Intelligent Design (The Debate Isn't Helping)
By Leon H Wolf Posted in User Blogs — Comments (203) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
From the Diaries...
We've got another spate of diaries on Intelligent Design in the wake of the PA judge's ruling on the "Constitutionality" of teaching ID in the classroom. Also, not surprisingly, my least favorite columnist has chimed in in a post that is remarkable only for the mildness of its offensive nature (at least he isn't calling ID proponents unwashed window breakers anymore). While I normally find Charles Krauthammer to be an interesting read, I have cringed in anticipation of his latest anti-ID screed in response to the Pennsylvania ruling.
For myself, I'm not going to comment whatsoever on this whole business. At least one of our diarists thinks that's because I'm afraid that Krauthammer and his ilk will think less of me. I can assure you, if I were offered the estimation of Charles Krauthammer and John Derbyshire as a Christmas present, I would check the box for a receipt. I choose to abstain from this discussion in political forums because of something I've realized about it:
There is no possible victory involved for conservatism in this debate.
More below the fold:
Now, I used to think differently on this matter. After all, I once penned this beauty (still the record-holder for most comments at RedState). But as I've watched and observe the tides ebb and flow, I've come to realize that while there is a valid place for this debate, political pundits should be the last ones to engage in it.
I have observed this from the perspective of someone who believes in outright creation science, if not Intelligent Design, and let me tell you how I have perceived the comments of Krauthammer and Derbyshire: here you have two political commentators, one a mathematician by background, the other a psychologist, blasting political conservatives over what science is, and calling them the "Great Unwashed". It's not something, as one of their fellow columnists once noted, that warms the hearts of average conservatives who either believe some of ID, or indeed, don't hate it intensely.
Now, I certainly do not intend to say that because one is not a "sceintist" (as Krauthammer and Derbyshire are not), they are not allowed to have an opinion on ID. The problem is that the reason Krauthammer and Derbyshire have been given column space is because they are political commentators, charged with using their column inches to comment on politics. Ostensibly, both wish to advance the cause of conservatism. Instead, they periodically take diversions to needlessly insult a significant portion of the conservative base over an issue whose political significance is extremely marginal at best.
In other words, my feeling about Krauthammer, Derbyshire, et al is basically this: if you wish to denigrate ID and insult its proponents, go find an ID discussion board (they are legion) and do so there - don't use the pages of NR or your token space in the WaPo to do it in. What possible benefit to the cause of conservatism could come about by you propounding your opinion on a topic which is neither your calling nor your area of expertise, and which will insult a significant portion of the Republican coalition? None at all, I say. Accordingly, Derbyshire and Krauthammer would do themselves and the cause well by shutting their trap on this issue, or taking the discussion perhaps to a blog/newspaper of their own - at the very least if they simply can't manage to discuss it in a non-insulting and condescending manner.
Then I applied the same logic to myself. Certainly, I have beliefs about the scientific validity of evolution. However, I am not a biologist by trade or expertise. This does not disqualify me from offering an opinion on the subject, certainly - just because I don't play professional football, doesn't mean that I can't tell what professional football is. However, the directors don't give me column space here to talk about Intelligent Design - they give it to me to talk about politics.
If I were to abuse that trust by consistently posting pro-ID/creation science articles that were insulting and condescending to conservatives who believe in evolution, I would expect a number of legitimate complaints, and I would further expect the rest of my work not to be taken as seriously. After all, I don't really read Krauthammer anymore, and I've found myself reading the corner less and less, and NR not at all, as a direct result of the attitude of Krauthammer and Derbyshire. I'm also self-aware enough to know that my own tone can sometimes come across as condescending and crass to my opponents, and don't wish the message of RedState and the cause of conservatism to suffer accordingly. Therefore, if I want to debate the merits of creation science and/or ID, I go to one of the many discussion boards that exist on the internet about the topic, and discuss it there.
There are times for strident and passionate debate between conservatives about the issues that matter most to us, and will define us as a political movement - even if there are some hard feelings in the short term - see Miers, Harriet. But I've witnessed how ID discussions always - and I mean always turn out: personal insults, condescension, hard feelings and parted ways. And the end result of these fights is inevitably nothing whatsoever. There's no political bonus for either side whatsoever if they win - just the satisfaction of sticking out their tongue and saying, "Neener, neener, neener."
No, thanks, I'll pass on such a pointless discussion that rends good political allies asunder and alienates potential Republican voters. I'll also reject the argument that this is a legitimate political concern, as manifested in school board decisions like the ones in Dover. To the extent that it is a political issue at all, the issue concerns whether control of education curriculum should be local or federal. The fact that the issue happens to be ID is irrelevant to the actual political issue - it may as well have been sex ed or any other emotionally charged issue. The bile over ID is just not necessary to effect any political change whatsoever.
Therefore, count me out of this mudfight. At least here.
I'd encourage Krauthammer, Derbyshire, and the ID proponents here to at the very least consider this course of action themselves.