Wednesday 19 January 2011

Pulling the Panda's Thumb

A good journalist has the gift of telling a story so that non-specialists (which usually means you and I) can get to grips with complex issues. If the issue is the clash between Intelligent Design (ID) and science, there's a lot of room for clarification.

Gordy Slack has the gift. He tells the story of the Dover trial, not so much a battle between science and religion as a battle between science and delusion. His retelling of the testimonies in the courtroom, brought about by a school board in Pennsylvania trying to bring ID into the curriculum (using Of Pandas and People as a textbook), amounts to a crash course in the debate between evolution and ID.

Take the difference between methodological materialism (MM) and philosophical materialism (PM). Never heard of it? Neither had I before reading The Battle Over the Meaning of Everything. It sounds incredibly daunting, but the distinction is important, and over a short chapter even a dolt like myself is brought up to speed with no difficulty whatsoever. Slack cuts to the quick effortlessly, retelling the evidence presented in court in a thoroughly approachable way.

It's doubtful that many ID lobbiests will find this book to their taste, but it's worth noting that many of those who rallied to prevent a beachhead in Dover for ID are people of faith, though obviously not the binary mindset of creationism - the wolf underneath the ID fleece. At least one, John Haught, is a theologian, and has authored God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Hawkins, Harris, and Hitchens; hardly a godless villain!

And it's reassuring to know that in the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, good sense was to ultimately prevail.

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