Saturday, August 05, 2006

Chicken Little: Part One

I'm fond of this Chicken Little illustration courtesy of Telic Thoughts. The facial expression correlates well with sky is falling attitude of opponents of intelligent design. Mike Gene, through the link associated with the word 'Bush,' references an article by Karen Armstrong entitled 'Bush's fondness for fundamentalism is courting disaster at home and abroad.' Snippets from the article appear in italics. My comments are in standard form.

From the very beginning, the conflict between religion and modern science was couched in extreme, even apocalyptic rhetoric. Thomas H Huxley, who popularised the Origin of Species, insisted that people had to choose between faith and science; there could be no compromise: "One or the other would have to succumb after a struggle of unknown duration." In response, conservative Christians launched a crusade against Darwinism. After the first world war, the Democratic politician William Jennings Bryan claimed that there was a direct link between evolutionary theory and German militarism: the notion that only the strong could or should survive had "laid the foundation for the bloodiest war in history. The same science that manufactured poisoned gases to suffocate soldiers is preaching that man has a brutal ancestry."

Note the sequence of events. The Origin of Species is published and then popularized by Thomas Huxley. In doing so Huxley, a Darwinist who set the tone for what was to come, throws down a gauntlet by declaring a take no prisoner approach to religion. The quote: "One or the other would have to succumb after a struggle of unknown duration." Armstrong then states that "in response conservative Christians launch a crusade against Darwinism." According to the author the initial challenge comes from Darwin's bulldog and conservative Christians respond by fighting back. Note that at the very outset evolution is founded on an anti-Christian metaphysical foundation.

The struggle continues - nowhere more so than among the Christian right in the US, who still regard the evolutionary hypothesis as surrounded by a murderous nimbus of evil. In 1925, they tried to ban the teaching of evolution in public schools and developed creation science, based on a literal reading of the first chapter of Genesis. More recently, they have tried to introduce into the school curriculum the teaching of intelligent design (ID), which claims that the irreducible complexity of micro-organisms could not have evolved naturally but must be the result of a single creative act. The issue splits the nation down the middle: fundamentalists want to win a battle for God; liberals and secularists are fighting for truth and rationality.

Follow the logic. According to the author the "Christian right" regards evolution "as surrounded by a murderous nimbus of evil." Well surprise, surprise. A theory of natural history is introduced with unnecessary anti-Christian metaphysical baggage and some Christians think this is evil. Shocking.

Just in case you haven't gathered where the author is coming from note how she frames the conflict. It is "fundamentalists" (the same word attached to murderers and suicide bombers) battling against "liberals and secularists" (who) "are fighting for truth and rationality." Is it rational or truthful to proclaim inaccuracies? There are intelligent design advocates, like Behe, who would take issue with the statement that irreducible complexity must be the result of a single creative act. Behe has accepted common descent but believes it occurred with intelligent input. That does not equate to a single creative act.

The same passions are likely to be aroused by President Bush's decision last week to veto the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which would have loosened the restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research. "This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others," Bush said. "It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect."

His opponents point out that while the president zealously champions the rights of the unborn, he is less concerned about the plight of existing American children. The US infant mortality rate is only the 42nd best in the world; the average baby has a better chance of surviving in Havana or Beijing; infant mortality rates are unacceptably high among those who cannot afford adequate healthcare, especially in the African-American community. And, finally, at the same time as Bush decided to veto the stem cell bill, Israeli bombs were taking the lives of hundreds of innocent Lebanese civilians, many of them children, with the tacit approval of the US.

Bush bashing is stylish but the fact is the infant mortality rate in the US was unacceptably high before the advent of the Bush presidency. The healthcare problem preceeds Bush too as do the many positive aspects of America that attract more immigrants than any nation on earth. The last sentence though is classic Chicken Little. After one of the most notorious terrorist groups on earth- Hezbollah- launches missiles into civilian populations and kidnaps Isreali soldiers Chicken Little screams about Isreali countermeasures and the inevitable casualties that occur when the other side deliberately locates launch sites in civilian population centers. If you think this diatribe represents truth and rationality then the sky is ominous. The storm clouds represent a vicious one-sided view of the world and a condemnation of all naysayers.


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