Saturday, August 20, 2005

Intelligent design redux

A few months ago, Bill Frist was in the running for Scumbag of the Month over at the Un-Apologetic Atheist's site. Frist certainly had many compelling factors in his favor, but I believe he was edged out by an even more unworthy candidate. (Aww...Better luck next time, Senator!)

I admit I was a little suspicious when Frist came out in favor of embryonic stem-cell research. After all, it hadn't been so long since he added a little long-distance neurology to his medical practice, diagnosing Terri Schiavo's condition.

And now, Frist demonstrates that his stance on stem cells (designed to reach the masses who support it, but sure to piss off the conservative Christian "base") doesn't mean he's gone to The Side of Evil. Why, he agrees that so-called intelligent design should be taught along side evolution in the public schools. Doing so "doesn't force any particular theory on anyone," says Frist; "I think in a pluralistic society that is the fairest way to go about education and training people for the future."

Doesn't force any particular theory on anyone? Let's examine that. How would I have felt, as an atheist kid, if my science teachers told me that either Darwin was right or it was all God's doing? Pissed and marginalized. Kids can get that "information" from their parents or any church their parents choose to take them to. But in the public schools? No. I felt excluded enough with the pro forma recitation of "one nation under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Stand up, put your hand over your heart, and...recite words that you don't believe in? Great way to instill patriotism, really. Exclude some based on religious beliefs, and then see if the rest of pledge inspires them.

(There was that one movie my freshman-year biology teacher had us watch one day when he had something else he had to do during class. It showed all the beauty and elegance of nature—mountains, trees, animals—lots of great nature photography. Then the picture changed to sunbeams shining down through puffy white clouds, and the booming-voiced narrator concluded, "Could this all be just an accident?" Yep, you heard that right. I suspect the teacher hadn't actually seen the movie, because the rest of the curriculum was actual science. But my friend C. and I were both stunned to have been presented with that dreck in our high-school biology class.)

A bigger issue here is Frist's statement about "education and training people for the future." Is anyone impressed with how well American kids are learning science compared with kids from other developed nations? No? I didn't think so. Just a hunch, but I bet China and India aren't teaching intelligent design any more than the schools in Europe are. So let's make more time for religion and less time for science in our science curriculum, shall we? That should help train future generations of American scientists to be prepared to compete in the global marketplace of ideas. This country is heading in the wrong direction, and I don't like it.

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