Darwin Gets Schooled

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Sept. 27 2005 5:48 PM

Darwin Gets Schooled

Bloggers respond to a Pennsylvania trial about the teaching of intelligent design in public schools; they also rub their eyes at Michael Brown's continued presence on the FEMA payroll, and at armed dolphins loose in the Gulf of Mexico.

Darwin gets schooled: A highly anticipated trial over a Dover, Pa., school district's decision to allow the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to the theory of evolution opened in Harrisburg, Pa., yesterday. The district refers biology students to a textbook about intelligent design, which holds that a higher intelligence devised living creatures. The ACLU of Pennsylvania, which supports the pro-evolution parents who are suing the school district, has updates on the trial here, while the Discovery Institute, a think tank that supports intelligent design, is blogging here.

Torie Bosch Torie Bosch

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

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Outsiders are watching the events closely. Dispatches from the Culture Wars' Ed Brayton, who calls himself a "deist," takes issue with the Discovery Institute's blog and gets behind the parents suing the school district: "[E]xplanations that invoke the supernatural have never achieved anything in science, while rejecting those claims and continuing to search for natural explanations has literally transformed our world."

Legal Affairs' blog, Debate Club, is hosting a discussion between Francis Beckwith, a Church-State studies professor, and Douglas Laycock, a law professor. Beckwith argues that teaching about intelligent design is "constitutionally permissible" because "ID arguments do not contain Genesis and its tenets as propositions." However, he insists that schools shouldn't have to teach it. Laycock, who opposes ID, writes, "Scientists properly reply that they haven't yet learned how life emerged, but that there is no reason to give up on searching for a natural explanation. In political debates, they are prone to go further and imply that evolution is equally supported by overwhelming evidence at every step."

Embattled Christian sees evolution proponents as more dogmatic in their defense of Darwin's theory than the ID faction. "I really don't understand how the scientific method, or science in general, is threatened by having students introduced to the idea that evolution is just a theory." But Red State Rabble, the blog of a Kansan who is disdainful of intelligent design, says, "The real issue in Dover is not suppression of voluntary classroom discussion, but whether a minority religious viewpoint will be given the special privilege of using tax-supported public schools as a tool to convert school children to their peculiar set of beliefs."

Not all spectators are polemic in their reactions to this 21st-century response to the Scopes Monkey Trial. In Campus Codger, John Newman, a 39-year-old college student who is Christian, asks for moderation from both sides of the courthouse. "It's only uniformed religious bigots that like to try and use [ID] to prove that God doesn't exist."

Read more about the Dover trial.

The checks keep coming: Though Michael Brown resigned from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Sept. 12, he's still on the payroll as a consultant. CBS News quotes a FEMA official as saying that Brown is sticking around so that FEMA can get a "proper download of his experience."

Bloggers from all over blogland remain united in their disapproval of Brown. "Only a government agency would pay someone to explain to them why he screwed up so bad," saysObjective Justice's libertarian Sean Sirrine. On Facing South, the blog of the progressive Institute for Southern Studies, R. Neal deadpans: "In related news, the Bush Administration announced they are bringing John Ashcroft back to consult on U.S. torture policy, while Colin Powell and George Tenet will be looking for WMD in Iraq." Michelle Malkin, a conservative heavyweight, argues that Brown's stay is par for the federal government's course: "Bureaucratic insiders at the old INS had a slogan that sums up the management philosophy of the government workforce concisely: 'Screw up, move up.'" However, PR Speak, the blog of a Boston public relations firm, does look for the silver lining: "[Brown will] definitely be an interesting college assignment/case study for PR majors."

Read more about Michael Brown.

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