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The Extended, Remixed Intelligent Design Rant Continues... - Elf M. Sternberg
The Extended, Remixed Intelligent Design Rant Continues...
One of the key points I try to make to proponents of intelligent design is that, so far, ID hasn't demonstrated a lick of utility. No new medicines, surgical procedures, agricultural products, or epidemiological interventions have emerged in which the authors and inventors credited the "design inference" as fundamental to their work.

(There are three frequent rejoinders to this point.

The first, and most idiotic, is "prove there haven't been." It is no more up to me to prove there have been no such studies that it's up to me to prove there are no studies accrediting psychic messages from Jovian space aliens; it is up to the claimant of ID's utility to show where and when ID has been useful. So far, they have failed.

The second is "is too!" Frequently, design proponents point to biomimetics as a place where "designs from nature have proven useful." The problem is that this is a backward inference: we are designing things to mimic the best biology out there. We know human beings are intelligent; the failure here is to understand that because evolution has come up with a better physical or biochemical mechanism than we can come up with ourselves does not mean that evolutionary outcomes are the product of a conscious designer. Biomimemetic designs frequently pare down the biology to the best physical systems we can derive, but the coopted, unnecessarily messy biology is frequently left out.

The third is "Darwin isn't useful, either." Orac has an entire section of his blog documented the way medical researchers use evolutionary biology every day in their quest to overcome microbial resistance and understand cancer. Understanding the evolutionary pressures on the fire ant has proven to be a key to dealing with infestation, an important research topic for agriculture. The nested interactions of geology, evolutionary biology, and even cosmology all provide cross-verification that all three sciences are on the right track. There's even a journal, Evolutionary Applications, dedicated to demonstrating the utility of evolutionary theory to our understanding and control of the world around us.)

ID proponents who want their stuff taught in public schools need to understand that their work is detrimental to the future well-being of their country. Every kid who is taught intelligent design, who decides that he doesn't need to know anything more about biology other than "God did it," is one less mind we have dedicated to solving the problems facing the next generation. Whole classrooms of potential Norman Borlaugs, Robert Jarviks, Jonas Salks, Linus Paulings, and Ignaz Semmelweises will be wiped out, if they haven't been already by the teachings of their churches.

This is a simple fact, and it will remain a fact until someone actually shows a breakthrough in biology predicated on the assumption that existing biology was designed.

I was remined of this when I read a quote from an article about President Obama's search for a national information technologies officer. Sophie Vandebroek is the chief technology officer (CTO) at Xerox corporation, and her quote brings home the other half of the puzzle. If we're not going to grow our own researchers, we have to import them from other places. But they're not going to come here, not to stay, not if they know their kids, going to our schools, are going to get spoon-fed worthless nonsense. She wrote:
I just can't hire the people to work here. I don't find the US-born PhDs in microelectronics, or I can't get my H-1Bs approved. You have to be able to attract these people, and unless someone puts the infrastructure in place to keep them here the innovation will be taking place in other countries.
We're not doing that. Instead, we are overwhelming our own advantage, and surrendering our right to the future, all in the name of the Right's version of political correctness, "teaching the controversy."

There is no controversy: intelligent design has not yet provided a useful scientific insight, and has not earned its place as a "science" deserving of attention in pre-college education. Ignore the handwaving about how Pasteur and Newton were Christians. They achieved their breakthroughs despite, not because of, their religious beliefs. The only controversy is the one the religious right wants to make: the controversy ought to be that they're being allowed to set the science agenda at all.

Current Mood: annoyed annoyed
Current Music: Michael Salvatori, Covenant Dance

15 comments or Leave a comment
boiwondering From: boiwondering Date: March 11th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

You've summed up the major issues I have with ID more succinctly than I could ever have managed. Would you mind terribly if I direct people to read this? It would save me lots and lots of time and forehead contusions. :)
elfs From: elfs Date: March 11th, 2009 08:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
You certainly may.
boiwondering From: boiwondering Date: March 11th, 2009 08:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! :)
gromm From: gromm Date: March 11th, 2009 06:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I thought ID was already thrown out of American schools on the basis that it has a religious agenda. Nova had a show about this trial last month for Darwin's 200th birthday.

Not that the peddlars of ID have stopped trying or anything. They're stupid that way.
shockwave77598 From: shockwave77598 Date: March 11th, 2009 06:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
The trouble with these folks is that they are deeply, honestly certain that their held-since-childhood beliefs are absolutely and without question, correct. Anything that questions their belief system is automatically evil and must be destroyed at all costs. It is a pity, because these can be good people when they aren't hellbent on telling the rest of us what we may or may not think. Their right to their religion doesn't mean they get to shove it down the throats of everyone else.

As for Elf's topic - I'm sorry, but many of the children of these fundies aren't in public schools to start with. They are in good, Xian schools where they learn the truth - that dinosaurs were on the ark, that pi = 3, and that the antichrist will be a democrat. Why do I know this? Take a look - where did the current adult generation of fundies come from? The same places they are sending their own kids now. So most of the kids you lament are now and have always been lost. If there is another Darwin in their ranks, he'll never surface, regardless of what is or isn't taught in public schools.
pixel39 From: pixel39 Date: March 11th, 2009 07:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm afraid I must disagree with you--there are places in this country where the public schools are still very heavily influenced by religious teachings--as an example, a friend of mine who is a science teacher was "asked" by a member of the school board to teach ID or he would be fired. This same teacher has had to explain every year to some of his students that they cannot use the Bible as a source for their history of science projects. And Minnesota is a Blue state.

[To finish the story: The other science teacher's response was to threaten to quit. D's response was "Ok, and I'll teach Hindu creationism and Native American and ...". The authoritative individual said, no, just ID or you're fired. D said "I have the ACLU on speed dial. Try me." Oddly enough, or not, he still has a job and is not teaching ID.]
(Deleted comment)
pixel39 From: pixel39 Date: March 11th, 2009 10:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Once upon a time their older child came home from kindergarten with the news that "Jesus is inside me". D and K are Society of Friends. They send their children to *public* school.

There was a...conversation...with the principal and the teacher. I disremember what the outcome was but I *think* that both kids still go to that school (which is not the one that D teaches at).
gromm From: gromm Date: March 11th, 2009 09:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
What's a Christian school?

I know there's Catholic schools, Mennonite schools, and Presbyterian schools, but I'm pretty sure that Christianity hasn't been a unified religion since Martin Luther.

It's funny when fundie Evangelicals don't even know their own history. I also think they'd be pretty upset to have their kids taught Catholic doctrine, which isn't anywhere near as anal about their interpretation of the bible.
shockwave77598 From: shockwave77598 Date: March 11th, 2009 09:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Beats me. I never went to one. Some private schools where kids don't have to deal with evil science or biology, I suppose. They are all over down here.
From: emeric1120 Date: March 13th, 2009 08:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah, but you forget that many fundamentalists don't believe that Catholics are even christian. One quoted my wife that Mel Gibson, who claims to be Catholic, was "OK" because he belongs to some offshoot that only teaches things that predate Vatican II, does not follow the Pope, and thinks that Jews are still evil. Which, really, is interesting when you consider that, if the Bible is accurate, Jesus was... a Jew. And therefore not white.

Some days it's good to be a recovering Catholic. ;-)
sirfox From: sirfox Date: March 11th, 2009 09:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
ah, they're not all lost causes. Plenty of people raised by fundamentalist whackjobs (of every stripe) eventually resolve their cognitive dissonance and discard the bullshit that holds them back.

Granted, the ones that last well into adulthood are often lost causes, but it's amazing what kind of revelations happen when Junior leaves that well-sheltered nest where nothing was ever questioned and runs smack into (just as one example) college, full of Different Viewpoints that they then must resolve. Sure, there's the standard and coached response we're all familiar with, but some of them come around.
shockwave77598 From: shockwave77598 Date: March 11th, 2009 09:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Almost my entire family are fundies. Yes, I escaped :) But how many of my cousins didn't? All of them. Now they are the drivers and the shakers of the family, and like to tell me that I'll go to hell if I don't put my kids in a proper christian school, blah blah blah. As you might guess, I don't go to family reunions a whole lot.
ionotter From: ionotter Date: March 12th, 2009 05:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Plenty of people raised by fundamentalist whackjobs (of every stripe) eventually resolve their cognitive dissonance and discard the bullshit that holds them back.

They're called "atheists", and they tend to be pretty adamant about it, too.
dv_girl From: dv_girl Date: March 11th, 2009 10:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
ID supporters are so amazingly arrogant and vapid. I mean... Here. Let's do a simple logic check: 1) God is too complex to understand.

Okay. We're done. If God is too complex to understand, then ID supporters have no claim to knowing how the universe works. Nor do the writers of the bible, who couldn't possibly understand God any better than we can.

There's no need to discuss any of ID's other talking points as they're all built off of this. All the other ID arguments are a scam to try to get you to ignore this point.
lemur123 From: lemur123 Date: March 12th, 2009 12:21 am (UTC) (Link)
"But they're not going to come here, not to stay, not if they know their kids, going to our schools, are going to get spoon-fed worthless nonsense."

You're dead on with that. My cousin and her husband left relatively good-paying jobs and moved back home three months before she gave birth. Some places are great for adults, but not someplace you'd want to raise a kid.
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