About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Bush says schools should teach "Intelligent Design"

Of course he would. Frankly, I'm surprised it took him this long to "come out of the closet," so to speak. President Bush-II said "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes.''

This, of course, from a leader who has done as much damage to public education as anybody in recent memory (see his so-called "no child left behind" idiocy), not to mention the extreme degree of secrecy his administration has adopted since the beginning, I guess to favor the exposure of people to different ideas in the absence of facts.

Intelligent Design, of course, is a thinly veiled form of creationism, it isn't science, it isn't philosophy, and it is even pretty bad theology. But never mind that, we now have it from the top man in the country that different ideas ought to be taught, regardless of how wacky they actually are.

This couldn't possibly have anything to do with the need Bush and his associates have to retain as much support from the religious right as possible, in view of the upcoming mid-term election, could it? Well, yes and no. I'm sure political gain does enter into this, but I also bet that Bush really is as simple-minded as he often comes across to be in media interviews. He probably does honestly believe that ID is a good alternative to the science of evolution, and all those political cartoons portraying him as a monkey don't help either. Though they are pretty funny...


  1. While I instantly felt outraged (again) at this continued attempt by Bush to hijack education and further his message of faith at the expense of the greater good, I am wondering if “broadening education” in this manner wouldn’t actually be a good idea after all (or at least less damaging than imagined)? Whoa, there! Give me a second, ok?

    While I agree that re-defining science, allowing pseudo-science into science curriculum, providing a scientific form for fantasy, etc, etc, are all to be avoided (some would say at all costs), there might in fact be something to be gained from laying everything out on the table.

    Suppose we did let creationism/ID in? How long would it last under the bright lights provided by resourceful and creative science teachers? That is, if creationism/ID were exposed as an empty shell, unsupported by facts or data, what do you think young minds would take away from the realization/experience of getting there? And here I don’t mean the unfortunate young creationists (who will probably remain so long after), I mean regular kids just out being kids! What a lesson! Jeez, it even works, this science stuff!

    Ultimately, it’s our kids’ educations we’re concerned about, right? What better lesson than real-life exposure to the scientific method and its very real outcomes?

    Just a thought experiment to stir things up, I guess. I still have serious problems with the idea of giving an inch here, though…

    PS Thanks for reaching out to the masses Massimo – you are very much appreciated here!


  2. Nico, you do have a good point. Indeed, this coming semester I will be teaching a course on the nature of science at SUNY-Stony Brook that does include a discussion of several kinds of pseudoscience, including creationism. The problem with Bush's proposal, is that most of our high school teachers, alas, are far from being "resourceful and creative." Most of them have not taken a course on the scientific method, critical thinking, history of science, or evolution. That's why the proposal is dangerous (besides the intrinsic distrust I share for the source of the proposal, of course...).

  3. Seems to me that "teaching" ID is rather like "teaching" Harry Potter. Like any other fantasy tale, it's all in how you take it. 'Course Mr. Bush hasn't yet graduated from Fantasy Land...

    Thanks for all your good works, Massimo! Keep it up!

    Bob Andrews

  4. While I agree with most of nicoannie's points I have to take issue with the notion that "How long would it last under the bright lights provided by resourceful and creative science teachers? "

    I also disagree with some of Massimo's thoughts as I am actively involved with several young teachers who do know and apply the scientific method.

    Herein lies my problem. Those freethinking teachers who are appalled by ID, essentially "overshouted" in their efforts. This often even occurs from the students but more regularly from parents and fellow teachers. Having listened to a few of Massimo's debates I hear my teacher friends discuss the same sort of arrogant lunacy that his opponents bray.

    There is a smug hubris applied by the ID folks and it does work well with like minded folks. You hear inane suggestions like "Are you telling me that I evolved from a banana?" This elicits many condescending chuckles amongst true believers and I worry that the smugness does not wear thin amongst the undecided.

    In short I think that accepting the teaching of ID would be disastrous to the future of kids. Too many of them would swayed and not enough of them would see the silliness of such an idea.

  5. Read "The Fundamentals of Extremism" edited by Kim Blaker and you will see how they have been planning this for years. They are like the Borg in that they will not stop until we are all assimilated under their ideology, i.e. the Dominionist sect of the Flat Earthers. They cannot be reasoned with (I'm sure Mr. Pigliucci can attest to that) and there is no middle ground for them. All they need is what is called a "wedge" and they can start to sow the seeds of dought in impressionable minds. Only much more improved science education can stop this. Richard Dawkins is right to not bother debating ID nutjobs because he knows just by showing up to debate them, you lend them credence.


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