Thursday, August 04, 2005

Intelligent design and political correctness

It’s atrocious - and an international embarrassment, not that he cares about that - that the president cannot endorse the overwhelming scientific consensus with regard to teaching evolution. Sadly, this is a consensus position in the United States so it makes political sense to take it.

But one reason Bush can make such a statement is its sheer, all-encompassing blandness:

"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought, and I'm not suggesting -- you're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."

Let the debate unfold! Evolution, intelligent design, biblical creationism – it’s all part of the landscape of what people believe and we ought to take into accounts all points of view. On the surface, it sounds eminently fair-minded and typically American. And it is reasonable to teach children facts about our society: that many people think evolution is a crock and the world was created 6,000 years ago – in a social studies class. But that’s not what Bush means.

What's most interesting is that Bush's “different ideas” position appropriates the foundation of the left’s now increasingly musty multicultural agenda – that everyone’s unique cultural identity ought to be acknowledged and that no offense should be given to any individual or group – and uses it in service of the religious right, to attack science. It's equally soft-headed no matter who’s using it.

Update: The Washington Post has an editorial noting the irony here:
For more than 30 years, the conservative movement in America has been doing battle with the forces of relativism, the "do your own thing" philosophy that eschews objective truth and instead sees all beliefs and all personal choices as equally valid. Instead, philosophically minded American conservatives have argued that there is such a thing as objectivity and that some beliefs really are better, truer or more accurate than others. Given this history, it seems appropriate to ask: Is President Bush really a conservative?