by Quentin 'Cubist' Long
©2006 Quentin Long -- all rights reserved
Imagine a world in which a particular cult had once controlled all culture, politics and scholarship, everywhere. Imagine this cult's temporal power gradually dwindling, in part because of internal decay (i.e., schisms, etc) and in part because of external developments (i.e., the rise of political movements opposed to this religion, etc). Imagine a heretical cabal of this cult's final few adherents banding together for the sole purpose of restoring their cult to its former position of absolute dominance, and using every scrap of financial, cultural, and political power they can get their hands on to do just that.
Sounds like a novel Mack Reynolds, Robert A. Heinlein, or Frank Herbert could have written, doesn't it? Sadly, it's not. Rather, it's happening in the United States, right now and over the past several decades. What I'm referring to is so-called 'Scientific Creationism', a political movement whose leaders seek to transform the United States into a Christian theocracy (basically the Taliban with a different Holy Book); whose chosen tactic is to launch social and political attacks on the theory of evolution; and whose natural constituency is the tiny percentage of Christendom which believes that the whole 'separation of Church and State' routine never was a good idea.
Scientific Creationism has been consistently slapped down by the courts, and with each new defeat, its proponents mutate it into a new, 'this time it's not just warmed-over religious dogma, swear to God it's not' morph. This decade's model is an alleged 'scientific theory' called Intelligent Design, whose fundamental premise is "somehow, somewhere, somewhen, somebody intelligent did something". ID's proponents apparently believe that as long as their arguments use the phrase 'Intelligent Designer' in place of the word 'God', everybody will overlook the fact that ID is nothing but religious apologetics with a fresh paint job and the serial numbers filed off.
Since when has any 'theory' as insistently undefined as "somehow, somewhere, somewhen, somebody intelligent did something" ever passed muster as science?
To anyone who believes my seven-word summary does an injustice to ID: I invite you to investigate ID for yourself. What, exactly, does ID 'theory' have to say about the "somehow" (i.e., the techniques ID's Designer used); the "somewhere" (i.e., the locations at which ID's Designer did Its thing); the "somewhen" (i.e., the period(s) of time during which ID's Designer did Its thing); the "somebody" (i.e., the motivations, strong points, weak points, abilities, or, indeed, anything about ID's Designer, other than the bare assertion that It was "intelligent"); and the "did something" (i.e., the procedure(s) ID's Designer is supposed to used, the raw materials It's supposed to have worked with, and the actual thing(s) It's supposed to have Designed). But don't be surprised when you come up empty; not only are ID 'theorists' curiously reluctant to address these kinds of details, but some ID 'theorists' have even gone so far as to declare that questions about ID's Designer are, in fact, theological rather than scientific! Well, maybe that's true -- but if so, wouldn't that mean ID really is religious dogma? And, further, wouldn't it mean that all those ID 'theorists' who claim that ID is good science... are, in fact, lying when they make that claim? And if ID doesn't, in fact, have anything to say about the "somehow", the "somewhere", the "somewhen", the "somebody", or the "did something", wouldn't that mean ID is every bit as worthless as its opponents say it is?
I don't know how many of you are already aware, but there was a recent court case which revolved around the question of whether ID should be classed as 'science' or as 'religion'. It seems that the school board in Dover, Pennsylvania wanted their district's science teachers to read their students a statement about Intelligent Design in their classes; when the science teachers refused to read that statement, the board had administrators come into science classes to do what the teachers wouldn't.
And some of the students' parents decided to sue the Dover school board over it.
The case was Kitzmiller v. Dover, and the Dover board lost, big time. It didn't help that during the trial, the Dover board's ID-friendly members demonstrated themselves to be either liars, or incompetents, or both. One board member testified that she was utterly clueless about ID -- and yet, in spite of her ignorance, she voted in favor of the ID statement anyway. Another board member had proudly declared his Creationist beliefs in a videotaped TV news interview -- but this man testified, under oath, that he'd never mentioned 'Creationism', not even once! Something else which didn't help: Michael Behe, a biochemist who is one of the ID movement's leading intellectual lights, testified that ID would not be considered truly 'scientific' until after the definition of 'science' was expanded to such a degree that astrology would qualify as science.
If you'd like to learn more about Kitzmiller v. Dover, you could do worse than surf on over to the National Center for Science Education's website. They've got a page devoted to the trial, including complete transcripts of all the testimony that was heard, and they've got a downloadable PDF of the judge's decision, which explains exactly how and why he arrived at the conclusion he did.
Some of you may wonder: What does this editorial have to do with TF? Just this: We transformation aficianadoes tend to focus our attention to imaginary changes -- humans turning into animals (anthropomorphic or otherwise), magickal toys which inflict 5-minute sexchanges, that sort of thing. In and of itself, this isn't a problem. What could be a problem, however, is if you pay so much attention to fictional changes, that you end up being clueless about real changes that you might not appreciate. In this case, the change in question is the one that will be inflicted on public schools by lying demagogues if honest people don't stop those deceivers from getting their way.
Do you know who's on your local school board?
Do you think finding out might be worth a little of your time?