August 02, 2005

WELL, HE DID PUT LEON KASS IN CHARGE OF BIOETHICS: Bush wants to teach Intelligent Design in schools. That's just pathetic.

It's not going over well in some places on the right, either. Rick Moran at Right-Wing Nuthouse writes:

Alright then, I’ve got a few more “ideas” that students should probably be exposed to as long as we’re talking about filling their heads with a bunch of nonsense like ID:.

1. The earth is actually a bowl sitting on the back of elephants. Hey! If its good enough for the Hindus, why not us?

2. The God Manitou took pity on a mother bear who had lost her cubs while swimming across Lake Michigan and turned the cubs into islands (the Manitou islands) and the mother into a sand dune (Sleeping Bear Sand Dune). The Ojibwa’s believe it…I did too until I was about 5 years old. . . .

6. Gerry Thomas, who recently passed away, invented the TV Dinner. Hell, the MSM believed it, why not teach it?

One can go on and on.

Who the devil cares if some people believe that “Intelligent Design” is the “correct” interpretation for the massive amount of fossil and anthropological evidence showing how human beings evolved? If it were up to you Mr. President and the right wing idiotarians who are pushing this “theory” humans would still believe that the earth was the center of the universe and that stars were fixed in the sky in a series of crystal spheres.

Ouch. And The Politburo observes: "Sheesh. Trying to prove the Dems right, one stupid f*cking statement at a time. Is Bush ‘playing to the base’ or does he believe it? I don’t know which is worse."

Of course, if Bush were more than a fair-weather federalist, his answer would be that the President shouldn't have anything to say about what's taught in schools anyway.

Hmm. Maybe he's trying to convince everyone of that? This just might do it . . . .

UPDATE: Don Surber is quoting Billy Carter.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Andrew Hazlett emails a link to the full transcript, which he says is a bit more -- dare I say it? -- nuanced. And it does begin this way:

Then, I said that, first of all, that decision should be made to local school districts . . .

But more context doesn't necessarily help. Here's the full passage:

Q I wanted to ask you about the -- what seems to be a growing debate over evolution versus intelligent design. What are your personal views on that, and do you think both should be taught in public schools?

THE PRESIDENT: I think -- as I said, harking back to my days as my governor -- both you and Herman are doing a fine job of dragging me back to the past. (Laughter.) Then, I said that, first of all, that decision should be made to local school districts, but I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught.

Q Both sides should be properly taught?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, people -- so people can understand what the debate is about.

Q So the answer accepts the validity of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution?

THE PRESIDENT: I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought, and I'm not suggesting -- you're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes.

Now if I were a White House spinmeister I'd say this was just about teaching children the shape of the debate. But I feel sure that Bush wouldn't be satisfied by a curriculum that exposed the many fallacies of Intelligent Design (the biggest being that its proponents start with a particular Designer in mind and then try to marshal the evidence). And certainly the constituency that he's trying to satisfy wouldn't be.

Nor would various other hypotheses (e.g., that our universe is actually a computer model itself, being run by unknown others for unknown purposes) satisfy, I suspect, even though there's more evidence for them -- we see computer models every day -- than for creation by a deity.

As I said earlier, if only the Democrats weren't so lame . . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeff Goldstein argues that Bush is being misunderstood:

I have no problem with Intelligent Design being taught alongside evolution in the context of questions concerning the origin of life—which, whether the President meant to do so or not, is in fact the context into which he placed the question. The origin of life—or first cause—is properly asked within the realm of philosophy or religious studies. And in that context, evolution is simply another theory (materialism) that competes with metaphysical theories that posit intent or active creation at some point in time (ID, Deism).

Personally, this CITIZEN JOURNALIST would have pressed the President on the question and asked him if he was indeed advocating the teaching of Intelligent Design in science classes specifically, and if so, how—and to what degree (in relation to microevolution? macro? how?). I would further follow-up and ask those on the right who have been so quick to howl over this vague news item if they support the teaching of the “origins of life” (which I take to be different than the evolution of life) in science classes. As it stands though—using my best Scalia-type textualism—what the president said is unproblematic and, on its face, at least, eminently reasonable.

Nicely argued, but I'm still not buying it.

MORE: John Cole: "I have no problem with a brief fifteen minute discussion of intelligent design as part of a religious/philosophy class, provided schools offer those courses. But I don;t think that is what Bush meant." Neither do I. He also notes, however, that Bush's position polls well -- even among Kerry voters.

MORE STILL: Cole did note that, but he was quoting this post.