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Intelligence, even in Texas

Signs and portents. Yesterday I marveled that the House of Representatives had discovered a measure too stupid to pass, the repeal of the requirement for more energy-efficient light bulbs. Today, there has been an outbreak of rationality in, of all places, Texas, where the State Board of Education has declined to insert material on intelligent design into the science curriculum.

Intelligent design, in case you haven’t been paying attention since the Scopes trial, is a Trojan horse by which theology can be smuggled into the biology classroom under the pretense of “teaching the controversy” over evolution. There is no controversy in science about evolution, which in the century and a half since Darwin’s Origin of Species has continued to accumulate additional evidence. Controversies lie only in the details of generally accepted theory.

Intelligent design attempts to dress in scientific garb the teleological Argument from Design, famously articulated by Archdeacon Paley in the nineteenth century and demolished by David Hume and Immanuel Kant. Since religious doctrine cannot be instructed in secular public schools, the scientific pretense is necessary. But it has gained no traction through free argument in science, and so its adherents have turned to the secular arm to impose it by legislative action.

Freedom of conscience, of course, obtains, and no one challenges people’s right to their religious convictions—though it would be well to keep in mind that a belief that the opening chapter of Genesis constitutes scientific and historical fact rather than poetry is by no means universal among Christians.

Evolutionary theory is a broadly held scientific consensus. If it is an obstacle to faith, than faith will have to accommodate to it, as faith finally accommodated to the Copernican theory, after some struggle. Forcing science to confirm to faith, as we saw with Galileo, is the wrong way around.



Posted by John McIntyre at 1:15 PM | | Comments (8)



Aside from its attempt to diminish both Science and Art in one fell blow, I've always objected to the very label "Intelligent Design", which sounds like the sort of terminology favored by the inventors of other impotent, modern jargon. Doesn't all design imply a designer, thus making the modifier "intelligent" redundant?

I usually enjoy your posts (the editing-related ones, anyway), but the title of this post is incredibly insulting.

As one of those rare Texas liberals, however, I'm not offended at all.

I often feel that way about, say, New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and certainly, Los Angeles.

You wrote, "Forcing science to confirm to faith, as we saw with Galileo, is the wrong way around."

Maybe so, but the way that God invented science is interesting. I read about it in a science fiction story decades ago. A young god had badly underbid to get the contract for the creation of a galaxy. An older god consoled him, saying, "I once underbid for a galaxy, which was to have plants and animals, even people." "What did you do?" the younger god asked. "Well," the old god said, "I had to cut corners right and left, so there were terrible storms and diseases and even death." "Didn't the people protest?" the younger god asked. "They would have," the older god said, "but I invented science. I told them that the disease, the death, even the flies and fleas, were all the result of science, and that seemed to satisfy them."

So today we worship science. God doesn't cause cancer. Science does. Priests don't treat it. Doctors do.

If anyone out there knows the author of that short story, plese post a comment giving his name. Of course I may remember the story all wrong. I think it was in a paperback titlted "Best Science Fiction Stories of ..." some year.

I always look to Kant in matters of faith, morals and science.

Re Hume and Kant: while their opinions may run counter to Paley's, they have also been "demolished" just as thoroughly by others in turn.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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