"The fundamentalists, by 'knowing' the answers before they start examining evolution, and then forcing nature into the straitjacket of their discredited preconceptions, lie outside the domain of science - or of any honest intellectual inquiry."
"The fundamentalists, by 'knowing' the answers before they start examining evolution, and then forcing nature into the straitjacket of their discredited preconceptions, lie outside the domain of science - or of any honest intellectual inquiry."- Stephen Jay Gould
THE ORIGIN OF SPECIOUS
National Mutation Through Unnatural Selection
George W. Bush wants to see "different ideas" introduced into the science curriculum of our public schools.
That’s fundamentalist code for, "I want to indoctrinate your children to Creationism."
In case you’ve just arrived here from the outer planets and haven’t heard the "news," the latest inanity our prez has used to throw the country’s "reporters" off the Karl Rove stench, while driving another wedge through what remains of her people’s unity is this comment, he made last week: "I think part of education," expounded Bush the philosopher, "is to expose people to different schools of thought." He went on to say he would endorse placing intelligent design on an equal curricular footing with evolution.
My god! Are we so insane now that we’re about to allow George W. Bush to influence our children’s thinking and thus the next generation of American scientists – or would alchemists be a more appropriate title? How about sorcerers?
I shudder at the thought, because we do not teach fantasy in science class. If the only criterion we use for selecting our impressionable young students’ material is that it represent a different "school of thought," or a "different idea," perhaps we should begin teaching history students that the holocaust never happened. That’s a different school of thought, and a widely held view by those who have a problem with reality. How about the one that says we never landed on the moon? Then there are those who say the 3.5 billion year old Earth is really 6000 years old. Bush is one of the millions who buy that different idea. What interesting geography lessons (if rather hapless geographers) those "different schools of thought" would produce.
No. When facts contradict or fail to support hypotheses, there is no place for such speculative mental meandering in the disciplines. Different schools of thought about solid deterministic tenets, whether viable or specious, are examined in philosophy class or the advanced sciences, and generally to mature, trained minds. When ideas grow up and get factual, then they can find their way into the proximate (elementary and secondary) disciplines. Until then, and if we’re serious about the development of rational young minds, fantasy-subjects will just have to languish in the electives.
That Bush casually disagrees with the world’s greatest minds on the origin of species, particularly so as relates to the creation – or genesis - of humans is hardly a basis upon which to change traditional education and qualify solid science. Simply stated, though I doubt he is aware of it, Bush prefers the hypothetical postulation of intelligent design to the evidence-laden Unifying Theory of Biology. The former is popularly, if often incorrectly, known as creationism; the latter is popularly called Natural Selection, Survival of the Fittest, or of course the biggie (or Big E) - Evolution (Never to be confused in the Creationist mind with the infinitesimally small "e" – evidence). Thus, he wants this patently religious, Christian fundamentalist contrivance taught in our tax-funded, secular public schools and he finally came out and said so.
Though it has come to the surface this week through Bush’s comments, this personal if irrational preference is strikingly absent in his approach to governance. On that front – through bullying, intimidation, retribution, rewarding loyalty, imposition of force, size, physical strength, bigotry, violent elimination of the physically inferior, obeying the orders of those he considers his betters, reacting to instead of leading with ideas, pack-mentality dedication to those of similar stripe, etc. - his actions are social Darwinism made manifest.
But let’s get back to the disturbing prospect of imposing Bush’s brain on the brains of our school children. As usual, when obviating fact through fantasy, the child-like Bush eschews empirical evidence and is ignorant of both fundamental logic and scientific method. He presumes instead to change the physical world through the adamant insinuation of personal preference, often sans the requisite reality check. He hears something, usually from God or some guy with bad hair and a fake southern drawl, he believes it if it suits him, and that’s all there is too it. From that point forward it is policy - or will be. This is not unlike a petulant child clenching his fists and holding his breath to presumably get his way with a pliable parent.
With a worthless legislature in place thanks to choices made at the midterms by our credulous, fear-driven general population, the parent – in this case, Congress - is more than pliable, it’s downright obedient.
Now, in keeping with his ever-more-apparent disregard for what his slowly-awakening constituency actually wants, or more to the point what is obviously and irrefutably in the American public’s best interest, Bush is suggesting that intelligent design be taught in the science classes of our tax-supported public schools.
Not content to use my tax money to simply kill other people’s grandchildren, he now wants to use more of it to confuse mine by exposing them to what is nothing more than a hoax all dressed up as science.
Not surprisingly, this latest intelligent design utterance has gotten a lot more ink from the corporate "press" than has Bush’s silence regarding the probability of a traitor creeping around inside the oval office while President Tex enjoys his 362nd day of vacation.
Nonetheless, it does little to belie that our president is a slave to his personal biases and monumental ignorance, not to mention the will of his ideological masters. He has referred to evolution as only a theory. By doing so he reveals his misunderstanding of theory in the scientific sense, or deliberately confuses it with hypothesis. Either way, he’s got it wrong.
Let me make this abundantly clear, because it is abundantly clear: Intelligent Design (I prefer simply ID, as the concept is neither intelligent nor have its proponents produced any viable evidence of design) is not science. It’s not even bad science. What else ID ain’t is a theory. It’s a hypothesis, hardly more than an assumption, plain and simple. Or more simply stated, a chimpanzee in an Armani suit is still a chimpanzee.
Science – real science - is not some convenient collection of ideas and preferences whose fundamental tenets are not falsifiable. Neither does spelling out the postulations of convenience comprising ID in non-peer-reviewed essays laced with esoteric language elevate them above what they are – baseless fantasy.
No. No! Science is a very rigorous mechanism of processes, falsifiable proofs and refereed or demonstrable conclusions. Science is how humanity aggregates its knowledge. Each subsequent generation starts where its predecessors left off, adds its findings to that, and passes it all on to the succeeding generations, ad infinitum. Science – science in a culture that has sent its people to another world, cured infectious diseases, yes, blown ourselves up on more than one occasion - is not a mechanism for justifying concepts spelled out in an ancient book. To paraphrase author Sam Harris, the people who wrote the Bible would have been absolutely flabbergasted by the sight of something as futuristic as a wheelbarrow! If the Bible is indeed a human transcription of the word of God, then its deliberate misinterpretation in the light of knowledge, for whatever reason, is heresy.
"The Bible is not a natural science text book, nor does it intend to be. It is a religious book and consequently one cannot obtain information about the natural sciences from it. One cannot get from it a scientific explanation of how the world arose; one can only glean religious experience from it. Anything else is an image and a way of describing things and whose aim is to make profound realities graspable to human beings."- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 1995 (Now Pope Benedict XVI)
The Bible, for all its majesty, is not the place to learn good science in the modern world! The Earth has no corners or edges. It is not a circle. It orbits the sun. So on. We get it.
But science is not about ambiguity or metaphore. It’s about science.
If the Republican Right want to get their science from literal interpretations of the Bible, they should find some physical evidence for the flood. Where, for example, did all the extra water come from? Where did it go? How could all the animals have fit on the ark – any ark. If they figured out these things, they could then pollute and overpopulate to their black little hearts’ content and maybe then they’d shut up.
Science is our greatest blessing; willful ignorance our greatest curse. Intelligent Design comprises none of the former, and all of the latter. Each of its postulations has been either soundly debased or built upon an obviously incomplete and juvenile interpretation of very complete laws.
For example, I’ve personally witnessed ID’s proponents and preachers fail miserably to prove their assumptions through the deliberate misuse of known scientific tenets. I’ve endured their misuse of entropy theory to postulate a completely new Conservation of Information "law." I’ve watched them attempt to make converts through a childish corruption of the 3rd Law of Thermodynamics (an especially esoteric concept ID’s proponents knew the vast majority of their sycophants would not understand). That failed attempt at legitimacy had this writer and many others far better versed than I, shouting from the aisles. Did they actually think no one knowledgeable in these areas would take notice and speak up? Then came their argument from incredulity called Irreducible Complexity; debunked the day it was postulated. Finally, having failed as well to have their postulations included in but a single refereed scientific journal on the topic, ID’s leading apologist William Dembski has come up with a quite amazing 4th Law of Thermodynamics in a desperate ploy to prove his point. Though his legion of faithful believe him, no empirical evidence or viable postulation of such a phenomenon as Dembski’s 4th Law has yet been forthcoming. It is a hoax on the order of Piltdown Man. Nonetheless, one can only imagine the traffic jams that must be collecting even now as the trucks delivering the many Nobel Prizes as would surely accrue to such a discovery jockey for position outside Dembski’s laboratory. No? No prizes? Well, have faith. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
If the ID gang, or creationists, or whatever they’re calling themselves today really want some empirical evidence to refute evolution, they need only look inward – to one of their own: G.W. Bush. After all, the scientific pretext of evolutionary theory is elevated above hypothesis by postulation from empirical evidence. Thus, we who comprise today’s remnant of the American republic have for some time considered the empirics which conclude that in a mere 200 years, the impossible linear successor to the genius of Thomas Jefferson, is none other than a drug and substance abusing military deserter and business failure whose family fortunes derive in part from Hitler and Bin Laden, and whose intellect is roughly akin to that of Australopithecus. Simply stated, our president has the smarts of a pre-adolescent human child and the mores of a mosaic virus. This character with his finger on the button that can destroy the world is a demonstrable bonehead. Think what he might do if he ever learns to pronounce nuclear. But the point is this, if evolution is real, wouldn’t presidents be getting smarter? Why then do ID "scientists" fail to ponder that?
Preeminent Harvard psychologist, Lawrence Kohlberg sums up human moral development in five categories. The least of these is not surprisingly Stage Zero. Kohlberg writes, "Stage Zero: Egocentric judgment. The child makes judgments of good on the basis of what he likes and wants or what helps him, and bad on the basis of what he does not like or what hurts him. He has no concept of rules or of obligations to obey or conform to independent of his wish."
Perhaps this stage of arrested development is best evident in our grown-up president’s own words, "I see things in black and white. I’m not about nuancing." Or, in his summation of the ideological motivations of the entire human race, all 6.8 billion of us, "You’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists." And my personal favorite, when speaking to Bob Woodward of Watergate fame, the president of the United States said, "I am the commander, see. I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they need to say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."
Responding to this last statement, psychotherapist Dr. Carol Norris observes, "What a profoundly childlike thing to say (not to be confused with childish). It sounds to me like a kid trying desperately, yet transparently, to convince people he is fit for a role he secretly is unsure he can fulfill and discuss." She goes on to add, "It's called: Stage Zero." 3
In a representative democracy, these learned assessments say at least as much about a president’s constituency, as they do about the "leader." In aggregate, that’s what’s really troubling… really, really, really troubling. If there are none so blind as those who will not see, then the blind truly are leading the blind in the intellectual disgrace that is 21st Century America.
What then qualifies Bush to presume expertise on our children’s science education. It cannot be his record of performance or decision-making skills. Let’s look back:
Easily persuaded by his delusions of god ("God wants me to run for President. I can't explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me. Something is going to happen... I know it won't be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it." – George W. Bush) and those of his advisors ("…he doesn’t know very much." - Richard Perle ), Bush has been little more than a credulous, exploitable mouthpiece for the Reagan era ideologues and crooks with which he’s surrounded himself. The president of the United States is little more than an organic ventriloquist’s dummy with some sort of inexplicable – if fast eroding - populist appeal. His stupidity and the tragedy of September Eleventh have been used to plunge this country into war and insolvency for reasons neither this president nor his advisors can or will demonstrate. He's been prepped and coached and used to mutate a great American tragedy into an instrument of even greater tragedy: September Eleventh/Operation Iraqi Freedom (or its original name, Operation Iraqi Liberation: O.I.L. for short). Lest we forget, this is the "man" who stood upon the crushed and smoking remains of the dead at Ground Zero, and used his words to seal the fate of more innocents than Osama (Remember Osama?) had ever dreamed. He stood upon that hallowed ground and deliberately misled this country into believing he is a great deal more than the abject incompetent that has characterized every single one of his prior and subsequent endeavors. From his Washington easy chair, he’s taken countless lives, while the "news" tells us of the Runaway Bride, baseball players on steroids, common crime, and "Bradjolina."
Now, while blowing up two foreign lands, imposing untold suffering on random innocents, depleting the US Treasury of what will ultimately become $7 trillion, and using the naiveté, grief, nationalism, and terror of our own citizens as carte blanche to advance the agenda of the warmongering lunatics comprising his cabinet, he got away with it and was returned to office after refusing to reveal what was probably the most important part of a tax-funded report on the events and motivations leading up to the whole horrific affair. Do not forget, the President of the United States refuses to this day, to release us a major part of the very report we the people had funded and for which we've been waiting through four of the most divisive and critical years in our nation's history. To this day Bush refuses to release to us, huge sections of the very report justifying or criticizing the greatest act of faith exhibited by any peoples toward any leader in our combined national history. He's taken us to war. He's bankrupted us. Our children are made witness to murder on foreign streets daily. He's encouraging the loss of personal freedoms. But no matter how heinous the outrage, most Americans have gone along with the apparent stupidity out of some sort of nationalistic sense of country. Some might call it fear.
As he today hides evidence concerning who "outed" Valerie Plame, withholds 50, 000 pages of background information on Judge Roberts, sneaks a whacko UN Ambassador into office while the country is at war and the people’s branch is in recess, let us not forget the most important secret Bush continues to harbor. To this very day, while he pulls weeds on his Crawford ranch, Bush still has not told us truthfully why we are at war! The reasons remain hidden as our young people die, hidden, horded by these tyrants in the used and abused name of security. Why are we allowing it? Why have we forgotten it? How do we know such control of information is not compromising our security? Where in the hell is the outrage? What in God's name has become of us?
Consider how this man’s simplistic interpretations led us to this travesty of power. Bush was told of a New Domino Theory. It went something like this: once a tyrant or two falls through overwhelming American military force, democracy would spread through the Mid East country-by-country like tumbling dominoes. He liked what he heard. With no substantive frame of reference, the stupid president believed it. Perhaps uncurious George W. Bush should have read about the old Domino Theory before invoking the new one, since it was, after all, only a theory. But he acted on his faith – a dismal substitute for knowledge - despite that there is no evidence in all of human history to support such lunacy. Thousands upon thousands died and are dying still. Now, having used up all of his prior excuses, he justifies the bloodshed with sophomoric claptrap. He's already sacrificed our troops to Afghanistan only to let it fall back into the chaos of a Taliban controlled heroin capitol of the world. Now, with the place in a worse shambles than it was when he found it, but with a powerless American-installed puppet government in place, Dubya's cronies crouch in the shadows, waiting to step in and build the pipeline from the sea to the Urals that his own father tried and failed to do by creating the Taliban in the first place. And finally, with Iraq on the verge of civil war as we endure the bloodiest days since the invasion began, the road to ruin spreads before us. We need only keep following it, driving at breakneck speed with the headlights off and our eyes clenched..
One year after 17% of voting age Americans swept this familied ne’er-do-well into office, a panicked and irrational electorate swept away our founders’ and our constitution’s system of checks and balances by replacing the balanced legislature with an equally frightened gaggle of primitives, thus leaving the criminal usurpers of the executive branch free to pillage our nation. They did exactly that again in November of 2004. Within this administration’s tenure we will see the largest federal budget surplus in American history gave way to the largest government deficit in the history of all the governments of the world combined – 5.4 trillion dollars. Nearly a trillion federal tax dollars have already vanished since 1999. Where are they? Tell me. I challenge you to tell me the truth without incriminating this administration!
Every week comes a new outrage.
How very far we’ve fallen as a peoples in but 200 years. Two hundred years ago Thomas Jefferson was America’s president. It seems incredible. He’d already written the Declaration Of Independence. No man since has been better fit to lead this country, no man more deserving of the honor. On January 1, 1801 Jefferson was inaugurated America’s 3rd President. At his inauguration, he said these words, these amazing words, "The essential principles of our Government... form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety."
Two-hundred years later, the masterpiece our country’s architect had built us, fell before the twin wrecking balls that are today his party and his high office: the unelected Republican partisan, George W. Bush.
And while lineage, wealth, family, and observed behavior clearly qualify Junior as what Jefferson rightly called an artificial aristocrat without virtue or talents, his nearly every word and deed expose his dismally inadequate intellect as well and disqualify him as our president to say nothing of the architect of our children’s schooling.
Nothing in his past qualifies him to be our president. Nothing in his DNA qualifies him to be our president. Nothing in his actions or policies qualifies him to be our president. Nothing in the 2001 election results qualifies him to be our president. Every day it becomes more apparent that nothing in the 2004 elections qualified him to be our president. So despite the admonitions that we "get over it" coming from the morally-superior hypocrites such as Rush (the name takes on a whole new meaning today, doesn’t it) Limbaugh and the other charlatans whose babble dominates the American airwaves, this American - me - will never get over it. Never! Not while there’s breath in my lungs and blood in my veins.
Now he wants to have at our children’s very minds.
The willingness to believe when faced with a mountain of contradicting facts which characterizes the Bush supporters has always been based upon a heady amalgam of convenience, ego, and ignorance. It’s an easy mindset to instill in the young. When it comes to the sciences, a topic difficult at best to understand, such behavior is not uncommon in humans. At least it is not uncommon in humans who inhabit places like the American Bible Belt, or the interior reaches of Borneo. What is unusual, is that today America finds herself with a president who not only rejects the theory of evolution, but whom all evidence would suggest, has also neglected to participate as vigorously as he should have in its practice. Stated more simply, George W. Bush is verifiably dumber than his traceable human ancestors, and history confirms that he’s dumber than every single one of his presidential predecessors – Reagan included. In fact, quoting a description of George W. Bush offered to reporters (back when there were reporters) by Richard Perle one of Bush’s most trusted advisors - and the man who invented the reasons for war with Iraq - Perle said, "He (Bush) doesn’t know very much." Indeed he does not.
Conclusion: While spouting off about bringing unity to America’s people, Bush and his band of parasites and tyrants have used every trick in the book to polarize us culturally. They’ve given us labels. They’ve preyed upon the fears of the simpleminded, used our disdain for and our ignorance of one another from day one. Divide and conquer is their mantra. They persuade us that we’re a nation of left and right and nothing in between.
Baloney! We’re almost all of us in between.
Creation "science," intelligent design, call it what you will, is simply another, and completely divisive, wedge this gang is attempting to drive through the heart of the American people.
It takes great pains to ignore or to discredit the findings of biology, archeology, physics, and paleoanthropology – and it fails. It ignores the body of work done by the very Vatican’s own scientists in the field of Developmental Creation (theistic evolution). All of which adhered to strict scientific method, thus adding to the knowledge rather than defaming it in order to impose unacceptable divisive absolutes.
No. Instead, by taking such extraordinary pains to set traditional biological science in conflict with learned religious theology through the insinuation of nonsense, when it is far simpler and eminently more logical to celebrate and analyze the similarities extant in the theological and theoretical portrayals of the origins of life, ID’s proponents expose their underlying objective.
They seem far less interested in enhancing our knowledge, than in dividing our people.
The author is Chief Technology Officer for a national media network. A veteran, Mr. Stasi flew aerial reconnaissance during the Cold War and worked on Project Apollo. He is a frequently published science and technology writer.