Re: HUMOR: Open Letter to Kansas School Board

From: Russell Wallace (
Date: Wed Jun 22 2005 - 12:00:36 MDT

On 6/22/05, Matt Arnold <> wrote:
> The word theory is used in science to mean a model or framework
> describing the behaviour of a natural or social phenomenon.
> Intelligent Design, like every flavor of creationism, provides no
> alternative model or framework, but is a claim that the phenomenon
> being described-- evolution-- doesn't exist. It shouldn't be dignified
> with the use of the word theory.

Maybe not, but I'm not sure attacking creationism head on is the most
effective strategy. It might be better to seek its roots.

What's the motive for creationism in the first place? It's not general
luddism or antirationalism, or its advocates would also be attacking
astronomy, physics and chemistry; they'd be trying to persuade people
the planets are mounted on crystal spheres turned by angels, and life
works by mystic protoplasm rather than molecular machinery. Granted,
there are a handful of people who make such claims, but everyone
recognizes them as being a handful of fruitcakes; evolution is the one
scientific theory on which religiously motivated attacks receive
significant mainstream support. Why?

I think what it boils down to is that evolution is seen to be linked
with nihilism; and frankly, if you look at today's writings on
evolution, it's understandable why people make that mistake. And if
it's a choice between throwing out a scientific theory (even a true
one) and throwing out the moral fabric that holds civilization
together and gives meaning to life, choosing the first option is
arguably the _right_ thing to do.

So there's no point in just throwing scientific arguments in people's
faces when the issue, as far as they're concerned, is a moral one. If
you want to make headway against creationism, I think the most
effective way to do it is to decouple evolution from nihilism; to
explain why there is no contradiction between the propositions "humans
evolved from apes" and "the universe has a good purpose".

- Russell

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