Pavlos (pavlos) wrote,

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Intelligent design? So what!

There's currently a resurgence in the US of the conservative demand to teach "intelligent design" at schools, as an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution. For those unfamiliar with the term, intelligent design is the theory that we humans, and all other life on earth, were created pretty much in our current form by some creator being. The theory does not specify whether living things were created by the billions or in some bootstrap form à la Adam and Eve, whether the creator planted decorative pieces like dinosaur skeletons, whether he was a bearded, unfit Indo-European man in his seventies, and the like. However it's pretty obvious that intelligent design is intended to convey the religious concept of creation by god, rather than some novel and weirder concept like alien kids playing Sims. In other words, the politics of the situation is that conservative groups demand that a religiously-motivated creationist theory be taught in US schools.

If you'll permit me two asides, the proponents claim that intelligent design is a theory, just like evolution is, and so both are legitimate things to teach. The first part of this syllogism is true, the implication is false, and the conclusion is false, but unfortunately it takes a person with positivist thinking to appreciate these three facts. The second aside is that the core of the argument is about faith-based beliefs, not fact-based beliefs, and so fact-based arguments are by nature antagonistic and unlikely to yield progress (except possibly by the utter defeat of the faith-based side). Much typing is wasted for these reasons, as I just demonstrated.

Now, what I wanted to point out is the motive and implications of the intelligent design theory. If it were true, what would it imply about the world? If we follow the benign form of an ad-hominem argument (in other words if we suspect reasonable ulterior motives) why would conservative groups be wanting to teach that theory?

The answers should be obvious. If God created us, he is our Father. He's also our Lord and Master. We must honour and obey him, and by extension his teachings as passed to us by holy books and the church. If we don't subscribe to the Christian church, we must at least feel aware of the existence of such a god, whom we should treat with awe, respect, and deference. We should regard highly and identify with similar beliefs in others. Don't we?

No! No, no. No, no, and you must be joking. Maybe but no, no, and no. No and no.

If we do assume that some anthropomorphic super-being, even a Michaelangelo God-type person, is our intelligent creator, this implies... nothing at all.

It does not make the creator our parent, because frankly the creator didn't bother to do any parenting to speak of.

Even if the creator had bothered spending some time raising us, this does not imply we owe the creator/parent anything. At all. It does not imply that we ought to listen to them, follow what they say, or attempt to conform to some aspirations they might have about us. really, it does not. If we feel awe or thanks that's discretionary, but we're not supposed to feel or declare these things, much less anything like deference or submission. Not in the slightest. Basically, if the creator created us, well, thanks, and no we're not interested in hearing what the creator might want us to do or become. And the creator should be cool with that.

It seems clear to me, although I'm not in their heads, that those who lobby for the introduction of intelligent design at schools would not agree with the last four paragraphs. In fact I venture they would not so much disagree as stare blankly in failure to admit what is being said as valid. In other words I would expect proponents of intelligent design to be so immersed in the thought framework of patriarchy that, although they demand creationist education as a means to extend patriarchal control over young people, they're not really consciously aware that they're doing so.

Of course to say that creationists have an ulterior motive in instilling patriarchal values is not especially new. What I wanted to point out is that their argument has a first leg in the field of biology and an at least as important second leg in the field of sociology. Tempting though it is to attack the very weak biological leg of patriarchocreationsim, it may be more important to attack its relatively undamaged and unchallenged sociological leg, which is after all the important load-bearing one.

I other words, I would recommend that feminism and enlightened parenting would be better subjects than evolutionary biology to teach at schools (American or otherwise) as a counter to creationism. When some right-winger claims that God created us I'd rather kids don't start arguing "He didn't, we evolved" but rather that they say "Oh really, so what?"
Tags: education, feminism, intelligent design, science
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