Sunday, August 07, 2005

Bush’s neocon friends shocked as he backs the Darwin-doubters, etc

Here are excerpts from news articles, with my comments in square brackets:
The Sunday Times [London]- World August 07, 2005 Bush’s neocon friends shocked as he backs the Darwin-doubters THE theory of intelligent design, which emphasises the role of a creator in the development of the universe, has received a boost from President George W Bush. He has called for it to be taught alongside evolution in schools, writes Sarah Baxter. While Bush’s conservative Christian fundamentalist base is delighted by his pronouncement, it has opened a split with neoconservatives and other secular allies on the right. In Texas, where the president likes to spend August reconnecting with his heartland, Bush said last week: "Both sides ought to be taught ... so people can understand what the debate is about." The teaching of Darwinism is a controversial issue in Kansas and other patches of middle America, where legal and political challenges are being mounted to introduce intelligent design into the science curriculum. Many fundamentalists believe that the world is only 6,000 years old and that atheistic theories are being foisted on children. The teaching of intelligent design advocates a divine - or "intelligent" - creator and is regarded by many scientists as mumbo-jumbo. "With the president endorsing it, at the very least it makes Americans who have that position more respectable, for lack of a better word," said Gary Bauer, a leading Christian activist. "It’s not some backwater view. It is a view held by the majority of Americans." Some of the president’s greatest supporters in the war on terror are shaking their heads in disbelief at his remarks. Charles Krauthammer, a neoconservative commentator, said the idea of teaching intelligent design - creationism’s "modern step-child" - was "insane". "To teach it as science is to encourage the supercilious caricature of America as a nation in the thrall of a religious authority," he wrote. "To impose it on the teaching of evolution is ridiculous." Krauthammer’s scathing article appeared in the current issue of Time magazine before Bush expressed his opinion. He believes it prompted a reporter to ask the president where he stood. Caught off-guard, Bush gave an unrehearsed answer. "It is very clear to me that he is sincere about this," Krauthammer said. "He is not positioning." However, he added: "If you look at this purely as a cynical political move, it will help in the heartlands and people of my ilk care a lot more about Iraq than about textbooks in Kansas." ... [More spin from the evolution side. President Bush did not "call... for it [Intelligent Design] to be taught alongside evolution in schools". As the actual transcript shows, President Bush merely answered a reporter's question, reiterating what has been his position since he was Governor of Texas:
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 ... governor [of Texas] ... 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, ... 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 ... [if] you're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes.
[So all that President Bush actually said in respect of the "debate over evolution versus intelligent design", was: 1) "that decision should be made ... [by] local school districts;" 2) "both sides ought to be properly taught"; and 3) "people ought to be exposed to different ideas". It was as the article itself says, "an unrehearsed answer." Baxter's pejorative dismissal as "fundamentalists" those who think that design in nature is real, will only confirming to more and more of the general public that there must be something seriously wrong with evolution that its defenders need to resort to the argumentum ad hominem abusive fallacy (note the example of "that's what I'd expect a fundamentalist Christian to say"!), rather than consider the evidence and arguments for intelligent design in nature on their merits. Krauthammer appears to be a political "neoconservative" whose opposition to intelligent design (I cannot see where he uses the word "insane") is based on political considerations. He does not seem to consider the possibility that "intelligent design" could be true and evolution false.]
Evolving argument creates new battle, The Age, Shane Green, August 6, 2005. Graeme Clark says he has always had a bias to thinking beyond the box, a view that became critical in his struggle to develop the bionic ear. "If I had stayed within the box with the bionic ear, I would have been frightened off by my scientific colleagues, who said that physiology at the time said that it was impossible," Professor Clark says. "So I must confess a sort of rogue element in me that likes to see if there are other ways of thinking things through." Professor Clark is bringing this approach to the theory of intelligent design. He argues that life's complexity cannot simply be explained by Darwin's evolution theory, but is the result of design by a higher intelligence. Professor Clarke has looked at the works of US scientists who have developed the theory and is reading Intelligent Design: the Bridge Between Science and Theology, by mathematician and philosopher William Dembski. He says the theory should not be confused with creationism. "One of the early points he makes in his book is there is no a priori reason why you must start with what has been accepted by science as a closed box," Professor Clarke says. Of the scientists behind the theory, including Dembski and biochemist Michael Behe, Professor Clarke says: "They are thoughtful, intelligent people trying to push the boundaries of knowledge." The pair were among scientists and philosophers who in 1993 formed the basis of the intelligent design movement. The theory has become part of the intense creationism versus evolution battle that has been played out in the US over the role each should play in schools. For many Christian groups advocating the teaching of creation, intelligent design has an appeal. While the mention of God is avoided, the theory has been decried as "creationism in a cheap tuxedo". Yet the movement is scoring victories. It received a significant fillip this week when US President George Bush backed teaching it alongside evolution, "so people can understand what the debate is about". Professor Clark has talked openly about his Christian faith. Yet he says it does not influence his thinking on intelligent design. "I want to put a scientific hat on, I want to be fair to the discussion," he says. The theory has also found support within the Catholic Church in Australia. Monsignor Peter Elliott, episcopal vicar for religious education in the archdiocese of Melbourne, declared his strong backing. "It doesn't push a particular religious line, and it's certainly not creationist," he said. Monsignor Elliott, who edited the religious texts used by Catholic schools in Victoria and NSW, thinks the theory should be welcomed in Catholic schools. ... [This is good news to me as an Australian, seeing Intelligent Design starting to take root `down under'!]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol)
"Problems of Evolution"

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