Wednesday, November 09, 2005

It's Faith or It's Nothing

Yesterday voters in Pennsylvania turned out the Dover school board incumbents who ordered the introduction of intelligent design in the district's science curriculum. Meanwhile, the Kansas Board of Education lurched back down the path the Dover community abandoned, saying high school students should be taught that Darwin's theory of evolution is "controversial."

But the real controversy is political, not scientific. For years, a seesaw battle has been going on between Kansas creationists and science educators, with conservatives and moderates changing seats in subsequent waves of backlash. It may be coming to a school board near you.

"Both sides ought to be taught ... so people can understand what the debate is about," says President Bush, implying there's some sort of equality that simply doesn't exist as far as mainstream science is concerned. Mathematics isn't obligated to spend time on numerology and the Kabbala. Astronomy doesn't try to help students understand astrology. But at least those pseudo-disciplines actually deal with numbers and stars.

Intelligent design deals with nullity, the spaces between knowledge and understanding. Its all-purpose higher power theory allows it to fill in any gaps science hasn't yet explained — or to smooth over complexities that are explained but simply too much bother to comprehend.

This actually a very useful function, but it's not science. It is the comforting function performed by a narcotic to treat pain when a cure has failed. At some point, life may very well come down to faith or nothing, as this song says...


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