Somehow, over the last fifty or so years, America has gone from being proud of its scientific knowledge and accomplishments, to being, at best, suspicious of science, and at worst, hostile toward it. Mostly, though, what Americans are is grossly ignorant of science. In 1997 we ranked 11th in the world. By 2007 we had dropped to 24th, well behind every other major country on the planet. (At the same time, when questioned about their self-esteem, 96 percent of American students now say that they are “special” and “important” people. In other words, they are really fond of themselves for no reason whatsoever.) Way too many people in this country today are better versed in those dimwitted Kardashian twats than they are in science, and that’s a sad, sad thing.
Anyway, it is no secret that among the major sciences none are treated with more fear and contempt by certain segments of American society than are the evolutionary sciences.
The attack on evolution is three-pronged. On the left, you’ve got the “postmodernists” (read: fatuous gasbags) relentlessly bloviating about the alleged subjectivity of facts. They desperately need evolution to be disproved, otherwise their entire philosophical project sinks into the sand on which it is built. Then on the right there are the creationists, blindly waving the bible and caterwauling in everybody’s face. (More on these guys below.) And in the middle, you’ve got a bunch of harried, three-job, parents who are too exhausted at the end of the day to adequately assist little Susie with her biology report. The most dangerous of these foes are, of course, the deceitful, frightened Christian hordes; the evangelical snake-talker types. Most parents, even the busiest, really do try to help their kids learn, and given how hard it is to earn a living today, we can cut them some slack. And as for the “postmodernists,” they are largely confined to college campuses where they can’t hurt anybody. The creationists, however, are well-funded, sneaky, and louder and more rank than Limbaugh’s OxyContin farts.
These days, the creationists’ favorite line of bullshit is to demand, shrilly and incessantly, like spoiled toddlers shrieking that they want a GODDAMN TRANSFORMER DOLL NOW!!! that schools “teach the controversy.” The “controversy” they refer to is the one they claim exists between evolution and Christianity. It is completely imaginary. Like angels, trickle-down economics and the Great Pumpkin, it exists only in the cobwebby recesses of their befuddled minds. “Teaching the controversy” is nothing more than an attempt, by a group of people who think the Dark Ages were a funky good time, to force Christianity into the classroom, in direct violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
But hey. Just to show how giving I can be (heh), I say this: teach creationism. Teach it in a religion studies class; teach it in a philosophy class; hell, teach it in a sociology class. Do not, however, teach it in a science class. Know why? Cuz it ain’t science, that’s why. Not even when you dress it up in its go-to-meetin clothes and call it “intelligent design (ID).”
ID exists only to disprove evolution. Its adherents perform no experiments. It’s doubtful they’ve ever even proposed one. They publish no peer-reviewed papers. To my knowledge, they have never penned a single document that wasn’t intended for dissemination strictly among members of their weird and narrow little club. They ignore the scientific method by coming to their conclusions first, then winnowing out a few bits of “data” to “support” their claims. They hate actual experts in the field, while at the same time nothing gives them a boner quite like quoting those same experts, albeit out of context, to bolster their “arguments.” Along those same lines, another of their favorite tactics is to cherry-pick information that is many decades out of date, such as the revolting role some evolutionists played in the eugenics movement, and present it as cutting-edge evolutionary thinking. For examples see Expelled, a propaganda piece funded and hosted by Ben Stein, wherein he informs us that “evolutionist” is code for “Nazi,” and every biologist in the world is lining up to open his own Death Camps R Us franchise. The out-of-context game in Expelled is so glaring that I made up a drinking game based on the movie’s innumerable goofy mistakes and inaccuracies. (Play it with shots and you’ll be shitfaced in about fifteen minutes.)
Another bit of chicanery ID-ers use to prop up their make-believe controversy is to play pocket-pool with the semantics of the word “theory.” Give an ID-er a dais and the first words out of his mouth will likely be “Evolution is only a theory!” Delete the word “only” and the doofus would be quite correct. Evolution is a theory. A damn good one, too, that is supported by millions of hours of experimental data and tens of thousands of items from the fossil record. (None of which can be said about the existence of god, by the way.) What our hypothetical ID-er means to howl is that “Evolution is only a hypothesis!” And no matter what you do with the word “only” he is utterly, completely, totally wrong. Of course, if he were to bawl “Intelligent design is only a hypothesis!” he would again be quite correct.
In any event, the ID crowd is up to their usual crap, with anti-science bills galumphing thick-wittedly through legislatures across the country—Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, Florida and Kentucky. (One in New Mexico was, thankfully, killed in committee in March.) Proponents of these laws want science teachers to show “both sides” of complex scientific issues. In other words: teach the “controversy.” Oddly (or perhaps not so much) the only scientific issues they consider “complex” enough to warrant instructing students in “both sides” are evolution, the chemical basis for human life, cloning and climate change. Not quantum mechanics, or superstrings, or chemical neurology. Just those areas that they believe will interfere with their ass-smooching the Invisible Sky Man. Now, do you think they are interested in what students learn or are they just playing politics? Golly, I wonder…
To sum up: There is no controversy. Creationists, you need to stop misleading people about it, not even the ones who are foaming at the mouth to be mislead. In fact, stop meddling in areas where you have no expertise, or even a limited amount of education. Go back to doing what you do best—making money and hiding in your caves from the lightning.