Monday, May 16

WTF Is The Matter With Kansas?

I was intending to use this quote from Nick Kristof in the Sunday Times:

In fact, when conservatives quote from the Bible to make moral points, they tend to quote very selectively. After all, while Leviticus bans gay sex, it also forbids touching anything made of pigskin (is playing football banned?) - and some biblical passages seem not so much morally uplifting as genocidal.

and just note that several million trees had died so "Sky Appears Blue" could appear in the Paper of Record. But, what the hell, let's think about it. It's absurd that this mild schoolyard retort is mentioned; it ought to be common knowledge among even the most rabid of fundamentalists. But of course it isn't, and it's a measure of the particular straits we're in that it must pass for liberal commentary just to say that much. I could care less whether Fat Tony Scalia buggers his wife, but anytime Dobson or Falwell or Rick Santorum starts ranting about gay marriage they should be asked, point blank, where they banish their wives and daughters when Mr. Monthly comes to call. You don't? Then the argument's over.

But it doesn't work that way, do it? And it is, in a sense, a form of Christian persecution which really is going on in this country. Decent Christians who don't believe their religion is a justification for hatred and bigotry get tarred with that brush every day.

It is, simply, an obscenity that at the beginning of the 21st century the Kansas Board of Education would want to "debate" the science of the 19th. But what's worse is that the same sort of thing is at work here: the rabid fundamentalists get to state their case without being questioned on it. "Intelligent Design" is not just a smokescreen for the forcible insertion of Biblical literalism into school biology texts; it's a pretext for attacking materialism itself.

And I was educated in the last century, though if I live a few more years that may become a badge of honor rather than an admission of being behind the times. At the time it seemed quite clear: science was materialistic not because science insisted on, or relied upon, an absolute belief in materialism. It was materialistic because, if we were to know anything, the measurable was the only way we could possibly know it. The battle of Kansas is about giving supernatural explanations equal footing with real science, plain and simple. But the crypto-Creationists will not be called upon to defend that position.

Steve Case, chairman of the Kansas Science Curriculum Standards Committee, wrote a response to a Wichita Eagle editorial by the Board's chairman, Steve Abrams, which was read into the record on the final day of the show trial hearings. He said:

Dr Abrams ends his letter with a quote from Thomas Cooper;"only fraud and falsehood dread examination. Truth invites it." I would suggest that he be careful what he wishes for.

Insertion of a particular set of fundamentalist beliefs into science curriculum cannot be the end of it, as the crypto-Creationists know. The next step will be removing supernatural explanations from rationalist critique. It's something Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias might want to consider carefully before bargaining with other peoples' "unpopular" rights.


Anonymous said...

I hadn't seen this Drum item. Thanks for pointing it out. I'm pleased to see that a bunch of the comments to the piece were aghast at the idea of "giving" a little on things like religious displays. I couldn't read more than about 20 of the comments without getting kind of dizzy, so maybe it got better for him.

I don't get it. Why would you "give" on the establishment clause? Drum seems to think that the arguments that "we" have "won" are won for all time.

Didja see the article in yesterday's L.A. Times about folks bringing religious expression to work?

Hokie said...

Yeah, Kevin doesn't quite get the implications of it.

ID is one of my particular pet peeves, because of how damned weaselly it is. I'm ok (to a certain degree) with the creation scientists, because they're at least honest about what they're attempting to do (it's either evolution or Christian creation, so let's try to show evolution is scientifically unsound). Fair enough.

IDers, however, are trying to destroy materialism and ontological naturalism in science, as you noted, but you see them try to admit it.

As much as it pains me to say it, I think we've failed in communicating the point and idea of science to people. Not the IDers themselves, I'm sure they're beyond help, but those who casually support them. They don't understand that science only deals with certain types of answers to certain types of questions, and thus being "science" or "not science" isn't an indicator of value, and therefore declaring supernatural origins of life as not being scientific doesn't ipso facto make them inferior to scientific, naturalistic explanations.

And where does it go from there? Do we teach kids that women have periods because of Eve's sin? How far does it reach?

Anonymous said...

I still say that if they want to teach different "theories" on how everything came to be, they should also teach that all humans are descended from the mighty Space Race that founded Atlantis.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Mr Drum could next do a bit where he encourages the Republican Party to make the NRA compromise on the Second Amendment. I'm sure they'll be quite pleasant about it all.
After all, I didn't have any guns growing up, and it didn't hurt me any. I'm sure it wouldn't make a difference if nobody else had any either.