last May you have to pay to read the article, but I found some of it right here.