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"Intelligent design" is the monkey on Darwin's back

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"Intelligent design" is the most ridiculous case of right-wing semantic jazz-hands since homophobia and misogyny were designated "family values."

Last week, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District got under way. The lawsuit, in which eleven parents in Dover, Pa., are opposing their school board?s mandate that all ninth-grade biology students be taught intelligent design, is monumental in implication, will probably draw media attention from around the world, and will in all likelihood find its way to the freshly reorganized Supreme Court.

In case you're unfamiliar: Intelligent design is the "theory" that organisms, particularly humans, are just
too damn majestic and complex to have evolved through nature, that clearly we must have been created by a higher power; obviously we were intelligently designed. If it sounds a lot like creationism, that's because it is.

Honestly, I thought we were beyond this. I thought this debate had gone the way of William Jennings Bryan and polio. Guess I was wrong.

Intelligent design sets a baffling precedent. What else could we narrow-mindedly deem too complex not to be attributed to God? Calculus in three dimensions? The Sound and the Fury? Leaping to supernatural explanations just because a topic is too difficult to understand is a disgrace to the scientific method and, indeed, to the entire concept of education. Isn?t the reason that education exists as an institution in the first place the fact that most of the time things are fundamentally not as they seem? Didn?t we learn long ago that our pre-scientific mythologies are utterly insufficient to describe or define the realities of our world?

Make no mistake: There is not a single shred of reputable scientific evidence for intelligent design. It has been denounced by the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. It is shunned en masse by the scientific and academic community. Separation of church and state aside, how can we possibly permit a baseless theory into a science curriculum? We might as well throw prayer in with physical education.

Furthermore, this issue points to the bloated self-importance of the religious right in general. How dare it demand that public schools do its bidding? Parents have every prerogative to sit their children down and say, ?What you learned in science class is wrong. God created the Earth and everything in it, period.? Why does the religious right need to have its own values dictated back to it? For a demographic so pig-headedly convinced of its own indisputable correctness, it seems pretty insecure. Where is its ?faith? when it comes to sending its children off to school? Maybe it ought to take a good, long look at the quality of its convictions before it tries to draw up a curriculum of Biblical biology.

One of the more painfully ironic aspects of this case is that many members of the religious right are claiming that this is a freedom of information issue. Freedom of information? Aren?t these the same people who want Harry Potter banned from the school library, and who tell their children that masturbation causes blindness? Also, I hardly think anyone?s free access to information is infringed upon by keeping God out of public schools. To my knowledge, a Biblical education is free and zealously provided at any of the innumerable places of worship in this country, whereas an academic education (as I?m sure everyone at CMU is acutely aware) is a bit more difficult ? and expensive ? to obtain. I would venture a guess that in this country there are far more Bibles than biologists, which makes me question the religious right?s never-ending delusions of persecution. Maybe it?s reactionary, as it begins to sense its own uselessness.

As one of the greatest scientific institutions in the world, I call on the Carnegie Mellon community to rally in support of this lawsuit and its goal of keeping science in school and God in church. To our knowledge, the human brain is the only apparatus in existence that can study itself and its origins. Let us never allow replacing logical inquiry and rational thought with mythology to disgrace or betray that
incredible distinction. We must unequivocally reject ?intelligent design? as a pseudonym for the Book of Genesis. We must be vigilant in protecting our public institutions from those who would twist them into tools of proselytization.