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August 10, 2005

Intelligent design, Iowa style

Thank god for Iowa. It's so intelligently designed that it selected a chief executive of sufficient vision and courage to declare it's time to quit tinkering with the paint job on the school house and make fundamental changes.

Most dramatically, Gov. Tom Vilsack wants to lengthen the school year . That's the right idea, though the 14-year-olds who hang out at my house might turn into a teenie-bopper lynch mob if I said so in their presence.

But the grown-ups know best, at least in Iowa.

While the governor steers the debate in the state toward the educational base-building required to bolster the state's ambitious drive to nurture industries rooted in the biological and biochemical sciences, base-builders of another sort are work around the nation, trying to saddle the schools with a theological approach to science.

That brings me to George W. Bush and intelligent design : The "education president" last week added his voice to those who say the teaching of evolution in the schools should be buttressed by offering intelligent design as an alternate explanation for life as we know it.

The new creationists use the language of science but their centuries-old agenda is clear enough to even those of us who don't know a molecule from a protein. Their case is that the structure of life is so complex that it had to be intelligently designed -- somebody, or something, done it. Let us pray, rather than explore and experiment.

Even better, let us ignore the facts. The state board of education in Kansas, a hotbed of new creationists, went so far as deciding to excise references to the age of the Earth from textbooks. A new board backed out of that dark room but still seems certain to saddle teachers with a requirement to present "intelligent design" as an acceptable alternative to evolution in explaining the development of life.

Several other states are on, or considering getting on, the same bandwagon.

In the meantime, science -- theorizing, exploring, testing, experimenting -- marches on. In Asia, in particular, it marches to a quickened beat . My son, a senior at the University of Iowa double-majoring in biology and chemistry, has wondered aloud whether he should add languages, maybe Korean or Chinese, to his study load.

The distant drum he hears is a warning, as Vilsack and many other governors recognize in pushing changes intended to make schools more competitive globally. Actually doing so, of course, poses problems that may seem "irreducibly complex" -- to borrow a term from the new creationists. Inertia, tradition, the expense, powerful teacher unions and self-serving education bureaucracies seem always to slow or stop school improvement efforts.

In tossing out his proposal for longer school years,Vilsack said "I don't have all the answers. The point of this was to put it on the table, to say this is an issue that requires discussion and it's an issue whose time has come."

Indeed. Let us search for intelligent design.

Posted by jcb at August 10, 2005 04:14 PM


Amen to that. But the real shocker for me was reading a story that said polls show something like 55% of Americans believe in creationism, not evolution. How utterly depressing.

Posted by: Vita at August 12, 2005 11:46 AM

Unfortunately in Illinois, it's not GWB or intelligent design that is thwarting reform in the schoools, it's the Democrats who must give fealty to teacher unions. As long as the unions have the Democrats by the cojones, there is no reason to hope for reform.

As for 55% believing in creationism---so what? I don't believe in creationism, but I don't believe evolution is the final word either---after all, it's only a theory. But just like creationism, evolution is a religion to some, just like global warming. Better to question everything---including liberal orthodoxy, than just mindlessly accept the conventional wisdom on any subject.

Posted by: paladin at August 13, 2005 04:05 PM

I was listening to The Discovery Channel the other day while working on the computer only to hear an otherwise (I supposed) intelligent scientist say that humans were formed from the "dust of the stars."


And I've got a Harley Davidson Road King sitting in my garage that was formed from Milwaukee beer foam....

Posted by: Semper Fi at August 29, 2005 10:47 PM